The "Letter-of-Death" by General 'Morgan'


January 23, 1987

Following is the famous "Letter-of-Death" as translated into English by Mohamoud Sheikh Ahmed Musa, former President of the Supreme Court, including his explanatory notes as footnotes:1

The report is addressed to the President of the SDR, the Minister of Defence, and the Minister of Interior. The latter, Major-General Ahmed Suleiman Abdalla, is also a son-in-law of the President, and Third Deputy Prime Minister. Since President Barre is also the Minister of Defence -- the previous holder of that portfolio, General Mohamed Ali Samatar, having been promoted Prime Minister on January 30, 1987 -- the report is seemingly confined to family members. This would explain its extreme frankness in specifying certain clans as targets for implemented and recommended punitive action.

The target is the Isaaq Clan Family. The term "clan family" was first coined by Professor I.M. Lewis, Professor Social Anthropology at the London School Economics, to describe the collective name for each of the several major divisions to which Somali clans traditionally divide themselves. The Isaaq clan family sub-divides into four main clans.

Top Secret

The Somali Democratic Republic
The Ministry of Defense
26th Sector G.H.Q.
TQ 826/XKT/28-56/87
Date: 23/01/87


To: The President of the SDR

The Minister of Defence, SDR

The Minister of Interior, SDR

Please refer to the report on the state of the defence and security of the 26th Sector's area of control which I transmitted on

The security of the North West and Togdheer Regions has deteriorated. The Ethiopians brought additional troops to the area with the objective of securing a foothold similar to [those of] Balan Balle and Galdogob.3 As you gathered from my previous report, they did not succeed in their joint incursion. Subsequently we took punitive measures against the positions jointly occupied by Qurmis4 and the Ethiopians resulting in loss to both of them and in the obliteration of villages, including Dibiile, Rabaso, Raamaale, and Garanuugle.5 All our measures were implemented at night and, except for some light injuries, all the troops returned safely to base.

Following their incursions and their consequent losses, Qurmis resorted to appealing to clan sentiment and began to sound a clarion call to action under [the slogan] "On Isaaq clans!".6 Their objective is to present the curfew7 as a persecution of their own people. Similarly, they directed a propaganda campaign at the people to the effect that they were about to capture the North West Region and Togdheer.

This much can be gathered from the expressions written on the walls of buildings and from the leaflets distributed in Gabiley District, and at Allaybaday village, Lughaya District.8 All this is an indication of a resurgence of anti-State clan sentiment. They have appealed to their various sections to recruit 2000 persons for Qurmis to be trained in Awaare.<$FAwaare, south of Hargeisa, is deep in Somali-populated eastern Ethiopia, in the area commonly known as the Ogaden. So far, 400 individuals have joined. Similarly, 60 Sa'ad Muuse members of the Faraweyne Front9 and a lieutenant who was their commanding officer gave themselves up to the Ethiopians and the Qurmis following the capture of the State-wreckers. The rest stole into the bush out of fear, but they have now started to return to the village.

Comrade President, Comrades:

It has been demonstrated to us that, unless Qurmis and its supporters are subjected to a campaign of obliteration, there will come a time when they will raise their heads again. But, today, we possess the right remedy for the virus in the [body of the] Somali State. It consists of:

Balancing the well-to-do to eliminate the concentration of wealth [in the hands of the SNM supporters].
The reconstruction of the Local Council in such a way as to balance its present membership which is exclusively from a particular people; as well as the dilution of the school population with an infusion of children from the Refugee Camps in the vicinity of Hargeisa.10
Rendering uninhabitable the territory between the army and the enemy, which can be done by destroying the water tanks and the villages lying across the territory used by them for infiltration.
Removing from the membership of the armed forces and the civil service all those who are open to suspicion of aiding the enemy -- especially those holding sensitive posts.

We set out below for your information those steps of the planned action already implemented:

Before now the number of buses used as public transport were 337, two-thirds of which were owned by members of one clan (the Sa'ad Muuse). However, when, on investigation, it became clear that most of the buses were not operating in accordance with security procedures, due to defects in their registration and circulation documents; and when information received revealed that they were sometimes used to carry drugs11 or persons open to suspicion, in secrecy and without notification to the security organisations; and since the number of buses greatly exceed the needs of the city, the following decisions were adopted and implemented:

(a)the number of the buses must not exceed 80;

(b)every bus must have a serial number for identification purposes;

(c)the buses must be evenly distributed amongst the districts of the city, with each bus limited to a particular route and departure and finishing points;

(d)a just and balance redistribution of licences regulating bus ownership in such a way as to give preference to persons relating to the Revolution, and to deny those politically opposed to it; six four-wheel drive vehicles were confiscated at Berbera harbour, and similarly, the removal of vehicles in the city is in progress; those found to be serviceable will be mounted with weapons and the others used as transport for reconnaissance purposes and for officers in command of forces in forward positions; we are also engaged in a process of reclassifying transport.

Of the persons detained as suspected supporters of Qurmis, 45 are from Hargeisa, 30 from Burao, while seven are officers. Most of them are businessmen and well-to-do people, while some are headmen (Nabadoons).12 They are held in Mandhera prison. However, it is hereby requested that they be transported urgently to Laanta Buur prison, or Bari prison, etc.13 in order to ensure their continued incarceration during the reorganisation of the local prisons which show many defects from a security standpoint.

The Western Somali Liberation Front14 has been remobilized, and 300 men have been stationed at a place near Geed-Deeble.15 According to plan, they will be re-armed and then put amidst those brigades and battalions considered to be capable of furthering the fight against Qurmis. At the same time they can implement operations inside [Ethiopia] whenever required.

Since it has become evident that the Isaaq were, by act and intent, with the SNM; and since we could not see them giving up the line they have pursued so deceptively for some time; and in order to forestall them; we arranged for the other inhabitants of the North continuous meetings and a mobilization campaign designed to rouse them to action and to raise their level of awareness. This was intended to strengthen their unity and to surround Somali unity with a defensive wall. Among those inhabitants are: the Awdal people, the various sections of Western Somalis, the Las Qorey people, and the Daami people, etc.16 There is no doubt that the unity of these people will restore the balance of the scales which are now tipped in favour of the Isaaq. If they attack their tasks energetically, their unity will also undoubtedly humble those who arrogantly maintain that they own the North when the reality is otherwise.

We are still engaged in identifying the positions of those people who maintain current accounts at banks in the North West and Togdheer Regions. The accounts of those recognised as Qurmis supporters will continue to be frozen; the rest will be unfrozen in the near future.

We see the economic strangulation of the people who work for the enemy as serving a useful purpose. However, it is absolutely essential that this should be accompanied by the strengthening of the economic positions of non-Northerners, with a view to raising the level of their capabilities and their interests in these Regions. This will enable them to put under pressure those who have grown fat on the opportunities offered by the Government banks, but have revolted against the State, having persuaded themselves to use their acquired capabilities against the State and it Revolutionary Government.

Undoubtedly, those successive steps, taken to cripple Qurmis, will instill anxiety in those in Mogadishu who are related to it. We hope that these will not be listened to or heeded so that the impetus of the war being waged against it would not drop.

An investigation into the action of Qurmis against the Burao base revealed that a lieutenant and five sakaris (all police) and some civilians had been behind it. It was implemented by the Habar Je'lo Qurmis.17 When the inquiry is completed, the culprits will be court-martialled.

Comrade President, in order to implement the above-mentioned matters, we need to:

(a)purge the Somali Police Force, the Security Force, and the Hangash Force,18 the members of all of which are largely recruited locally; this can be done by finding a force to dilute them and by transferring the present members; and

(b)replace the present members of the Custodial Corps, who -- having assumed the distinctive character of being exclusively from the North -- cannot be entrusted with the task of guarding the prisons, with a force composed of other Somalis.

2.We also need up to a Division to reinforce the 3rd Division's zone if it is possible to withdraw units from sectors whose areas of control are stable, since the quality of a force in a state of mobilization cannot achieve very much.

3.We also need the power of the Commercial Bank to give loans and to determine who shall receive them to be transferred to us, so that the past mistakes relating to the economic strengthening of the anti-State people may be rectified and those worthy of it be given a chance.

We propose that those of our forces we consider to be unsatisfactory should send representatives to discuss urgent corrective action. The reason is that the reaction to the measures we have already taken or will take must be met in advance. Since the intelligence-gathering organisations are suspect, and since some of them have committed clear offences, it is prudent to take precautionary measures before it is too late. Up to now we have been walking on ground deliberately strewn with broken glass in an attempt to reduce the momentum of [our] efforts. It is essential to sweep away the broken glass without leaving a single piece behind. There is a Somali proverb: "Oh hyena, you cannot drag away hides without making a sound."19

We are awaiting your guidance and directives.


Major General Mohamed Saeed Hirsi (Morgan)

The Commander of the 26th Sector, North West

Translator's Note:

The translation of the text of the above report is from Somali -- the original language of the report. The footnotes are not part of the report and have been added by me to enhance the clarity of the document. Accuracy, rather than elegance of style, has been my principal aim in this translation.

I am persuaded, on investigation, that the signature to the report which purports to be that of Major-General Mohamed Saeed Hirsi (Morgan) (Commander of the 26th Sector and de facto governor of the regions covered by the report) is in fact his own, and that the report is genuine.

My aim in translating this remarkable document is to make it available to researchers, lawyers, and human rights officials. I am not a member or sympathiser of the SNM or SSDF, although I am opposed to the present regime in Somalia.

In my years in Somalia as a legal practitioner, or member and then President of the Supreme Court, I never saw an official document with recommendations so frank in their departure from legality or accepted norms. Such a document ought not to be allowed to be confined to dissident circles that are privately circulating copies of the original.

This translation was done by me, Mohamoud Sheikh Ahmed Musa, in London on April 27, 1987.


Mohamoud Sheikh Ahmed Musa

Signed before me this 27th day of April 1987 by the above mentioned


R. Barnett

113-116 Strand

London WC2