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Flag of Somalia Coat of Arms of Somalia
(Flag) (Coat of Arms)
Motto: None
Anthem: Somalian National Anthem
Location of Somalia
Capital Mogadishu
2°02′ N 45°21′ E
Largest city Mogadishu
Official languages Somali
Government none
Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed

Ali Muhammad Ghedi

 - Merged territory
From the United Kingdom and Italy
July 1, 1960
 • Total
 • Water (%)
637,657 km² (41st)
 • 2005 est.
 • 1975 census
 • Density
8,591,629 (87)
13/km² (170)
 • Total
 • Per capita
2004 estimate
4,597,000,000 (n/a)
600 (n/a)
Currency Shilling (SOS)
Time zone
 • Summer (DST)
not observed (UTC+3)
Internet TLD .so
Calling code +252

Somalia (Somali: Soomaaliya; Arabic: الصومال, As-Sumal), formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic, is a coastal nation in East Africa. Continentally, it is entirely surrounded by Ethiopia and Djibouti on the north and mid-west, and Kenya on its south-west; with the Gulf of Aden on its east. It currently exists solely in a de jure capacity, while its de facto capacity can be described as free market anarchy. Somalia has no recognized central government authority, no national currency, nor any other feature associated with an established nation state. De facto authority resides in the hands of the governments for the unrecognized entities of Somaliland, Puntland, and other rival warlords.



Main article: History of Somalia

Independence of Somaliland from Britain was on June 26, 1960 and on July 1, 1960 unification of the British and ex-Italian Somali protectorates took place. The government formed with Abdirashid Ali Shermarke as the Prime Minister and Aden Abdullah Osman Daar as the provisional President. Mohammed Ibrahim Egal, Prime Minister of Somaliland, was appointed Minister of Defense.

In late 1969, a military government assumed power following the assassination of Shermarke. Mohamed Siad Barre, a general of the military forces, became the president. The revolutionary army leaders, headed by Barre, started grand scale public works. They also successfully implemented an urban and rural literacy campaign, in which they helped increase the literacy rate from 5% to 55% by the mid-1980s.

Intermittent civil war has been a fact of life in Somalia since 1977. In 1991, the northern portion of the country declared its independence as Somaliland; although de facto independent and relatively stable compared to the tumultuous south, it has not been recognized by any foreign government.

Canadian Military in Somalia 1992
Canadian Military in Somalia 1992

Beginning in 1993, a two-year UN humanitarian effort (primarily in the south) was able to alleviate famine conditions, but when the UN withdrew in Operation United Shield by March 3, 1995, having suffered significant casualties, order had still not been restored.

Yet another secession from Somalia took place in the northeastern region. The self-proclaimed state took the name Puntland after declaring "temporary" independence in 1998, with the intention that it would participate in any Somali reconciliation to form a new central government.

Mogadishu, 1993
Mogadishu, 1993

A third secession occurred in 1998 with the declaration of the state of Jubaland. The territory of Jubaland is now encompassed by the state of Southwestern Somalia and its status is unclear.

A fourth self-proclaimed entity led by the Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA) was set up in 1999, along the lines of the Puntland. That "temporary" secession was reasserted in 2002. This led to the autonomy of Southwestern Somalia. The RRA had originally set up an autonomous administration over the Bay and Bakool regions of south and central Somalia in 1999.

Somalia was one of the many countries devastated by the tsunami which struck the Indian Ocean coast following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, destroying entire villages and killing an estimated 300 people.

On October 2004, a Transitional Federal Government, led by President Abdullahi Yusuf (leader of Puntland) and Prime Minister Ali Muhammad Ghedi, was elected in Nairobi, Kenya after a period of two years of negotiations sponsored by the international community and hosted by the regional authority on peace and development, IGAD, which comprises Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, Uganda, Eritrea and Sudan. The government, which includes several leading warlords, remains in exile in Kenya.


Main article: Politics of Somalia

Somalia has no effective national government. In the northwest, there is a breakaway republic of Somaliland. In the rest of the country there are various warlords, cf. Puntland and Southwestern Somalia. The internationally-recognised government is the Transitional National Government, originally headed by Abdulkassim Salat Hassan, which controls only part of the capital, Mogadishu.

On October 10, 2004 Somali MPs elected Abdullahi Yusuf, president of Puntland, to be the next president. Because of the chaotic situation in Mogadishu, the election was held in a sports centre in Nairobi, Kenya. Yusuf was elected transitional President by Somalia's transitional parliament. He won 189 of the 275 votes from parliament. The session of Parliament was also held in neighbouring Kenya. His government is recognized by most western nations as the country's legitimate rulers, though his actual authority is extremely questionable.

Many other small political organizations exist, some clan-based, others seeking a Somalia free from clan-based politics (such as the United Somali Front). Many of them have come into existence since the new president was chosen.

See also List of notable Somali leaders.


Somalia has a population of around 8,591,000. However, estimates are very difficult because of the continuing situation. The last census was in 1975. Most outside analysts use this estimate but Somalia is one of the fastest growing countries in Africa and the world. Some estimates range between 6 to 15 million.

Because of the war, Somalia has a large diaspora. Ethnic Somalis always lived for centuries in large areas in Ethiopia and Kenya. They are also a majority in the country of Djibouti, where they share area with the Afars. There are over a million Somalis (including the minorities) outside Africa. Somalia now has among one of the largest diaspora communites of the whole continent. All of these factors and the mostly nomadic nature of the Somalis has made proper estimates very difficult.


Main article: Regions of Somalia

Diagram of Somalian factions along regional borders
Diagram of Somalian factions along regional borders

Somalia is divided into 18 regions (singular gobolka, plural gobollada):


Map of Somalia including the self-proclaimed boundary of Somaliland
Map of Somalia including the self-proclaimed boundary of Somaliland

Main article: Geography of Somalia

Somalia is located on the east coast of Africa on and north of the Equator between the Gulf of Aden on the north and Indian Ocean on the east. Together with Ethiopia and Djibouti it is often referred to as the Horn of Africa. It borders Djibouti on the northwest, Ethiopia on the west, and Kenya on southwest. Somalia 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 kilometres (1,700 mi) -- the longest coastline in Africa.

The northern part of the country is hilly, and in many places the altitude ranges between 900 and 2,100 metres (3,000 ft.-7,000 ft.) above sea level. The central and southern areas are flat, with an average altitude of less than 180 metres (600 ft.). The Juba and the Shebelle Rivers rise in Ethiopia and flow south across the country towards the Indian Ocean. The Shebelle, however, does not reach the sea except during seasons of high rain.

Major climatic factors are a year-round hot climate, seasonal monsoon winds, and irregular rainfall with recurring droughts. Mean daily maximum temperatures range from 30°C to 40°C (85° F-105°F), except at higher elevations and along the east coast. Mean daily minimums usually vary from about 15°C to 30°C (60°F-85°F). 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 is also 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.


Main article: Economy of Somalia

A Somali rancher herds cattle in Kismayo. Livestock accounts for about 40% of Somalia's GDP
A Somali rancher herds cattle in Kismayo. Livestock accounts for about 40% of Somalia's GDP

Somalia has a market economy. As one of the world's poorest and least developed countries, Somalia has relatively few natural resources. Much of the economy has been devastated by the civil war. Agriculture is the most important sector, with livestock accounting for about 40% of GDP and about 65% of export earnings. Nomads and semi-nomads, who are dependent upon livestock for their livelihood, make up a large portion of the population. After livestock, bananas are the principal export; sugar, sorghum, maize, and fish are products for the domestic market. The small industrial sector, based on the processing of agricultural products, accounts for 10% of GDP; most facilities have been shut down because of the civil strife. Moreover, in 1999, continuing civil disturbances in Mogadishu and outlying areas interfered with any substantial economic advance and with international aid arrangements. Somalia has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world, with 10% of children dying at birth and 25% of those surviving birth dying before age five. Medecins Sans Frontieres has further stated that the level of daily violence in the lack of legitimate security structures is "catastrophic."

Infrastructure, such as roads are as numerous as those in neighboring countries but of much lower quality. A World Bank report states that the private sector has found it too hard to build roads due to high transaction costs and the fact that those who pay road fees are not the only ones using the road (see free rider problem), presenting a problem with recuperation of investment. The public telecommunications structure is nonexistent. The private sector offers internet cafés and wireless service. The telephone system is administered by the United Nations funded Somali Telecom Association based in Dubai. Small scale production of electricity by private generators has largely replaced government supplies. The private sector also supplies water, but only 21% of the population has access to safe drinking water.

The education system is private, but enrollment is only 17%. According to a November, 2004 report from the World bank, Somalia has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world with an 81% illiteracy rate, compared with 49% in wealthier West Africa and 35% among its neighbours. Higher education ended completely in the civil war of 1991, but Mogadishu University reopened in 1998 and its first class graduated in 2001. Other universities have opened in other cities. Much of the funding for the education system comes from international Islamic charities such as Al-Islah.[1]

The main problem affecting economic growth is the lack of stability. An example of this is that in Mogadishu, some businessmen would prefer to pay taxes to a government to maintain security rather than to pay warlords for protection from bandits.

Remittance services has become a large industry in Somalia. Successful people from the world-wide diaspora who fled because of the war contribute to the economy around $2 billion annually. Wireless communications has also become a giant economic force in Somalia. Because of the war, nobody really knows the size of the economy or how much it is growing.

References: Anarchy and Invention: How Does Somalia's Private Sector Cope without Government?

Demographics and languages

Main article: Demographics of Somalia

As early as the seventh century, 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 region 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. Apart from the Brava people who speak a language similar to Swahili, nearly all inhabitants speak the Somali language. A population of Italian descent, which dated back to Somalia's colonial era, began to emigrate following independence and by the outbreak of war most Italian Somalis had left the country.

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, which are few. Arabic, English, and Italian also are used extensively.


Main article: Culture of Somalia


Somalia's public telecommunications system was almost completely destroyed or dismantled; however, private wireless companies exist in most major cities and actually provide better services than in neighbouring countries, despite (or perhaps due to) Somalia's lack of government. Somalia has the cheapest cellular calling rates in Africa, with some companies charging less than a cent a minute. Some of the factors that have created this situation are lack of a government-granted monopoly and taxation, and the neutrality of telecommunication firms vis-a-vis the warlords [2]. Companies providing telecommunication services are:

See also

External links

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