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Somalia Rebellion and First Civil War

Years: 1982-1999
Battle deaths: 24,661 [1]
Non-state conflict, battle-deaths: 5,584 [3]
Onesided violence: 1,265 [2]

Nation(s) involved and/or conflict territory [note]

Published: 2024-01-02 11:00:39 | Updated: 2024-04-03 21:46:43

The first civil war in Somalia grew out of a resistance to Major General Mohamed Siad Barre’s regime that had ruled Somalia since 1969. In 1991 Barre's government eventually collapsed under the pressure from several resistance movements and the lack of support from the crumbling Soviet Union. A UN peacekeeping force was deployed to Somalia in 1992 but withdrew in 1995. After 1995 there was localized and less intense fighting.

On 15 October 1969, while paying a visit to the northern town of Las Anod, Somalia's then President Abdirashid Ali Shermarke was shot dead by a policeman. His assassination was quickly followed by a military coup d'état on 21 October 1969, in which the Somali Army seized power without encountering armed opposition – essentially a bloodless takeover. The putsch was spearheaded by Major General Mohamed Siad Barre, who at the time commanded the army.

After President Sharmarke's assassination the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) assumed power, renamed the country the Somali Democratic Republic, dissolved the parliament and the Supreme Court, and suspended the constitution. In July 1976, the SRC disbanded itself and established in its place the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (SRSP), a one-party government based on scientific socialism and Islamic tenets. The SRSP was an attempt to reconcile the official state ideology with the official state religion by adapting Marxist precepts to local circumstances. A new constitution was promulgated in 1979 under which elections for a People's Assembly were held. However, Barre's Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party politburo continued to rule. In October 1980, the SRSP was disbanded, and the Supreme Revolutionary Council was re-established in its place.

In the late 1980-ies Barre's government had become increasingly unpopular. The regime was weakened further as the Cold War drew to a close and Somalia's strategic importance was diminished. The government became increasingly totalitarian, and resistance movements, encouraged by Ethiopia, sprang up across the country, eventually leading to the Somali Civil War. Among the militia groups were the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF), United Somali Congress (USC), Somali National Movement (SNM) and the Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM), together with the non-violent political oppositions of the Somali Democratic Movement (SDM), the Somali Democratic Alliance (SDA) and the Somali Manifesto Group (SMG).

One of the strongest of these groups was SNM (Somali National Movement) which was primarily based within the Isaaq clan, in the north of Somalia which was previously referred to as British Somaliland and, since 1991, has been the internationally unrecognized Republic of Somaliland. As a response to the uprising soldiers in the Somali army started to target and kill civilian members of the Isaaq population. The attacks took place in the form of execution like massacres, involving dozens, and sometimes even hundreds of members of the Isaaq clan.

With the political situation deteriorating, Barre's long-standing government in 1991 eventually collapsed under the pressure. The national army disbanded shortly afterwards. United Nations Security Council Resolution 794 was unanimously passed on 3 December 1992, which approved a coalition of United Nations peacekeepers led by the United States. Forming the Unified Task Force (UNITAF), the force was tasked with assuring security until humanitarian efforts aimed at stabilizing the situation were transferred to the UN. Landing in 1993, the UN peacekeeping coalition started the two-year United Nations Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOM II) primarily in the south to provide humanitarian relief.

Some militias that had seized power after the oust of Barre regime's interpreted the UN troops' presence as a threat to their hegemony. Consequently, several gun battles took place in Mogadishu between local gunmen and peacekeepers. Among these was the Battle of Mogadishu, an unsuccessful attempt by US troops to apprehend faction leader Mohamed Farah Aidid. The UN soldiers eventually withdrew altogether from the country on 3 March 1995, having incurred more significant casualties.

After UNOSOM II's departure in March 1995, military clashes between local factions became shorter, generally less intense, and more localized. This was in part due to the large-scale UN military intervention that had helped to curb the intense fighting between the major factions, who then began to focus on consolidating gains that they had made. The local peace and reconciliation initiatives that had been undertaken in the south-central part of the country between 1993 and 1995 also generally had a positive impact.


Wikipedia History of Somalia, published under the GNU FDL. Retrieved 2024-02-19
• Wikipedia Somali Civil War, published under the GNU FDL. Retrieved 2024-02-19


Data Sources

[1] Battle deaths: PRIO Battle Deaths Dataset v3.0 (link) (1946-88) #141 UCDP23.1 (1989-2022) #337
Low: 11,161 High: 44,010

[2] UCDP One-sided Violence Dataset v. 1.4-2012, 1989-201123.1 including actors: Government of Somalia / SPM/SNA / RRA
Low: 1,215 High: 5,816

[3] UCDP Non-State Conflict Dataset UCDP Non-State Conflict Dataset v. 2.5-2014, 1989-2013 (link)23.1 including dyads: SNF vs USC/SNA / Republic of Somaliland vs SNM - 'Calan cas' / AIAI vs SSDF / SPM vs SPM/SNA / SSDF vs USC/SNA / Forces of Abdurahman Ahmed Ali 'Tur' vs Republic of Somaliland / RRA vs USC/SNA / USC/SNA vs USC-PM / USC/SNA vs USC/SNA - OA / DSA vs USC/SNA / Forces of Hussein Ali Ahmed vs USC/SSA / Forces of General Morgan vs JVA / SNF - MSAB vs SNF
Low: 5,568 High: 6,800

More about sources


NOTE! Nation data for this war may be inconlusive or incomplete. In most cases it reflects which nations were involved with troops in this war, but in some it may instead reflect the contested territory.



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