1982 Ethiopian–Somali Border War

The 1982 Ethiopian–Somali Border War occurred between June and August 1982 when Ethiopia, sending a 10,000 man invasion force backed by warplanes and armored units, supported by hundreds of SSDF rebels invaded Central Somalia.[4] Siad Barre's regime managed to ultimately repel most of the rebel offensive through declaring a state of emergency in the war zone.[1][5] The United States government responded by speeding up deliveries of light arms and Pattons already promised. In addition, the initially pledged US$45 million in economic and military aid was increased to US$80 million.[1][5]

1982 Ethiopian–Somali Border War
Part of the conflicts in the Horn of Africa and the Cold War
DateJune–August 1982
Central Somalia

Ethiopian Victory

Puntland SSDF
Somalia Somalia
Supported by:
 United States
Commanders and leaders
Mengistu Haile Mariam
Puntland Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed
Somalia Siad Barre
Somalia Mohammed Said Hersi Morgan
10,000 Ethiopian soldiers [4] Unknown


Ethiopia, which lies just to the west of Somalia, has been reported as being neighbors with Somalia as early as the 5th century BC.[6] Relations between Somalia and Ethiopia began as colonial competitors in the eighteenth century.[7] During this time period, territories between the countries were constructed with much debate over which country was the sole owner. This contention culminated in a settlement where Ethiopia gave Somalia a southern strip colonized by Britain yet was granted the controversial and prized Somali region Ogaden.[7] Between the early 20th century and World War II the boundaries of the two countries were constantly disputed, leading to the intervention from the United Nations after the war.[7] The United Nations decided to revert to the colonial boundaries agreement made in the late eighteenth century. Thus enacting the boundary to the previous owner (Ethiopia), due to the agreement being the only recorded settlement between Somalia and Ethiopia.[8]

In 1969, Through a military coup following the assassination of the former president Abdirashid Ali Shermarke, Commander Mohamed Siad Barre took power of Somalia.[9] Siad Barre, a self-proclaimed Marxist, quickly aligned himself with the Soviet Union. Siad Barre prioritized party supremacy and created a dictatorship government.[7] In 1977, Somalia attempted to regain control of Ogaden with the support of the Soviet Union. But by 1978 the Soviet Union had switched its allegiance to Ethiopia due to the potential political gain and potential resources.[10] In 1978, backed with Soviet weaponry and Cuban reinforcements, Ethiopia regained control of Ogaden. This resulted in the mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of Somali men and women immigrating from the Ogaden region to the Somali borders.[7] Somalia, despite losing the 1977-78 war, never recognized the international border that places the Ogaden, with its ethnic Somali population, in Ethiopia.[8] This ignorance, many historians believe is what kept the hate between the two countries.

Cold War Influence

Following the Soviet Union's change of allegiance from Somalia to Ethiopia in 1978, the United States became reluctant allies to Somalia.[11] America came in the 12th hour when Somalia seemingly had no other allies left.[11] America originally was aligned with Ethiopia but stopped supplying and equipping the country. The United States originally thought that in the long term Ethiopia would be more valuable assets due to its geographical position and its size.[11][6] Yet both Somalia and Ethiopia were in close proximity to western oil routes, which peaked both of the United States and the Soviet Union's stake in Africa.[6] Both the United States and the Soviet Union had military accord with the separate alliances to their respective countries.[8] America had access to ports and airstrips, while the Soviet Union had military posts scattered throughout Ethiopia by the Red Sea.[11]

Due to Siad Barre's murderous regime, the United States was only comfortable with sending light weapons for defense rather than for attack.[6] John E. Pike writes  “although the United States was prepared to help the Siad Barre regime economically through direct grants, World Bank-sponsored loans, and relaxed International Monetary Fund regulations, the United States hesitated to offer Somalia more military aid than was essential to maintain internal security. The amount of United States military and economic aid to the regime was US$34 million.”[12]

Border War

After President Siad Barre visited the United States in early February 1982, only months later did the assault on Somalia's border began.[12] In the middle of July the SSDF (Somalia Salvation Democratic Front also known as Democratic Front for Salvation of Somalia), a paramilitary umbrella organization created after Siad Barre's reign as dictator began, and Ethiopia armed with soviet military weapons and machines crossed over the disputed Ogaden region into the Mudug region of Somalia.[6] The Mudug region is considered to be central Somalia. The Ethiopians and the insurgents chose this point of attack so they could threaten to split the country into two halves.[12]  The Ethiopians came armed with Soviet-supplied MIG fighters and T-55 tanks.[11] The estimated size of the Ethiopian force was around ten thousand while the Somali army was estimated to be around fifty thousand.[11] Despite the enormous difference in army size, the Somalis were extremely unprepared as they had few weapons capable of defending the country. Upon entering the country, the invaders were able to capture Balumbale and Galdogob.[11] Balumbale and Galdogob were two small towns near the capital of the Mudug region Galcaio. After the successful apprehension of the Balumbale and Galdogob, Siad Barre and his government declared a state of emergency.[12] The regime were hellbent against the country becoming a war zone so they pleaded for western aid. The United States delivered arms which had been previously offered due to their previously existing allegiance. The gun's were sent with rules stating that the guns should be used to repel the invaders but not to attack in revenge.[12] Along with the weapons, the United States also supplied Somalia with economic and military aid totalling over one hundred twenty five million dollars.[12] The Ethiopian/Soviet Union/SSDF allegiance called off their campaign once the United States initiated emergency military aid. The territory Balumbale and Galdogob ceded to the Ethiopians and the Somalia Salvation Democratic Front remained under the allegiances control, yet the Ethiopians claimed the territory as part of Ethiopia much to the dismay of the Somalia Salvation Democratic Front.[11]


After the Ethiopians invaded Somalia, many diplomats believed that Somalis would welcome the liberators due to the oppressive and brutal totalitarian dictatorship of President Siad Barre.[11] Yet the historical dislike between the two countries proved too much to overcome the dislike of the Siad Barre regime.[11] In the years following the border war, President Siad Barre gained some support after speaking at a summit hosted by the League of Arab States.[11] But ultimately year after year Somalia was challenged by war and economic  trouble. Newly formed regional clans and guerilla groups revolted and challenged the Siad Barre government. Siad Barre's regime was also pressured economically by the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and the World Bank to liberalize its economy.[11] The economic system's pressured Somalia to exercise the free market system, so that its currency would reflect its true value.[11] Due to the constant economic and warfare pressure, Somalia became engulfed in a full scale civil war by 1988. The forever escalating and intense civil war resulted in Somalia's disruption. This collapse of Somalia was in the words of the Conciliation Resource “hastened by the ending of the Cold War. As Somalia’s strategic importance to the West declined, the foreign aid that had sustained the state was withdrawn. Without the resources to maintain the system of patronage politics, Barre lost control of the country and the army. In January 1991 he was ousted from Mogadishu by forces of the United Somali Congress (USC) drawing support from the Hawiye clans in south central Somalia.”[13]


  1. ^ a b c "The History Guy: Ethiopia-Somalia Wars and Conflicts". Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  2. ^ "CIA: The recent trends in the Horn of Africa" (PDF). Retrieved 9 March 2011.
  3. ^ "The Status of the Somali Armed Forces" (PDF). Retrieved 9 December 2008.
  4. ^ a b "History – Somalia – problem, area, crops, system, power". www.nationsencyclopedia.com. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  5. ^ a b "Somalia SOMALIA'S DIFFICULT DECADE, 1980–90 – Flags, Maps, Economy, Geography, Climate, Natural Resources, Current Issues, International Agreements, Population, Social Statistics, Political System".
  6. ^ a b c d e "Recent Trends in the Horn of Africa" (PDF). Central Intelligence Agency. 15 December 1983. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 March 2011. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e "HISTORY OF SOMALIA". www.historyworld.net. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  8. ^ a b c Times, Sheila Rule and Special To the New York. "Somalia and Ethiopia Resume Relations". Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  9. ^ "Mohamed Siad Barre | president of Somalia". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  10. ^ "Somalia: Status of the Armed Forces" (PDF). Central Intelligence Agency. March 1982. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 December 2008. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Times, Alan Cowell and Special To the New York. "ETHIOPIAN DRIVE AGAINST SOMALIA BOGS DOWN". Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Pike, John. "1980s Ethiopian Conflicts". www.globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  13. ^ "Endless war: a brief history of the Somali conflict". Conciliation Resources. 3 February 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2018.

External links


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List of Ethiopian–Somali wars and conflicts

For the historical war see Ethiopian-Adal War.

The following is a list of Ethiopian-Somali wars and conflicts, giving an overview of the historic and recent conflicts between Ethiopia and Somalia.

1964 Ethiopian-Somali Border War

1977-1978 Ogaden War

1982 Ethiopian-Somali Border War

1998-2000 Cross-border warfare during the chaotic warlord-led era.

2006-2009 Ethiopian war in Somalia

List of conflicts in Ethiopia

This is a list of conflicts in Ethiopia arranged chronologically from medieval to modern times. This list includes both nationwide and international types of war, including (but not limited to) the following: wars of independence, liberation wars, colonial wars, undeclared wars, proxy wars, territorial disputes, and world wars. Also listed might be any battle that occurred within the territory of what is today known as the, "Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia" but was itself only part of an operation of a campaign of a theater of a war. There may also be periods of violent civil unrest listed, such as: riots, shootouts, spree killings, massacres, terrorist attacks, and civil wars. The list might also contain episodes of: human sacrifice, mass suicide, massacres, and genocides.

List of conflicts related to the Cold War

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List of wars involving Somalia

This is a list of military conflicts in which Somali armed forces participated in after independence.

Military history of Somalia

The military history of Somalia encompasses the major conventional wars, conflicts and skirmishes involving the historic empires, kingdoms and sultanates in the territory of present-day Somalia, through to modern times. It also covers the martial traditions, military architecture and hardware employed by Somali armies and their opponents.

Ancient sources refer to a major military alliance between the Kingdom of Kush and one of its allies, the Kingdom of Punt, against the armies of Ancient Egypt. In the early Middle Ages, the Ajuran Empire expanded its territories and established its hegemonic rule through a skillful combination of warfare, trade linkages and alliances, and defeated many times against the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean. The Kingdom of Ifat successfully conquered the Kingdom of Shewa in the same time-period. A hundred years later a major conventional war would commence during the Conquest of Abyssinia pitching the Kingdom of Adal allied by the Ottoman Empire against the Solomonic Dynasty supported by the Portuguese Empire. The conflict is the earliest example of cannon and matchlock warfare on the continent.

The early modern period saw the rise and fall of the Gobroon Dynasty, a southern military power that successfully subdued the Bardera militant's and forced the Omanis to pay tribute. This period also saw an increased focus by Global Empires on colonial expansion. The three major imperial powers of Britain, Italy and France consequently sought and signed various protectorate treaties with the ruling Somali Sultans, such as Mohamoud Ali Shire of the Warsangali Sultanate, Osman Mahamuud of the Majeerteen Sultanate and Yusuf Ali Kenadid of the Sultanate of Hobyo. Supplied with military hardware by the European powers, the Ethiopian Empire also sought to expand its own influence in the Horn region. These competing influences gave birth to the Dervish State, a polity established by the religious leader Mohammed Abdullah Hassan ("The Mad Mullah"). The Dervish forces successfully repulsed the British Empire in four military expeditions and forced it to retreat to the coastal region, remaining independent throughout World War I. After a quarter of a century of holding the British at bay, the Dervishes were finally defeated in 1920, when Britain for the first time in Africa used airplanes to bomb the Dervish capital of Taleh.World War II saw many Somali men join Italian forces during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War and during the East African Campaign; and later also British forces in the Pacific War. After independence, the Somali Republic adopted an irrendentist foreign policy with the intention to reconstruct the pre-WW2 borders (of Somalia Governorate) and establish an all-encompassing Greater Somalia. This culminated in several conventional wars and border skirmishes in the form of the 1964 Border War, the Shifta War, the Ogaden War, the Rhamu Incident, and the 1982 Border war, which pitched the Somali military against other forces. The fallout from these various conflicts also forged new partnerships. By the end of the 1980s, Somalia's initial friendship with the Soviet Union and subsequent partnership with the United States enabled it to build the largest army on the continent. The armed forces largely disbanded with the onset of the civil war in the early 1990s, but were later gradually reconstituted in the 2000s (decade) with the establishment of the Transitional Federal Government.

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Post-1960 conflicts
in the Horn of Africa

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