REMINISCENCES PART THREE
(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
FLASH BACK OCTOBER 1969 AND AFTERMATH
AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT
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
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
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
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
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
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,