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The 1969 Military Coup in Somalia. Part 1- 10. By Dr. Mohamed Rashid Sheikh Hassan. * History*


''The Military Take Over (1969 coup d'état); The Beginning of the New Era''
Forty years have passed since the military forces took over power in Somalia in a bloodless coup overthrowing the post-colonial state founded on western democratic model. I would like to assess the history and the legacy of this regime in a series of articles.
The Prime Minster Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal was in the United States for an official visit at the time when the news of the assassination of the President, Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke reached him. The constitution of the country stated the parliament must elect a successor immediately, if such a situation arises. When the lobbying and campaigning that who would succeed the President started, it became clear that personal interests were overriding national ones and the new candidate would not be judged by his national contributions or political skills. Reports of money exchanging hands for buying voters were coming from Parliament.
Several candidates put themselves forward for the post. Some MPs spoke out of the necessities of nominating some one from the clan of the assassinated President, the Majerteen as compensation for the loss. The idea of inheritance dhaxal for presidential post was openly discussed. Haaji Muse Boqor was one of the main traditional and political clan figures of the Majerteen clan, and close family member of the deceased president. The notion of inheritance Dhaxal raised questions because it revived the traditional methodology of succession and in the case of Somalia it contradicted the premises upon which the Modern State was founded and it posed a serious challenge to its existence.

There were not many tears of mourning shed for the dead President, and the most came from then the only African President who came for the funeral, the Zambian President, Kenneth Kuanda. It looked as though the post-colonial state was already ran into difficulties.

Politicians ran out of ideas and clan rivalry overshadowed the government’s normal functions. A mixture of primordial sentiments of despair and indifference replaced the collective national feeling that existed during the earlier years of independence.

For example, the Abgal clan, one of the Hawiye sub - clans who largely inhabit the capital and its surroundings, refused the burial of the President in the capital on the pretext that he belonged to Majerteen clan which came from a distant region, arguing that if he was allowed to be buried in Abgal land, eventually the Majerteen might one-day claim this land. The controversy whether the state President could be buried in the capital was significant reminder of the huge difficulties confronted by the nation-state to overcome the prejudices of communalism and to establish its moral and central authority.

In 1991 when the government of the military regime collapsed, the Somali post-colonial state finally arrived into crisis stage and collapse. The idea of “clan land ownership" again came to the surface.

The Abgal unleashed a war of “clan cleansing” against other clans particularly the Darood clans living in the capital saying they must return to their regions. This was obviously one of the main factors that provided ammunition in the continuous cycle of inter-clan wars in the country since the collapse of the military regime in 1991.

The Adventure of the General

In 1965 the head of the army forces General Daùd Abdulle Hersi who was popular among the army forces and the public, died in a Moscow hospital and his body was returned to the country and buried in Mogadishu. The question is who would succeed him raised problems for the government, particularly for Prime Minister Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal. As far as the military line of hierarchy and seniority was concerned, the deputy commander Mohamed Siad Barre was the man to fill the vacancy.

The Prime Minister Mr Egal did not hide his objection to Siad Barre whom he did not trust. He suggested that Barre should be sent to Russia for training, he favoured other officer to take the post. Interior Minister Yassin Nur Hassan insisted that the line of command must be respected and he persuaded the Prime Minister to drop his objections against the general. Eventually Siad Barre succeeded General Hersi to become the head of the National army.

General Mohamed Siad Barre took a major gamble in waging the coup in 1969. He was unpopular both among the military and politicians. The politicians underestimated him and did not see him as a threat. Behind the scenes Barre was planning the coup for sometime, and was waiting for the right time. He developed a close relationship with junior officers, particularly Northerners, (Somalilanders). He knew that these officers had some grievance regarding promotion.

The persistent story which the majority of the people believed was that the young junior officers were behind the coup, and eventually the old man or the ”old fox” as Siad Barre was often referred to only later outmanoeuvred the rest.

One reason why people might have believed this version was that the general, a former police officer under the Italian colonial rule, was not seen to have had the necessary credentials and qualifications to come up with any national agenda. This was far from the truth, according to General Ismail Ali Abokar, General Aidid and other military officers; Siad Barre was the main player of the coup.

Mr Aboker was one of the key planners of the coup, and according to him the preparations of the coup were in existence since 1967 but knowledge of it was limited to only a few officers, and Siad Barre was the head.

21st October 1969 at 3 AM in the morning Radio Mogadishu announced that the military seized the power and overthrew the civilian government. It was also announced the Prime Minister and members of his government as well as the former President Aden Abdulle Osman and other politicians were arrested. The parliament was abolished, the constitution suspended and all political and social organisations banned. General Aidid narrated how the events unfolded:

“In the middle of the night I was awakened by the military movements in the military camps and I realised that something might have happened. Then I contacted other senior officials such as Abdalla Mohamed Fadil and Mohamed Ali Samatar; and asked if they were aware what had happened and I realised neither of them were informed about the situation. We agreed at this point to contact other ranking officials such as Mohamed Nur and Elmi Nur whom we thought that they might knew something about the matter.

Together we all came to our commander in chief General Mohamed Siad Barre and asked him what had happened. He replied “don't you know we staged a coup “Inqilaab ayaan samaynay”. He did not say revolution. Aidid said I asked the next question. ”How could this happen without consulting us”. Siad Barre replied, “I would have liked to consult with you, but I was afraid of you”.

The 1969 Military Coup In Somalia Part 2.. By Dr. Mohamed-Rashiid Sh. Hassan

In the evening of the same day Siad Barre called 35 officers both military and police including the heads of the police forces in a meeting and presented to them four points to be discussed:
1) To have a name for the council and decide the number of the council numbers.2) Election of the chairman of the council.3) To nominate the new government and decide its composition4) Other points.The general then suggested that they would call the Council as the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) and it would consist those who participated in the first meeting, whether they took part in the preparations of the coup or not. He then omitted point number two and jumped to the third point. General Aidid and others raised some questions of the logic of exclusively having a military governement to run the country and suggested that technocrats or civilians to be called upon to form a government.

Adding that, if the reason of the overthrow of the civilian government was to rectify the past injustice and corruption, then it is important that we consult other important people such as intellectuals and patriotic business people. Siad Barre categorically rejected this idea and immediately closed the meeting, saying that the military took the responsibility for this change and the future government must be led by the military and civilians can be included too.About one week later, 25 names of those who were present in the meeting appeared in the government-run newspaper and 10 officers including General Aidid who were in the first meeting were omitted. This shows Siad Barre took his first undemocratic decision in the first week he took over the power of the country.Huntington, the wellknown social scientist and author of “Clash of Civilizations” and other books, made a contrast between the developing and developed countries as regards the relationship between the civilian and military.

He argued that the civilian military relations in developed countries had what he called “objective civilian control”, while this is remarkably absent in the case of the developing countries. He posited the following characteristics that are associated with the behaviour of the military of developed countries:1. A high level of military professionalism and recognition by military officers of the limits of their professional competence;2. the effective subordination of the military to the civilian political leaders who make the basic decisions on foreign and military policy;3. the recognition and acceptance by that leadership of an area of professional competence and autonomy for the military; and4. as the result, the minimisation of military intervention in politics and of political intervention in the military.Huntington also asserts that causes of military intervention are also a legacy of under development citing military interventions in Latin America and Africa.

According to Decalo, politics, even in the first years of African’s independence, was often an activity, with social repression used as a method of retaining power in the context of declining legitimacy and societal scarcity. Only the inherent pluralism and inertia of traditional African society structures such as the Somali traditional structure and the relative weakness of central structures and bureaucratises, have delayed the takeover of military rule in some African society for some time. However, during the 1970s and earlier 1980s, post-colonial states in Africa such as Somalia was overtaken by military rule.There have been deeper problems in the Somali post-colonial state that prompted military coup.

Somali post-colonial state suffered fundamental administrative weakness and malpractices with a declining legitimacy when the military intervened. Somaliland civil servants who had good training were overwhelmed by the Somalia civil servants who had less training to run the affairs of the emerging nation except few and the two countries, Somaliland and Somalia having different historical backgrounds had still fundamental differences and were not in line with each other.In the evening of the same day Siad Barre called 35 officers both military and police including the heads of the police forces in a meeting and presented to them four points to be discussed:
  1.  To have a name for the council and decide the number of the council numbers.
  2. Election of the chairman of the council.
  3. To nominate the new government and decide its composition
  4. Other points.

The general then suggested that they would call the Council as the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) and it would consist those who participated in the first meeting, whether they took part in the preparations of the coup or not. He then omitted point number two and jumped to the third point. General Aidid and others raised some questions of the logic of exclusively having a military governement to run the country and suggested that technocrats or civilians to be called upon to form a government. Adding that, if the reason of the overthrow of the civilian government was to rectify the past injustice and corruption, then it is important that we consult other important people such as intellectuals and patriotic business people. Siad Barre categorically rejected this idea and immediately closed the meeting, saying that the military took the responsibility for this change and the future government must be led by the military and civilians can be included too.

About one week later, 25 names of those who were present in the meeting appeared in the government-run newspaper and 10 officers including General Aidid who were in the first meeting were omitted. This shows Siad Barre took his first undemocratic decision in the first week he took over the power of the country.

Huntington, the wellknown social scientist and author of “Clash of Civilizations” and other books, made a contrast between the developing and developed countries as regards the relationship between the civilian and military. He argued that the civilian military relations in developed countries had what he called “objective civilian control”, while this is remarkably absent in the case of the developing countries. He posited the following characteristics that are associated with the behaviour of the military of developed countries:

  1. A high level of military professionalism and recognition by military officers of the limits of their professional competence;
  2. the effective subordination of the military to the civilian political leaders who make the basic decisions on foreign and military policy;
  3. the recognition and acceptance by that leadership of an area of professional competence and autonomy for the military; and
  4. as the result, the minimisation of military intervention in politics and of political intervention in the military.
Huntington also asserts that causes of military intervention are also a legacy of under development citing military interventions in Latin America and Africa.

According to Decalo, politics, even in the first years of African’s independence, was often an activity, with social repression used as a method of retaining power in the context of declining legitimacy and societal scarcity. Only the inherent pluralism and inertia of traditional African society structures such as the Somali traditional structure and the relative weakness of central structures and bureaucratises, have delayed the takeover of military rule in some African society for some time. However, during the 1970s and earlier 1980s, post-colonial states in Africa such as Somalia was overtaken by military rule.

There have been deeper problems in the Somali post-colonial state that prompted military coup. Somali post-colonial state suffered fundamental administrative weakness and malpractices with a declining legitimacy when the military intervened. Somaliland civil servants who had good training were overwhelmed by the Somalia civil servants who had less training to run the affairs of the emerging nation except few and the two countries, Somaliland and Somalia having different historical backgrounds had still fundamental differences and were not in line with each other.
 
The 1969 Military Coup In Somalia Part 3.  By Dr. Mohamed-Rashiid Sh. Hassan

In Search for a New Ideology and Alliance

The first political statements of the military regimes who seized power and overthrew post-colonial states in most Africa countries such as Nigeria, Ethiopia and Ghana were almost identical in that they stepped into power to save the country. They promised quick social reforms and political corrections of past civilian governments. In fact, their records indicate that they destroyed largely past achievements.

In Somalia, the coup d’état was a bloodless and there was not a single person killed during the operation. The names of those who were involved in the coup as well as their leader remained unannounced and mystery for a while. Analysis both in side and outside the country largely thought that those who were involved in the coup d’état must had been the frustrated young junior officers who recently returned to the country, after being trained in foreign military academies in Britain, Italy Egypt and Iraq but Siad Barre play a leading role.

The Somali coup leaders knew that the United States and other Western countries had a close relationship with the civilian government of Late Mohamed H. Ibrahim Egal, and it was unlikely that these countries would support them. They turned to the Soviet Union and its allies, despite the fact that most of the coup leaders in the army were trained in western military academies; but the training and the logistics of the Somali army forces were already linked to the Soviet Union and the socialist countries since 1962, when the Prime Minister late Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke visited the Soviet Union and was one of the first African leaders to conclude a treaty with the Soviet Union. This was an important advantage for the junta to exploit.

The coup leaders approached left-wing intellectuals and politicians in the country who had connections with the socialist world to solicit support saying their intention was to turn their back to the West and toward the East. Some of the left-wing intellectuals and politicians were happy to co-operate with the regime as long as they adopt anti-colonial stand. However, more experienced left-wing politicians such as Dr Abdulaziz Nur Hersi immediately expressed reservations. He was particularly not comfortable with the head of the coup, Siad Barre whom he regarded as a relic of colonialism and Italian fascism. Hersi argued that Socialism and the military never go together.

At the end the regime won “a reserved support.” from left- wing intellectuals and politicians including Hersi himself. Hersi was socialist politician and founder of a small pro-Chinese socialist party in the 1960s.

After few months, the military expelled the American Peace Corps, adopted a more anti-American and pro Soviet stand. The America government cut off aid to the country, and the military made big propaganda out of this so as to strengthen its ties with the then Soviet Union. Immediately the regime established diplomatic relations with the then East Germany, which eventually took over the training of the regime's security forces, and this was followed by a big delegation headed by Mohamed Siad Barre himself to visit North Korea.

Ministerial posts were given to some well-known socialist intellectuals such as Dr. Mohamed Aden Sheikh, a medical doctor who had studied in Italy, but later pushed himself as the ideologue of the regime. He played an important role in linking the regime to international socialists. Likewise, Ibrahim Megag Samatar who studied in the United States during the American civil rights movement in the 1960s. Samatar held several ministerial posts. He later became the Somali Ambassador in Germany before he fled to the United States and joined the opposition Somali National Movement (SNM) where he played an important role in the earlier years of the movement. In a later date, Siad Barre jailed many of these intellectuals and politicians and some fled the country, when they opposed the policy of the regime. For instance Dr. Mohamed Aden was arrested in 1982 together with the Vice President Ismail Ali Aboker and the Foreign Minister Omar Arteh Qalib.

In the first anniversary of the coup on 21st October 1970, Siad Barre made a long unprecedented speech announcing that Somalia adopted Marxism Leninism, and described his coup as a socialist revolution, not an African socialism or Arab socialism but a scientific socialist, Hantiwadag Cilmiga ku Dhisan.

Professor Giddens, the prominent British sociologist. explains the distinction between what can be legitimately conceived as a social revolution and a coup. He stated that political and social seizure of state power through force by the leaders of a mass movement where that power is eventually used to initiate major process of social reform, is different from a coup d’état which involves the use of violent force to seize power but with out transforming the social structure and political system of the society.

It is clear that what was described as revolution (kacaan) by the junta was a classical coup d'état that forcefully demanded the title of a revolution.

Several regimes in African political history made a claim for a Revolution, and Somali regime was one of these. The definition of Revolution varies both from historical perspectives as well as on its causes and effects. For instance, the French Revolution of 1789 derived its political and ideological roots from the eighteenth century age of enlightenment and its principles were Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. The Russian Revolution of 1917 had its roots in Marxist teachings, which Marx spelled out in the Communist Manifesto of 1848. Marxist believed in the construction of a new society and the replacement of the old, and that the capitalist state would wither away and finally disappear, followed by economic abundance and harmony. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the entire Eastern block in the 1990s appears to have closed the Marxist Utopian dream forever.

Somali and Ethiopian military regimes under Siad Barre and Mengistu respectively were imitators of the Russian Revolution. They entertained the illusion that they were involved in a positive social revolution which would give rise to social transformation and development to their peoples but they both left failed states and destroyed societies, particularly in the case of Somalia.

The 1969 Military Coup In Somalia Part 4By Dr. Mohamed-Rashiid Sh. Hassan

In the second anniversary of the coup, Barre made a long speech whose contents were even more rhetorical. He appealed to people to forget clan differences and unify their efforts to build one nation committed to the principles of socialism Hantiwadag. By evoking nationalism (waddaniyad), revolution (Kacaan) and socialism (Hantiwadag), the regime believed they could undermine or even eradicate clannishness and create a new society.

In 1970 thousands of people throughout the country were mobilised for demonstration an effigy – a coffin supposedly representing the deceased body of tribalism – was given a mass burial. The country was set in hysterical national emotional conditioning. In believing that clan difference would be eradicated in this way; and a new society with a socialist outlook would be created. It is worth to mention that in the later years of his rule Siad Barre himself went to the graves and exhumed the clannism (qabyaalad) which he forcefully demanded from the Somali people to bury it in the earlier years of his rule.

Since the earliest formation of political parties in 1950s, there were two sides in Somali political spectrum, the conservative and the liberal left. In Somaliland for instance, the SNL/USP represented the liberal left, the NUF the conservative. In Somalia before union, the SYL represented conservative while the 1958 breakaway party from the SYL, the Greater Somali league (GSL) represented the liberal left. The Union of the two countries brought together each side to join its counterpart, creating major blocks in Somali politics with different ideologies and political orientations:

  • Democratic Union (SDU) which grew out from Greater Somali League (GSL) founded by Haji Mohamed Hussein (a well known left-wing politician and President of the Somali Youth League (SYL) (1948 – 1952)
  • Radical elements from the main political parties of Somaliland, the Somali National League/ United Somali party (SNL/USP).
  • Politicians, individual activists some with trade union backgrounds, who had spent some time in the Arab world, particularly in Yemen and Egypt while these countries experiencing their own revolutions or upheavals, inspired by the radical Arab nationalism spearheaded by the late Egyptian president, Jamal Abdi Naser.
  • Poets, artists and play writers, such as Abdullahi Sultan "Tima’de", Abdullahi Qarshe, Barqad ’As, and Abdi Mohamoud Amin.
After 1970, more educated group joined the platform including graduates from American universities who lived in the United States at the time of the African-American civil right movements, or from Western European universities, Arab countries and the then Soviet Union where they had been exposed to whole range of radical ideas and politics including Arab socialism, Nasirism Euro-communism of Antonio Gramsci persuasion, and Troskism, Maoist and Soviet brands of Marxist-Leninism.

All these groups had one thing in common, they all believed in a socialist society, but since they had different political ideologies and different political experience, they also had different interpretations of socialism. Under military rule they were unable to provide an alternative socialist agenda and they lost their international connections, because the military rejected any other form of socialism outside their own ideological framework. Either your socialist views must coincide with the socialist views of the military junta or you were considered a dangerous anti-military and anti-revolutionary.

The existence of diverse groups having diverse ideologies and political outlooks demonstrated that Somali political and social landscape could accommodate other ideologies and systems of beliefs like any other societies, contrary to the general belief that Somali society is inherently clan-ridden or a clan based society that can hardly move away from the confines of clannish normative value levels. During the earlier years of the military regime these groups provided the ideological intellect, skills and know-how for policy formulations, advice on the organisational apparatus of the state. They and the military had several objectives in common:

  1. To shift the state ethics, functions and practices away from clan considerations and of clan balancing and employ people on the basis of their qualifications and skills regardless of which clan they belonged.
  2. To built a strong central government with socialist principles.
  3. To seek international solidarity with socialist countries.
After three decades, it is interesting to note today that different groups with completely different belief systems and ideologies have appeared in the Somali political space who all claim their agenda is to build a Islamic society but having different interpretation of what this Islamic society means. These include Wahabists or Salafists, Takfiir wal Hijrah, Islaah, Itihaad, Islamic courts, al-Shabaab, Hisbul Islam, and Ahlu Sunah wal Jama’a.

To acheive any meaningful remedy for Somali problems today one has to understand the sociological and anthropological compelexity of how these things were evolving in the last three decades.

The 1969 Military Coup in Somalia Part 5 . By Dr. Mohamed Rashid Sh Hassan.
 
The instability of the state structure in Africa primarily comes from the actions of the leaders of the state itself who are supposed to reinforce its stability.

A close look at the political behaviour of the military regimes in Africa, strange as it may seem, shows that they undermine their own achievements in the previous years of their rule. They gradually destroy the very tools which they could increase the capabilities of the state.

During the first years, the military power base rested on seven major organisations which they set up immediately after seizing power:

  • The Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC): The SRC consisting of the 25 top military officers who were largely instrumental in staging the coup d'état under Barre’s leadership. The SRC held separate meetings chaired by Siad Barre before their weekly cabinet ministerial meetings, which included some civilians. This shows how the military saw themselves as the ultimate power.
  • The National Army Forces, under General Mohamed Ali Samatar: Member of the Somali Revolutionary Council, SRC, and a long-time right hand of Siad Barre, who later became the Minister of Defence as well as vice-president.
  • The Ministry of Interior, under General Hussein Kulmiye Afrah: SRC member and vice-president on interior matters.
  • The Ministry of Information and National Guidance, under Col. Ismail Ali Abokar: SRC member and vice-president on party affairs.
  • The National Security Service, under General Ahmed Suleiman Abdalla: SRC member.
  • The Council of Ministries: composed of both military officers and civilians’ bureaucrats who were largely educated in the United States, Western European countries, and the Arab world. Barre was chairman of both councils.
  • The Security Court, under Col. Mohamoud Geelle
  • Public Relations Office, (PRO) which eventually came under the direct control of Siad Barre himself transforming its name into national political office (NPO) (Xafiiska Siyassadda Qaranka). This office later developed into what became the Somali Socialist Revolutionary Party (SSRP) in 1976.
As Chairman of the SRC, Siad Barre had the dominant control. He was the strategist and thinker for regime. He regarded Islam and tribalism "Qabyalad" as the main two factors that his enemies might use to topple his regime, and he was right. Because of the exploitation of these two phenomena he was finally overthrown, and clannishness became the option for the opposition when the regime itself revived it and used as a political weapon to suppress and alienate certain sections of society on the basis of their clan, for instance, the Isaak clans.

Consolidation of Power through Fear

In 1972, Siad Barre took a further step to consolidate his position within the SRC, and to send a warning to any possible opposition. He executed three high-ranking officials by firing squad on the grounds that they were involved in a counter coup. They were: General Mohamed Einanshe, Colonel Salad Gabeyre and Captain Abdulqadir Dheel. The three belonged to some of the main clans of the country. Einanshe belonged to Isaq sub-clan Habar Yonis, one of the prominent clans in Somaliland, although he lived most of his time in Mogadishu. Salad Gabeyre belonged to Hawiye sub-clan Abgal, that largely inhabit in the Benadir region, of which Mogadishu is the capital. Gabeyre was also married to the daughter of the former President Aden Abdulle Osman and he was the man Siad Barre mostly feared.

Lastly, Captain Abdulqadir Dheel belonged to Majerteen sub-clan Osman Mohamoud. It is generally believed that the main reason Siad Barre executed these officers was to teach an immediate lesson to the large clans which he thought might pose one day a threat and challenge his authority.

The day these officers were executed a song which became almost a signature tune for other executions afterwards was broadcast on Radio Mogadishu: “Beware you rejectionists of peace, a trap of death was set for you”, “Samadiidow dabin baa guu dhigan lagugu dili doono”. This song revives a nomadic imagery for revenge. In the past when two Somali clans fought each other the victorious clan often recites a poem for boasting “tiiq-tiiqsi”. For Siad Barre, the action and the song associated with it was interpreted as a revolutionary government executing counter-revolutionaries.

This also reminds us of Mao tse-tung Cultural Revolution’s Red Guards in china who when they executed one of the people whom they regarded as anti revolutionary started to compose songs in condemnation. This degree of state violence was unprecedented in the Somali political history. From that day fear entered in the hearts of the population. People were shocked because these officers were not brought to any court and their execution was swift and cruel.

The 1969 Military Coup in Somalia Part 6 . By Dr. Mohamed-Rashiid Sh. Hassan

Misleading Popularity and Missing Opportunities

The military leaders were predisposed to popularity therefore they introduced several projects regardless of their usefulness and consequences. We examine three of these projects: The Somali script, land reform and nationalization.

In the third anniversary of the coup, 1972 the military regime announced that Somali language would have orthography and the Latin script was chosen. The question is “Did the military regime bring about this important achievement?” The answer is only a partial yes. Since the earlier years of Somali Liberation struggle for independence, Somali nationalists wanted the Somali language to have orthography. Various Somali researchers were involved in various ways to come up with a model. They presented their findings to the civilian governments, but no action was taken. When the military regime made the decision in 1972, there were several scripts available which previous governments were unable to decide upon which script to adopt. One single achievement of the military regime was to take a practical action on this matter and selected the Latin script.

From a national perspective and for future generations, this was a very important decision. It was the restoration of a major aspect of national pride. Soon after the decision was made, implementation followed; an extensive programme of literacy campaigns was unleashed and for several months, the higher schools and colleges in the country were all closed as the students, teachers and many civil servants as well as military personnel were despatched to the countryside to take part in the literacy campaigns.

Somalis were fascinated by the idea of being able to write and read their language so easily and in a short period of time. After a few months not only those who lived in Republic but Somalis in the other Somali territories of Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti were also able to write to their families and loved ones in their own language. The country's profile both in the African continent and internationally was bolstered; for instance the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) congratulated and praised the Somali government's literacy programme. The introduction of the Somali language as the official language of the state was significant for national pride, not only in Somalia but in the African context too.

In the 1970s Somalia provided military training and assistance to liberation movements in Africa: Mozambique, Angola, and South Africa. Leaders of these movements used to visit Mogadishu to thank Somalia for its support.

Somalia was regarded as one of the progressive countries on the continent. The Organisation of the African Unity "OAU" held its conference in Mogadishu in 1974, when Somali Artists "Waaberi" sang the song “Africa don’t sleep "Afrikaay ha seexan" in the national theatre in the presence of African heads of states and other dignitaries. They were very impressed by the country’s sense of Pan Africanism and high culture. Siad Barre was nominated head of OAU in that year too. The rule of the OAU states that the President of the host country must become its President in the following year. After his nomination Barre immediately went on a tour of the African continent to further raise the profile of the country as well as boost his own personality cult.

Many students returned to the country after they completed their higher studies in various countries such as United States, Europe, Arab countries, Soviet Union and China. They brought with them modern ideas, knowledge and experience and this rejuvenated local culture and knowledge. In Mogadishu cafes one could meet these young intellectuals who were well informed about world affairs and about great social thinkers such as Plato, Kant, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith, Niccolo Machiavelli, Hegel, Karl Marx, Lenin, Ibn khaltum, and Paul Sartre, as well as their African counterparts such as Kwame Nkrumah, Frantz Fanon and Nyerere. Like Paris in the years of J. Paul Sartre, in the 1950s and 1960s popular conversations among young people and students were about how many books you read or which book you are reading, and there were also study circles both in religion and secular knowledge.

In the early years Siad Barre used to meet with some of these young intellectuals, particularly those of socialist learning but he did not allow other members of the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) or ministries to be present at those meetings. He used the knowledge and information he had squeezed from them particularly concerning World Revolutions and history later in his meetings with government officials to impress them how much he knew more about these subjects.

If any one in the meeting interrupted or contradicted him, he would immediately say, let me correct for you, that was not the correct answers, even before the other speaker finishes his speech “An kuu saxee ee sidaa ma aha". His meeting with these young learned intellectuals also served another purpose, to know each of them, what region he came from, to which clan he belonged, and his political persuasion, checking in case anyone of them might one day be a threat or ally.

In the early years, Siad Barre made his headquarters in a military camp "Aviazione" at the corner of the capital that had been the main military headquarters during the Italian administration. Siad Barre lived there for nearly ten years before he moved to Villa Somalia, the site of former civilian Presidents. This was part of his tactics in seeking popular sympathy. He wanted to portray himself as the man of the people who was not interested in a lavish lifestyle, but in fact this was strategically planned for security reasons.

The 1969 Military Coup in Somalia part 7:  By Dr. Mohamed-Rashid Sheikh Hassan

Land Reform Strategy

Land reform was one of the key components of the regime’s socialist programme but before discussing land reform, a glance must first be given to some of the matters surrounding this issue. Most of the fertile cultivatable land in the country lies on the banks of the two rivers Juba and Shebelle, in southern part of the country. This land was taken over by Italian farmers during fascist government rule in Somalia in the 1930s. The Italian government of the day granted loans and other financial incentives to their unemployed workers in Italy to immigrate and settle in Somalia. Libya, Somalia and Eritrea were the most important Italian colonial posts in Africa, during their colonial period.

When the Italians arrived, they turned most of this land into banana plantations for export to Italy. Somali workers were coerced to dig long canals from the river for these plantations, without proper payment, let alone any workers’ rights. Some were given a small plot of land to cultivate for themselves. The situation was similar to the Feudal system that existed in some parts in Europe before the industrial revolution in Russia, for instance. Many lost their families and loved ones as a result of digging these canals.

One canal dug from Shebelle river to these plantations was named the canal of death, “asayle”. The word is derived from the word asey, which is a white cloth women wear as sign of grief when their relatives die. The main Italian companies involved in the banana plantation and exportation were Saka and Sanka. They enjoyed considerable political power during the colonial government, while Somali workers were exploited and had no protection. When you look at the matter from another angle, these companies were the only ones who had the money and machinery to carry out large-scale projects and provide employment.

When the country achieved its independence in 1960, the national government put pressure on the Italians farmers to relax their system and allow the Somali government and the private sector to enter the banana market. The Italian farmers did not want to lose their total domination. Therefore, they thought of a smart idea and told the government and MPs that they were ready to provide a limited share in banana exportation, described as “quota” (about two thousand quintals of banana) to MPs and Ministers. The MPs and the Ministers would be allocated this share without doing anything and they would get the cost of "quota" in cash. This was apparently a direct bribe and as result any bill brought to the parliament to reform the system was never successful.

In the first Somali government, the Minister for Agriculture was Ahmed Haji Dualeh “Ahmed Kaise” a British educated Somalilander. Being trained in a system of governance in which accountability and transparency were strictly adhered to, it became too difficult for him to overcome the influence of the Italian farmers over government and parliament, and the corruption surrounding the banana exportation system. He resigned and decided to leave the country; he was only later persuaded to accept an ambassadorial post.

In the early years, following their socialist agenda, the military regime introduced what was described as land reform with far reaching interventionist measures, in the agricultural sector including the banana sector, which was in the hands of Italian farmers since 1930. The Italian farmers had a monopoly of this sector through “Mafia-like connections”. Like the successive Somali governments before them, the military regime at the end of the day did not make any fundamental change to the system. The Italian farmers found new friends in the military establishment, too.

It is important to understand that the banana question in Somalia has been always at the centre of economic and political power. For instance, one of the main reasons why warring factions within the United Somali Congress (USC) ferociously fought around Mogadishu and Merka harbours and prolonged the Somali civil war after the collapse of the military regime in 1991, was linked to who would control the banana exportation from these ports. The solution or lack of solution of this problem has been a major ingredient in the Somali social, economic and political crisis as well as the continuation of civil wars.

Following Stalinist method of coercion, the regime established collective farms in the Soviet style on the previously uncultivated fertile areas around the two main rivers: Juba and Shebelle. Nomadic communities affected by drought were moved from other regions and unemployed young people were rounded up from the capital and other places; and both were given some plots of land in these areas. They were also given agricultural equipment and other basic materials and were forced to settle down in what the military described as “crash programmes projects".

The first Minister for Agriculture appointed by the military was Abdulle Aw Farah who had worked for the United Nations for a long time as an agriculture expert. He left his post in the belief that he could help his country at this time of national excitement and historical change. Immediately he rejected most of the ideas of land reform. He described the idea of collectivisation as economically unproductive. He strongly argued that a Stalinist type of collectivisation would not work in Somalia, and was a negative policy for development. When the military leadership insisted on this course of action, Farah resigned and went back to his work in the United Nations. Dr. Omar Salah who had studied Agriculture in East Germany and was very keen to carry out the land reform programme as the military and their Soviet advisers wanted replaced him. It received hostile responses from the entire farming communities both Somalis and Italian landowners. The small traders whose business was linked to the farming market also resented it. It was clear that land reform was hurting those it was supposed to help and in the end the policy was a complete failure.

The 1969 Military Coup in Somalia part 8. : By Dr. Mohamed-Rashid Sheikh Hassan

As a result of the famine caused by the drought 1974/1975 thousands of people were moved to southern regions and were settled on the banks of the Juba and Shabelle .

Siad Barre took this decision without considering the economic and social implications. There were no feasibility studies and the advice of experts was ignored. On another occasion, Siad Barre criticised those who argued for the importance of feasibility studies before implementation of decisions. The experts were labelled as reactionaries working for the imperialists Isticmar who wanted to make obstacles for the "Revolution".

Soviet military aircrafts were used to move these people, reminiscent of the Stalinist operation when he moved some of the population of central Asia beyond the Urals in the 1930s. Stalin often moved people around without consultation. Siad Barre’s and Stalin’s decisions were influenced by their belief in ideological dogma, which saw this as another path to development and social transformation.

When the people arrived at their destinations they were dispersed into various villages, such as Dujuma, Kurtunwaray and Sablaleh, where some communities involving in traditional farming already lived. The idea was to create state-sponsored collective farms.

The regime wanted to transform these people quickly from nomads into cultivators and farmers. It was a daunting task, and impossible to achieve. A process, which needed proper research and long-time planning, was rushed to produce quick results, typical of a military method of coercive developmental strategies. After years of wasted money, materials and human energy, these schemes failed and the majority of the people returned to their original regions.

Nationalisation: To whom and from whom?

Land reform was followed by nationalisation in two stages. First, mainly the privately owned sector of the economy, banks, insurance companies, pharmaceutical, shipping, electricity companies, as well as the only sugar refinery in the country, at Jowhar, were nationalised. Second, the import and distribution of goods like sugar, rice, oil petrol, and films.

A large part of nationalised businesses was in the hands of Somalis and their associates. The inclusion of the petrol, electricity companies and films had significance; it was based on security considerations. A new government agency ENC (Egenzia Nationale di Commercio) which had total monopoly on the distribution and sale of the main imported food items, such as the rice and sugar was set up. Women had to come in the early mornings to line up in queues to buy basic food items.

The land reform with its crash programme, self-help schemes, control of prices was followed by the establishment of predatory government institutions such as Agricultural Development Agency (ADC) and Egenzia Nationale di Commercio (ENC). These institutions were portrayed by the regime as a towering success of their development strategy. In fact it was a sign of militaristic coercive social engineering in tutelage of Stalinist type, which destroyed communal economic spirit as well as individual creativity. The land reform and nationalisation were twin socialist policies, which were designed to put the economy under the control of the military regime. It was also a clear signal to the Soviets that the military regime was ideologically committed to scientific socialism.

As the leader of the coup, Barre alone had the privilege to appoint people to higher places. Therefore, he appointed new people to run nationalised companies and firms whose administrative skills, knowledge and experience were not up to the job. The majority of them were unqualified and did not understand the difference between a socialist-oriented economy and a capitalist one; the main reason they were chosen was because they were loyal to the leader of the junta. Professional people who were running these institutions previously were described as reactionaries and were dismissed in great numbers..

The terminology reactionary "dib-u socod" came into the Somali political history around 1950. It is derived from an Arabic word rajci, plural ”rajciya”. It was a popular word during 1950 and 1960s when the Arab masses were inspired by the late Egyptian President Nassir political speeches and was imported by the Somali political activists who lived in the Arab countries during that period.

On a number of occasions Siad Barre said in his speeches "dad cusub ayaan abuuraynaa", means “we would create a new people”. In fact he did create what he described as a new people, but who were they and for what purposes? They were his family, clan members and cronies and clients. He put in their hands the economy and the resource of the country, in the name of nationalisation. Equally in the name of nationalisation, decent Somalis whose poor families provided their education and after many years of schooling and hard work got a job in government, were thrown out and were described as anti-revolutionaries Kacaan diid.

Hard working business people who with cumulative efforts and through difficult times managed to set up private businesses were robbed and impoverished through this ill fated exercise of nationalisation. One can posit a legitimate question about nationalisation. From whom it was nationalised and to whom it was nationalised for or who benefited from nationalisation? It is obvious that the new “Social Group” largely consisting of Siad Barre's family members and their "clients" benefited from nationalisation. This policy was reversed in 1981 when the Somali government accepted structural adjustment policies of the IMF and World Bank

The 1969 Military Coup in Somalia Part 9 .  By Dr. Mohamed-Rashiid Sh. Hassan.
 
The Regime’s Foreign Policy (Core Countries)

Since independence, Somali foreign policy was mainly built around the question of seeking the unification of all Somali territories under one state. This was the fundamental premise of Somali foreign policy. The military regime made the following six points their foreign policy guidelines:

  1. Support for international solidarity and national liberation movements.
  2. Oppose and fight all forms of colonialism and neo-colonialism.
  3. Struggle to maintain Somali National unity.
  4. Recognise strongly the principle of peaceful coexistence between all peoples.
  5. Continue the policy of positive neutrality.
  6. Respect and recognise all international commitments undertaken by this country.
From these six points we can see there was more emphasis on internationalism and closer ties with socialist countries. This was in line with the ideology that the military regime embraced from the beginning.

The Soviet Union

The first two points indicate that the regime's foreign policy was more in tune with Soviet global strategy. The Soviet Union wanted to use Somalia as a proxy state through which it could extend its influence to other parts of Africa, in the same way as it wanted Cuba to extend its influence to Latin American countries. Through Somalia the Soviets supported liberation movements in Africa, such as Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau and South Africa. Somalia was not expected to vote against any proposal put by the Soviet in the UN and in other International Organisations, as was the case in all countries in the Soviet satellite orbit.

The Soviet Union helped to build the Somali army forces. In 1970 The Somali national army became one of the most well trained with the most sophisticated weaponry in black Africa, next to the Egyptian army, also equipped by the Soviets. The Russians were given almost a free hand to use Somali territory for their military purposes, including base facilities in Berbera port, facing the Arab Gulf countries to counterbalance the American military base in Asmara on the Red Sea. East Germans took the responsibility to re-organise the regime’s security Service along the lines of their oppressive security model.

It is fair to mention though, that sometimes the regime made independent decisions even when these were contrary to Soviet foreign policy strategy. For instance while the regime had a closer relationship with the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, it also joined the Arab League in 1974, an organisation seen by the Kremlin as reactionary and often used against the Soviet Union’s interest in the Arab and Islamic world. It was unlikely that the Somali government consulted the Soviet Union when this historic decision was made.

Joining the Arab league largely came about as a result of two considerations: First, to ease the pressure coming from conservative Arab countries particularly Saudi Arabia which was not comfortable with the deepening Soviet influence in Somalia.

Second, to pacify the growing concern of the religious leaders in the country who from the beginning did not like the introduction of Marxist ideology into Islamic Somali society.

Even before the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, Czarist Russia saw the Horn of Africa as a strategically important area for their naval power in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. Subsequently all Russian governments were keen to maintain good relationship with peoples and governments in the area. Although Soviet ideologists theoretically believed that the military was not the appropriate social organisation or social class to bring about a socialist society, at the same time they realised it was the only social group who had a well established organisational structure in most African countries. Somalia had few industries and hence no working class, or even strong socialist parties, but this did not inhibit Soviet strategists from imposing their Marxist ideology and system of government on the country. Soviet strategists believed the military could be a vehicle for social engineering and a force for transformation and hopefully produce a socialist society along Soviet lines.

The Russians knew perfectly well that Siad Barre was neither revolutionary nor socialist but Somalia was very important for them in the cold war period and this overrode all other considerations. Soviet experts and teachers who worked with Somalis admired Somalis’ relaxed personality, their intelligence and quick understanding of complex scientific theories. Somali students who got scholarships in military and civilian institutions in the Soviet Union were highly regarded for their achievements.

The urban and middle class groups with Western values had an ambivalent attitude towards the Russians. At one level they approved of the support the Soviets were giving to the Somali Armed Forces, since US was helping Ethiopia, the traditional enemy of Somalia. On the other hand they were worried about the deepening influence of socialist countries in their own country. They also regarded the aid and support, which the Soviet Union was providing to the Third World Countries, as cosmetic, and more military - related, rather than as genuine aid motivated for development and economic growth.

The relationship between the two countries was not in fact as harmonious as it appeared on the surface. As a result of the 1977/1978 war, the relationship of the two countries deteriorated. Somalia switched to the West and established a closer relationship with the United States.

The United States of America

The relationship between the military regime and the United States was very low since the regime came into power. One of the first political actions taken by the military was to expel the American Peace Corps. Like other communist countries, the regime constantly watched any Somali who entered the American embassy in the capital and any one who had some relationship with the Americans was seen as anti - revolutionary “kacaan diid”. The card of United States as the imperialist was played to the maximum. All the problems of Somalia were blamed on the West, particularly on the United States. US foreign policy on Somalia was mainly linked to the county’s strategy of containment of Russian and Chinese influence in the Horn of Africa. Since the beginning of the cold war, the Horn of Africa was one of the most strategically contested areas in Africa.

When President Ronald Reagan succeeded President Carter in the White House; American policy took a more offensive approach towards the Soviet Union, and was set to confront the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, Latin America and in Africa.

Reagan described the Soviet Union as “an evil empire”. He was the first American President who wanted to take the West/ East confrontation to new levels, which shocked even some of his close policy makers. He wanted to back his statement of "evil empire" with action. CIA cover operations equipped the Mujahidin in Afghanistan through Pakistan, and Contra forces in Latin America were put into operation. Reagan wanted to do the same in Africa too and because of this grand strategy, Somalia became important for the Americans. They asked the Somali regime for military facilities in Berbera port, previously used by the Russians, for its Rapid Development Forces. In a secret meeting, Siad Barre provided the Americans with what they asked for and the US government in return provided Barre’s regime with some economic and military assistance.

The USA also gave the green light to international financial organisations; such as the IMF, the World Bank and Western donor countries to join the bandwagon to support Somalia It was canvassed that Somalia be accepted in the Paris Club. Somalia’s economy was brought more forcefully under IMF structural adjustment programs with their debt reduction and rescheduling schemes, as well as more in line with World Bank directives. Humanitarian Emergency aid for the hundreds of thousands of refugees pouring into the country from Ethiopia as a result of the Somali/Ogaden war was also put in operation.

Even though the regime was accused of more Human Rights violations and did not dismantle its oppressive institutions, it still received American and western economic and political salvage packages. All of sudden Siad Barre was re-incarnated as the good guy and he was invited to Washington to meet President Ronald Reagan. The Arab conservative countries in the Gulf who earlier criticised the regime because of the execution of ten religious scholars in 1975, now welcomed Siad Barre into their midst after the US set the stage for him. "…US military aid to Somalia grew from $20 million in 1980, to $34.1 million in 1985. Yet in 1986 US military aid had dropped to $20.2 million and the following year it fell by more that 50 per cent to $8.2 million. Finally in 1989 it was under I million.

Further explanation on that:

"…There is no doubt that the campaigning of human rights movements such as African Watch and Amnesty International against Barre for his massive violation of human rights at the end of 1980 particularly in Somaliland had a strong influence on the international attitudes towards the dictator.

Britain

British foreign policy in the Horn Africa was always more focused on Kenya. The British colonial administration left British settlers with a huge investment in the country. Kenya achieved its independence from Britain in 1964 and afterwards kept a strong relationship with Britain. Most Kenyan institutions, such as courts and the military were staffed with British experts and advisers.

During the Cold War, Nairobi became the main centre for Western intelligence agencies in east and central Africa to counterbalance Soviet presence in Egypt and Somalia. Next came Ethiopia with whom Britain cemented strong relationships, particularly with Menelik and Haille Selassie. The British presence in Somalia after the Independence was minimal, particularly after 1962 when Somalia cut off diplomatic relations, because of the question of NFD.

This diplomatic relationship was only re-stored in 1967 when Mr. Egal became Prime Minster. But when the military seized power, they closed the British consulate in Hargeisa and nationalised the few British institutions in the country.

The most effective civil servants running the Somali government after independence were mainly British trained Somalilanders. Siad Barre was not comfortable with any British role in Somali affairs. The first and last British parliamentary delegation was led by the former liberal leader David Steel who visited the country in 1972, after first visiting Kenya. David Steel met Siad Barre and raised the importance of democracy and civilian rule and wished peace and prosperity for the Somali people.

Italy

Italy regarded Somalia as their last colony in Africa and always wanted to keep it in its sphere of influence of any cost, regardless of the type of government it might have. The relationship between the two countries during the military regime was good. When the regime had low level of relationship with the rest of the West. Italy enjoyed an even closely relationship with the Somali military regime. After the nationalisation of 1975, some Italian businessmen and their local agents had lucrative business with the nationalised economy. Italian politicians on both the right and left were frequent visitors to Somalia. Italian farmers in the banana business, who mainly originated in Milan, and allegedly had fascist connections in the past were not worried about the rhetoric of regime's socialism. They were enthusiastically welcomed to the dictator's office. At the same time, Italian journalists poured in to the country and portrayed a positive picture of the regime.

Somali studies projects were established in major Italian Universities, such as University of Rome, and Florence and more Somali students were coming all the time to Italy for further studies. The Somali National University in Mogadishu was affiliated to Italian Universities. The Italian/Somali relationship in education was positive step in the right direction. The Somali National University benefited from its connection with Italian Universities. Admission, consultations, professors, syllabuses and examinations were all influenced by this relationship. Somalis were more received in Italy than in any other county during Somali crisis and the Somalis feel at home in Italy because of the colonial link.

The 1969 Military Coup in Somalia Part 10 . By Dr. Mohamed-Rashiid Sh. Hassan.

The Regime’s Foreign Policy (Core Countries) continued ..'' Somalia and the Arab World '' 

The relationship between Somalia with Arab world stemmed at least from four main premises. Firstly, having a common Islamic faith, Islam reached the Somali coast before it reached Egypt. Secondly, the geographical proximity between Somalia and the Middle East is close. Thirdly, trade between the Somali coast and the Arab world existed for a long time and fourthly, the birth of Somalia’s nationalism and liberation struggle was very much linked to the Arab world, particularly Egypt.

The Gulf countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, have been the recipients of Somali livestock, and there have always been many Somalis workers in these countries, whose remittances back home played a significant role in the local economy.

Somalia became a member of the Arab league 1974 to uphold all these relationships. On the whole the military regime did not make much use of this important relationship. Economic and financial assistance from Arab countries during the military regime went into the pockets of Siad Barre’s family and cronies.

Egypt, which was involved heavily in Somalia since the 1950s, maintained a close relationship with the military regime. Boutros-Boutros Ghali the former Egyptian Minister for Foreign Affairs who later became the General Secretary of the UN was a consistent supporter of the military regime. His ill advice played a significant role in the Somali crisis during the so-called "Operation Restore Hope".

Arab countries were unreservedly on the side of the military regime.

For instance, while Siad Barre's forces were bombarding the Somaliland towns, such as Hargeisa and Burao in 1988 and western human rights organisations were critical of these atrocities not a single Arab country withdrew its support from the regime. The fact is the Arab countries are by majority undemocratic and violations of human rights are common in their countries. Introducing these core countries gives us a picture not only of the foreign policy of the regime but also the degree of involvement of these countries in Somali affairs and their diverse interests.

Undermining the Previous Achievements

The military regime in Somalia inherited a capitalist state or at least a state which was moulded in the capitalist western fashion. Instead of improving its functioning and modality the new regime took political actions designed to undermine and destroy all previous state institutions and the political ideas associated with them. Immediately in the aftermath of their coup, the military banned the constitution, institutions of all civil liberties with intention of replacing them with a military structure with a socialist face. By using Gramsci's political strategy, Siad Barre created forces within the society whose aim was to prepare a cadre to eventually take over the state machinery.

However, the Somali situation was profoundly different from Gramsci's Italy for the following reasons: (a) there was no capitalist bourgeoisie state in power to fight against and the political power was already won by the military junta. (b) There was no working class movement demanding a socialist alternative or an organised socialist force within society as way the case in Italy. Gramsci produced set of analytical tools: among them were coercion, consent, war of movement and war of positioning.

Gramsci's analysis of one class's domination over another through coercion and consent is useful here, but it was used for rather different motives. Consent was sustained here through soliciting support for certain clans and individuals or groups from the wider population, and coercion was exercised by special "organisation" called "Guardians of the Revolution" Guudwadayaal. This organisation was only accountable to Siad Barre, by using this group he also used the other Gramscian concepts of "war of movement" and "war of position". Strategically, he wanted to put in place a new power base before he dismantled the old one.

By Dr. Mohamed-Rashiid Sh. Hassan.

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