On the cap of the Horn of Africa. To the south is Kenya, to the west,
Ethiopia, to the Northwest, Djibouti and, to the north, the Gulf of
What is the land like?
Hot and dry all year round, with regular droughts, and only two
permanent rivers in the whole country. There are two main rainy seasons
a year, which fall during the droughts. The northern coast, the longest
of any country in Africa, has been vital to the country's trade with
the Middle East and the rest of East Africa. The whole country
is about the same size as Texas.
has occupied the Somali people?
People lived in the area from prehistoric times. But most Somalis
claim descendant from the Arab settlers who arrived around 1,000
Somalia was known as The Land of Punt by the Egyptians. The
Chinese traded with Somalis to take exotic wildlife back to their
10th century courts. By the 12th century, the ancestors of Somalia's
main clan families were established.
was well-established the end of the 12th century.
lifestyle is mostly nomadic farming. Settled agriculture is also
practised in the Northwest and between the two rivers in the south.
has occupied the country since?
Somalia was divided up by European colonialists after the opening
of the Suez Canal in the late 1800s. By 1900 the British, Italians,
French and Ethiopians all jointly ruled a very divided land.
Sayyid (known to the British as The Mad Mullah) led a Muslim uprising
against colonialism around 1900. But the country's new-found independence
only lasted until the 1940s when both the Italians and the British
invaded the country.
The Somalis pressed for true independence over the next decades
and, in 1960, Italian and British Somalia merged to form the Somali
The next ten years of peace and stability saw China, the Soviet
Union, and the United States
providing both aid, assistance and, in some cases, military aid.
Clan animosity led to the assassination of the Somali president
in 1969. The army took over, and closely aligned with the Soviet
Union, set up the Supreme Revolutionary Council. The Council introduced
literacy, improved the status of women and minorities and developed
the country's infrastructure, health and education. Later it abolished
the national assembly, suspended the constitution, and locked up
former government members. There was growing opposition from Islamic
Political instability in the region, conflicts with Ethiopia and
the fall of the Shah of Iran, led to less co-operation with the
Soviet Union and increased military and development aid from the
USA, Europe and Arab countries during the 1970s.
mosque still standing in Somalia
After the ousting of Siyaad Barre and his revolutionary regime,
clan competition for power and the desire to settle old scores took
over the area.
The country was divided. In the north, independence was declared
and the Somaliland Republic set up. In the South two warring factions
divided the area, one led by interim president Ali Mahdi Mohammed,
the other by the military wing leader, Mohammed Farah Aideed. In
the Northeast, which had stayed out of the political events for
the most part, local peace was maintained and the people began restoring
At least 45% of the population was displaced internally or fled
abroad. Around four hundred thousand Somalis died from violence,
disease and famine. By 1992 around 1.5 million Somalis were in danger
In the south, bandits under the authority of local warlords ruled
the country, even looting food aid. In the power vacuum created
by the government's collapse, those who were best armed, ruled.
In 1993 the United Nations took over command of the emergency aid
distribution from the United States.
There is still no recognised legel government for the whole
of Somalia. The country is still suffering from internal conflict.
based on "Somali Community Development Report" by Jawaahir
Daahir and Hashim Duale, Somali Community Development Workers in
Leicester. Written in 2002.