OFFICIAL NAME (Former):
Somali Democratic Republic
NOTE: Somalia has been without a central government since 1991, and much of the territory has been subject to serious civil strife. There is no official U.S. representation in Somalia. Statistical data on Somalia in this report date from 2002 and are subject to dispute and error.Geography
Nationality: Noun--Somali(s). Adjective--Somali.
Population (July 2001 est., no census exists): 7,488,773 (of which an estimated 2-3 million in Somaliland).
Annual growth rate (2001 est.): 3.48%.
Ethnic groups: 85% Somali, 15% non-Somali (Bantu and Arabs).
Religion: 99.9% Muslim.
Languages: Somali (official), Arabic, Italian, English.
Education: Literacy--total population that can read and write, 24%: male 36%; female 14%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--123.97/1,000 live births. Life expectancy at birth--total population: 46.6yrs.
Work force (3.7 million; very few are skilled workers): Pastoral nomad--60%. Agriculture, government, trading, fishing, industry, handicrafts, and other--40%.
Independence: July 1, 1960 (from a merger of the former Somaliland Protectorate under British rule, which became independent from the UK 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: The Transitional National Government created in August 2000 was formed to create a new constitution and hold elections within 3 years.
Branches: Executive--Somalia has had no functioning national government since the United Somali Congress (USC) ousted the regime of Maj. Gen. Mohamed Siad "Barre" in January 1991. In October 2001, the Transitional National Government, with a president serving a 3-year term and a 245-member National Assembly, was established in Mogadishu; it controls only a limited portion of the national territory. The present political situation in much of Somalia is one of anarchy, marked by inter-clan fighting and random banditry, with some areas of peace and stability. Legislative--parliamentary (Transitional National Government)Judicial--Supreme Court: not functioning; no nationwide system; Islamic (shari'a) and secular courts in some localities.
Political party: None functioning. Legal system: none functioning. Note: In 1991 a congress drawn from the inhabitants of the former Somaliland Protectorate declared withdrawal from the 1960 union with Somalia to form the Republic of Somaliland. This declaration has not been recognized internationally, but Somaliland has maintained a de facto 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 various political parties exist. President Mohamed Ibrahim Egal was elected to a second 5-year term in February 1997 but has sought to extend his term for one year.
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).
GNP: $4.5 billion (2001 est.), of which very limited amount in hard currency.
Annual growth rate: Less than 1%, possibly negative.
Per capita income: N/A.
Avg. inflation rate: N/A.
Natural resources: Largely unexploited reserves of iron ore, tin, gypsum, bauxite, uranium, copper, and salt; likely petroleum and natural gas reserves.
Agriculture: Products--livestock, bananas, corn, sorghum, sugar. Arable land--13%, of which 2% is cultivated.
Industry: Types--sugar, textiles, packaging, oil refining. Most industry defunct since 1991.
Trade (1999): Exports--$110 million (f.o.b., 1999 est.): livestock, bananas, hides and skins, sugar, sorghum, corn. Major markets--Saudi Arabia, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Pakistan. Imports--$314 million (f.o.b., 1999 est.): food grains, animal and vegetable oils, petroleum products, construction materials. Major suppliers--Djibouti, Kenya, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, India.
Aid disbursed (2000): $115 million. Primary donors--European Union, United States,
U.S. aid--$20 million.
Somalia is located on the east coast of Africa on and north of the Equator and, with Ethiopia and Djibouti, 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 Shebelle Rivers rise in Ethiopia and flow south across the country toward the Indian Ocean. The Shebelle, however, 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 at Mogadishu. The December-February period of the northeast monsoon also is 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.
As early as the seventh century A.D., 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.
Today, about 60% of all Somalis are nomadic or semi-nomadic pastoralists who raise cattle, camels, sheep, and goats. About 25% of the population are settled farmers who live mainly in the fertile agricultural zone between the Juba and Shebelle 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, 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 now the language of instruction in schools, to the extent that these exist. Arabic, English, and Italian also are used extensively.
Early history traces the development of the Somali people 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 l9th 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 two decades of this century, British rule was challenged through persistent attacks led by Mohamed Abdullah. 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 some 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; five 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 reflected clan loyalties, which contributed to a basic split between the regional interests of the former British-controlled north and the Italian-controlled south. There also was substantial conflict between pro-Arab, pan-Somali militants intent on national unification with the Somali-inhabited territories in Ethiopia and Kenya and the "modernists," who wished to give priority to economic and social development and improving relations with other African countries. Gradually, the Somali Youth League, formed under British auspices in 1943, assumed a dominant position and succeeded in cutting across regional and clan loyalties. Under the leadership of Mohamed Ibrahim Egal, prime minister from 1967 to 1969, Somalia greatly improved its relations with Kenya and Ethiopia. The process of party-based constitutional democracy came to an abrupt end, however, on October 21, 1969, when the army and police, led by Maj. Gen. Mohamed Siad Barre, seized power in a bloodless coup.
Following the coup, executive and legislative power was vested in the 20-member Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC), headed by Maj. Gen. Siad Barre as president. 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. Perhaps the most impressive success was a crash program that introduced an orthography for the Somali language and brought literacy to a substantial percentage of the population.
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 Hailemariam 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. Fighting increased, and in July 1977, the Somali National Army (SNA) crossed into the Ogaden to support the insurgents. The SNA moved quickly toward Harer, Jijiga, and Dire Dawa, the principal cities of the region. Subsequently, the Soviet Union, Somalia's most important source of arms, embargoed weapons shipments to Somalia. The Soviets switched their full support to Ethiopia, with massive infusions of Soviet arms and 10,000-15,000 Cuban troops. In November 1977, President Siad 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 continues 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 1977 Ogaden war, President Barre looked to the West for international support, military equipment, and economic aid. The United States and other Western countries traditionally were reluctant to provide arms because of the Somali Government's support for insurgency in Ethiopia. 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 in 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 1990 the United States viewed Somalia as a partner in defense. Somali officers of the National Armed Forces were trained in U.S. military schools in civilian as well as military subjects. Within Somalia, Siad Barre's regime confronted insurgencies in the northeast and northwest, whose aim was to overthrow his government. By 1988, Siad Barre was openly at war with sectors of his nation. At the President's order, aircraft from the Somali National Air Force bombed the cities in the northwest province, attacking civilian as well as insurgent targets. 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 1990, the insurgency in the northwest was largely successful. The army dissolved into competing armed groups loyal to former commanders or to clan-tribal leaders. The economy was in shambles, and hundreds of thousands of Somalis fled their homes. In 1991, Siad Barre and forces loyal to him fled the capital; he later died in exile in Nigeria. In the same year, Somaliland declared itself independent of the rest of Somalia, with its capital in Hargeisa. 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 until 1994, when U.S. forces withdrew.
The prevailing chaos in much of Somalia after 1991 contributed to growing influence by various Islamic groups, including al-Tabliq, al-Islah (supported by Saudi Arabia), and Al-Ittihad Al-Islami (Islamic Unity). These groups, which are among the main non-clan-based forces in Somalia, share the goal of establishing an Islamic state. They differ in their approach; in particular, Al-Ittihad supports the use of violence to achieve that goal and has claimed responsibility for terrorist acts. In the mid-1990s, Al-Ittihad came to dominate territory in Puntland as well as central Somalia near Gedo. It was forcibly expelled from these localities by Puntland forces as well as Ethiopian attacks in the Gedo region. Since that time, Al-Ittihad has adopted a longer term strategy based on integration into local communities and establishment of Islamic schools, courts, and relief centers.
After the attack on the United States of September 11, 2001, Somalia gained greater international attention as a possible base for terrorism--a concern that became the primary element in U.S. policy toward Somalia. The United States and other members of the anti-terrorism coalition examined a variety of short- and long-term measures designed to cope with the threat of terrorism in and emanating from Somalia. Economic sanctions were applied to Al-Ittihad and to the Al-Barakaat group of companies, based in Dubai, which conducted currency exchanges and remittances transfers in Somalia. The United Nations also took an increased interest in Somalia, including proposals for an increased UN presence and for strengthening a 1992 arms embargo.
Somalia has no national government at present. For administrative purposes, Somalia is divided into 18 regions; the nature, authority, and structure of regional governments vary, where they exist.
Principal Government Officials
Somalia has no national government at present. The only entity in Somalia claiming to represent the country as a whole is the Transitional National Government, based in Mogadishu, although it controls only a limited portion of the national territory. In February 2002, the TNG announced a new cabinet of 31 members, including Foreign Minister Yusuf Hassan Ibrahim.
Other Ministers N/A
Ambassador to the United States-- vacant
Ambassador to the UN--Ahmed Abdi Hashi, representing the Transitional National Government, which occupies Somalia's seat at the UN.
The Transitional National Government has ambassadors in a few countries that have recognized it, including Djibouti and Saudi Arabia. It also represents Somalia in the United Nations, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Arab League, and some other multilateral organizations.
In the wake of the collapse of the Somali Government, factions organized around military leaders took control of Somalia. The resulting chaos and loss of life promoted the international intervention led by the United States, UNITAF. That operation was followed by the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM), which ended in 1994. Since 1991, there have been more than a dozen efforts at national reconciliation; to date, none has been successful. Various groupings of Somali factions have sought to control the national territory (or portions thereof) and have fought small wars with one another. Mohamed Ibrahim Egal was selected by elders in 1991 as President of the "Republic of Somaliland," which is made up of the former northwest provinces of the republic. In 1998, the area of Puntland in the northeast declared itself autonomous (although not independent) as the "State of Puntland," with its capital at Garowe. Puntland declared it would remain autonomous until a federated Somalia state was established. Abdullahi Yusuf, Puntland's original president, ruled until mid-2001. In November 2001, a convention of elders, in a process disputed by Abdullayi, selected Col. Jama Ali Jama to succeed him. Forces loyal to Abdullayi, who had retreated to Galkayo, attacked Garowe in November, resulting in a de facto division of Puntland. As many as 30 other factions vie for some degree of authority in the country.
Efforts at mediation of the Somali internal dispute have been 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, with a 3-year mandate to pursue national reconciliation. In early 2002, Kenya organized a further reconciliation effort under IGAD auspices.
The absence of a central government in Somalia since 1991 has allowed outside forces to become more influential by supporting various groups and persons in Somalia. Djibouti, Eritrea, and Arab states have supported the TNG. Ethiopia has provided political support to Somaliland and assisted a group of southern warlords organized as the Somalia Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC), which opposes the TNG.
Somalia lacks 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 Shebelle River valleys. The modern sector of the agricultural economy consists mainly of banana plantations located in the south, which have used modern irrigation systems and up-to-date farm machinery.
A small fishing industry has begun in the north where tuna, shark, and other warm-water fish are caught, although fishing production is seriously affected by poaching and the lack of ability to grant concessions because of the absence of a generally recognized government. Aromatic woods--frankincense and myrrh--from a small and diminishing forest area 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, at one time under way, 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. By the spring of 2002, the Somali shilling emitted by the TNG had fallen to over 30,000 shillings to the U.S. dollar.
There are no railways in Somalia; internal transportation is by 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 and craft used by drug smugglers. A number of airlines operate from Hargeisa. Some private airlines, including Air Somalia and Daallo Airlines, serve several domestic locations as well as Djibouti and the United Arab Emirates. The UN and other NGOs operate air service for their missions.
The European Community and the World Bank jointly financed construction of a deepwater port at Mogadishu (currently closed). 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 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.
Radiotelephone service is available to both to regional and international locations. The public telecommunications system has 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 Galkayo, with programs in Somali and some other languages. There are two television broadcast stations in Mogadishu and one in Hargeisa.
The Somali National Army was made up of the army, navy, air force, and air defense command. The Somali Government's demise led to the de facto dissolution of the national armed forces. Efforts by the Transitional National Government to reestablish a regular armed force have made little progress. Various groups and factions control militias ranging in strength from hundreds to thousands. These militias are in general poorly trained and lightly armed, although some groups possess limited inventories of older armored vehicles and other heavy weapons and small arms are prevalent throughout Somalia.
After independence, Somalia followed a foreign policy of nonalignment. It received major economic assistance from the United States, Italy, and the Federal Republic of Germany, as well as from the Soviet Union and China. The government also sought ties with many Arab countries, and the current Transitional National Government has been accepted by the Arab League and the Islamic Conference.
The status of expatriate Somalis has been an important foreign and domestic issue. A goal of Somali nationalism is to unite the other Somali-inhabited territories with the republic consistent with the objectives of pan-Somali tradition. This issue has been a major cause of past crises between Somalia and its neighbors--Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti.
In 1963, Somalia severed diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom for a period following a dispute over Kenya's northeastern region (Northern Frontier District), an area inhabited mainly by Somalis. Somalia urged self-determination for the people of the area, while Kenya refused to consider any steps that might threaten its territorial integrity. 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 Somali-Ethiopian war, 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 stated that Somalia harbored no expansionist aims and was willing to negotiate with Ethiopia.
Since the fall of the Barre regime, the foreign policy of the various entities in Somalia has centered on gaining international recognition, winning international support for national reconciliation, and obtaining international economic assistance.
U.S. diplomatic relations with Somali were interrupted by the fall of the government and have not yet been re-established. The United States maintains informal contacts with a number of entities in Somalia.
Principal U.S. Officials
The U.S. Embassy has been closed since 1991. U.S. contacts with Somalia, including consular coverage, are maintained by U.S. Embassy Nairobi, Kenya.
There is no recognized government in Somalia. Travel into and within Somalia is extremely dangerous. The Department of State recommends that travelers not go to Somalia.
Daallo, Djibouti, and Yemeni Airlines operate scheduled international flights between Hargeisa and Addis Ababa, Sanaa, and Aden. Somalia is 8 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time and does not observe daylight saving time.
For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.