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Somalia

Operation Oryx

 
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Context

Somalia's crisis in the early 1990s was rooted in the country's post-decolonization transformation process. The state known today as the "Federal Republic of Somalia" was built on two territories under colonial rule from the 1880s: a British protectorate (called British Somalia or Somaliland) corresponding to the northern part of the country and a territory under Italian rule comprising the central and southern parts. In 1960, these colonies gained independence and merged to form the "Republic of Somalia". The latter remained unstable, however, and in 1969 General Siyad Barré took power in a coup. He placed the new "Somali Democratic Republic" firmly in the Eastern bloc and attempted to implement a programme of "scientific socialism". Although some achievements were undeniable (administrative reforms, development of the education system, massive nationalizations), the war against Ethiopia in 1977-1978, which aimed to regain control of the Ogaden province, put a stop to this modernization project and weakened the authority of Siyad Barré. Moreover, it was an opportunity for Somalia to discover the weakness of Soviet support, the USSR having sided with Ethiopia. Finally, the destabilization of traditional structures, induced by Siyad Barré's mode of government, and an episode of severe drought aggravated the endemic famine that struck the country in the 1980s. Numerous opposition movements, often based on clan-based and territorial confrontations, were founded in the 1970s and 1980s (United Somali Congress, Somali National Movement, Somali Salvation Democratic Front, etc.), which, in an atmosphere of profound chaos, put Siyad Barré on the run in 1991, leaving power vacant. Two competitors for power stood out: General Mohamed Farah Aidid, who was in favour of a firm fight against Siyad Barré, and Ali Mahdi Mohamed, who was open to negotiations with the former leader. Both men belong to the same Hawiye clan but to different sub-clans - the Haber Gedir for Aidid and the Agbal for Mahdi, illustrating the opposition between rural nomads and urban merchants. Somaliland is also seceding, contributing to the disruption of the state. The worsening of the humanitarian situation and the coverage given by the media aroused strong emotions in Western public opinion and pushed the major powers and the UN to turn their attention to Somalia in an international context already marked by the Gulf War, for which the military efforts of the coalition, relative to the importance of the geopolitical stakes, were substantial.

France, notably under the influence of the Minister of Health and Humanitarian Action, Bernard Kouchner, supports a commitment in Somalia in the name of the "right of humanitarian intervention", a notion that refers to France's international role as a country promoting human rights. Moreover, in the context of the global geopolitical recomposition that followed the disappearance of the USSR in December 1991, France intends to balance the hyperpower of the United States in diplomatic and military matters, and is not resigned to seeing Washington act alone in this part of Africa. This is why, after Operation Berenice in January 1991, which relied on the French Forces in Djibouti to evacuate French nationals from Somalia, the French Army prepared to participate in operations mandated by the United Nations.
 
 
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OPEX Resources ONE

Opex resource

This document is a working tool intended primarily for secondary school teachers who wish to work in depth on external operations (OPEX) in the classroom.

Reading...

OPEX resources

This document is a working tool intended primarily for secondary school teachers who wish to work in depth on external operations (OPEX) in the classroom.

Reading...

Monument to the dead in OPEX

War memorial

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Somalia

Operation Oryx

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Lebanon

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