On the home front, the democratically elected President Aadan Abdallah Usmaan and Prime Minister Abdirashid Ali Shermaarke oversaw the creation of a clan-based elite compact that ensured proportional representation for individual clans. Schraeder notes that the regime’s first cabinet included four Daaroods (two Dulbahantes, one Majeerteen and one Mareehaan), two Isaaqs (one Habar Awal and one Habar Yoonis), three Hawiyes (one Habar Gidir and two Abgaals), and three Digil and Rahanwayn.[96] In so doing, perhaps the Usmaan/Shermaarke administration was presumably attempting to prevent clan suspicions and competition from subsuming the energies of the new administration by making the equitable distribution of political spoils the bedrock of all future initiatives.

Contini suggests that among the many achievements of the new administration were the drafting and adoption of a new constitution, the formulation of a new judicial system that blended important components of the British and Italian (not to mention Sharia) legal traditions, and the merging of the northern and southern civil services and security forces.[97] Be that as it may, Hastedt observes that the early years of independence witnessed the emergence of a number of conflicts; one pitted the north (formerly British Somaliland) against the south (formerly Italian Somaliland).[98] A second dispute centered on priorities. Modernists sought to undertake a program of economic and social development. Others wanted to create a Greater Somalia along the lines that Schraeder already alluded to earlier in this chapter.[99] Doornbos and Markakis propound that the root causes of the imminent disintegration of Somalia is the ruling class made up of the intelligentsia and petty bourgeoisie who exploited clannishness to promote their own interests.[100]

In May 1962, Egal, the man who took the north into the union despite his personal misgivings, allied himself with some southern opposition leaders in a new political formation, the Somali National Congress (SNC). When the first national post-independence elections were held in 1964, the SNC coalition of northerners and southerners did not win the election (it got 22 seats) but it narrowed the SYL seats to 54 out of 123. Egal later joined SYL and was instrumental in getting Abdirashid Ali Shermaarke elected as the second president of the Republic by corralling the northern deputies against the incumbent Aadan Abdallah Usmaan, the man who had presented the five conditions of the union to the northerners. As a result, Egal, now in the SYL, was invited by President Shermaarke to form the next government. The presidency had thus its first northern premier.[101] Gradually, the integration of the two regions improved and northerners felt less alienated in the union for three reasons: the crossed political alliances such as the SNC or Egal’s entry into the SYL inner circle, the increasing use of English in the south as a result of the internationalization of that language; and the increased commerce between north and south and investment in the south by northern business people who built the highest buildings in Mogadishu.[102]


Mubarak elucidates that soon after the war between Somalia and Ethiopia in 1964, the Somali government’s preoccupation with security increased, in terms of both human and financial resources.[103] The Soviet Union agreed to provide Somalia with military assistance – to build a 5,000 strong army which later expanded to 17,000 troops. Recurrent spending on defense was around 35% to 38% of the government budget.[104] To confront the threat of Pan-Somalism, the Kenyan and Ethiopian governments agreed to mutual defense agreement in 1964 in the event of war.[105] Premier Egal, seeing the economic stagnation and the political stalemate over the issue of pan-Somalism, tried to ease the tensions by diplomatic means. In 1967, he initiated an understanding with President Kenyatta of Kenya that Somalia intended to solve the issue over NFD through peaceful means. He attempted a similar approach with Ethiopia. But Ethiopia was a traditional enemy of Somalia since the 16th century, and the move made many Somalis furious, including the army. Mubarak argues that Premier Egal’s reconciliation effort toward Ethiopia was one of the principal factors that provoked the military officers to stage a coup in October 1969.[106]

Seddon and Seddon-Daines point out that following the unsuccessful war with Ethiopia, and a presidential assassination, the army under General Mohamed Siyad Barre seized power in October 1969 and began ruling Somalia as a “scientific socialist” state.[107] Mubarak declares that the military regime started reorganizing all economic activities along socialist lines.[108] It announced that the objective of its development policy was to create a society based on justice, equality, and development. It also aimed to create an atmosphere for greater self-reliance. The regime sought these goals through nationalization of major private enterprises (foreign and national), banks, insurance companies, and wholesale businesses.[109]

Nolan observes that when Barre took over, he opened port facilities to the Soviet Union.[110] In 1974 an even more radical group took over power in Ethiopia and the Soviets shifted to support this new client state to the west in the war with ethnic Somali guerrillas fighting for secession of the Ogaden region. This led to the Ethiopia-Somalia war in 1977 whose result was the annihilation of Somalia by largely Cuban troops who intervened on the side of Ethiopia.[111] In reaction to the Soviet-Ethiopian relationship, probably with Saudi Arabian and Sudanese encouragement, President Barre was left with no recourse but to abrogate, in November 1977, its 1974 Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with the Soviet Union. He ordered all his Soviet bloc advisers (estimated at 6,000) as well as Cubans to leave the country.[112] Though he did not cut diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, he moved to the right and asked the US for aid. The resultant co-operation led to Washington providing aid to Barre and in return, the US took over the Soviet-built naval facilities at Berbera in the north.


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