History of Somalia: Self-Determination for Ogaden

History of Somalia: Self-Determination for Ogaden Last updated on Sunday 25th April 2010

In mid-1977 ethnic Somalis living in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, started a war to win self-determination. Somalia armed the rebels and even contributed troops to the effort. By late 1977 the Somalis had captured most of the Ogaden.

Ethiopia, with aid from the USSR and Cuba, won back control over the region in early 1978. Somalia's army incurred heavy losses. At the same time, Ethiopia provided support to Somalia's dissident movements, based mainly in the north, who were then in a position to launch incursions across the border.

The fighting brought an estimated two million refugees into Somalia. The United States gave both humanitarian and military aid and was in return granted use of the naval facilities at Berbera, previously a Soviet base. Hostilities with Ethiopia continued occasionally until 1988, when a temporary peace agreement was reached.

Problems with Ethiopia recurred infrequently because of the dispute over the Ogaden plains and the steady flow of Ethiopian refugees into Somalia. In December 1986 Siad Barre was re-elected by 99% of the vote. In February 1989, he sent Prime Minister Ali Samater to London and Washington, to announce the amnesty and commuting of sentences for 400 political prisoners. However, western credits and investments to Somalia were significantly reduced.

The Somali opposition formed the "United Somali Congress" (USC) in January 1991 and ousted President Barre, who was replaced by the leader of the USC, Ali Mahdi Mohammed.

A bloody conflict erupted between the two factions of the USC and the newly appointed president fled the capital Mogadishu in November 1991. The capital remained in the hands of General Mohamed Farah Aideed, leader of the military wing of the USC. The two rival factions of the United Somali Congress were made up of members of different sub-groups of the I clan, led by Farah Aideed and Ali Mahdi, respectively.

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