Somalia Table of Contents
Despite the social and economic benefits associated with military service, the Somali armed forces began to suffer chronic manpower shortages only a few years after independence. The government attempted to solve this problem by instituting obligatory military service in 1984. Conscription affected men from eighteen to forty years of age and lasted for two years. Opposition to conscription and to the counterinsurgency campaigns against guerrilla groups resulted in widespread evasion of military service. As a result, during the late 1980s the government normally met manpower requirements by impressing men into military service. This practice alienated an increasing number of Somalis who wanted the government to negotiate a peaceful resolution of the conflicts that were slowly destroying Somali society. Traditionally, the Siad Barre regime had followed a policy of mixing recruits from different parts of the country in order to cultivate nationalism among the soldiers. However, as the ongoing counterinsurgencies further isolated the regime, members of Siad Barre's subclan, the Mareehaan, increasingly dominated senior military positions. As a result, by 1990 many Somalis looked upon the armed forces as Siad Barre's personal army. This perception eventually destroyed the military's reputation as a national institution.
Throughout the postindependence period, the Somali armed forces relied on reserves to help defend national security and preserve internal stability. In 1961, for example, the government created the Women's Auxiliary Corps. Qualified enlistees underwent a five-month period of basic training and instruction in typing, record keeping, and related subjects. During their two-year enlistment, Somali women worked in a variety of positions associated with administration, personnel, and military welfare. Most Women's Auxiliary Corps personnel served in army headquarters in Mogadishu or in subordinate headquarters in the field.
In 1964 border clashes with Ethiopia prompted the Somali government to authorize the organization of a reserve force. The National Assembly therefore passed legislation mobilizing about 2,000 volunteers to be trained by the army at special camps in the regional capitals. After determining that these men would not be needed in the border war, Mogadishu released them from active duty. Although they carried identity cards, these reservists received neither pay nor training and had no official status.
In 1967 the Somali authorities established a Home Guard and called up 3,000 men for six months of training. After completing their tours of duty, they received discharges and joined a reserve pool. The government then called another 3,000 men for the next six months.
In addition to the reserve forces, irregulars also augmented the military. After its defeat in the Ogaden War, Somalia organized paramilitary units in the country's many refugee communities. Mogadishu also encouraged the creation of clan militias, especially among Daarood civilians. The SNA trained and financed both groups. Additionally, the Somali government recruited nomads and Ogaden refugees into the WSLF, the insurgent movement that sought to regain the Ogaden from Ethiopia. The use of irregulars did little to improve Somalia's military capabilities; indeed, these groups became a political liability to Siad Barre's regime because they brutalized large numbers of civilians.
The Somali armed forces always had depended on foreign training. Many high-ranking Somali officers had served in the British and Italian colonial armies and some had received training at Italian military and police academies. From the early 1960s until 1977, the Soviet Union provided most officer training. By the mid-1970s, as many as 60 percent of all activeduty officers had received Soviet training. The SNA used Soviet methods of organization and tactics.
Beginning in the early 1980s, many Somali officers started attending one of two military schools in Mogadishu. The Siad Barre Military Academy offered general instruction, and the Ahmad Guray War College was a staff school for senior officers. Noncommissioned officers attended the General Daoud Military Academy in Chisimayu. The Weapons School provided courses in specialties such as field artillery, transportation, and communications. The Somali armed forces also maintained instruction centers for personnel from the engineering, railway, and paratroop-commando corps. Despite the existence of these academies and schools, the Somali military relied on foreign training to maintain sophisticated weapons systems and to improve the technical and leadership skills of its personnel. After the breakup of the Somali-Soviet alliance, the SNA largely depended on the United States, Saudi Arabia, France, and Italy for such training. Following the fall of Siad Barre in January 1991 and the disintegration of the armed forces, military training ceased.
Somalia Table of Contents