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Somalia

Background

Somalia

Britain withdrew from British Somaliland in 1960 to allow its protectorate to join with Italian Somaliland and form the new nation of Somalia. In 1969, a coup headed by Mohamed SIAD Barre ushered in an authoritarian socialist rule characterized by the persecution, jailing and torture of political opponents and dissidents. After the regime's collapse early in 1991, Somalia descended into turmoil, factional fighting, and anarchy. In May 1991, northern clans declared an independent Republic of Somaliland that 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 and continues efforts to establish a constitutional democracy, including holding municipal, parliamentary, and presidential elections. The regions of Bari, Nugaal, and northern Mudug comprise a neighboring semi-autonomous state of Puntland, which has been self-governing since 1998 but does not aim at independence; it has also made strides toward reconstructing a legitimate, representative government but has suffered some civil strife. Puntland disputes its border with Somaliland as it also claims portions of eastern Sool and Sanaag. 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. In 2000, the Somalia National Peace Conference (SNPC) held in Djibouti resulted in the formation of an interim government, known as the Transitional National Government (TNG). When the TNG failed to establish adequate security or governing institutions, the Government of Kenya, under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), led a subsequent peace process that concluded in October 2004 with the election of Abdullahi YUSUF Ahmed as President of a second interim government, known as the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of the Somali Republic. The TFG included a 275-member parliamentary body, known as the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP). President YUSUF resigned late in 2008 while United Nations-sponsored talks between the TFG and the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) were underway in Djibouti. In January 2009, following the creation of a TFG-ARS unity government, Ethiopian military forces, which had entered Somalia in December 2006 to support the TFG in the face of advances by the opposition Islamic Courts Union (ICU), withdrew from the country. The TFP was increased to 550 seats with the addition of 200 ARS and 75 civil society members of parliament. The expanded parliament elected Sheikh SHARIF Sheikh Ahmed, the former CIC and ARS chairman as president on 31 January 2009, in Djibouti. Subsequently, President SHARIF appointed Omar Abdirashid ali SHARMARKE, son of a former president of Somalia, as prime minister on 13 February 2009. SHARMARKE resigned in September 2010 and was replaced by Mohamed Abdullahi MOHAMED, aka Farmajo, a dual US-Somali citizen that lived in the United Stated from 1985 until his return to Somalia in October 2010. The creation of the TFG was based on the Transitional Federal Charter (TFC), which outlines a five-year mandate leading to the establishment of a new Somali constitution and a transition to a representative government following national elections. However, in January 2009 the TFP amended the TFC to extend TFG's mandate until 2011.

About

WARNING: Somalia is not safe for independent travel or sightseeing due to armed conflict between Government forces and Islamist insurgents, kidnappings, warlording, and piracy. Those visiting for business, research or international aid purposes should consult with their organization and seek expert guidance before planning a trip. If you must go, see War zone safety.

Somalia is on the Horn of Africa, and is bordered by Ethiopia to the west, Djibouti to the north-west, and Kenya on its south-west. This is a country with a troubled past. Civil war, military coups, border disputes and warlordism are the general course of events here. Things started to improve after the Ethiopian Army withdrew in 2007 after defeating an Islamist government, but since then violence has flared up again with the re-emergence of Islamist and other clan and warlord-affiliated militias. Somalia is currently ruled by the a Coalition government, compromising the Internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the former Islamist government. However, the government is currently waging a military campaign with radical Islamic factions that refused to merge with the government and are backed by al-Qaeda.

Read more about Somalia in our Somalia travel guide »

A travel warning has been issued for Somalia

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Somalia

Capital
Mogadishu
Location

Eastern Africa, bordering the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, east of Ethiopia

Geographic coordinates

10 00 N, 49 00 E

Area comparative

slightly smaller than Texas

Border countries

Djibouti 58 km, Ethiopia 1,600 km, Kenya 682 km

Coastline

3,025 km

Climate

principally desert; northeast monsoon (December to February), moderate temperatures in north and hot in south; southwest monsoon (May to October), 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

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, natural gas, likely oil reserves

Population

10,112,453

Ethnic groups

Somali 85%, Bantu and other non-Somali 15% (including Arabs 30,000)

Religions

Sunni Muslim

Languages

Somali (official), Arabic, Italian, English

Government type

no permanent national government; transitional, parliamentary federal government

Independence

1 July 1960 (from a merger of British Somaliland that became independent from the UK on 26 June 1960 and Italian Somaliland that became independent from the Italian-administered UN trusteeship on 1 July 1960 to form the Somali Republic)

National holiday

Foundation of the Somali Republic, 1 July (1960); note - 26 June (1960) in Somaliland

Chief of state

Transitional Federal President Sheikh SHARIF Sheikh Ahmed (since 31 January 2009); note - a transitional governing entity with a five-year mandate, known as the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs), was established in October 2004; the TFIs relocated to Somalia in June 2004; in 2009, the TFI's were given a two-year extension to October 2011

Head of government

Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed FARMAJO (since 1 November 2010)

Internet country code

.so

Internet users

106,000 (2009)

Airports

59 (2010)

Ports and terminals

Berbera, Kismaayo

Other countries in the region