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Somalia: Is General Samantar partially responsible the State failure?

By: Omar Mohamud Farah (Dhollawaa) |

Who is Mohamed Ali Samantar? Mohamed Ali Samantar was a member of the politburo of the Somali Government from 1969 to 1991. General Samantar was the first vice-president from 1969 up to 1989. He was the longest serving Defense Minister of Somalia from 1970 up to 1987, then the Prime Minister of Somalia from 1987 to 1990 (1st of February 1987 to 3rd of September 1990). Mr. Samantar was a close friend of Mohamed Siad Barre, the former president of Somalia. Mohamed Ali Samantar heads and executed the biggest mission that Somalia ever embarked its history and that was the Ogaden war from 1977 to 1978. During his term, Ali Samantar headed several delegations destined to many foreign countries to sign national treaties or agreements between Somalia and other nations in the world. Ali Samantar’s authority and status had never been questioned. His social stratification had never been examined or overshadowed by any negatively-charged social clouds. His sanity and his personality have never been in doubt. Furthermore, many Somalis use to believe that he was in-charge of the entire nation because of his proximate to the ailing leader and his position as a Minister of Defense and briefly the Prime Minister.  

General Samantar and his colleagues had been running the country, from tea boy to president. Late 1969 they took over, and further strengthened, one of the strongest military army in Africa and the most highly trained and highly disciplined police force in the continent. All judicial and other governmental institutions were well established and functional. The masses, the Somali citizens, were desperate to be led and they pose no challenge against this regime. From 1969 to late 1989, Somalia was the focus of the world superpowers and relatively rich Arab neighbours on other side of the red sea. These parts; the West, the East and the rich Arab neighbours, have heavily bombarded with money to the Somali treasury for geopolitical reasons. The Somali government of the time had enormously benefited from these readily available resources in money terms. Nevertheless, how they manage, run, guide and direct their subjects was entirely their choice. They could shape and form socially viable and competitive citizens or help them to head the highway to hell. I believe they choose the later option.  

During the regime’s era they have practiced the legitimacy to rule the country in their own terms from south to north. During this time many injustices had been done; many people were killed with no legal ground, many were denied the rights of employment, many citizens’ property or assets were either destroyed or confiscated. Many foreign businesses were nationalized without taking the proper channels. The people’s concern of injustice, the proliferation of tribalism and favoritism had been ignored and allowed to prosper. The freedom of expression had been denied. The basic education had been neglected and abandoned. The wrongs had replaced the rights and the Somali citizens frantically struggled to find alternatives, in most cases, violently.  

Ultimately, after years of death and destruction coupled by torturous and traumatic experience and the continuous failure of the leadership in all areas of government, the Somali State automatically promoted itself from failed State to collapsed State in 1991. Then, all imaginable and unimaginable social ills and social evils had officially emerged in Somalia.  

Now the Question is who should be held responsible for this State failure and its consequence? Is it Qanyare, Suudi Yallahow, Aideed, or Omar Finish and alike. No. None of these individuals are, in my view, responsible to what happened in Somalia and to the Somalians. Surely, one may argue that those people in the south are lacking the skills to rule and consequently failed to pick themselves up from the ashes and move on. But rationally they should not be blamed for the past failures and the social catastrophe that followed.  

Now, to come to the point of the discussion, is General Samantar at least partially responsible to what happened to us and our land? 

In short, Ali Samantar, as I said earlier, was a member of the Politburo (the sole decision makers of the nation), first vice-president, and the Minister of Defense. The Ministry of Defense was responsible for the execution of all illegal and evil actions that the Somali government has carried out against its people. Ali Samantar and his apparatus in the army had the implicit mandate to kill, destroy, arrest and carry out all the terrorizing acts that the Somali people had experienced during Samantar’s era in the Ministry. The military machine carried out all the summary executions that took place in Somalia from Hargeisa to Jassira beach and in between. Of course there are others, whether they are still alive or dead, who should share with him these responsibilities, but he is the only living person to answer and may be held responsible to what happened to the Somali people. This is purely because of his status and his position of the government that ruled Somalia from 1969 to 1991. 

One may ask and argue about the difference between Ali Samantar and Yallahow, one of the notorious Somali warlords, who is now enjoying his new title, so-called the ‘Member of Parliament’. The simple answer is Ali Samantar was educated, trained, employed, crowned with the Somali flag, empowered and sworn in to serve the Somali people by a Somali Government. In other words, Samantar had statutory authority. In contrary, Suudi Yallahow has emerged from the dust and the debris that Ali Samantar and his colleagues had left behind, and he unskillfully struggled to survive in that mayhem. However, that will not absolve him (Yallahow) from any wrong doing, even though no one has entrusted him any responsibility and he never received a mandate or directive from anyone.        

Therefore, legally and rationally General Mohamed Ali Samantar should be held responsible not only the crimes that his lieutenants committed in his Ministry but what happened to Somalia since then. In my view, all evils and human-devils that emerged after 22 years of corrupted, dictatorial, oppressive, aggressive, tyrannical, despotic and cruel regime should be held responsible to Samantar and his colleagues respectively. A Somali baby boy, who was born when Ali Samantar joined the leadership of the Somali Government turned 22 years in 1991 and he (the Somali boy) violently and madly chased the General out of the country. This boy simply took the path that the General and his colleagues had paved for him. Definitely, this boy could be, if he is guided to the right path, a law abiding citizen who can differentiate wrongs from rights and consequently respect and protect the General and his colleagues rather than chasing them.  

Confusingly, despite all this empirical evidence, some people are defending Ali Samantar and helping him financially to challenge against the people whose loved ones he (Ali Samantar) has killed. If history has any significance in this context; Milosevic, Pol Pot, Hitler, and the Rwandese perpetrators have not pulled the trigger, but they were legally hunted down purely because of their statutory authority and what their lieutenants had committed in their respective countries. Is General Samantar different from them!!! Or are the defenders just victims of Stockholm syndrome1.  

Sadly, this defense exercise, in favor of the General, will have colossal political and social dimensions in Somalia.      

The political dimension concerns the facts that the union of the South and the North was based on brotherhood and common interest. If the southerners are so openly defending a man who is seen by the northerners the killer of their children, mums and dads unlawfully, then obviously the northerners will be left nothing but to conclude that this is a conspiracy against northern inhabitants. And it will definitely, in the long term, diminish the trust, if any, between the two parts.  

The social dimension, applies the rights of the citizen and what someone can or cannot do in Somalia. Unfortunately, the main argument of General Samantar’s supporters is there are so many other criminals who are not incriminated yet. That may be true, but it is extremely difficulty to comprehend how your neighbor can challenge against you if you want to take to court the man who you believe to be responsible for the death of your loved ones, because some one on the other side of road was not incriminated by his/her victim. What kind of message will this send to the Somali society? I wonder why northerners (Somaliland) are so adamant to secede once and for all. I also wonder why many people are killed by Somalians and no one is held accountable!!!        

In conclusion, I sincerely believe, that anyone who has been victimized should have the opportunity to take his alleged villain to the court without any obstruction, where the defendant has the right to respond to the raised allegations. Anything different from this process will surely make us a jungle-society that should apply the law of the jungle.

Omar Mohamud Farah (Dhollawaa)


1 – A phenomenon in which a hostage begins to identify with and grow sympathetic to his or her captor.

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1 Jawaab " Somalia: Is General Samantar partially responsible the State failure? "

  1. Hussein Idow says:

    I beleive General Samatar should be at least partially responsible, bz he was carring a heavy responsibility (Vice preisdent, Prime Minister & Defense) and was a close friend of the president. He should face the court