Flag description: light blue with a large white five-pointed star in the centre. Location: Eastern Africa, bordering the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, east of Ethiopia.
Geographic coordinates: 10 00 N, 49 00 E
Climate: Principally desert; December to February - northeast monsoon, moderate temperatures in north and very hot in south; May to October - southwest monsoon, torrid in the north and hot in the south, irregular rainfall, hot and humid periods (tangambili) between monsoons.
Independence: 1 July 1960 (from a merger of British Somaliland, which became independent from the UK on 26 June 1960, and Italian Somaliland, which became independent from the Italian-administered UN trusteeship on 1 July 1960, to form the Somali Republic).
Capital City: Mogadishu.
Head of State: None.
Area: 637,657 sq km
Type of Government: currently none.
Currency: 1 Somali shilling (So. Sh.) = 100 cents.
Major peoples: Somali 85%, Bantu, Arabs 30,000.
Religion: Sunni Muslim.
Official Language: Somali.
Principal Languages: Somali (official), Arabic, Italian, English.
Major Exports: : livestock, bananas, hides, fish.
History: In the 7th century Arabs and Persians developed a series of trading posts along the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. In the 10th century the area was peopled by Somali nomads and pastoral GALLA from southwest Ethiopia. For the next 900 years Somalis spread throughout the Horn of Africa.
Britain and Italy occupied different parts of the territory in the 1880s, and until World War II, Somalia remained under colonial control. In 1941, Britain occupied Italian Somaliland and in 1948 gave the OGADEN region to Ethiopia, although it was populated largely by Somalis. By 1950 the United Nations had voted to grant independence to Somalia, and in 1960 the two former colonies were united to form the Somali Republic.
Somali was ruled by a civilian government until 1969, when President Muhammad Siad Barre came to power in a military coup. His Somali Revolutionary Socialist party, created in 1976, formed the executive branch of government. Areas inhabited primarily by Somalis, including Djibouti, the Ogaden, and northeast Kenya, had long been considered lost Somali territories.
Somalia invaded the Ogaden in 1977, but Ethiopia regained control of the area, and Soviet forces were expelled from Somalia in 1977 for their support of Ethiopia. The country then received aid (mostly food for its refugee population) from the United States and other Western nations. Sporadic conflict with Ethiopia continued until 1988.
Armed domestic opposition to Siad Barre began in the north in 1988 with the Isaaq-based Somali National Movement (SNM) and was brutally suppressed. Other clan-backed groups, most notably the Hawiye United Somali Congress (USC) and the Ogadeni Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM), joined the antigovernment struggle, and Siad Barre fled on Jan. 27, 1991. Fighting between various rebel groups, including those of transitional president Ali Mahdi Mohammed (USC) and USC rival Mohammed Sarah Aidid, soon erupted.
The SNM declared northern Somalia's independence as the Somaliland Republic in May.
By August 1992, up to one-third of all Somalis faced death by starvation due to drought and the fighting, which kept farmers from planting crops. Another 1 million had fled to Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Yemen.
The violence continued despite UN efforts to negotiate a peace accord and protect relief shipments. In December 1992, a UN-sanctioned, U.S.-led deployment of more than 30,000 troops began, to ensure delivery of food aid. These troops were to be replaced by mid-1993 by a UN peacekeeping operation in which U.S. troops would play a smaller role. United Nations mediators in early 1993 attempted to bring together the various Somali faction leaders to restore peace to the country.