Siad Barre’s downfall did not bring an end to injustice and misery for the people in Somalia. The loose coalition of forces that had defeated the dictator disintegrated with the sudden collapse of government institutions. The country fragmented into areas controlled by warlords and their heavily armed clan-based militias. The USC split into two power blocs headed by General Mohamed Farah Aideed and Ali Mahdi.

For some 16 months, from December 1990 to March 1992, when the United Nations eventually brokered a ceasefire, there was almost continuous warfare in the south as clans fought for control of resources, especially land and water.10 As many as 25,000 civilians died in the first four months of fighting in Mogadishu alone. The coastal towns of Merca, Brava and Kismayo and the inland town of Baidoa, in the country’s most fertile zone, suffered waves of invasions by fighters of the different clan-based opposition militia groups. Widespread rape of women, mass executions, destruction and expro­priation of agricultural land, looting of grain stores and livestock, and destruction of water supplies and homes led to massive displace­ment of people into other parts of Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Yemen. By the time the United Nations took action at the end of 1992, several hundred thousand people had died of starvation and hunger-related diseases. Testimonies by Halimo Elmi, Habiba Osman, Amina Sayid and Dahabo Isse provide first-hand accounts of this period of the war.