Home » Somalia


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.
Government type: none
Capital: Mogadishu
Currency: 1 Somali shilling (So. Sh.) = 100 cents

Geography of Somalia

Location: Eastern Africa, bordering the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, east of Ethiopia
Geographic coordinates: 10 00 N, 49 00 E
total: 637,657 sq km
land: 627,337 sq km
water: 10,320 sq km
Land boundaries:
total: 2,366 km
border countries: Djibouti 58 km, Ethiopia 1,626 km, Kenya 682 km
Coastline: 3,025 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 200 nm
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
Terrain: mostly flat to undulating plateau rising to hills in north
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Shimbiris 2,416 m
Natural resources: uranium and largely unexploited reserves of iron ore, tin, gypsum, bauxite, copper, salt
Land use:
arable land: 2%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 69%
forests and woodland: 26%
other: 3% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 1,800 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: recurring droughts; frequent dust storms over eastern plains in summer; floods during rainy season
Environment – current issues: famine; use of contaminated water contributes to human health problems; deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification
Environment – international agreements:
party to: Endangered Species, Law of the Sea
signed, but not ratified: Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban
Geography – note: strategic location on Horn of Africa along southern approaches to Bab el Mandeb and route through Red Sea and Suez Canal

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.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 44% (male 1,610,945; female 1,608,209)
15-64 years: 53% (male 1,938,263; female 1,892,752)
65 years and over: 3% (male 90,717; female 112,251) 
Population growth rate: 2.9% 
Birth rate: 47.7 births/1,000 population 
Death rate: 18.69 deaths/1,000 population 
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population 
Infant mortality rate: 125.77 deaths/1,000 live births 
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 46.23 years
male: 44.66 years
female: 47.85 years 
Total fertility rate: 7.18 children born/woman 
noun: Somali(s)
adjective: Somali
Ethnic groups: Somali 85%, Bantu, Arabs 30,000
Religions: Sunni Muslim
Languages: Somali (official), Arabic, Italian, English
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 24%
male: 36%
female: 14% (1990 est.)

History of Somalia

THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE in present-day Somalia have an ancient history. The medieval Arabs called them Berberi, and archaeological evidence indicates that they had occupied the area known as the Horn of Africa by 100 A.D. and possibly earlier. By the eighteenth century, the Somalis–their name derives from Samaal, their eponymous ancestor–had developed pastoral nomadism and were followers of Islam. Their first contact with Islam is believed to have occurred when a group of persecuted Muslims from Arabia sought refuge in the region at the time of the Prophet Muhammad in the eighth century. Historically, the area was home to two peoples: pastoral and agropastoral groups living in the interior, with informal and varied political structures; and trading communities on the coast, such as Seylac and Berbera in the north and Merca and Mogadishu in the south, that developed administrative and legal systems based on the Muslim sharia.

The Somalis or Samaal consist of six major clan-families. Four of the families are predominantly pastoral–the Dir, Daarood, Isaaq, and Hawiye (representing about 70 percent of Somalia’s population)–and two are agricultural–the Digil and Rahanwayn (constituting about 20 percent of the population). The remainder of the population consists of urban dwellers and marginal non-Samaal groups, most of whom engage in trade or crafts and who historically have lacked political participation and the Samaal warrior tradition.

The Digil and the Rahanwayn are located mainly in the south in the area between the Jubba and Shabeelle rivers, the best agricultural area. The rest of the country consists primarily of arid plateaus and plains, with some rugged mountains in the north near the Gulf of Aden coast. Because of sparse rainfall, nomadic pastoralism has been the principal occupation of clan-families in much of the country.

Historically, Somalis have shown a fierce independence, an unwillingness to submit to authority, a strong clan consciousness, and conflict among clans and subclans despite their sharing a common language, religion, and pastoral customs. Clans are integral to Somali life. Clan consciousness has been described as centering around the struggle for recognition in all its forms–social, political, economic, and cultural rights and status. Despite this clan consciousness, the Somali community historically preserved its basic unity because of the relative homogeneity of the society.

Over the centuries, the Somali Peninsula and the East African coast were subject to various rulers, including the Omanis, the Zanzibaris, the sharifs of Mukha in present-day Yemen, and the Ottoman Turks. By 1885, there were five mini-Somalilands: the north central part controlled by the British; the east and southeast (mainly present-day Djibouti) controlled by the French; the south, controlled by the Italians; the Ogaden in the west controlled by Ethiopia; and the southwestern part that became a part of Kenya (known as the Northern Frontier District). This colonial control continued in various forms until Somalia gained its independence in 1960.

The British and Italians followed different courses in their colonial administration. The British regarded northern Somalia mainly as a source of livestock for Aden, the principal supply post en route to India through the Suez Canal, whereas the Italians developed plantation agriculture based bananas, citrus fruits, and sugarcane in southern Somalia. Between 1900 and 1920, while Italy and Britain were consolidating their colonial rule, a Muslim resistance movement arose under Mahammad Abdille Hasan, whom the British called the Mad Mullah. Until he died in 1920, Abdille Hasan, a member of the Salihiyah brotherhood, and his followers constituted a dervish group that waged war originally against Ethiopia, and later against the British, seeking to regain the Ogaden for Somalis.

Early in World War II, Italy invaded British Somaliland and ejected the British. British forces retook the colony in 1941 and conquered Italian Somaliland and the Ogaden as well, placing all three areas under British military administration. The Potsdam Conference in 1945 decided not to return Italian Somaliland to Italy; ultimately, the matter was referred to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, which decided in 1949 to make the southern area an Italian trust territory. Meanwhile, under pressure from its World War II allies, Britain returned the Ogaden to Ethiopia in 1948, to the dismay of Somalis because the majority of the inhabitants were Somalis.

Nationalism had been growing in Somalia, largely as a result of the efforts of salaried Somali colonial officials who constituted an urban petty bourgeoisie. In 1943 the first Somali political party, the Somali Youth Club, was created. In 1947 the group changed its name to the Somali Youth League (SYL) and adopted the goals of unifying all Somali territories and opposing clannishness. Partly in response to nationalist pressures, both the Italians and the British took steps to improve education and health facilities, spur economic development, and give Somalis some experience in the political process.

Somalia’s independence in 1960 faced several obstacles. Economically, the country was obliged to rely on Italian and British subsidies; it also had to obtain other foreign loans to build an infrastructure and to create model farms and livestock improvement programs, all designed to increase exports. Other major obstacles included clan-family and subclan rivalries, the irredentist pressures to incorporate Somalis living in the various mini-Somalilands, and differences between residents of British and Italian Somaliland. These differences were of two main kinds: economic (pastoral nomadism with its tending of flocks as opposed to plantation agriculture) and political (northern Somalis were less experienced in administration and political participation than their counterparts in the south). Furthermore, the new Somali constitution did not include strategies designed to move citizens away from clan loyalties and toward national objectives. For example, the Iise clan of the Dir clan-family had devised a system by which the smallest clan was given a special role: that of providing the overall clan leader and also of being responsible for settling disputes. Such an approach could have served as a model for the Western framers of the Somali constitution.

As a result of clan-family dissensions, one of the major objectives of the Somali government after independence became that of national integration. This objective was accompanied by the efforts of the first president, Abdirashiid Ali Shermaarke, to promote a Greater Somalia. In seeking to distance itself from its colonial past, the new government cultivated relations with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Soviet influence prevailed, particularly in the armed forces, and later the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) established the National Security Service (NSS). The police force, however, was trained primarily by the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the United States. The 1969 elections for the National Assembly demonstrated the Somali characteristic of independence: sixty-four political parties participated, some of them as small as one man. The SYL, however, dominated the field. The elections revealed that various groups, especially the military, had become increasingly critical of government corruption and nepotism.

The October 1969 killing of President Shermaarke by one of his bodyguards led the army, which had previously avoided political participation, to take over under army commander Major General Mahammad Siad Barre. The new governing body, the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC), named Siad Barre president. Retroactively, to facilitate continued Soviet aid, the SRC indicated it was pursuing scientific socialism, although Somalia lacked the infrastructure appropriate to Marxist socialism. Among the new government’s objectives were breaking up the old regions (administrative units) into smaller entities and resettling many of the nomads in farming and fishing cooperatives. The government also sought to promote nationalist and socialist goals by appointing “peacekeepers” to replace the traditional elders and by creating various committees in place of traditional clan groups. With reference to the legal system, Siad Barre eliminated codes that gave clans land, water, and grazing rights. He also abolished the Islamic payment of blood money (diya) for injuries. Presumably, all these steps were designed to break down the traditional clan structure and strengthen the personal control of Siad Barre, as well as to weaken the role of religious leaders.

Although Siad Barre proclaimed scientific socialism compatible with Islam, his regime attempted to reduce the influence, particularly in politics, of Muslim leaders. Historically, clans had relied on itinerant religious teachers and on religiously devout males, known as wadaddo, who generally were the only literate individuals and who often occupied judicial roles. These religious functions were supplemented by Sufi religious orders or brotherhoods, whose leaders were more learned than the wadaddo. The best known of the latter was Mahammad Abdille Hasan, the early twentieth- century leader of the revolt against the British. In the first half of the twentieth century, religious teachers provided most of Somali education through Quranic schools that gave minimal literacy instruction. A major difficulty was the absence of an agreed-upon orthography for the Somali language until the government decreed one in 1973. The government undertook a huge literacy campaign thereafter and established numerous primary schools, some secondary schools, and a university. As of 1990, Somalia had 4,600 university students.

Whereas in its early years the SRC devoted considerable attention to such fields as education and economics, later a major part of its activity related to the political sphere. Despite the SRC’s denunciation of clannishness, the clans connected with Siad Barre and his family became sufficiently prominent to be dubbed the MOD (Mareehaan-Ogaden-Dulbahante–the name of Siad Barre’s clan, his mother’s clan, and his son-in- law’s clan, respectively). Initially, the SRC outlawed political parties, but in 1976 Siad Barre dissolved the SRC (it was later revived) and created one national party, the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (SRSP). The party in practice occupied a largely ceremonial position; actual power remained with Siad Barre.

To entrench his personal rule and in an attempt to regain the Ogaden, Siad Barre launched the Ogaden War against Ethiopia in 1977. The war officially ended in 1978 but low-level conflict continued with border raids and skirmishes for years afterward. Somalia experienced defeat and the death of 8,000 men, the influx of about 650,000 ethnic Somali and Ethiopian Oromo refugees, and a severe drain on its economy. The economic drain was caused by the purchase of military matériel to replace equipment lost in the war–three-quarters of Somalia’s armored units and one-half of its air force. Having lost its alliance with the Soviet Union, which shifted its support to Ethiopia during the war, Somalia sought military aid from the United States. The latter, following the fall of the shah of Iran in 1979, was eager to bolster defenses in the Persian Gulf-Indian Ocean area. As a result, in return for the United States provision of arms and military training in 1980 the United States and Somalia concluded a military access agreement by which the United States could use Somali ports and airfields in the event of a crisis. The expansion of its armed forces, which grew from 5,000 troops at independence to 65,000 in 1990, also sapped Somalia’s economy; for example, 30 percent of the national budget went for the military in the mid-1980s.

To develop the economy, in the early years of his regime Siad Barre launched several development plans, created agricultural and fishing cooperatives, and began establishing food processing plants. Somalia’s foreign debt, however, increased at a tremendous rate as a result of the 1977-78 Ogaden War. Unable to call on the Soviet Union for aid, the Siad Barre regime turned for economic aid to the West, to oil-producing Arab states such as Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, and to the World Bank. The economic crisis forced Somalia to devalue its currency and to encourage privatization. Economic output from agriculture and manufacturing, however, showed little progress and in some cases declined, partly as a result of intermittent droughts. The country lacked any energy sources, apart from wood and charcoal, despite surveys that indicated the likelihood of oil offshore in the Gulf of Aden. Moreover, its transportation and communications networks were minimal. In addition to livestock and agricultural products, which have constituted the bulk of Somalia’s exports, the country did have a number of undeveloped sectors, however. Among the chief of these were forestry (myrrh and frankincense were among Somalia’s exports), fishing, and mineral deposits, including uranium.

Following the Ogaden War, Siad Barre recognized that to gain Western support he needed to create a political system that would appear to restore many civil rights that had been eliminated by the military regime. Accordingly, the constitution of 1979 provided for freedom of speech, religion, publication, and assembly, but these rights were subject to major qualifications. The constitution made the president both head of state and head of government, with broad powers to conduct foreign affairs, serve as commander in chief of the armed forces, appoint various ministers and leading officials, and dissolve the legislature. Members of a single-chamber legislature, the People’s Assembly, served a five-year term, with the government drawing up official lists of candidates and the assembly occupying a largely symbolic position. On the local government level, Siad Barre had dissolved all elected bodies following the military coup and required that all candidates for election be approved by the central government. The constitution confirmed the National Security Courts introduced by Siad Barre; these courts had jurisdiction over numerous cases and supplemented the regular courts. Siad Barre appointed only military officers to the High Court, thus bringing the judiciary under the executive.

Another result of the Ogaden War was the rise of several organized internal opposition movements. To counter them, Siad Barre undertook increasingly repressive measures, including measures that involved numerous human rights violations. After judging a number of Majeerteen members of the military guilty of a coup attempt in 1978, Siad Barre initiated a campaign against the clan-family, using the Red Berets, an elite unit that served as his bodyguard. Several Majeerteen colonels escaped and fled abroad, where in 1978 they formed the Somali Salvation Front, renamed in 1979 the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF). This was the first opposition movement dedicated to overthrowing the regime by force.

Siad Barre then turned on the Isaaq in the north, who were discontented because they felt inadequately represented in his government. Isaaq dissidents in London had formed the Somali National Movement (SNM) in 1981 to topple Siad Barre’s regime. In 1982 they transferred their headquarters to Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, from where they conducted guerrilla raids against Somali government-held territory. Siad Barre’s campaign against the Isaaq was particularly bloody; it included the 1988 destruction by bombing of Hargeysa, Somalia’s major northern city, causing the flight to neighboring countries of tens of thousands of refugees. Next, Siad Barre attacked the Hawiye in the central area around Mogadishu. The Hawiye had meanwhile formed their own opposition movement, the United Somali Congress (USC), which received support from the SNM.

Siad Barre thus progressively alienated an increasing number of clans, including some, such as the Ogaden, that originally had given him strong support. The Ogaden blamed him for Somalia’s defeat in the Ogaden War and opposed his 1988 peace treaty and resumption of diplomatic relations with Ethiopia. As a result of Siad Barre’s actions, many Ogaden officers deserted from the army and joined the Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM), an opposition group that had been formed in 1985 and that also received SNM support.

The various opposition groups waged relatively intense warfare against the national army during Siad Barre’s final three years in office and gained control of extensive government areas: the SNM in the northwest, the USC in the center, and the SPM in the south. Africa Watch reported that 50,000 unarmed civilians were killed in the course of Siad Barre’s various reprisals against the Majeerteen, Isaaq, and Hawiye. Thousands more died of starvation resulting from the poisoning of waterwells and the slaughtering of cattle. In addition, hundreds of thousands sought refuge outside the country.

Following a July 1989 demonstration in Mogadishu in which about 450 persons were killed by government forces, leaders from various sectors of society, representing all clan-families, formed the Council for National Reconstruction and Salvation to press for political change. In May 1990, they published a manifesto calling for Siad Barre’s resignation, the establishment of an interim government representing opposition movements, and a timetable for multiparty elections. Siad Barre ordered the arrest of the 114 signatories, but the security forces could only locate 45 persons. Foreign protests over their detention forced their release. Meanwhile, the opposition groups recognized the need to hold talks among themselves to coordinate strategy; time, however, did not allow mutual trust to develop.

Opposition forces defeated Siad Barre’s regime on January 27, 1991. Long before the government collapsed, however, the armed forces, the police force, the People’s Militia, government ministries, and institutions such as the People’s Assembly, schools, and health facilities, for all practical purposes, had ceased to operate. Siad Barre fled Mogadishu, and, after a stay in Kenya, ultimately sought refuge in Nigeria. The USC announced the formation of a provisional government in February 1991, with Ali Mahdi Mahammad of the Hawiye clan-family as president and Umar Arteh Ghalib, of the Isaaq clan-family, as prime minister. However, former army commander General Mahammad Faarah Aidid opposed Mahammad’s presidency and eventually split off to form his own USC faction. The provisional USC government created a Ministry of Constitutional Affairs charged with planning a constitutional convention and revising the constitution. Meanwhile, provisions of the constitution of 1979 that had not been specifically voided by the provisional government remained in force. The provisional government also announced its intention of restoring judicial independence.

The USC’s establishment of a provisional government angered other opposition groups who felt they had not been consulted. In the subsequent clashes, the SSDF and the SPM aligned themselves against the USC. In the course of the fighting, control of various towns such as Chisimayu and Baidoa changed hands several times. A number of cease-fires were announced between early April 1991 and the latter part of 1992, but none remained in effect long.

Meanwhile, in the north the SNM refused to participate in the unity talks proposed by the USC. In May 1991, the SNM proclaimed the Republic of Somaliland as an interim government, pending 1993 elections, and decreeing the sharia as its legal base. As of early 1993, the Republic of Somaliland had not been recognized by any foreign government. Moreover, the government has proved ineffective in establishing its authority throughout the region of former British Somaliland that it claims to control.

In the Mogadishu area, each of the opposition groups drew support from a particular clan and each resorted to arms to further its claims. The result was disintegration of government, civil society, and essential services by September 1991 if not earlier. Serious fighting in Mogadishu began in September 1991, intensified in November, and by the end of March 1992 was estimated by Africa Watch to have caused 14,000 deaths and 27,000 wounded. Mahammad, a member of the Abgaal clan of the Hawiye clan-family and leader of one USC faction that had a force of about 5,000 fighters, gained control of northern Mogadishu. He was challenged primarily by Faarah Aidid, of the Habar Gidir clan of the Hawiye, who led a USC faction of about 10,000 guerrillas that advocated cooperation with the SNM. During 1991 and 1992, outside parties, such as Djibouti, the League of Arab States, the Organization of African Unity, the Islamic Conference, and the United Nations made numerous unsuccessful attempts to end the fighting in Mogadishu.

The situation in the country as a whole deteriorated rapidly, as a result not only of the civil war but also of the drought in central and southern Somalia that left hundreds of thousands starving. By August 1992 Somali refugees were reliably estimated at 500,000 in Ethiopia, 300,000 in Kenya, 65,000 in Yemen, 15,000 in Djibouti, and about 100,000 in Europe. The civil war destroyed Somalia’s infrastructure and brought all economic activities, apart from minimal subsistence agriculture, herding, and internal trade, to a virtual halt. Following an official visit to Somalia in early August 1992 by Muhammad Sahnoun, the UN Special Representative, and Bernard Kouchner, the French minister of health and humanitarian affairs, an estimate was released that approximately one-fourth of the population, about 1.5 million people, was in danger of death by starvation–other estimates ran as high as one-third of the population. A United States Centers for Disease Control study further showed that in the city of Baidoa at least 40 percent of the August 1992 population had died between August 9 and November 14; relief organizations estimated that as of September 25 percent of all Somali children under five years of age had died.

The problem of food distribution to the starving was aggravated by armed bandits, frequently under the influence of qat, a mild stimulant known to increase aggressiveness, that was grown in several areas of East Africa. These bandits, who recognized no authority except occasionally that of local warlords, looted warehouses in Mogadishu and other major centers as well as shipments of food to the interior. The rise of local warlords, who controlled the cities, including harbors and airports, as opposed to traditional clan leaders, clan councils, and clan-recruited militias in the hinterland, was a relatively new phenomenon in Somali society. Their rise has been attributed to the breakdown of central government authority and the lack of strong, well-organized opposition parties. The availability of vast quantities of arms in the country from earlier Soviet and United States arming of Somalia (between the early 1980s and mid- 1990, the United States provided Somalia with US$403 million in military aid), from the large caches of arms gained in gray and black markets, and from the cross-border trade, particularly in ammunition, as well as the military training that the Siad Barre regime required all school and college graduates and civil servants to undergo further facilitated the rise of warlords.

In response to this critical situation, UN secretary general Boutros-Ghali announced in early August that he would send UN soldiers to Somalia to protect food supplies. In mid-August United States president George Bush ordered a food air lift to Somalia. In implementation of his earlier pledge to protect food aid convoys, on August 28 Boutros-Ghali authorized sending 3,500 personnel in addition to a 500-man Pakistani force already authorized for Somalia.

After a number of delays resulting from the opposition of local warlords, on November 10 Pakistani units were allowed to take control of Mogadishu airport. Meanwhile, on November 21 the United States National Security Council decided to intervene in Somalia. It did so because of the scale of human disaster and the realization that the United States was the only nation perceived by Somalis and by the regional states as being in a position to maintain neutrality and with the ability to launch such a large- scale aid operation. The first United States military units in Operation Restore Hope arrived in Mogadishu on December 9. They were joined by elements of the French Foreign Legion from Djibouti with others from Belgium, Canada, Egypt, Italy, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey expected. To avoid contact with the foreign forces, Somali armed groups and their “technicals” (vehicles on which an automatic weapon had been mounted) began leaving Mogadishu, thus exacerbating security problems in the hinterland.

United States forces and those of their allies gradually branched out from the airport and harbor of Mogadishu to the surrounding area. In succession they secured the Soviet-built airport at Baledogle (halfway to Baidoa), Baidoa, and then Chisimayu, Baardheere, Oddur, Beledweyne, and Jalalaqsi. The plan entailed setting up food distribution centers in each of the major areas affected by the famine and bringing in large quantities of food so as to eliminate looting and hoarding. By doing so, the operation would ensure that food was no longer a “power chip,” thereby eliminating the role of the warlords. As the provision of food to southern Somalia reached massive proportions, however, it became clear that as a result of the August rains and resultant domestic crop production, it would be necessary to sell some of the donated grain in local markets at a suitable price in order to safeguard the livelihood of local farmers in the hinterland.

The question of the security of food shipments proved a difficult one with respect to disarming the population. The commander in chief of the United States Central Command, Marine General Joseph P. Hoar, announced on December 14 that the United States would not disarm Somalis because the carrying of arms was a political issue to be settled by Somalis. However, by January 7, 1993, after completing the first stage of Operation Restore Hope, United States forces began to pursue “technicals” and raid arms depots in order to safeguard the operation and protect United States and allied personnel and Somali civilians.

In the second stage of the operation, United States political officers also began coordinating town meetings in Mogadishu, Baidoa, Baardheere, and Chisimayu, encouraging Somalis to set up their own municipal institutions. Furthermore, United States military personnel cleared streets and restored municipal water systems. Observers noted that Somali women, who displayed a gift for reconciliation, were playing key roles in operating many of the food distribution centers established by nongovernmental organizations.

Meanwhile, on the political level, in an effort to further reconciliation, Aidid and Mahammad met several times, as arranged by former United States ambassador to Somalia Robert B. Oakley, who served as special presidential envoy. On December 28, the two Somalis led a peace march along the Green Line separating the two areas of Mogadishu controlled by their forces. Other factors complicating a political settlement were the control of Baardheere by Mahammad Siad Hersi Morgan, the son-in-law of Siad Barre and leader of the Somali National Front, a Mareehaan organization; and the control of Chisimayu by Colonel Ahmad Omar Jess, a leader allied with the SDM and the Southern Somali National Movement (SSNM). Jess was reliably reported to have killed between 100 and 200 individuals whom he regarded as potential enemies before United States forces reached Chisimayu.

As a symbol of support for United States forces and their efforts in Somalia, President Bush arrived on New Year’s Eve for a one-day visit and received a warm welcome from Somalis. In contrast, the UN secretary general faced an angry reception from Somali crowds on January 3. The Somalis remembered Boutros- Ghali’s former cordial relationship with Siad Barre when Boutros- Ghali served as Egyptian minister of foreign affairs. They also faulted the UN for its long inaction in relieving the starvation in Somalia; voluntary organizations, particularly the International Committee of the Red Cross, had proved more effective than the UN in sending food to Somalia and in setting up kitchens to feed hundreds of thousands daily. Despite this negative reception on January 4 the leaders of fourteen Somali factions attended meetings in Addis Ababa chaired by the UN secretary general at which the United States was represented. After considerable discussion, on January 15 the faction leaders signed a cease-fire agreement and a disarmament pact and called for a national reconciliation conference to be held in Addis Ababa on March 15. Despite the cease-fire, fighting and instability in Somalia continued to exist in late January.

Because of the number of foreign forces that had joined Operation Restore Hope–as of January 9 these numbered about 10,000–the first contingent of United States military personnel began to leave Somalia on January 19. Overall, United States forces were scheduled to remain at 25,000 in the immediate future. The long-term goal was to turn over the operation as rapidly as possible to a UN force; it was said that perhaps as many as 5,000 United States logistical, transportation, and engineering personnel might be assigned to the UN force.

With regard to Somalia’s future, the role of Islamism, sometimes referred to as fundamentalism, concerned the United States and some of its allies. In the north, Islamic militants, who were well trained and armed and supplied with funds primarily by wealthy Saudis, had at one time controlled the town of Bender Cassim in the northeast but had been driven out by the SSDF. From Bender Cassim the Islamists spread westward into such SNM areas as Hargeysa. Although Islamic militants, known as the Somali Islamic Union or popularly as Ittihad (Union), had relatively few supporters in Somalia, their numbers appeared to be increasing somewhat. In the latter months of 1992 they became active in Merca, the seaport south of Mogadishu, where they had sought an alliance with clan leaders in the SSNM, which was aligned with that section of the USC led by Faarah Aidid. Time would indicate whether the Islamists could prove effective in providing services that the government was not providing in such fields as education and health. If so, the likelihood of their gaining followers would increase greatly.

Other steps toward the creation of what President Bush termed a “secure environment” included a discussion held in mid-January between Aidid and Mahammad on reestablishing a police force. The police force had traditionally commanded respect in Somalia, and if such a force could be reconstituted initially in a number of regions but ultimately nationally, it would help diminish the power of the warlords and restore internal order. It was also likely to strengthen the position of traditional clan elders. Such steps would be consonant with the apparent goal of the UN Security Council to create a national government in Somalia with sufficient authority to maintain security but one that allowed considerable autonomy to the various regions.

The situation with regard to the relationship of the self- proclaimed Republic of Somaliland in the north and the rest of Somalia in the south remained unclear. Most knowledgeable observers noted that as yet there was no effective government in the northern region that could negotiate with the remainder of Somalia. Therefore, in the near future the establishment of either a federation with Somalia or a unitary state combining the two as in the past was unlikely.

Somalia Economy

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 Shebelle River valleys. The modern sector of the agricultural economy consists mainly of banana plantations located in the south, which have 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 generally recognized government. Aromatic woods–frankincense and myrrh–from a small and diminishing forest area 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 emitted by the TNG had fallen to over 30,000 shillings to the U.S. dollar.

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 Air Somalia and 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 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. 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 Galkayo, with programs in Somali and some other languages. There are two television broadcast stations in Mogadishu and one in Hargeisa.

GDP: purchasing power parity – $4.3 billion (2000 est.)
GDP – per capita: purchasing power parity – $600 (2000 est.)
GDP – composition by sector:
agriculture: 59%
industry: 10%
services: 31% (1995 est.)
Labor force: 3.7 million (very few are skilled laborers)(1993 est.)
Labor force – by occupation: agriculture (mostly pastoral nomadism) 71%, industry and services 29%
Industries: a few small industries, including sugar refining, textiles, petroleum refining (mostly shut down)
Electricity – production: 265 million kWh (1998)
Electricity – production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (1998)
Electricity – consumption: 246 million kWh (1998)
Agriculture – products: bananas, sorghum, corn, sugarcane, mangoes, sesame seeds, beans; cattle, sheep, goats; fish
Exports: $187 million (f.o.b., 1998 est.)
Exports – commodities: livestock, bananas, hides, fish (1997)
Exports – partners: Saudi Arabia 57%, UAE 15%, Italy 12%, Yemen 8% (1997)
Imports: $327 million (f.o.b., 1998 est.)
Imports – commodities: manufactures, petroleum products, foodstuffs, construction materials (1995)
Imports – partners: Djibouti 20%, Kenya 11%, Belarus 11%, India 10%, Saudi Arabia 9%, Brazil 9% (1997)
Debt – external: $2.6 billion (1997 est.)
Economic aid – recipient: $191.5 million (1995)
Currency: 1 Somali shilling (So. Sh.) = 100 cents

Map of Somalia