Battle of Mogadishu: From Colonial Borders to The Day of the Rangers

Colonial Border Disputes: Paving the Way for the Battle of Mogadishu

In the late 19th century, European powers began colonizing Africa after the Berlin Conference of 1884 to establish the blueprint termed the Scramble for Africa. Part of Somalia became a British territory, while Italian Somaliland was established as a colony by Italy through treaties with local chiefs and sultans. The Dervish movement resisted British colonial forces and achieved several victories, forcing the British to withdrawal to the coastal region. However, the Dervishes were ultimately defeated by British airpower in 1920.

Battle of Mogadishu: From Colonial Borders to The Day of the Rangers
Berlin Conference

Benito Mussolini, the leader of Italy in the 1930s, had a plan so-called the "Greater Somalia". He wanted to make his African Empire bigger and expand Italy's influence in East Africa, including British Somaliland. In 1936, Italian Somalia became part of Italian East Africa, along with Eritrea and Ethiopia. In 1940, his soldiers in Ethiopia attacked nearby British lands as part of this plan.

They initially had some success, but the British and their allies fought back and eventually pushed the Italians out of British Somalia in 1941. Mussolini's Greater Somalia plan did not succeed and it marked a significant moment in World War II's East African campaign.

Both territories subsequently united to form the Somali Republic on July 1, 1960, when they gained independence from their respective colonial rulers (Britain and Italy) without the need for a war of independence. On July 1, 1960, British Somaliland became independent and joined with Italian Somaliland to create the Somali Republic, even though Italy and Britain drew the boundaries.

This historical overview highlights key events in Somalia's history during this period, particularly focusing on the impact of colonialism and its geopolitical consequences.

Battle of Mogadishu: From Colonial Borders to The Day of the Rangers
Italian Somaliland and British Somaliland

Historical Borders: A Source of Internal Conflict in Somalia

The contradictory drawing of borders by Italy and Britain during colonial rule has had far-reaching consequences for Somalia's internal dynamics and regional stability. Somalia's aspirations for a Greater Somalia, encompassing Somali-inhabited regions in neighboring countries, further intensified regional rivalries and contributed to ongoing instability.

Colonial Borders and Tribe Divisions:

The borders imposed by colonial powers failed to consider the complicated tribe and ethnic divisions within Somalia. This mistake led to the addition of various tribes and groups within the same territory, setting the stage for internal rivalries and disputes. The illogical borders created a power vacuum, triggering intense competition among clans for political control and access to resources. This struggle for power and resources has been a significant driver of internal conflicts throughout Somalia's history.

Historical Rivalries and Disputes:

The inherited borders marginalized historical rivalries and disputes between clans, worsening existing tensions. Clan-based conflicts and territorial disputes have fueled series of violence and delayed the establishment of a stable and unified nation.

Fragmentation and Secessionist Movements:

The legacy of colonial borders has contributed to the division of Somalia, with regions such as Somaliland and Puntland seeking autonomy or separation from the central government. These secessionist movements are rooted in historical conflicts and the perception of marginalization within the broader Somali state.

Battle of Mogadishu: From Colonial Borders to The Day of the Rangers
Scramble for Africa

Rise of Opposition: The Downfall of Barre's Regime

As time passed, many Somalis became unhappy with the government led by Mohamed Siad Barre. He was a Somali military general who became Somalia's third president in October 1969 after a coup. He ruled until 1991 when militias overthrew him, sparking a violent civil war.

In the mid-1980s, groups opposing the government started to appear, and Ethiopia's leaders, who were communists, supported these groups. In response, Barre ordered harsh actions against those he believed were helping these opposition fighters, especially in the northern parts of the country. They even bombed cities, including Hargeisa in the northwest, which was a stronghold of the Somali National Movement (SNM), in 1988.

By 1990, life in the capital city, Mogadishu, had become very difficult. People were not allowed to gather in groups, there were long lines for gasoline, and basic food like pasta and khat became very expensive. The city was often in darkness at night, and the government closely watched foreigners. They had strict rules about foreign money, and taking pictures in many places was not allowed. During the day, you rarely saw government soldiers, but there were reports of people being taken from their homes at night.

Battle of Mogadishu: From Colonial Borders to The Day of the Rangers

In 1991, a coalition of clan-based groups, supported by Ethiopia and Libya, removed the Barre government from power. After this, the northern part of the country, which used to be British Somaliland, declared its independence as the Republic of Somaliland in May 1991. While it is independent in practice and more stable than the south, no foreign government officially recognizes its independence.

Somali Civil War:

After Barre was removed, different groups in the south contested for power. Two commanders, General Mohamed Farah Aidid and Ali Mahdi Mohamed, were particularly involved in clashes over control of the capital. Mohamed Ali Mahdi declared himself president in January 1991 and was recognized as such by some international actors and countries, including Djibouti, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Italy.

However, it's important to note that Ali Mahdi's control was limited to parts of the capital city, and his administration did not establish effective governance over the entire country. Somalia descended into a protracted civil war with different clan-based militias and warlords controlling various regions.

The Battle of Mogadishu, known as 'Day of the Rangers' in Somali, or the Black Hawk Down episode, was a part of Operation GothicSerpent. It occurred on October 3-4, 1993, in Mogadishu, Somalia, fighting U.S. forces, supported by United Nations Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOM II), against the Somali NationalAlliance (SNA) and armed local residents of south Mogadishu. The SNA, led by Mohamed Farrah Aidid, played a pivotal role in the Somali Civil War. The aim of the operation was to capturing a Somali warlord General Mohamed Farrah Aidid, who was accused of destabilizing the country and impeding humanitarian efforts.

The Battle of Mogadishu had a profound impact on Somalia. It raised awareness of the country's dreadful humanitarian situation, leading to increased international aid. Diplomacy became more important, focusing on finding political solutions. It Battle shifted the organization towards international peacekeeping missions, contributing to later stabilization efforts in Somalia.

Besides this, the militant extremist group Al-Shabaab has been a major factor in prolonging the Somali Civil War. They have conducted attacks, seized territory, and defied the Somali government's authority with the aim of toppling it, expelling foreign forces, and creating a strict Islamic state. U.S. troops have been involved in operations against Al-Shabaab as part of global efforts to combat the group and bring stability to the region, particularly during Operation Enduring Freedom - Horn of Africa (OEF-HOA).

Battle of Mogadishu: From Colonial Borders to The Day of the Rangers
Somali Refugees in Ethiopia


In fact, the absence of a stable central government and the explosion of armed groups led to a situation where Somalia was often referred to as a "failed state." It wasn't until 2012 that a new federal government was formed, marking a significant step toward a more unified state.

Food crises and famines in Somalia have been repeated due to factors like drought, conflict, and limited access to essentials. These crises, notably in the 1980s, 1991-1992, and 2010-2012, underscore the urgent need for humanitarian assistance, conflict resolution, and sustainable development efforts to combat food insecurity in the country.

Somalia's current government is striving to build democracy in a nation marked by years of turmoil. Progress has been made, but the road to a stable democracy is tough. Political divides, security risks, and clan conflicts are major obstacles. International support and compromise are crucial for Somalia's democratic future, but the road ahead remains challenging to bring an end to the ongoing Somali Civil War that began with the collapse of Barre's rule.