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Toronto (Canada)

26, Dec. 2003


M. M. Afrah



(A note from your Webmaster: This flash back is for those of you, who for one reason or another, missed the grim days of military dictatorship, scientific socialism and the dreadful and dangerous warlords who have held the Somali people hostage for far too long-The Webmaster)

President Barre began "cleansing" the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) from what he described as reactionary elements. In theory the SRC was supposed to rule the country by consensus, but the General began issuing a string of circulars and decrees without first consulting with the other 20 members of the SRC.

It is true that weekly meetings were convened, purported to reach a consensus on the day-to-day affairs of the state, but in reality the final decision was the President's prerogative. He had the power to over rule any decision reached by the majority of the SRC members.

The first dissenting voice came from Salad Gavere Kediye and three other fellow SRC members.

Colonel Salad Gavere was perhaps both the most outstanding product of the Revolutionary system. His early career was most like that of his colleagues in the SRC, who took over power from the civilian regime of Mohamed Ibrahim Egal whom they considered as corrupt and inefficient, a gallant army officer trained in Italian and Soviet military academies. He was said to be the real master-minder of the coup. He was founder of the Public Relations Office (PRO) whose task was to explain to the masses the aims and objectives of the October 1969 Revolution, an office essential for the success of the military coup.

By 1971 Colonel Salad was in a position to exercise influence on the directions of the Revolution. In that early period, when Barre's authority was not absolute over his colleagues, the Colonel clashed with him over the attempt to sign a twenty-year treaty of friendship and cooperation with the then Soviet Union and war with Ethiopia over the occupied Somali region.

Colonel Salad Gavere

When General Barre began talking openly of waging war against Ethiopian colonialists, Colonel Salad expressed forcefully his views at the Council meetings. It was a plea that Somalia should not go to war in the existing circumstances. "We do not have the means equal to those Ethiopia. Besides Ethiopia is under the protection of the United States. Let us prepare and arm ourselves in a serious manner," Salad was quoted as saying.

Since then Colonel Salad has became a marked man and, Barre, who has promoted himself to the rank of Major-General (Idi Amin-style) ordered the NSS and the military intelligence to shadow him.

According to red tag intelligence files with the words "Sir Culus" (Top Secret) looted during the popular uprising against the regime, there have been numerous references to Colonel Salad's "circle", or "Salad and his friends," emphasizing the existence of a shadowy, "but coherent plotters". But Colonel Salad enjoyed a particular intimacy and an interchange of ideas with prominent SRC members, such as Abdulqadir Dhel, Khorshel and others with similar school of thought, which increasingly intensified after General Mohamed Siad Barre single-handedly introduced unpopular domestic reforms in the spring of 1973.

Food rationing became the order of the day and the people's hopes of decent living standard grew dimmer. The erstwhile high sounding socio-economic rhetoric, provision of a better living standard, clean water, education and good health to all under the banner of Scientific Socialism rung hollow in the hears of the majority.

While defence and security continued to get unprecedented bigger share of the national budget, areas like food and health continued on the relegation path to the periphery.

As a result long queues for sugar, cooking oil, maize, rice and wheat-floor has became a common feature in the country. Even fish, which used to be plentiful in the coastal regions had disappeared from the markets, because Russian fishing trawlers vacuum cleaned Somalia's territorial waters in compliance with their twenty-year treaty of friendship and cooperation with the revolutionary regime.

As is common with all dictators, General Barre had to find a escape-goat. Colonel Salad Gavere and "his co-plotters" provided him with the ready answer.

They were summarily executed after they were found "guilty" of plotting to overthrow "the blessed" October Revolution by the kangaroo National Security Court. Since then the General mercilessly eliminated the opponents of his regime "as a lesson to others with similar sick mentalities," with a hastily composed song "Sama diidow dabin baa kuu dhigan laguugu dili doono" This song was put on the air by Radio Mogadishu day in and day out and people asked themselves: "Who is next to face the music?"

After that other members of the SRC and the rest of the population have opted the old adage of "seeing no evil, hearing no evil and speak no evil."

The gloomy scenario reflected white spread poverty caused by mismanagement of the national economy, corruption, nepotism, as well as lack of concrete initiatives that would have given hopes to millions of Somalis. Grumbling and private murmurings (Sotto Voce) among the SRC members and cabinet ministers, after the summary execution of Colonel Salad Gavere and his "co-plotters" and the state of the economy had filtered to the ears of the President via the NSS and Hangash.

His immediate reaction was to mobilize mass demonstration in support of the Revolution and condemn the "Sama-diid" (people who oppose the good intentions of the Revolution)

Addressing a mammoth rally at the Unknown Soldiers Monument in the heart of the city, Siad Barre accused certain "reactionary" elements and their unnamed foreign paymasters of holding nightly meetings in a bid to destabilize the Revolutionary Government. He said the government was closely monitoring their activities and warned that more same-diid heads will roll.

On Ethiopia, he said: "We believe in good neighbourliness, but when a neighbour subjugates and oppresses our brothers, we have no other option but to assist our brorhers." This was evidenced by the daily strafing of Ethiopian jets on nomadic encampments in Western Somalia, (the Ogaden) he said.

"We cannot possibly fold our arms and watch our brothers being slaughtered by the Ethiopian colonialists," he said amid shouts of "Let us fight!"

Against this background, General Barre launched an all out war against Ethiopia in 1977. Somali forces over run dozens of Ethiopian military garrisons at Mustahiil, Godey, Qabri-Daharre, Dhagah-buur, and the important Ethiopian tank base at Jigjiga, deep inside the Ogaden, and were able to drive the rest of the defeated Ethiopian army out of the region in a matter of months.

And by November Somali forces were firmly entrenched around the ancient citadel of Harar. But in March the following year Soviet-Cuban led Ethiopian forces counter-attacked and re-established Ethiopian control. Consequently, General Barre announced the official withdrawal of his forces. He fell out with his erstwhile Soviet mentors for siding with Somalia's enemy and subsequently tore up the twenty-year treaty of friendship and cooperation with the Kremlin.

A view of an EtAF MiG-21, shot down by Somali AAA in the summer of 1980. (via Tom Cooper)

Similarly, he severed diplomatic relations with Cuba, Ethiopia and Libya, hoping that the West and conservative oil rich Arabs would come to his rescue, but Washington (Jimmy Carter was in the White House) said it would provide him what it described as defensive weapons only as well as civilian aid in exchange for naval and air facilities at Barbera with its longest Soviet-built runway in Africa South of the Sahara.

Despite his loss of the war and the reluctance of President Jimmy Carter to respond to his urgent request for replacement of the military hardware that he had lost in the war, Barre survived, except for a poorly organized coup attempt in April 1978 by disgruntled army officers who fought in Ethiopia and a nasty road accident on the Mogadishu-Afgoi road.

President Jimmy Carter

Since then General Barre virtually isolated himself at Villa Somalia, surrounded by a bunch of Yes-men, popularly known as Kobe-qadeyaal. A West African proverb says: "One has to come out of his house in order to learn." This proverb applies to all wannabe presidents as well.

To be continued…

By M. M. Afrah©2003,

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