In 1969 the post-colonial government of Somalia had been overthrown by a military junta led by general Siyad Barre, the commander, with the help of the Soviet KGB. Soon the junta declared a pseudo-socialist order in Somalia. The military regime started pursuing policy of house cleaning by uprooting the educated, especially those from Majeertaine community. These were considered anti-revolutionaries and reactionary bourgeoisie. They were purged from public and security services in the same way Pol Pot of Kampuchea (Khmer Rouge) did. Soon the junta found itself with huge job vacancies in all government departments. They couldn’t afford to hire expatriates like Indians, Pakistanis, Philippinos, etc. The junta instead devised “Crush and Literacy” campaigns to prepare cadre resource to fill in the employment gaps. In 1975 these ill-prepared semi-literate favorites of the “revolution” graduated from adult night schools to take up jobs in all badly affected sectors of the country. Anybody among the recruites could be appointed to any job title, or any police and military rank. It isn’t an exaggeration that an office cleaner had been appointed director general of the same ministry he was a cleaner only recently. Official titles lost any meaning of merit. This is the main reason why Somalia’s State had failed.
“Somalis are the most dangerous people. They call you General, Ambassador, while they know you are neither of them. By hearing this address so often, you would finally accept the title”, Said Col. Gebre, the Ethiopian military/political commissar, when I met him in Baydhaba in 2006.
Later, resistance to the military dictatorship grew within all Somali clan system proportional to the repressive measures by the junta, until the regime withdrew in its last breath in January 1991 – a total collapse of public institutions taking place and expulsion of its dictator, Siyad Barre, from the country. He died in exile in Nigeria a decade later.
As Somali State collapsed in 1991, former government officials and high ranking security officers found themselves refugees mainly in Europe, Australia and North America. To earn one’s living in those countries, one has to get a job. You can’t get hired without relevant labour and social skills. Big titles from Siyad Barre Regime couldn’t do the trick.
We should return to meritocracy, the value of hard work and experience and quality education.