Country Listing

Somalia Table of Contents


The Military and the Government

During most of Somalia's early postindependence history, the SNA stayed out of politics. The only exception occurred in 1961, when a group of British-trained officers who objected to Italian influence on the military attempted to overthrow the government. In 1969 the SNA's apolitical stance changed when Major General Mahammad Siad Barre seized power. After abolishing the National Assembly of the Republic, he established the SRC, which was made up of military and police officers. This military junta relied on the largely civilian Council of the Secretaries of State to administer many of the country's ministries.

To enhance its image, the SRC intervened in nearly every aspect of Somali society. To reduce government corruption, Siad Barre instituted a nationwide campaign to make civil servants accountable. He also appointed a police general to head the Ministry of Interior, which controlled the means of enforcing government decisions and appointing military personnel to senior positions in district and provincial offices and in Somali embassies. In 1971 the SRC ordered senior civil servants to attend a three-month course at Camp Halane, Mogadishu, where they wore military uniforms and underwent military training. The military junta also recruited young men and women into a paramilitary organization called Victory Pioneers (see People's Militia , this ch.). In the foreign policy arena, Siad Barre adopted an anti-United States stance, ordered the Peace Corps out of the country, and accused Washington of imperialism.

In 1976 the government consolidated its power by creating the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (SRSP), which emerged as the basis for political authority. Furthermore, Siad Barre allowed the NSS to jail or harass dissidents, suppress freedom of speech, and create an atmosphere of fear and suspicion throughout Somalia. In 1980 a constitutional amendment empowered the SRC to resolve all state security and national interest issues during a declared state of emergency.

Opposition to Siad Barre's dictatorship increased during the mid- and late 1980s (see Sources of Opposition , this ch.). An increasing number of Somalis perceived the government and the nation's armed forces as enemies of the people. Siad Barre's refusal to institute reforms and include more people in the political process eventually led to his downfall and the dissolution of the armed forces.