Zooming into the Past
Late Appeals That Fell on Deaf Ears
Mohamed Siyaad Barre (1921 – 1995) was born at Garbaharrey, Gedo Region of Somalia. He finished his elementary school in Luuq, Gedo. He took language courses and continued his education in various Mogadishu schools. He joined the Police Force (gendarmerie) when the British took over from the Italians in 1941. In 1952, he was sent to Italy for further military training.
In the 1950, Barre became a chief inspector of Police. Within the 1950s, he was promoted 2nd lieutenant, colonel, and vice-commandant .
In the 1960, Barre was among the high-ranking officers to make up the first Somali National Army (SNA). In 965, he was promoted Commandant of the Army and brigadier-general; a year after he became a major-general. After the assassination of the civilian President, Abdirashid Ali Shermarke, on Oct 15th, 1969, Barre masterminded a military coup d’etat. On Oct 21st, 1969, he became the head of the Supreme Revolutionary Council and the President of Somalia, up until January, 1991 . Barre’s reign can be summarized as a centralized and despotic regime that became one of the main factors of the on-going civil wars in Somalia.
The Forum inclines to append few comments to Barre’s statements. Firstly, anyone who is familiar with Siyaad Barre’s rhetoric notices, from Barre’s late appeals, a different tone and language. A casual observer may not sense the tremendous speech and tone variations in Barre’s words, but his regime’s dire situation is unmistakably apparent. Yet, this disturbing ferment is after all an evidence of his misrule, as well as the emergence of new but uninspiring political impulses – clan factions.
Probably, the President couldn’t believe that his regime will more likely be put to an end by ragtag army of clan factions. It was not so long ago, when Barre used to insist that his army were capable to take the fight into the streets of Addis Ababa, if necessary. Giving a cool assessment to the dissidents for too long, the Government’s regional administrations were slowly brought to its knees, sending a somber warning to Siyaad Barre and his clique in Mogadishu.
The Forum stresses that the word “appeal do evoke a different reaction in each clan faction. The use of the word, in this context, is therefore subjective. The Forum thus brings to your attention late appeals from Siyaad Barre’s regime, which we know now that it fell on deaf ears, but to some could remind sentiments of “haddii…” (regretful) theme.
President Siyaad ‘Ready’ To Meet with Opposition
Cairo AL-AHRAM in Arabic
13 Nov 1989 p8
[Interview with President Mohamed Siyaad Barre by `Abdal-Jawwad Ghayt in Mogadishu]
[Excerpt] [Passage omitted] [Ghayt] Your Excellency, we are following your efforts on the progress and development of the Somali people and for consolidating their unity and stability. Within this framework, you decided to adopt the multiparty system, to hold new elections, and to effect amendments to the Constitution. What is the significance of this decision?
[Siyaad] You are aware that after many experiments, we have adopted the open-door economic method as a policy line in harmony with the nature and needs of the Somali people. Naturally, this line had to be coupled with political openness, allowing our people more freedom for political action and positive participation in the government through constructive democratic practices aimed at serving the country and the people. The Somalis are political-minded by nature and their lives and relations are based on the freedom of work and expression within a genuine democratic framework. That is why we made our decision on the multiparty system. We called on citizens who want to participate in Somali life and activities to come forward with their ideas and programs and to establish parties that they think will be able to implement these ideas and programs. Therefore, a special committee has been set up to amend the Constitution, allowing for the multiplicity of parties. Free elections will be held during the next year, which will allow all political ideas and trends to find expression and contribute to governing Somalia after winning the trust of the Somali people.
[Ghayt] You have issued a decision forming a committee to erase the results of the events that took place in the northern towns of Hargeisa and Burao. You voiced readiness to negotiate with the opposition groups. What has happened so far?
[Siyaad] What took place in these two towns was caused by external elements which intended to spread ruin and destruction, terrify people, and drive them away from their homes and land. When the government re-imposed its control over the situation and restored calm to the two towns, I ordered the formation of a committee to rebuild the two towns, return the people to their homes and land, and provide them with means of safety and stability. Indeed, the committee succeeded in implementing this order. We are still continuing our efforts to rebuild what the events had destroyed, despite the immense resources these things require. We are resolved to complete this task, God willing.
As for our call on the opposition to negotiate, no positive steps have so far been realized on the part of those who call themselves the opposition. The reason is that these groups cannot trust anyone to negotiate in their name. I believe that it is difficult for them to choose negotiators from among themselves, because each one regards himself as a leader. The committee is still ready to meet with them and open a dialogue if they are really serious in their demands. Despite this call, the opposition has remained silent. They did not respond to the committee’s calls. We have also instructed our embassies abroad to open unconditional dialogues with them, within the framework of preserving national unity and avoiding any threat to this unity. We will never allow this unity to be threatened. If the opposition has any clear program or aim to serve the country and the citizens, we will welcome a dialogue and we welcome it to the upcoming election. But if it is an opposition for the sake of opposition: If it aims at realizing personal or tribal gains, or if it is instigated by hostile circles, then we believe that it has no place and no chance because the Somali people will never allow their national unity and supreme interests to be harmed. We are prepared to make every effort to preserve national unity, which is worthy of our sacrifices and selfless efforts.
[Ghayt, in aside] President Mohamed Siyaad Barre reaffirmed his call to the opposition to enter into a constructive and serious national dialogue. He expressed his hope that the opposition elements will make use of this opportunity to avoid disputes and fighting, from which only the enemies of the Somali people will benefit. The president said: Some groups of these opposition elements returned to the ranks of national work after discovering that they had fallen prey to cheating and deception. These groups went back to living their normal lives and working in the cities and regions that they had left earlier.
[Ghayt addresses Siyaad] Your Excellency, your celebrations of the revolution anniversary this year highlighted the stability in Somalia. How do you explain the media campaign against Somalia at this particular point in time, and how do you plan to confront it? What is the nature of events now in the north and south?
[Siyaad] The elements that call themselves the opposition are the ones behind the misleading campaign supported by some forces and circles who have an interest in distorting the image and reputation of Somalia. Had these elements had a broad popular base in Somalia, they would not have resorted to this style. However, because they use some European capitals as their headquarters, they resort to talking to foreign media and newspapers, which in turn find subject matter for the clamor they are trying to create. We believe that the masks worn by these elements have started being torn away after we called for a dialogue and they did not respond to our call. We also announced that we welcome the visits of foreign media men and correspondents to our country to ascertain the falsity of the claims propagated by these elements. Recently, many media delegations representing Western radio stations and news agencies have visited us, carried out free field trips to various regions, met whomever they wished to meet with, heard various opinions, visited some regions which witnessed disturbances earlier, affirmed the return of peace, security, and stability there, and found out that the stories the opposition elements had been spreading around had no truth to them and that the situation in the north and the south is calm and not at all worrying.
[Ghayt] Somalia, like other developing countries, is facing some difficulties and challenges in its efforts to realize the desired development. What are the challenges Somalia faces and what are you doing to overcome them?
[Siyaad] The challenges we face in Somalia, like all other developing countries, are not easy for individual countries to confront, because they can be greater than the individual resources of each country. Therefore, here we see the necessity for working in a group effort to overcome these challenges. We in Somalia, for example, have mineral, natural, agricultural, fish, animal, and other resources. If these resources are exploited and made use of, their yield would be very positive not only to Somalia alone, but to many sisterly countries.
In this respect, we welcome cooperation with our Arab brothers to invest on these resources, and we invite Arab capital to help in this effort. For this purpose, we have issued an investment law providing opportunities to Arab capital and giving it sufficient security and stability guarantees. Millions of hectares of agricultural lands in Somalia can be turned into a breadbasket for the Arabs, enabling them to dispense with food imports from abroad. Somalia’s animal wealth can secure more than half of the Arab need of meat, and the fish wealth in Somalia’s coasts, which extend to more than 3,000 miles, can satisfy the need of Arab markets. Many Arabs perhaps do not know Somalia’s capabilities and resources. This is due to lack of information as a result of insufficient media interest in Somalia. Hence the importance of Arab media highlighting the resources and wealth hidden in the Arab world. We should not depend on Western media, which depart from facts and reality. We in Somalia hope that the Arab press will tell facts about all that happens here through reports from the field, not through reliance on news coming from outside Somalia. At the same time, the Arab media should portray the clear image to the Arab investor so that he can benefit from our resources.
[Ghayt] Your Excellency, Somalia is an Arab League and OAU member. How do you envisage the future of the Arab-African cooperation, especially at this period with President Husni Mubarak chairing the OAU? And what is Somalia’s role in this respect?
[Siyaad] We are proud that the idea of Arab-African cooperation was born in Somalia. I made a wide tour of the African Continent to call for this cooperation. In coordination with our brothers leaders of the African countries, the first conference on Arab-African cooperation was held in Cairo in 1977. The conference set the bases for this cooperation. We in Somalia still believe in the importance of this cooperation and are acting to boost it. We are confident that brother President Muhammad Husni Mubarak, in his capacity as the current chairman of the OAU, can do much to promote the Arab-African cooperation in light of the president’s wise policy and his country’s status on the Arab, African, and international levels. Somalia is fully ready to play its role in this respect. This cooperation is in the joint interest of the Arabs and Africans. The elements of success for this fruitful cooperation, whether human, material, or natural wealth, are available. And since Somalia possesses much of this wealth and is the Arab’s gate to eastern Africa, good results toward enhancing Arab-African cooperation can be achieved. We support every effort in this direction.
 Africa’s Who’s Who (London: Africa Books Ltd), 2nd Edition, 1991, p.1660.
 Mohamed Haji Mukhtar, Historical Dictionary of Somalia (Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2003).p.158-9.