Jama Barre was born in 1937 in the southern town of Luuq, Italian Somaliland. He hails from the Marehan Darod clan. He is a half brother of former President of Somalia, Mohamed Siad Barre. Abdirahman’s brother Abdullahi Jama Barre “Asasey” was also active in Somali politics.
Jama Barre pursued higher studies abroad. For his tertiary education, he earned a PhD in the early 1960s from the teaching faculty at the University of Padua in Padua, Italy.
Jama Barre is married, and has seven children. He also has eight children from his first marriage. He enjoys lawn tennis.
Jama Barre began his professional career upon graduation from university. Initially, he briefly served as a headmaster.
In 1960, Jama Barre joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Somali Republic’s early civilian administration. He received his first diplomatic post the same year, working as a counsellor until 1964. Jama Barre was concurrently promoted to Director of the ministry’s Economic and Social Department as well as Director-General of its Social Department. He served as such for the next four years. Between 1969 and 1970, he was also the Acting Director-General of both departments.
In 1970, following the bloodless coup d’état of the year before, Jama Barre was named Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by the new ruling Supreme Revolutionary Council. He subsequently became a member of the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (SSRP) in 1976, sitting on the political association’s Central Committee.
In July 1977, Jama Barre was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs. He represented the Somali Democratic Republic in this capacity at the United Nations General Assembly.
Along with then Foreign Minister of Ethiopia Goshu Wolde, Jama Barre was also part of a seven-person Somalia-Ethiopia committee. The intergovernmental panel was formed in 1986.
Toward the end of 1987, Jama Barre was appointed the 1st Deputy Prime Minister of Somalia. Abdiqassim Salad Hassan served alongside him as the 2nd Deputy Prime Minister.Jama was concurrently named Minister of Finance and Treasury In 1989, he was reappointed Foreign Minister, with his second term in the office lasting a year.He would hold both 1st Deputy Prime and Finance Minister positions until the collapse of the central government in January 1991.
Additionally, Jama Barre was part of the governmental Suhl (reconciliation) group, of which Abdiqassim Salad Hassan, who would go on to become President of Somalia, was a key founder.
In 2004, following the establishment of the Transitional Federal Government, Jama Barre presented himself as a candidate for President of Somalia. He lost out to then President of the autonomous Puntland region, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed.