Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Barre, Mohammed Siyad (1919?–1995)

Founder of the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party and Somali dictator from 1969 to 1991. Mohammed Siyad Barre was born around 1919 to nomadic parents, probably in what was then Italian Somaliland. He joined the Somali police force in 1941, achieving the rank of chief inspector in 1950, the highest rank attainable for a Somali. In 1952, he joined the army and attended the Military Academy in Italy. By 1960, Barre was a colonel and second-in-command of the Somali Army; in 1964 he became commander in chief and in 1966 attained the rank of major general.

Seizing power in 1969, Barre established ties with the Soviet Union and founded the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party in 1976. In 1977, however, he broke relations with Moscow because of Soviet displeasure with his invasion of the Ogaden region of Ethiopia and soon began to court the United States. Washington provided modest economic and military aid to Barre's regime, but his iron-fisted rule and deplorable human rights record prevented a closer relationship between the two nations.

The United States kept its distance as opposition to Barre's regime increased, exacerbated by the brutality of his rule, the failed Ogaden campaign, government corruption, clan rivalries, and economic crises. By 1988 the nation was plunged into a bloody civil war. The war raged on as starvation and mass killings increased. With no external support and with opposition forces closing in, Barre fled the country in January 1991. Further chaos ensued as the nation was riven by brutal warfare among its chief warlords. In 1992, the United Nations mounted a multination relief effort to Somalia, which ultimately backfired when U.S. forces came under attack and soldiers were killed in the Somali capital. In 1993, President Bill Clinton pulled U.S. forces out of Somalia, and the nation has struggled under on-again, off-again civil war ever since. Barre died in exile in Lagos, Nigeria, on 2 January 1995.

Donna R. Jackson


Further Reading
Lefebvre, J. A. Arms for the Horn: U.S. Security Policy in Ethiopia and Somalia, 1953–1991. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1991.; Patman, Robert. The Soviet Union in the Horn of Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
 

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