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The Military Take Over (1969 Coup D'état): The Beginning Of The New Era
By Dr. Mohamed-Rashid Sheikh Hassan – Part III
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 Siyad 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 then 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, Siyad 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 Siyad 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 Meygag 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 later years of the movement.
Siyad Barre jailed many of these intellectuals and politicians, for instance, Dr. Mohamed Aden was arrested in 1982 together with the Vice President Ismail Ali Aboker and the Foreign Minister Omar Arteh Qalib and some fled the country, when they opposed the policy of the regime.
In the first anniversary of the coup on 21st October 1970, Siyad 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 “Hantiwadaag 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 without transforming the social structure and political system of the society.
It is clear that what was described as revolution (kacaan) by the junta in Somalia in 1969 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, philosophical 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 one, 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 Siyad 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.
to be continued ....