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Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed Edit Profile


Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed was a Somali politician. He was one of the founders of the Somali Salvation Democratic Front, as well as the Puntland State of Somalia, where he served as the autonomous region's first President. In 2004, he also helped establish the Transitional Federal Government, which he led as President of Somalia from 2004 until 2008.


Ahmed was born on 15 December 1934 in Galkayo, situated in the north-central Mudug region of Somalia. The city was at the time part of Italian Somaliland. His family hailed from the Majeerteen Harti Darod clan.


For his post-secondary education, Ahmed studied Law at the Somali National University in Mogadishu. He later moved abroad to pursue Military Studies. Ahmed obtained a degree in Military Topography from the Frunze Military Academy in the former Soviet Union, an elite institution reserved for the most qualified officers of the Warsaw Pact armies and their allies. He also received additional military training in Italy.


In 1957 at the age of 23, he became the deputy police commissioner of Banaadir. Later that year he was given the position of police commissioner of both Lower and Upper Jubba Regions.

In 1960 he was sent off to Italy for military training and when he returned he became military police at the 26th division in Woqooyi Galbeed Region.

In 1964, as a lieutenant officer in Bay, he fought off a surprise invasion from Ethiopian forces, he did this with light armour weapons and consequently invaded 15 km into Ethiopia. He represented Somalia at peace talks regarding the border war.

That same year he was decorated with the Medal of Valor by President Aden Abdullah Osman and promoted to the rank of Colonel for his actions. He was then sent off to the prestigious Frunze Military Academy in Moscow, then in the Soviet Union.

In 1969, he refused to take part in a coup with then Major General Siad Barre and as a consequence imprisoned for 6 years after Siad Barre took power. When released he and then Colonel Aideed were given similar administrative jobs at the Fiat Company in Mogadishu.

In 1977, Siad Bare handpicked Abdullahi Yusuf to lead Somalia’s elite forces in the Ogaden war. He was given a total of 35000 troops which invaded the Ogaden from the South till they reached their target, Mojo, 70 km south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital.

After the war was lost, Abdullahi Yusuf and other military officials attempted a coup against Siad Barre in 1978, the coup failed and Abdullahi Yusuf and other officials fled to Kenya. 17 alleged co-conspirators were executed and others were sentenced for a minimum of 20 years.

His actions led to reprisals against his Majeerteen clan, specifically his Omar Mahamud sub-lineage, with over 2000 people dying of thirst after Siad Barre’s paramilitary units destroyed their wells. In addition it is estimated that the clan lost 50,000 camels, 10,000 cattle, and 100,000 sheep and goats.

That same year, he founded Somalia’s first rebel group, the SSDF, Somali Salvation Democratic Front (then known as DFSS) and it put its base in Ethiopia. Here they used to engage the Somali Army in border skirmishes.

In 1982, SSDF fought the Somali Army in two border towns, seizing it with Ethiopian help. This led to further reprisals against Abdullahi Yusuf’s clan. The Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam declared the territories to be part of Ethiopia, creating tensions between the two and Abdullahi Yusuf was subsequently jailed in 1984 for not handing over the territories which Somalia later regained. The SSDF’s armed wing was disbanded.

He was released from a prison near Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1991 after the collapse of the Derg (Haile Mariam’s regime). As Somalia also transcended into chaos after the toppling of its dictator Siad Barre, Abdullahi Yusuf returned home to his ancestral homeland in North West Somalia. The SSDF was relaunched and forces loyal to Abdullahi Yusuf captured Northern Mudug, Nugaal and Bari, and later on Sool and Eastern Sanaag.

In Bari and Sanaag regions he fought Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, a now defunct Islamic militant group led then by Sheikh Dahir Aweys, current member of Al-Shabaab. Both outnumbered and outgunned he and the SSDF rebels managed to expel AIAI forces from the port city of Bosaso and the rugged mountains of Sanaag.

Puntland State of Somalia is then founded in 1998 with the backing of locals, business community and the clan elders, creating a state from Gaalkacyo to Buhoodle. He became the first President of the autonomous region and stayed on the post till 2001 when he lost an election. He regained his seat by toppling Jama Ali Jama which he believed had close ties with the newly formed Transitional National Government, a coalition of former warlords and Siad Barre era officials that wanted to establish a government which eventually ended up failing.

He was elected President of Somalia in 2004 in Nairobi, Kenya. His newly formed government was flew back to Somalia a year and a half later and made Baidoa, the capital of Bay Region, the government’s seat due to Mogadishu’s safety concerns.

In 2006, Ethiopia invaded with the approval of the Transitional Federal Government amidst an expanding influence from the Islamic Courts union, which seized the capital of Somalia, Mogadishu and large swathes of the south. Ethiopia entered Baidoa, the temporary capital for the government and went onto Mogadishu and toppled the UIC. An insurgency progressed against the Ethiopian forces and they withdrew in 2008 after Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed resigned from his post as President.


  • In commemoration of Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, the Galkayo Airport was also officially renamed as the Abdullahi Yusuf International Airport.

    He was one of the founders of the Somali Salvation Democratic Front, as well as the Puntland State of Somalia, where he served as the autonomous region's first President. In 2004, he also helped establish the Transitional Federal Government, which he led as President of Somalia from 2004 until 2008.


  • Memoir

    • Struggle and Conspiracy

      (In 2011, Ahmed released his memoirs, titled Struggle and ...)



As President, Ahmed pledged to promote reconciliation and to set about rebuilding the country. However, his government was beset by internal disagreements and contentions with other stakeholders in Somalia. For example, he was at loggerheads with some warlords and government members over where the administration should be based. The President and Prime Minister opposed a move to Mogadishu, citing security reasons. Consequently, Ahmed along with his Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Ghedi and the Speaker of the Parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden helped to relocate the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) from Nairobi to the Somali cities of Jowhar and Baidoa, where the TFG resided until the government eventually took control of Mogadishu.

The make up of a possible foreign peacekeeping force – in particular the inclusion of Ethiopian troops – was another bone of contention. Ethiopia was accused of backing rival Somali warlords in order to keep the country weak. The African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) mission therefore excluded countries neighboring Somalia from participating in peacekeeping activities.

Due to a lack of funding and human resources, an arms embargo that made it difficult to re-establish a national security force, and general indifference on the part of the international community, President Ahmed also found himself obliged to deploy thousands of troops from Puntland to Mogadishu to sustain the battle against insurgent elements in the southern part of the country. Financial support for this effort was provided by the autonomous region's government. This left little revenue for Puntland's own security forces and civil service employees, leaving the territory vulnerable to piracy and terrorist attacks


In 1978, together with a group of officials mainly from his own Majeerteen (Darod) clan, Ahmed participated in an abortive attempt to overthrow Barre's dictatorial administration. The military coup d'état was originally planned for 12 April. However, it was instead hastily carried out a few days earlier, on 9 April, due to fears of potential leaks. Ahmed was at the time in the southern Gedo region and was unaware of the changes to the coup plan. He later learned of the failed putsch via a secured communication network, which contained a coded two sentence message from Col. Abdullahi Ahmed Irro reading "Wife Aborted", dated 11:00 am, 9 April 1978. Most of the people who had helped plot the coup were summarily executed, but Ahmed and several other colonels managed to escape abroad.

Later that year, in adjacent Ethiopia, Ahmed and Hassan Ali Mire formed a rebel movement called the Somali Salvation Front, with Ahmed serving as chairman. The organization was subsequently renamed the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) in 1979. It was the first of several opposition groups dedicated to ousting Barre's regime by force.

After opposing the Ethiopian government's claims of sovereignty over several Somali-inhabited areas that Ahmed's rebels had managed to seize control of from Barre's forces, Ahmed was detained by the local Ethiopian authorities in 1985. Mire was elected as the SSDF's new chairman the following year. Ahmed would remain imprisoned until his release in 1990, following the demise of Ethiopia's then-ruling Derg.

Quotations: "We'll be forced to take guns against such people whose profession is to kill innocents and spill blood."

"The fighting today was after a man was killed last night by unidentified gunmen."

"Some militia supported by the coalition attacked an Islamic court this afternoon. A man and a woman were killed in the fighting. Another man was injured. The victims were all ordinary people."

"Somalia is a failed state and we have nothing."


Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed is described as a warlord who as president failed to restore order to Somalia. He gained a reputation as a ruthless operator who jailed and sometimes killed his opponents.


He was married, and had two sons and two daughters.

Hawa Abdi Samatar - Somali
Hawa Abdi Samatar - spouse of Abdullahi Ahmed

Hassan Ali Mire - Somali - politician
 Hassan Ali Mire - friend of Abdullahi Ahmed