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Toronto (Canada)

20, Dec. 2003


M. M. Afrah



(NOTE FROM THE WEBMASTER: What happened in Somalia during the last decade or so is much more than an old story, dead and gone. Mr. Afrah's reminiscences are the expression of a scheme, which turned men into beasts. He was there to cover the Revolution, its final demise and the anarchy that ensued it, and despite his increasingly difficult circumstances, he sheds light on the events that led to the destruction of our country and the mass murder of our people, which forced many of us into exile in all the continents on Planet Earth. As a veteran correspondent for an international news agency, he survived the dreaded NSS goon squads, the crack Presidential bodyguards, the Red Berets, the Censorship Board, Hangash (the military intelligence), and the murderous bandits known as Mooryaan (militia gunmen) and their warlords, yet Mr. Afrah decided to stay put until the last possible moment, long after the United Nations, foreign journalists and people with money jumped ship. In writings these historical observations, Mr. Afrah says he relied heavily on his archives, notebooks, diaries and passages from his self-published books -The Webmaster



How did Somalia disintegrate from Cold War stability into complete chaos and self-destruction?

The following segment will portray the leading Somali protagonists responsible for the genocidal insanity in Somalia since October 1969.

Major-General Mohamed Siad Barre, ageing Cold War Warrior and Master Craft was born in the plains of Garba-harey in Somalia's southwest and started herding camels at the age of ten. Disillusioned with the harsh nomadic life and the centuries-old clan conflicts, rooted in quarrels over water wells and unpaid dowries in a fierce nomadic culture, he move to Mogadishu, penniless, and immediately enrolled in the then Italian colonial police force, becoming the first Somali to reach the rank of Chief Inspector.

Nicknamed Af-weyne (Big Mouth) by his subordinates and young recruits at the parade ground, Mohamed Siad Barre was soon at loggerheads with young man named Mohamed Farah Aideed.

In 1959 Daud Abdulle Hirzi, Mohamed Siad Barre and Mohamed Farah Aideed together with thirteen others were sent to Italy for cadet training at an Italian military academy. When they returned to Somalia Barre was made deputy commander and aide de camp of General Daud Abdulle Hirsi for the then combined police and army, which naturally angered Aideed who was hoping to occupy that post. Later the Somali National Police was detached from the Army and General Mohamed Abshir Muse was named as its commander. Again the UN Trusteeship Council and the Italian Administrators sidelined Aideed.

In October 1969 the civilian government of Mohamed Ibrahim Egal was overthrown in a military and police coup, barely five days after the assassination of the popularly elected, President Abdirashid Ali Shermarke by one of his own bodyguards and clansman in the northern town of Las Anod.

A Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) was set up with Barre as its Chairman, but Aideed was not included in that Council. Since then Aideed did not hide his feelings against Mohamed Siad Barre and his minority Marehan clan.

Aideed was a bitter man!

Suspecting that Aideed was hatching up his own coup with the help of some disgruntled young army officers, Barre, who has now adopted "Scientific Socialism" with the blessing of the Soviet Union, detained Aideed in a remote detention camp in 1970 where he was reported to have suffered a mental breakdown.

With Aideed and other opponents of the Revolution out of the way, Siad Barre, who promoted himself to the rank of Major-General and as "Teacher and Father of the Nation," nationalized all privately-owned industries and businesses, including banks, insurance, electricity and import and export in the name of Scientific Socialism. He employed deception, hypocrisy, manipulation of the weak and the ignorant in order to stay in power.

That was how the seeds of self-destruction were first sown. Somalia, then viewed as strategic gateway to the Gulf and the Red Sea oil routes, General Barre took advantage of the superpower rivalry when the CIA and the KGB fought relentless battle for supremacy in the Horn of Africa.

Determined not to let Washington succeed, the Soviets poured more money, modern weaponry and an estimated 6,000 Soviet military personnel "to train the Somali military how to use these weapons." (Pravda, quoting Tass correspondent in Mogadishu, January 15, 1971).

And for the first time Katyusha rocket launchers, SAM6s, T55 tanks and state-of-the-art radars found their way into Somalia, a country whose annual income per capita was less than 200 dollars.

"We are duty bound to liberate our brothers in Western Somalia (the Ethiopian occupied Somali territory) from Ethiopian colonialists," General Barre told a huge gathering at the National Theatre in Mogadishu during the 6th anniversary celebrations of his revolution amid shouts of "Give us weapons!"

With the help of his crack bodyguards and a host of security agents, such as the NSS, Hangash, the military intelligence and counter-espionage agency, he ruled the country as if it was his own personal fief. The NSS was a frightening monster that invaded the peoples' lives to the innermost corners of their bedrooms to such extent that culprits, Kacaan-diid (anti-revolutionary elements) was created overnight.

Even school children were ordered to inform on their parents. In this way hundreds of people were secretly sent to Godka, (the Dungeon) the notorious torture chambers, or to the infamous Labaatan-jirow maximum-security detention camp, southwest of the country. Others, including religious leaders and Imams were publicly executed by a firing squad behind the Police Academy. In a situation reminiscent to Nazi Germany personal scores were settled in the name of the Revolution and Scientific Socialism.

In public the General emphasized that his policy was to break down the clannishness that marred Somali politics immediately after independence in 1960, but in practice he exploited family and clan ties to maintain himself in power. During his more than twenty years of autocratic rule he had survived unsuccessful experiment with Marxism-Leninism, at least two attempted coups, a nasty road accident, armed insurgency in the Northwest and Central Provinces as well as dissent among his own Marehan clan. But he was increasingly relied on his security agencies and the army, particularly the crack Red Berets and Hangash, the military intelligence.

In the summer of 1979 he created yet another spy agency, the Party Bureau for Investigations (Guddiga Baarista Xisbiga Hantiwadaagga Kacaanka) which kept thousands of dossiers of prominent citizens as well as Somali nationals who worked for foreign news media and diplomatic missions. Agents of the NSS at the Public Telex Office read all outgoing news dispatches before they can be approved, even after the newly established Censorship Board (GuddigaBaaf-reebta) approved them. It was leaked to the General that members of the Censorship Board had English language problem and consequently Okayed every news story out of the country.

The government frequently denied visas to foreign journalists and strictly controlled the movements of those who were permitted to enter the country. One exception was, however, journalists from the Soviet Union and those from eastern bloc countries.

Barre gave important government and top army posts to his sons and a network of sons-in-law. These included chiefs of the National Security Service (the NSS), the Police, deputy premier, foreign and defense portfolios. One of his daughters was appointed as the Director General of the Central Bank's Foreign Exchange Department, according to a brief notice in the Official Bulletin.

He reshuffled his cabinet at the drop of a hat. "He does not reveal his state of mind or a plan of any kind to anyone, except to his half-brother Abdurahman," remarked a man who lost his job after only six months as a cabinet minister.

Let's give credit where it's due. Despite his shortcomings, there was a semblance of peace and stability in the country during the last twenty years of his autocratic rule-a far cry from today's chaos. Every soul in the country, from school children to top government officials, and ordinary men and women had to toe the line…or else. Of course there were Palace intrigues and blaming games behind the scenes, but the General, a long time police officer, was experienced in how to handle them properly. He knew who was lying and who was telling the truth-at least in most cases.

Again you could not underestimate a man who, for more than two decades, ruled a people, which the British and Italian colonial administrators described as "very stubborn and ungovernable."

In Mogadishu and the rest of the country, the expectation was extraordinary high after a poorly trained ragtag army calling themselves the militia of the United Somali Congress (USC), routed one of Africa's best army in terms of numerical superiority and firepower, instead the country sunk into unparalleled bloodshed and anarchy.

To be continued…

By M. M. Afrah©2003,


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