Status Quo Side: Ethiopia
Non-Status Quo Side: Somalia
Conflict Type: Interstate
Issues in Dispute: Ethnic, Territory
Somali-Ethiopian relations had calmed [see SEK], although border areas remained contested
Somali President Abdi Rashid Ali Shermarke was assassinated in a family feud. Maj.Gen. Siyad Barre led a successful military coup. Relations with the West deteriorated, while the USSR increased support in exchange for a naval base (Berbera). Facing domestic pressures, Siyad Barre, under the banner of "Greater Somalia", again talked of reclaiming areas in Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya where Somali nomads lived. Border clashes with Ethiopia increased. Somalia reportedly supported nomadic Somali rebels in Ethiopia through the 1970s. In 1973 the French relaxed their hold on Djibouti. In 1974 internal difficulties in Ethiopia led to the overthrow of Haile Selassie on September 12 by a Marxist-Leninist military coup. In 1976 Barrre formed a socialist-Islamic Revolutionary Party (SRSP), nationalized most enterprises and tried to settle Somali nomads.
Territorial disputes increased, ties deteriorated. Following civil disruption and violence in Ethiopia, Somali troops on July 23 1977 crossed into the Ogaden province. Ethiopia received military aid from the USSR, Cuba and Libya. Heavy casualties were reported on both sides. In November 1977 Somalia expelled the Soviets and requested US and UK aid. The US refused all but civilian aid; the UK supplied military aid as well. OAU talks were sought but Somali delegates quit the talks. Ethiopia reportedly adopted a "scorched earth" policy (poisoning water, killing cattle, strafing settlements) against the Somali Abo Liberation Front (SALF). With Soviet aid, Ethiopia was able to reconquer the Ogaden by March 15 1978.
Sporadic border squabbles continued. Despite OAU requests for border settlement, the issue remained unresolved. In May 1980 a Somali raid into the Ogaden was soon crushed. Somalia continued to support the Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF).
Ethiopia, under Eritrean military pressures [see ETE], and Somalia, beset by its own civil war, signed a treaty in April 1988 ending their conflict.
Copyright © 1999 Lincoln P. Bloomfield and Allen Moulton