The Civil War and the Baidoa Famine 1990 - 1992

 

The overthrow of Siad Barre'was the prelude to total disintegration. The opposition groups were all clan-based organizations each fighting for a particular clan interest. This is made very clear from an examination of their areas of operation. Some of the groups focused their activities on areas historically controlled by their respective clans. The Somali national movement (SNM) operated in the Issaq inhabited areas of northern Somalia; the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) in the Mudug region primarily inhabited by Majerteen; the United Somali Congress (USC) in the Hawiye territory of the central regions; and the Somali democratic movement (SDM) in the inter-riverine regions predominantly populated by Reewin.Other groups were fighting to defend the territorial gains they had made since independence in the inter-riverine and coastal regions of the south. The Somali Patriotic Movement, representing the Ogaden clan, operated in the Middle and Lower Juba valley; the Somali National Front, representing the Mahrehan, was based in the Gedo region; and the Somali National Alliance, a Habargedir faction occupied the regions of Banadir,

Lower Shabelle, Bokool and Bay. None of these three clans have roots in the regions thy currently claim. These regions belong to Reewin and some Hawiye clan sections, but not the Habargedir.

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In January 1991. Mogadishu was captured by USC, and Barre's regime collapsed. However, this was not quite the end of this story. Barr's forces maintained strongholds in the inter-riverine regions of the country for almost a year, during which they pursued a scorched earth policy, destroying the infrastructure and bringing agricultural production to standstill. Because the Reewin were excluded from high ranks in the Somali army, the SDM had no access to arms and lacked sufficient means to protect their people. The inter-riverine people were trapped between Adideed's forces in the north, Barre's in southwest, and Morgan's -Barre's son-in law in the south, in what became also known as the 'triangle of the death; Baidoa the capital of the region became also known as the 'city of the walking dead: it is estimated that nearly 5000,000 people died in the man-made famine that followed. After Barre's army was forced out of the country in mid-1192, Aideed militia looted Baidoa once again, taking everything the dictator's soldier's had left behind. One relief official in Baidoa in 1992 said of the starving Somalis: these people look like they are from Auschwitz. The monthly death rate in August in Baidoa was 3,224;that is 104 a day. In September, the figure rose to 5,979 people a month, or nearly 200 a day. The looting and rampage increased when the US Marines landed in Mogadishu, and the feeling bandits went on a last minute rampage in Baidoa

Famine in Baidoa was neither the result of natural or environmental causes, nor the result of the civil war. Baidoa is the richest city in the country and the capital of the most productive agricultural region, and did not experience the level of conflict that was the fate of Mogadishu, Belet Weyn and Kismayu.How then could Reewin suffering be explained, when they had no part in the power struggle? Some have argued that Baidoa was hit by famine due to its inland location, which made relief deliveries difficult. If that were the case, then Belet Weyn and Gakayo would have had the same experience as Baidoa, for they are located in the interior, too. One of the poets of Buur-Hakaba, whom I interviewed. Assessed the causes of the Reewin suffering as follows:

The main cause of the Somali conflict was not a direct between Darood and Hawiye per se. But a competition among them to occupy the land of Reewin. Their aim was to eliminate the Reewin and then occupy their land.

During my interviews in 1992-94, several elders in Baidoa have quoted Omar Jees, the leader of the SPM, which represents the Ogaden clan of the Darood, addressing his followers, after a brief occupation of Baidoa by the SPM: 'Dhul baan idiin qabaney hadii aad dhacasan waydaan waa idinka iyo nacasnimadina: he said. Which means: We have conquered a fertile land for you and your folly that could not keep it; Sheikh Eedin Alyow an elder in Buur Hakaba, portrayed the situation dramatically and convincingly.

The Hawiye and Darood had a master plan of extinguishing our people. For example they started to take all our stored gain first, then they took all the animals that we kept. After several weeks, the murderers came back to check whether the people of the villages were dead or still alive. When they realized that we were eating garas (an edible wild fruit) they started systematically to burn all the garas trees in the area. What could this mean?

General Aideed and militia exemplified this genocidal policy when they blocked food shipments from inter-riverine area. Throughout 1992, and before the US Marine landed on the shores of Mogadishu, Aideed militia prevented food from reaching Baidoa and other parts of southern Somalia. They used various tactics, including forcing relief agencies to use the militia's trucks and drivers for transportation. Whenever vehicles of United Nations headed for the inter-riverine region, Aideed militia methodically looted them en route. Finally, when the UN/US command in desperation decided to airlift supplies to Baidoa, Aideed militia captured Baidoa Airport, and imposed a fee of 5,000 per flight, taking a percentage of the food load as well.