For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.
NOTE: There is no official U.S. representation in Somalia. Statistical data on Somalia in this report are subject to dispute and error.
Area: 637,657 sq. km.; slightly smaller than Texas.
Cities: Capital--Mogadishu. Other cities--Beledweyne, Kismayo, Baidoa, Jowhar, Merca, Gaalkayo, Bosasso, Hargeisa, Berbera.
Terrain: Mostly flat to undulating plateau rising to hills in the north.
Climate: Principally desert; December to February--northeast monsoon, moderate temperatures in north, and very hot in the south; May to October--southwest monsoon, torrid in the north, and hot in the south; irregular rainfall; hot and humid periods (tangambili) between monsoons.
Nationality: Noun--Somali(s). Adjective--Somali.
Population (2009 est., no census exists): 9.8 million (of which an estimated 2 million in Somaliland).
Annual population growth rate (2009 est.): 2.815%.
Ethnic groups: Somali, with a small non-Somali minority (mostly Bantu and Arabs).
Religion: 99.9% Muslim.
Languages: Somali (official), Arabic, Italian, English.
Education: Literacy--total population that can read and write, 37.8%: male 49.7%; female 25.8%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--109.19/1,000 live births. Life expectancy at birth--total population: 49.63 yrs.
Work force (3.447 million; very few are skilled workers): Pastoral nomad--60%. Agriculture, government, trading, fishing, industry, handicrafts, and other--40%.
Type: Transitional government, known as the Transitional Federal Government (TFG); mandate extended to 2011.
Independence: July 1, 1960 (from a merger between the former Somaliland Protectorate under British rule, which became independent from the U.K. on June 26, 1960, and Italian Somaliland, which became independent from the Italian-administered UN trusteeship on July 1, 1960, to form the Somali Republic).
Constitution: None in force. Note: A Transitional Federal Charter was established in February 2004 and is expected to serve as the basis for a future constitution in Somalia.
Branches: Executive--TFG President, TFG Prime Minister, cabinet (Council of Ministers). Legislative--Transitional Federal Parliament. Judicial--Supreme Court not functioning; no functioning nationwide legal system; informal legal system based on previously codified law, Islamic (shari'a) law, customary practices, and the provisions of the Transitional Federal Charter.
Note: Two regional administrations exist in northern Somalia--the self-declared "Republic of Somaliland" in the northwest and the semi-autonomous state of Puntland in the northeast.
Political party: None.
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal (no nationwide elections).
Administrative subdivisions: 18 regions (plural--NA; singular--Gobolka). Awdal, Bakool, Banaadir, Bari, Bay, Galguduud, Gedo, Hiraan, Jubbada Dhexe, Jubbada Hoose, Mudug, Nugaal, Sanaag, Shabeellaha Dhexe, Shabeellah Hoose, Sool, Togdheer, Woqooyi Galbeed.
Central government budget: N/A.
National holiday: July 1 (June 26 in Somaliland).
GDP (2008 est.): U.S. $5.524 billion.
Annual growth rate (2008 est.): 2.6%.
Per capita GDP (2008 est.): $600.
Avg. inflation rate: N/A.
Natural resources: Largely unexploited reserves of iron ore, tin, gypsum, bauxite, uranium, copper, salt; likely petroleum and natural gas reserves.
Agriculture: Products--livestock, fish, bananas, corn, sorghum, sugar. Arable land--13%, of which 2% is cultivated.
Industry: Types--Telecommunications, livestock, fishing, textiles, transportation, limited financial services. Somalia's surprisingly innovative private sector has continued to function despite the lack of a functioning central government since 1991.
Trade: Exports--$300 million (f.o.b., 2006 est.): livestock, bananas, hides, fish, charcoal, scrap metal. Major markets--United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Saudi Arabia. Imports--$798 million (f.o.b., 2006 est.): food grains, animal and vegetable oils, petroleum products, construction materials, manufactured products, qat. Major suppliers--Djibouti, India, Kenya, United States, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Yemen.
Aid disbursed: N/A.
Remittances (2008 est.): $2 billion.
Somalia is located on the east coast of Africa and north of the Equator and, with Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Kenya, is often referred to as the Horn of Africa. It comprises Italy's former Trust Territory of Somalia and the former British Protectorate of Somaliland (now seeking recognition as an independent state). The coastline extends 2,720 kilometers (1,700 mi.).
The northern part of the country is hilly, and in many places the altitude ranges between 900 and 2,100 meters (3,000 ft.-7,000 ft.) above sea level. The central and southern areas are flat, with an average altitude of less than 180 meters (600 ft.). The Juba and the Shabelle Rivers rise in Ethiopia and flow south across the country toward the Indian Ocean. The Shabelle does not reach the sea.
Major climatic factors are a year-round hot climate, seasonal monsoon winds, and irregular rainfall with recurring droughts. Mean daily maximum temperatures range from 30oC to 40oC (85o F-105oF), except at higher elevations and along the east coast. Mean daily minimums usually vary from about 15oC to 30oC (60oF-85oF). The southwest monsoon, a sea breeze, makes the period from about May to October the mildest season in Somalia. The December-February period of the northeast monsoon also is relatively mild, although prevailing climatic conditions in Somalia are rarely pleasant. The "tangambili" periods that intervene between the two rainy seasons (October-November and March-May) are hot and humid.
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 A.D. 100 and possibly earlier. As early as the seventh century A.D., 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. Since gaining independence in 1960, the goal of Somali nationalism, also known as Pan-Somalism, 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% of all Somalis are nomadic or semi-nomadic pastoralists who raise cattle, camels, sheep, and goats. About 25% of the population is 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%) is urban.
Sizable ethnic groups in the country include Bantu agricultural workers, several thousand Arabs and some hundreds of Indians and Pakistanis. Nearly all inhabitants speak the Somali language. The language 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 now the language of instruction in schools, although Arabic, English, and Italian also are used extensively.
Early history traces the development of the Somali state to an Arab sultanate, which was founded in the seventh century A.D. by Koreishite immigrants from Yemen. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Portuguese traders landed in present Somali territory and ruled several coastal towns. The sultan of Oman and Zanzibar subsequently took control of these towns and their surrounding territory.
Somalia's modern history began in the late 19th century, when various European powers began to trade and establish themselves in the area. The British East India Company's desire for unrestricted harbor facilities led to the conclusion of treaties with the sultan of Tajura as early as 1840. It was not until 1886, however, that the British gained control over northern Somalia through treaties with various Somali chiefs who were guaranteed British protection. British objectives centered on safeguarding trade links to the east and securing local sources of food and provisions for its coaling station in Aden. The boundary between Ethiopia and British Somaliland was established in 1897 through treaty negotiations between British negotiators and King Menelik.
During the first 2 decades of the 1900s, British rule was challenged through persistent attacks by a dervish rebellion led by Mohamed Abdullah, known as the "Mad Mullah" by the British. A long series of intermittent engagements and truces ended in 1920 when British warplanes bombed Abdullah's stronghold at Taleex. Although Abdullah was defeated as much by rival Somali factions as by British forces, he was lauded as a popular hero and stands as a major figure of national identity to many Somalis.
In 1885, Italy obtained commercial advantages in the area from the sultan of Zanzibar and in 1889 concluded agreements with the sultans of Obbia and Aluula, who placed their territories under Italy's protection. Between 1897 and 1908, Italy made agreements with the Ethiopians and the British that marked out the boundaries of Italian Somaliland. The Italian Government assumed direct administration, giving the territory colonial status.
Italian occupation gradually extended inland. In 1924, the Jubaland Province of Kenya, including the town and port of Kismayo, was ceded to Italy by the United Kingdom. The subjugation and occupation of the independent sultanates of Obbia and Mijertein, begun in 1925, were completed in 1927. In the late 1920s, Italian and Somali influence expanded into the Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia. Continuing incursions climaxed in 1935 when Italian forces launched an offensive that led to the capture of Addis Ababa and the Italian annexation of Ethiopia in 1936.
Following Italy's declaration of war on the United Kingdom in June 1940, Italian troops overran British Somaliland and drove out the British garrison. In 1941, British forces began operations against the Italian East African Empire and quickly brought the greater part of Italian Somaliland under British control. From 1941 to 1950, while Somalia was under British military administration, transition toward self-government was begun through the establishment of local courts, planning committees, and the Protectorate Advisory Council. In 1948, Britain turned the Ogaden and neighboring Somali territories over to Ethiopia.
In Article 23 of the 1947 peace treaty, Italy renounced all rights and titles to Italian Somaliland. In accordance with treaty stipulations, on September 15, 1948, the Four Powers referred the question of disposal of former Italian colonies to the UN General Assembly. On November 21, 1949, the General Assembly adopted a resolution recommending that Italian Somaliland be placed under an international trusteeship system for 10 years, with Italy as the administering authority, followed by independence for Italian Somaliland. In 1959, at the request of the Somali Government, the UN General Assembly advanced the date of independence from December 2 to July 1, 1960.
Meanwhile, rapid progress toward self-government was being made in British Somaliland. Elections for the Legislative Assembly were held in February 1960, and one of the first acts of the new legislature was to request that the United Kingdom grant the area independence so that it could be united with Italian Somaliland when the latter became independent. The protectorate became independent on June 26, 1960; 5 days later, on July 1, it joined Italian Somaliland to form the Somali Republic.
In June 1961, Somalia adopted its first national constitution in a countrywide referendum, which provided for a democratic state with a parliamentary form of government based on European models. During the early post-independence period, political parties were a fluid concept, with one-person political parties forming before an election, only to defect to the winning party following the election. A constitutional conference in Mogadishu in April 1960, which made the system of government in the southern Somali trust territory the basis for the future government structure of the Somali Republic, resulted in the concentration of political power in the former Italian Somalia capital of Mogadishu and a southern-dominated central government. Most key government positions were occupied by southern Somalis, producing increased disenchantment with the union in the former British-controlled north. Pan-Somali nationalism, with the goal of uniting the Somali-populated regions of French Somaliland (Djibouti), Kenya, and Ethiopia into a Greater Somalia remained the driving political ideology in the initial post-independence period. Under the leadership of Mohamed Ibrahim Egal (prime minister from 1967 to 1969), however, Somalia renounced its claims to the Somali-populated regions of Ethiopia and Kenya, greatly improving its relations with both countries. Egal’s move towards reconciliation with Ethiopia, which had been a traditional enemy of Somalia since the 16th century, made many Somalis furious, including the army. This reconciliation effort 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.
Following the coup, executive and legislative power was vested in the 20-member Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC), headed by Barre. The SRC pursued a course of "scientific socialism" that reflected both ideological and economic dependence on the Soviet Union. The government instituted a national security service, centralized control over information, and initiated a number of grassroots development projects. Barre reduced political freedoms and used military force to seize and redistribute rich farmlands in the interriverine areas of southern Somalia, relying on the use of force and terror against the Somali population to consolidate his political power base.
The SRC became increasingly radical in foreign affairs, and in 1974, Somalia and the Soviet Union concluded a treaty of friendship and cooperation. As early as 1972, tensions began increasing along the Somali-Ethiopian border; these tensions heightened after the accession to power in Ethiopia in 1973 of the Mengistu Haile Mariam regime, which turned increasingly toward the Soviet Union. In the mid-1970s, the Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF) began guerrilla operations in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia. Following the overthrow of the Ethiopian Emperor in 1975, Somalia invaded Ethiopia in 1977 in a second attempt to regain the Ogaden, and the second attempt initially appeared to be in Somalia's favor. The SNA moved quickly toward Harer, Jijiga, and Dire Dawa, the principal cities of the region. However, following the Ethiopian revolution, the new Ethiopian Government shifted its alliance from the West to the Soviet Union. Because of the new alliance, the Soviet Union supplied Ethiopia with 10,000-15,000 Cuban troops and Soviet military advisors during the 1977-78 Ogaden war, shifting the advantage to Ethiopia and resulting in Somalia's defeat. In November 1977, Barre expelled all Soviet advisers and abrogated the friendship agreement with the U.S.S.R. In March 1978, Somali forces retreated into Somalia; however, the WSLF continued to carry out sporadic but greatly reduced guerrilla activity in the Ogaden. Such activities also were subsequently undertaken by another dissident group, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).
Following the Ogaden war, desperate to find a strong external alliance to replace the Soviet Union, Somalia abandoned its Socialist ideology and turned to the West for international support, military equipment, and economic aid. In 1978, the United States reopened the U.S. Agency for International Development mission in Somalia. Two years later, an agreement was concluded that gave U.S. forces access to military facilities at the port of Berbera in northwestern Somalia. In the summer of 1982, Ethiopian forces invaded Somalia along the central border, and the United States provided two emergency airlifts to help Somalia defend its territorial integrity. From 1982 to 1988, the United States viewed Somalia as a partner in defense in the context of the Cold War. Somali officers of the National Armed Forces were trained in U.S. military schools in civilian as well as military subjects.
During this time, the Barre regime violently suppressed opposition movements and ethnic groups, particularly the Isaaq clan in the northern region, using the military and elite security forces to quash any hint of rebellion. By the 1980s, an all-out civil war developed in Somalia. Opposition groups began to form following the end of the Ogaden war, beginning in 1979 with a group of dissatisfied army officers known as the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF). In 1981, as a result of increased northern discontent with the Barre regime, the Somali National Movement (SNM), composed mainly of the Isaaq clan, was formed in Hargeisa with the stated goal of overthrowing of the Barre regime. In January 1989, the United Somali Congress (USC), an opposition group of Somalis from the Hawiye clan, was formed as a political movement in Rome. A military wing of the USC was formed in Ethiopia in late 1989 under the leadership of Mohamed Farah "Aideed," a former political prisoner imprisoned by Barre from 1969-75. Aideed also formed alliances with other opposition groups, including the SNM and the Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM), an Ogadeen sub-clan force under Colonel Ahmed Omar Jess in the Bakool and Bay regions of Southern Somalia. In 1988, at the President's order, aircraft from the Somali National Air Force bombed the city of Hargeisa in northwestern Somalia, the former capital of British Somaliland, killing nearly 10,000 civilians and insurgents. The warfare in the northwest sped up the decay already evident elsewhere in the republic. Economic crisis, brought on by the cost of anti-insurgency activities, caused further hardship as Siad Barre and his cronies looted the national treasury.
By the end of the 1980s, armed opposition to Barre's government, fully operational in the northern regions, had spread to the central and southern regions. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis fled their homes, claiming refugee status in neighboring Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya. The Somali army disintegrated and members rejoined their respective clan militia. Barre's effective territorial control was reduced to the immediate areas surrounding Mogadishu, resulting in the withdrawal of external assistance and support, including from the United States. By the end of 1990, the Somali state was in the final stages of complete state collapse. In the first week of December 1990, Barre declared a state of emergency as USC and SNM forces advanced toward Mogadishu. 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. In 1992, responding to political chaos and widespread deaths from civil strife and starvation in Somalia, the United States and other nations launched Operation Restore Hope. Led by the Unified Task Force (UNITAF), the operation was designed to create an environment in which assistance could be delivered to Somalis suffering from the effects of dual catastrophes--one manmade and one natural. UNITAF was followed by the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM). The United States played a major role in both operations. On October 3-4, 1993, 18 U.S. servicemen were killed in an incident made famous by the book and movie “Black Hawk Down.” The United States continued operations until March 25, 1994, when U.S. forces withdrew.
Following the collapse of the 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 14 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 have attempted to bring the Somali factions together. In 1997, the Organization of African Unity and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) gave Ethiopia the mandate to pursue Somali reconciliation. In 2000, Djibouti hosted a major reconciliation conference (the 13th such effort), which in August resulted in creation of the Transitional National Government (TNG), whose 3-year mandate expired in August 2003. Kenya organized the Somalia National Reconciliation Conference, a 14th reconciliation effort, in 2002 under IGAD auspices. The conference concluded in August 2004 with the establishment of a Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
The absence of a central government in Somalia allowed outside forces to become more influential by supporting various groups and persons in Somalia, particularly Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya, all of which have supported various Somali factions and transitional governments. In July 2006, Ethiopian forces invaded Somalia and defeated the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). In January 2009, Ethiopian forces completely withdrew from Somalia. U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization al-Shabaab, formerly the military wing nominally under the ICU, became independent of the Courts and launched a multi-faction insurgency after the Courts scattered as a result of the 2006 invasion. Al-Shabaab and other extremist forces garnered power in subsequent years through their effective fighting of the Ethiopians, intimidation, and harsh implementation of shari'a law. Insurgent forces now control most of south-central Somalia and parts of Mogadishu, significantly hampering the TFG’s ability to provide public services as well as affecting the delivery of humanitarian aid to vulnerable Somali populations.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
In early 2002, Kenya organized a reconciliation effort under IGAD auspices known as the Somalia National Reconciliation Conference, which concluded in October 2004. A transitional government, the components of which are known as the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs), was formed in accordance with the Transitional Federal Charter. The TFIs include a transitional parliament, known as the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP), as well as a Transitional Federal Government (TFG) that includes a transitional president, prime minister, and a cabinet known as the "Council of Ministers." For administrative purposes, Somalia is divided into 18 regions; the nature, authority, and structure of regional governments vary, where they exist.
The TFG was established with a 5-year mandate leading to the establishment of a permanent government following national elections in 2009. In January 2009, the TFP extended this mandate an additional 2 years to 2011 and expanded to include 200 members of Parliament (MPs) from the opposition Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia and 75 MPs from civil society and other groups, doubling the size of the TFP to 550 MPs. Consideration of a constitution continues.
Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed was elected President of the TFG of Somalia on October 10, 2004. Sheikh Adan Mohamed Nur "Madobe" was elected Speaker of the Parliament on January 31, 2007. President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed resigned on December 29, 2008, and Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was elected by the Parliament as TFG President on January 30, 2009. On February 13, 2009, President Sharif appointed Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke as the new Prime Minister of the TFG, and Sharmarke was confirmed by the TFP on February 14. A new cabinet of 36 ministers was appointed on February 20, 2009, and approved by Parliament on February 21, 2009. Prime Minister Sharmarke restructured his cabinet on August 18, 2009, appointing several new ministers, including the ministers of foreign affairs and defense, and creating several new posts. This shake-up brought the number of ministers to 39. On March 15, 2010, the TFG signed an agreement with the militia group Ahlu-sunah Wal-jamea (ASWJ) bringing ASWJ into the TFG. After growing conflict with the President, Sharmarke resigned as Prime Minister on September 21, 2010 following disagreement over the draft constitution and other issues. Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a Somali American, was confirmed as the new Prime Minister on November 8, with a confidence vote of 297 to 92 in Parliament.
Two regional administrations exist in northern Somalia--the self-declared "Republic of Somaliland" in the northwest and the semi-autonomous state of Puntland in the northeast.
In 1991, a congress drawn from the inhabitants of the former Somaliland Protectorate declared withdrawal from the 1960 union with Somalia to form the self-declared "Republic of Somaliland." Somaliland has not received international recognition, but has maintained a de jure separate status since that time. Its form of government is republican, with a bicameral legislature including an elected elders chamber and a house of representatives. The judiciary is independent, and three official political parties exist. In line with the Somaliland Constitution, Vice President Dahir Riyale Kahin assumed the presidency following the death of former President Mohamed Ibrahim Egal in 2002. Kahin was elected President of Somaliland in elections determined to be free and fair by international observers in May 2003. Presidential elections originally scheduled to be held in April 2008 have now been postponed four times. Elections for the 84-member lower house of parliament took place on September 29, 2005 and were described as transparent and credible by international observers.
The area of Puntland declared itself autonomous (although not independent) in 1998 with its capital at Garoowe. President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole was elected by the Puntland parliament in January 2009. Puntland declared it would remain autonomous until a federated Somalia state was established.
Principal Government Officials
President--Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed
Prime Minister--Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed
Speaker of Parliament--Sheikh Aden Mohamed Nur “Madobe”
Prime Minister's Office--Sahra Mohamed Ali Samantar
Office of the President--Abdiqadir Moalin Nuur
Foreign Affairs--Mohamed Al Hamud
Finance and Treasury--Mohamed Hassan Aden
Defense--Mohamed Abdi Abtidon
Interior and National Security--Ahmed Ali Yakhle
Fisheries and Marine Resources--Mohamed Ali Hagaa
Ports, Water, Air, and Land Transport--Abdirashid Haji Derow
Health--Mohamud Sheikh Hassan
Justice and Religious Affairs--Haji Ali Sheikh Mohamed
Foreign Affairs--Omar Sheikh Ali Idiris
Interior and National Security--Ibrahim Issak Yarow
Finance and Treasury--Muktar Sheikh Sufi Sheikh Cali
Defense--Daud Abdikarim Hashi Omar
Planning and Regional Cooperation--Abdiaziz Hassan Mohame "Lafta Garen"
Information, Post, and Telecommunication--Mohamed Ali Farah Gedi
Commerce and Industry--Mohamed Ali Shire
Labor, Development, and Social Affairs--Abdirashid Mohamed Hiddig
Public Works and Reconstruction--Abdi Ali Mohamed
Agriculture and Livestock Development--Hassan Yakub
Fisheries and Marine Resources--Abdullahi Abukar Jama
Ports, Water, Air, and Land Transport--Abdikadir Haji Mohamed Suldan
Constitution, Federalism, and Reconciliation--Said Mohamed Jimale
Minerals, Water, and Energy--Abdirahim Yusuf Farah
Education, Culture, and Higher Education--Feisal Omar Guled
Women and Family Affairs--Fatuma Hassan Ali
Health--Osman Libah Ibrahim
Ambassador to the United Nations--Elmi Ahmed Duale
Ambassador to the United States--N/A
The self-declared "Republic of Somaliland" consists of a regional authority based in the city of Hargeisa, including a president, vice president, parliament, and cabinet officials.
The semi-autonomous state of Puntland has a regional government based in the city of Garoowe and includes a president, vice president, cabinet, and House of Representatives.
Somalia lacks natural resources and faces major development challenges. 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 use modern irrigation systems and up-to-date farm machinery.
A small fishing industry exists in the north where tuna, shark, and other warm-water fish are caught, although fishing 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, the Somaliland shilling, which is not accepted outside of the self-declared republic.
There are no railways in Somalia; internal transportation is limited to truck and bus. The national road system nominally comprises 22,100 kilometers (13,702 mi.) of roads that include about 2,600 kilometers (1,612 mi.) of all-weather roads, although most roads have received little maintenance for years and have seriously deteriorated.
Air transportation is provided by small air charter firms. A number of airlines operate from Hargeisa. Some private airlines, including Daallo Airlines, serve several domestic locations as well as Djibouti and the United Arab Emirates. The UN and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operate air service for their missions.
The European Community and the World Bank jointly financed construction of a deepwater port at Mogadishu. The Soviet Union improved Somalia's deepwater 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 deepwater port at Kismayo that serves the fertile Juba River basin and is vital to Somalia's banana export industry. Smaller ports are located at Merca, Brava, and Bossaso. Absence of security and lack of maintenance and improvement are major issues at most Somali ports.
Cellular phone service is readily available throughout the country, but landline communication systems have been destroyed or dismantled. Somalia is linked to the outside world via ship-to-shore communications (INMARSAT) as well as links to overseas satellite operators by private telecommunications operators (including cellular telephone systems) in major towns. Radio broadcasting stations operate at Mogadishu, Hargeisa, and Galkaiyo, with programs in Somali and some other languages. There are two television broadcast stations in Mogadishu and one in Hargeisa.
The TFG controls several thousand trained army soldiers. Other various TFG-allied groups throughout Somalia are estimated to control militias ranging in strength from hundreds to thousands. The TFG and some groups possess limited inventories of older armored vehicles and other heavy weapons, and small arms are prevalent throughout Somalia. On September 8, 2009, 500 naval recruits graduated to form Somalia’s first naval force in over 2 decades. The TFG plans to use the force to combat piracy off Somalia’s coastline.
The United States has been a strong supporter of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) since its deployment to Mogadishu in March 2007. As of October 2010, AMISOM consisted of over 7,100 peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi. AMISOM plays a critical role in supporting the Djibouti Peace Process by protecting Transitional Federal Institutions and TFG personnel, and by securing critical infrastructure in Mogadishu, including the airport and the seaport.
As of October 2010, the U.S. Government had obligated over $229 million to support AMISOM with equipment, logistical support, and peacekeeping training. U.S. equipment support has included armored personnel carriers, trucks, communications equipment, water purification devices, generators, tents, and night vision equipment. Logistical support has included airlift, food, fuel, medical supplies, and medical evacuation flights. The U.S. Government has provided peacekeeping training to the Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers through the Department of State’s Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program.
In January 2009, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1863, which called on the United Nations to establish a logistics support package for AMISOM. By October 2009, the United States had transferred most logistics support tasks (including the provision of food, fuel, and medical evacuation flights) to the UN Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA), which the UN established to implement the logistics support package. The United States supports UNSOA and the logistics support package through its assessed contributions to the United Nations.
Somalia followed a foreign policy of nonalignment for a brief period following independence. In 1970, the Siad Barre regime declared a national ideology based on scientific Socialism and aligned its foreign policy with the Soviet Union and China. In the 1980s, Somalia shifted its alignment to the West following a territorial conflict with Ethiopia over the disputed Somali-populated region of the Ogaden from 1977-78, which was supported by the Soviet Union. The central government also sought ties with many Arab countries, and continued to receive financial and military support from several Arab countries prior to its collapse in 1991.
In 1963, Somalia severed diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom for a period following a dispute over Kenya's Somali-populated northeastern region (Northern Frontier District), an area inhabited mainly by Somalis. Related problems have arisen from the boundary with Ethiopia and the large-scale migrations of Somali nomads between Ethiopia and Somalia. In the aftermath of the 1977-78 war between Somalia and Ethiopia, the Government of Somalia continued to call for self-determination for ethnic Somalis living in the Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia. At the March 1983 Nonaligned Movement summit in New Delhi, President Siad Barre stated that Somalia harbored no expansionist aims and was willing to negotiate with Ethiopia over the disputed Ogaden region.
Following the collapse of the Barre regime, the foreign policy of the various entities in Somalia, including the TFG, has centered on gaining international recognition, winning international support for national reconciliation, and obtaining international economic assistance.
Although the U.S. never formally severed diplomatic relations with Somalia, the U.S. Embassy in Somalia has been closed since the collapse of the Siad Barre government in 1991. The United States maintains regular dialogue with the TFG and other key stakeholders in Somalia through the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. Consular coverage for Somalia is maintained by U.S. Embassy Nairobi, while American Citizens Services in the self-declared "Republic of Somaliland" are provided by the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti.
Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador to Kenya--Michael Ranneberger
Counselor for Somali Affairs--Cheryl Sim
Political Officer--Joseph Trimble
Political Officer--Chanda Creasy
Political/Economic Officer--Brandi James
Public Affairs Officer--Matt Goshko