The Ogaden War, or the Ethio-Somali War (), was a military conflict fought between Somali Democratic Republic, Somalia and Derg, Ethiopia from July 1977 to March 1978 over the Ethiopian region of Ogaden. The conflict began with the Somali invasion of Ogaden, Somali invasion of Ethiopia.. The Soviet Union disapproved of the invasion and ceased its support of Somalia, instead starting to support Ethiopia. Ethiopia was saved from defeat and permanent loss of territory through a massive airlift of military supplies worth $1 billion, the arrival of more than 12,000 Cuban soldiers and airmen sent by Fidel Castro to win a second African victory (after his Operation Savannah (Angola), first success in Angola in 1975–76), and 1,500 Soviet advisors, led by General Vasily Petrov (marshal), Vasily Petrov. On 23 January 1978, Cuban armored brigades inflicted the worst losses the Somali forces had ever taken in a single action since the start of the war. The Ethiopians and Cubans (using 300 tanks, 156 pieces of artillery, and 46 combat aircraft) prevailed at Harar, Dire Dawa and Jijiga, and began to push the Somalis systematically out of the Ogaden. By 23 March 1978, the Ethiopians and Cubans had recaptured more than two-thirds of the Ogaden, marking the official end of the war. A third of the Somali Armed Forces, Somali National Army was killed, and half of the Somali Airforce destroyed. The war left Somalia with a disorganized and demoralized army and an angry population. All of these conditions led to a Somali Rebellion, revolt in the army which eventually spiraled into a Somali Civil War, civil war.


Territorial partition

Following World War II, Britain retained control of both British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland as protectorates. In 1950, as a result of the Paris Peace Treaties, the United Nations granted Italy Trust Territory of Somalia, trusteeship of Italian Somaliland, but only under close supervision and on the condition—first proposed by the Somali Youth League (SYL) and other nascent Somali political organizations, such as Hizbia Digil Mirifle Somali (HDMS) and the Somali National League (SNL)—that Somalia achieve independence within ten years. British Somaliland remained a protectorate of Britain until 1960. In 1948, under pressure from their Allies of World War II, World War II allies and to the dismay of the Somalis,Federal Research Division, ''Somalia: A Country Study'', (Kessinger Publishing, LLC: 2004), p. 38 the British returned the Haud (an important Somali grazing area that was presumably 'protected' by British treaties with the Somalis in 1884 and 1886) and the Ogaden to Ethiopia, based on a treaty they signed in 1897 in which the British, French and Italians agreed upon the territorial boundaries of the Ethiopian Empire with Emperor of Ethiopia, Emperor Menelik II in exchange for his help against raids by hostile clans.Laitin, p. 73 Britain included the provision that the Somali residents would retain their autonomy, but Ethiopia immediately claimed sovereignty over the area.Zolberg, Aristide R., et al., ''Escape from Violence: Conflict and the Refugee Crisis in the Developing World'', (Oxford University Press: 1992), p. 106 This prompted an unsuccessful bid by Britain in 1956 to buy back the Somali lands it had turned over. Britain also granted administration of the almost exclusively Somali-inhabited North Eastern Province (Kenya), Northern Frontier District (NFD) to Kenyan nationalists despite an informal plebiscite demonstrating the overwhelming desire of the region's population to join the newly formed Somali Republic. A 1958 French Somaliland constitutional referendum, referendum was held in neighboring Djibouti (then known as French Somaliland) in 1958, on the eve of Somalia's independence in 1960, to decide whether or not to join the Somali Republic or to remain with France. The referendum turned out in favour of a continued association with France, largely due to a combined yes vote by the sizable Afar people, Afar ethnic group and resident Europeans. There was also widespread vote rigging, with the French expelling thousands of Somalis before the referendum reached the polls.Kevin Shillington, ''Encyclopedia of African history'', (CRC Press: 2005), p. 360. The majority of those who voted no were Somalis who were strongly in favour of joining a united Somalia, as had been proposed by Mahmoud Harbi, Vice President of the Government Council. Harbi was killed in a plane crash two years later.Barrington, Lowell, ''After Independence: Making and Protecting the Nation in Postcolonial and Postcommunist States'', (University of Michigan Press: 2006), p. 115 Djibouti finally gained its independence from France in 1977, and Hassan Gouled Aptidon, who had campaigned for a yes vote in the referendum of 1958, eventually wound up as Djibouti's first president (1977–1991). British Somaliland became independent on 26 June 1960 as the State of Somaliland and the Trust Territory of Somalia (the former Italian Somaliland) followed suit five days later. On 1 July 1960, the two territories united to form the Somali Republic. A government was formed by Abdullahi Issa and other members of the trusteeship and protectorate governments, with Haji Bashir Ismail Yusuf as President of the Parliament of Somalia, Somali National Assembly, Aden Abdullah Osman Daar as List of Presidents of Somalia, President of the Somali Republic and Abdirashid Ali Shermarke as Prime Minister of Somalia, Prime Minister (later to become president from 1967 to 1969). On 20 July 1961, through a Somali constitutional referendum, 1961, popular referendum, the people of Somalia ratified a new Constitution of Somalia, constitution that had been first drafted the previous year. On 15 October 1969, while paying a visit to the northern town of Las Anod, Somalia's then President Shermarke was shot dead by one of his own bodyguards. His assassination was quickly followed by a military ''1969 Somali coup d'état, coup d'état'' on 21 October 1969 (the day after his funeral), in which the Somali Armed Forces, Somali Army seized power without encountering armed opposition—essentially a bloodless takeover. The ''coup'' was spearheaded by Major General Siad Barre, Mohamed Siad Barre, who at the time commanded the army.Moshe Y. Sachs, ''Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations'', Volume 2, (Worldmark Press: 1988), p. 290.

Supreme Revolutionary Council

Alongside Barre, the Supreme Revolutionary Council (Somalia), Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) that assumed power after President Sharmarke's assassination was led by Lieutenant Colonel Salaad Gabeyre Kediye and Chief of Police Jama Ali Korshel. Kediye officially held the title of "Father of the Revolution", and Barre shortly afterwards became the head of the SRC. The SRC subsequently renamed the country the Somali Democratic Republic,''The Encyclopedia Americana: complete in thirty volumes. Skin to Sumac'', Volume 25, (Grolier: 1995), p. 214. dissolved the parliament and the Supreme Court, and suspended the constitution.Peter John de la Fosse Wiles
''The New Communist Third World: an essay in political economy''
(Taylor & Francis: 1982), p. 279 .
In addition to previous Soviet Union, Soviet funding and arms support to Somalia, Egypt sent millions of dollars in arms to Somalia.

Somali strategy

Under the leadership of General Mohammad Ali Samatar, Irro and other senior Somali military officials were mandated in 1977 with formulating a national strategy in preparation for the war against Ethiopia. This was part of a broader effort to unite all of the Somali-inhabited territories in the Horn of Africa, Horn region into a Greater Somalia (''Soomaaliweyn''). A distinguished graduate of the Soviet Frunze Military Academy, Samatar oversaw Somalia's military strategy. During the Ogaden War, Samatar was the Chief of Defence Force (Somalia), Commander-in-Chief of the Somali Armed Forces. He and his frontline deputies faced off against their mentor and former Frunze alumnus, General Vasily Petrov (marshal), Vasily Petrov, who was assigned by the USSR to advise the Ethiopian National Defense Force, Ethiopian Army, in addition to 15,000 Cuban troops supporting Ethiopia, led by General Arnaldo Ochoa. General Samatar was assisted in the offensive by several field commanders, most of whom were also Frunze graduates: General Yussuf Salhan commanded SNA on the Jijiga Front assisted by Col. A. Naji, capturing the area on August 30, 1977. (Later became Minister of Tourism. Salhan was eventually expelled from the Somali Socialist Party in 1985) Col. Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed commanded SNA on the Negellie Front. (Later the leader of SSDF rebel group based in Ethiopia. Col Ahmed was arrested by Ethiopia's Mengistu. He was released after the collapse of the Mengistu regime in 1991) Col. Abdullahi Ahmed Irro commanded SNA on the Godey Front. (Retired and became a Professor of Strategy in Mogadishu Somalia) Col. Ali Hussein commanded SNA in two front's, Kebri Dahar, Qabri Dahare and Harar. (Eventually joined the SNM late 1988) Col. Farah Handulle commanded SNA on the Werder, Ethiopia, Warder Front. (Became a civilian administrator and Governor of Sanaag, later killed in Hargheisa as the new appointed Governor of Hargheisa in 1987 one day before he took over the Governorship) General Mohamed Nur Galaal assisted by Col.Mohamud Sh. Abdullahi Geelqaad commanded Dirir-Dewa. The SNA retreated from Dirir-Dewa. ( Galaal became Minister of Public Works and Leading member of the ruling Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party) Col. Abdulrahman Aare and Col. Ali Ismail co-commanded the Degeh-Bur Front. (Both Officers were lLater chosen to reinforce the Harar campaign; Col Aare eventually became a military attache and retired as a private citizen after the collapse of SNA in 1990) Col. Abukar Liban 'Aftooje' Initially served as acting logistics coordinator for the Southern Command and later commanded the SNA on the Imi, Ethiopia, Iimeey Front. ( Aftoje became a General and a military attache to France).

Somali Air Force

The Somali Air Force was mainly formed in the Soviet manner, with the officer corps being trained in the USSR. Somali Air Force operational aircraft File:Egyptian Il-28 Beagle.JPEG, Ilyushin Il-28, ''Il-28'', 3 units File:MiG-21PFM-Egypt-1982.jpg, Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21, ''MiG-21'', 30 units File:MiG-17 Takes to the Sky (cropped).jpg, Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17, ''MiG-17'', 10 units File:Mi-8 (14345997200).jpg, Mil Mi-8, ''Mi-8'', some units File:Douglas c47-a skytrain n1944a cotswoldairshow 2010 arp.jpg, Douglas C-47 Skytrain, ''C-47'', 3 units


In September 1974, Emperor Haile Selassie had been overthrown by the Derg (the military council), marking a period of turmoil. The Derg quickly fell into internal conflict to determine who would have primacy. Meanwhile, various anti-Derg as well as Ethiopian Civil War, separatist movements began throughout the country. One of the separatist groups seeking to take advantage of the chaos was the pro-Somalia Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF) operating in the Somali-inhabited Ogaden, which by late 1975 had struck numerous government outposts. WSLF had control of most of the Ogaden, the first time since the Second World War that all Somalia was united with the exception of the NFD region in Kenya. The victory in Ogaden was mostly because of support from the Harari people, Harari populace who had aligned with the WSLF. From 1976 to 1977, Somalia supplied arms and other aid to the WSLF. Opposition to the reign of the Derg was the main cause of the Ethiopian Civil War. This conflict began as extralegal violence between 1975 and 1977, known as the Red Terror (Ethiopia), Red Terror, when the Derg struggled for authority, first with various opposition groups within the country, then with a variety of groups jockeying for the role of vanguard party. Though human rights violations were committed by all sides, the great majority of abuses against civilians as well as actions leading to devastating famine were committed by the government. A sign that order had been restored among the Derg was the announcement of Mengistu Haile Mariam as head of state on February 11, 1977. However, the country remained in chaos as the military attempted to suppress its civilian opponents in a period known as the Red Terror (Ethiopia), Red Terror (or Qey Shibir in Amharic). Despite the violence, the Soviet Union, which had been closely observing developments, came to believe that Ethiopia was developing into a genuine Marxist–Leninism, Marxist–Leninist state and that it was in Soviet interests to aid the new regime. They thus secretly approached Mengistu with offers of aid that he accepted. Ethiopia closed the United States, U.S. military mission and the communications centre in April 1977.US admits helping Mengistu escape
BBC, 22 December 1999
In June 1977, Mengistu accused Somalia of infiltrating SNA soldiers into the Somali area to fight alongside the WSLF. Despite considerable evidence to the contrary, Barre strongly denied this, saying SNA "volunteers" were being allowed to help the WSLF.

Ethiopian Air Force

The Ethiopian Air Force was formed by British and Swedish aid during the 1940s and 50s, later receiving plenty of US support since the 60s. Despite being small, it was an elite force, consisting of hand-picked officers and intensive training program for airmen at home and abroad. The Ethiopian Air Force benefited from a US Air Force aid program. A team of US Air Force officers and NCOs assessed the force and provided recommendations as part of the Military Advisory and Assistance Group. The Ethiopian Air Force was restructured as the US-style organization. Emphasis was given to training institutions. Ethiopian personnel were sent to the US for training, including 25 Ethiopian pilots for jet training, and many more were trained locally by US Defense personnel. Prior of 1974, the Ethiopian Air Force mainly consisted in a dozen of F-86 Sabres and a dozen of F-5A Freedom Fighters. In 1974, Ethiopia requested the delivery of McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom fighters, but US offered 16 Northrop F-5E Tiger IIs instead, armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles as well as two Westinghouse AN/TPS-43, AN/TPS-43D radars, one of them was later placed at Jijiga. Due to human rights violations in the country, only 8 F-5E Tiger IIs were delivered in 1976 by the US. Ethiopian Air Force operational aircraft File:F86F Sabres - Chino Airshow 2014 (cropped).jpg, North American F-86 Sabre, ''F-86 Sabre'', 14 units File:IIAF F-5A 3-417.jpg, Northrop F-5, ''F-5A/B'', 15 units File:IRIAF Northrop F-5E Tiger II Talebzadeh.jpg, Northrop F-5, ''F-5E Tiger IIs'', 8 units File:Canberra T 4 MOD 45144929 (cropped).jpg, English Electric Canberra, Canberra B.Mk.2 bombers, 2 units File:T-28B VT-2 over NAS Whiting Field c1973.jpeg, North American T-28 Trojan, ''T-28 Trojan'', 8 units File:SAAB B17-20 - Flickr - Ragnhild & Neil Crawford.jpg, ''Saab 17'', 8 units File:T 33 Shooting Star-IIAF.jpg, Lockheed T-33, ''T-33A'', 8 units File:Douglas c47-a skytrain n1944a cotswoldairshow 2010 arp.jpg, Douglas C-47 Skytrain, ''C-47'', 12 units File:Sud SA 316B Alouette III A-247 (cropped).jpg, Aérospatiale Alouette III, ''Aérospatiale SA.316 Alouette'', 3 units

Castro trip to Aden

When the Cubans and the Soviets learned of the Somali plans to annex the Ogaden, Castro flew to Aden in March 1977 where he suggested an Ethiopian-Somali-Yemeni Socialist Federation. Castro's plan didn't get any support and two months later Somali forces attacked the Ethiopians. Cuba, supported by troops from the USSR and South Yemen, sided with Ethiopia.

Course of the war

Somali invasion (July–August 1977)

The Somali National Army committed to Somali invasion of Ogaden, invade the Ogaden on July 12, 1977, according to Ethiopian Ministry of National Defense (Ethiopia), Ministry of National Defense documents (some other sources state July 13 or 23 July)... According to Ethiopian sources, the invaders numbered 70,000 troops, 40 fighter planes, 250 tanks, 350 Armoured personnel carrier, APCs, and 600 artillery, which would have meant practically the whole Somali Army. Soviet officials put the number of attacking Somali forces at 23,000 servicemen, 150 T-34 and 50 T-54/55 tanks, as well as 250 armored personnel carriers like BTR-50, BTR-50PK, BTR-152 and BTR-60, BTR-60PB. In addition to the Somali regular troops another 15,000 fighters of the WSLF were also present in the Ogaden. By the end of the month 60% of the Ogaden had been taken by the SNA-WSLF force, including Gode, on the Shebelle River. The attacking forces did suffer some early setbacks; Ethiopian defenders at Dire Dawa and Jijiga inflicted heavy casualties on assaulting forces. The Ethiopian Air Force (EAF) also began to establish air superiority using its Northrop F-5s, despite being initially outnumbered by Somali Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21, MiG-21s. However, Somalia was easily overpowering Ethiopian military hardware and technology capability. Soviet General Vasily Petrov had to report back to Moscow the "sorry state" of the Ethiopian Army. The 3rd Infantry Division (Ethiopia), 3rd and 4th Infantry Division (Ethiopia), 4th Ethiopian Infantry Divisions that suffered the brunt of the Somali invasion had practically ceased to exist.. The USSR, finding itself supplying both sides of a war, attempted to mediate a ceasefire. When their efforts failed, the Soviets abandoned Somalia. All aid to Siad Barre's regime was halted, while arms shipments to Ethiopia were increased. A Soviet military airlift with advisors for Ethiopia took place (second in magnitude only to the October 1973 gigantic resupply of Syrian forces during the Yom Kippur War) alongside 15,000 Cuban combat troops in a military role. Other communist countries like South Yemen and North Korea offered military assistance. East Germany likewise offered training, engineering and support troops. In November 1977, Somalia broke diplomatic relations with the USSR, expelled all Soviet experts from the country, abrogated the 1974 treaty of friendship and cut-off diplomatic relations with Cuba. Not all communist states sided with Ethiopia. Because of the Sino-Soviet split, Sino-Soviet rivalry, China supported Somalia diplomatically and with token military aid. Socialist Republic of Romania, Romania under Nicolae Ceauşescu had a habit of breaking with Soviet policies and maintained good diplomatic relations with Siad Barre. By 17 August elements of the Somali Army had reached the outskirts of the strategic city of Dire Dawa. Not only was the country's second largest military airbase located here, as well as Ethiopia's crossroads into the Ogaden, but Ethiopia's rail lifeline to the Red Sea ran through this city, and if the Somalis held Dire Dawa, Ethiopia would be unable to export its crops or bring in equipment needed to continue the fight. Gebre Tareke estimates the Somalis advanced with two motorized brigades, one tank battalion and one BM battery upon the city. Against them were the Ethiopian Second Militia Division, the 201 Nebelbal battalion, 781 battalion of the 78th Brigade, the 4th Mechanized Company, and a tank platoon possessing two tanks.. The fighting was vicious as both sides knew what the stakes were, but after two days, despite that the Somalis had gained possession of the airport at one point, the Ethiopians had repulsed the assault, forcing the Somalis to withdraw. Henceforth this became known as the Battle of Dire Dawa and the city was never again at risk of attack..

Somali victories and siege of Harar (September–January)

The greatest single victory of the SNA-WSLF was the Battle of Jijiga#First Battle of Jijiga (September 1977), assault on Jijiga in mid-September, in which the demoralized Ethiopian troops withdrew from the town. The local defenders were no match for the assaulting Somalis and the Ethiopian military was forced to withdraw past the strategic strongpoint of the Marda Pass, halfway between Jijiga and Harar. By September Ethiopia was forced to admit that it controlled only about 10% of the Ogaden and that the Ethiopian defenders had been pushed back into the non-Somali areas of Harerge, Bale province (Ethiopia), Bale, and Sidamo Province, Sidamo. However, the Somalis were unable to press their advantage because of the high attrition on its tank battalions, constant Ethiopian air attacks on their supply lines, and the onset of the rainy season which made the dirt roads unusable. During that time, the Ethiopian government managed to raise and train a giant militia force 100,000 strong and integrated it into the regular fighting force. Also, since the Ethiopian army was a client of U.S weapons, hasty acclimatization to the new Warsaw Pact bloc weaponry took place. Throughout the war there were sharp tensions between the SNA and WSLF forces. The WSLF resented the fact that Somali political commissars insisted on Somalia's direct control over conquered territory. Particularly bothersome for the WSLF were incidents where Somali officials would tear down WSLF battle flags over conquered areas and replace them instead with the flag of Somalia. From October 1977 until January 1978, the SNA-WSLF forces attempted to capture Harar during the Battle of Harar, where 40,000 Ethiopians had regrouped and re-armed with Soviet-supplied artillery and Armoured fighting vehicle, armor; backed by 1,500 Soviet advisors and 16,000 Cuban soldiers, they engaged the attackers in vicious fighting. Though the Somali forces reached the city outskirts by November, they were too exhausted to take the city and eventually had to withdraw to await the Ethiopian counterattack. Casualties among the Somalis may have totaled as many as 40,000 since the start of the war.

Ethiopian-Cuban counter-attack (February–March)

The expected Ethiopian-Cuban attack occurred in early February. However, it was accompanied by a second attack that the Somalis did not expect. A column of Ethiopian and Cuban troops crossed northeast into the highlands between Jijiga and the border with Somalia, bypassing the SNA-WSLF force defending the Marda Pass. Soviet Mil Mi-6 and Mil Mi-8 helicopters airlifted a Cuban battalion behind enemy lines. The attackers were thus able to assault from two directions in a pincer movement, allowing the re-capture of Jijiga in only two days while inflicting 3,000–6,000 casualties on the Somalis. The Somali defense collapsed and every major Somali-occupied town was recaptured in the following weeks. The Somalis took a terrible beating from Cuban artillery and aerial assaults. Recognizing that his position was untenable, Siad Barre ordered the SNA to retreat back into Somalia on 9 March 1978, although Rene LaFort claims that the Somalis, having foreseen the inevitable, had already withdrawn their heavy weapons.. The last significant Somali unit left Ethiopia on 15 March 1978, marking the end of the war.

Effects of the war

The executing of civilians and refugees, and Wartime sexual violence, rape of women by the Ethiopian and Cuban troops was prevalent throughout the war. A large Cuban contingent remained in Ethiopia after the war to protect the socialist government. Assisted by Soviet advisors, the Cuban contingent launched a second offensive in December 1979 directed at the population's means of survival, including the poisoning and destruction of wells and the killing of cattle herds. Following the withdrawal of the SNA, the WSLF continued their insurgency. By May 1980, the rebels, with the assistance of a small number of SNA soldiers who continued to help the guerrilla war, controlled a substantial region of the Ogaden. However, by 1981 the insurgents were reduced to sporadic hit-and-run attacks and were finally defeated. In addition, the WSLF and SALF were significantly weakened after the Ogaden War. The former was practically defunct by the late 1980s, with its splinter group, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) operating from headquarters in Kuwait. Even though elements of the ONLF would later manage to slip back into the Ogaden, their actions had little impact. The version at samaynta.com lacks references. For the Barre regime, the invasion was perhaps the greatest strategic blunder since independence,. and it weakened the military. Almost one-third of the regular SNA soldiers, three-eighths of the armored units and half of the Somali Air Force (SAF) were lost. The weakness of the Barre administration led it to effectively abandon the dream of a unified Greater Somalia. The failure of the war aggravated discontent with the Barre regime; the first organized opposition group, the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF), was formed by army officers in 1979. The United States adopted Somalia as a Cold War ally from the late 1970s to 1988 in exchange for use of Somali bases, and a way to exert influence upon the region. A second armed clash in 1988 was resolved when the two countries agreed to withdraw their militaries from the border.

See also

* Soviet Union-Africa relations#Ethiopia




* * * * * * * * * * Woodroofe, Louise P. ''"Buried in the Sands of the Ogaden": The United States, the Horn of Africa, and the Demise of Detente'' (Kent State University Press; 2013) 176 pages. * *

External links

Ogaden War 1976–1978 at OnWar.com

Adam Lockyer, Opposing Foreign Intervention’s Impact on the Course of Civil Wars: the Ethiopian-Ogaden Civil War, 1976–1980
{{Authority control Ogaden War, Cold War conflicts Cold War in Africa Conflicts in 1977 Conflicts in 1978 1977 in Ethiopia 1977 in Somalia 1978 in Ethiopia 1978 in Somalia Ethiopian Civil War Proxy wars Wars involving Ethiopia Wars involving Somalia Wars involving the states and peoples of Africa Wars involving Cuba Wars involving the Soviet Union Wars involving Yemen Rebellions in Africa Cuba–Soviet Union relations Ethiopia–Somalia military relations Ethiopia–Soviet Union relations