muhammad siad barre

Siad Barre

[see-ahd bah-rey]

Mohamed Siad Barre (Maxamed Siyaad Barre, محمّد سياد بري ) (b. 1919 – January 2, 1995) was the President of Somalia from 1969 to 1991. Prior to his presidency, he was an army commander under the democratic government of Somalia, which had been in place since independence in June 1960. During his rule, he styled himself as Jaalle Siyaad (Comrade Siad). The word Jaalle also translates as the title Mister. He was a dictator in the sense that he had an unrestricted power during this reign.[ref] ].

Early years

Barre was born into the Somali Marehan clan near Shilabo in the Ogaden, although he later claimed to have been born in Garbahaarreey in order to qualify for the Italian colonial police force. Before joining the police force, Barre had been an orphaned shepherd. He had no formal education but attended some military courses in Italy, eventually becoming Vice Commander of Somalia's Army when the country gained its independence in 1960. After spending time with Soviet officers in joint training exercises in the early 1960s, Barre became an advocate of Soviet-style Marxist government.

Head of state

In 1969, during the power vacuum that followed the assassination of Somalia's second president, Abdirashid Ali Shermarke, the military staged a coup on October 21, 1969 (the day after Shermarke's funeral), and took over office. Barre was to rule the nation for the next twenty-two unmitigated years. He established a pervasive personality cult, assuming titles such as Macallinka (Teacher), Aabaha Aqoonta (Father of Knowledge), and Guulwaadde (Victorious Leader). Large posters of him, many of which can still be seen today, were common in the capital Mogadishu during his reign.

One of the earliest initiatives of Barre's regime was to introduce the Somali language as the official language of education. All education in government schools now had to be conducted in Somali. This was necessary, as there was a growing rift between those who spoke the colonial languages, and who did not. Many of the high ranking positions in the government were given to those people that spoke either Italian or English. To keep everyone on an even playing field, the Somali language was finally written down. The Latin alphabet was selected as the means for writing the language. The establishment of the Somali language as a national language, created a new confidence in the masses. In 1972, the second anniversary of the military government, all government employees were ordered to learn to write and read Af Soomaali within six months.

Siad Barre also championed the concept of a Greater Somalia (Soomaaliweyn), which refers to those regions in the Horn of Africa in which ethnic Somalis are and have historically represented the predominant population. Greater Somalia thus encompasses Somalia, Djibouti, the Ogaden and the North Eastern Province (the latter two of which are currently administered by Ethiopia and Kenya, respectively) i.e. the almost exclusively Somali-inhabited regions of the Horn of Africa.

In 1977, the Ogaden War broke out after the government of Siad Barre sought to unite the various Somali-inhabited territories of the region into a Greater Somalia. The Somali national army invaded the Ogaden and was at first very successful, capturing most of the territory. This first phase reached an abrupt end with the Soviet Union's sudden shift of support to Ethiopia, followed by almost the entire communist world siding with latter. The Soviets now began to distribute aid, weapons, and training to the Ethiopians, and also brought in Cubans to assist the Ethiopian regime. Utimately, Somali troops were pushed out of the Ogaden.

Control of Somalia was of great interest to the both Soviet Union and the United States due to the country's strategic location at the mouth of the Red Sea. After the Soviets abandoned Barre, he subsequently expelled all Soviet advisors, tore up his friendship treaty with the Soviet Union, and switched allegiance to the West. The United States stepped in and until 1989, was a strong supporter of the Barre government for whom it provided approximately US$100 million per year in economic and military aid.

On the international front, Siad Barre played an important role in October 17 and October 18, 1977 when a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) group hijacked Lufthansa flight 181 to Mogadishu, Somalia, holding 86 hostages. West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and Barre negotiated a deal to allow a GSG 9 anti-terrorist unit into Mogadishu to free the hostages.

Siad Barre was a hands on leader from early on. Achievements included creating over two dozen factories of mass production such as mills in Balad, Marerey, sugar cane processing facilities, the first meat processing house for local consumption and exporting markets in addition to many other successful industrialization endeavors. The president presided over many decisions and showed a personal interest in the many projects he initiated. For one, Barre's government solved the long-standing issue of which writing system to use to represent the Somali language, a problem which the previous administrations were not able to resolve in terms of deciding which alphabet should be used. For practical reasons, Barre settled on Latin over the long-established Arabic script.

Another notable massive public service campaign by the Barre government involved the resettlement of drought-affected people in the northern regions of Somalia. The drought, which occurred in 1974, was known as the Abaartii Dabadheer, roughly translated as the Lingering Drought. The Soviet Union, which at the time maintained strategic relations with the Siad Barre government, had airlifted thousands of people from the devastated regions of Hobyo and Ainaba. New settlements of small villages were created in the Lower Jubba and Middle Jubba regions in such settlements as Dajuuma, Sablaale and Kuntuwaareey. The Horogle settlement in Middle Jubba was later added. These new settlements were known as the Danwadaagaha or Collective Settlements. The transplanted families were introduced to farming, a change from their traditional pastoralist lifestyle of livestock herding. Another long lasting public project that was personally tied to the president's efforts toward building a civil society in which Somalis at large united for the greater good, was the Shalanbood Sandune Stoppage. Every weekend scores of agricultural and environmental engineers along with thousands of common citizens volunteered to plant trees, shrubs and push back sandunes which had been creeping into farming lands of the Lower Shabeelle.

Despite all its contributions to Somali society, the Barre administration was plagued by various clan-based rebel groups. In the northern part of the country, the Isaaq clan was discontented with the fact that they felt that they had been politically marginalized by Barre's government. The Isaaq clan consequently developed a rebel group named the Somali National Movement (SNM), who were morally and financially supported by Ethiopia. In order to combat these rebels, there were many raids against the north. Also in the north, there was a rebel group called the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF), which was led by Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed. Clan based militias, particularly the Hawiye clan, started a campaign of immense proportions of killings, rape and torture in the northern and middle regions of Somalia. In the late 1980s, rival factional groups began to make substantial territorial gains, especially in the northern Somaliland region. These rebels received aid from Ethiopia in hopes of overthrowing the Somali government.

By 1991, the situation in Mogadishu was dire. The rebels, led by warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid and his rebel group, the United Somali Congress (USC), attacked Mogadishu. Aidid fought against government forces, and Barre was finally overthrown on the evening of 26 January, 1991. He was succeeded in office by Ali Mahdi Muhammad, another warlord of the Hawiye clan until November 1991. However, Ali Mahdi's government never managed to exert political or military control over most of the country since by then, Somalia was mired in anarchy. Ali Mahdi and Aideed's personal clan-based militias eventually wound up fighting one other over who would assume control of the country in the wake of Barre's ouster.


After leaving Mogadishu in January 1991, Barre temporarily remained in the southwestern Gedo region of the country, which also happened to be the power base of his Marehan Clan. From there, Barre launched a military campaign to return to power. He twice attempted to retake Mogadishu, but in May 1991 was overwhelmed by General Muhammed Farrah Aidid's army, forcing him 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 2, 1995 in Lagos from a heart attack. His remains were buried in the Garbahaarreey district of the Gedo region in Somalia.


  • In our Revolution we believe that we have broken the chain of a consumer economy based on imports, and we are free to decide our destiny. And in order to realize the interests of the Somali people, their achievement of a better life, the full development of their potentialities and the fulfillment of their aspirations, we solemnly declare Somalia to be a Socialist State.

-- Siad Barre proclaims Somalia a socialist state, October 20, 1970

  • When I came to Mogadishu...[t]here was one road built by the Italians. If you try to force me to stand down, I will leave the city as I found it. I came to power with a gun; only the gun can make me go.
  • Some of the colonizers do understand and quickly retreat, while some, because they are stupid, continue colonizing others, increasing the suffering, deaths, injuries, defeat and humiliation. The people colonized by Abyssinia will be free. Eritrea will be free, and they cannot refuse to let them be free. Western Somalia will be free, and they cannot refuse to grant it freedom. The numerous Abo will be free because this is history, and no one can prevent the sunshine from reaching us.
  • I did not come to power to divide Somali but to unite them, and I will never deviate from this path. 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.
  • We should teach the foreigners and colonialists that Somalia cannot be led by other people and that the traitors who fled the country will never lead Somalia.
  • There was no choice.
    I would like to state clearly the reason for the take over of the country by Armed Forces. I want our people to know that everything is going on as usual and that no problems have arisen as a result of the Revolution. The entire country is in the hands of the National Army and the Police Force? Intervention by Armed Forces was inevitable. It was no longer possible to ignore the evil things like corruption, bribery, nepotism, and theft of public funds, injustice and disrespect to our religion and the laws of the country. The laws were thrust aside and people did whatever they wanted. No group or family can live happily if they do not respect their laws and regulations. There will be no development or any sort of progress for a nation, if the laws of the country are forgotten? The corruption has culminated in the assassination of prominent leaders of the country. Somalia was on the point of collapse, not economically and politically alone, but disaster threatened historically and nationally as well. If we look back on recent events in the country, we will see how a peaceful lands was changing to violence. Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, the late President, was assassinated by simple soldier who did not know him and who had no quarrel with him. We will not give a chance to wrong doers and law breakers.
    We will abolish bribery, nepotism and tribalism. Tribalism was the only way in which foreigners got their chance of dividing our people. We will close all roads used by colonialists to enter our country and into our affairs. We will build up a great Somali nation, strongly united and welded together to live in peace. We will make respect the Islamic religion, if necessary, by all the force and strength we have. We will make Somalia a respected country in its internal and external policies. I would like to ask all Somalis to come out and build their nation, a strong nation, to use all their efforts, energy, wealth and brains in developing their country. At all costs avoid begging. The Imperialists, who always want to see people in hunger, disease and ignorance, will oppose us in order that we may beg them. They will spread many types of lies to try to misinterpret our noble aims and objectives.
    They will try to persuade the world, and even other African States, to believe their lies. Apart from these lies, they will call us many evil names. They are at present collecting arms, money and many other necessary things for them to work against us. We are very happy and thankful to see the unity of the Armed Forces and the Somali population. The nation has given us true support for which we are very grateful. Nothing will harm us if we go on supporting each other for the sake of our country and nation. Lets us join hands in crushing the enemy of our land.


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