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Somalia Table of Contents

Somalia

Government Security Policy

In the aftermath of the 1969 coup, the central government acquired control of all legislative, administrative, and judicial functions. The only legally permitted party was the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (SRSP). In April 1970, Siad Barre authorized the creation of National Security Courts (NSCs), which shortly thereafter tried approximately sixty people: leaders of the previous government, businessmen, lawyers, and senior military personnel who had failed to support the coup (see Courts , ch. 4). In September 1970, the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) proclaimed that any person who harmed the nation's unity, peace, or sovereignty could be sentenced to death. The government also promised to punish anyone who spread false propaganda against Siad Barre's regime.

Until the early 1980s, the Siad Barre regime generally shunned capital punishment in favor of imprisonment and reeducation of actual, suspected, or potential opponents. The earlier parliamentary government had been able to hold people without trial up to ninety days during a state of emergency, but the military government removed most legal restrictions on preventive detention. After the coup, a local revolutionary council or the National Security Service (NSS) could detain individuals regarded as dangerous to peace, order, good government, or the aims and spirit of the revolution (see National Security Service , this ch. and Human Rights , this ch.). Additionally, regional governors could order the search and arrest of persons suspected of a crime or of activities considered threatening to public order and security, and could requisition property or services without compensation. In 1974 the government began to require all civil servants to sign statements of intent to abide by security regulations. Furthermore, any contact between foreigners and Somali citizens had to be reported to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. By the late 1970s, most Somalis were ignoring this latter regulation.

The Somali government became more repressive after an unsuccessful 1971 coup. Officials maintained that the coup attempt by some SRC members had sought to protect the interests of the trading bourgeoisie and the tribal structure. Many expected that the conspirators would receive clemency. Instead, the government executed them. Many Somalis found this act inconsistent with Islamic principles and as a consequence turned against Siad Barre's regime.

During its first years in power, the SRC sought to bolster nationalism by undermining traditional Somali allegiance to Islamic religious leaders and clan groups. Although it tried to avoid entirely alienating religious leaders, the government restricted their involvement in politics. During the early 1970s, some Islamic leaders affirmed that Islam could never coexist with scientific socialism; however, Siad Barre claimed that the two concepts were compatible because Islam propagated a classless society based on egalitarianism.

In the mid-1970s, the government tried to eliminate a rallying point for opposition by substituting allegiance to the nation for traditional allegiance to family and clan. Toward this end, the authorities stressed individual responsibility for all offenses, thereby undermining the concept of collective responsibility that existed in traditional society and served as the basis of diya-paying (see Glossary) groups. The government also abolished traditional clan leadership responsibilities and titles such as sultan and shaykh.

By the late 1980s, it was evident that Siad Barre had failed to create a sense of Somali nationalism. Moreover, he had been unable to destroy the family and clan loyalties that continued to govern the lives of most Somalis. As antigovernment activities escalated, Siad Barre increasingly used force and terror against his opponents. This cycle of violence further isolated his regime, caused dissent within the SNA, and eventually precipitated the collapse of his government.


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Somalia Table of Contents