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Somalia

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Location of Somalia within Africa
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Flag Description: light blue with a large white five-pointed star in the center; the blue field was originally influenced by the flag of the UN, but today is said to denote the sky and the neighboring Indian Ocean; the five points of the star represent the five regions in the horn of Africa that are inhabited by Somali people: the former British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland (which together make up Somalia), Djibouti, Ogaden (Ethiopia), and the North East Province (Kenya)

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Official name Jamhuuriyadda Federaalka ee Soomaaliya1 (Somali); Jumhūriyyat al-Sūmāl al-Fīdīraliyyah (Arabic) (Federal Republic of Somalia)
Form of government federal republic2 with two legislative houses (House of the People [275]; Upper House [543])
Head of state President: Hassan Sheikh Mohamud2
Head of government Prime Minister: Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke2
Capital Mogadishu
Official languages Somali; Arabic
Official religion Islam
Monetary unit Somali shilling (Shilin Soomaali; So.Sh.)
Population (2013 est.) 10,252,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 246,201
Total area (sq km) 637,657
Urban-rural population

Urban: (2012) 38.4%
Rural: (2012) 61.6%

Life expectancy at birth

Male: (2012) 48.9 years
Female: (2012) 52.8 years

Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate

Male: (2002) 25.1%
Female: (2002) 13.1%

GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2011) 107

1Proclamation of the “Republic of Somaliland” in May 1991 on territory corresponding to the former British Somaliland (which unified with the former Italian Trust Territory of Somalia to form Somalia in 1960) had not received international recognition as of November 2013. This entity represented about a quarter of Somalia’s territory.

2The government controlled little of Somalia in December 2014.

3The Upper House may have a maximum of 54 members; it had yet to be created as of Dec. 1, 2014.


About Somalia

Britain withdrew from British Somaliland in 1960 to allow its protectorate to join with Italian Somaliland and form the new nation of Somalia. In 1969, a coup headed by Mohamed SIAD Barre ushered in an authoritarian socialist rule characterized by the persecution, jailing, and torture of political opponents and dissidents. After the regime's collapse early in 1991, Somalia descended into turmoil, factional fighting, and anarchy. In May 1991, northern clans declared an independent Republic of Somaliland that now includes the administrative regions of Awdal, Woqooyi Galbeed, Togdheer, Sanaag, and Sool. Although not recognized by any government, this entity has maintained a stable existence and continues efforts to establish a constitutional democracy, including holding municipal, parliamentary, and presidential elections. The regions of Bari, Nugaal, and northern Mudug comprise a neighboring semi-autonomous state of Puntland, which has been self-governing since 1998 but does not aim at independence; it has also made strides toward reconstructing a legitimate, representative government but has suffered some civil strife. Puntland disputes its border with Somaliland as it also claims portions of eastern Sool and Sanaag. Beginning in 1993, a two-year UN humanitarian effort (primarily in the south) was able to alleviate famine conditions, but when the UN withdrew in 1995, having suffered significant casualties, order still had not been restored. In 2000, the Somalia National Peace Conference (SNPC) held in Djibouti resulted in the formation of an interim government, known as the Transitional National Government (TNG). When the TNG failed to establish adequate security or governing institutions, the Government of Kenya, under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), led a subsequent peace process that concluded in October 2004 with the election of Abdullahi YUSUF Ahmed as President of a second interim government, known as the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of the Somali Republic. The TFG included a 275-member parliamentary body, known as the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP). President YUSUF resigned late in 2008 while United Nations-sponsored talks between the TFG and the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) were underway in Djibouti. In January 2009, following the creation of a TFG-ARS unity government, Ethiopian military forces, which had entered Somalia in December 2006 to support the TFG in the face of advances by the opposition Islamic Courts Union (ICU), withdrew from the country. The TFP was doubled in size to 550 seats with the addition of 200 ARS and 75 civil society members of parliament. The expanded parliament elected Sheikh SHARIF Sheikh Ahmed, the former ICU and ARS chairman as president in January 2009. The creation of the TFG was based on the Transitional Federal Charter (TFC), which outlined a five-year mandate leading to the establishment of a new Somali constitution and a transition to a representative government following national elections. In 2009, the TFP amended the TFC to extend TFG's mandate until 2011 and in 2011 Somali principals agreed to institute political transition by August 2012. The transition process ended in September 2012 when clan elders appointed 275 members to a new parliament replacing the TFP and the subsequent election, by parliament, of a new president.


Geography of Somalia

The Land

Somalia is bounded by the Gulf of Aden to the north, by the Indian Ocean to the east, by Kenya and Ethiopia to the west, and by Djibouti to the northwest. Somalia’s western border was arbitrarily determined by colonial powers and divides the lands traditionally occupied by the Somali people. As a result, Somali communities are also found in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya, and the border remains a source of dispute.

  • Relief

The Somali peninsula consists mainly of a tableland of young limestone and sandstone formations. In the extreme north, along the Gulf of Aden, is a narrow coastal plain called the Guban, which broadens northward toward the port of Berbera. This gives way inland to a maritime mountain range with a steep north-facing scarp. Near Ceerigaabo (Erigavo) a mountain called Surud Cad reaches the highest elevation in the country, about 7,900 feet (2,408 metres). To the south are the broad plateaus of the Galgodon (or Ogo) Highlands and the Sool and Hawd regions, which drop gradually southward toward the Indian Ocean.

In southern Somalia the crystalline bedrock outcrops to the south of Baydhabo (Baidoa) in the shape of granite formations called inselbergs. These give way farther south to alluvial plains, which are separated from the coast by a vast belt of ancient dunes stretching more than 600 miles (1,000 km) from south of Kismaayo (Chisimaio) to north of Hobyo (Obbia).

  • Drainage

The flatness of the Somalian plateaus is interrupted by several deep valleys. Starting in the northeast, these are the Dharoor and Nugaaleed (Nogal) valleys; both are wadis that, in season, have rivers flowing into the Indian Ocean at Xaafuun and Eyl, respectively. In the southwest are the only permanent rivers in Somalia, the Jubba and the Shabeelle (Shebeli). Originating in the Ethiopian highlands, these two streams cut deeply into the plateaus before meandering through the alluvial plains toward the coast. Whereas the Jubba flows directly from north of Kismaayo into the Indian Ocean, the Shabeelle veers southwest immediately to the north of Mogadishu and flows into a large swamp before reaching the Jubba. The Jubba carries more water than the Shabeelle, which sometimes dries up in its lower course in years of sparse rainfall in the Ethiopian highlands. During dry seasons these rivers are a major source of water for people and animals. Because over most of the country the water table is deep or the groundwater has a high mineral content, the conservation of surface runoff is of primary importance.

  • Soils

The types of soil vary according to climate and parent rock. The arid regions of northeastern Somalia have mainly thin and infertile desert soils. The limestone plateaus of the interfluvial area have fertile dark gray to brown calcareous residual soils that provide good conditions for rain-fed agriculture. The most fertile soils are found on the alluvial plains of the Jubba and Shabeelle rivers. These deep vertisols are covered in black soils derived from decomposed lava rocks that are commonly called “black cotton soils” (because cotton often is grown in them). These soils have a high water-retention capacity and are mainly used for irrigation agriculture.

  • Climate

Somalia lies astride the Equator, but unlike typical climates at this latitude, conditions in Somalia range from arid in the northeastern and central regions to semiarid in the northwest and south.

The climatic year comprises four seasons. The gu, or main rainy season, lasts from April to June; the second rainy season, called the dayr, extends from October to December. Each is followed by a dry season—the main one (jilaal) from December to March and the second one (xagaa) from June to September. During the second dry season, showers fall in the coastal zone.

Long-term mean annual rainfall is less than 4 inches (100 mm) in the northeast and about 8 to 12 inches (200 to 300 mm) in the central plateaus. The southwest and northwest receive an average of 20 to 24 inches (500 to 600 mm) a year. While the coastal areas experience hot, humid, and unpleasant weather year-round, the interior is dry and hot. Somalia has some of the highest mean annual temperatures in the world. At Berbera, on the northern coast, the afternoon high averages more than 100 °F (38 °C) from June through September. Temperature maxima are even higher inland, but along the coast of the Indian Ocean temperatures are considerably lower because of a cold offshore current. The average afternoon high at Mogadishu, for example, ranges from the low 80s F (mid- to upper 20s C) in July to the low 90s F (low 30s C) in April.

  • Plant and animal life

In accordance with rainfall distribution, southern and northwestern Somalia have a relatively dense thornbush savanna, with various succulents and species of acacia. By contrast, the high plateaus of northern Somalia have wide, grassy plains, with mainly low formations of thorny shrubs and scattered grass tussocks in the remainder of the region. Northeastern Somalia and large parts of the northern coastal plain, on the other hand, are almost devoid of vegetation. Exceptions to this are the wadi areas and the moist zones of the northern coastal mountains, where the frankincense tree (Boswellia) grows. The myrrh tree (Commiphora) thrives in the border areas of southern and central Somalia.

Owing to inappropriate land use, the original vegetation cover, especially in northern Somalia, has been heavily degraded and in various places even entirely destroyed. This progressive destruction of plant life also has impaired animal habitats and reduced forage, affecting not only Somalia’s greatest resource, its livestock (chiefly goats, sheep, camels, and cattle), but also the wildlife. There are still many species of wild animals throughout the country—especially in the far south: hyenas, foxes, leopards, lions, warthogs, ostriches, small antelopes, and a large variety of birds. Unfortunately, giraffes, zebras, oryx, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, and, above all, elephants have been decimated (chiefly by ivory poachers). Measures to protect endangered species were taken with the creation of nature reserves and national parks, although those areas have been neglected since the collapse of the central government in 1991.


Demography of Somalia

The People

  • Ethnic groups

In culture, language, and way of life, the people of Somalia, northeastern Kenya, the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, and the southern part of Djibouti are largely one homogeneous group.

The Somali people are divided into numerous clans, which are groups that trace their common ancestry back to a single father. These clans, which in turn are subdivided into numerous subclans, combine at a higher level to form clan families. The clan families inhabiting the interfluvial area of southern Somalia are the Rahanwayn and the Digil, which together are known as the Sab. Mainly farmers and agropastoralists, the Sab include both original inhabitants and numerous Somali groups that have immigrated into this climatically favourable area. Other clan families are the Daarood of northeastern Somalia, the Ogaden, and the border region between Somalia and Kenya; the Hawiye, chiefly inhabiting the area on both sides of the middle Shabeelle and south-central Somalia; and the Isaaq, who live in the central and western parts of northern Somalia. In addition, there are the Dir, living in the northwestern corner of the country but also dispersed throughout southern Somalia, and the Tunni, occupying the stretch of coast between Marca and Kismaayo. Toward the Kenyan border the narrow coastal strip and offshore islands are inhabited by the Bagiunis, a Swahili fishing people.

As well as the Somali, there is a sizable and economically important Bantu population, which is mainly responsible for the profitable irrigation agriculture practiced on the lower and middle reaches of the Jubba and Shabeelle rivers. Many Bantu are the descendants of former slaves, and socially they are regarded as inferior by other groups in Somalia. The result is a strict social distinction between the “noble” Somali of nomadic descent and the Bantu groups.

Another economically significant minority is the several tens of thousands of Arabs, mainly of Yemenite origin. There is also a small Italian population in Somalia.

  • Languages

The Somali language belongs to the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Despite several regional dialects, it is understood throughout the country and is an official language. The second official language is Arabic, which is spoken chiefly in northern Somalia and in the coastal towns. Owing to Somalia’s colonial past, many people have a good command of English and Italian, which, in addition to Somali, are used at the country’s colleges and universities. Swahili also is spoken in the south. In 1973 Somalia adopted an official orthography based on the Latin alphabet. Until then, Somali had been an unwritten language.

  • Religion

Virtually all Somali belong to the Shāfiʿī rite of the Sunni sect of Islam. Various Muslim orders (ṭarīqa) are important, especially the Qādirīyah, the Aḥmadīyah, and the Ṣaliḥiyah.

  • Settlement patterns

Roughly two-fifths of the Somali population live permanently in settled communities; the other three-fifths are nomadic pastoralists or agropastoralists. The sedentary population chiefly occupies climatically and topographically favourable regions in southern and northwestern Somalia, where rain-fed agriculture is possible and irrigation agriculture can be practiced along the rivers. Their settlements consist of large clustered villages near the rivers and in the central interfluvial area, as well as small hamlets farther away. The population is also concentrated in the old trading centres on the coast, including Kismaayo, Baraawe (Brava), Marca, Mogadishu, Berbera, and Boosaaso (Bosaso).

Heavy migration from rural areas into towns has caused enormous urban expansion, especially in Mogadishu. As a result of increased market-oriented and extrapastoral activities, more nomads are tending to adopt a semisettled way of life and economy. This has led to a great number of permanent nomad settlements, chiefly along the roads and tracks of the country’s interior.

  • Demographic trends

The population of Somalia increased annually by about 3 percent in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, despite a high infant mortality rate. The Somali population has an average life expectancy of about 50 years, roughly equivalent to that of neighbouring Ethiopia but higher than Djibouti’s and lower than Kenya’s.

A high migration rate into the towns, chiefly by young men, has led to a disproportionately large percentage of older people in most rural areas and to high unemployment in the towns. Also, after the Ogaden conflict of 1977–78 (in which Somalia invaded and occupied Ethiopia’s Ogaden region but was then defeated and driven out), hundreds of thousands of Somali from Ethiopia fled to Somalia. Civil war in Somalia erupted shortly after the end of the Ogaden conflict, and since then more than one million Somali have sought shelter in neighbouring countries; several hundred thousand more have been internally displaced.


Economy of Somalia

About three-fifths of Somalia’s economy is based on agriculture; however, the main economic activity is not crop farming but livestock raising. Between 1969 and the early 1980s, Mohamed Siad Barre’s military government imposed a system of “Scientific Socialism,” which was characterized by the nationalization of banks, insurance firms, oil companies, and large industrial firms; the establishment of state-owned enterprises, farms, and trading companies; and the organizing of state-controlled cooperatives. In the end, this experiment weakened the Somalian economy considerably, and, since the collapse of the military regime, the economy has suffered even more as a result of civil war. In the early 21st century, the country remained one of the poorest in the world, and its main sources of income came from foreign aid, remittances, and the informal sector.

  • Agriculture, forestry, and fishing

By far the most important sector of the economy is agriculture, with livestock raising surpassing crop growing fourfold in value and earning about three-fifths of Somalia’s foreign exchange. Agriculture in Somalia can be divided into three subsectors. The first is nomadic pastoralism, which is practiced outside the cultivation areas. This sector, focused on raising goats, sheep, camels, and cattle, has become increasingly market-oriented. The second sector is the traditional, chiefly subsistence, agriculture practiced by small farmers. This traditional sector takes two forms: rain-fed farming in the south and northwest, which raises sorghum, often with considerable head of livestock; and small irrigated farms along the rivers, which produce corn (maize), sesame, cowpeas, and—near towns—vegetables and fruits. The third sector consists of market-oriented farming on medium- and large-scale irrigated plantations along the lower Jubba and Shabeelle rivers. There the major crops are bananas, sugarcane, rice, cotton, vegetables, grapefruit, mangoes, and papayas.

The acacia species of the thorny savanna in southern Somalia supply good timber and are the major source of charcoal, but charcoal production has long exceeded ecologically acceptable limits. More efficient and careful handling of frankincense, myrrh, and other resin-exuding trees could increase yields of aromatic gums.

The country’s small fishing sector revolves around the catch and canning of tunny (tuna) and mackerel in the north. Sharks are often caught and sold dried by artisanal inshore fishers. In southern Somalia choice fish and shellfish are processed for export. In the early 21st century, Somalia’s fishing industry was affected by climate change, overfishing, and increasing incidents of piracy along the coasts.

  • Resources and power

Somalia’s most valuable resources are its pastures, which cover most of the country. Somalia has few mineral resources—only some deposits of tin, phosphate, gypsum, guano, coal, iron ore, and uranium—and both quantity and quality are too low for mining to be worthwhile. However, the deposits of the clay mineral sepiolite, or meerschaum, in south-central Somalia are among the largest known reserves in the world. Reserves of natural gas have been found but have not been exploited. Sea salt is collected at several sites on the coast.

The country’s few existing power stations—located at Mogadishu, Hargeysa (Hargeisa), and Kismaayo—are often out of order, resulting in frequent power cuts with adverse effects on factory production. (Rural areas have no power plants.) The construction of dams for hydroelectricity and irrigation on the Jubba River was stopped after the government collapse in 1991.

  • Manufacturing

In the early 21st century, manufacturing did not account for a significant portion of economic activity. Many commodities necessary for daily life are produced by small workshops in the informal sector.

Before 1991 Mogadishu was the chief industrial centre of Somalia, with bottling plants, factories producing spaghetti, cigarettes, matches, and boats, a petroleum refinery, a small tractor-assembly workshop, and small enterprises producing construction materials. In Kismaayo there were a meat-tinning factory, a tannery, and a modern fish factory. There were two sugar refineries, one near Jilib on the lower reach of the Jubba and one at Jawhar (Giohar) on the middle reach of the Shabeelle. However, even before the destruction caused by Somalia’s civil conflicts, the productivity of Somalian factories was very low. Often entire works did not operate at full capacity or produced nothing at all over long periods.

  • Finance

The three principal banks, which are nationalized, are the Central Bank of Somalia, the Commercial and Savings Bank of Somalia, and the Somali Development Bank, which mainly provides loans for development projects. After the collapse of the government in 1991, the formal banking sector’s functions were severely hindered. The country’s currency, the Somali shilling, has been depreciating for years. A shortage of hard currency in the 1990s led to an increase in counterfeit currency and the creation of regional currencies. A proliferation of newly printed currency in the early 2000s contributed to inflation. All these factors have greatly impeded the country’s economic development. The self-declared Republic of Somaliland issues its own currency, the Somaliland shilling.

  • Trade

Somalia has a large trade deficit. Its chief export commodities are livestock and bananas, which are mainly sent to Arab countries. Other exports include hides and skins, fish, and frankincense and myrrh. Almost everything is imported, even food for an urban population no longer accustomed to the traditional diet.

Besides the official market, there is also a flourishing informal market, by means of which tens of thousands of Somali workers in Arab countries provide commodities missing on the Somali market while avoiding the duties levied on imports. Since wages in Somalia are very low, almost every family is directly or indirectly involved in informal trading.

  • Transportation

Inadequate transport facilities are a considerable impediment to Somalia’s economic development. There are no railways. Only about 1,800 miles (2,900 km) of paved roads are passable year-round, and in the rainy seasons most rural settlements are not accessible by motor vehicle. Buses, trucks, and minibuses are the main means of transport for the population. In rural areas camels, cattle, and donkeys are still used for personal transportation and as pack animals.

The state-owned Somali Airlines ceased operations in 1991 after the government collapse. Mogadishu, Berbera, and Kismaayo all have airports with long runways. (These three cities also have deep-water harbours, but dangerous coral reefs keep coastal traffic to a minimum.) Several private airlines serve Somaliland.

Government and Society of Somalia

  • Constitutional framework

Under the 1979 constitution, amended in 1990, the president and his supporters held the important positions of power, and a People’s Assembly had no real power. The legal system was based largely on Islamic law; an independent judiciary did not exist; and human rights were frequently violated. Only one legal political party, the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party, and various socialist-style mass organizations existed.

Following the collapse of the central government in 1991, the constitution was ignored. Various clan-based political coalitions and alliances attempted to establish control throughout the country. In May 1991 one such alliance declared the formation of the independent Republic of Somaliland in the north, and in July 1998 another declared the formation of the autonomous region of Puntland in the northeast. Each formed its own government, although neither is recognized by the international community.

Meanwhile, the fragmented, conflict-riven south lay largely in the hands of various clan-based militia groups at war with each other, despite several attempts to end the conflict and form a new government. The last transitional government was the result of the Transitional Federal Charter, promulgated in 2004. It provided for a Transitional Federal Parliament and a Transitional Federal Government, which consisted of a president, a prime minister, and a cabinet called the Council of Ministers. The charter was amended in 2009 to extend the transitional government’s original five-year mandate for another two years and again in 2011 to extend it for one more year. On August 20, 2012, the day that the transitional administration was due to expire, the lower house of a new federal parliament was sworn in; the next month, that body elected a new president for the country.

  • Health and welfare

Many years of conflict, severe drought, and famine have left Somalia in a state of crisis. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis have been displaced by warfare. Chronic food shortages have led to high rates of malnutrition in many parts of the country. Much of Somalia is without adequate water supplies or sanitation. Cholera, measles, tuberculosis, and malaria are widespread. The absence of health or welfare infrastructure in the country—largely destroyed after years of conflict—has left international relief organizations struggling to provide essential services normally offered by the government. Their efforts are hindered by continuing violence, and most Somalis have little or no access to health care.

Conditions in the Republic of Somaliland and in Puntland are somewhat better than in the rest of the country but still fall short of ideal. Because of the overall level of stability enjoyed by the two self-governing regions, they have been able to rebuild much of their health care infrastructure.

  • Housing

There are two main types of traditional houses: the typically African round house (mundul), mainly found in the interior, and the Arab-influenced rectangular house (cariish) with a corrugated-steel roof, prevailing in the coastal regions and northern Somalia.

The strong influence from Arabia, Persia, and India has shaped the face of the old coastal town centres, and Italian colonial architecture is visible in Mogadishu. Solid constructions of traditional coral limestone and modern concrete brick clearly distinguish the large coastal settlements from the district and provincial capitals of the interior, where traditional wooden houses with thatched or corrugated-iron roofs predominate.

Pastoral nomads still live in transportable round huts called aqal. During the dry seasons, the high mobility of these livestock keepers leads to their temporary concentration in the river valleys of southern Somalia and around important water points all over the country.

  • Education

Prior to the country’s civil war and the resulting anarchy, the state educational system was somewhat successful despite considerable shortcomings. Enrollment in primary and secondary schools had multiplied, and the proportion of girls attending school also had risen—at least in towns. However, a lack of buildings, furniture, equipment, teaching materials, and teachers, together with the frequent unwillingness of rural people to allow children to attend school instead of working, all prevented a rapid improvement of schooling in rural areas.

After the government was overthrown in 1991, Somalia’s state education system was in shambles. Private schools have managed to function since then, as have schools in the Republic of Somaliland and Puntland. Some Islamic schools are also operational, but traditionally these Qurʾānic schools are responsible for the religious education of children according to Islamic law and do not provide secular education.

The main higher education institution had been Somali National University (1969) in Mogadishu, but the campus was destroyed during the civil war. The private Mogadishu University was established in 1997. There are also agricultural secondary schools, a vocational training centre, a teacher-training centre, and an agricultural college in Mogadishu, as well as a technical college in Burgo. Most of these institutions were unable to consistently maintain operations because of warfare. Amoud University (1997) in Borama and the University of Hargeisa (2000) are private universities in the Republic of Somaliland. About one-fifth of Somalis aged 15 and older are literate.

Culture Life of Somalia

History of Somalia

Early and Colonial Periods

Between the 7th and 10th cent., immigrant Muslim Arabs and Persians established trading posts along Somalia's Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean coasts; Mogadishu began its existence as a trading station. During the 15th and 16th cent., Somali warriors regularly joined the armies of the Muslim sultanates in their battles with Christian Ethiopia.

British, French, and Italian imperialism all played an active role in the region in the 19th cent. Great Britain's concern with the area was largely to safeguard trade links with its Aden colony (founded 1839), which depended especially on mutton from Somalia. The British opportunity came when Egyptian forces, having occupied much of the region in the 1870s, withdrew in 1884 to fight the Mahdi in Sudan. British penetration led to a series of agreements (1884–86) with local tribal leaders and, in 1887, to the establishment of a protectorate. France first acquired a foothold in the area in the 1860s. An Anglo-French agreement of 1888 defined the boundary between the Somalian possessions of the two countries.

Italy first asserted its authority in the area in 1889 by creating a small protectorate in the central zone, to which other concessions were later added in the south (territory ceded by the sultan of Zanzibar) and north. In 1925, Jubaland, or the Trans-Juba (east of the Juba [now Jubba] River), was detached from Kenya to become the westernmost part of the Italian colony. In 1936, Italian Somaliland was combined with Somali-speaking districts of Ethiopia to form a province of the newly formed Italian East Africa. During World War II, Italian forces invaded British Somaliland; but the British, operating from Kenya, retook the region in 1941 and went on to conquer Italian Somaliland. Britain ruled the combined regions until 1950, when Italian Somaliland became a UN trust territory under Italian control.

  • Independence and Its Aftermath

In accordance with UN decisions, Italian Somaliland, renamed Somalia, was granted internal autonomy in 1956 and independence in 1960. Britain proclaimed the end of its protectorate in June, 1960, and on July 1 the legislatures of the two new states created the United Republic of Somalia. In the early years of independence the government was faced with a severely underdeveloped economy and with a vocal movement that favored the creation of a "Greater Somalia" encompassing the Somali-dominated areas of Kenya, French Somaliland (now Djibouti), and Ethiopia. The nomadic existence of many Somali herders and the ill-defined frontiers worsened the problem. Hostilities between Somalia and Ethiopia erupted in 1964, and Kenya became involved in the conflict as well, which continued until peace was restored in 1967. The inhabitants of French Somaliland, meanwhile, voted to continue their association with France.

In 1969 President Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke was assassinated. The new rulers, led by Maj. Gen. Mohammed Siad Barre, dissolved the national assembly, banned political parties, and established a supreme revolutionary council with the power to rule by decree pending adoption of a new constitution. The country's name was changed to the Somali Democratic Republic.

Under Barre's leadership Somalia joined the Arab League (1974) and developed strong ties with the Soviet Union and other Communist-bloc nations. In the late 1970s, however, after Somalia began supporting ethnic Somali rebels seeking independence for the disputed Ogaden region of Ethiopia, the Soviet Union sided with Ethiopia, and Somalia won backing from the United States and Saudi Arabia. Somalia invaded the disputed territory in 1977 but was driven out by Ethiopian forces in 1978. Guerrilla warfare in the Ogaden continued until 1988, when Ethiopia and Somalia reached a peace accord.

Warfare among rival factions within Somalia intensified, and in 1991 Barre was ousted from his power center in the capital by nationalist guerrillas. Soon afterward, an insurgent group in N Somalia (the former British Somaliland) that had begun its rebellion in the 1980s announced it had seceded from the country and proclaimed itself the Somaliland Republic. In Mogadishu, Mohammed Ali Mahdi was proclaimed president by one group and Mohammed Farah Aidid by another, as fighting between rival factions continued. Civil war and the worst African drought of the century created a devastating famine in 1992, resulting in a loss of some 220,000 lives.

A UN-brokered truce was declared and UN peacekeepers and food supplies arrived, but the truce was observed only sporadically. Late in 1992, troops from the United States and other nations attempted to restore political stability and establish free and open food-aid routes by protecting ports, airports, and roads. However, there was widespread looting of food-distribution sites and hostility toward the relief effort by heavily armed militant factions.

Efforts to reestablish a central government were unsuccessful, and international troops became enmeshed in the tribal conflicts that had undone the nation. Failed attempts in 1993 by U.S. forces to capture Aidid, in reaction to an ambush by Somalis in which 23 Pakistani peacekeepers were killed, produced further casualties. Clan-based fighting increased in 1994 as the United States and other nations withdrew their forces; the last UN peacekeepers left the following year. Aidid died in 1996 from wounds suffered in battle.

The country was devastated by floods in 1997 and in the late 1990s was still without any organized government. Mogadishu and most of the south were ruled by violence. The breakaway Somaliland Republic, although not recognized internationally, continued to maintain a relatively stable existence, with Mohammed Ibrahim Egal (1993–2002), Dahir Riyale Kahin (2002–10), and Ahmed Mohamud Silanyo (2010–) as presidents; extensions of Riyale's term beginning in 2007 led to confrontations between the government and opposition. Somaliland had a growing economy and in the late 1990s began receiving aid from the European Union. The northeast (Puntland) section of the country also stablilized, with local clan leadership providing some basic services and foreign trade being carried on through its port on the Gulf of Aden. Both Puntland and Jubaland (in S Somalia) declared their independence in 1998. Although Jubaland was subsequently the scene of clan and sectarian fighting and ceased to have a separate existence, Puntland both retained its own government and participated in attempts to establish a Somali federal government.

In 2000 a five-month conference of mainly southern Somalis that had convened in Djibouti under the sponsorship of that nation's president established a national charter (interim constitution) and elected a national assembly and a president, Abdikassim Salad Hassan, who had been an official in Barre's regime. The new president flew to Mogadishu in August. A number of militias refused to recognize the new government, and officials and forces of the government were attacked several times by militia forces, and the government exercised minimal authority in the capital and little influence outside it. The establishment (Mar., 2001) of the Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council by opposition warlords supported by Ethiopia, an overwhelming vote (June, 2001) in the Somaliland region in favor of remaining independent, and a declaration of independence (Apr., 2002) by Southwestern Somaliland, the fourth such regional state to be proclaimed, were further obstacles to the new government's acceptance.

In Oct., 2002, a cease-fire accord that also aimed at establishing a federal constitution was signed in Kenya by all the important factions except the Somaliland region. Fighting, however, continued in parts of the country. The sometimes stormy talks that followed the cease-fire were slow to produce concrete results, but a transitional charter was signed in Jan., 2004. Meanwhile, the mandate of the essentially symbolic interim government expired in Aug., 2003, but the president withdrew from talks, refused to resign, and had the prime minister (who remained involved in the talks) removed from office. In Sept., 2004, after many delays, a 275-member parliament was convened (in Kenya) under the new charter, and a new president, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, a former general who had served as president of Puntland, was elected in October. Somaliland remained a nonparticipant in the transitional government (and held elections for its own parliament later, in Oct., 2005). Coastal areas of Somalia, particularly in Puntland, suffered damage and the loss of several hundred lives as a result of the Dec., 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami.

The new government was slow to move to Somalia, delayed by disputes over who would be in the cabinet, whether nations neighboring Somalia would contribute troops to African Union peacekeeping forces, and whether the government would be initially established in the capital or outside it. The disputes in Kenya boiled over into fighting in Somalia in March and May, 2005, where the forces of two warlords battled for control of Baidoa, one of the proposed temporary capitals. Some government members, allied with the speaker of the parliament, meanwhile relocated to Mogadishu.

In June the president returned to his home region of Puntland, and in July he announced plans to move south to Jowhar, the other proposed temporary capital. A coalition of Mogadishu warlords announced that they would attack Jowhar if the president attempted to establish a temporary capital there, but the president nonetheless did so. The year also saw a dramatic increase in piracy and ship hijackings off the Somalia coast, including the hijacking of a UN aid ship and an attack on a cruise ship, and in subsequent years pirate attacks for ransom off the coast were a significant problem. By 2010 Somali pirates were ranging across much of the NW Indian Ocean. The pirates were mainly based in S Puntland, around the port of Eyl; the government of Puntland was accused of colluding with them. By 2012, however, antipiracy measures in the shipping lanes had led to a large drop in ship seizures.

In Jan., 2006, the disputing Somali factions agreed to convene the parliament at Baidoa, Somalia, and the following month it met there. There were outbreaks of fighting in Mogadishu in Feb.–Mar., 2006, between militia forces aligned with unofficial Islamic courts and militias loyal to several warlords. In April, Baidoa was officially established as Somalia's temporary capital. Fighting re-erupted in Mogadishu in April and by July the Islamist militias had won control of Mogadishu and, through alliances, much of S Somalia, except for the Baidoa region. A truce in June between the government and the Islamist was not generally honored. In Aug., 2006, Galmudug was established as an autonomous region just S of Puntland.

The Islamists, who were split between moderates and hardliners, established the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) and imposed Islamic law on the area under their control. In some areas their rule recalled that of the Taliban in Afghanistan. They were accused of having ties to Al Qaeda, which they denied, but there was apparent evidence of non-Somali fighters in the militia. Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a hardliner who became leader of the UIC shura [council], had led an Islamist group ousted from Puntland by President Yusuf, and was regarded as a threat by Ethiopia for having accused that nation of "occupying" the Ogaden.

As the UIC solidified its hold over S Somalia, taking control of the port of Kismayo in September, hundreds of Somalis fled to NE Kenya. Also in September there was an attempt to assassinate President Yusuf. There were increased tensions between the UIC and Ethiopia over the presence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia in support of the interim government, a situation that Ethiopia denied until October, when it said they were there to train government forces. Eritrea was accussed of supplying arms to the UIC, raising the specter of a wider war involving Ethiopia and Eritrea.

In Oct., 2006, government and UIC forces clashed several times over Bur Hakaba, a town outside Baidoa on the road to Mogadishu. A number of attempts over the summer to restart talks between the government and the UIC stalled over various issues. The interim government was split between those who favored negotiations with UIC and the prime minister, who strongly objected to any negotiations. In addition, the government objected to the Islamists' seizure of additional territory since the June truce, and the UIC objected to the presence of Ethiopian forces in Somalia.

After increasing tension and clashes between the two sides in November, the UIC demanded that Ethiopian troops leave or face attack. Major fighting erupted late in December, and Somali government forces supported by Ethiopian forces soon routed the Islamists, who abandoned Mogadishu and then Kismayo, their last stronghold, by Jan. 1, 2007. Fighting continued into early 2007 in extreme S Somalia. The United States launched air strikes (using carrier aircraft offshore) against suspected Al Qaeda allies of the UIC, and U.S. special forces also conducted some operations in S Somalia. The government assumed control over the capital, declared a state of emergency, and called for the surrender of private weapons. Several warlords surrendered arms and merged their militias into the army, but concern over the warlords' forces remained.

Ethiopian and government forces soon found themselves fighting militias opposed to disarmament and motivated also by interclan distrust and anti-Ethiopian sentiment and Islamist guerrillas. Fierce battles in March and April in the capital caused hundreds of thousands to flee, and hundreds died. The presence of African Union peacekeepers, who began arriving in March and were stationed in Mogadishu, did little initially to alter the situation, but the situation quieted after the government largely established control in late April. Sporadic antigovernment attacks continued, however, occasionally erupting into more intense fighting. Also in April, some prominent members and former members of the government formed an anti-Ethiopian alliance with members of the UIC; the alliance subsequently included Ethiopian rebel groups as well.

A national reconciliation conference in July–Aug., 2007, was boycotted by Islamists and some clans. Divisions in the government between the president and Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi over their respective powers led to Gedi's resignation in October. That same month, tension and clashes between Somaliland and Puntland over the disputed border town of Los Anod erupted into significant fighting. In November, Nur Hassan Hussein, the head of the Somali Red Crescent, was named prime minister. By the end of 2007, some 600,000 had fled the capital due to the fighting there.

In Jan., 2008, the government officially returned to Mogadishu, but the ability of the Islamists during the year to seize and towns in S and central Somalia, including the ports of Kismayo in August and Merka (55 mi/90 km S of Mogadishu) in November, and the continuing fighting in the capital belied the government's gesture toward establishing its authority. A peace agreement was negotiated between the government and more moderate Islamist insurgents in June, 2008; in August both sides agreed to a joint police force and a phased Ethiopia pullback, and in November a power-sharing agreement was signed. More militant Islamists, however, rejected the agreements, which did not diminish violence in Somalia. Radical Islamists continued to make gains, and there was fighting between the radicals and more moderate Islamists; government control was restricted mainly to Mogadishu and Baidoa.

President Yusuf attempted to dismiss Prime Minister Nur in December and replace him, but Nur retained the support of the parliament. Yusuf, who was seen by many as an obstacle to the power-sharing agreement with the moderate Islamists, subsequently resigned. In Jan., 2009, Ethiopian forces withdrew from Somalia, although occasional incursions occurred in subsequent months and years; moderate Islamists joined the government the same month. Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, was elected president; Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, son of the country's first president, became prime minister the following month.

Hardline Islamists continued their attacks, however, capturing Baidoa in January and other towns in the following months, gaining control of most of S and central Somalia. Fighting also occurred in the Mogadishu, becoming heavy beginning in May when hardliners seized large areas in the capital (though the government, defended primarily by AU peacekeepers, retained control of key buildings and infrastructure); fighting, at times heavy, has continued off and on in Mogadishu since then. In May, 2009, the interim government officially adopted Islamic law.

By July, 2009, an estimated 1.2 million Somalis had been displaced within Somalia by the fighting; some 300,000 were in border areas in Kenya. Tensions between hardline allies turned violent in Sept.–Oct., 2009, when two groups briefly fought for control of Kismayo, and fighting between some hardline factions has continued sporadically in S Somalia. Divisions within the hardliners have been outweighed, however, by the weakness and corruption of the interim government, which in 2010 experienced a power struggle between the president and prime minister. Tensions between the prime minister and parliament led the president to dismiss Sharmarke in May, 2010, but the prime minister denounced the move as unconstitutional and ultimately remained in office. In Sept., 2010, however, amid worsening power struggles in the government, the prime minister resigned; Mohamed Abdullahii Mohamed, a former diplomat succeeded him in October.

In July, 2010, meanwhile, Somali hardline Islamists mounted suicide bomb attacks in Kampala, Uganda, in retaliation for Uganda's participation in the peacekeeping forces in Somalia. A failed militant offensive in August to seize control of Mogadishu and divisions within the dominant militant group, Al Shabab, led to some territorial gains in the capital by African Union forces that continued into 2011. In Dec., 2010, the two main hardline Islamist groups, Al Shabab and Hizbul Islam, announced that they had merged.

In Feb., 2011, the transitional parliament voted to extend its term, which was due to expire in Aug., 2011, by three years; in March, the mandate of the government, due to expire at the same time, was extended for a year. In June, 2011, however, an agreement negotiated by Uganda between the president and the parliament speaker called for extending presidential and legislative terms until Aug., 2012, when new leaders would be chosen. Additionally, the agreement called for the resignation of the prime minister and the formation of a new government, and in June, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, a Somali-American economist, became prime minister.

By mid-2011, food shortages due to drought had become a problem in parts of Somalia, which was hit by its worst drought in 60 years. The drought was especially dire in areas controlled by hardline Islamists, who had banned international aid groups in 2010. Some 260,000 people died and 1.5 million people migrated to the capital as a result of the famine, which ended early in 2012.

In Aug., 2011, hardline forces withdrew from most areas of Mogadishu, but their control over much of S and central Somalia was unaffected by the move, and fighting recurred in sections of the capital at times. In October, Kenyan forces invaded S Somalia to attack hardline Islamists, whom Kenya held responsible for a series of attacks in Kenya. Kenya agreed in December to incorporate its troops into the African Union forces operating in Somalia, and an offensive by government-aligned Somali forces in conjunction with AU, Kenyan, and Ethiopian troops continued into 2012. At the same time, however, the government remained divided and largely ineffective, and outside the capital a number of self-proclaimed autonomous regions and warlords sought to exercise power in areas no longer under hardline Islamist control.

In Feb., 2012, the hardline Islamist al-Shabab publicly proclaimed that it had joined its movement to Al Qaeda; the group suffered a series of setbacks in the first half of 2012, losing control in Mogadishu and other other towns. By July, many of its fighters had retreated north or toward Kismayo in the south; Kismayo was the most important urban area still under al-Shabab control. In August, a national constituent assembly approved and adopted a provisional constitution to replace the Transitional Federal Charter and a parliament was chosen by clan elders; the following month, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, a moderate Islamist and academic, was elected president. In October, Abdi Farrah Shirdon Said, a businessman, was named prime minister.

Also in October, a Somali-Kenyan offensive took control of Kismayo as al-Shabab withdrew. Al-Shabab remained in control of many rural areas in S Somalia, and at times returned to areas from which they had been expelled after government-aligned forces withdrew. In the first half of 2013 several clan militia leaders claimed to head a new government for Jubaland in S Somalia. The formation of Jubaland, seen as a potential buffer region between central Somalia and Kenya, was supported supported by Kenyan forces but opposed by the Somali government. Subsequently control of the region was contested by the rival militias. A leader allied with Kenyan forces but opposed by the Somalia government gained power in Kismayo after fighting broke out in mid-2013, and then was recognized as the region's interim leader. In June, 2013, there was a split in Al-Shabab that subsequently led to fighting between hardline Islamists. The president survived an apparent assassination attempt unharmed in Sept., 2013. Disputes between the president and prime minister led to the latter's removal in December by a no-confidence vote; Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed, a development economist, was then appointed prime minister

Disclaimer

This is not the official site of this country. Most of the information in this site were taken from the U.S. Department of State, The Central Intelligence Agency, The United Nations, [1],[2], [3], [4], [5],[6], [7], [8], [9], [10], [11], [12], [13], [14],[15], [16], [17], [18], [19], [20], [21], [22], [23], [24],[25], [26], [27], [28], [29], [30],[31], [32], [33], [34], and the [35].

Other sources of information will be mentioned as they are posted.