is the final phase of those messy shouting matches we
continue to insist on calling peace and reconciliation
conference, while I'm insisting on calling, with any degree
of precision, a crazed tag-of-war match, sound bite brawls
and the revival of clan loyalties, by distributing the
meat of that mythical Somali camel Maandeeq on the basis
of clan, subclan, etc.
The Dir share is still in dispute as to who will represent
on the whole the conference bear no resemblance to the
idea of peace talks as it has been practiced, in various
forms, for centuries. In Mbagathi every warlord gets to
have a go at everyone else, because he feels he has learned
it from his teacher, the late military dictator.
objects seems to be to achieve one really good uncontestable
"nailing" the vulnerable civic leaders, who
became soft in the neck, or to "do in" other
former powerful classmate of his by asking him: "Who
is your handler?"
transpired that during the nearly two years of these talks,
each warlord had his own foreign handler or a stakeholder
who instructed him what to say or not to say when confronting
a phrase, the warlord can be manipulated to serve the
stakeholders' vested interests. That leaves the playing
field open for these hired puppets to bamboozle the talks
and get things done the way his handler wants.
a politically mature society politicians often take the
fall when his hired operative (puppet) screws up in a
perverse the-buck-stops-here mindset: "I'm the elected
official so I must take the heat," they would say.
But in Africa most politicians often defend themselves
even when they knew they were wrong. I'll say that little
A Somali proverb says: "Nin aanad saacad ku baran,
sannad kuma baran kartid." (Roughly translated: "The
man who you failed to know within an hour, you will not
know within a year.")
have known these warlords since 1991 and we do not expect
the arrival of a Messiah who will reveal to us another
way to cleanse the mess they left behind, because the
credibility gap has been widening over the years.
VOTED FOR GENERAL BARRE!"
email from a reader in New Zealand said: "You wrote
that your readers should vote for Mohamed Siyad Barre
if he was still alive (sic). This means that you too would
have voted for him."
but that doesn't make me pro-Siyad Barre's military regime.
It means exactly what I wrote in my weekly TALKING
POINT. It was simply a way of generating a debate
among visitors to this Website, and the overwhelming majority
who cast their votes said they missed Siyad Barre and
would vote for him if he was still alive and run as a
candidate for the office of the Presidency, because they
said they are weary of the brutal warlords who shattered
our country and slaughtered our people.
that email from New Zealand and few others from the continents
illustrates the problem we all have in the journalism
business, because many people don't really read what is
written or hear what is said. Not even those who regard
themselves as intellectuals are immune.
for a change, 16-year-old Hani of Little Rock, Arkansas
in the United States said she tried to get the names and
ranks of all the members of the Supreme Revolutionary
Council (SRC) for a very long time, but no Somali in Little
Rock vaguely remembers their names, ranks and what branches
of the armed forces they belonged to.
Well, Hani, here is the answer to your question:
On October 21st 1969 Major-General Mohamed Siyad Barre
came to power in a bloodless military and police coup
barely five days after the assassination of the elected
President Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke in the northern town
of Las Anod by one of his own bodyguards, who was also
his own clansman.
Their names and the branches of the armed forces they
1. Major-General Mohamed Siyad Barre. Military
2. Major-General Jama Ali Khorshel Police
3. Brig.General Mohamed Ainanshe Guled Military
4.Brig. General Hussein Kulmiye Afrah Police
5.Brig.General Salad Gabeyre Kediye
6.Brig.General Mohamed Ali Samatar Military
7.Brig. Abdalla Mohamed Fadhil Military
8.Colonel Ali Mattan Hashi
9.Colonel Ahmed Mohamud Adde Police
10.Colonel Mohamud Mire Muse Police
11.Lt.Colonel Ismail Ali Abokor Military
12.Lt.Colonel Ahmed Suleiman Abdalla Military
13.Lt.Colonel Mohamed Sheikh Osman Police
14.Lt.Colonel Mohamed Ali Shire Military
15.Lt.Colonel Mohamud Gelleh Yusuf Military
16.Lt.Colonel Farah Waeys Dhulle Military
17.Lt.Colonel Ahmed Mohamud Farah Military
18.Lt.Colonel Ahmed Hassan Muse
19.Major Abdirizak Mohamed Abukar
20.Major Bashir Yusuf Elmi Military
21.Major Abdulqadir Haji Mohamed Military
22.Major Mohamed Omar Jess Military
23.Major Osman Mohamed Jelle
24.Major Muse Rabilleh God
25.Major Abdi Warsame Isaq Military
knew them so well that their names had been imprinted
on my brain forever. I had seen them scream: "Ceynaanka
haay, weligaa hay." I had seen them bow to the
General in public and ridicule him in private. Proud men
demeaned themselves to sing: Guulwade Siyaad, Abbihii
Ummadda, Macalinkii Kacaanka. One man even called
him a Messiah from Heaven! I had seen some of them
humiliated and sent to Labaatan Jirow and Laanta Buur
Maximum Security prisons in chains. I had seen others
executed by a firing squad behind the Police Academy with
Radio Mogadishu putting on air the song Sama diidow
dabin baa kuu dhigan laguugu dili doono continuously.
The rest of his minions caught his drift immediately and
continued to toe his line religiously and without question.
He virtually kicked Asses upstairs and downstairs. Later,
I had seen his trusted inner circle desert him one by
one alla Saddam Hussein, not wishing to die in a losing
battle, as poorly trained, poorly armed, barefooted, ragtag
Hawiye teenagers beat the hell out of his military (one
of the best in Africa South of the Sahara in terms of
numerical strength, superior firepower and training).
had seen the General abandon Villa Somalia, his power
base for more than two decades, and later fled to neighbouring
Kenya, after a futile attempt to recapture Mogadishu with
the help of one of his son-in-laws, General Morgan, capitalizing
vicious Hawiye squabbles on who is going to fill the vacuum,
Aideed or Ali Mahdi, with both sides leaving behind a
panorama of death and destruction. He later died in exile
in Lagos, Nigeria, after vocal members of the Kenya Law
Society protested his presence in their country. Oddly
enough, there was nothing his friend and admirer, Daniel
arap Moi, could do for him. In fact he had distanced himself
from his one-time friend and icon. He was buried in Garba-harey,
his hometown, Southwest of the country.
had seen those who toppled him in a bloody street battles
turn their guns on each other for the control of the capital.
The slaughter was senseless because it could not affect
the outcome of the civil war. The whole thing degenerated
into such a deadly guerrilla warfare that both sides found
themselves losing a great deal of revenue and lives to
no purpose. Although there were no winners or losers,
the main warlords did not have the sense to lay down their
weapons and talk peace without outside assistance. The
rest is history.
Like every dictator, Barre had his dark side and bright
side. However, one of his lasting legacies is:
The introduction of the first Somali script in 1972/73
despite pressure from the Arab world and religious zealots
at home, and the formation of Somali Language Committee,
that led the publication of the first ever newspaper in
Somali, XIDDIGTA OKTOBAR (The October Star). At
the same time there was a nation-wide campaign to teach
the basics of the new script to the nomads and farmers
in the hinterland. The famous catch phrase was: "Bar
Other outstanding achievements to his credit included:
He vehemently opposed Soviet proposal to form a federation
with Mengistu's Ethiopia during a summit in Aden, which
subsequently triggered off the 1977 war between Somalia
and Ethiopia, with Russian and Cuban forces propping up
their new Marxist protégé in Addis. As a
result General Barre tore up a twenty-year treaty of friendship
and cooperation with the then Soviet Union, and turned
to Jimmy Carter for assistance, mainly for offensive weapons.
But Carter who had his own problem with the Iranians on
the Embassy hostage crisis and Ayatollah Rohullah Qomeyni,
reluctantly agreed to provide him only with defensive
weapons on condition General Barre withdraws his forces
from the Ethiopian occupied Ogaden region.
every Somali nationalist, the General strongly believed
that to unite or form a federation with Ethiopia (Somalia's
arch enemy) is synonymous to surrendering our cultural
heritage, including our language, religion and our unique
characteristics in Africa. That's not all. We would be
sacrificing our hard worn independence in the process.
He also introduced the controversial Family Laws that
gave women equal rights to men that also led the execution
by a firing squad of 11 clerics or Imams who preached
in their Friday sermons at mosques throughout the city
that the law was un-Islamic. He had survived two attempted
coups by disgruntled army officers and a nasty road accident.
He left his hospital bed in Saudi Arabia against the advice
of his doctors, and returned to Somalia to put the shaky
house of cards in order. Obviously, a strong hand is what
was needed in the country, even if that hand was still
convalescing. He lost his magnetism and his speech was
slurred and inaudible.
in 1990 the house of cards crushed down on his face. The
country became out of control, which continues to this
day unabated. Ruthless warlords made their debut and,
what followed then was sickening. The warlords used indiscriminately
all the arsenals General Barre left behind against the
jubilant masses, which initially welcomed them with songs
and green leafs (Somalia's olive branch). Tragically,
the people have continued to suffer the rule of the gun
and the jungle as the world watches, too numb and too
neutered to act. In fact, the country has for all intents
and purposes, ceased to exist. The right to life was no
longer a main concern to the warlords.
As for General Barre's dark side, it is somewhat difficult
to list all of them here. So I'll leave that to our readers
and historians alike to reach their own verdict.
By M.M. Afrah©2004