Somalia officially the Somali Republic is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Djibouti to the northwest, Kenya on its southwest, the Gulf of Aden with Yemen on its north, the Indian Ocean at its east, and Ethiopia to the west.

Background History

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 characterized by the persecution, jailing and torture of political opponents and dissidents. 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 that now includes the administrative regions of Awdal, Woqooyi Galbeed, Togdheer, Sanaag, and Sool. Although not recognized by any government, this entity has maintained a stable existence and continues efforts to establish a constitutional democracy, including holding municipal, parliamentary, and presidential elections. The regions of Bari, Nugaal, and northern Mudug comprise a neighboring semi-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 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.


Country Name:

  • conventional short form: Somalia
  • local long form: Jamhuuriyada Demuqraadiga Soomaaliyeed
  • local short form: Soomaaliya
  • former: Somali Republic, Somali Democratic Republic


  • name: Mogadishu
  • population: 1,353,000
  • geographic coordinates: 2 04 N, 45 22 E
  • time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)


  • 1 July 1960 (from a merger of British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland)

Government Type:

  • no permanent national government; transitional, parliamentary federal government

Executive Branch:

  • chief of state: Transitional Federal President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed (since 31 January 2009)
  • head of government: Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali (since 28 June 2011)
  • cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the prime minister and approved by the Transitional Federal Parliament

Legislative Branch:

  • structure: unicameral National Parliament

Judicial Branch:

  • structure: following the breakdown of the central government, most regions have reverted to local forms of conflict resolution, either secular, traditional Somali customary law, or sharia (Islamic) law with a provision for appeal of all sentences

People & Society


  • 10,085,638 (global rank: 86)
  • growth rate: 1.596% (global rank: 72)


  • noun: Somali(s)
  • adjective: Somali

Major Cities:

  • Mogadishu (capital): 1.353 million

Ethnic Groups:

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


  • Sunni Muslim


  • Somali (official), Arabic, Italian, English

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 50.8 years (global rank: 215)
  • male: 48.86 years
  • female: 52.8 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 103.72 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 4)
  • male: 112.62 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 94.55 deaths/1,000 live births


  • adult prevalence rate: 0.7% (2009 est.) (global rank: 61)
  • people living with AIDS: 34,000 (2009 est.) (global rank: 65)


  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 37.8%
  • male: 49.7%
  • female: 25.8%


Overview: Despite the lack of effective national governance, Somalia has maintained a healthy informal economy, largely based on livestock, remittance/money transfer companies, and telecommunications. 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. Livestock, hides, fish, charcoal, and bananas are Somalia's principal exports, while sugar, sorghum, corn, qat, and machined goods are the principal imports. Somalia's small industrial sector, based on the processing of agricultural products, has largely been looted and the machinery sold as scrap metal. Somalia's service sector has grown. 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. Mogadishu's main market offers a variety of goods from food to the newest electronic gadgets. Hotels continue to operate and are supported with private-security militias. Due to armed attacks on and threats to humanitarian aid workers, the World Food Programme partially suspended its operations in southern Somalia in early January 2010 pending improvement in the security situation. Somalia's arrears to the IMF have continued to grow.

Gross Domestic Product:

  • GDP (PPP): $5.896 billion (global rank: 158)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $600 (global rank: 220)
  • real growth rate: 2.6% (global rank: 132)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 60.2%, industry: 7.4%, services: 32.5%


  • currency: Somali Shilling (SOS)
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): NA


  • population below poverty line: NA
  • unemployment rate: NA

Agricultural Products:

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


  • a few light industries, including sugar refining, textiles, wireless communication

Exports Commodities:

  • livestock, bananas, hides, fish, charcoal, scrap metal

Imports Commodities:

  • manufactures, petroleum products, foodstuffs, construction materials, qat



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


  • total: 637,657 sq km (global rank: 44)
  • land: 627,337 sq km
  • water: 10,320 sq km
  • comparative: slightly smaller than Texas


  • 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

Land Use:

  • arable land: 1.64%
  • permanent crops: 0.04%
  • other: 98.32%

Natural Resources:

  • uranium and largely unexploited reserves of iron ore, tin, gypsum, bauxite, copper, salt, natural gas, likely oil reserves

Current Environmental Issues:

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

Transnational Issues

  • international disputes: Ethiopian forces invaded southern Somalia and routed Islamist Courts from Mogadishu in January 2007; "Somaliland" secessionists provide port facilities in Berbera to landlocked Ethiopia and have established commercial ties with other regional states; "Puntland" and "Somaliland" "governments" seek international support in their secessionist aspirations and overlapping border claims; the undemarcated former British administrative line has little meaning as a political separation to rival clans within Ethiopia's Ogaden and southern Somalia's Oromo region; Kenya works hard to prevent the clan and militia fighting in Somalia from spreading south across the border, which has long been open to nomadic pastoralists
  • internally displaced persons: 1.1 million (civil war since 1988, clan-based competition for resources)

Published: Monday, September 08, 2008