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Case Number: 75
Case Identifier: SOMWAR
Case Name: Somalia: The Fallen Country
By Tracey L. Cousin



I. Abstract

As the 21th century approaches us, and there are still countries in the world are still in turmoil and collapse.  One such country
is the ëstate‰ of the Republic of Somalia in the Horn of Africa.  Since the colonial period, Somalia has been faced with
numerous economic and social problems, and now in 1998, Somalia is stateless, it has not have a controlling government, it fact
many theorist believe that Somalia is no loner a country.  How could is happen?  The answer is simple a ill managed and
corrupted leadership after the colonial period.

 II. Description

To explain Somalia present, one must look at its past. This case study will look at Somalia‰s past, mainly the colonial period, the Skirmake Regime, the US and USSR involvement in the country and the corrupt Siad Barre regime. (Please note, the Somalia Civil War in 1991 was a direct result of the events that were listed, and will not be discussed in this case study.)

Geographic in formation of Somalia

Somalia covers an area of 246,201 sq. miles. Somalia has a long coastline on the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, forming the ëHorn of Africa‰. To the north is the Arabian Peninsula. The Republic Djibouti in located to the northwest of Somalia. While it‰s western and southern neighbors are Ethiopia and Kenya. "The country name is from its population, the Somali, a Muslim Cushitic-speaking people who stretch far beyond its present frontiers into these neighboring states."1

The Clans

"The Somali population of 8 to 10 million is made up of five major clan-families the Hawiye, Darod, Isaaq, Dir, and Digil-Mirifle; each one is subdivided into six or more clans and each clan is subdivided into sub-clans, all the way down to linkages and extended families."2 Clanism in Somali version of the generic problem of ethnicity or tribalism: it represents the primordial cleavages and cultural fragmentation within Somali society.

Clanism in Somalia has caused numerous political and social problems in the country, which will be discussed in greater detail throughout the case study.

Brief Colonial History

In 1886, the British declared a protectorate over northern Somalia. The objectives of this protectorate was to safeguard the trade links of the British colony in Aden and excluding other interested powers, mainly the French. Also, in the same period Italy established a colony in the southern regions of (current day) Somalia. The Italian Somaliland became (with Eritrea) a base for the Italian conquest of Ethiopia in 1936. In 1941, British forces captured the Italian colony.

Under the provisions of the peace treaty of February 1947, Italy renounced all rights to Italian Somaliland. In December 1950, however, the former Italian colony became a UN trust territory of Somalia, placed under Italian administration for a 10-year transitional period to independence.

Later the British protectorate of Somalia reverted to civilian rule, and most of the Somali areas in (the Ogaden) Ethiopia had been returned to Ethiopian administration.

The Somalia Trust territory‰s first general election was held in March 1959 (This election was on the basis of universal adult suffrage). 83 of the 90 seats in the legislative assembly was won by the Somali youth league (SYL)3

The British Somaliland became independent on June 26, 1960, and on July 1st, having secured its own independence; the former Italian Somaliland united with the North to form the independent Somali Republic.

The short lived Shirmake Regime

The president of the southern legislative assembly was proclaimed head of state and the two legislatures merged to form a single assembly in Mogadishu. A coalition government was formed by the SYI and the two leading northern political parties, with Dr, Abd ar-Rashid Ali Shirmake (a leading SYL politician and a member of the Darod clan) became Somalia first Prime Minister. Shirmake=s government represented a balance of northern and southern members‰ representatives of the main clans, set a pattern of Somali political life for the next decade.

The problems of merging the administrative systems of the former colonies were offset to an extent by the shared Somalia culture and by the presence of clans straddling the old colonial boundaries. Internal harmony was further encouraged, at the price of external conflict, by the commitment of all political leaders to a policy of extending the boundaries of the new state to include Somali communities in Ethiopia, French Somaliland (now Djibouti) and northern Kenya. Accordingly, liberation movements were established in these areas.

In the 1964 election the SYL comfortably secured a majority of seats in the assembly. However, a split within the SYL's Darod leadership, lead to the appointment of a new Darod prime minister, Abd ar-Razak Hussein, which left the party seriously divided and climaxed with the election of Shirmake as president in 1967. Shirmake formed a new government with the help of Mohamed Ibrahim Egal (a northerner from the Isaaq clan) as prime minister. Also, during this time Somalia, acknowledged it‰s failure of its efforts to promote the total Somali unification, the government, through the mediation efforts of President Kaunda of Zambia, reached a agreement with Ethiopia and Kenya to negotiate a lasting settlement of the frontier issue. (Which was the Ogaden)

With external pressures on the republic diminished, the smaller component of the traditional political structure rose again, which the upsurge of divisive tribalism. Reflecting these trends, more than 1,000 candidates contested 124 seats in the March 1969 elections, representing 68 political parties and the most important linkages and sub-linkages of the Somali clan system. With the resources of the state at its disposal, and with considerable manipulation of the electoral arrangements, the SYL again secured victory, and Egal was re-appointed Prime Minister. Following the formation of the customary clan-coalition government, all but one of the members of the assembly joined the ruling party. Because of the prevailing political fragmentation, however, the government and the assembly were in reality no longer representative of the public at large. Discontent was aggravated by the increasingly autocratic style of both the president and prime Minster, and by the prime Minster‰s efforts to provide political and administrative posts for northerners.

The beginning of unrest: The Siad Barre Regime (1969-1991)

Shirmake political life ended with his assassination in October 1969. When it became clear that the general assembly would elect a new president support by Egal, the army seized control of the government in a bloodless coup d‰etat. After the coup, the supreme revolutionary council (SRC) was formed; it was comprised of former army and police offices. The SRC announced that it had acted (the coup) to preserve democracy and justice and to eliminate corruption and tribalism and that Somalia must be renamed to the Somali Democratic Republic to symbolize these aims. Major-General Mohamed Siad Barre (the Somalia military commander) became head of state.

One of Siad Barre first actions as head of state was to assume personal control of the government, and he introduced the policy of "scientific socialism". (Later Siad Barre helped established the Revolutionary Socialist party (SRSP) in 1976; This party was under Soviet influence, but it operated as a mechanism for control than an ideological vehicle.) Also, Siad Barre began the nationalization of Somalia‰s medical services, schools, banks, electricity, and transportation, and the government took control of the country‰s exports and imports. In 1975, land was nationalized: farmers received holding on 50 year renewable leases from the government, but the beginning of the system was subject to manipulation and corruption on a massive scale.

During the Siad Barre regime, the Somal‰s military dependence on Soviet equipment and training greatly increased Soviet influence in Somalia. The USSR acquired a variety of military facilities, notably at the northern port of Berbera. Siad Barre also, during this time, joined the Arab League in 1974. (at this time he was also, the acting chairman of the Organization of African Unity)

Ogaden War

During the early 1970s, the Siad Barre regime went back to Somalia‰s old plan in uniting all Somalis. In 1976, Barre restructured the Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF) and allowed it to operate inside the Ethiopia (mainly in an area called the Ogaden). Barre not only created the WSLF to help his ëbrothers and sisters‰, but he did it to gain support from his clan to boost his political power. With this action Barre treated the support of the USSR, since at the time, was aiding both Ethiopia and Somalia.

Despite Soviet attempts in preventing the Somalia invasion of the Ogaden, Siad Barre‰s forces invaded Ethiopia, unofficially. "Within three months Somali troops had overrun the Ogaden region and reached Harar."4 In response to this the Soviets began to supply the Ethiopian forces with weapons; and in November Somalia abrogated its treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union and expelled 6,000 Soviet advisers and experts. Because of this action Somalia basically lost most of its economic and military assistance, (Somalia did still received assistance from Saudi- Arabia) and hopes of Western assistance were highly unlikely. By March of 1978, Soviet and Cuban-led counter attack had reestablished Ethiopian control in the main areas of the Ogaden and the Somali government announced the withdrawal of its forces.

United States Involvement in Somalia

The defeat of the Ogaden War and the break with the USSR was followed by a gradual increasing in links with the US. (mainly because the US strategy in the Gulf, following the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in late 1979) Somalia signed a defense agreement with the US in 1980, which permitted the use by the US military personnel of the air and naval facilities at Berbera. The US provided Somalia with substantial amounts of aid during the 1980‰s, but remained hesitant about providing the military aid that was often asked by the Siad Barre regime. Also, during this time, the US administration expressed reservations regarding Somalia‰s renewal of links with Libya after 1985.

The Refugee problem after the Ogaden War

"With the Somalia military incursions and prevailing drought conditions, resulted in the flight to Somalia, of hundreds of thousands of refugees."5 (from Ethiopia) Western relief agencies responded generously, and food aid became a significant factor in the Somali economy. There was also, considerable disagreement over the total amount of refugees in Somalia, with the government estimates of about 1.5 million, which contrasted the 400,000, some relief agencies believed. Also, with the lack of rain in 1985 and 1986, and the recurrence of famine in 1987 (in Ethiopia), led to further refugees pouring into Somalia. Compromised refugee figures of 800,000 people were accepted for the provision of food relief in the late 1980s.

The continuation of problems in Somalia

With a military defeat, shifting alliances and ideology, as well as the famine and influx of refugees, greatly effected the internal politics of the Somali government. Because of this opposition groups began to form, notably the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF), a largely Majerteen-supported movement and the Somali National Movement (SNM), which was supported by the northern Isaaq clan. (The Majerteen are a Darod clan living largely in the Northeast part of Somalia) Both movements received Ethiopian military and financial support. The SSDF took control of two small central Somali towns near the border in 1981 but it virtually collapsed with internal divisions in the mid-1980s. In 1988, after a meeting which Siad Barre and Mengistu (President of Ethiopia) agreed to restore diplomatic relations, Somalia and Ethiopia agreed to withdraw troops from the borders, and to end support for each other‰s dissidents. (In turn the SNM were ordered to leave their Ethiopian bases)

The removal of SNM forces in Ethiopia prompted the SNM to launch a guerrilla offensive in Somalia. In May 1988, "áSNM seized Burao and captured most of Hargeysa, in the north."6 They, were later ousted by a full-scale Somalia military response by the command of General Mohamed Siad, who was Siad Barre‰s son-in-law. Mohammed Siad, offensive included the systematic bombardment of Hargeysa (by South African mercenary pilots), which resulted in an estimated 40,000 deaths and caused over 400,000 Somalis of flee to Ethiopia. This brutal attack resulted in giving the SNM more support than it had ever managed to achieve by its own efforts. (mainly with the Issaq and other Northern clans)

Siad Barre‰s response to the political and economic difficult was to tighten his own control, although he allowed the introduction of a new constitution with an elected assembly, within a single party system, in 1977. However, the assembly‰s lack of power was underlined in November 1984, when it effectively transferred all of its‰ government power to the president.

In May 1986, Siad Barre was re-elected president for a new seven year term.

In 1987, Siad Barre reluctantly agreed to the creation of the post of Prime Minister, which was first held by General Mohamed Ali Samatar (it seems all of Somalia‰s leaders are Generals), formerly, the vice-president and defense minister.

Siad Barre‰s temporary incapacitation in 1986 precipitated a struggle for successions within his own Marehan clan and significantly weaken the government‰s position of power. The main leaders were his eldest surviving son, General Maslah and his cousin Abd ar-Rahman Jama Barre, (a veteran foreign Minister); their rivalry divided the clan and also the armed forces in the country. Economic difficulties were also increasing, as remittances of the Somalis working in the Gulf delinced in the aftermath of the Iran-Iraq war and then the conflict in the Persian Gulf region, and international support was also being reduced, as a result of concern over the regime‰s human rights record.

The Beginning of the End of the Siad Barre regime

With continuing economic, internal, external and family problems, Siad Barre‰s control of the country began to weaken, greatly. Also, with the collapse of the country‰s economy, he no longer had the resources to continue the manipulation of other clan rivalries, which he had ruthlessly employed to ensure his political survival, and the opposition continued to grow.

In the beginning of 1989, a group of exile Hawiye notables established the United Somali Congress (USC). (The Hawiye are the dominant group in Mogadishu and are particularly prominent in commercial and intellectual life.) The USC included a guerrilla wing, which was of course based in Ethiopia, and was leaded by General Mohamed Farah.

The Hawiye opposition was expressed through the ëManifesto‰ a declaration, which was written in June 1990, which stated the resignation of Siad Barre and the establishment of a transitional government to organize democratic elections, and the immediate abolition of all security structures. In response to this, Siad Barre arrested about half of the Manifesto‰s signers. (Including the country‰s highly respected first president Aden Abdullah Osman) In turn, the "Manifesto‰ group began to form a military ring, although it was widely considered to be a part of the USC.

The growth of opposition was further demonstrated by the arrest of a number of Muslim religious leaders, accused of supporting various opposition elements, which led to demonstrations in Mogadishu in July 1989. The Somalia police ruthlessly suppressed these demonstrations, with reports of as many as 1,500 killed and injured, including and in one instance in which 46 people were executed. During 1989, the government lost its‰ support of the Ogaden clan, which together with the Dolbaunts‰, had been the main supporters of the Siad Barre regime.

In August 1989, Siad Barre announced that the opposition parties would be allowed to contest elections, which were scheduled to take place before the end of 1990, and additionally offered to relinquish power. One of the effects of this was to encourage the creation of political parties within those major clans that had yet evolved a political identity. In January 1990 the president dismissed his government, castigating the Prime Minister, General Samatar, for the government‰s poor performance. However, Siad Barre failed to persuade any opposition figures to join the administration, and was forced to reappoint Samatar.

In July 1990, following the appearance of the ëManifesto‰ group, the government announced a constitutional referendum for October to be followed by elections in February 1991. In September, Samatar was again dismissed, and replaced by Mohamed Hawadle Madar, an Isaaq from the north. A month later it was announced that the multiparty system would take immediate effect, and Siad Barre relinquished the post of secretary-general of the SRSP, in accordance with the provisions of the new constitution, which proscribed the president‰s maintenance of additional official responsibilities.

In November 1990, widespread fighting occurred in Mogadishu when Siad Barre attempted to exploit an inter-clan dispute in order to attack the Hawiye. A full-scale uprising followed indiscriminate shelling of Hawiye areas of the city, USC guerrillas arrived in force and steadily advanced on the government‰s positions. Desperate efforts to form an acceptable government, headed by Umar Arteh Ghalib, an Isaaq and a former minister of foreign affairs recently released by Siad Barre, and an announcement by Siad Barre that he would hand over power in exchange for a ceasefire, the fighting continued. Also, Italian efforts to negotiate a peaceful transfer of power were also unsuccessful. On January 27, 1991, Siad Barre fled the country with the remnants of his army and the USC announced it had assumed the government of the country.


As of a direct result of the corrupt and ill managed Somalian state by Siad Barre, lead to the collapse of the country‰s government in 1991. As was shown, that Siad Barre really care little about his country and people. He fled the country that was leaderless, which resulted in a large civil war with other clan (warlords), which ultimately resulted in the US operation restore hope in the early 1990s.

And now at the eve of the 21th century, Somalia is consider a stateless state, with little hope of improvement. But like many African and other developing countries it can be achieved.

3. Duration: 1886-1991

1200's-1300's: Somali tribes displace Bantu and Galla Peoples.

1875: Egypt claims northern Somaliland.

1884: Britain claims the same land as Egypt. 1889: Italy annexes most of South.

1901: "Mad Mullah" leads a revolt in the North.

1920: British regain control of the North.

1920's: Italy expands its Southern area.

1960: Somalia forms from British and Italian Somalilands (July 1) Independence! It is now called Somali Republic.

1964: Somalia's claim to Ogaden leads to war with Ethiopia.

1969: General Siad Barre seizes power.

1977-1978: Attack on Ethiopia fails.

1981: Two opposition groups based in Ethiopia begin guerrilla war.

1987: Reconciliation with Ethiopia causes the Somali National Movement group to occupy the North.

1991: Siad Barre ousted. War degenerates into clan chaos and mass starvation.

1992: Warlords plunder food aid. US sends Military troops with UN backing.

1994: US troops withdraw.

4. Location

Continent: Africa

Region: Horn of Africa

Country: Somalia

5. Actors: Somalia and Ethiopia

II. Environment Aspects

6. Type of Environmental Problem: Habitat Loss (War)

7. Type of Habitat: Dry

Somalia is located on the Horn of Africa in North-East Africa, many consider this region of Africa as part of the Arab world, mainly because the primary religion.

8. Act and Harm Sites: Somalia

Act Site Harm Site Example

Somalia Ethiopia Ethnic Differences

III. Conflict Aspects

9. Type of Conflict: Interstate

10. Level of Conflict: Medium

11. Fatality Level of Dispute:

III. Environment and Conflict Overlap

12. Environment-Conflict Link and Dynamics: Indirect

13. Level of Strategic Interest: Region

14. Outcome of Dispute: Collapsed state

IV. Related Information and Sources

15. Related ICE Cases

ICE cases
16. Relevant Web-sites and Literature


African Studies Univ. of Penn.

Gilkes, Patrick. "Somalia." Africa South of the Sahara. London: Europa, 1996 ed.

Keller, Edmond J. and Donald Rothchild. Ed. Africa in the New World Order: Rethinking State Sovereignty and Regional Security. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1996.

Samtar, Ahmed I. Ed. The Somali Challenge: From Catastrophe to Renewal. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1994.

Zartman,William. Ed. Collapsed States: The Disintegration and Restoration of Legitimate Authority. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1995.


1. Gilkes, Patrick. "Somalia." Africa South of the Sahara. London: Europa, 1996 ed: 867.

2.  Zartman,William. Ed. Collapsed States: The Disintegration and Restoration of Legitimate Authority. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1995: 69

3.  Gilkes, Patrick. "Somalia." Africa South of the Sahara. London: Europa, 1996 ed: 864.

4.   Ibid, 865.

5.   Ibid, 865.

6.   Ibid, 867.

May, 1998