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In 1960, the Somali Republic was created by a merger of Italian Somaliland (the southern part) and British Somaliland (the northern part). Despite the formation of a coalition government with proportional representation of the different ethnic groups, the country soon became embroiled in violent conflict.

Mohamed Said Barre

In October 1969, power was assumed by General Mohamed Said Barre, who introduced a policy of 'scientific socialism'. During his reign, Somalia had a centralised authority structure which (formally) left no room for the clan system. The main clan or lineage groups in Somalia are the Isaak, the Hawiye, the Dir, the Darod, the Digil and the Rahanweyn. The latter two belong to the Saab group and originally live off agriculture in southern Somalia, while the first four groups have traditionally lived off nomadic cultivation and belong to the northern Samaal group.

During the 1970s and 1980s, opposition to Barre's autocratic and economically unsuccessful regime grew. The war for the Ogaden region (1977-1978), lost to Ethiopia, acted as a catalyst for the collapse of the Somali state. A widely supported independence movement emerged in north-western Somalia (present-day Somaliland), led by the Isaac clan. Barre attempted to crush the rebellion of this Somali National Movement (SNM). This led to a ruthless civil war, in which many people lost their lives and great material damage was suffered. Thousands of refugees fled to Djibouti and Ethiopia. This civil war created a still unbridgeable gap between the Somalilanders and the rest of Somalia. The rising tensions, falling incomes and the dramatic outcome of the Ogaden war meant the end for Barre. He left the country in 1991. Somalia collapsed with the outbreak of armed conflicts between clan and/or sub-clan organised militias and factions.


On 18 May 1991, the SNM declared independence in Somaliland, whose borders correspond to those of the former British Somaliland. In August 1998, clan leaders in the north-east followed suit and established Puntland which, unlike Somaliland, seeks only semi-autonomous status within a federal Somalia. Neither Puntland nor Somaliland have been and are still not recognised internationally as independent states. In the central and southern parts of Somalia, the ownership of available land (agriculture and pasture, water sites and infrastructure) was the focus of fighting. In combination with a severe drought in early 1992, this led to a huge famine and international food aid in April of the same year. When this aid became the focus of armed struggle, the UN decided at the end of 1992 to intervene with UNITAF (Unified Task Force), with military support from the US. Disarmament of the militias, however, failed. The international arms embargo on Somalia was (and is) violated. In October 1993, UNOSOM (United Nations Operation in Somalia) came into conflict with the militia of General Mohammed Farrah Aidid.

The death of American soldiers and the subsequent images of an American soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu led to an early end to international intervention in Somalia in 1994. Clan fighting resumed, the different warring factions fragmented further and banditry became widespread.

Between 1991 and 1999, several international attempts were made to get the warring parties to sign a peace agreement. They all failed.

Peace talks

In 2000, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD, an intergovernmental organisation of which Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda are members) organised peace talks with UN support in the Djiboutian town of Arta. Some 2,000 clan elders, religious leaders and other representatives of civil society took part in these 'Arta talks' from May to August 2000. The delegation members reached an agreement in August. A Transitional National Assembly (TNA) was elected. Abdulkassim Salat Hassan became interim president for three years. In October 2000, he appointed a Transitional Government (TNG), headed by Ali Khalif Galaydh.

Somaliland, the majority of the Darod/Majerteen, Hawiye and Rahanweyn clan and a number of warlords in Mogadishu quickly distanced themselves from the TNG. The opponents entered into a coalition early in 2001, in an attempt to present a united front. This meant that the TNG no longer enjoyed support among the Somali population. The violence intensified, particularly in southern Somalia. The IGAD therefore decided to make another attempt to achieve lasting peace and development in Somalia. In October 2002, a reconciliation conference was launched in Eldoret and later in Mbagathi, Kenya, with the participation of all Somali parties except Somaliland.


The Conference accepted the current Constitution at the end of January 2004. It provides for a federal form of government and a transitional parliament (TFP). Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, until then President of Puntland, was elected by the TFP in October 2004 as President of the Federal Republic of Somalia for a five-year term. With this election, the peace process formally came to an end. Following the inauguration of President Yusuf on 14 October 2004, the previous TNG transitional government officially stepped down.

President Yusuf Ahmed appointed Ali Mohamed Gedi as Prime Minister on 3 November 2004. Until his appointment, Gedi worked in Somalia for local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The relocation of the new government and parliament from Nairobi to Somalia took until February 2005. To this day, part of the parliament and the government experience Mogadishu as a very unsafe area. Armed clashes between different interest groups take place regularly in the capital. President Yusuf and Prime Minister Gedi are staying in Jowhar for the time being. Their safety is guaranteed by Ethiopia and the local warlord Mohammed Dheere. As a result of this situation, the cabinet and parliament split. Besides the 'Jowhar group', there is the 'Mogadishu group' led by Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden. As a result, it proved impossible for the Transitional Parliament (TFP) to meet for a session. This situation continued for a little over a year until, under the auspices of the Yemeni President, President Yusuf met with his rival Sheikh Aden in early January 2006. This meeting resulted in the so-called 'Aden Declaration', in which both indicated that they would work together to resolve the status quo. The 'Aden Declaration' was followed by a meeting of the (almost) entire TFP on 26 February 2006 in Baidoa, northeast of Mogadishu. The meeting was peaceful.

In June 2006, an alliance of militias linked to privately established Islamic courts restored order throughout the capital, Mogadishu. The Ethiopian- and US-backed alliance of Somali fighters in Mogadishu was defeated and driven out. The Supreme Council of Islamic Courts (SICC) accused Ethiopia of invading Somalia with thousands of troops. The TFG and the SICC did enter into talks.

Talks between the SICC and TFG followed in November and December but failed. Then in mid-December, Ethiopia, with American support, intervened militarily to help the weak TFG and eliminate the Islamists. The capital Mogadishu fell on 28 December. In 2007 and 2008, the situation remained extremely unsettled and there was still a presence of Ethiopian troops. In June 2008, the government tried to broker a ceasefire, but Hassan Dahir Aweys leader of the Islamists said he would not stop fighting until all foreign troops were out of the country.


The years 2008 and 2009 are dominated by piracy; pirates hijack ships and demand ransoms. Many Western countries sent warships to the coast of Somalia. In January 2009, Ethiopia withdrew all its troops from Somalia. In June 2009, the Minister of Security was the victim of a bomb attack. President Ahmed declares a state of emergency and asks for troop support from other countries to help in the fight against Islamism, especially the Al-Shabab militia. In February 2010, Al-Shabab officially declared its links with al-Qaeda. In July 2010, Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. Here, 74 people died in a bomb attack during the World Cup finals. In September 2010, Prime Minister Sharmarke resigned and was succeeded by Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. In 2011, Kenya intervened on Somali territory against Al-Shabab. In 2012 the first elections were held since 1967.

Recent history

In September 2012, Hassan Sheikh Mohamed became President of Somalia. The United States recognised the government of Somalia in January 2013 and pledged military support in April 2013. In September, al-Shabab struck hard in Kenya's capital, Nairobi. More than 60 people were killed in an attack on a shopping mall. According to Al-Shabab, this was because of Kenya's support for Somalia. In December 2013, Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon is replaced by Abdiwelli Sheikh Ahmed after a disagreement with the President. In June 2014, US and EU representatives met with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to discuss the poor political situation and the fight against Al-Shabab. In 20015 and 2016, the fight against Al-Shabab continued, supported by African Union countries. In February 2016, the southern port of Merca was recaptured from Al-Shabab. In February 2017, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed was elected president. In October 2017, there was a major attack in Mogadishu with 350 people killed, al-Shabab claimed the attack. Since September 2020 Mohamed Hussein Roble has been Prime Minister. The planned elections of 10 October 2021 have been postponed.


Elmar Landeninformatie

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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