Facts About Somalia
Background: A SIAD BARRE regime was ousted in January 1991;
turmoil, factional fighting, and anarchy followed for nine years. In May
of 1991, northern clans declared an independent Republic of Somaliland
which now includes the administrative regions of Awdal, Woqooyi Galbeed,
Togdheer, Sanaag, and Sool. Although not recognized by any government,
this entity has maintained a stable existence, aided by the overwhelming
dominance of the ruling clan and economic infrastructure left behind by
British, Russian, and American military assistance programs. The regions
of Bari and Nugaal comprise a neighboring self-declared Republic of
Puntland, which has also made strides towards reconstructing legitimate,
representative government. 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 1995, having suffered significant casualties,
order still had not been restored. A Transitional National Government
(TNG) was created in October 2000 in Arta, Djibouti which was attended by
a broad representation of Somali clans. The TNG has a three-year mandate
to create a permanent national Somali government. The TNG does not
recognize Somaliland or Puntland as independent republics but so far has
been unable to reunite them with the unstable regions in the south;
numerous warlords and factions are still fighting for control of Mogadishu
and the other southern regions.
Geography of Somalia
Location: Eastern Africa, bordering the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, east
People of Somalia
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.
Population: 8,591,629 (July 2005 est.)
SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State
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