total: 637,657 sq km
land: 627,337 sq km
water: 10,320 sq km
Total: 2,385 km
border countries (3):
Djibouti 61 km,
Ethiopia 1,640 km,
Kenya 684 km
Coastline: 3025 km
Total: 5410 km
northeast monsoon (December to February),
moderate temperatures in north and hot in south;
southwest monsoon (May to October).
mostly flat to undulating plateau rising to hills in north
mean elevation: 410 m
elevation extremes: lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Shimbiris 2,416 m
uranium and largely unexploited reserves of iron ore, tin, gypsum, bauxite, copper, salt, natural gas, likely oil reserves
agricultural land: 70.3%
arable land 1.8%; permanent crops 0%; permanent pasture 68.5%
other: 19.1% (2011 est.)
2,000 sq km (2012)
Population – distribution:
distribution varies greatly throughout the country; least densely populated areas are in the northeast and central regions, as well as areas along the Kenyan border; most populated areas are in and around the cities of Mogadishu, Marka, Boorama, Hargeysa, and Baidoa
recurring droughts; frequent dust storms over eastern plains in summer; floods during the rainy season
People and Society
Somalia scores very low for most humanitarian indicators, suffering from poor governance, protracted internal conflict, underdevelopment, economic decline, poverty, social and gender inequality, and environmental degradation. Despite civil war and famine raising its mortality rate, Somalia’s high fertility rate and large proportion of people of reproductive age maintain rapid population growth, with each generation being larger than the prior one. More than 60% of Somalia’s population is younger than 25, and the fertility rate is among the world’s highest at almost 6 children per woman – a rate that has decreased little since the 1970s.
A lack of educational and job opportunities is a major source of tension for Somalia’s large youth cohort, making them vulnerable to recruitment by extremist and pirate groups. Somalia has one of the world’s lowest primary school enrollment rates – just over 40% of children are in school – and one of world’s highest youth unemployment rates. Life expectancy is low as a result of high infant and maternal mortality rates, the spread of preventable diseases, poor sanitation, chronic malnutrition, and inadequate health services.
During the two decades of conflict that followed the fall of the SIAD regime in 1991, hundreds of thousands of Somalis fled their homes. Today Somalia is the world’s third highest source country for refugees, after Syria and Afghanistan. Insecurity, drought, floods, food shortages, and a lack of economic opportunities are the driving factors. As of 2016, more than 1.1 million Somali refugees were hosted in the region, mainly in Kenya, Yemen, Egypt, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Uganda, while more than 1.1 million Somalis were internally displaced.
11,031,386(July 2017 est.)
Somali 85%, Bantu and other non-Somali 15% (including 30,000 Arabs)
Somali (official, according to the 2012 Transitional Federal Charter), Arabic (official, according to the 2012 Transitional Federal Charter), Italian, English
Sunni Muslim (Islam) (official, according to the 2012 Transitional Federal Charter)
Ethnicity, Language, and Religion
The Somali people make up the overwhelming majority of Somalia’s population. They are divided into numerous clans, which are groups that trace their common ancestry back to a single father. These clans, which in turn are subdivided into numerous subclans, combine at a higher level to form clan families. The clan families inhabiting the interfluvial area of southern Somalia are the Rahanwayn and the Digil, which together are known as the Sab. Mainly farmers and agropastoralists, the Sab include both original inhabitants and numerous Somali groups that have immigrated into this climatically favorable area.
Other clan families are the Daarood of northeastern Somalia, the Ogaden, and the border region between Somalia and Kenya; the Hawiye, chiefly inhabiting the area on both sides of the middle Shabeelle and south-central Somalia; and the Isaaq, who live in the central and western parts of northern Somalia. In addition, there is the Dir, living in the northwestern corner of the country but also dispersed throughout southern Somalia, and the Tunni, occupying the stretch of coast between Marca and Kismaayo. Toward the Kenyan border, the narrow coastal strip and offshore islands are inhabited by the Bagiunis, a Swahili fishing people.
The Somali language belongs to the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Despite several regional dialects, it is understood throughout the country and is an official language. The second official language is Arabic, which is spoken chiefly in northern Somalia and in the coastal towns. Owing to Somalia’s colonial past, many people have a good command of English and Italian, which, in addition to Somali, are used at the country’s colleges and universities. Swahili also is spoken in the south. In 1973 Somalia adopted an official orthography based on the Latin alphabet. Until then, Somali had been an unwritten language. Virtually all Somali belong to the Shāfiʿī rite of the Sunni sect of Islam. Various Muslim orders (ṭarīqa) are important, especially the Qādirīyah, the Aḥmadīyah, and the Ṣaliḥiyah.
After more than two decades of conflict, a generation of Somali children lost the opportunity for formal education and other benefits of a stable childhood. Somalia has one of the world’s lowest enrolment rates for primary school-aged children – only 30 percent of children are in school and only 40 percent of these are girls. Further, only 18 percent of children in rural households is in school.
Extremely high rates of poverty in communities across Somalia make it difficult for parents to afford school fees. In many areas, parents are required to pay for their children’s education, and poverty remains the main reason they give for not sending their children to school. Somaliland declared free primary public education in 2011 but has had great difficulty in retaining teachers at the salaries the government can afford to pay. With parents and communities no longer paying for public primary education, schools have almost no funds to cover their running costs.
Girls’ participation in education is consistently lower than that for boys. Fewer than 50 percent of girls attend primary school, and the last countrywide survey from 2006 showed that only 25 percent of women aged 15 to 24 were literate. The low availability of sanitation facilities (especially separate latrines for girls), a lack of female teachers (less than 20 percent of primary-school teachers in Somalia are women), safety concerns and social norms that favor boys’ education are cited as factors inhibiting parents from enrolling their daughters in school.
Education opportunities in Somalia are limited outside major urban areas and gender representation among both educators and students remains skewed. Schools are regularly semi-financed by parents too, and that makes it even harder for a poor child to enter the school system. A 4-year middle school phase follows. Subjects on the curriculum prescribed by the ministry of education include Somali, Islamic studies, English, maths, science, social studies, geography, and history.
The final phase in Somali school education comprises 4 years too. A similar spread of academic subjects continues and there is no option of a vocational stream. It is as if poorer children in rural areas almost have no place in their school system. There are two forms of tertiary education. One is aimed at school dropouts and helps them to become usefully employed citizens. The other is the traditional university model that is offered at several universities and polytechnics. The leading institution is generally thought to be Amoud University in Borama shown here. There, 1,700 students who made it through an often-unfair school system have a choice of 9 faculties in which to study.
At local levels, community education committees and child to child clubs play a key role in school administration and in building community resilience. Regular monthly meetings of the Education Sector Committee will be supported, as well as the technical working group (on, for example, gender or Education Management Information System), in order to strengthen the coordination of education-sector programmes.
Somalia’s real gross domestic product (GDP) growth weakened in 2017 due to the severe drought. Although Somalia averted widespread famine in 2017, the drought led to large-scale food insecurity, affecting more than six million people. More than half of the population lives in poverty and a large proportion is sensitive to negative shocks. Real GDP growth declined to 1.8% in 2017 from 2.4% in 2016. Economic activity is mainly anchored in agriculture and the services sector. The agriculture sector experienced near total collapse with crop failures, a widespread shortage of water and pasture; and increased livestock mortality. Inflationary pressure increased in 2017 due to drought is driven by significant increases in crop prices.
Agriculture is the most important sector, with livestock normally accounting for about 40% of GDP and more than 50% of export earnings. Nomads and semi-pastoralists, who are dependent upon livestock for their livelihood, make up a large portion of the population. Economic activity is estimated to have increased by 2.4% in 2017 because of growth in the agriculture, construction and telecommunications sector. Somalia’s small industrial sector, based on the processing of agricultural products, has largely been looted and the machinery sold as scrap metal.
Despite the lack of effective national governance, Somalia maintains an informal economy largely based on livestock, remittance/money transfer companies, and telecommunications. In recent years, Somalia’s capital city, Mogadishu, has witnessed the development of the city’s first gas stations, supermarkets, and airline flights to Turkey since the collapse of central authority in 1991. Mogadishu’s main market offers a variety of goods from food to electronic gadgets. Hotels continue to operate and are supported with private-security militias. Formalized economic growth has yet to expand outside of Mogadishu and a few regional capitals, and within the city, security concerns dominate business.
Telecommunication firms provide wireless services in most major cities and offer the lowest international call rates on the continent. In the absence of a formal banking sector, money transfer/remittance services have sprouted throughout the country, handling up to $1.6 billion in remittances annually, although international concerns over the money transfers into Somalia continues to threaten these services’ ability to operate in Western nations. In 2017, Somalia elected a new president and collected a record amount of foreign aid and investment, a positive sign for economic recovery.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$17.47 billion (2017 est.)
$17.06 billion (2016 est.)
$16.53 billion (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2016 US dollars
$6.522 billion (2017 est.)
GDP – real growth rate:
2.4% (2017 est.)
3.2% (2016 est.)
3.6% (2015 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP):
$2,700 (2017 est.)
$2,600 (2016 est.)
$2,500 (2015 est.)
Gross national saving:
$NA (2017 est.)
$NA (2016 est.)
$NA (2015 est.)
GDP – composition, by sector of origin:
services: 32.5% (2013 est.)
Agriculture – products:
bananas, sorghum, corn, coconuts, rice, sugarcane, mangoes, sesame seeds, beans; cattle, sheep, goats; fish
light industries, including sugar refining, textiles, wireless communication
Population below poverty line:
revenues: $145.3 million
expenditures: $151.1 million (2014 est.)
Agriculture in Somalia (Somali: Beeraha Soomaaliya) is a major employment activity and is the largest economic sector in the country. It contributes more than 65% to the national GDP from domestic distribution and exports to other parts of the continent, the Middle East, and Europe. According to the Central Bank of Somalia, about 80% of the population are nomadic or semi-nomadic pastoralists, who keep camels, goats, sheep, and cattle. The herders also gather resins and gums to supplement their income. over the past three decades, Somalia’s livestock and crop subsectors have been buffeted by an increasingly fragile and degraded natural environment and more frequent and severe cycles of drought and floods.
Camel, sheep and goat herding are the main types of local pastoralism, particularly in the northern part of the country. Livestock includes the Somali goat and Somali sheep. The Somali goat is used primarily for the production of meat. Both males and females have horns, although females are often polled. The goats are drought tolerant and, when milked, can each yield one to three kilograms of milk daily, even when access to water is limited. The Somali sheep is the direct forebear of the Blackhead Persian, the latter of which was bred in South Africa between the late 19th century to early 20th century and has been extensively used for crossbreeding in many tropical areas. It belongs to the fat-tail type, and both of the breed’s genders are polled. The animal is mainly reared for meat production, and is a major export of the Somalian economy, particularly to the Arabian peninsula.
Livestock and crops remain the main sources of economic activity, employment, and exports in Somalia. Agriculture’s share of gross domestic product (GDP) is approximately 75% and represents 93% of total exports, mostly linked to robust livestock exports in the recent pre-drought years. Sesame is now the largest export among crops, followed by dried lemon, in the wake of the total collapse of banana exports. Despite Somalia’s rich fish stocks, coastal fishing has remained small-scale and artisanal while foreign commercial vessels have enjoyed both legal and illegal harvesting offshore.
In the short to medium term, the recovery of agricultural production depends on better security, stronger public and community institutions, and the rehabilitation of dilapidated flood control, irrigation, and transport infrastructure. In the longer term, the sector’s growth potential can be achieved by developing and implementing a comprehensive sector development strategy, supported by effective institutions and interventions that harness the dynamism of its private sector.
Before the start of civil war in the early 1990s, the manufacturing sector was beginning to develop. However, all industries suffered major losses during the civil war, accounting in 2000 for only 10% of GDP. Industries mainly serve the domestic market and, to a lesser extent, provide some of the needs of Somalia’s agricultural exports, such as the manufacture of crates for packing bananas. Most industries have been looted, however, and many sold for scrap metal.
The most important industries were petroleum refining (as of 2000 shut down), the state-owned sugar plants at Jowhar and Gelib, an oilseed-crushing mill, and a soap factory. Other industries manufactured corrugated iron, paint, cigarettes and matches, aluminum utensils, cardboard boxes and polyethylene bags, and textiles. A cement plant at Berbera was completed in 1985.
The fish- and meat-canning export industries operate below capacity. Textiles are produced at the SOMALTEX plant, which supplies virtually the entire domestic market. Most major enterprises were government-owned, but private plants produce food, beverages, chemicals, clothing, and footwear. There are also plants for milk processing, vegetable and fruit canning, and wheat flour and pasta manufacturing, as well as several grain mills. The country’s first pharmaceuticals factory, near Mogadishu, opened in 1986. Local craft industries produce sandals and other leather products, cotton cloth, pottery, baskets, and clay or meerschaum vessels.
The oil refinery at Mogadishu, with a production capacity of 10,000 barrels per day, has been out of operation since 1991. There is one natural gas field, but exploration and exploitation of oil and natural gas have been suspended since the political conflict began.
The modest Manufacturing based on the processing of agricultural products accounts for 10% of Somalia’s GDP. Prior to the outbreak of the civil war in 1991, the roughly 53 state-owned small, medium and large manufacturing firms were foundering, with the ensuing conflict destroying many of the remaining industries. However, primarily as a result of substantial local investment by the Somali diaspora, many of these small-scale plants have re-opened and newer ones have been created.
According to the UNDP, investments in light manufacturing have expanded in Bosaso, Hargeisa and Mogadishu, in particular, indicating growing business confidence in the economy. To this end, in 2004, an $8.3 million Coca-Cola bottling plant opened in Mogadishu, with investors hailing from various constituencies in Somalia. The robust private sector has also attracted foreign investment from the likes of General Motors and Dole Fruit.
population without electricity: 8,900,000
electrification – total population: 15%
electrification – urban areas: 33%
electrification – rural areas: 4% (2013)
Electricity – production:
344 million kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – consumption:
319.9 million kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – exports:
0 kWh (2016 est.)
Electricity – imports:
0 kWh (2016 est.)
Electricity – installed generating capacity:
81,000 kW (2015 est.)
Electricity – from fossil fuels:
98.8% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Electricity – from nuclear fuels:
0% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Telephones – fixed lines:
total subscriptions: 48,000
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: less than 1 (July 2016 est.)
Telephones – mobile cellular:
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 60 (July 2016 est.)
Internet country code:
percent of population: 1.9% (July 2016 est.)
Banking and Finance
The Central Bank of Somalia, a government institution with branches in every region, controls the issue of currency and performs the central banking functions of the state. All banks were nationalized in 1970. The Central Bank was set up in 1960. The Commercial and Savings Bank, formed in 1975 from a merger of the National Commercial Bank and the Somali Savings and Credit Bank, was closed in June 1990. The Somali Development Bank was created in 1983, and the Commercial Bank of Somalia was opened in July 1990. The formal banking system no longer functions.
As of 1996, the Somali shilling was still widely in use despite the lack of a government to back the currency, which was holding its value because there were no new notes. In 1999, the mass distribution of counterfeit Somali shillings reduced the value of the shilling against the US dollar from 7.5 to 10,000. The exchange rate was at 2,600 in 2000. Four competing versions of the national currency were reported to be in circulation. A new bank, the Barakat Bank of Somalia, was established in Mogadishu at the end of October 1996. Initially capitalized at $2 million, the bank intended to use the dollar as its working currency; and to specialize in small loans to Somali traders, foreign currency exchange, and currency transactions abroad. The bank aimed to establish a further 90 branches across the country.
During the civil war in Somalia, there were no functioning banks in the country as there was no fiscal legislation. Prior to the current system, there were a number of money transfer companies, hawala, that existed to allow diasporas to transfers money to their families. However, the Central Bank of Somalia was re-opened by the Transitional Government on 23 November 2009. 5 The Central Bank namely has two primary objectives. This namely includes; that the Central Bank achieves and maintains domestic price stability as well as fosters and maintains a stable and competitive market-based financial system.
The Central Bank acts as a regulator as well as a supervisor for the financial system in Somalia. New Financial Institution opened such as International Bank of Somalia opened in October 2014. 8 It is therefore very difficult to assess the success of the banking industry because of the short period of time that the banking industry has developed. However, it is also notable that in a short period of time, since the opening of the first bank in October 2014, There are six banks including those evolved from hawala (Money Transfers units) and new banks that have been set up as commercial banks, which all were granted license by the Central Bank of Somalia.
Tourism in Somalia is regulated by the Federal Government of Somalia’s Ministry of Tourism. The industry was traditionally noted for its numerous historical sites, beaches, waterfalls, mountain ranges and national parks. After the start of the civil war in the early 1990s, the Tourism Ministry shut down operations. It was re-established in the 2000s, and once again oversees the national tourist industry. The Mogadishu-based Somali Tourism Association (SOMTA) provides on-the-ground consulting services.
While Somalia’s landmarks are complicated by the fact that some of them are out of bounds during periods of violence and conflict, there are certainly some spots which should not be missed. The country boasts many natural landmarks, including national parks and mountains in which locals place a great deal of pride. Most of the attractions concern the region’s cultural and political history, which are interesting considering the current instability.
Place of Attraction
By far the best-known and most popular landmark in Somalia is Laas Geel, a series of caves in Somaliland that display hundreds of ancient Neolithic paintings. The rock art in these caves is arguably some of the best-preserved anywhere in the world, dating back to 9000 BC, and travelers who are able to visit the site are privileged.
Somalia is rich in natural beauty and this is evident in the plethora of national parks. One of the most popular parks is Kismayu National Park in the southwest region.
Kismayu is one of the only parks which is home to many animals that are native to the East African region, like the Somali sheep and the Somali wild ass.
There are several beaches in Somalia and Somaliland, but the beach area which takes the cake is the Berbera Seaside in the Sahil region near Hargeisa. The Berbera Seaside area boasts gorgeous beaches which are not yet spoiled by tourism and overdevelopment, the bluest waters, and the softest sands.
An important museum chronicling the ethnographic and cultural history and development of the Somali people, and particularly those living in Somaliland, the Hargeisa Provincial Museum is not to be missed.
Another great place to learn about the country is the National Museum of Somalia. The museum holds many culturally significant artifacts, including ancient weaponry, traditional artwork, coins and bartering tools, and items of pottery.
Somalia abounds with natural landmarks, one of which is popular with locals. The twin hills of Naasa Hablood, situated on the outskirts of Hargeisa city, are sometimes referred to as ‘Virgin’s Breast Mountains’ because of their shape when looked at from a side view.
Historians once believed that the Somalis originated on the Red Sea’s western coast, or perhaps in southern Arabia, it now seems clear that the ancestral homeland of the Somalis, together with affiliated Cushite peoples, was in the highlands of southern Ethiopia, specifically in the lake regions. Similarly, the once-common notion that the migration and settlement of early Muslim followers of the Prophet Muhammad on the Somali coast had a significant impact on the Somalis no longer enjoys much academic support. Scholars now recognize that the Arab factor except for the Somalis’ conversion to Islam is marginal to understanding the Somali past. Furthermore, conventional wisdom once held that Somali migrations followed a north-to-south route; the reverse of this now appears to be nearer the truth. Increasingly, evidence places the Somalis within a wide family of peoples called Eastern Cushiest by modern linguists and described earlier in some instances as Hamites.
From a broader cultural-linguistic perspective, the Cushion family belongs to a vast stock of languages and peoples considered Afro-Asiatic. Afro-Asiatic languages, in turn, include Cushion (principally Somali, Oromo, and Afar), the Hausa language of Nigeria, and the Semitic languages of Arabic, Hebrew, and Amharic. Medieval Arabs referred to the Eastern Cushiest as the Berbers. In addition to the Somalis, the Cushites include the largely nomadic Afar (Danakil), who straddle the Great Rift Valley between Ethiopia and Djibouti; the Oromo, who have played such a large role in Ethiopian history and in the 1990s constituted roughly one-half of the Ethiopian population and were also numerous in northern Kenya; the Reendille (Rendilli) of Kenya; and the Aweera (Boni) along the Lamu coast in Kenya. The Somalis belong to a sub-branch of the Cushites, the Omo-Tana group, whose languages are almost mutually intelligible. The original home of the Omo-Tana group appears to have been on the Omo and Tana rivers, in an area extending from Lake Turkana in present-day northern Kenya to the Indian Ocean coast.
The Somalis form a subgroup of the Omo-Tana called Sam. Having split from the mainstream of Cushite peoples about the first half of the first millennium B.C., the proto-Sam appear to have spread to the grazing plains of northern Kenya, where proto-Sam communities seem to have followed the Tana River and to have reached the Indian Ocean coast well before the first century A.D. 4 Historical Setting On the coast, the proto-Sam splintered further; one group (the Boni) remained on the Lamu Archipelago, and the other moved northward to populate southern Somalia. There the group’s members eventually developed a mixed economy based on farming and animal husbandry, a mode of life still common in southern Somalia. Members of the proto-Sam who came to occupy the Somali Peninsula were known as the so-called Samaale, or Samaal, a clear reference to the mythical father figure of the main Somali clan-families, whose name gave rise to the term Somali. The Samaal again moved farther north in search of water and pasturelands. They swept into the vast Ogaden (Ogaadeen) plains, reaching the southern shore of the Red Sea by the first century A.D. German scholar Bernd Heine, who wrote in the 1970s on early Somali history, observed that the Samaal had occupied the entire Horn of Africa by approximately 100 A.D.
The expansion into the peninsula as far as the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean put the Somalis in sustained contact with Persian and Arab immigrants who had established a series of settlements along the coast. From the eighth to the tenth centuries, Persian and Arab traders were already engaged in lucrative commerce from enclaves along the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean as far south as the coast of present-day Kenya. The most significant enclave was the renowned medieval emporium of Saylac on the Gulf of Aden. In the sixteenth century, Saylac became the principal outlet for trade in coffee, gold, ostrich feathers, civet, and Ethiopian slaves bound for the Middle East, China, and India. Over time Saylac emerged as the center of Muslim culture and learning, famed for its schools and mosques. Eventually, it became the capital of the medieval state of Adal, which in the sixteenth century fought off Christian Ethiopian domination of the highlands.
Between 1560 and 1660, Ethiopian expeditions repeatedly harried Saylac, which sank into decay. Berbera replaced Saylac as the northern hub of Islamic influence in the Horn of Africa. By the middle of the sixteenth century, Saylac and Berbera had become dependencies of the sharifs of Mukha and in the seventeenth century passed to the Ottoman Turks, who exercised authority over them through locally recruited Somali governors. The history of commercial and intellectual contact between the inhabitants of the Arabian and Somali coasts may help explain the Somalis’ connection with the Prophet Muhammad. Early in the Prophet’s ministry, a band of persecuted Muslims had, with the Prophet’s encouragement, fled across the Red Sea into the Horn of Africa. There the Muslims were afforded protection by the Ethiopian Negus, or king. Thus, Islam may have been introduced into the Horn of Africa well before the faith took root in its Arabian native soil.
The large-scale conversion of the Somalis had to await the arrival in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries of Muslim patriarchs, in particular, the renowned Shaykh Daarood Jabarti and Shaykh Isahaaq, or Isaaq. Daarood married Doombira Dir, the daughter of a local patriarch. Their issue gave rise to the Confederacy that forms the largest clan-family (see Glossary) in Somalia, the Daarood. For his part, Shaykh Isaaq founded the numerous Isaaq clan-family in northern Somalia. Along with the clan (see Glossary) system of lineages (see Glossary), the Arabian shaykhs probably introduced into Somalia the patriarchal ethos and patrilineal genealogy typical of Semitic societies, and gradually replaced the indigenous Somali social organization, which, like that of many other African societies, may have been matrilineal.
Introduction of Islam
Islam’s penetration of the Somali coast, along with the immigration of Arabian elements, inspired a second great population movement reversing the flow of migration from northward to southward. This massive movement, which ultimately took the Somalis to the banks of the Tana River and to the fertile plains of Harer in Ethiopia, commenced in the thirteenth century and continued into the nineteenth century. At that point, European interlopers appeared on the East African scene, ending Somali migration onto the East African plateau.
Islam was introduced to the area early on from the Arabian peninsula, shortly after the Masjid al-Qiblatayn. Zeila’s two-mihrab Masjid al-Qiblatayn dates to the 7th century and is the oldest mosque in Africa. In the late 9th century, Al-Yaqubi wrote that Muslims were living along the northern Somali seaboard. He also mentioned that the Adal kingdom had its capital in the city. According to Leo Africanus, the Adal Sultanate was governed by local Somali dynasties and its realm encompassed the geographical area between the Bab el Mandeb and Cape Guardafui. It was thus flanked to the south by the Ajuran Empire and to the west by the Abyssinian Empire.
In 1332, the Zeila-based King of Adal was slain in a military campaign aimed at halting Abyssinian emperor Amda Seyon I’s march toward the city. When the last Sultan of Ifat, Sa’ad ad-Din II, was also killed by Emperor Dawit I in Zeila in 1410, his children escaped to Yemen, before returning in 1415. In the early 15th century, Adal’s capital was moved further inland to the town of Dakkar, where Sabr ad-Din II, the eldest son of Sa’ad ad-Din II, established a new base after his return from Yemen.
During the Ajuran Sultanate period, the sultanates and republics of Merca, Mogadishu, Barawa, Hobyo and their respective ports flourished and had a lucrative foreign commerce, with ships sailing to and coming from Arabia, India, Venetia, Persia, Egypt, Portugal, and as far away as China. Vasco da Gama, who passed by Mogadishu in the 15th century, noted that it was a large city with houses several stories high and large palaces in its center, in addition to many mosques with cylindrical minarets. The Harla, an early Hamitic group of tall stature who inhabited parts of Somalia, Thatcher and other areas in the Horn, also erected various tumuli. These masons are believed to have been ancestral to ethnic Somalis.
In the 16th century, Duarte Barbosa noted that many ships from the Kingdom of Cambaya in modern-day India sailed to Mogadishu with cloth and spices, for which they in return received gold, wax, and ivory. Barbosa also highlighted the abundance of meat, wheat, barley, horses, and fruit on the coastal markets, which generated enormous wealth for the merchants. Mogadishu, the center of a thriving textile industry known as toob benadir (specialized for the markets in Egypt, among other places), together with Merca and Barawa, also served as a transit stop for Swahili merchants from Mombasa and Malindi and for the gold trade from Kilwa. Jewish merchants from the Hormuz brought their Indian textile and fruit to the Somali coast in exchange for grain and wood.
Imam Ahmad’s invasion of Abyssinia
In addition to southward migration, the second factor in Somali history from the fifteenth century onward was the emergence of centralized state systems. The most important of these in medieval times was Adal, whose influence at the height of its power and prosperity in the sixteenth century extended from Saylac, the capital, through the fertile valleys of the Jijiga and the Harer plateau to the Ethiopian highlands. Adal’s fame derived not only from the prosperity and cosmopolitanism of its people, its architectural sophistication, graceful mosques, and high learning but also from its conflicts with the expansionist Ethiopians. For hundreds of years before the fifteenth century, goodwill had existed between the dominant new civilization of Islam and the Christian neguses of Ethiopia. One tradition holds that Muhammad blessed Ethiopia and enjoined his disciples from ever conducting jihad (holy war) against the Christian kingdom in gratitude for the protection early Muslims had received from the Ethiopian negus. Whereas Muslim armies rapidly overran the more powerful Persian empire and 6 Shaykh Abdulaziz Mosque, ninth century, Mogadishu much of Byzantium soon after the birth of Islam, there was no jihad against Christian Ethiopia for centuries.
The forbidding Ethiopian terrain of deep gorges, sharp escarpments, and perpendicular massifs that rise more than 4,500 meters also discouraged the Muslims from attempting a campaign of conquest against so inaccessible a kingdom. Muslim-Christian relations soured during the reign of the aggressive Negus Yeshaq (ruled 1414-29). Forces of his rapidly expanding empire descended from the highlands to despoil Muslim settlements in the valley east of the ancient city of Harer. Having branded the Muslims “enemies of the Lord,” Yeshaq invaded the Muslim kingdom of Ifat in 1415. He crushed the armies of Ifat and put to flight in the wastes along the Gulf of Tadjoura (in present-day Djibouti) Ifat’s king Saad Ad-Din. Yeshaq followed Saad ad Din to the island off the coast of Saylac (which still bears his name), where the Muslim king was killed. Yeshaq compelled the Muslims to offer tribute, and also ordered his singers to compose a gloating hymn of thanksgiving for his victory.
The chronicle of Imam Ahmad’s invasion of Abyssinia is depicted in various Somali, Abyssinian, and other foreign sources. Imam Ahmad campaigned in Abyssinia in 1531, breaking Emperor Lebna Dengel’s ability to resist in the Battle of Amba Sel on October 28. The Muslim army of Imam Ahmad then marched northward to loot the island monastery of Lake Hayq and the stone churches of Lalibela. When the Imam entered the province of Tigray, he defeated an Abyssinian army that confronted him there. On reaching Axum, he destroyed the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, in which the Abyssinian emperors had for centuries been crowned. “In Ethiopia, the damage which Ahmad Gragn did has never been forgotten,” wrote Paul B. Henze. “Every Christian highlander still hears tales of Gragn in his childhood. Haile Selassie referred to him in his memoirs, “I have often had villagers in northern Ethiopia point out sites of towns, forts, churches, and monasteries destroyed by Gragn as if these catastrophes had occurred only yesterday.” To most Somalis, Ahmad is a national hero who fought against Abyssinian aggression on their ancient territories.
Competition over Somalia
The last quarter of the nineteenth century saw political developments that transformed the Somali Peninsula. During this period, the Somalis became the subjects of state systems under the flags of Britain, France, Italy. On the African continent itself Egypt also was involved, and later Ethiopia, expanding and consolidating its realm under the guiding leadership of the emperors Tewodros II, Yohannes IV, and Menilek II. Britain筑s interest in the northern Somali coast followed the establishment in 1839 of the British coaling station at Aden on the short route to India. The Aden garrison relied upon the importation of meat from the adjacent Somali coast. France sought its own coaling station and obtained Obock on the Afar coast in 1862, later thrusting eastward and developing the Somali port of Djibouti. Farther north, Italy opened a station in 1869 at Aseb, which, with later acquisitions, became the colony of Eritrea.
What the European colonialists failed to foresee was that the biggest threat to their imperial ambitions in the Horn of Africa would come from an emerging regional power, the Ethiopia of Emperor Menelik II. Emperor Menelik II not only managed to defend Ethiopia against European encroachment but also succeeded in competing with the Europeans for the Somali-inhabited territories that he claimed as part of Ethiopia. Between 1887 and 1897, Menelik II successfully extended Ethiopian rule over the long independent 12 Historical Setting Muslim Emirate of Harer and over western Somalia (better known as the Ogaden). Thus, by the turn of the century, the Somali Peninsula, one of the most culturally homogeneous regions of Africa, was divided into British Somaliland, French Somaliland, Italian Somaliland, Ethiopian Somaliland (the Ogaden), and what came to be called the Northern Frontier District (NFD) of Kenya.
Meanwhile, France had been assiduously extending its colony from Obock, and a clash with Britain was only narrowly averted when an Anglo-French agreement on the boundaries of the two powers筑 Somali possessions was signed in 1888. In the same period, the Italians were also actively extending their Eritrean colony and encroaching upon Ethiopian territory. Not to be outdone, Menilek took the opportunity of seizing the Muslim city of Hārer, left independent after the Egyptian withdrawal. In 1889 Ethiopia and Italy concluded the Treaty of Wichale, which in the Italian view established an Italian protectorate over Ethiopia. Arms and capital were poured into the country, and Menilek was able to apply these new resources to bring pressure to bear on the Somali clansmen around Hārer.
Italy had thus acquired a Somali colony. From 1892 the lease was held directly from Zanzibar for an annual rent of 160,000 rupees, and, after the failure of two Italian companies by 1905, the Italian government assumed direct responsibility for its colony of Italian Somaliland. To the south of the Jubba River, the British East Africa Company held Jubaland until 1895, when this became part of Britain筑s East Africa protectorate. Britain and Italy had reached agreement in 1884 on the extent of their respective Somali territories, but the Battle of Adwa (1896), at which the infiltrating Italian armies were crushed by Ethiopian forces, radically changed the position.
Direct administrative control of the territory known as Italian Somaliland was not established until 1905. The Fascist government increased Italian authority by its extensive military operations. In 1925, the British government, in line with secret agreements with Italy during World War I, transferred the Jubaland (an area south of the Jubba River) to Italian control. During the Italo-Ethiopian conflict (1934–36), Somalia was a staging area for Italy’s invasion and conquest of Ethiopia. From 1936 to 1941, Somalia and the Somali-inhabited portion of Ethiopia, the Ogaden, were combined in an enlarged province of Italian East Africa.
In 1940–41, Italian troops briefly occupied British Somaliland but were soon defeated by the British, who conquered Italian Somaliland and reestablished their authority over British Somaliland. Although the Ogaden was returned to Ethiopia in 1948, British administration over the rest of Italian Somaliland continued until 1950, when Italy became the UN trusteeship authority. A significant impetus to the Somali nationalist movement was provided by the UN in 1949 when the General Assembly resolved that Italian Somaliland would receive its independence in 1960. By the end of 1956, Somalis were in almost complete charge of domestic affairs. Meanwhile, Somalis in British Somaliland were demanding self-government. As Italy agreed to grant independence on 1 July 1960 to its trust territory, the United Kingdom gave its protectorate independence on 26 June 1960, thus enabling the two Somali territories to join in the United Somali Republic on 1 July 1960. On 20 July 1961, the Somali people ratified a new constitution, drafted in 1960, and one month later confirmed ‘Aden ‘Abdullah Osman Daar as the nation’s first president.
From the inception of independence, the Somali government supported the concept of self-determination for the people of the Somali-inhabited areas of Ethiopia (the Ogaden section), Kenya (most of the northeastern region), and French Somaliland (now the Republic of Djibouti), including the right to be united within a greater Somalia. Numerous border clashes occurred between Somalia and Ethiopia, and between Somalia and Kenya. Soviet influence in Somalia grew after Moscow agreed in 1962 to provide substantial military aid.
Abdirashid ‘Ali Shermarke, who was elected president in 1967, was assassinated on 15 October 1969. Six days later, army commanders seized power with the support of the police. The military leaders dissolved parliament, suspended the constitution, arrested members of the cabinet, and changed the name of the country to the Somali Democratic Republic. Maj. Gen. Jalle Mohamed Siad Barre, commander of the army, was named the chairman of a 25-member Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) that assumed the powers of the president, the Supreme Court, and the National Assembly. Siad Barre was later named the president.
In 1970, President Siad Barre proclaimed “scientific socialism” as the republic’s guiding ideology. This Marxist ideology stressed hard work and public service and was regarded by the SRC as fully compatible with Islam. A number of industries and large firms, especially foreign banks and oil companies, were nationalized.
Current states of Somalia
On 14 October 2010, diplomat Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Farmajo) was appointed the new Prime Minister of Somalia. The former Premier Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke resigned the month before following a protracted dispute with President Sharif over a proposed draft constitution. Per the Transitional Federal Charter of the Somali Republic, Prime Minister Mohamed named a new Cabinet on 12 November 2010, which was lauded by the international community. As had been expected, the allotted ministerial positions were significantly reduced in numbers from 39 to 18.
In August 2012 a provisional constitution was adopted by a constituent assembly, and candidates to fill the seats in the House of the People, the lower house of the country’s new parliament, were chosen by a group of traditional elders and approved by a selection committee. The other house of parliament, the Upper House, was not immediately established. When the lower house was sworn in on August 20, the majority of the seats had been filled, providing more than enough for a quorum so the new parliamentarians could elect the country’s new president, as dictated by the provisional constitution. The election was held on September 10, 2012, and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, an academic and activist with a moderate stance, was elected president.
Improving security conditions and extending the government’s control over more areas of the country remained pressing needs. In support of those aims, the AU’s peacekeeping mission in Somalia, AMISOM, increased the size of its force in 2014. The country still faced attacks by al-Shabaab: although the group had been forced out of Somalia’s major cities, including Mogadishu, by late 2012, it still remained active, with deadly bombings, suicide attacks, and assassinations. The nascent administration was also the target of corruption allegations, which had been a problem with the TFG as well. Dissatisfaction with Mohamud’s responses to the aforementioned challenges contributed to a motion of impeachment being brought against him by members of the Somali Federal Parliament in August 2015. The impeachment motion was later dropped in lieu of resolving the discord via dialogue, which had been encouraged by the international community.
Parliament’s election of Somalia’s new president occurred on February 8, 2017, amid tight security measures. Three rounds of voting were planned. More than 20 candidates stood for the presidency in the first round, with the top vote-getters advancing to the next round. After two of the three scheduled rounds of voting had occurred, former prime minister, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed emerged with a commanding lead over Mohamud and one other candidate standing in the second round.