Maj. Gen. Mohamed Siad Barre, who was overthrown as president of Somalia in 1991 after ruling that impoverished African country for more than 20 years, died on Monday in exile in Lagos, Nigeria. Official accounts put his age near 74, but reference books place his birth variously between 1912 and 1920. Siad Barre’s departure from the scene four years ago left Somalia without a central authority, on the brink of mass starvation, and with a civil war among feuding clans and their militias.
As commander of the armed forces, he had taken control of Somalia, in the Horn of Africa, in 1969. The country of about 9 million - mostly nomads - with a per capita income of about $175 a year is one of the most impoverished. Siad Barre’s rule was marked by a war with Ethiopia, a flip-flop in political alliances from the Soviet Union to the United States, and growing allegations of human rights abuses.