IndependenceJune 19, 2007 at 7:00 am | Posted in somalia | Leave a comment
The freshly independent Somalis loved politics, every nomad had a radio to listen to political speeches, and remarkable for a Muslim country, women were also active participants, with only mild mumblings from the more conservative sectors of society. Despite this promising start, there were significant underlying problems, most notably the north/south economic divide and the Ogaden issue. In hindsight it might have made more sense to create two separate countries from the outset, rather than re-uniting the very distinct halves of Somalia and hoping for the best. Also, long held distrust of Ethiopia and the deeply ingrained belief that Ogaden was rightfully part of Somalia, should have been properly addressed prior to independence. The north and south spoke different languages (English vs Italian respectively) had different currencies, and different cultural priorities.
Starting in the early 1960s, troubling trends began to emerge when the north started to reject referendums that had won a majority of votes, based on an overwhelming southern favoritism. This came to a head in 1961 when northern paramilitary organizations revolted when placed under southerners’ command. The north’s second largest political party began openly advocating secession. Attempts to mend these divides with the formation of a Pan-Somalian party were ineffectual; one opportunistic party attempted to unite the bickering regions by rallying them against their common enemy Ethiopia and the cause of reconquering Ogaden. Other nationalistic party platforms included the independence of the northern Kenyan holdings of the Italian colony, from Kenya proper. These regions were largely inhabited by ethnic Somalis who had become accustomed to Italian rule, and were distressed by the different regime they faced in Kenya.
Clashes with Ethiopia
Somali’s internal disputes were manifested outwards in hostility to Ethiopia and Kenya, which they felt were standing in the way of ‘Greater Somalia’. This led to a series of individual Somali militiamen conducting hit and run raids across both borders from 1960 to 1964, when open conflict erupted between Ethiopia and Somalia. This lasted a few months until a cease fire was signed in the same year. In the aftermath, Ethiopia and Kenya signed a mutual defense pact to contain Somali aggression.
Although Somalis had received their primary political education under British and post-war Italian tutelage, the virulently anti-Imperialist parties rejected the European’s advice whole cloth, and threw their lot in with the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. By the middle of the 1960s, the Somalis had formal military relationship with Russia whereby the Soviets provided extensive material and training to the Somali armed forces. They also had an exchange program in which several hundred soldiers from one country went to the others to train or be trained. As a result of their contact with the Soviet military, many Somali officers gained a distinctly Marxist worldview. China supplied a lot of non military industrial funding for various projects, and the Italians continued to support their displaced children in Africa, and the relationship between the rapidly communizing Somalia and the Italian government remained cordial. The Somalis however were increasingly becoming jaded of the United States, which had been sending substantial military aid to their hostile neighbor, Ethiopia, and thanks to incessant anti-Western indoctrination at the hands of their new Russian friends.
By the late 1960s, the Somali democracy that had gotten off to such an enthusiastic start just ten years prior, was beginning to crumble. In the 1967 election, due to a complicated web of clan loyalties, the winner was not properly recognized and instead a new secret vote was taken by already elected National Assemblymen (senators). The central election issue was whether or not to use military force to bring about the long dreamed of pan-Somalism, which would mean war with Ethiopia and Kenya and possibly Djibouti. In 1968 there seemed to be a brief respite from ominous developments when a telecomunications and trade treaty was worked out with Ethiopia, which was very profitable for both countries, and especially for residents on the border who had been living in a de facto state of emergency since the 1964 cease fire.
1969 was a tumultuous year for Somali politics with even more party defections, collusions, betrayals and collaborations than normal. In a major upset the SYL and its various closely allied supporting parties, which had previously enjoyed a near monopoly of 120 out of 123 seats in the Assembly, saw their power slashed to only 46 seats. This resulted in angry accusations of election fraud from the displaced SYLers, and their remaining members still had the clout to do something about it. Particularly unsettling was that the military was a strong supporter of the SYL, since that party had always been supportive about invading Ethiopia and Kenya, thus giving the military a reason to exist.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia