Flag description: light blue with a large white five-pointed
star in the center.
Location: Eastern Africa, bordering the Gulf of Aden and
the Indian Ocean, east of Ethiopia
Geographic coordinates: 10 00 N, 49 00 E
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
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 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
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.