One of the consequences of the civil strife that began in
1988 was the alienation of many local governments from the
effective authority of Mogadishu. Whereas the domestic situation
as of May 1992 remained unstable, the trend appeared to be toward
a decentralized system of local government similar to that
existing prior to the 1969 coup. The constitution of 1961 had
provided for the decentralization of administrative functions
wherever feasible, and throughout the country elected councils
had been responsible for municipal and district government.
However, direct supervision of local government affairs by
central authorities also was part of Somalia's recent history,
and a return to a centralized system could not be ruled out.
Indeed, the local government structures that existed in 1992 were
the same ones that had been established during Siad Barre's
One of Siad Barre's first decrees following the 1969 military
coup dissolved all the elected municipal and district councils.
This edict was followed by acts that eventually reorganized local
government into sixteen regions, each containing three to six
districts, with the exception of the capital region (Banaadir),
which was segmented into fifteen districts. Of the total eightyfour districts, some were totally urban, while others included
both urban and rural communities. Local government authority was
vested in regional and district councils, the members of which
were appointed by the central government. A 1979 law authorized
district council elections, but reserved to the government the
right to approve candidates before their names were submitted to
voters. Permanent settlements in rural areas had elected village
councils, although all candidates had to be approved by
government officials at the district level.
The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development
exercised authority over the structure of local government.
Throughout Siad Barre's twenty-one-year rule, a high-ranking
military officer usually headed this ministry. Military officers
also were appointed as chairmen of the regional councils. Most
members of the regional and district councils were drawn from the
army, the police, and security personnel. Such practices ensured
that those in charge of carrying out administrative functions at
the local level were directly responsible to Mogadishu.
All levels of local government were staffed by personnel of
the national civil service who had been assigned to their posts
by the central authorities. Local councils were permitted to plan
local projects, impose local taxes, and borrow funds (with prior
ministerial approval), for demonstrably productive development