For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z
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.
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 (2002 est., no census exists): 9.6 million (of which an estimated 2-3 million in Somaliland).
Annual growth rate (2001 est.): 3.48%.
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, 24%: male 36%; female 14%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--123.97/1,000 live births. Life expectancy at birth--total population: 46.6 yrs.
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: A Transitional Federal Charter was established in February 2004 and is expected to serve as the basis for a future constitution in Somalia. In August 2004, the Somali Transitional Federal Assembly (TFA) was established as part of the IGAD-led Somalia National Reconciliation Conference in accordance with the Charter. The Somalia National Reconciliation Conference concluded following the election of a Transitional President in October 2004.
Branches: Executive--Somalia has had no functioning national government since the collapse of the regime of Maj. Gen. Mohamed Siad Barre in January 1991. The present political situation in much of Somalia is marked by inter-clan fighting and random banditry, with some areas of peace and stability. On October 10, 2004, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed was elected Transitional Federal President of Somalia for a five-year period. A Prime Minister, Ali Mohamed Gedi was approved by the Transitional Federal Assembly on December 24, 2004. A cabinet, consisting of 90 ministers and deputy ministers, was appointed in January 2005. Legislative--parliamentary (Transitional Federal Assembly, established in August 2004. Shariff Hassan Sheikh Adan was elected Speaker of the Assembly in September 2004.) Judicial--Supreme Court: not functioning; no nationwide system; Islamic (shari'a) and traditional 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 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 various 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. 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.
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 (2001 est.): U.S. $900 million.
Annual growth rate (2001 est.): 5.4%.
Per capita income: N/A.
Avg. inflation rate (2001 est.): 6.0%.
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--Telecommunications, livestock, fishing, textiles, transportation, and limited financial services. Somalia's surprisingly innovative private sector has continued to function despite the lack of a functioning central government 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 (2002): $174.4 million. Primary donors--European Union, United States, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, World Bank.
Remittances (2005 est.): $800 million to $1 billion.
Somalia is located on the east coast of Africa on 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, 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 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 monsoons (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.
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 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, 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, 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 two decades of this century, 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; 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 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, with most key government positions 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 attempted a similar approach with Ethiopia, but the move towards reconciliation with Ethiopia, which had been a traditional enemy of Somalia since the 16th century, 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.
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, and 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 1977-1978 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.
Following the Ogaden war, the Barre regime violently suppressed opposition movements and ethnic groups, particularly the Issaq 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 Issaq 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 exploited his Ethiopian support to form 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, earning Barre the title "Mayor of Mogadishu" and 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. Barre began to lose control over his own militia groups and became increasingly isolated. 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 until 1994, when U.S. forces withdrew.
After the attack on the United States of September 11, 2001, Somalia gained greater international attention as a possible entrepot for international 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 address the threat of terrorism in and emanating from 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. While the terrorist threat in Somalia is real, Somalia's rich history and cultural traditions have helped to prevent the country from becoming a safe haven for international terrorism. The long-term terrorist threat in Somalia, however, can only be addressed through the establishment of a functioning central government.
Somalia has no national government at present; however, a two-year reconciliation process led by the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) concluded in 2004 following the formation of a transitional government, the components of which are known as the Somalia Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs). The TFIs include a transitional parliament, known as the Transitional Federal Assembly (formed in August 2004), as well as a Transitional Federal Government (TFG) that includes a transitional President, Prime Minister, and 90-member 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.
Principal Government Officials
Somalia has no functioning central government at present; however, Shariff Hassan Sheikh Adan was elected as Speaker of the Assembly in September 2004, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed was elected as Transitional Federal President of Somalia in October 2004, and Ali Mohamed Gedi was approved by the Transitional Federal Assembly as Prime Minister on December 24, 2004. A cabinet was formed in January 2005. While most members of the transitional government have relocated to Somalia, the Transitional Federal Institutions have yet to establish authority inside Somalia.
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.
Other Ministers N/A
Ambassador to the United States--N/A
Permanent Representative to the United Nations--Dr. Elmi Ahmed Duale
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 fourteen efforts at national reconciliation. Various groupings of Somali factions have sought to control the national territory (or portions thereof) and have fought small wars with one another. Dahir Riyale Kahin was elected President of the self-declared "Republic of Somaliland," which is made up of the former northwest provinces of the Somali republic, in presidential elections deemed free and fair by international observers in May 2003. 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.
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 (TNG), whose 3-year mandate expired in August 2003. In early 2002, Kenya organized a further reconciliation effort under IGAD auspices known as the Somalia National Reconciliation Conference, which concluded in October 2004. In August 2004, the Somali Transitional Federal Assembly (TFA) was established as part of the IGAD-led process, with Shariff Hassan Sheik Adan as its Speaker. Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed was elected Transitional Federal President of Somalia on October 10, 2004 and Ali Mohamed Gedi was approved by the Transitional Federal Assembly as Prime Minister on December 24, 2004 as part of the continued formation of a Transitional Federal Government (TFG). A cabinet was formed in January 2005.
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, particularly Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya, all of which have supported various Somali factions and transitional governments.
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 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 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 functioning central government. 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, 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 had fallen to over 30,000 shillings to the U.S. dollar. 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 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 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 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.
Radiotelephone service is available to both to regional and international locations. The public telecommunications system has been destroyed or dismantled, but cellular phone service is readily available throughout the country. 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.
There are no Somali armed forces. Before the collapse of the Siad Barre regime and dissolution of the national armed forces in 1991, the Somali National Army was made up of the army, navy, air force, and air defense command. Various groups and factions throughout Somalia currently 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.
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. Five countries, including Saudi Arabia, Libya and Egypt, extended recognition to the now-defunct Transitional National Government and continue to provide assistance to Somalia.
The status of expatriate Somalis has been an important foreign and domestic issue. 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, 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.
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. 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 Barre stated that Somalia harbored no expansionist aims and was willing to negotiate with Ethiopia over the disputed Ogaden region.
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.
Although the U.S. never formally severed diplomatic relations with Somalia, official relations were interrupted by the fall of the government and have not been fully reestablished in the continued absence of a national government. 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.