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SOMALIA

Before partition.
 
Peoples of the coast sand hinterland.
Until recent times the history of the Horn of Africa was dominated by two great themes: the southward expansion of the Somali from the Gulf of Aden littoral and the development by Arab and Persian Muslim settlers of a ring of coastal trading towns dating from at least the 10th century AD. By this time Islam was firmly established in the northern ports of Seylac (Zeila) and Berbera and at Marka, Baraawe, and Mogadishu on the Indian Ocean coast in the south. These centres were engaged in a lively trade, with connections as far afield as China. Initially the trend of pressure was from these coastal centres inland, especially in the north.

Probably by the 10th century the country from the Gulf of Aden coast inland was occupied first by Somali nomads and then, to their south and west, by various groups of pastoral  Oromo who apparently had expanded from their traditional homelands in southwestern Ethiopia. To the south of these Cushitic-speaking Somali and Oromo--the "Berberi" of classical times and of the Arab geographers--the fertile lands between the Shabeelle and Jubba rivers were occupied, partly at least, by sedentary Bantu tribes of the Nyika confederacy, whose ancient capital was Shungwaya. Remnants of these  Zanj, as they were known to the Arab geographers, still survive in this region, but their strongest contemporary representatives are found among the coastal Bantu, of whom the Pokomo live along the Tana River in northern Kenya. Another smaller allied population consisted of the ancestors of the scattered bands of hunters of northern Kenya and southern Somalia known as Wa-Ribi, or Wa-Boni, a people whose appearance and mode of existence recall those of the San of other areas of Africa.
 
 

The great Somali migrations.
With this distribution of peoples in the 10th century, the stage was set for the great movements of expansion of the Somali toward the south and of the Oromo to the south and west. The first known major impetus to Somali migration was that of Sheikh Ismail Jabarti, ancestor of the  Daarood Somali, who apparently came from Arabia to settle in the northeastern corner of the Somali Peninsula in the 11th century. This was followed, perhaps two centuries later, by the settlement of Sheikh Isaq, founder of the  Isaaq Somali. As the Daarood and Isaaq  clans grew in numbers and territory in the northeast, they began to vie with their Oromo neighbours, thus creating a general thrust toward the southwest. By the 16th century the movements that followed seem to have established much of the present distribution of Somali clans in northern Somalia. Other Somali pressed farther south, and some, according to the Arab geographer Ibn Said, had already reached the region of Marka by as early as the 13th century.

In the meantime, farther to the west, a ring of militant Muslim sultanates had grown up around the Christian kingdom of  Ethiopia, and the two sides were engaged in a protracted struggle for supremacy. Somali clansmen regularly formed part of the Muslim armies: the name Somali first occurs in an Ethiopian song of victory early in the 15th century. In the 16th century the Muslim state of Adal, whose port was Seylac, assumed the lead in the holy wars against the Christian Amhara. The turning point in the struggle between Christians and Muslims was reached with the Ethiopian victory in 1542, with Portuguese support, over the remarkable Muslim leader  Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi, known to the Ethiopians as Ahmad Grañ. With his Somali armies, Ahmad had harried Ethiopia almost to the point of collapse. This victory, which saved Ethiopia, also closed the door to Somali expansion westward and increased the pressure of the Somali and Oromo thrust southward. With this stimulus the main mass of the Oromo swept into Ethiopia from the south and southwest and streamed in conquering hordes as far north as the ancient city of Harer, which was laid to waste in 1567.

This massive invasion left something of a political vacuum in the south of the Horn, which new Somali settlers were quick to fill. By the 17th century the influx of new migrants, competing and jostling with each other, had become considerable. The old Ajuran Somali sultanate, linked with the port of Mogadishu, was overthrown and Mogadishu itself invaded and split into two rival quarters. Some of the earlier Somali groups found refuge in northern Kenya. The continuing Somali thrust south--largely at the expense of Oromo and Zanj predecessors--was ultimately only effectively halted at the Tana River by the establishment of administrative posts about 1912.
 
 

Somali clans and foreigntraders.
Thus, by the latter part of the 19th century the coastal and hinterland traditions had merged, and the centre of pressure had swung from the coast to the interior. In the north the ancient ports of Berbera and Seylac, much reduced in prosperity and importance, were now controlled by Somali nomads, and the position with the old ports of Marka, Baraawe, and Mogadishu was very similar. These towns had all been penetrated by various Somali clans, and the dominant political influence became that exercised by the Geledi clan ruling the lower reaches of the Shabeelle. Commercial and political links that provided an opening for European infiltration had, however, also been forged between these two coasts and the outside world. Part of the northern Somali coast including Seylac was then nominally under Turkish suzerainty, the Turkish claim going back to the 16th century, when Turkish forces had aided Ahmad Grañ in his campaigns against Ethiopia. The southern coastal towns, on the other hand, acknowledged the overlordship of the sultan of Zanzibar, although the latter's authority was slight in comparison with that exercised locally by the Geledi Somali.

From Success to the Fall Of the Somalis

The Somali Republic.
 
Independence and union.
During World War II the British protectorate was evacuated (1940) but was recaptured with Italian Somalia in 1941, when Ethiopia also was liberated. With the exception of French Somaliland, all the Somali territories were then united under British military administration. In 1948 the protectorate reverted to the Colonial Office; the Ogaden and the Hawd were gradually surrendered to Ethiopia; and in 1950 the Italians returned to southern Somalia with 10 years to prepare the country for independence under a United Nations trusteeship.

Taking advantage of the modest progress that the British military administration had effected, the Italians rapidly pursued social and political advancement, although economic development proved much more difficult. The British protectorate, in the event, became independent on June 26, 1960. On July 1, Italian Somalia followed suit, and the two territories joined as the Somali Republic.

The politics of the new republic were conditioned by clan allegiances, but the first major problems arose from the last-minute marriage between the former  Italian trust territory and the former  British protectorate. Urgent improvements in communication between the two areas were necessary, as were readjustments in their legal and judicial systems. The first independent government was formed by a coalition of the southern-based  Somali Youth League (SYL) and the northern-based Somali National League (SNL).
 
 

Pan-Somalism.
While modest developments were pursued internally with the help of mainly Western aid, foreign policy was dominated by the Somali unification issue and by the campaign for self-determination of adjoining Somali communities in the Ogaden, French Somaliland, and northern  Kenya. The Somalian government strongly supported the Kenyan Somali community's aim of self-determination (and union with Somalia); when this failed in the spring of 1963, after a commission of inquiry endorsed Somali aspirations, Somalia broke off diplomatic relations with Britain and a Somali guerrilla war broke out in northern Kenya, paralyzing the region until 1967. By the end of 1963 a Somali uprising in the  Ogaden led to a brief confrontation between  Ethiopian and Somalian forces. Since the  United States and the West provided military support to Ethiopia and Kenya, Somalia turned to the  Soviet Union for military aid. Nevertheless, the republic maintained a generally neutral, but pro-Western, stance, and, indeed, a new government formed in June 1967 under the premiership of Maxamed Xaaji Ibrahiim  Cigaal (Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal) embarked on a policy of détente with Kenya and Ethiopia, muting the Pan-Somali campaign.
 
 
The era of "Scientific Socialism." 
In March 1969 more than 1,000 candidates representing 64 parties (mostly clan-based) contested the 123 seats in the National Assembly. After these chaotic elections, all the deputies (with one exception) joined the SYL, which became increasingly authoritarian. The assassination of President Cabdirashiid Cali  Sherma`arke (Abdirashid Ali Shermarke) on Oct. 15, 1969, provoked a government crisis, of which the military took advantage to stage a coup d'état on October 21.

The overthrow of Cigaal brought to power as head of state and president of a new Supreme Revolutionary Council the commander of the army, Major General Maxamed  Siyaad Barre (Muhammed Siad Barre). At first the new regime concentrated on consolidating its power internally. Siyaad quickly adopted "Scientific  Socialism," which, he claimed, was fully compatible with his countrymen's traditional devotion to Islam. Leading a predominantly military administration, Siyaad declared a campaign to liberate the country from poverty, disease, and ignorance. The president was soon hailed as the "Father" of the people (their "Mother" was the "Revolution," as the coup was titled). Relations with socialist countries (especially the Soviet Union and China) were so greatly strengthened at the expense of Western connections that, at the height of Soviet influence, slogans proclaiming a trinity of "Comrade Marx, Comrade Lenin, and Comrade Siyaad" decorated official Orientation Centres throughout the land. Siyaad's authoritarian rule was reinforced by a national network of vigilantes called Victory Pioneers, by a National Security Service headed by his son-in-law, and by National Security Courts notorious for ruthless sentencing. Rural society was integrated into this totalitarian structure through regional committees on which clan elders (now renamed "peace-seekers") were placed under the authority of a chairman, who was invariably an official of the state apparatus.  Clan loyalties were officially outlawed, and clan-inspired behaviour became a criminal offense. Of the government's many "crash programs" designed to transform society, the most successful were mass literacy campaigns in 1973 and 1974, which made  Somali a written language (in Latin characters) for the first time.

After 1974 Siyaad turned his attention to external affairs. Somalia joined the Arab League, gaining much-needed petrodollar aid and access to political support from those Persian Gulf states to which Somali labour and livestock were exported at a growing rate. Following Haile Selassie's overthrow in September 1974, Ethiopia began to fall apart, and guerrilla fighters of the  Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF) in the Ogaden pressed Siyaad (whose mother was an Ogaadeen) for support. When in June 1977  France granted independence to Djibouti (under a Somali president), the WSLF, backed by Somalia, immediately launched a series of fierce attacks on Ethiopian garrisons. By September 1977 the war was at the gates of Harer. Then the Soviet Union turned to fill the superpower vacuum left in Ethiopia by the gradual withdrawal of the United States. In the spring of 1978, with the support of Soviet equipment and Cuban soldiers, Ethiopia reconquered the Ogaden, and hundreds of thousands of Somali  refugees poured into Somalia.

This terrible reversal strained the stability of the regime as the country faced a surge of clan pressures. An abortive military coup in April 1978 paved the way for the formation of two opposition groups: the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF), drawing its main support from the Majeerteen clan of the Mudug region in central Somalia, and the Somali National Movement (SNM), based on the  Isaaq clan of the northern regions. Formed in 1982, both organizations undertook  guerrilla operations from bases in Ethiopia. These pressures, in addition to pressure from Somalia's Western backers, encouraged Siyaad to improve relations with Kenya and Ethiopia. But a peace accord (1988) signed with the Ethiopian leader, Mengistu Haile Mariam, obliging each side to cease supporting Somali antigovernment guerrillas, had the ironic effect of precipitating civil war in Somalia.
 
 

Clanwar.
Threatened with the closure of their bases in Ethiopia, the SNM attacked government forces in their home region, provoking a bitter conflict that left ghost towns in the hands of government forces while Ogaadeen  Somali, who had been progressively absorbed into the army and militia, felt betrayed by the peace agreement with Ethiopia and began to desert, attacking Siyaad's clansmen. Siyaad became preoccupied with daily survival and consolidated his hold on Mogadishu. Clan-based guerrilla opposition groups multiplied rapidly, following the example of the SSDF and SNM. In January 1991, forces of the Hawiye-based United Somali Congress (USC) led a popular uprising that overthrew Siyaad and drove him to seek asylum among his own clansmen. Outside  Mogadishu, all the main clans with access to the vast stores of military equipment in the country set up their own spheres of influence. In May 1991 the SNM, having secured control of the former British Somaliland northern region, declared an independent "Somaliland Republic." Government in the south had largely disintegrated and existed only at the local level in the SSDF-controlled northeast region. In Mogadishu the precipitate appointment of a USC interim government triggered a bitter feud between rival Hawiye clan factions. The forces of the two rival warlords, General  Maxamed Farax Caydiid (Muhammad Farah Aydid) and Cali Mahdi Maxamed (Ali Mahdi Muhammad), tore the capital apart and battled with Siyaad's regrouped clan militia, the Somali National Front, for control of the southern coast and hinterland. This brought war and devastation to the grain-producing region between the rivers, spreading famine throughout southern Somalia. Attempts to distribute relief food were undermined by systematic looting and rake-offs by militias. In December 1992 the United States led a multinational force of more than 35,000 troops, which imposed an uneasy peace on the principal warring clans and pushed supplies into the famine-stricken areas. The military operation provided support for a unique effort at peacemaking by the  United Nations. In January and March 1993, representatives of 15 Somali factions signed peace and disarmament treaties in Addis Ababa, but by June the security situation had deteriorated. American and European forces, suffering an unacceptable number of casualties, were withdrawn by March 1994. The UN force was reduced to military units from mainly Third World countries, and the clan-based tensions that had precipitated the civil war remained unresolved.
 

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