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Factions in the Somali Civil War

Over the course of the Somali Civil War, there have been many revolutionary movements and militia groups run by competing rebel leaders which have held de facto control over vast areas within Somalia.

Prior to the fall of Siad Barre (through 1991)

Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF)

First Somali resistance group.

Took part in a 1982 Ethiopian border offensive against Somalia.

The SSDF also propped up and trained the SNM. Both SSDF and SNM leaders met in Ethiopia’s capital in September 1987 to unite and devise a plan to topple Siad Barre’s regime but they failed to agree on a common strategy.

Somali National Front (SNF)

The SNF was a political revolutionary movement and armed militia in Somalia. Initially made up of loyalists to former President of Somalia Siad Barre and the remnants of the Somali National Army forces after his ouster from office, the SNF's intent and goal was to recapture Mogadishu and reinstate Barre's regime. Later, under General Omar Hagi Masallah and General Ahmed Ali, the SNF united the Marehan with the other Darod clans led by General Mohammed Said Hersi "Morgan", and then attempted to conquer the region around Kismayo to form the autonomous district of Jubaland.

  • Leaders: General Siad Barre, General Ahmed Ali, Mohammed Said Samatar "Gacaliye", Ahmed Sheikh Ali Ahmed "Burale", Dr. Ali Nur, General Mohammed Hashi Gaani, Col Barre Hiiraale, Gen Omar Hagi Massale, Col. Abdirizak Issak Bihi.
  • Area of Operations: Southern and Central Somalia; occasional forays to outskirts of Mogadishu and neighboring borders.
  • Tribal Affiliation: Marehan (Mareehaan)
  • Founded: March 1991

Somali National Movement (SNM)

Flag of the Somali National Movement
  • Leaders:

Ahmed Mohamed Gulaid 1981–1982 Sheikh Yusuf Ali Sh.Madar 1982–1983 Col.Abdiqadir Kosar Abdi 1983–1984 Ahmed M.Mahamoud Silanyo 1984-1990, Abdirahman Ahmed Ali Tuur 1990-1991

  • Area of Operations: Northwestern Somalia (Somaliland)
  • Tribal Affiliation: Isaaq
  • Founded: 1981

Founders Ahmad Mahammad Culaid, Ahmad Ismaaiil Abdi Duqsi, Mohamed Hashi cilmi, Hassan Aaddan wadaadiid Hassan isse Jama Prof Abdisalan Gabeyhadi Isaaq tribe members had founded the movement in 1981 as emigres to London with the express purpose of overthrowing the Barre regime. They eventually moved to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and gained the support of the Ethiopian government.

On January 2, 1982, operating near Berbera, the group attacked Mandera Prison to free political prisoners while simultaneously raiding Cadaadle armory.

Between 1985 and 1987, the SNM conducted many attacks on government facilities and troops based out of camps in Ethiopia.

By 1988, the SNM moved out of their camps in Ethiopia and began operating in northern Somali republic, the area now known as Somaliland.[2] They even temporarily occupied the provincial capitals of Burao and Hargeysa.

They captured government Toyota Land Cruisers turned them into technicals by mounting 12.7 mm and 14.5 mm machineguns, 106 mm recoilless rifles, and BM-21 rocket launchers. They also operated various antiaircraft guns, such as the ZU-23-2.

By 1991, they had taken control of Hargeysa, Berbera, Burao, and Erigavo. On May 18, 1991, they declared the Republic of Somaliland.

Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM)

  • Leaders: Colonel Shukri Weyrah Kariye, Colonel Bashir Bililiqo,

Colonel Ahmed Omar Jess, General Aden Abdullahi Nur ('Gabyow'), General Mohammed Said Hersi "Morgan"

  • Area of Operations: southern Somalia
  • Tribal Affiliation: Ogaden (SPM 'Ogadeni') and Wardey (known as SPM 'Harti')
  • Founded: 1989

Begun by a group of disaffected Ogadeni officers.

A key accomplishment was the seizure of Balli-Dogle air base in the days prior to Barre's flight from Mogadishu.[3]

Somali Democratic Alliance (SDA)

  • Leaders: Mohamed Farah Abdullahi, Mohamed Rashiid Sheekh also called sheekh malee, Zak Fergason, and Jamac Rabile(SDA)
  • Area of Operations: Awdal, Somaliland
  • Tribal Affiliation: Gadabursi
  • Founded: 1989[4]

Pro-Barre faction. Fought against other liberation movements during Barre's reign.

United Somali Congress (USC)

  • Leaders: Dr. Omar M. Hassan, Gen, ciise maqadeye Hussein Ahmed Mohamed, Abdi Hilowle Hassan, Hassan Mohamud Moheddin, Hassan Omar Mohamed (Founders, 1989

Gen, ciise maqadeye Ali Mohamed Osoble (Ali Wardhiigley) And Dr. Ismael Jimaale) (Mogadishu section founder, 1989); General Mohamed Farrah Aidid, Ali Mahdi Mohamed, Mohamed Qanyare Afrah (November 1991)

  • Area of Operations: South Central Somalia
  • Tribal Affiliation: Hawiye[5] (Habar Gidir, Xawaadle,Sheekhaal,duduble, Murusade and Abgaal clans)
  • Founded: February 1, 1989 in Rome

On January 26, 1991, the USC stormed the Presidential palace in Mogadishu, taking control of the capital and forcing Siad Barre into exile.

In November 1991, factionalism between Gen. Aidid and Ali Mahdi Mahammad caused a split in the USC. Mohamed Qanyare Afrah was chosen to be the Chairman of USC .

Somali Democratic Movement (SDM)

  • Leaders:Maxamed Qanyare Afrah
  • Area of Operations: Mogadishu
  • Tribal Affiliation: Murusade
  • Founded: April 1989[6]

Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya (AIAI)

  • Leaders:
Hassan Dahir Aweys, 

Abdullahi Ali Afrah (aasbaro)
Hassan Abdullah Hersi al-Turki

  • Area of Operations: Southwest (Ras Kamboni, Luuq)
  • Religious Affiliations:Sunni Islam
  • Founded: Late 1980s.

Southern Somali National Movement

United Somali Root (USR)

Founded after the fall of Siad Barre through to the UN interventions (1991–1995)


Leaders Area of Operations Tribal Affiliation Dates Flag
1991–1993: Abdirahman Ahmed Ali Tuur
1993–2002: Ibrahim Egal
2002-2010: Dahir Riyale Kahin
2010-2017: Ahmed M. Mahamoud Silanyo
2017- current: Muse Bihi Abdi
Somaliland Isaaq


18 May 1991–Present

The Isaaq and Dhulbahante -dominated northern region of Somalia declared its independence in 1991, but has not been recognized by any country or international organization as a sovereign nation.

Somali National Alliance (SNA)

  • Leaders: 1992-1996: Mohamed Farrah Aidid, Mohamed Nur Aliyou; 1996-2001: Hussein Mohamed Farah Aidid
  • Area of Operations: Mogadishu
  • Tribal affiliation: Habar Gidir, Ogaadeen, Raxanweyn, Sheekhaal, Duduble, Gugundhabe, Dir .
  • Founded: June 1992 - 2004

Its constituents included Mohamed Aidid's breakaway United Somali Congress faction, the Somali Patriotic Movement, Southern Somali National Movement, and other southern factions. His son, Hussein Aidid, assumed leadership upon his death. The SNA became the core of the SRRC in 2001.

Somali National Front (SNF)

  • Leaders: General Siad Barre, General Mohammed Said Samatar, General Mohammed Hashi Gaani, General Ahmed Ali,'Gacaliye', General Omar Hagi Masallah, Dr. Ali Nur Mukhtar, Ahmed Sheikh Ali " Buraale ". Col. Abdirizak Isak Bihi, Mohamud Sayid.
  • Area of Operations: Upper Jubba (Gedo), Middle and Lower Jubba regions; occasional forays to outskirts of Mogadishu
  • Tribal Affiliation: Marehan (Mareehaan)
  • Founded: March 1991

Loyalists to Siad Barre and Ahmed Ali, the remnants of his army forces founded the SNF militia after his ouster from office.

Their intent and goal was to recapture Mogadishu and reinstate the regime of Siad Barre, and to establish regional state in Gedo, Middle and Lower Jubba.

United Somali Front (USF)

  • Leaders: Abdurahman Dualeh Al;
  • Area of Operations: Zeila, Somaliland
  • Tribal Affiliation: Issa
  • Founded: prior to 1991 as a small liberation movement. "New" USF founded Summer 1991

The original USF joined with the SNM in the creation of the Republic of Somaliland.

The Issa clan is a Somali clan that spreads across northwest Somaliland and the nation of Djibouti. The "new" USF especially sought to represent the interests of the Djibouti-based Iise.

Somali Africans Muke Organization (SAMO)

(also called Somali Asal Muki Organization)

  • Leaders: Mohamed Ramadan Arbow
  • Area of Operations: ???
  • Tribal Affiliation: Bantu
  • Founded: 1993

Some of the tribes living the jubba and shabelle river banks[8]

Somali National Democratic Union (SNDU)

  • Leaders: Ali Ismael Abdi and Abdullahi Azari
  • Area of Operations: Galgadud, Mudug, Burtinle-Nugaal
  • Tribal Affiliation: Awrtable and Lelkase Darood sub-clans
  • Founded: 1991
  • Founding member of Puntland state, alongside the SSDF.
  • Museum : Museum is available at Mudug.

Somali National Union (SNU)

  • Leaders: Dr. Mohamed Ragis Mohamed
  • Area of Operations:
  • Tribal Affiliation: Reer Hamar; an Arabic, not ethnic Somali clan
  • Founded: 1960s
  • Ideology: Anti-Siad Barre
    Reer Hamar interests

A political party that was active in the 1960s but was forced into dissolution during the Barre regime. It revived after his downfall.

United Somali Party (USP)

The "new" USP had no affiliation to the original group founded in the 1950s. The new group that bore their name were generally pro-Siad, but key participants in the Reconciliation Conference of the Elders at Borama in early 1993.

Those present at the 1993 Conference on National Reconciliation in Somalia

The 1993 Informal Preparatory Meeting on National Reconciliation and the Conference on National Reconciliation in Somalia saw the presence of no less than 15 separate factions, including the offshoot SNA branches of USC and SPM. It was a plethora of acronyms: SAMO, SDA, SDM, SNA, SNDU, SNF, SNU, SPM, SPM-(SNA), SSDF, SSNM-(SNA), USC-(SNA), USC, USF, USP. Aidid's four SNA-aligned factions comprised a powerful bloc.

The progressive tone of the proceedings was undercut by the actual lack of progress in the regions and on the streets of Mogadishu. In time, new factions emerged as the Somali Civil War entered a new phase: disintegration into independent and autonomous states.

Created after the departure of the UN Missions (1995–Present)

Faction Tribal Affiliation Dates Flag
Puntland Darood 1998–Present
Jubaland under Juba Valley Alliance (JVA) Ogaden and Marehan 1999–Present
Somalia Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC) Hawiye 2001–2004
Southwestern Somalia Rahanweyn 2002–2006
Transitional Federal Government (TFG) Hawiye(Mudulood & Habar Gidir) and Rahanweyn 2004–present
Islamic Courts Union (ICU) Predominately Hawiye 2006–2007 (replaced by Al-Shabaab)
Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT) Hawiye 2006
Galmudug Habar Gidir (Sacad and Salabaan) 2006–present
Popular Resistance Movement in the Land of the Two Migrations Multi-clan 2007–present
Maakhir Warsangeli 2007-2008 (rejoined Puntland in January 2009)
SSC movement Dhulbahante, Darwiish clan 2008

See also


  1. ^ Nina J. Fitzgerald, Somalia: issues, history, and bibliography, (Nova Publishers: 2002), p.25.
  2. ^ The Fall of Siad Barre and the Descent into Civil War Nations Encyclopedia
  3. ^ The Liberation Movements of Somalia Archived 2006-12-10 at the Wayback Machine Jack L. Davies, 27 August 1994
  4. ^ Uwechue, Raph (1991). Africa Today. Africa Journal Limited. ISBN 9780903274197. (founded 1989, leader, Mohammed Farah Abdullah)
  5. ^ Country Information and Policy Unit (April 2001). "SOMALIA ASSESSMENT" (PDF). European Country of Origin Information Network.
  6. ^ Mukhtar, Mohamed Haji (2003-02-25). Historical Dictionary of Somalia. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810866041.
  7. ^ "Somali Boundaries and the Question of Statehood", Security, Clans and Tribes, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, doi:10.1057/9781137470751.0007, ISBN 9781137470751
  8. ^ SAMO
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