Majeerteen Insurgency in Somalia 1978-1986

[ 1978 - 1986 ]

One of the plotters, Lieutenant Colonel Abdillaahi Yuusuf Ahmad, a Majeerteen, escaped to Ethiopia and founded an anti-Siad Barre organization initially called the Somali Salvation Front (SSDF; later the Somali Salvation Democratic Front, SSDF)...

Several colonels suspected of plotting the coup escaped capture, however, and fled abroad;one of then, Yusuf Ahmad, played a major role in forming the Somali Salvation Front (SSF), the first opposition movement dedicated to the overthrow of the Siad Barre regime by force (The SSF became the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) in October 1981). In 1982 SSDF guerrillas with Ethiopian army units, occupied areas along the border, including two district towns, but it was not until 1988 that they began to extend their control over the western districts of Mudug Region and the southern areas of Nugaal and Bari regions...

Throughout the late 1970s, growing discontent with the regime's policies and personalities prompted the defection of numerous government officials and the establishment of several insurgent movements. Because unauthorized political activity was prohibited, these organizations were based abroad. The best known was the Somali Salvation Front (SSF), which operated from Ethiopia. The SSF had absorbed its predecessor, the Somali Democratic Action Front (SODAF), which had been formed in Rome in 1976. Former minister of justice Usmaan Nur Ali led the Majeerteen-based SODAF. Lieutenant Colonel Abdillaahi Yuusuf Ahmad, a survivor of the 1978 coup attempt, commanded the SSF. Other prominent SSF personalities included former minister of education Hasan Ali Mirreh and former ambassador Muse Islan Faarah. The SSF, which received assistance from Ethiopia and Libya, claimed to command a guerrilla force numbering in the thousands. Ethiopia placed a radio transmitter at the SSF's disposal from which Radio Kulmis (unity) beamed anti-Siad Barre invective to listeners in Somalia. Although it launched a low- intensity sabotage campaign in 1981, the SSF lacked the capabilities to sustain effective guerrilla operations against the SNA.

The SSF's weakness derived from its limited potential as a rallying point for opposition to the government. Although the SSF embraced no ideology or political philosophy other than hostility to Siad Barre, its nationalist appeal was undermined by its reliance on Ethiopian support. The SSF claimed to encompass a range of opposition forces, but its leading figures belonged with few exceptions to the Majeerteen clan.

In October 1981, the SSF merged with the radical-left Somali Workers Party (SWP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Somalia (DFLS) to form the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF). The SWP and DFLS, both based in Aden (then the capital of the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen--South Yemen), had included some former SRSP Central Committee members who faulted Siad Barre for compromising Somalia's revolutionary goals. An eleven-man committee led the SSDF. Yuusuf Ahmad, a former SNA officer and head of the SDF acted as chairman; former SWP leader Idris Jaama Husseen served as vice chairman; Abdirahman Aidid Ahmad, former chairman of the SRSP Ideology Bureau and founding father of the DFLS, was secretary for information. The SSDF promised to intensify the military and political struggles against the Siad Barre regime, which was said to have destroyed Somali unity and surrendered to United States imperialism. Like the SSF, the SSDF suffered from weak organization, a close identification with its Ethiopian and Libyan benefactors, and its reputation as a Majeerteen party.

Despite its shortcomings, the SSDF played a key role in fighting between Somalia and Ethiopia in the summer of 1982. After a SNA force infiltrated the Ogaden, joined with the WSLF and attacked an Ethiopian army unit outside Shilabo, about 150 kilometers northwest of Beledweyne, Ethiopia retaliated by launching an operation against Somalia. On June 30, 1982, Ethiopian army units, together with SSDF guerrillas, struck at several points along Ethiopia's southern border with Somalia. They crushed the SNA unit in Balumbale and then occupied that village. In August 1982, the Ethiopian/SSDF force took the village of Goldogob, about 50 kiloeters northwest of Galcaio. After the United States provided emergency military assistance to Somalia, the Ethiopian attacks ceased. However, the Ethiopian/SSDF units remained in Balumbale and Goldogob, which Addis Ababa maintained were part of Ethiopia that had been liberated by the Ethiopian army. The SSDF disputed the Ethiopian claim, causing a power struggle that eventually resulted in the destruction of the SSDF's leadership.

On October 12, 1985, Ethiopian authorities arrested Ahmad and six of his lieutenants after they repeatedly indicated that Balumbale and Goldogob were part of Somalia. The Ethiopian government justified the arrests by saying that Ahmad had refused to comply with a SSDF Central Committee decision relieving him as chairman. Mahammad Abshir, a party bureaucrat, then assumed command of the SSDF. Under his leadership, the SSDF became militarily moribund, primarily because of poor relations with Addis Ababa. In August 1986, the Ethiopian army attacked SSDF units, then launched a war against the movement, and finally jailed its remaining leaders. For the next several years, the SSDF existed more in name than in fact. In late 1990, however, after Ethiopia released former SSDF leader Ahmad, the movement reemerged as a fighting force in Somalia, albeit to a far lesser degree than in the early 1980s.

Related Conflicts

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