|“||I shall respect a Somali individual as long as he deserves respect, but if he turns away from the correct path, then that is not my business.||„|
|~ Siad Barre|
Siad Barre (October 6th, 1919 – January 2nd, 1995) was the military dictator of Somalia from 1969 to 1991. Ideologically a Marxist-Leninist, Somalia became a totalitarian comminist state under Barre's rule; his dictatorship was, in fact, one of Africa's most enduring communist regimes during the Cold War.
Barre was forced from power in 1991 by a popular uprising (thus igniting the ongoing Somali Civil War.) He fled to Nigeria, where he remained for the rest of his life until his death in 1995.
Barre, a major general of the gendarmerie, became President of Somalia after the 1969 coup d'état that overthrew the Somali Republic following the assassination of President Abdirashid Ali Shermarke. The Supreme Revolutionary Council military junta under Barre reconstituted Somalia as a one-party Marxist–Leninist communist state, renaming the country the Somali Democratic Republic and adopting scientific socialism, with support from the Soviet Union.
Barre's early rule was characterised by widespread modernization, nationalization of banks and industry, promotion of cooperative farms, a new writing system for the Somali language, and anti-tribalism. The Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party became Somalia's vanguard party in 1976, and Barre started the Ogaden War against Ethiopia on a platform of Somali nationalism and pan-Somalism.
His rule has been called one of the worst human rights records in Africa. He had thousands persecuted, imprisoned without trial and tortured. Both the urban population and nomads living in the countryside [were] subjected to summary killings, arbitrary arrest, detention in squalid conditions, torture, rape, crippling constraints on freedom of movement and expression and a pattern of psychological intimidation." Amnesty International went on to report that torture methods committed by Barre's National Security Service (NSS) included executions and "beatings while tied in a contorted position, electric shocks, rape of woman prisoners, simulated executions and death threats."
In the late 1970s Barre faced shrinking popularity and increased domestic resistance. In response, Barre's elite unit, the Red Berets (Duub Cas), and the paramilitary unit called the Victory Pioneers carried out systematic terror against the Majeerteen, Hawiye, and Isaaq clans. The Red Berets systematically smashed water reservoirs to deny water to the Majeerteen and Isaaq clans and their herds. More than 2,000 members of the Majeerteen clan died of thirst, and an estimated 5,000 Isaaq were killed by the government.
After fallout from the unsuccessful Ogaden campaign, Barre's administration began arresting government and military officials under suspicion of participation in an abortive 1978 coup d'état. Most of the people who had allegedly helped plot the putsch were summarily executed. However, several officials managed to escape abroad and started to form the first of various dissident groups dedicated to ousting Barre's regime by force.
A new constitution was promulgated in 1979 under which elections for a People's Assembly were held. However, Barre and the Politburo of his Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party continued to rule. In October 1980, the SRSP was disbanded, and the Supreme Revolutionary Council was re-established in its place. By that time, the moral authority of Barre's ruling Supreme Revolutionary Council had begun to weaken.
In September 1972 Tanzanian-sponsored rebels attacked Uganda. Ugandan President Idi Amin Dada requested Barre's assistance, and he subsequently mediated a non-aggression pact between Tanzania and Uganda. For his actions, a road in Kampala was named after Barre.
Many Somalis were becoming disillusioned with life under military dictatorship. The regime was further weakened in the 1980s as the Cold War drew to a close and Somalia's strategic importance was diminished. The government became increasingly totalitarian, and resistance movements, supported by Ethiopia's communist Derg administration, sprang up across the country. This eventually led in 1991 to the outbreak of the civil war, the toppling of Barre's regime and the disbandment of the Somali National Army (SNA).
Among the militia groups that led the rebellion were the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF), United Somali Congress (USC), Somali National Movement (SNM) and the Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM), together with the non-violent political oppositions of the Somali Democratic Movement (SDM), the Somali Democratic Alliance (SDA) and the Somali Manifesto Group (SMG). Siad Barre escaped from his palace towards the Kenyan border in a tank. Many of the opposition groups subsequently began competing for influence in the power vacuum that followed the ouster of Barre's regime. In the south, armed factions led by USC commanders General Mohamed Farah Aidid and Ali Mahdi Mohamed, in particular, clashed as each sought to exert authority over the capital.
After fleeing Mogadishu in January 1991, Barre temporarily remained in the southwestern Gedo region of the country, which was the stronghold for his family. From there, he launched a military campaign to return to power. He twice attempted to retake Mogadishu, but in May 1991 was overwhelmed by General Mohamed Farrah Aidid's army, and was forced into exile.
Barre initially moved to Nairobi, Kenya, but opposition groups with a presence there protested his arrival and support of him by the Kenyan government. In response to the pressure and hostilities, he moved two weeks later to Nigeria. Barre died on January 26, 1995 in Lagos from a heart attack. He was buried in Garbahaareey District in the Gedo region of Somalia.
Ironically, the Barre regime was the last time Somalia had any kind of political stability. The Somali Civil War has continued to present day, and although a central government was reestablished in 2012, only portions of the country are under its control, while large portions of the country are either contested or controlled outright by other rebel factions. Today, Somalia is considered to be a failed state, and lawlessness reigns in most of the country.