By ABDULKADIR KHALIF
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
January 26 marked the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the central government of Somalia, an event that evokes parallels for many Somalis watching developments in the increasingly agitated Arab world.
Former Somalia dictator Siyad Barre fled in the face of rebels in 1991
The country's late dictator, Maj Gen Mohamed Siyad Barre fled the capital Mogadishu as militias loyal to rebel group United Somali Congress (USC) were breaching the heavily fortified Villa Somalia, the state house.
The sudden departure of former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali from Tunis, the capital of Tunisia thus rung a bell in the minds of many Somalis.
Gen Barre and his escorts travelled overnight to reach Kismayu, Somalia's third largest town 500 km south of Mogadishu, in the early hours of January 27. He probably felt safe as he joined the tens of thousands of his co-clansmen who had fled Mogadishu as his forces battled the growing rebellion.
The jubilation and euphoria in Mogadishu signalled the end of the work done by two guerrilla groups in northern Somalia, namely the Somali National Movement (SNM) and Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF), and two from the southern regions--the Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM) and the USC.
There was hope on the day that the leaders of the rebel groups would announce some kind of authority set up, to at least show the nation that they were united in safeguarding the interests of the people.
When no word was received for 48 hours regarding the power vacuum, thugs and marauding gangs realised that the rebel leaders had no plan to put up a caretaker rule, even temporarily.
Villa Somalia became the looters Mecca, with the office of the former head of state ransacked in a couple of days. Real vandalism started when the jobless gang members realised that the rebels had only one purpose: to defeat Gen Barre, and nothing beyond that.