The Morgan’s Death Letter: An Official Secret Report on Implemented and Recommended Measures for a Final Solution to Somalia’s “Isaaq Problem”
Morgan’s letter: Translated into English from the original Somali, with footnotes and Translator’s Note.
The Somali Democratic Republic
The Ministry of Defense
26th Sector G.H.Q.
Date: 23/01/87 TOP SECRET
: The President of the SDR Mogadishu
: The Minister of Defense, SDR Mogadishu
: The Minister of Interior, SDR Mogadishu
Please refer to the report on the state of the defense and security of the 26th Sector’s area of control which I transmitted on 17.1.87. (2)
The security of the North West and Togdheer Regions has deteriorated. The Ethiopians brought additional troops to the area with the objective of securing a foothold similar to [those of] Balan Balle and Galdogob. (3)As you gathered from my previous report, they did not succeed in their joint incursion. Subsequently we took punitive measures against the positions jointly occupied by Qurmis (4) and the Ethiopians resulting in loss to both of them and in the obliteration of villages, including Dibiile, Rabaso, Raamaale, and Garanuugle.(5) All our measures were implemented at night and, except for some light injuries, all the troops returned safely to base.
Following their incursions and their consequent losses, Qurmis resorted to appealing to clan sentiment and began to sound a clarion call to action under [the slogan] “On Isaaq clans!”(6) Their objective is to present the curfew (7) as a persecution of their own people. Similarly, they directed a propaganda campaign at the people to the effect that they were about to capture the North West Region and Togdheer.
This much can be gathered from the expressions written on the walls of buildings and from the leaflets distributed in Gabiley District, and at Allaybaday village, Lughaya District. (8) All this is an indication of a resurgence of anti-State clan sentiment. They have appealed to their various sections to recruit 2000 persons for Qurmis to be trained in Awaare (9). So far, 400 individuals have joined. Similarly, 60 Sa’ad Muuse members of the Faraweyne Front (10) and a lieutenant who was their commanding officer gave themselves up to the Ethiopians and the Qurmis following the capture of the State-wreckers. The rest stole into the bush out of fear, but they have now started to return to the village.
COMRADE PRESIDENT, COMRADES:
It has been demonstrated to us that, unless Qurmis and its supporters are subjected to a campaign of obliteration, there will come a time when they will raise their heads again. But, today, we possess the right remedy for the virus in the [body of the] Somali State. It consists of:
- Balancing the well-to-do to eliminate the concentration of wealth [in the hands of the SNM supporters].
- The reconstruction of the Local Council in such a way as to balance its present membership which is exclusively from a particular people; as well as the dilution of the school population with an infusion of children from the Refugee Camps in the vicinity of Hargeisa (11).
- Rendering uninhabitable the territory between the army and the enemy, which can be done by destroying the water tanks and the villages lying across the territory used by them for infiltration.
- Removing from the membership of the armed forces and the civil service all those who are open to suspicion of aiding the enemy — especially those holding sensitive posts.
We set out below for your information those steps of the planned action already implemented:
- i) Before now the number of buses used as public transport were 337, two-thirds of which were owned by members of one clan (the Sa’ad Muuse). However, when, on investigation, it became clear that most of the buses were not operating in accordance with security procedures, due to defects in their registration and circulation documents; and when information received revealed that they were sometimes used to carry drugs (12) or persons open to suspicion, in secrecy and without notification to the security organizations; and since the number of buses greatly exceed the needs of the city, the following decisions were adopted and implemented:
(a) the number of the buses must not exceed 80;
(b) every bus must have a serial number for identification purposes;
(c) the buses must be evenly distributed amongst the districts of the city, with each bus limited to a particular route and departure and finishing points;
(d) a just and balance redistribution of licenses regulating bus ownership in such a way as to give preference to persons relating to the Revolution, and to deny those politically opposed to it; six four-wheel drive vehicles were confiscated at Berbera harbor, and similarly, the removal of vehicles in the city is in progress; those found to be serviceable will be mounted with weapons and the others used as transport for reconnaissance purposes and for officers in command of forces in forwarding positions; we are also engaged in a process of reclassifying transport.
- ii) Of the persons detained as suspected supporters of Qurmis, 45 are from Hargeisa, 30 from Burao, while seven are officers. Most of them are businessmen and well-to-do people, while some are headmen (Nabadoons) (13). They are held in Mandhera prison. However, it is hereby requested that they are transported urgently to Laanta Buur prison or Bari prison, etc.(14) in order to ensure their continued incarceration during the reorganization of the local prisons which show many defects from a security standpoint.
iii) The Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF) (15) has been remobilized, and 300 men have been stationed at a place near Geed-Deeble (16). According to plan, they will be re-armed and then put amidst those brigades and battalions considered to be capable of furthering the fight against Qurmis. At the same time, they can implement operations inside [Ethiopia] whenever required.
- iv) Since it has become evident that the Isaaq were, by act and intent, with the SNM; and since we could not see them giving up the line they have pursued so deceptively for some time; and in order to forestall them; we arranged for the other inhabitants of the North continuous meetings and a mobilization campaign designed to rouse them to action and to raise their level of awareness. This was intended to strengthen their unity and to surround Somali unity with a defensive wall. Among those inhabitants are: the Awdal people, the various sections of Western Somalis, the Las Qorey people, and the Daami people, etc. (16) There is no doubt that the unity of these people will restore the balance of the scales which are now tipped in favor of the Isaaq. If they attack their tasks energetically, their unity will also undoubtedly humble those who arrogantly maintain that they own the North when the reality is otherwise.
- v) We are still engaged in identifying the positions of those people who maintain current accounts at banks in the North West and Togdheer Regions. The accounts of those recognized as Qurmis supporters will continue to be frozen; the rest will be unfrozen in the near future.
We see the economic strangulation of the people who work for the enemy as serving a useful purpose. However, it is absolutely essential that this should be accompanied by the strengthening of the economic positions of non-Northerners, with a view to raising the level of their capabilities and their interests in these Regions. This will enable them to put under pressure those who have grown fat on the opportunities offered by the Government banks but have revolted against the State, having persuaded themselves to use their acquired capabilities against the State and it Revolutionary Government.
Undoubtedly, those successive steps, taken to cripple Qurmis, will instill anxiety in those in Mogadishu who are related to it. We hope that these will not be listened to or heeded so that the impetus of the war being waged against it would not drop.
An investigation into the action of Qurmis against the Burao base revealed that a lieutenant and five sakaris (all police) and some civilians had been behind it. It was implemented by the Habar Je’lo Qurmis (17).When the inquiry is completed, the culprits will be court-martialed.
Comrade President, in order to implement the above-mentioned matters, we need to:
- (a) purge the Somali Police Force, the Security Force, and the Hangash Force, (18) the members of all of which are largely recruited locally; this can be done by finding a force to dilute them and by transferring the present members; and
(b) replace the present members of the Custodial Corps, who — having assumed the distinctive character of being exclusively from the North — cannot be entrusted with the task of guarding the prisons, with a force composed of other Somalis.
- We also need up to a Division to reinforce the 3rd Division’s zone if it is possible to withdraw units from sectors whose areas of control are stable since the quality of a force in a state of mobilization cannot achieve very much.
- We also need the power of the Commercial Bank to give loans and to determine who shall receive them to be transferred to us, so that the past mistakes relating to the economic strengthening of the anti-State people may be rectified and those worthy of it be given a chance.
We propose that those of our forces we consider to be unsatisfactory should send representatives to discuss urgent corrective action. The reason is that the reaction to the measures we have already taken or will take must be met in advance. Since the intelligence-gathering organizations are suspect, and since some of them have committed clear offenses, it is prudent to take precautionary measures before it is too late. Up to now we have been walking on ground deliberately strewn with broken glass in an attempt to reduce the momentum of [our] efforts. It is essential to sweep away the broken glass without leaving a single piece behind. There is a Somali proverb: “Oh hyena, you cannot drag away hides without making a sound.” (20)
We are awaiting your guidance and directives.
Major General Mohamed Saeed Hirsi (Morgan)
The Commander of the 26th Sector, North West
End of text.
1 Introductory Note: The Report purports to be signed by Major-General Mohamed Saeed Hirsi (Morgan), President Mohamed Siyad Barre’s son-in-law and commander of the 26th Sector, Northwestern Somalia; the Sector covers the Togdheer, North West and Awdal Regions — the major part of what used to be British Somaliland before it merged on July 1, 1960 with former Italian Somaliland to the south, to form the Republic of Somalia. This name was changed to Somali Democratic Republic (SDR) following the seizure of power by General Mohamed Siyad Barre on October 21, 1969.
The report is addressed to the President of the SDR, the Minister of Defense, and the Minister of Interior. The latter, Major-General Ahmed Suleiman Abdalla, is also a son-in-law of the President, and Third Deputy Prime Minister. Since President Barre is also the Minister of Defense — the previous holder of that portfolio, General Mohamed Ali Samatar, having been promoted Prime Minister on January 30, 1987 — the report is seemingly confined to family members. This would explain its extreme frankness in specifying certain clans as targets for implemented and recommended punitive action.
The target is the Isaaq Clan Family. The term “clan family” was first coined by Professor I.M. Lewis, Professor Social Anthropology at the London School Economics, to describe the collective name for each of the several major divisions to which Somali clans traditionally divide themselves. The Isaaq clan-family sub-divides into four main clans.
2 Regular secret security reports from a range of top officials in the North West and Togdheer Regions are sent to President Barre and to designated senior ministers and Party chiefs. Delivered by special couriers, the reports are submitted by General Morgan, Sector Command, the Regional Governors, and regional Party Secretaries of the ruling Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (SRSP); the latter also report to Present Barre in his capacity as SRSP Secretary-General.
3 Two small settlements near the disputed border with Ethiopia — Balan Balle to the south and Galdogob in Mudug Region — which were captured in mid-July 1982 (and are still under occupation). The Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF), one of the two main guerrilla groups, claimed credit for the capture, but the Somali Government alleged that it was the Ethiopians.
4 Qurmis, meaning “the rotten”, is a derogatory term for the SSDF and the other guerrilla group, the Somali National Movement (SNM) founded in 1981. The reference here is to the SNM, which operates in the area covered by the report. The reference to “jointly occupied” implies the SNM and the Ethiopians.
5 These are very small villages to the south of Hargeisa running parallel to the border from west to east and 40 – 50 miles inside the Ethiopian border.
6 See note 1 above.
7 Curfews are familiar to the inhabitants of the North West and Togdheer Regions The current one has been in force since January 1, 1987.
8 Allaybaday village is about 30 miles south of Hargeisa.
(9) Awaar, south of Hargeisa, is deep in Somali-populated eastern Ethiopia, in the area commonly known as the Ogaden.
10 The Faraweyne Front is a Somali Government-sponsored clan militia organized in 1983 to counter expected Ethiopian invasion. The Sa’ad Muuse is one of the subdivisions of the Isaaq clans; see note 1.
11 The children in the refugee camps are either non-Somalis (e.g. Oramo tribes from Ethiopia) or else from Somali clans other than those to which the local school children to be diluted belong. Refugees are cared for by international aid agencies whose work is coordinated by the UNHCR and Somalia’s National Refugee Commission.
12 The “drugs” referred to here is the Khat or Chat leaves, a mild stimulant, chewed in East Africa and the two Yemenis. It was banned in Somalia in March 1983. The anti-khat law was further tightened and penalties increased in May 1984, but a black market is known to be flourishing.
13 Tribal elders. During British rule they were known as akils and sultans. When President Barre’s regime passed a law outlawing tribalism in 1970, the titles of tribal elders where changed to nabadoons (peace-seekers).
14 Laanta Buur Prison is in the south of the country, about 50 km from Mogadishu. It is a maximum security prison and accommodates many of the political detainees. Bari is in eastern Somalia. The idea is to move prisoners from Mandhera prison, between Hargeisa and Berbera, so that the SNM or its supporters do not arrange a jail-break as they did twice before.
15 The WSLF which fought the Ethiopians in 1977-78, during the Ogaden War, was an all Somali multi-clan force. The new WSLF referred to here does not embrace clans considered even potentially sympathetic to the SNM and its supporters.
16 Geed-Deeble is in the vicinity of Hargeisa.
17 The “Awdal people” and the “Las Qoray people” are euphemisms for the Somali clans that are predominant in the areas of Awdal in the extreme northwest and adjacent to Djibouti, and Las Qoray in the extreme northeast of Somalia. “Daami” is a collective name, apparently used only in the North for certain groups of Somali clans.
18 Habar Je’lo is one of the four main divisions of the Isaaq, see note 1.
19 The “Hangash Force” (an acronym) is the military police.
20 The proverb means that if you have to do a particular task, it is no use trying to be discreet or squeamish if that is going to prejudice the results. Here, General Morgan seems to be recommending an all-out campaign that puts aside caution, in implementing the punitive measures he is proposing.
The translation of the text of the above report is from Somali — the original language of the report. The footnotes are not part of the report and have been added by me to enhance the clarity of the document. Accuracy, rather than elegance of style, has been my principal aim in this translation.
I am persuaded, on the investigation, that the signature to the report which purports to be that of Major-General Mohamed Saeed Hirsi (Morgan) (Commander of the 26th Sector and de facto governor of the regions covered by the report) is, in fact, his own, and that the report is genuine.
My aim in translating this remarkable document is to make it available to researchers, lawyers, and human rights officials. I am not a member or sympathizer of the SNM or SSDF, although I am opposed to the present regime in Somalia.
In my years in Somalia as a legal practitioner, or member and then President of the Supreme Court, I never saw an official document with recommendations so frank in their departure from legality or accepted norms. Such a document ought not to be allowed to be confined to dissident circles that are privately circulating copies of the original.
This translation was done by me, Mohamoud Sheikh Ahmed Musa, in London on April 27, 1987.
Mohamoud Sheikh Ahmed Musa
Signed before me this 27th day of April 1987 by the above mentioned