No pomp or parades as Somalia marks 50 years

Friday July 2 2010

Somali’s displaced jostle for food rations distributed by a Mogadishu-based  Somali NGO at a feeding centre in southern Mogadishu on June 30. NGO officials say the camp feeds several hundred families a day. Photo/AFP

Somali’s displaced jostle for food rations distributed by a Mogadishu-based Somali NGO at a feeding centre in southern Mogadishu on June 30. NGO officials say the camp feeds several hundred families a day. Photo/AFP  

By JACOB NG’ETICH and MUCHIRI KARANJA

There were no military parades, not bands, no song as Somali marked 50 years of independence on Wednesday… only gunshots.

But Somali people have got used to gunshots: their 50 year history is largely punctuated by gunshots.

The first shot that changed the country’s destiny sounded October 1969. Then, the country’s president, Mohamed Egal was assassinated.

In the same year, the Army commander, Mohamed Siad Barre seized power, and immediately allied himself to the Soviet side of the cold war.

According to observers, Barre’s attempt to erase clan loyalties planted the seeds of Somali’s disintegration. This, and the sudden decision of the Soviets to shift support to Somalia rival-Ethiopia.

After Ethiopia handed Somali a defeat in the battle for Ogaden, the weakened president faced a clan revolt, culminating in another coup in 1991.

The rest, like they say, is history: Somali disintegrated into anarchy. Not even the 35,000 troops sent in by the United Nations in 1992 could stop the chaos.

Several attempts to bring the various warring groups have been made, but none has offered a permanent solution.

In 1992, the UN brought 15 Somali warlords to Addis Ababa, to sign a peace treaty. Part of the signed agreement read: “After an era of pain, destruction and bloodshed that turned Somalis against Somalis, we have confronted our responsibility.”

But all the eight generals who signed the treaty did not heed it, and the gun roared once more in Mogadishu.

Thousands of people especially women and children have since lost their lives following the violence and famine that hit the mostly semi-arid country, the over 90 percent of the country is semi arid.

Due the two decades of violence, millions of Somalis have been rendered as refugees in what has been described as one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world currently. According to the UN figures there are over 1.4 million internally displaced persons, some 580,000 refugees and nearly three million people dependent on aid, out of a total population of nearly eight million.

Leading Somali has not been a walk in the park, most of the leaders some has come with the price of their lives, Aden Abdulle Osman Daar popularly known as Aadan Cadde, who was Somali politician and the country’s first President from July 1, 1960 ruled seven years was felled by a gun.

In late 1969, his ouster Shermarke was also assassinated and a military government assumed power in a coup d’état led by Major General Salaad Gabeyre Kediye, General Siad Barre and Chief of Police Jama Korshel. Barre became President and Korshel vice-president.

Mr Barre’ was lucky unlike his two predecessors, to have to be ousted and remain albeit in exile to see his country degenerate to what is now, a battle field.

In January 1991, President Ali Mahdi Muhammad was selected by the manifesto group as an interim state president until a conference between all stakeholders to be held in Djibouti the following month to select a national leader.

However, United Somali Congress military leader General Mohamed Farrah Aideed, and other different party leaders refused to recognise him therefore putting the country into further turmoil.

The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) led by Somalia’s President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed is the the current internationally recognized federal government leader of Somalia.

The TFG was established as one of the Transitional Federal Institutions of government as defined in the Transitional Federal Charter (TFC) adopted in November 2004 after one and a half years of negotiation in Kenya.

The birth of Somaliland

The trouble started in Somali when then president the late Said Barre’s government was toppled 1991 by a combined northern and southern clan-based forces, it is alleged that Ethiopia backed and armed the clan forces.

Subsequently the same year the northern part formerly the British portion of the country declared its independence as Somaliland in May 1991.

However though Somaliland enjoyed de facto independence and relatively stable compared to the tumultuous south, it has not been recognized by the international community or any foreign government.