Somalia, From Independence To Civil War

Adam Fitzgerald
9 min readJan 25, 2020

Mogadishu, the capitol of Somalia is historically represented by the Hawiye clan, whose lineage go back to the Colonial period. Many of the major influential founders of Somalia came from the Hawiye, which have spread into much of the North Eastern Province, Ethiopia and Kenya over the centuries. By 1986, the Hawiye had become a threat to the Darod clan, which is the largest tribe in all of Somalia and even in the Horn of Africa. By 1935, a individual by the name of Mohamed Siad Barre would later have turned the course of history in Somalia. During British Colonial rule, the socialist movements had been introduced into Southern Africa. One such movement was the Workers Party of South Africa (WPSA). South Africa political activists, Isaac Bangani Tabata, Dora Taylor, Ralph Lee were influential in forming the WPSA, which introduced “Trotskyism”, which were the principals of Soviet Revolutionary, Leon Trotsky. Which were the definition itself has generally included elements of anarchism and syndicalism, but the term has come to be used indiscriminately to describe a great many forms of radical socialism.

By 1953, led by multiple tribal leaders the WPSA had went underground due to the major reprisals of having Socialist movements represent the British Empire. The movement had then become defunct. By this time however, Mohamed Siad Barre had joined the Somali National Army after returning from Garbaare, the capitol of Gedo in Southern Somalia. Where he once joined the “gendarmerie”unit called the Zaptie. The Zapite were Italian units located in Libya, Somalia and Italian Cyrenaica. By 1960, Barre had become the Vice Commander of the Somalia Army, which saw a reinvigorated country….Somalia had just gained it’s independence from the British, no longer was it called British Somalialand, it was now the Somalia Republic. Headed by Haji Bashir Ismail Yusuf , President of the Somali National Assembly and Aden Abdullah Osman Daar, President of the Somalia Republic, whom bother drafted the countries first constitution. Barre had bigger ideas for Somalia however, which included Soviet style “Marxism”. The Ideology Barre had defended while in Mogadishu and in Garbarre.

In 1969, the country saw its first military “coup d'etat”. The Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC), which was a governing military body of Somalia had taken control of the country after it’s second President, Abdirashid Shermarke, assassinated by one of his own bodyguards. The SRC had taken control of the government, and immediately renamed the country to the Somali Democratic Republic. The goals of the SRC was to institute traditional and religious precepts to better represent the Arab world. More public work programs such as working jobs for women, constructing Mogadishu Stadium, and helping the farming industry and also reinforcing the importance of literacy and education. In 1974, the Somalia Democratic republic had joined the Arab League, a major step which would prove fruitful for the countries infrastructure in the course of trade exporting.

In 1976 however, the SRC had disbanded internally. Barre began to form a new organization, to better implement the ideas of Trotskyism and Socialist ideals he learned 25 years ago. The Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (SRSP) was formed under the ideas of the “Marxist-Lenin” but also included Islamic Socialism, Scientific Socialism, Somali Nationalism and Pan-Somalism. Radical changes which included forming a totally new structure of government, they included:

Mohamed Siad Barre (president)
Lt. General Muhammad Ali Samatar (vice president)
Major General Husseen Kulmiye (2nd vice president)

The new government was helped along by Soviet entities, to help propagate Soviet socialism in the Horn of Africa, while also trying to implement communism style government in Afghanistan. The countries new constitution would be construed in 1979 with it’s Seventh Article showcasing two points which would define the country.

The Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party shall be the only legal party in the Somali Democratic Republic; no other party or political organisation may be established.

The Somali Revolutionary Socialist party shall have supreme authority of political and socio-economic leadership in the Somali Democratic Republic.

The SRSP was also a driving force to transform the differences between clans in the country. Barre wanted to finally eliminate the fractured clan system, and join all clans under Nationalist principals. However Barre saw the fall of the Soviet Empire when most others did not, and in a complete reversal he omitted all Soviet analysts from the country and disassociated from any direct contacts with the Soviets. In 1978, Barre had torn up his friendship treaty with the Soviet Union, and switched allegiance to the United States. The U.S had immediately taken a liking to Barre, and began funding the Barre government to the tune of “100 million per year in annual monetary and military aid”. This gave Barre even more delusions of power, and anyone who dared form a counter-political party against Barre was met with harsh punishments, even assassinations. These included new rules of law, such as when the Barre government introduced, National Security Law №54, which granted the National Security Service (NSS) the power to arrest and detain indefinitely those who expressed critical views of the government.

Barre had begun mass arrests of anyone whom were even “suspected” of conspiring against the SRSP. Several Somalian officials highly critical of Barre’ regime had fled abroad and they began forming numerous dissenting political groups to help oust the SRSP from Somalia altogether. By 1979, a new new constitution was promulgated in 1979 under which elections for a People’s Assembly were held and in 1980 the SRSP was disbanded, and the Supreme Revolutionary Council was re-established in its place. Many tens of thousands under Barre’s military dictatorship and began to revolt. The country was beginning to enter a fractional state, where militias and resistance movement began to form, they implemented what Barre was against, tribal divisions which would ultimately lead to massacres across the Southern landscape. Over the course of 8 years, many groups within Somalia had implied that in order for Barre’s government to be replaced, they needed to implement laws and regulations, but for just a select few it seemed.

By February 1991, Somalia would experience it’s first civil war. Totalitarian government led by Ethiopia’s Derg, or the Provisional Military Government of Socialist Ethiopia, began to slowly replace the SRSP leftovers. The Somalia National Army was disbanded and numerous tribal groups had formed. One of those movements were the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) which was the first organization founded by former military officials under the Barre regime who wanted to oust the dictatorial leader. Another group, United Somali Congress (USC), headed by Mohammed Farrah Aidid, a prominent member of the Hawiye clan and as well as being a military commander. The USC was formed in response to severe acts against the Hawiye tribe by the government of Mohamed Siad Barre.

By this time, Barre retreated to Gedo, bordered between Libya and Kenya. Barre was stubborn, and began trying to regain power, this time in Mogadishu, where he once spent his formal years training under the Italian Socialists. However he was repelled, rather easily, by the USC under Aidid. Barre had finally retreated to Lagos, where he would die from a heart attack in 1995. Aidid’s United Somali Congress had grown within the previous 5 years, and even tried to get his rival factions, the Somalia National Movement (SNM), the Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM) and the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) to unite. This declaration failed. Upon the naming of Ali Mahdi Muhammed as President, the USC split into two. The USC/SNA emerged under Mohammed Aidid and the United Somali Congress/Somali Salvation Alliance (USC/SSA) of Ali Mahdi Muhammed. The war between tribes had begun fighting for small parts of Somalia. This led to tens of thousands of deaths, and a humanitarian crisis acknowledged by every major human rights organization.

600,000 refugees from the Darod clan had fled to southern coastal town of Kismayo, while the Hawiye clan began desecrating homes left by the Darod, and also massacring many women and children. Leaving body parts in the jungles. Reuters would later report that the continued fighting between the “Darood sub-clans” and the Hawiye-dominated USC. According to Reuters, “fighters of the United Somali Congress (USC), the Hawiye clan-based faction that controls the capital, had pushed the Daroods back South. The bloodshed would continue right into 1993.

On January 23rd 1992, United Nations Security Council Resolution 733 was passed. The UN Council immediately called Egyptian politician, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, to help undertake humanitarian action. The U.N also contacted the Arab League to simply stall the infighting between all the factions involved in order to end hostilities and permit the delivery of aid. By April of 1992, the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNO), began to help render aid to the disaffected Somalia populace. However the former previous arrangements made by Ghal to the factions had broken off. Farrah Aidid’s UNC had began forcibly taking the humanitarian aid from the UNO. By November 1992, Aidid began demanding that all UN peacekeepers and Security Council to leave the country without hesitation.

Over in Khartoum, a guerrilla leader much like Mohammed Farrah Aidid, of an international terrorist organization called Al Qaeda, had been invited to live. Osama Bin Laden arrived under the direction of Hassan al-Turabi. al-Turbai is considered as a leading religious theologian in Sudan. He is also the leader of the National Islamic Front and also a leading political movement. The group would change its name to the National Congress by mid the 1990’s. al-Turbai had given Bin Laden an ultimatum before arriving, on condition that he could live in the Sudan, Bin Laden had to also financially invest in the country. Bin Laden agreed. Almost immediately Bin Laden began using his late fathers construction company's assets (Saudi BinLaden group) to help construct schools, roads and buildings. While he was building infrastructure for al-Turbai. Bin Laden invited Egyptian radical, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to help him expand on the organisation, Al Qaeda. Many Egyptian radicals would follow al-Zawahiri into the Sudan.

Without the United Nations and the United Nations Operations in Somalia (UNOSOM) having any confidence in assisting the tens of thousands of displaced Somalis, they turned to the help of the United States, U,S President Bill Clinton would have to make the change of Somalia. In March 1993, fifteen Somali parties agreed to the terms set out to restore peace and democracy. One party did not succumb to the agreement, the United Somali Congress headed by Mohamed Farrah Aidid. Almost immediately following this declaration from the parties of Somalia, Aidid began taking to the radio airwaves of Somalia and lambasted the parties involved with the United Nations. The United States military command of the U.S Marines, U.S Rangers and the Delta force would take to implement a cover operation. Take out the leaders of the United Somali Congress, capture the leaders and either capture or kill Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The Aidid faction at this time was being trained by the Al Qaeda militia in Khartoum, under the direction of Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri, they sent Al Qaeda military chief and also Egyptian Mohammed Atef to oversee guerrilla training along with Abu Ubaidah al-Banshiri, co leader of Al Qaeda to help assist in the military training of Aidid’s USC force.

On October 3rd 1993, U.S special forces military would begin to carry “Operation Gothic Serpent”, the operation was simple, capture Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The day was not without bloodshed, as soon as the U.S Rangers captured two of Aidid’s prominent leaders of USC, they were met by Aidid and militia sent by al-Zawahiri. Numerous Mujahid fighters from Afghanistan and Bosnia were sent to Mogadishu to fight against the U.S military. Aidid’s fighters numbered in the thousands, while U.S Special Forces the task force sent 19 aircraft, 12 vehicles, and 160 men to arrest Aidid and members of the USC. The battle lasted days. In the end, 19 U.S servicemen along with 25 Pakistani military were killed in Operation Gothic Serpent, while approximately 3,000 of the rebels forces were killed. In March 1994, U.S President Bill Clinton ordered the full withdrawal of U,S troops out of the country, with the United Nations in tow. Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri called the results a resounding success, in which Bin Laden would later remark that U.S troops were seen as lambs to the slaughter, he would also state he did not participate in helping Aidid’s forces.

By August 1996, Aidid however would be met under heavy gunfire from the opposing rebel militia, United Somali Congress/Somali Salvation Alliance (USC/SSA), led by Osaman Atto. The civil war in Somalia would ultimately end but by 2006 would once again witness a second civil war. The country once created to become an independent state had undergone a “forced” transformation under foreign agents whose agendas mirrored those not affiliated by Somalians. The socialist movement replaced by a rationalist regime, which ended in sectarian violence which began a nightmare path for Somalia. No course of words could sum up what happened when the country began t descend into civil war, than the Secretary General of the United Nations sent to help quell the extremism which dawned upon the embattled country…Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

“The change began in Somalia, where we discovered that we were involved in an operation where there was no peace, so there was no more a peacekeeping operation because there was no peace.”



Adam Fitzgerald

Geo-political scientist/researcher into the events of September 11th 2001.