June 7, 2012, 9:30 am
Source: CIA World Factbook
Content Cover Image

Central Hargeisa, Somalia at dusk. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Somalia is a nation of ten million people in eastern-Africa, bordering the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, to the east of Ethiopia.

The country is mostly flat to undulating plateau rising to hills in north. It is strategically located on the "Horn of Africa" along southern approaches to Bab el Mandeb and the route through the Red Sea and Suez Canal.

Somalia's major environmental issues include:

  • famine;
  • use of contaminated water contributes to human health problems;
  • deforestation;
  • overgrazing;
  • soil erosion; and,
  • desertification.

It is susceptible to recurring droughts; frequent dust storms over eastern plains in summer; and floods during rainy season.

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 that managed to impose a degree of stability in the country for a couple of decades. 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. Although not recognized by any government, this entity has maintained a stable existence and continues efforts to establish a constitutional democracy. East of Somaliland, is the self-declared 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 doubled in size 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 ICU and ARS chairman as president in January 2009. The creation of the TFG was based on the Transitional Federal Charter (TFC), which outlined a five-year mandate leading to the establishment of a new Somali constitution and a transition to a representative government following national elections. In January 2009, the TFP amended the TFC to extend TFG's mandate until 2011.

Somali principals in September 2011 agreed to a political roadmap that aims to institute a political transition by August 2012.


Somalia is located on the east coast of Africa and north of the Equator and, with Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Kenya, is often referred to as the Horn of Africa. It comprises Italy’s former Trust Territory of Somalia and the former British Protectorate of Somaliland (now seeking recognition as an independent state). The coastline extends 2,720 kilometers (1,700 mi.).

The northern part of the country is hilly, and in many places the altitude ranges between 900 and 2,100 meters (3,000-7,000 ft.) above sea level. The central and southern areas are flat, with an average altitude of less than 180 meters (600 ft.). The Juba and the Shabelle Rivers rise in Ethiopia and flow south across the country toward the Indian Ocean. The Shabelle does not reach the sea but instead ends in a series of marshes in southern Somalia.

Major climatic factors are a year-round hot climate, seasonal monsoon winds, and irregular rainfall with recurring droughts. Mean daily maximum temperatures range from 30oC to 40oC (85o F-105oF), except at higher elevations and along the east coast. Mean daily minimums usually vary from about 15oC to 30oC (60oF-85oF). The southwest monsoon, a sea breeze, makes the period from about May to October the mildest season in Somalia. The December-February period of the northeast monsoon also is relatively mild, although prevailing climatic conditions in Somalia are rarely pleasant. The “tangambili” periods that intervene between the two rainy seasons (October-November and March-May) are hot and humid.

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

Geographic Coordinates: 10 00 N, 49 00 E

Area: 637,657 km2 (627,337 km2 land and 10,320 km2 water)

Land Boundaries: 2,340 km. Border countries: Djibouti 58 km, Ethiopia 1,600 km, Kenya 682 km

Coastline: 3,025 km

Maritime Claims: territorial sea: 200 nm

Natural Hazards: recurring droughts; frequent dust storms over eastern plains in summer; floods during rainy season

Terrain: Mostly flat to undulating plateau rising to hills in north. Its lowest point: is the Indian Ocean (0 metres) and its highest point: is Shimbiris (2,416 metres).

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

Topography of Somalia. Source: Wikimedia Commons


Satellite view of Somalia. Source: The Map Library

Ecology and Biodiversity

1. Ethiopian montane forests

2.  Ethiopian xeric grasslands and shrublands

3. Somali montane xeric woodlands

4. Somali Acacia-Commiphora bushlands and thickets

5. Hobyo grasslands and shrublands

6. Northern Zanzibar-Inhambane coastal forest mosaic

7. East African mangroves

Map source: World Wildlife Fund

People and Society

Population:  10,085,638 (July 2012 est.)

The Cushitic populations of the Somali Coast in the Horn of Africa have an ancient history. Known by ancient Arabs as the Berberi, archaeological evidence indicates their presence in the Horn of Africa by A.D. 100 and possibly earlier. As early as the seventh century A.D., the 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.

The Somali-populated region of the Horn of Africa stretches from the Gulf of Tadjoura in modern-day Djibouti through Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, and down to the coastal regions of southern Kenya. Since gaining independence in 1960, the goal of Somali nationalism, also known as Pan-Somalism, has been the unification of all Somali populations, forming a Greater Somalia. This issue has been a major cause of past crises between Somalia and its neighbors--Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti.

Today, about 60% of all Somalis are nomadic or semi-nomadic pastoralists who raise cattle, camels, sheep, and goats. About 25% of the population is settled farmers who live mainly in the fertile agricultural zone between the Juba and Shabelle Rivers in southern Somalia. The remainder of the population (approximately 15%) 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. The language remained largely 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, although Arabic, English, and Italian also are used extensively.

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

Age Structure:

0-14 years: 44.7% (male 2,217,890/female 2,217,063)
15-64 years: 52.9% (male 2,663,729/female 2,588,716)
65 years and over: 2.4% (male 95,859/female 142,383) (2011 est.)

Population Growth Rate: 1.596% (2012 est.)

Birth Rate: 42.12 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)

Death Rate: 14.55 deaths/1,000 population (July 2012 est.)

Net Migration Rate: -11.62 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2012 est.)

Life Expectancy at Birth:  50.8 years 

male: 48.86 years
female: 52.8 years (2012 est.)

Total Fertility Rate: 6.26 children born/woman (2012 est.) (The fourth highest in the world after Niger, Uganda, and Mali)

Languages: Somali (official), Arabic, Italian, English

Literacy:  37.8% (2001 est.)

Urbanization: 37% of total population (2010) growing at a 4.1% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)


Early history traces the development of the Somali state to an Arab sultanate, which was founded in the seventh century A.D. by Koreishite immigrants from Yemen. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Portuguese traders landed in present Somali territory and ruled several coastal towns. The sultan of Oman and Zanzibar subsequently took control of these towns and their surrounding territory.

Somalia’s modern history began in the late 19th century, when various European powers began to trade and establish themselves in the area. The British East India Company’s desire for unrestricted harbor facilities led to the conclusion of treaties with the sultan of Tajura as early as 1840. It was not until 1886, however, that the British gained control over northern Somalia through treaties with various Somali chiefs who were guaranteed British protection. British objectives centered on safeguarding trade links to the east and securing local sources of food and provisions for its coaling station in Aden. The boundary between Ethiopia and British Somaliland was established in 1897 through treaty negotiations between British negotiators and King Menelik.

During the first two decades of the 1900s, British rule was challenged through persistent attacks by a dervish rebellion led by Mohamed Abdullah (known as the "Mad Mullah" by the British). A long series of intermittent engagements and truces ended in 1920 when British warplanes bombed Abdullah’s stronghold at Taleex. Although Abdullah was defeated as much by rival Somali factions as by British forces, he was lauded as a popular hero and stands as a major figure of national identity to many Somalis.

In 1885, Italy obtained commercial advantages in the area from the sultan of Zanzibar and in 1889 concluded agreements with the sultans of Obbia and Aluula, who placed their territories under Italy’s protection. Between 1897 and 1908, Italy made agreements with the Ethiopians and the British that marked out the boundaries of Italian Somaliland. The Italian Government assumed direct administration, giving the territory colonial status.

Italian occupation gradually extended inland. In 1924, the Jubaland Province of Kenya, including the town and port of Kismayo, was ceded to Italy by the United Kingdom. The subjugation and occupation of the independent sultanates of Obbia and Mijertein, begun in 1925, were completed in 1927. In the late 1920s, Italian and Somali influence expanded into the Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia. Continuing incursions climaxed in 1935 when Italian forces launched an offensive that led to the capture of Addis Ababa and the Italian annexation of Ethiopia in 1936.

Following Italy’s declaration of war on the United Kingdom in June 1940, Italian troops overran British Somaliland and drove out the British garrison. In 1941, British forces began operations against the Italian East African Empire and quickly brought the greater part of Italian Somaliland under British control. From 1941 to 1950, while Somalia was under British military administration, transition toward self-government was begun through the establishment of local courts, planning committees, and the Protectorate Advisory Council. In 1948, Britain turned the Ogaden and neighboring Somali territories over to Ethiopia.

In Article 23 of the 1947 peace treaty, Italy renounced all rights and titles to Italian Somaliland. In accordance with treaty stipulations, on September 15, 1948, the Four Powers referred the question of disposal of former Italian colonies to the UN General Assembly. On November 21, 1949, the General Assembly adopted a resolution recommending that Italian Somaliland be placed under an international trusteeship system for 10 years, with Italy as the administering authority, followed by independence for Italian Somaliland. In 1959, at the request of the Somali Government, the UN General Assembly advanced the date of independence from December 2 to July 1, 1960.

Meanwhile, rapid progress toward self-government was being made in British Somaliland. Elections for the Legislative Assembly were held in February 1960, and one of the first acts of the new legislature was to request that the United Kingdom grant the area independence so that it could be united with Italian Somaliland when the latter became independent. The protectorate became independent on June 26, 1960; 5 days later, on July 1, it joined Italian Somaliland to form the Somali Republic.

In June 1961, Somalia adopted its first national constitution in a countrywide referendum, which provided for a democratic state with a parliamentary form of government based on European models. During the early post-independence period, political parties were a fluid concept, with one-person political parties forming before an election, only to defect to the winning party following the election. A constitutional conference in Mogadishu in April 1960, which made the system of government in the southern Somali trust territory the basis for the future government structure of the Somali Republic, resulted in the concentration of political power in the former Italian Somalia capital of Mogadishu and a southern-dominated central government. Most key government positions were occupied by southern Somalis, producing increased disenchantment with the union in the former British-controlled north. Pan-Somali nationalism, with the goal of uniting the Somali-populated regions of French Somaliland (Djibouti), Kenya, and Ethiopia into a Greater Somalia remained the driving political ideology in the initial post-independence period. However, under the leadership of Mohamed Ibrahim Egal (prime minister from 1967 to 1969), Somalia renounced its claims to the Somali-populated regions of Ethiopia and Kenya, greatly improving its relations with both countries. Egal’s move towards reconciliation with Ethiopia, which had been a traditional enemy of Somalia since the 16th century, made many Somalis furious, including the army. Some argue that this reconciliation effort is one of the principal factors that provoked a bloodless coup on October 21, 1969, and subsequent installation of Maj. Gen. Mohamed Siad Barre as president, bringing an abrupt end to the process of party-based constitutional democracy in Somalia.

Following the coup, executive and legislative power was vested in the 20-member Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC), headed by Barre. The SRC pursued a course of “scientific socialism” that reflected both ideological and economic dependence on the Soviet Union. The government instituted a national security service, centralized control over information, and initiated a number of grassroots development projects. Barre reduced political freedoms and used military force to seize and redistribute rich farmlands in the areas of southern Somalia between the Juba and Shabelle Rivers, relying on the use of force and terror against the Somali population to consolidate his political power base.

The SRC became increasingly radical in foreign affairs, and in 1974, Somalia and the Soviet Union concluded a treaty of friendship and cooperation. As early as 1972, tensions began increasing along the Somali-Ethiopian border; these tensions heightened after the accession to power in Ethiopia in 1973 of the Mengistu Haile Mariam regime, which turned increasingly toward the Soviet Union. In the mid-1970s, the Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF) began guerrilla operations in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia. Following the overthrow of the Ethiopian Emperor in 1975, Somalia invaded Ethiopia in 1977 in an attempt to regain the Ogaden, an attempt that initially went in Somalia’s favor. The Somali National Army moved quickly toward Harer, Jijiga, and Dire Dawa, the principal cities of the region. However, following the Ethiopian revolution, the new Ethiopian Government had shifted its alliance from the West to the Soviet Union. Because of the new alliance, the Soviet Union supplied Ethiopia with 10,000-15,000 Cuban troops and Soviet military advisors during the 1977-78 Ogaden war, shifting the advantage to Ethiopia and resulting in Somalia’s defeat. In November 1977, Barre expelled all Soviet advisers and abrogated the friendship agreement with the Soviet Union. In March 1978, Somali forces retreated into Somalia; however, the WSLF continued to carry out sporadic but greatly reduced guerrilla activity in the Ogaden. Such activities also were subsequently undertaken by another dissident group, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).

Following the Ogaden war, desperate to find a strong external alliance to replace the Soviet Union, Somalia abandoned its Socialist ideology and turned to the West for international support, military equipment, and economic aid. In 1978, the United States reopened the U.S. Agency for International Development mission in Somalia. Two years later, an agreement was concluded that gave U.S. forces access to military facilities at the port of Berbera in northwestern Somalia. In the summer of 1982, Ethiopian forces invaded Somalia along the central border, and the United States provided two emergency airlifts to help Somalia defend its territorial integrity. From 1982 to 1988, the United States viewed Somalia as a partner in defense in the context of the Cold War. Somali officers of the National Armed Forces were trained in U.S. military schools in civilian as well as military subjects.

During this time, the Barre regime violently suppressed opposition movements and ethnic groups, particularly the Isaaq clan in the northern region, using the military and elite security forces to quash any hint of rebellion. By the 1980s, an all-out civil war developed in Somalia. Opposition groups had begun to form following the end of the Ogaden war, beginning in 1979 with a group of dissatisfied army officers known as the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF). In 1981, as a result of increased northern discontent with the Barre regime, the Somali National Movement (SNM), composed mainly of the Isaaq clan, was formed in Hargeisa with the stated goal of overthrowing of the Barre regime. In January 1989, the United Somali Congress (USC), an opposition group of Somalis from the Hawiye clan, was formed as a political movement in Rome. A military wing of the USC was formed in Ethiopia in late 1989 under the leadership of Mohamed Farah “Aideed (which means “one who does not take insults lying down”),” a former political prisoner imprisoned by Barre from 1969-75. Aideed also formed alliances with other opposition groups, including the SNM and the Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM), an Ogadeni sub-clan force under Colonel Ahmed Omar Jess in the Bakool and Bay regions of Southern Somalia. In 1988, at the President’s order, aircraft from the Somali National Air Force bombed the city of Hargeisa in northwestern Somalia, the former capital of British Somaliland, killing nearly 10,000 civilians and insurgents. The warfare in the northwest sped up the decay already evident elsewhere in the republic. Economic crisis, brought on by the cost of anti-insurgency activities, caused further hardship as Siad Barre and his cronies looted the national treasury.

By the end of the 1980s, armed opposition to Barre’s government, fully operational in the northern regions, had spread to the central and southern regions. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis fled their homes, claiming refugee status in neighboring Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Kenya. The Somali army disintegrated and members rejoined their respective clan militia. Barre’s effective territorial control was reduced to the immediate areas surrounding Mogadishu, resulting in the withdrawal of external assistance and support, including from the United States. By the end of 1990, the Somali state was in the final stages of complete collapse. In the first week of December 1990, Barre declared a state of emergency as USC and SNM forces advanced toward Mogadishu. In January 1991, armed opposition factions drove Barre out of power, resulting in the complete collapse of the central government. Barre later died in exile in Nigeria. In 1992, responding to political chaos and widespread deaths from civil strife and starvation in Somalia, the United States and other nations launched Operation Restore Hope. Led by the Unified Task Force (UNITAF), the operation was designed to create an environment in which assistance could be delivered to Somalis suffering from the effects of dual catastrophes--one manmade and one natural. UNITAF was followed by the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM). The United States played a major role in both operations. On October 3-4, 1993, 18 U.S. servicemen were killed in an incident recounted famously in the book and movie “Black Hawk Down.” The United States continued operations until March 25, 1994, when U.S. forces withdrew.

Following the collapse of the Barre regime in 1991, various groupings of Somali factions sought to control the national territory (or portions thereof) and fought small wars with one another. Approximately 14 national reconciliation conferences were convened over the succeeding decade. Efforts at mediation of the Somali internal dispute were also undertaken by many regional states. In the mid-1990s, Ethiopia played host to several Somali peace conferences and initiated talks at the Ethiopian city of Sodere, which led to some degree of agreement between competing factions. The Governments of Egypt, Yemen, Kenya, and Italy also have attempted to bring the Somali factions together. In 1997, the Organization of African Unity and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) gave Ethiopia the mandate to pursue Somali reconciliation. In 2000, Djibouti hosted a major reconciliation conference (the 13th such effort), which in August resulted in creation of the Transitional National Government (TNG), whose 3-year mandate expired in August 2003. Kenya organized the Somalia National Reconciliation Conference, a 14th reconciliation effort, in 2002 under IGAD auspices. The conference concluded in August 2004 with the establishment of a Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

The absence of a central government in Somalia allowed outside forces to become more influential by supporting various groups and persons in Somalia, particularly Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya, all of which have supported various Somali factions and transitional governments. In July 2006, Ethiopian forces invaded Somalia and defeated the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization al-Shabaab, formerly the nominal military wing of the ICU, became independent of the Courts and launched a multi-faction insurgency after the Courts scattered as a result of the 2006 invasion. Al-Shabaab and other extremist forces garnered power in subsequent years through their effective fighting of the Ethiopians, intimidation, and harsh implementation of shari’a law. In January 2009, Ethiopian forces completely withdrew from Somalia. Up until an anti-al-Shabaab offensive began in the western regions of southern Somalia in early 2011, al-Shabaab had controlled much of south-central Somalia and parts of Mogadishu. Responding to a crushing famine in the south-central region and setbacks at the hands of the TFG and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), al-Shabaab largely pulled out of Mogadishu in August 2011. While al-Shabaab’s violent attacks continue to limit the TFG’s ability to provide public services, as well as prevent the delivery of humanitarian aid to vulnerable Somali populations, al-Shabaab does not enjoy as wide-reaching control as in late 2010.

Beginning in spring 2011, Somalia and the greater Horn of Africa experienced what some have called the worst drought in 60 years. Massive crop failure and a drastic rise in food prices, coupled with the security situation in al-Shabaab controlled areas of south and central Somalia, led the UN to declare famine in six areas in September 2011. This famine forced thousands of Somalis into already overstretched refugee camps in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti, while others have fled to internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab continues to deny international aid to the most affected communities. The United States, UN, and international humanitarian agencies have been working to address both the immediate needs of the Somali people and work toward a more permanent solution to stop similar crises in Somalia. The United States is providing over $211 million in humanitarian assistance in Somalia. As a result of continued international humanitarian assistance and better rains, the UN declared in February 2012 that Somalia was no longer experiencing famine conditions. However, the humanitarian situation remains dire, with 2.34 million people still in crisis.

In October 2011, faced with what it perceived as an untenable threat to its security and economy as a result of high-profile incidents involving kidnap and murder of European tourists, Kenya sent military forces into Somalia to push back al-Shabaab and remains in southern Somalia to date. In December 2011, Ethiopian military forces entered Somalia and captured the town of Beledweyne, once held by al-Shabaab. As of March 2012, Ethiopian forces had taken the former al-Shabaab stronghold of Baidoa, while AMISOM controls most of the capital, Mogadishu.

The lack of governance and resulting instability led to the emergence of Somalia-based maritime piracy in the form of hijacking vessels and their crews for ransoms. Since 2008, the number of attacks annually by Somali pirates has risen into the hundreds and spread beyond the immediate coast of Somalia as far away as the Gulf of Oman and the western Indian Ocean. The UN Security Council has passed a series of resolutions authorizing states to undertake all necessary measures in Somalia to suppress acts of piracy. In January 2009, the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia was established to coordinate international counter-piracy efforts, including the multinational naval task forces conducting patrols and escort operations off the coast of Somalia to protect international shipping lines. With average ransom payments for hijacked ships reaching several million U.S. dollars, piracy has developed into a complex and lucrative economy of its own with negative impacts on global commerce, regional security, and Somali society, particularly in the states of Puntland and Galmuduug, where most pirate attacks from Somalia are based. U.S. and international efforts decreased the success rate of pirate attacks in 2011--cutting the number by about half from the year before.


Government Type: no permanent national government; transitional, parliamentary federal government

In early 2002, Kenya organized a reconciliation effort under IGAD auspices known as the Somalia National Reconciliation Conference, which concluded in October 2004. A transitional government, the components of which are known as the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs), was formed in accordance with the Transitional Federal Charter. The TFIs include a transitional parliament, known as the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP), as well as a Transitional Federal Government (TFG) that includes a transitional president, prime minister, and a cabinet known as the “Council of Ministers.” For administrative purposes, Somalia is divided into 18 regions; the nature, authority, and structure of regional governments vary, where they exist.

The TFG was established with a 5-year mandate leading to the establishment of a permanent government following national elections in 2009. In January 2009, the TFP extended this mandate an additional 2 years to 2011 and expanded to include 200 members of Parliament (MPs) from the opposition Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia and 75 MPs from civil society and other groups, doubling the size of the TFP to 550 MPs.

Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed was elected president of the TFG of Somalia on October 10, 2004. Sheikh Adan Mohamed Nur “Madobe” was elected speaker of the Parliament on January 31, 2007. President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed resigned on December 29, 2008, and Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was elected by the Parliament as TFG President on January 30, 2009. On February 13, 2009, President Sharif appointed Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke as the new prime minister of the TFG, and Sharmarke was confirmed by the TFP on February 14. On March 15, 2010, the TFG signed an agreement with the militia group Ahlu Sunna Waal Jama’a (ASWJ), designed to bring the ASWJ into the TFG. After growing conflict with the President, Sharmarke resigned as prime minister on September 21, 2010, following disagreement over the draft constitution and other issues. Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (“Farmajo”), a Somali American, was confirmed as the new prime minister on November 8, 2010 by the TFP.

In February 2011, the TFG unilaterally extended its mandate by 3 years, from August 2011 to August 2014, without consultation with the international community. The international community almost unanimously opposed this. To resolve the political impasse surrounding the unilateral extension of its mandate, the TFG agreed in June 2011 to limit its mandate extension to 12 months as part of the Kampala Accord. In connection with the accord, Farmajo was replaced as prime minister by another Somali-American, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali. This accord consigned the TFG to finish its transitional tasks and set up a permanent government by August 2012. On September 6, 2011, the TFG and representatives from Puntland, Galmudug, and the ASWJ signed the “Roadmap to End the Transition” toward political reform in anticipation of the end of the TFG’s extended mandate in 2012. This roadmap set forward goals like working toward a permanent constitution, holding elections, and reforming Somalia’s 550-member parliament. To provide high-level political guidance for the roadmap’s implementation, the roadmap signatories met again at the December 21-23, 2011 Garoowe Conference, where they agreed upon the “Garoowe Principles,” which include plans for constitutional and parliamentary reform, and elections for speaker and president by August 2012. These principles were later refined in a second constitutional conference in Garoowe from February 15-17, 2012.

The United Kingdom convened a high-level conference on Somalia in London on February 23, 2012, attended by over 50 countries and international organizations. The conference’s achievements included a firm commitment on pursuing the roadmap process and on ending the transition in August. Beyond that, the conference welcomed the UN Security Council vote to expand AMISOM’s troop cap to 17,731 and to extend its mandate and logistical support package. The conference also emphasized international support for increased stabilization projects in Somalia, announced a joint financial management board, and explored ways to degrade al-Shabaab’s finances, including a UN ban on Somali charcoal importation.

Capital: Mogadishu - 1.353 million (2009)

Administrative Divisions: Two regional administrations exist in northern Somalia--the self-declared “Republic of Somaliland” in the northwest and the semi-autonomous state of Puntland in the northeast. Several nascent regional authorities central Somalia--Galmudug, Himan iyo Heeb, and ASWJ-controlled territory--have maintained relative peace and order since 2011.

In 1991, a congress drawn from the inhabitants of the former Somaliland Protectorate declared a withdrawal from the 1960 union with Somalia to form the self-declared “Republic of Somaliland.” Somaliland has not received international recognition but has maintained a de facto separate status since that time. Its form of government is republican, with a bicameral legislature including an elders chamber and an elected house of representatives. The judiciary is independent, and three official political parties exist. In line with the Somaliland Constitution, Vice President Dahir Riyale Kahin assumed the presidency following the death of former President Mohamed Ibrahim Egal in 2002. Kahin was elected President of Somaliland in elections determined to be free and fair by international observers in May 2003. Elections for the 84-member lower house of parliament took place on September 29, 2005, and were described as transparent and credible by international observers. Somaliland held its last presidential elections in June 2010. President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud Silanyo was elected.

The area of Puntland declared itself autonomous (although not independent) in 1998 with its capital at Garoowe. President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole was elected by the Puntland parliament in January 2009. Puntland declared it would remain autonomous until a federated Somalia state was established.

18 regions (plural - NA, singular - gobolka):

  1. Jubbada Hoose (Lower Jubba),
  2. Jubbada Dhexe (Middle Jubba),
  3. Gedo,
  4. Bay,
  5. Bakool,
  6. Shabeellaha Hoose (Lower Shabeelle),
  7. Banaadir,
  8. Shabeellaha Dhexe (Middle Shabeelle),
  9. Hiiraan,
  10. Galguduud,
  11. Mudug,
  12. Nugaal,
  13. Bari,
  14. Sool,
  15. Sanaag,
  16. Togdheer,
  17. Woqooyi Galbeed
  18. Awdal,

The self-declared "Republic of Somaliland" consists of a regional authority based in the city of Hargeisa, including a president, vice president, parliament, and cabinet officials.

The semi-autonomous state of Puntland has a regional government based in the city of Garoowe and includes a president, vice president, cabinet, and house of representatives.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

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

Legal System: no national system; a mixture of English common law, Italian law, Islamic Shari'a, and Somali customary law; accepts compulsory International court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction with reservations; and is a non-party state to the International Criminal Court (ICCt).

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal


International Environmental Agreements

Somalia is party to international agreements on: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, and Ozone Layer Protection.


Total Renewable Water Resources: 15.7 cu km (1997)

Freshwater Withdrawal: Total: 3.29 cu km/yr (0% domestic, 0% industrial, 100%agricultural).

Per capita Freshwater Withdrawal: 400 cu m/yr (2000)

Access to improved sources of drinking water: 30% of population

Access to improved sanitation facilities: 23% of population


Agricultural Products: bananas, sorghum, corn, coconuts, rice, sugarcane, mangoes, sesame seeds, beans; cattle, sheep, goats; fish

Irrigated Land: 2,000 sq km (2003)


Natural Resources: uranium and largely unexploited reserves of iron ore, tin, gypsum, bauxite, copper, salt, natural gas, likely oil reserves.

Land Use:

arable land: 1.64%
permanent crops: 0.04%
other: 98.32% (2005)


Energy in Somalia
  Production Consumption Exports Imports Reserves
Electricity 315 million kWh
(2008 est.)
293 million kWh
(2008 est.)
0 kWh
(2009 est.)
0 kWh
(2009 est.)
Oil 110.1 bbl/day
(2010 est.)
5,000 bbl/day
(2010 est.)
1,109 bbl/day
(2009 est.)
3,827 bbl/day
(2009 est.)
0 bbl
(1 January 2011 est.)
Natural Gas 0 cu m
(2009 est.)
0 cu m
(2009 est.)
0 cu m
(2009 est.)
0 cu m
(2009 est.)
5.663 billion cu m
(1 January 2011 est.)
Source: CIA Factbook


Somalia lacks natural resources and faces major development challenges. 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. Saudi Arabia lifted its ban on Somali livestock in 2009. 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 Shabelle River valleys. The agricultural sector of the economy consists mainly of banana plantations located in the south, which use modern irrigation systems and up-to-date farm machinery.

A small fishing industry exists in the north where tuna, shark, and other warm-water fish are caught, although fishing production is seriously affected by poaching. Aromatic woods--frankincense and myrrh--from a small and diminishing forest 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 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. The self-declared “Republic of Somaliland” issues its own currency, the Somaliland shilling, which is not accepted outside of the self-declared republic.

There are no railways in Somalia; internal transportation is limited to 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; however, most roads have received little maintenance for years and have seriously deteriorated.

Air transportation is provided by small air charter firms. A number of airlines operate from Hargeisa. Some private airlines, including Daallo Airlines, serve several domestic locations as well as Djibouti and the United Arab Emirates. The UN and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operate air service for their missions.

The European Community and the World Bank jointly financed construction of a deepwater port at Mogadishu. 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 since 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.

Cellular phone service is readily available throughout the country, but landline communication systems have 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 Galkacyo, with programs in Somali and some other languages. There are two television broadcast stations in Mogadishu and one in Hargeisa.

GDP (Purchasing Power Parity): $5.896 billion (2010 est.)

GDP (Official Exchange Rate): $2.372 billion (2010 est.)

GDP- per capita (PPP): $600 (2010 est.)

GDP- composition by sector:

agriculture: 60.2%
industry: 7.4%
services: 32.5% (2009 est.)

Industries: a few light industries, including sugar refining, textiles, wireless communication

Exports: livestock, bananas, hides, fish, charcoal, scrap metal

Export Partners: UAE 51.3%, Yemen 19.8%, Oman 13% (2010)

Imports: manufactures, petroleum products, foodstuffs, construction materials, qat

Import Partners: Djibouti 31.5%, Kenya 8.2%, Pakistan 7.4%, China 6.5%, Brazil 5.7%, Yemen 5.1%, Oman 5%, UAE 4.9% (2010)

Currency: Somali shilling (SOS)

Ports and Terminals: Berbera, Kismaayo



Agency, C., Fund, W., & Department, U. (2012). Somalia. Retrieved from


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