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Full Country Name: Somali Democratic Republic
Area: 637,657sq km
Population: 9.36 million (2010 UN estimate)
Capital City: Mogadishu
People: Somali (85%), Bantu, Arabs
Languages: Somali (official), Arabic, Italian, English
Religion: Sunni Muslim
Currency: Somali shilling. Although there is no central bank, various currencies are used. The self declared Republic of Somaliland has its own currency, the Somaliland shilling.
Government: The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was formed in July 2005. Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was appointed President of the TFG in January 2009. Regional governments exist in Somaliland and Puntland.
International Organisations: There has been no effective government since 1991. The TFG and its predecessor, the Transitional National Government (TNG) have represented Somalia in the UN, the League of Arab States, the African Union, the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development and the Community of Sahal-Saharan States.

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GDP: $5.733 (2009 estimate)
Annual Growth: 2.6% (2009 estimate)
Inflation: N/A
Major Industries: Agriculture – livestock, bananas and hides and skins continue to be the principal exports.
Major trading partners: The Arabian Peninsular, particularly the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia (for Somaliland) and Yemen.

Somalia’s economy operates in the absence of public sector management or regulation and without any formal economic or monetary policies. There is nonetheless a vibrant informal economy largely based on trans-national trade and livestock. About 50% of the population is pastoral. The urban private sector is also strong, especially in services such as telecommunications. Commercial infrastructure and institutions are functional and relatively sophisticated.

This vigorous economic activity is underpinned by remittances from the Somali diaspora, estimated to be up to US$1 billion per year.

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Today, Somali-speaking people inhabit much of the Horn of Africa, extending into areas of present-day Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti. As with many African countries, Somalia’s borders have changed a number of times over the years.

In 1894 the French colonised present day Djibouti, which then became known as French Somaliland. In 1888 the north west of Somalia became a British Protectorate, under the title of British Somaliland. In 1889 the Italians colonised the east and south of Somalia, under the title of Italian Somaliland or Italian Somalia as it was more commonly known.

In 1941, the British military administration recovered the whole area (excluding French Somaliland) from the Italians, thereby uniting the territory under British rule. After World War II Ethiopia retained the Ogaden and the Haud (previously ceded to them by the British) and French and British Somaliland continued as before. In 1950 the Italians returned to Italian Somaliland under a UN trusteeship, with the aim of giving the colony independence within 10 years.

The 1960s brought independence to both British and Italian Somaliland, which then merged and formed the Somali Republic. The Somali Republic wanted to unite all Somali speaking people (i.e. former British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland, French Somaliland and the Ogaden region of Ethiopia) into a single country but this was unsuccessful. In 1961 the Somali Republic ratified a constitution with Aden Abdullah Osman Daar as President, who was then succeeded by Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke in 1967. During the 1960s, inter clan rivalry remained high and in 1969 civilian rule ended when General Mohamed Siad Barre seized power in a military coup.

Siad Barre established a one party system around the concept of ‘scientific socialism’, that attempted to draw the Somalis away from their traditional clan based loyalty to a party allegiance. He presided over the disastrous Ogaden war of 1977-78, which was an unsuccessful attempt to liberate the Ogaden from Ethiopian rule. This failed war resulted in the formation of various clan based groups opposed to Barre’s rule. The situation in the country deteriorated throughout the 1980s and by 1988 the country had fallen into full scale civil war. The Somali National Movement (SNM), a group of Isaq clan dissidents living outside of Somalia, attempted to seize control of former British Somaliland. Barre countered with great violence, resulting in thousands of deaths and the flight of 400,000 refugees into Ethiopia.

Barre fled the country in January 1991 when another rebel group, the United Somali Congress (USC), gained control of Mogadishu. A full-blown civil war developed in the capital when the USC fragmented into rival, clan based factions.

In January 1992 the UN established a Cease Fire Observer Force Operation (UNOSOM 1). It failed to make any impact and as the civil war escalated a mass humanitarian crisis developed. By the end of 1992, the country was suffering from widespread famine and humanitarian aid was frequently looted by rival clans and militias.

In December 1992 a US led task force (UNITAF) intervened to create a secure environment for relief operations. It succeeded in securing the main relief centres and was regarded as a success. UNITAF handed over to the UN led UNOSOM II in May 1993.

In response to militia attacks, the UN Security Council authorised UNOSOM to take all necessary measures against those responsible and to arrest General Aideed, Chairman of the USC. In the confrontation that ensued, 18 US Rangers were killed, which prompted the departure of US led troops in March 1994. The last UNOSOM troops withdrew in March 1995 after the loss of thousands of Somalis and 70 UN peacekeepers.

In the absence of a government, Mogadishu was controlled by the Islamic Counts Union (ICU), a group of Shari'a courts. By 1996 the ICU had taken control of major cities, including Mogadishu, Jowhar, Beledweyne and Kismaayo in South Central Somalia.

In the course of 2004, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a seven country regional development organisation in East Africa, agreed on a Transitional Federal Charter and appointed a parliament, based on clan representation. The Parliament elected Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf as Somalia’s President. Over the course of 2005, the Transitional Federal Government of Somali (TFG) began returning from exile in Kenya. This relocation caused divisions, with President Yusuf establishing his part of the government in Baidoa, approximately 250km northwest of the capital, Mogadishu.

In 2006, at the invitation of the TFG, Ethiopia launched an attack on the ICU in Somalia. The ICU lost considerable territory and retreated into the countryside, allowing the TFG to install itself in Mogadishu in January 2007.

For 2007 onwards please see the political section of this Country Profile.

United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) (

BBC News Country Profile: Somalia (

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The UN is heavily involved in Somalia, primarily through the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) headed by the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General, Augustine Mahiga. UNPOS is mandated to help advance the cause of peace and reconciliation, through contacts with Somali leaders, civic organisations and the states and organisations concerned. UNPOS also provides political guidance, as needed, to the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator of the UN Agencies and organisations of the UN Country Team for Somalia.

Somali relations with Ethiopia are fragile. Ethiopia has a large Somali population, who mostly live in a Somali region in South Eastern Ethiopia and still harbour memories of Somalia's occupation of the Ogaden in 1977/78.

In 2004, Ethiopia played an active part in the IGAD-led peace process in Somalia but several Somali factions view Ethiopia’s engagement with deep suspicion. Ethiopia’s relations with the Somalis were greatly complicated when Ethiopia deployed troops to defeat the ICU in December 2006. Ethiopian troops withdrew from Somalia in January 2009 as part of the UN-led Djibouti Peace Agreement.

Somali relations with Eritrea are complex. Eritrea was sanctioned in 2009 for breaking the UN arms embargo on Somalia by providing support to Somali insurgent groups. The Asmara branch of the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) was formed in Eritrea. This group was formed to fight the TFG and liberate Somalia from Ethiopian forces.

Kenya has a significant Somali population and hosted a number of reconciliation conferences. Kenya is looked upon by Somalis with much less suspicion, despite occasional border incursions by warring Somali clans. There are thousands of Somali citizens living in refugee camps in Northern Kenya and in the Eastleigh district of Nairobi.

Somalia generally has good relations with neighbouring Djibouti, which hosted the UN-led Peace Process in 2008.

African Union website (
Arab League website (


UN Security Council resolution 733 (1992) established an arms embargo on all deliveries of weapons and military equipment to Somalia, which, with some exemptions, remains in place. The embargo was created to assist the establishment of peace and stability in Somalia.

Unfortunately, the UN arms embargo has been widely flouted. Since 2002 the Security Council has authorised an expert panel - subsequently a Monitoring Group - to investigate violations of the embargo. They report biannually to the Security Council. In December 2009, sanctions were imposed on Eritrea, in part for its role in breaking the UN arms embargo on Somalia. In April 2010, the Somali Sanctions Committee agreed the first ever listing of individuals under the Somali sanctions regime.
UN Security Council reports (

Somalia's Relations with the UK

There is a large Somali community living in the UK. While exact figures are unknown, current estimates put the number anywhere between 90,000 and 250,000

Diplomatic Representation

Since the fall of the Siad Barre regime in 1991 there have been no formal diplomatic links between the UK and Somalia.

In March 2010, President Sheikh Sharif made an official visit to the UK and announced that the Somali Embassy in London would be reopened. The Foreign Secretary has also announced that a British Embassy will be opened in Somalia once local conditions allow.

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Somalia is situated in East Africa with the longest coastline in Africa, bordering the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. It shares land borders with Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

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Trade and Investment with the UK

UK Exports of goods to Somalia: £1.37 million (2008) - mainly power generating equipment and machinery (£518,000), road vehicles (£278,000) and professional scientific controlling instruments (£257,000).

UK Imports of goods from Somalia: £40,000 (2008).
The number of UK citizens living and working in Somalia is not known.


60% of Somalia’s population lives below the $1 per day poverty line. Human development indicators are uniformly low; Somalia has the worst health indicators in Africa with less than 0.5 doctors and two nurses per 100,000 people. Public service delivery is rudimentary in Somaliland and Puntland and non-existent elsewhere. Where health and education services are provided by NGOs or UN agencies they are mainly operated by community-based local authorities. Providing development assistance to a needy country in the absence of functioning public institutions is a particular challenge. The UN leads with a humanitarian and development programme based in Nairobi.

The Department for International Development's total programme budget for Somalia for 2010-2011 is approximately £26 million. This contributes significantly to: meeting humanitarian needs, supporting security, accountable governance and employment/enterprise where opportunities exist and to improving service delivery of education and health services.

On 20 July 2011, the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) declared two regions in southern Somalia, southern Bakool and lower Shabelle, to officially be in famine. On 4 August 2011, new areas of southern Somalia were also declared to be in famine: middle Shabelle, Afgoye and the internally displaced communities in Mogadishu. All areas across Somalia are suffering food shortages resulting in the displacement of thousands of Somali people. This displacement and the overpopulation of refugee camps poses a significant risk of increase in disease, crime surrounding food security, and a heightened security threat to foreigners.

The Horn of Africa crisis is the most severe food security emergency in the world today; with the combined pressure of drought, high food prices and ongoing conflict in the region leaving 12.4 million people in need of emergency humanitarian assistance.
Over the past year, the eastern Horn of Africa has experienced two consecutive poor rainy seasons, resulting in one of the driest years since 1995. Some areas are experiencing the driest period for 60 years. Crops have failed, large numbers of livestock have died, and local food prices are high.

Conflict and insecurity are adding to the crisis in Somalia, making it harder to get help to people who need it. The current situation has displaced hundreds of thousands of Somalis both inside their own country and to Ethiopia and Kenya. There are now more than 800,000 Somali refugees in the region. Many of the refugees fleeing Somalia to Kenya and Ethiopia have been walking for days, are exhausted and are desperate for food and water. Almost half of all children arriving in camps are malnourished.
DFID Country Profile: Somalia (

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Since 1991 over a dozen externally sponsored peace and reconciliation conferences have failed to provide a basis for restoring a government in Somalia. Meanwhile, local administrations, often clan or Islam-based, developed in much of the country such as those in Somaliland and Puntland. Over time, power has shifted somewhat from warlords to business, religious and traditional leaders.

The African Union’s Peace and Security Council created AMISOM (African Union Mission to Somalia) on 19 January 2007. AMISOM is mandated by a Chapter VII UN Security Council Resolution to maintain security around key locations in Mogadishu. Since 2007, the African Union has authorised several extensions of AMISOM, which is now mandated until September 2011.

In 2007 the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS), an organisation comprised of Somali Islamists and opposition leaders, was formed in Asmara, Eritrea. The ARS formed to fight the TFG and liberate Somalia of the Ethiopian forces.

A UN-led peace agreement between the TFG and the majority of the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) was reached on 9 June 2008 and signed on 19 August in Djibouti. It called for the cessation of armed confrontation, Ethiopian withdrawal, an international stabilisation force and improved humanitarian access.

On 28 December 2008, following disagreements with the Prime Minister over the Djibouti Peace Process, President Yusuf resigned. The transitional parliament elected Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as the President on 31 January 2009, who subsequently appointed Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke as Prime Minister.

There has been ongoing antigovernment fighting in Mogadishu and violence and clashes throughout much of the country, particularly since May 2009. Insurgent activity and political tension remain high. On 22 June 2009 the President of Somalia declared a state of emergency, following a period of intense fighting in and around the capital, Mogadishu.

In June 2011, Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed (aka Farmajo) resigned andAbdiweli Mohamed Ali was appointed Somalia’s new Prime Minister.

On 20 July 2011 the newly appointed Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali appointed a new cabinet.


In May 1991, the north-western region of Somalia (former British Somaliland) declared unilaterally its independence as the 'Republic of Somaliland'. A government was elected for an initial 2-year period at a conference of elders and in May 1993 former Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Ibrahim Egal was elected President. Egal was re-elected for a five-year term by the National Communities Conference in Hargeisa in February 1997. A Parliament composed of members nominated by their clans was established, a new government was formed and a constitution approved. 97% of those voting supported the new constitution, which confirmed Somaliland’s unilateral secession from the rest of Somalia. Municipal elections were held in January 2003.

After the death of Egal in May 2002, Vice-President Dahir Riyale Kahim was sworn in as President. Presidential elections were held in May 2003 in which Riyale won by a narrow margin and parliamentary elections were held on 29 September 2005. Somaliland’s stability has been widely acknowledged but it has not received formal recognition from the international community. Somaliland has stood aside from the wider reconciliation processes but has indicated its readiness to discuss relations with Somalia on a basis of equality once a new government is established in Mogadishu.

Successful Presidential elections were held on 26 June 2010 and it was later announced that Ahmed Mohamed Silyano of the opposition Kulmiye Party won the election with almost 50% of the vote. The transition of power from UDUB to the Kulmiye party has been smooth. President Silanyo was inaugurated on 22 July 2010.

Somaliland Government website (


Puntland established a parliament and a regional government in 1998 and enjoys greater relative stability than South and Central Somalia. It defines itself as a federal state and claims to have no aspirations to independence. A political crisis occurred in 2001 when President Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf (later to become TFG President) refused to stand down at the end of his constitutional term. Col. Jama Ali Jama won fresh elections but Yusuf refused to accept the vote. After clashes between their respective militias, Yusuf eventually triumphed and went on to consolidate his position. General Ade Muse took over the leadership in Puntland since Yusuf’s election as TFG President. In January 2009, Abdirahman Mohamud Farole defeated Muse in a relatively peaceful election, became the fourth President of Puntland.

UN information service - IRIN (

BBC News: Africa (


For parliamentary interest, see Hansard (

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Somalia’s human rights record is very poor and, to reflect this, it remains a country of concern in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s ‘Human Rights Report’.

Somalis live largely without the protection of the state, access to security or institutional rule of law. As a result of the ongoing conflict and violence in the South, there are more than 1.46 million internally displaced persons. An estimated 27% of the population are in need of relief assistance - one of the highest proportions of population requiring relief in the world.

It is difficult for Non-Governmental Organisations to operate in Somalia due to the security situation. This, combined with a lack of access for all international agencies, makes it extremely difficult to monitor the human rights situation and investigate breaches to human rights laws.

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Last Updated: August 2011

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