DFSS —Democratic Front for the Salvation of Somalia — an armed opposition group based in Ethiopia which has been fighting the Somali government since 1978.

Gulwadayaal (Victory Pioneers) — a large paramilitary force established in 1972, operating under the direct supervision of the President. Its powers of arrest are independent of the regular police.


HANGASH (Hay’ada Nabadgelyada Gaashaandhiga) — a Somali acronym for military intelligence, created in 1978.

Mobile Military Court (Maxkamadda Wareegta), originally created as a military tribunal for the army, its jurisdiction was extended to civilians in the early eighties.

NSC — National Security Court, a special court created in 1970 to deal with all political cases, matters pertaining to public order and murder.

NSS — National Security Service, the country’s principal secret service organization.

RSC —Regional Security Court, a special committee that has the power to order arrests and to draw up and implement political measures, such as the curfew system.

SNM — Somali National Movement, an opposition movement fighting the government in northern Somalia.

SPM — Somali Patriotic Movement, an opposition group fighting the government in southern Somalia.

SRSP — Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party — the ruling party in the country created in 1976.

SRC — Supreme Revolutionary Council — 25 member military council which ruled the country immediately after the coup of October 21, 1969, which brought Mohamed Siyad Barre to power.

WSLF — Western Somali Liberation Front — the principal group fighting Ethiopia for the Ogaden.

USC — United Somali Congress, an opposition group fighting the government in southern Somalia.

An explanatory note about Somali names

Somalis use three names — their own name, followed by their father’s first name and then their grandfather’s first name. Whenever possible, we have referred to all three names. Many Somalis are known by their nicknames, both formally and informally. The use of nicknames is so common that even colleagues and neighbors may not be aware of someone’s real name. In some instances, we have had to use only the nickname. Nicknames appear throughout the text in quotation marks.

An explanatory note about Somalia’s clan system

While ethnically homogenous, Somalis have traditionally been divided into groups who are linked to each other by having a common ancestor, traced through the male line. These groups are known as clans. Groups of clans form a clan-family, based on having one ultimate ancestor from which the sub-groups descend.

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