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The Breakdown of Democracy


 
     On October 15, 1969, President Abdirashiid Ali Shermaarke was assassinated by a member of the police force who believed that his clan group had been treated unjustly.  The assassination ended civilian rule in Somalia (13).  Prime Minister Igaal attempted to arrange for the selection of a new president by the National Assembly, but many people felt that there was no hope for improving the country in this manner (14).
     On the morning of October 21, the armed forces staged a bloodless coup led by General Siad Barre and organized as the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC).  The SRC installed Barre, a member of the Marehan sub-clan of the Darod clan, as the new president.  Barre and his men were initially seen as heroes who had come to save their nation, which had fallen into corruption, and to restore true democracy (15).
     Far from restoring democracy, though, Barre implemented “scientific socialism” as the form of government.  The goal of this new system was to drastically change Somali society and to “end tribalism, nepotism, corruption, and misrule” (16).  The new system banned political parties, abolished the National Assembly, and suspended the constitution.  Restrictions were passed on individual rights, including the highly valued freedom of speech.  Those who spoke out against the government were

Painting of Muhammad Siad Barre

 arrested and some were even executed (17).  With these new policies, Barre’s regime quickly wore off its welcome.
     In 1976, the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (SRSP) replaced the SRC.  Though this technically ended the military rule of Somalia, Barre and his men still held the reins of power.  Barre had lost the support of the public, as he seemed to relinquish his aim of socialist development, equality, and national unity.  He instead increased the use of terror and repression against clans in order to retain personal power (18).  The regime relied heavily on the support of the Darod clan, especially the Marehan, Dolbahnte, and Ogaden sub-clans (19).  The Red Berets, an elite unit composed of  Barre’s Marehan clansmen, mercilessly terrorized the Hawiye and Issaq clans, who had begun to form an organized resistance against him (20).
     During the 1980’s the Somali economy took a turn for the worse.  Stiff competition for the Saudi Arabian market cut heavily into what had once been a Somali monopoly.  Saudi Arabia had accounted  for over 90 percentof Somali exports.  In addition, severe drought throughout the decade took its toll on the Somali livestock, which represented more than 80 percent of the goods that Somalia exported (21).  The poor economy created difficult times and lowered morale throughout the country.
     July 14, 1989 marked the beginning of the end of Siad Barre’s regime.  On this hot summer Friday afternoon in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, Barre’s troops fired at Islamic worshippers as they left the city’s mosques.  The troops regarded the worshippers as demonstrators.  Hundreds were killed and the violence continued in the days that followed (22).  Most of those killed were members of the Issaq clan, who were picked out because of their clan origin.  The violence quickly spread into the countryside.
In early 1990, the Washington Post reported:
“The 20-year rule of Somali leader Mohammed Siad Barre appears to be crumbling… The octogenarian ruler is unable to control the nation’s armed forces, which are accused of committing recent mass murders of civilians in central Somalia and numerous acts of banditry, looting, and harassment… The Presidential Guards are the prime suspects in increasing numbers of rapes and robberies of civilians and foreign aid warehouses” (23).
     By mid-1990 the civil unrest in Mogadishu had increased significantly as armed, clan-based opposition to Barre began to coordinate their efforts.  On July 6, an anti-Barre demonstration deteriorated into a riot in which the Red Berets opened fire on the protesters, killing at least 65 of them (24).  Barre soon became a prisoner in his own compound, located in the center of Mogadishu.  By this time, he had control over only  a small section of the city.  Barre’s army had collapsed into clan-based factions, with only the Marehan clan soldiers remaining loyal to the president (25).
     On January 27, 1991, Barre left Mogadishu in a military convoy, returning to the land of his kinsmen for safety (26).  Thus, the dictatorship of Siad Barre came to end and Somalia was left in a state of anarchy.

 
 
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