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Issue 435 -- May 29- June 04, 2010
1969 Military Coup In Somalia Part XXVII
By Dr. Mohamed-Rashiid Sh. Hassan
This is the twenty-seventh article of a series of articles that Dr. Mohamed-Rashid analyses the military coup and its legacy
A brief History about General Mohamed Farah Aidid
I met the General Mohamed Farah Aidid in Kampala Uganda and had a long interview with him, both about his life and his vision about the future of Somalia.
General Aidid‘s name dominated the Somali political scene prior to and in the years that followed the downfall of the military regime. Aidid’s forces confronted the US forces in Somalia and his name entered world politics, as the man whose name was associated with first test of the New World Order, as proclaimed by President Bush Senior. This political terminology was invented after the Soviet Union and Eastern European Communist system collapsed in 1989. General Aidid was prepared more to succeed Siyad Barre than any of the opposition leaders.
General Aidid was born 1934 into a nomadic family in the rural area near Belet Wein. According to himself he was very close to his mother and she had a great impact on his early life. His uncle helped him from his mother’s side (Majerteen clan) that was living in Mogadishu at that time. Aidid was a camel herd boy at the age of six but ran away from the rural area to the town, a journey many Somalis made. He later joined his brother who was police inspector in Galka’ayo, and then went to Mogadishu. There he started his first schooling up to secondary level.
In August 1950, he joined the police force when Somalia was under UN trusteeship. He completed various courses relating to his job and 1954 to 1956 he was awarded a scholarship to do further studies in the NATO School (Cesano di Roma) in Italy. After he completed these, he returned to Somalia with the rank of lieutenant. The previous idea that Somalia must build its military force, which was in discussion when he left for the course, was abandoned. The Italian colonial administration was not in favor of a strong Somali army. Instead they put more focus on the police force. Aidid and the other young officers had no other option but to join the existing police force. In 1959 he went back to Italy for further training in his old school Cesano di Roma. Just before he returned to Italy, he participated in writing a draft of a document aimed for the formation of a National Army. It was sent for approval to the then local Government of Prime Minister Abdillahi Isse Mohamoud. Aidid was obsessed with the Somali flag. He believed he was one of its pillars, in the military symbolic sense. These are his words:
“I was leading the few military selected groups that the flag was handed to them by the new born state president, Aden Abdulle Osman, during the first day of the independence, first July 1960. Carrying the flag symbolically meant that the military was the pride and the guardian of the newly independent nation. I also led the group who hosted the flag in the main government buildings in the capital “Ufficio Governo” and the National Assemble (parliament) later in the evening".
General Daud Abdalla, a well-respected man was the commander in Chief of the Somali National Army at the time. He died in 1975 in Moscow. At that time General Aidid was in Moscow for training in Fronsi military academy. He was the highest officer to accompany the coffin of the late General Daud to Mogadishu. According to Aidid, before General Daud passed away, he wrote a letter to the President of the Republic at the time, Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke. In that letter, General Daud proposed that his successor should be General Aidid because of his excellent military training.
General Aidid was not involved in the military coup, which brought Siyad Barre and his close allies into power in 1969. He and his colleague Abdillahi Yusuf who later became Aidid’s rival for power were posted outside the country. Aidid was posted to the Somali Embassy in Tanzania as a counselor and Col. Abdillahi Yusuf in Sudan as counselor in the Somali Embassy. This was obviously a gentle exile, to put it mildly, so that they would not create problems for Siyad Barre and his regime.
They rejected this offer. As a result they were immediately arrested and first put in Brava town prison. In the middle of one night, they were taken by plane to Hargeysa and transferred to Mandera prison in the Somaliland.
When the Somali Ethiopian war broke out in 1977, the President called former military officers who were holding civilian posts, including Gen. Aidid and Abdillahi Yusuf, to be ready for the war front. For General Aidid and Colonel Abdillahi Yusuf, this was a miracle. They never thought that one day they be back in military uniform. Abdillahi Yusuf was assigned to become commander of one of the forces in Bay region, while Aidid was assigned as an aid to the President's and adviser for military affairs.
In April 1978, Abdillahi Yusuf became involved a failed coup d’état before he fled to Kenya and asked for political asylum. Later he went to Ethiopia and formed the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF). While General Aidid remained for six years as presidential advisor on military matters, he was appointed Somali Ambassador to India and later he formed the military wing of the Somali National Congress (USC).
In 1988 the regime's security deteriorated. It lost both material and men as a result of series of SNM ambushes in the North (now Somaliland). On the international scene the regime was increasingly isolated. Human rights organizations such as the African Watch published several reports about human rights violation by the regime. Even the Presidential bodyguards were not satisfied. One on occasion the palace guard nearly mutinied, complaining about the effects of mounting inflation. When the officer in charge reported the incident, Siyad Barre ordered that the men to be filed before him. He just snatched a rifle from one and said, ‘He who has this can never get hungry,’ and with that he left. This was an appalling and irresponsible remark with far-reaching consequences.
In 1989 in a desperate attempt, the regime launched a belated futile diplomatic offensive intended to upstage its adversaries. Four delegations, headed by the five most powerful men after the president, were sent to cover every region of the globe, to present the government’s view to the International community:
1. The first delegation was led by Mohamed Ali Samatar, first vice president and then prime minister, to tour part of Western Europe, mainly Italy and the UK, US and Canada.
2. The second one by Hussein Kulmiye Afrah, second vice president toured Europe
3. The third delegation headed by Mohamud Ahmed Farah, third vice president and member of the politburo, headed a delegation to the Far East and USSR, and
4. The fourth was headed by Ahmed Suleiman Abdalla, security chief and son-in-law of to tour the Arab countries.