From New World Encyclopedia
Jamhuuriyadda Soomaaliya
جمهورية الصومال
Jumhūriyyat as-Sūmāl
Federal Republic of Somalia
Flag of Somalia Coat of arms of Somalia
AnthemSoomaaliyeey toosoo
Somalia, Wake Up
Location of Somalia
(and largest city)
2°02′N 45°21′E
Official languages Somali, Arabic[1]
Ethnic groups  Somalis (85%), Benadiris, Bantus and other non-Somalis (15%)[2]
Demonym Somali;[2] Somalian[3]
Government Federal parliamentary republic
 -  President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud
 -  Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble
 -  British Somaliland 1884 
 -  Italian Somaliland 1889 
 -  Union and independence July 1, 1960 
 -  Constitution August 25, 1979 
 -  Total 637,657 km² (43rd)
246,200 sq mi 
 -  2022 estimate 12,386,248[2] (78th)
 -  Density 19.42/km² (199th)
50.31/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2022 estimate
 -  Total {increasing} US$20.641 billion (155th)
 -  Per capita US$1,322[4] (222nd)
GDP (nominal) 2022 estimate
 -  Total US$5.218 billion[5] (184th)
 -  Per capita US$544[5] (211th)
Currency Somali shilling (SOS)
Time zone EAT (UTC+3)
 -  Summer (DST) not observed (UTC+3)
Internet TLD .so
Calling code +252

Somalia, officially the Federal Republic of Somalia, is located on the Horn of Africa in East Africa. It is bordered by Djibouti to the northwest, Kenya to the southwest, the Gulf of Aden with Yemen to the north, the Indian Ocean to the east, and Ethiopia to the west. Its strategic location—along the southern approaches to Bab el Mandeb and the route through the Red Sea and Suez Canal and near the oilfields of the Middle East—made it the focus of contention during the Cold War, with both the Soviet Union and then the United States pouring in weapons to maintain their influence, weapons that later fell into the hands of clan warlords when the regime fell.

Ethnic Somali people are divided among different countries (Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and northeastern Kenya) that were artificially and some might say arbitrarily partitioned by the former colonial powers. Pan Somalism is an ideology that advocates the unification of all ethnic Somalis under one flag and one nation. The Siad Barre regime actively promoted Pan Somalism, which eventually led to the Ogaden War between Somalia and Ethiopia.

At the beginning of 2007 Somalia consolidated under the Transitional Federal Government which had carried out a military campaign against the Islamic Courts Union. In February 2009 new leadership was appointed - Sharif Ahmed as president and Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke as prime minister. Sharmarke, son of the assassinated (1969) president Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, was educated in Canada, home to the largest diaspora of Somalis outside Africa. In 2011–2012, a political process providing benchmarks for the establishment of permanent democratic institutions was launched. Within this administrative framework a new provisional constitution was passed in August 2012, which reformed Somalia as a federation. Following the end of the TFG's interim mandate the same month, the Federal Government of Somalia, the first permanent central government in the country since the start of the civil war, was formed and a period of reconstruction began in Mogadishu. It is believed the new administration will forge national unity, offering the best hope of minimizing Somali links to international terrorism and introducing an era of peace.


Africa's easternmost country, Somalia is slightly smaller than the state of U.S. state of Texas. Somalia occupies the tip of a region commonly referred to as the Horn of Africa—because of its resemblance on the map to a rhinoceros's horn—that also includes Ethiopia and Djibouti. It is located between the Gulf of Aden on the north and the Indian Ocean on the east It borders Djibouti on the northwest, Ethiopia on the west, and Kenya to the southwest. Somalia has the longest coastline in Africa, about 1,800 miles. Its location along the southern approaches to Bab el Mandeb and the route through the Red Sea and Suez Canal makes it strategically important.

Natural resources include uranium and largely unexploited reserves of iron ore, tin, gypsum, bauxite, copper, and salt. Somalia's long coastline has been of importance chiefly in permitting trade with the Middle East and the rest of Eastern Africa.

The weather is hot throughout the year, except at the higher elevations in the north. Rainfall is sparse, and most of Somalia has a semiarid to arid environment suitable only for the nomadic pastoralism practiced by well over half the population. Only in limited areas of moderate rainfall in the northwest, and particularly in the southwest, where the country's two perennial rivers are found, is agriculture practiced to any extent.

Natural disasters

Somalia was one of the many countries affected by the tsunami which struck the Indian Ocean coast following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, destroying entire villages and killing an estimated 300 people.

In 2006, Somalia was deluged by torrential rains and flooding that struck the entire Horn of Africa, affecting 350,000 people.

Other natural hazards are recurring droughts; frequent dust storms over the eastern plains in summer; and floods during rainy season. Environmental issues include famine; health problems due to use of contaminated water; deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; and desertification.


Satellite image of 300px, generated from raster graphics data supplied by The Map Library
Topography of Somalia

Somalia's terrain consists mainly of plateaus, plains, and highlands. In the far north, the rugged east-west ranges of the Karkaar Mountains extend from the northwestern border with Ethiopia eastward to the tip of the Horn of Africa, where they end in sheer cliffs. The general elevation along the crest of these mountains averages about 1,800 meters above sea level south of the port town of Berbera, and eastward from that area it continues at 1,800 to 2,100 meters. The country's highest point, Shimber Berris, which rises to 2,407 meters, is located near the town of Erigavo.

Southwestern Somalia is dominated by the country's only two permanent rivers, the Jubba and the Shabelle. With their sources in the Ethiopian highlands, these rivers flow in a generally southerly direction, cutting wide valleys in the Somali Plateau as it descends toward the sea; the plateau's elevation falls off rapidly in this area.

The western part of the Ogo plateau region is crossed by numerous shallow valleys and dry watercourses. Annual rainfall is greater than in the east, and there are flat areas of arable land that provide a home for dryland cultivators. Most important, the western area has permanent wells to which the predominantly nomadic population returns during the dry seasons. The western plateau slopes gently southward and merges imperceptibly into an area known as the Haud, a broad, undulating terrain that constitutes some of the best grazing lands for Somali nomads, despite the lack of appreciable rainfall more than half the year. Enhancing the value of the Haud are the natural depressions that during periods of rain become temporary lakes and ponds.

The Haud zone continues for more than sixty kilometers into Ethiopia, and the vast Somali Plateau, which lies between the northern Somali mountains and the highlands of southeast Ethiopia, extends south and eastward through Ethiopia into central and southwest Somalia. The portion of the Haud lying within Ethiopia was the subject of an agreement made during the colonial era permitting nomads from British Somaliland to pasture their herds there. After Somali independence in 1960, it became the subject of Somali claims and a source of considerable regional strife.

The adjacent coastal zone, which includes the lower reaches of the rivers and extends from the Mudug Plain to the Kenyan border, averages 180 meters above sea level.

The Jubba River enters the Indian Ocean at Kismaayo. The Shabeelle River is perennial only to a point southwest of Mogadishu; thereafter it consists of swampy areas and dry reaches and is finally lost in the sand. During the flood seasons, the Shabeelle River may fill its bed. Favorable rainfall and soil conditions make the entire riverine region a fertile agricultural area and the center of the country's largest sedentary population.


Major climatic factors are a year-round hot climate, seasonal monsoon winds, and irregular rainfall with recurring droughts. Mean daily maximum temperatures range from 85–105°F (30°C to 40°C), except at higher elevations and along the east coast. Mean daily minimums usually vary from about 60–85°F (15°C to 30°C). The southwest monsoon, a sea breeze, makes the period from about May to October the mildest season at Mogadishu. The December-February period of the northeast monsoon is also relatively mild, although prevailing climatic conditions in Mogadishu are rarely pleasant. The "tangambili" periods that intervene between the two monsoons (October–November and March–May) are hot and humid. Temperatures in the south are less extreme. Coastal readings are usually five to ten degrees cooler than those inland. The coastal zone's relative humidity usually remains about 70 percent even during the dry seasons.

Climate is the primary factor in much of Somali life. For the large nomadic population, the timing and amount of rainfall are crucial determinants of the adequacy of grazing and the prospects of relative prosperity. There are some indications that the climate has become drier in the last century and that the increase in the number of people and animals has put a growing burden on water and vegetation.


Naasa Hablood hills, the backdrop to the slums of Hareigsa.

In most of northern, northeastern, and north-central Somalia, where rainfall is low, the vegetation consists of scattered low trees, including various acacias, and widely scattered patches of grass. This vegetation gives way to a combination of low bushes and grass clumps in the highly arid areas of the northeast and along the Gulf of Aden.

As elevations and rainfall increase in the maritime ranges of the north, the vegetation becomes denser. Aloes are common, and on the higher plateau areas are woodlands. At a few places above 1,500 meters, the remnants of juniper forests (protected by the state) and areas of candelabra euphorbia (a chandelier-type spiny plant) occur. In the more arid highlands of the northeast, Boswellia and Commiphora trees are sources, respectively, of the frankincense and myrrh for which Somalia has been known since ancient times.

A broad plateau encompassing the northern city of Hargeysa, which receives comparatively heavy rainfall, is covered naturally by woodland (much of which has been degraded by overgrazing) and in places by extensive grasslands. Parts of this area have been under cultivation since the 1930s, producing sorghum and maize; in the 1990s it constituted the only significant region of sedentary cultivation outside southwestern Somalia.

Other vegetation includes plants and grasses found in the swamps into which the Shabeelle River empties most of the year and in other large swamps in the course of the lower Jubba River. Mangrove forests are found at points along the coast, particularly from Kismaayo to near the Kenyan border. Uncontrolled exploitation appears to have caused some damage to forests in that area. Other mangrove forests are located near Mogadishu and at a number of places along the northeastern and northern coasts.


Somalia has been continuously inhabited by numerous and varied ethnic groups, the majority being Somalis, for the last 2,500 years. From the first century numerous ports were trading with Roman and Greek sailors. The northwestern part of what is currently Somalia was part of the Kingdom of Axum from about the third century to the seventh.

By the early medieval period (700 C.E.–1200 C.E.), Islam became firmly established, especially with the founding of Mogadishu in 900. The late medieval period (1201-1500) saw the rise of numerous Somali city-states and kingdoms. In northwestern Somalia, the Sultanate of Adal (a multi-ethnic state comprised of Afars, Somalis, and Hararis) in 1520 successfully led a campaign that saw three-quarters of Ethiopia coming under Adal rule before being defeated by a joint Ethiopian-Portuguese force in 1543. The Ajuuraan Sultanate flourished in the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Following the collapse of Adal and Ajuuraan in the early and late seventeenth century, Somalia saw the growth and gradual rise of many successor city-states. However, due to competing Somali clans that had lived in the region for thousands of years, Somalia did not become a country until 1960, when Italy and Britain combined their Somali colonies into a single Somali state.

The country is still made of various competing clans and sub-clans, which has made unity very difficult. Due to the forced alleged acceptance of a Somalia state in the post-colonization era, the historically self-governing clans in the north voted for the independence of the Somaliland nation. President Aden Abdullah Osman, who is seen as the founding father of the Somalia state, was the first president after its creation in 1960.

Colonial period

The year 1884 ended a long period of comparative peace. At the Berlin Conference of 1884, the Scramble for Africa began the long and bloody process of the imperial partition of Somali lands. The French, British, and Italians all came to Somalia in the late nineteenth century.

The British claimed British Somaliland as a protectorate in 1886 after the withdrawal of Egypt and the treaty with the Warsangali clan. Egypt sought to prevent European colonial expansion in northeastern Africa. The southern area, claimed by Italy in 1889, became known as Italian Somaliland. The northernmost stretch became part of the French Territory of Afars and Issas, also known as French Somaliland, until it later achieved independence as Djibouti.

For twenty years Mohammed Abdullah Hassan was Somalia's religious and nationalist leader (called the "Mad Mullah" by the British) and led armed resistance to the British, Italian, and Ethiopian forces in Somalia.

World War II

Fascist Italy, under the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini, tried to pursue its colonial expansion policy and attacked Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) in 1935. Though the invasion was condemned by the League of Nations, little was done to stop Italian military and industrial buildup. Abyssinia was occupied, and the government of Haile Selassie was exiled. In England, the emperor appealed in vain to the international community, and Britain would regret its failure to impose sanctions on Italy.

In August 1940, Italian troops crossed the Ethiopian border and invaded British Somalia to take the colony. The British launched a campaign from Kenya in January 1942 to liberate Italian Somaliland, British Somaliland, and Italian-occupied Ethiopia. By February, most of Italian Somaliland was captured. In March, British Somaliland was retaken by a sea invasion.

In 1949 the United Nations gave Somalia as a protectorate to Italy until it achieved independence in 1960. The Ogaden province of Somalia was given to the now repatriated Ethiopian government by the British Empire. The United Kingdom kept British Somaliland (now Somaliland or northern Somalia) under its colonial rule. The French kept Djibouti under colonial administration, and Djibouti would not gain independence until 1977.

Though Somalis and other Africans had fought hard on the Allied side in World War II, they were re-subjugated soon after the conflict. The bitterness strengthened the long struggle against colonialism, and in most parts of Africa, including Somalia, independence movements and liberation struggles occurred.

Independence and war

Independence of the British Somaliland Protectorate was proclaimed on June 26, 1960. On July 1, 1960, unification of the British and ex-Italian Somaliland took place, despite differences between the two as a result of colonial policies.

Under the leadership of Mohamed Ibrahim Egal (prime minister from 1967 to 1969), Somalia renounced its claims to the Somali-populated regions of Ethiopia and Kenya, greatly improving its relations with both countries. Egal attempted a similar approach with Ethiopia, but the move toward reconciliation with Ethiopia, a traditional enemy, made many Somalis furious, including the army. Egal's reconciliation effort toward Ethiopia is argued to be one of the principal factors that provoked a bloodless coup on October 21, 1969 and subsequent installation of Maj. Gen. Mohamed Siad Barre as president, bringing an abrupt end to the process of party-based constitutional democracy in Somalia.

Soon, Siad Barre suspended the constitution, banned political parties, and arrested Egal and other former leaders. Power was concentrated in his hands. He banned clans and adopted "scientific socialism," including takeover of the private sector and creating an apparatus for repression of opposition.

Nevertheless, one of the enduring achievements of the revolutionary army leaders was to introduce a Latin script to make Somali a written language for the first time. They also successfully implemented an urban and rural literacy campaign, which helped to dramatically increase the literacy rate from a mere 5 percent to 55 percent by the mid-1980s.

Fakr ad-Din mosque

Somali nationalism erupted into war with neighboring Ethiopia in the Ogaden region in 1977. Lands inhabited by Somalis had been divided by the colonial powers among Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Eritrea. Mogadishu's goal was to liberate and unite the Somali lands. Siad Barre, sensing Ethiopia's weakness after the emperor was deposed, marched his troops into Ogaden province, ignoring the suggestions of his Soviet advisers that he and the new Marxist government in Addis Ababa work together. Somalia's communist allies, the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, refused to help Somalia and, instead, backed Ethiopia.

With Somali forces at the gates of Addis Ababa, Soviet and Cuban forces and weapons came to the aid of Ethiopia. The Somali army was decimated and retreated across its border. Somalia switched sides and sought aid and weapons from the United States.

The regime weakened in the 1980s as the Cold War drew to a close and Somalia's strategic importance diminished. The government became increasingly totalitarian, and resistance movements sprang up, eventually leading to civil war in 1988. Siad Barre's forces focused on subduing the north, but opposition had spread throughout the country by 1991. Fighting in the capital by rival warlords intensified. In January 1991, armed opposition factions drove Barre out of power, resulting in the complete collapse of the central government. Barre later died in exile in Nigeria.

The northern portion of the country declared its independence as Somaliland; although de facto independent and relatively stable compared to the tumultuous south, it has not been recognized by any foreign government.

The civil war disrupted agriculture and food distribution in southern Somalia. The resulting famine caused the United Nations Security Council in 1992 to authorize a limited peacekeeping operation, but the UN's use of force was limited to self-defense and was soon disregarded by the warring factions. In reaction to the continued violence and the humanitarian disaster, the United States organized a military coalition with the purpose of creating a secure environment for the conduct of humanitarian operations. The coalition entered Somalia in December 1992 as Operation Restore Hope. In May 1993, most of the U.S. troops withdrew. Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid saw the UN efforts at nation-building as a threat to his power. Fighting between Aidid's forces and UN elements escalated. The UN withdrew by March 3, 1995, having suffered significant casualties. In June 1996, Aidid was killed in Mogadishu.

Yet another secession from Somalia took place in the northeastern region. The self-governing state took the name Puntland after declaring itself autonomous in 1998, with the intention that it would participate in any future Somali central government. Puntland considers itself still within the Somali Republic.

In 2002, southwestern Somalia, comprising the Bay, Bakool, Jubbada Dhexe (Middle Juba), Gedo, Shabeellaha Hoose (Lower Shabele) and Jubbada Hoose (Lower Juba) regions of Somalia, declared itself autonomous. From February 2006, this area and the city of Baidoa became central to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

Another secession occurred in July 2006 with the declaration of regional autonomy by the state of Jubaland, nominally consisting of parts of Gedo, Jubbada Dhexe, and the whole of Jubbada Hoose region. This regional government also did not want full statehood.

Civil war

Somalia at the height of Islamist power, December 2006

Following the collapse of the Siad Barre regime in 1991, various groupings of Somali factions sought to control the national territory (or portions thereof) and fought small wars with one another. Approximately fourteen national reconciliation conferences were convened over the succeeding decade. Efforts at mediation of the Somali internal dispute were also undertaken by many regional states. In the mid-1990s, Ethiopia played host to several Somali peace conferences and initiated talks at the Ethiopian city of Sodere, which led to some degree of agreement between competing factions. The governments of Egypt, Yemen, Kenya, and Italy also attempted to bring the Somali factions together.

Twenty-first century

In 2000, Djibouti hosted a major reconciliation conference, which resulted in creation of the Transitional National Government (TNG). In 2004, the TFG organized and wrote a charter for governing the nation.

In 2006, the Islamic Courts Union took over the capital and began to spread their control through the rest of the country. A conflict to unseat the warlords broke out in early 2006 between an alliance of Mogadishu warlords and a militia loyal to Islamic Courts Union or "ICU." Several hundred people, mostly civilians, died in the crossfire. Mogadishu residents described it as the worst fighting in more than a decade.

In mid-June 2006 the last alliance stronghold in southern Somalia, the town of Jowhar, fell to the ICU with little resistance. The remaining warlord forces fled to the east or across the border into Ethiopia. The warlords' alliance effectively collapsed.

The UN-recognized Transitional Government then called for intervention by a regional East African peacekeeping force. ICU leaders opposed this and lobbied African Union (AU) member states to abandon such plans. The Islamists were fiercely opposed to foreign troops—particularly Ethiopians—in Somalia. They claimed that Ethiopia, with its long history as an imperial power, seeks to occupy Somalia or rule it by proxy.

Steadily the Islamist militia backing the ICU took control of much of the southern half of Somalia, often through negotiation with local clan chiefs rather than by the use of force. The Islamists stayed clear of the government headquarters town of Baidoa, which Ethiopia said it would protect if it were threatened. But in September 2006, after the ICU moved into the southern port of Kismayo, the last remaining port held by the transitional government, many Somali refugees and the TFG lived close to the border of Ethiopia, protected by Ethiopian troops. The Islamist militia issued a declaration of war against Ethiopia on October 9, 2006.

Peace talks between the UN-recognized transitional government and the Islamists broke down. The international community feared an all-out civil war, with Ethiopian and rival Eritrean forces backing opposing sides in the power struggle and political deadlock between the appointed transitional government and the ICU.

War erupted on December 21, 2006, when the leader of the ICU, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, declared: "Somalia is in a state of war," after which heavy fighting broke out between the Islamist militia and the Somali Transitional Government allied with Ethiopian forces on the other.

On December 24, 2006, Ethiopian forces launched unilateral air strikes against Islamist troops and strong points across Somalia. Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi announced that his country was waging war against the Islamists to protect his country's sovereignty "and to blunt repeated attacks by Islamic courts terrorists and anti-Ethiopian elements they are supporting." The ICU had been helping rebels inside eastern Ethiopia against the Ethiopian government.

Days of heavy fighting followed as Ethiopian and government troops backed by tanks and jets pushed against Islamist forces between Baidoa and Mogadishu. Both sides claimed to have inflicted hundreds of casualties, but the Islamist infantry and vehicle artillery were badly beaten and forced to retreat toward Mogadishu. On December 28, 2006, the allies entered Mogadishu after Islamist fighters fled the city.

The Islamists retreated south, toward their stronghold in Kismayo. They entrenched themselves around the small town of Ras Kamboni, at the southernmost tip of Somalia and on the border with Kenya. In early January, the Ethiopians and the Somali government attacked, capturing the Islamist positions and driving the surviving fighters into the hills and forests after several days of combat.

Within a week of the TFG and Ethiopian army’s arrival in Mogadishu the first insurgent attacks began. Ethiopian and TFG forces responded by sealing off areas around the attack sites and conducting house-to-house searches. The TFG also passed a three-month emergency law in parliament and called for disarmament of the militias. The provisions of the emergency law gave the TFG much wider powers and allowed President Yusuf to rule by decree.

Between January and March 2007 insurgent attacks took several forms: assassinations of government officials; attacks on military convoys; and rocket-propelled grenade or mortar attacks on police stations, TFG and Ethiopian military bases, or other locations or individuals deemed by the insurgency to be political or military targets. The insurgency often used hit-and-run tactics, then melted back into the civilian population. The Ethiopian and TFG response to mortar attacks increasingly included the return firing of mortars and rockets in the direction of the origin of insurgency fire.

In the beginning of March, the first 1,500 African Union soldiers began arriving in Somalia. Fighting intensified in Mogadishu, and more than a thousand people, mostly civilians, were killed. Clan militiamen allied with the Islamists clashed with TFG and Ethiopian troops.

After a battle in April in which heavy weapons were used and parts of Mogadishu had turned into ashes, the allied forces of Somalia and Ethiopia were said to have won over the local insurgents. Since May 2007 it has been increasingly apparent that the March and April fighting did not stem the insurgency. The insurgents started a low-level but very effective violence campaign including suicide bombings, hit-and-run missions, and hunting high-profile government officials.

In September, the co-author of the Human Rights Watch report on Somalia told a meeting in Washington, DC that the scale of human rights abuses and the displacement of people in Somalia has made it among the world's worst situations of its kind. The meeting also heard that the United States was increasingly disturbed with the escalating violence in Somalia, especially continued attacks on respected and moderate political leaders and journalists.

Another National Reconciliation Conference met in September but did not meet all of its goals due to "lack of participation from some key opposition figures," the United States said. The United States has said it would like the Ethiopian military to leave, realizing that its presence "is not a long-term solution."

The fighting resulted in a humanitarian crisis. Child malnutrition in southern Somalia is as high as 25 percent, and hundreds of thousands of people have fled Mogadishu since the fighting began.

Federal government

At the beginning of 2007 Somalia was consolidating under the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which had carried out a military campaign against the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). The TFG is supported by the United Nations. Until recently, it governed out of an administrative capital in Baidoa. In the last days of 2006, forces of the transitional government supported by Ethiopian forces ousted the ICU from Mogadishu. Peacekeeping forces from the African Union are expected to support the transitional government in its bid to control the country.

During the war against the ICU, the autonomous states of Puntland, Jubaland, Southwestern Somalia, and Galmudug had closely aligned themselves with the TFG and the supporting Ethiopian forces.

On December 29, 2008, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed announced before a united parliament in Baidoa his resignation as president. Yusuf expressed regret at failing to end the country's seventeen year conflict as his government had mandated to do.[6] Expressing regrets at the lack of support from the international community, he announced that the speaker of parliament, Aden "Madobe" Mohamed, would succeed him in office per the charter of the Transitional Federal Government.

Former Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein of the Transitional Federal Government and Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed of the opposition group Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) signed a power sharing deal in Djibouti that was brokered by the United Nations. According to the deal, Ethiopian troops were to withdraw from Somalia, giving their bases to the transitional government, African Union (AU) peacekeepers and moderate Islamist groups led by the ARS. Following the Ethiopian withdrawal, the transitional government expanded its parliament to include the opposition and elected Sharif Ahmed as its new president on January 31, 2009. Sheikh Ahmed then appointed Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, the son of slain former President Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, as the nation's new Prime Minister.

On June 19, 2011, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed resigned from his position as Prime Minister of Somalia. Part of the controversial Kampala Accord's conditions, the agreement saw the mandates of the President, the Parliament Speaker and Deputies extended until August 2012. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, Mohamed's former Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, was later named permanent Prime Minister.

In October 2011, a coordinated operation, Operation Linda Nchi between the Somali and Kenyan militaries and multinational forces began against the Al-Shabaab group of insurgents in southern Somalia. A joint communiqué was issued indicating that Somali forces were leading operations. By September 2012, Somali, Kenyan, and Raskamboni forces had managed to capture Al-Shabaab's last major stronghold, the southern port of Kismayo. In July 2012, three European Union operations were also launched to engage with Somalia: EUTM Somalia, EU Naval Force Somalia Operation Atalanta off the Horn of Africa, and EUCAP Nestor.

As part of the official "Roadmap for the End of Transition," a political process that provided clear benchmarks leading toward the formation of permanent democratic institutions in Somalia, the Transitional Federal Government's interim mandate ended on August 20, 2012. The Federal Parliament of Somalia was concurrently inaugurated. By 2014, Somalia was no longer at the top of the fragile states index, dropping to second place behind South Sudan. UN Special Representative to Somalia Nicholas Kay, European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton and other international stakeholders and analysts have also begun to describe Somalia as a "fragile state" that is making some progress towards stability. In August 2014, the Somali government-led Operation Indian Ocean was launched against insurgent-held pockets in the countryside. The war continues.


Somalia is a parliamentary representative democracy republic where the President of Somalia is head of state, and commander-in-chief of the Somali Armed Forces and a selected Prime Minister as head of government.

The Federal Parliament of Somalia is the national parliament of Somalia, the bicameral National Legislature, consisting of House of Representatives (lower house) and senate (upper house). whose members are elected to serve four-year terms, The parliament elects the President, Speaker of Parliament and Deputy Speakers. It also has the authority to pass and veto laws.

The Judiciary of Somalia is defined by the Provisional Constitution of the Federal Republic of Somalia. Adopted on 1 August 2012 by a National Constitutional Assembly in Mogadishu, Banaadir, the document was formulated by a committee of specialists chaired by attorney and incumbent Speaker of the Federal Parliament, Mohamed Osman Jawari. It provides the legal foundation for the existence of the Federal Republic and source of legal authority.

The national court structure is organized into three tiers: the Constitutional Court, Federal Government level courts and State level courts. A nine-member Judicial Service Commission appoints any Federal tier member of the judiciary. It also selects and presents potential Constitutional Court judges to the House of the People of the Federal Parliament for approval. If endorsed, the President appoints the candidate as a judge of the Constitutional Court. The five-member Constitutional Court adjudicates issues pertaining to the constitution, in addition to various Federal and sub-national matters.


Mogadishu is the capital of Somalia, but in 2006, its territory fell under the control of the Islamic Courts Union. While the Transitional Federal Government had its seat in Baidoa, it too was considered a capital.

In December 2006, troops of the UN-backed interim government rolled into Mogadishu unopposed, putting an end to six months of domination of the capital by a radical Islamic movement. Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Ghedi declared that Mogadishu had been secured, after meeting with local clan leaders to discuss the peaceful hand-over of the city. Yet as of August 2007, the federal transitional government and its Ethiopian allies with AU support were still coping with daily attacks in Mogadishu from a Somali Islamic insurgency.

Administrative divisions

Political map of Somalia.

Somalia is divided into 18 regions (gobollada, sing. gobol), which in turn are subdivided into districts.


There are no Somali armed forces. The Transitional Federal Government and other various groups throughout Somalia are estimated to control militias ranging in strength from hundreds to thousands. Some groups possess limited inventories of older armored vehicles and other heavy weapons, and small arms are prevalent throughout Somalia.

Foreign relations

Following the collapse of the Siad Barre regime, the foreign policy of the various entities in Somalia, including the Transitional Federal Government, has centered on gaining international recognition, winning international support for national reconciliation, and obtaining international economic assistance.

Although the United States never formally severed diplomatic relations with Somalia, the U.S. Embassy in Somalia has been closed since 1991. The United States maintains regular dialog with the Transitional Federal Government and other key stakeholders in Somalia through the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.


Since the collapse of the state, Somalia has transformed from what Mohamed Siad Barre referred to as "Scientific Socialism" to a free market economy.

Somalia has few natural resources and faces major development challenges, and recent economic reverses have left its people increasingly dependent on remittances from abroad. Its economy is pastoral and agricultural, with livestock—principally camels, cattle, sheep, and goats—representing the main form of wealth. Livestock exports in recent years have been severely reduced by periodic bans, ostensibly for concerns of animal health, by Arabian Peninsula states. Drought has also impaired agricultural and livestock production. Because rainfall is scanty and irregular, farming generally is limited to certain coastal districts, areas near Hargeisa, and the Juba and Shabelle River valleys. The agricultural sector of the economy consists mainly of banana plantations located in the south, which has used modern irrigation systems and up-to-date farm machinery.

A small fishing industry exists in the north, although production is seriously affected by poaching. Aromatic woods—frankincense and myrrh—from a small and diminishing forest also contribute to the country's exports. Minerals, including uranium and likely deposits of petroleum and natural gas, are found throughout the country but have not been exploited commercially. Petroleum exploration efforts have ceased due to insecurity and instability. Illegal production in the south of charcoal for export has led to widespread deforestation. With the help of foreign aid, small industries such as textiles, handicrafts, meat processing, and printing are being established.

The absence of central government authority, as well as profiteering from counterfeiting, has rapidly debased Somalia's currency. The self-declared Republic of Somaliland issues its own currency, which is not accepted outside the self-declared republic.

The European Community and the World Bank jointly financed construction of a deep-water port at Mogadishu, which has since closed. The Soviet Union improved Somalia's deep-water port at Berbera in 1969. Facilities at Berbera were further improved by a U.S. military construction program completed in 1985, but they have since become dilapidated. During the 1990s the United States renovated a deep-water port at Kismayo that serves the fertile Juba River basin and is vital to Somalia's banana export industry.

GDP per capita GDP (2005 est.) is $600. Somalia's surprisingly innovative private sector has continued to function despite the lack of a functioning central government since 1991. Types of industry include telecommunications, livestock, fishing, textiles, transportation, and limited financial services.

The main exports are livestock, bananas, hides, fish, charcoal, and scrap metal, with the major markets the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and Oman. Somalia imports food grains, animal and vegetable oils, petroleum products, construction materials, manufactured products, and the narcotic herb qat, primarily from Djibouti, Kenya, Brazil, India, United Arab Emirates, and Oman.

The primary aid donors are the United States, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and United Kingdom.


Somalia is a semi-arid country with about two percent arable land. The civil war had a huge impact on the country’s tropical forests by facilitating the production of charcoal with ever-present, recurring, but damaging droughts. Somali environmentalist and Goldman Environmental Prize winner Fatima Jibrell became the first Somali to step in and initiate a much-needed effort to save the rest of the environment through local initiatives that organized local communities to protect the rural and coastal habitat.


This 2002 CIA map shows population density throughout Somalia.
Somali children

The Cushitic populations of the Somali Coast in the Horn of Africa have an ancient history. Known by ancient Arabs as the Berberi, archaeological evidence indicates their presence in the Horn of Africa by C.E. 100 and possibly earlier. As early as the seventh century C.E., the indigenous Cushitic peoples began to mingle with Arab and Persian traders who had settled along the coast. Interaction over the centuries led to the emergence of a Somali culture bound by common traditions, a single language, and the Islamic faith.

The Somali-populated region of the Horn of Africa stretches from the Gulf of Tadjoura in modern-day Djibouti through Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, and down to the coastal regions of southern Kenya. Unlike many countries in Africa, the Somali nation extends beyond its national borders. Since gaining independence in 1960, the goal of Somali nationalism has been the unification of all Somali populations, forming a Greater Somalia. This issue has been a major cause of past crises between Somalia and its neighbors, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti.

Today, about 60 percent of all Somalis are nomadic or semi-nomadic pastoralists who raise cattle, camels, sheep, and goats. About 25 percent of the population are settled farmers who live mainly in the fertile agricultural zone between the Juba and Shabelle Rivers in southern Somalia. The remainder of the population (15-20 percent) is urban.

Sizable ethnic groups in the country include Bantu agricultural workers, several thousand Arabs, and some hundreds of Indians and Pakistanis.

There is little reliable statistical information on urbanization in Somalia. However, rough estimates have been made indicating an urbanization rate of between 5 and 8 percent per annum, with many towns rapidly growing into cities. Currently, 34 percent of the Somali population lives in towns and cities, with the percentage rapidly increasing.

Because of the civil war, the country has a large diaspora community, one of the largest of the whole continent. There are over a million Somalis outside of Africa, and this excludes those who have inhabited Ogaden province, northeastern Kenya, and Djibouti.


Nearly all inhabitants speak the Somali language, which remained unwritten until October 1973, when the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) proclaimed it the nation's official language and decreed an orthography using Latin letters. Somali is the language of instruction in schools. Minority languages do exist, such as Af-Maay, which is spoken in areas in south-central Somalia by the Rahanweyn tribes, as well as variants of Swahili (Barawe), which are spoken along the coast by Arabs.

A considerable amount of Somalis speak Arabic due to religious reasons and ties with the Arab world and media. English is also widely used and taught; Italian was once a major language but due to the civil war and lack of education only the older generation speaks it.


The Somalis are almost entirely Sunni Muslims. Christianity's influence was significantly reduced in the 1970s when church-run schools were closed and missionaries sent home. There has been no archbishop of the Catholic cathedral in the country since 1989; the cathedral in Mogadishu was severely damaged in the civil war of January-February 1992.

The Somali constitution discourages the promotion and propagation of any religion other than Islam. Loyalty to Islam is what reinforces distinctions that set Somalis apart from their immediate African neighbors, many of whom are either Christians (particularly the Amhara people and others of Ethiopia and Kenya) or adherents of indigenous African faiths.


With the collapse of the central government in 1991, the education system became private. Primary schools have risen from 600 before the civil war to 1,172 schools today, with an increase of 28 percent in primary school enrollment over the last three years. In 2006, Puntland, an autonomous state, was the second in Somalia (after Somaliland) to introduce free primary schools with teachers receiving their salaries from the Puntland administration. In Mogadishu, Benadir University, Somalia National University, and Mogadishu University are three of the eight universities that teach higher education in southern Somalia. In Puntland, higher education is provided by the Puntland State University and East Africa University. In Somaliland, it is provided by Amoud University, Hargeisa University, and Burao University. Three Somali universities are ranked in the top hundred of Africa.

Qur'anic schools remain the basic system of instruction for religion in Somalia. They provide Islamic education for children, thereby filling a clear religious and social role in the country. Known as the most stable, local, and non-formal education, providing basic religious and moral instruction, their strength rests on community support and their use of locally made and widely available teaching materials.

The Qur'anic system, which teaches the greatest number of students relative to the other education sub-sectors, is the only system accessible to nomadic Somalis compared to the urban Somalis who have easier access to education. In 1993, a survey by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) was conducted in which it found, among other things, that about 40 percent of pupils in Qur'anic schools were girls. This is quite amazing compared to secular education, where gender disparity is much greater.



Somalia produced a large amount of literature through Islamic poetry and Hadith from Somali scholars of past centuries. Since the adoption of the Latin script in 1973 numerous Somali authors have released books over the years that received widespread success, Nuruddin Farah being one of them. His novels From a Crooked Rib and Links are considered important literary achievements, earning him the 1998 Neustadt International Prize for Literature.


Somalia has the distinction of being one of only a handful of African countries that are composed almost entirely of one ethnic group, the Somalis. Traditional bands like Waaberi Horseed have gained a small following outside the country. Others, like Maryam Mursal, have fused Somali traditional music with rock, bossa nova, hip hop, and jazz influences. Most Somali music is love-orientated, but some recall life in Somalia prior to the civil war, while some sing of Somalis coming together in unity and restoring the country to its former glory.

Variety of Somali dishes incorporating rice, vegetables, salads and stews.

Toronto, where a sizable Somali community exists, has replaced Mogadishu (due to the instability) as the center of the Somali music industry; it's also present in London, Minneapolis, and Columbus, Ohio. One popular musician from the Somali diaspora is K'naan, a young rapper from Toronto, whose songs speak of the struggles of life in Somalia during the outbreak of the civil war.


The cuisine of Somalia varies from region to region and it encompasses different styles of cooking. One thing that unites the Somali food is its being Halal. Therefore, there are no pork dishes, alcohol is not served, nothing that died on its own is eaten and no blood is incorporated. Somali people serve dinner as late as 9 P.M. During Ramadan, it is often eaten after Tarawih prayers—sometimes as late as 11 P.M. Cambuulo is one of Somalia's most popular dishes and is enjoyed throughout the country as a dinner meal. The dish is made of well-cooked azuki beans, mixed with butter and sugar. The beans, which by themselves are called digir, are often left on the stove for as many as five hours, on low heat, to achieve the most desired flavor.


  1. According to article 5 of The Provisional Constitution of the Federal Republic of Somalia Adopted August 1, 2012. Retrieved June 3, 2022. "The official language of the Federal Republic of Somalia is Somali (Maay and Maxaa-tiri), and Arabic is the second language."
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 CIA, Somalia: People and Society The World Factbook. Retrieved June 3, 2022.
  3. Paul Dickson, Labels for locals: what to call people from Abilene to Zimbabwe, (Merriam-Webster, 1997), 175.
  4. GDP per capita, PPP (current international $) - Somalia The World Bank. Retrieved June 3, 2022.
  5. 5.0 5.1 World Economic Outlook Database, October 2019 International Monetary Fund.
  6. Somalia's president quits office BBC News, December 29, 2008. Retrieved June 3, 2022.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Cutter, Charles Hickman. Africa, 2006. World Today series. Harpers Ferry, WV: Stryker-Post Publications, 2006. ISBN 1887985727
  • Dickson, Paul. Labels for Locals: What to Call People from Abilene to Zimbabwe. New York, NY: Harper, 2006. ISBN 006088164X
  • Lewis, I.M. Pastoral Democracy: A study on Pastoralism and Politics among the Northern Somali clans. Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1958.
  • Peterson, Scott. Me Against My Brother: At War in Somalia, Sudan, and Rwanda. A Journalist Reports from the Battlefields of Africa. New York: Routledge, 2000. ISBN 0415921988
  • U.S. State Department: U.S. Relations With Somalia. Fact Sheet Retrieved February 13, 2017.

External links

All links retrieved February 3, 2023.


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