STATE SECURITY SERVICES
Under the Siad Barre regime, several police and intelligence
organizations were responsible for maintaining public order,
controlling crime, and protecting the government against domestic
threats. These included the Somali Police Force (SPF), the
People's Militia, the NSS, and a number of other intelligencegathering operations, most of which were headed by members of the
president's family. After Siad Barre's downfall, these units were
reorganized or abolished.
Somali Police Force (SPF)
The Somali Police Force (SPF) grew out of police forces
employed by the British and Italians to maintain peace during the
colonial period. Both European powers used Somalis as armed
constables in rural areas. Somalis eventually staffed the lower
ranks of the police forces, and Europeans served as officers. The
colonial forces produced the senior officers and commanders--
including Siad Barre--who led the SPF and the army after
In 1884 the British formed an armed constabulary to police
the northern coast. In 1910 the British created the Somaliland
Coastal Police, and in 1912 they established the Somaliland Camel
Constabulary to police the interior. In 1926 the colonial
authorities formed the Somaliland Police Force. Commanded by
British officers, the force included Somalis in its lower ranks.
Armed rural constabulary (illalo) supported this force by
bringing offenders to court, guarding prisoners, patrolling
townships, and accompanying nomadic tribesmen over grazing areas.
The Italians initially relied on military forces to maintain
public order in their colony. In 1914 the authorities established
a coastal police and a rural constabulary (gogle) to
protect Italian residents. By 1930 this force included about 300
men. After the fascists seized power in Italy, colonial
administrators reconstituted the Somali Police Corps into the
Corpo Zaptié. Italian carabinieri commanded and trained the new
corps, which eventually numbered approximately 800. During
Italy's war against Ethiopia, the Corpo Zaptié expanded to about
In 1941 the British defeated the Italians and formed a
British Military Administration (BMA) over both protectorates.
The BMA disbanded the Corpo Zaptié and created the Somalia
Gendarmerie. By 1943 this force had grown to more than 3,000 men,
led by 120 British officers. In 1948 the Somalia Gendarmerie
became the Somali Police Force.
After the creation of the Italian Trust Territory in 1950,
Italian carabinieri officers and Somali personnel from the Somali
Police Force formed the Police Corps of Somalia (Corpo di Polizia
della Somalia). In 1958 the authorities made the corps an
entirely Somali force and changed its name to the Police Force of
Somalia (Forze di Polizia della Somalia).
In 1960 the British Somaliland Scouts joined with the Police
Corps of Somalia to form a new Somali Police Force, which
consisted of about 3,700 men. The authorities also organized
approximately 1,000 of the force as the Darawishta Poliska, a
mobile group used to keep peace between warring clans in the
interior. Since then, the government has considered the SPF a
part of the armed forces. It was not a branch of the SNA,
however, and did not operate under the army's command structure.
Until abolished in 1976, the Ministry of Interior oversaw the
force's national commandant and his central command. After that
date, the SPF came under the control of the presidential adviser
on security affairs.
Each of the country's administrative regions had a police
commandant; other commissioned officers maintained law and order
in the districts. After 1972 the police outside Mogadishu
comprised northern and southern group commands, divisional
commands (corresponding to the districts), station commands, and
police posts. Regional governors and district commissioners
commanded regional and district police elements.
Under the parliamentary regime, police received training and
matériel aid from West Germany, Italy, and the United States.
Although the government used the police to counterbalance the
Soviet-supported army, no police commander opposed the 1969 army
coup. During the 1970s, German Democratic Republic (East Germany)
security advisers assisted the SPF. After relations with the West
improved in the late 1970s, West German and Italian advisers
again started training police units.
By the late 1970s, the SPF was carrying out an array of
missions, including patrol work, traffic management, criminal
investigation, intelligence gathering, and counterinsurgency. The
elite mobile police groups consisted of the Darawishta and the
Birmadka Poliska (Riot Unit). The Darawishta, a mobile unit that
operated in remote areas and along the frontier, participated in
the Ogaden War. The Birmadka acted as a crack unit for emergency
action and provided honor guards for ceremonial functions.
In 1961 the SPF established an air wing, equipped with Cessna
light aircraft and one Douglas DC-3. The unit operated from
improvised landing fields near remote police posts. The wing
provided assistance to field police units and to the Darawishta
through the airlift of supplies and personnel and reconnaissance.
During the final days of Siad Barre's regime, the air wing
operated two Cessna light aircraft and two DO-28 Skyservants.
Technical and specialized police units included the Tributary
Division, the Criminal Investigation Division (CID), the Traffic
Division, a communications unit, and a training unit. The CID,
which operated throughout the country, handled investigations,
fingerprinting, criminal records, immigration matters, and
In 1961 the SPF established a women's unit. Personnel
assigned to this small unit investigated, inspected, and
interrogated female offenders and victims. Policewomen also
handled cases that involved female juvenile delinquents, ill or
abandoned girls, prostitutes, and child beggars.
Service units of the Somali police included the Gadidka
Poliska (Transport Department) and the Health Service. The Police
Custodial Corps served as prison guards. In 1971 the SPF created
a fifty-man national Fire Brigade. Initially, the Fire Brigade
operated in Mogadishu. Later, however, it expanded its activities
into other towns, including Chisimayu, Hargeysa, Berbera, Merca,
Giohar, and Beledweyne.
Beginning in the early 1970s, police recruits had to be
seventeen to twenty-five years of age, of high moral caliber, and
physically fit. Upon completion of six months of training at the
National Police Academy in Mogadishu, those who passed an
examination would serve two years on the force. After the
recruits completed this service, the police could request renewal
of their contracts. Officer cadets underwent a nine-month
training course that emphasized supervision of police field
performance. Darawishta members attended a six-month tactical
training course; Birmadka personnel received training in public
order and riot control. After Siad Barre fled Mogadishu in
January 1991, both the Darawishta and Birmadka forces ceased to
operate, for all practical purposes.