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Somali Republic

Jamhuuriyadda Soomaaliya  (Somali)
جمهورية الصومال (Arabic)
Jumhūriyyat aṣ-Ṣūmāl
Anthem: [Soomaaliyeey toosoo] Error: {{Lang}}: text has italic markup (help)
("Somalia, Wake Up")
Location of Somalia
and largest city
Official languages
Ethnic groups
  • Somalis (85%)
  • Benadiris
  • Bantus and other non-Somalis (15%)
Demonym(s) Somali; Somalian
Government Coalition government
Sharif Sheikh Ahmed
Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke
Legislature Transitional Federal Parliament
• Italian Somaliland
• Union and independence
1 July 1960
• Constitution
25 August 1979
• Total
637,657 km2 (246,201 sq mi) (44th)
• 2012 estimate
10,085,638 (86th)
• Density
16.12/km2 (41.8/sq mi) (199th)
GDP (PPP) 2010 estimate
• Total
$5.9 billion (158th)
• Per capita
$600 (222nd)
Currency Somali shilling (SOS)
Time zone UTC+3 (EAT)
• Summer (DST)
UTC+3 (not observed)
Driving side right
Calling code 252
ISO 3166 code SO
Internet TLD .so
  1. Transitional Federal Charter of the Somali Republic

Somalia (Somali: Soomaaliya; Arabic: الصومال) is officially the Republic of Somalia (Somali: Jamhuuriyadda Soomaaliya; Arabic: جمهورية الصومال). It was previously known as the Somali Democratic Republic. It is a country in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Djibouti to the northwest, Kenya to the southwest, the Gulf of Aden with Yemen to the north, the Indian Ocean to the east, and Ethiopia to the west.


Somalia map states regions districts
Political map of Somalia (as of 25 May 2012).

Somalia is a republic governed by a federal administration with various regional administrations governing on a micro level.

Somalia is an independent country. Since the Somali Civil War in the 1980s, there has been no working government that covers all of Somalia; instead, different clans have been fighting for control. Somalia is now trying to gain control of their people and get back up its feet with very little resources.

Clan wars

Somalis are a nation of related families, which are called clans. Groups of clans sometimes band together based on a common ancestor or other blood relationship. Sometimes these family relationships date back hundreds or even thousands of years in the past. Somalis are mostly camel or goat herders, and depend on their livestock to live. In Somalia there are limited sources of drinking water and grazing land, and disputes over grazing rights, water rights, or land in general can lead to fighting between families. Because of the clan system, the families involved will call on their clan for help, leading to a clan war. The discovery of oil and minerals in Somalia, as well as the power and money associated with politics and business, has created more opportunities for families to get ahead, and has also created more reasons for families to have disputes.

Because Somalia does not have a working legal system, the only help a family in Somalia has to solve a dispute with another family is to get their clan involved. The only solution to the clan wars in Somalia is a working legal system, but the only group who has succeeded in creating one is the Islamic Courts Union. Unfortunately the Islamic Courts Union was accused of being terrorists and Ethiopia invaded Somalia to topple their government and put the government they created in power instead.


In ancient times, Somalia was a place where people from Egypt and Arabia went to buy Gum Arabic, Myrrh and Ebony Wood. The Ancient Egyptians used to call it Punt, which meant "God's Land". Somalis started herding camel and goats about 4,000 years ago, and they remain mostly herders today.

Visitors from as far away as China visited Somalia, such as Zheng He.

Medieval history

400 more years later, the king of Ethiopia told his subjects that God hated Ifat, and he invaded Ifat with his army, destroying everything he came across and driving the king of Ifat to an island off the coast of Zeila, where he died. The king of Ethiopia then took part of Ifat and added it to his kingdom, and made Ifat pay him lots of money once a year. The remains of Ifat put their kingdom back together again and renamed it Adal.

About a hundred years later, the King of Adal was deposed by an influential warlord by the name of Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi, who had lots of influence with Somali clans across the north. He declared a Jihad against Ethiopia, brought together a huge army that included Turkish musketeers and Somali cavalry. The Somali cavalry were especially deadly because they could shoot arrows while riding their horses, something that the Mongol hordes and Japanese Samurai are also famous for.

Ahmad chose a bad time, however, because the Portuguese Empire was muscling into East Africa. They had taken over the whole east African coast up to Baraawe, and were trying to take over Mogadishu. The Portuguese decided to help out the Ethiopians because the Ethiopians were Christians and the Portuguese did not like Muslims. Ahmad had taken over more than half of Ethiopia when a troop of Portuguese musketeers showed up to help the Ethiopians out. One Portuguese musketeer managed to shoot Ahmad himself, killing him.

A lot of the Somali cavalry was only there because of Ahmad, so the Jihad ended and Ethiopia wound up invading Adal. The Turks had to send an army to stop them from taking over Zeila, and Adal ended up becoming part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. On those days we do not find the exact people dwell in zeila, but the history ascribed the black people, without tracing their origin and their tribes. However, some historians attributed Zeila inhabitant were called semaale without farther lucid explanation.

Colonial times

The Turks and Portuguese fought over East Africa for the next 200 years, but the Turks eventually won about 270 years ago. Northern Somalia stayed under Turkish protection after Ahmad died, and the east coast including Mogadishu ended up under the protection of the King of Oman. When Egypt declared independence from the Turks a hundred years later, Northern Somalia became part of Egypt. Egypt came under British protection shortly after that, and northern Somalia basically became a British protectorate as well. This became official about 130 years ago, and northern Somalia officially became British Somaliland.

The Kingdom of Italy had just come together as one country around this time, and wanted the same things that the other big countries had, like colonies. Italy offered to buy the rights to the east Africa coast from Oman, who was in charge of protecting the cities and small kingdoms there, and Oman agreed. Italy made deals with some of the larger kingdoms/sultanates (like the Sultanate of Nugaal) for them to be under Italian protection, but the smaller ones Italy just invaded. This became Italian Somalia.

Ethiopia, which had fallen apart again after Ahmad's Jihad, had recently put itself back together again as well, and started invading small Somali kingdoms as well, and by 1890 there were not many left. The French got in on this too, but they just took over a small area which today is Djibouti.

Lots of Somalis did not like what was going on, so a Muslim religious leader named Mohammed Abdullah Hassan started a group called the Darwiish to fight the British, Italians and Ethiopians. The British called him the "Mad Mullah" and spent about 30 years fighting him, eventually using fighter planes against his cavalry. At their height the Darwiish controlled almost a third of Somalia.

World War 2 history

When Benito Mussolini took power in Italy, he ended the deals he made with the bigger Somali sultanates and invaded them conquering all the area that was to be the colony of Italian Somalia. Then he invaded and took over Ethiopia, using poison gas on the Ethiopians. Shortly afterwards, World War 2 broke out and he invaded British Somaliland, but two years later the British returned and liberated British Somaliland and Ethiopia as well as taking over Italian Somaliland.

After the war, Britain wanted to put all of the places Somalis lived in one country, which would be a British protectorate. The Ethiopians complained that they should be able to keep the areas they conquered, and the Italians also complained the same thing, so in the end the Ethiopians got to keep their bit, and the Italians did too. However, Italian Somaliland was put under a United Nations mandate, so the Italians could not make it a colony.

Cold War history

In 1960 both British and Italian Somaliland declared independence together as the Republic of Somalia. It was chosen the Latin alphabet for the Somalian language. Many areas where Somalis lived were still part of Britain, Ethiopia and France. Somalia wanted to get back all the areas that had been colonized by the French, Ethiopians and British. Somalia and Ethiopia had a short war in 1964 over the Ethiopian part of Somalia, and it was obvious that more fighting was to come.

In 1969, the President of Somalia was killed by a man whose clan had been hurt by his policies, and General Mohammed Siad Barre took over the country. Siad Barre built a huge army with help from the Soviet Union and when Ethiopia fell for the fourth time (this time because of a Communist takeover) he invaded. The Soviet Union decided that Ethiopia was more important than Somalia and double-crossed Siad Barre, supplying huge amounts of weapons to Ethiopia. Other countries like Cuba and Israel also sent help to Ethiopia, so in the end Siad Barre lost the war.

Ethiopia's new government then began helping Somali rebel groups, who did not like how Siad Barre took over the country, and these rebel groups toppled Siad Barre' government in 1991 and forced him out of the country. After this, however, all of the rebel groups started fighting amongst themselves over who would be in charge now that Siad Barre was gone.

Eventually, some of the rebel groups decided to make their own governments in the land that they controlled. One, called Somaliland, declared independence from Somalia entirely, while another called Puntland declared independence "for now" until a new Somali national government can be put together. Dozens of attempts to create a new national government failed.

Modern history

Because there was no government in most of Somalia (except where one had been built from scratch, like Puntland and Somaliland) Somalia's only legal system, beyond the law of the gun, was traditional custom and Islamic Sharia law. Because of this, Sharia legal scholars in the lawless south of Somalia gained quite a bit of influence. Around the same time, the people fighting for Somali lands in Ethiopia to be part of Somalia turned to the example of the Afgani Mujahideen, and created their own group called al-Ittihad al-Islamiyya or the Islamic Union. During the 1990s Ethiopia invaded Somalia several times to attack the Islamic Union, who were helping Somali rebels in Ethiopia.

After 2001, the United States of America became very suspicious of both the Sharia courts and the Islamic Union of being terrorists. Warlords made a group called the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism. The Sharia courts banded together to protect themselves and created the Islamic Courts Union. People liked the Sharia courts and hated the gangsters, so everyone helped the Islamic Courts Union, who defeated the gangsters and drove them out of Mogadishu in 2006. The Islamic Courts Union then formed an army and took over most of southern Somalia.

The United States of America and Ethiopia was alarmed by this takeover, so Ethiopia invaded southern Somalia in 2007 and put a new government in power that was made up of the rebel groups that Ethiopia had funded 15 years earlier. Almost everyone disagreed with this decision, and that same year a rebellion against this new government broke out in Mogadishu and spread across the whole country by 2008. At around the same time, Somali pirates kidnapped westerners from big ships for ransom.


Regions and districts

Somalia is officially divided into eighteen regions (gobollada, singular gobol), which in turn are subdivided into districts. The regions are:

A map of Somalia regions
A map of Somalia's regions.
Regions of Somalia
Region Area (km2) Population Capital
Awdal 21,374 673,263 Borama
Woqooyi Galbeed 28,836 1,242,003 Hargeisa
Togdheer 38,663 721,363 Burao
Sanaag 53,374 544,123 Erigavo
Sool 25,036 327,428 Las Anod
Bari 70,088 719,512 Bosaso
Nugal 26,180 392,697 Garowe
Mudug 72,933 717,863 Galkayo
Galguduud 46,126 569,434 Dusmareb
Hiran 31,510 520,685 Beledweyne
Middle Shabelle 22,663 516,036 Jowhar
Banaadir 370 1,650,227 Mogadishu
Lower Shabelle 25,285 1,202,219 Barawa
Bakool 26,962 367,226 Xuddur
Bay 35,156 792,182 Baidoa
Gedo 60,389 508,405 Garbahaarreey
Middle Juba 9,836 362,921 Bu'aale
Lower Juba 42,876 489,307 Kismayo

Northern Somalia is now de facto divided up among the autonomous regions of Puntland (which considers itself an autonomous state) and Somaliland (a self-declared but unrecognized sovereign state). In central Somalia, Galmudug is another regional entity that emerged just south of Puntland. Jubaland in the far south is a fourth autonomous region within the federation. In 2014, a new Southwestern Somalia was likewise established. In April 2015, a formation conference was also launched for a new Central Regions State.

The Federal Parliament is tasked with selecting the ultimate number and boundaries of the autonomous regional states (officially Federal Member States) within the Federal Republic of Somalia.


Almadow Overview
The Cal Madow mountain range in northern Somalia features the nation's highest peak, Shimbiris.

Somalia is bordered Kenya to the southwest, the Gulf of Aden to the north, the Guardafui Channel and Indian Ocean to the east, and Ethiopia to the west. The country claims a border with Djibouti through the disputed territory of Somaliland to the northwest. It lies between latitudes 2°S and 12°N, and longitudes 41° and 52°E. Strategically located at the mouth of the Bab el Mandeb gateway to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, the country occupies the tip of a region that, due to its resemblance on the map to a rhinoceros' horn, is commonly referred to as the Horn of Africa.


Somalia has the longest coastline on the mainland of Africa, with a seaboard that stretches 3,333 kilometres (2,071 mi). Its terrain consists mainly of plateaus, plains and highlands. The nation has a total area of 637,657 square kilometres (246,201 sq mi) of which constitutes land, with 10,320 square kilometres (3,980 sq mi) of water. Somalia's land boundaries extend to about 2,340 kilometres (1,450 mi); 58 kilometres (36 mi) of that is shared with Djibouti, 682 kilometres (424 mi) with Kenya, and 1,626 kilometres (1,010 mi) with Ethiopia. Its maritime claims include territorial waters of 200 nautical miles (370 km; 230 mi).

Somalia has several islands and archipelagos on its coast, including the Bajuni Islands and the Saad ad-Din Archipelago: see islands of Somalia.


In the north, a scrub-covered, semi-desert plain referred as the Guban lies parallel to the Gulf of Aden littoral. With a width of twelve kilometres in the west to as little as two kilometres in the east, the plain is bisected by watercourses that are essentially beds of dry sand except during the rainy seasons. When the rains arrive, the Guban's low bushes and grass clumps transform into lush vegetation. This coastal strip is part of the Ethiopian xeric grasslands and shrublands ecoregion.

Cal Madow is a mountain range in the northeastern part of the country. Extending from several kilometres west of the city of Bosaso to the northwest of Erigavo, it features Somalia's highest peak, Shimbiris, which sits at an elevation of about 2,416 metres (7,927 ft). The rugged east-west ranges of the Karkaar Mountains also lie to the interior of the Gulf of Aden littoral. In the central regions, the country's northern mountain ranges give way to shallow plateaus and typically dry watercourses that are referred to locally as the Ogo. The Ogo's western plateau, in turn, gradually merges into the Haud, an important grazing area for livestock.

Somalia has only two permanent rivers, the Jubba and Shabele, both of which begin in the Ethiopian Highlands. These rivers mainly flow southwards, with the Jubba River entering the Indian Ocean at Kismayo. The Shabele River at one time apparently used to enter the sea near Merca, but now reaches a point just southwest of Mogadishu. After that, it consists of swamps and dry reaches before finally disappearing in the desert terrain east of Jilib, near the Jubba River.


Somalia's coral reefs, ecological parks and protected areas

Somalia is a semi-arid country with about 1.64% arable land. The first local environmental organizations were Ecoterra Somalia and the Somali Ecological Society, both of which helped promote awareness about ecological concerns and mobilized environmental programs in all governmental sectors as well as in civil society. From 1971 onward, a massive tree-planting campaign on a nationwide scale was introduced by the Siad Barre government to halt the advance of thousands of acres of wind-driven sand dunes that threatened to engulf towns, roads and farm land. By 1988, 265 hectares of a projected 336 hectares had been treated, with 39 range reserve sites and 36 forestry plantation sites established. In 1986, the Wildlife Rescue, Research and Monitoring Centre was established by Ecoterra International, with the goal of sensitizing the public to ecological issues. This educational effort led in 1989 to the so-called "Somalia proposal" and a decision by the Somali government to adhere to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which established for the first time a worldwide ban on the trade of elephant ivory.

Aerial views of Kismayo 06 (8071381265)
The coast south of Mogadishu

Later, Fatima Jibrell, a prominent Somali environmental activist, mounted a successful campaign to salvage old-growth forests of acacia trees in the northeastern part of Somalia. These trees, which can live for 500 years, were being cut down to make charcoal which was highly in demand in the Arabian Peninsula, where the region's Bedouin tribes believe the acacia to be sacred. However, while being a relatively inexpensive fuel that meets a user's needs, the production of charcoal often leads to deforestation and desertification. As a way of addressing this problem, Jibrell and the Horn of Africa Relief and Development Organization (Horn Relief; now Adeso), an organization of which she was the founder and Executive Director, trained a group of teens to educate the public on the permanent damage that producing charcoal can create. In 1999, Horn Relief coordinated a peace march in the northeastern Puntland region of Somalia to put an end to the so-called "charcoal wars". As a result of Jibrell's lobbying and education efforts, the Puntland government in 2000 prohibited the exportation of charcoal. The government has also since enforced the ban, which has reportedly led to an 80% drop in exports of the product. Jibrell was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2002 for her efforts against environmental degradation and desertification. In 2008, she also won the National Geographic Society/Buffett Foundation Award for Leadership in Conservation.

Following the massive tsunami of December 2004, there have also emerged allegations that after the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in the late 1980s, Somalia's long, remote shoreline was used as a dump site for the disposal of toxic waste. The huge waves that battered northern Somalia after the tsunami are believed to have stirred up tons of nuclear and toxic waste that might have been dumped illegally in the country by foreign firms.

The European Green Party followed up these revelations by presenting before the press and the European Parliament in Strasbourg copies of contracts signed by two European companies — the Italian Swiss firm, Achair Partners, and an Italian waste broker, Progresso — and representatives of the then President of Somalia, the faction leader Ali Mahdi Mohamed, to accept 10 million tonnes of toxic waste in exchange for $80 million (then about £60 million).

According to reports by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the waste has resulted in far higher than normal cases of respiratory infections, mouth ulcers and bleeding, abdominal haemorrhages and unusual skin infections among many inhabitants of the areas around the northeastern towns of Hobyo and Benadir on the Indian Ocean coast — diseases consistent with radiation sickness. UNEP adds that the current situation along the Somali coastline poses a very serious environmental hazard not only in Somalia, but also in the eastern Africa sub-region.


Somalia map of Köppen climate classification
Somalia map of Köppen climate classification.

Due to Somalia's proximity to the equator, there is not much seasonal variation in its climate. Hot conditions prevail year-round along with periodic monsoon winds and irregular rainfall. Mean daily maximum temperatures range from 30 to 40 °C (86 to 104 °F), except at higher elevations along the eastern seaboard, where the effects of a cold offshore current can be felt. In Mogadishu, for instance, average afternoon highs range from 28 to 32 °C (82 to 90 °F) in April. Some of the highest mean annual temperatures in the world have been recorded in the country; Berbera on the northwestern coast has an afternoon high that averages more than 38 °C (100 °F) from June through September. Nationally, mean daily minimums usually vary from about 15 to 30 °C (59 to 86 °F). The greatest range in climate occurs in northern Somalia, where temperatures sometimes surpass 45 °C (113 °F) in July on the littoral plains and drop below the freezing point during December in the highlands. In this region, relative humidity ranges from about 40% in the mid-afternoon to 85% at night, changing somewhat according to the season. Unlike the climates of most other countries at this latitude, conditions in Somalia range from arid in the northeastern and central regions to semiarid in the northwest and south. In the northeast, annual rainfall is less than 100 mm (4 in); in the central plateaus, it is about 200 to 300 mm (8 to 12 in). The northwestern and southwestern parts of the nation, however, receive considerably more rain, with an average of 510 to 610 mm (20 to 24 in) falling per year. Although the coastal regions are hot and humid throughout the year, the hinterland is typically dry and hot.

There are four main seasons around which pastoral and agricultural life revolve, and these are dictated by shifts in the wind patterns. From December to March is the Jilal, the harshest dry season of the year. The main rainy season, referred to as the Gu, lasts from April to June. This period is characterized by the southwest monsoons, which rejuvenate the pasture land, especially the central plateau, and briefly transform the desert into lush vegetation. From July to September is the second dry season, the Xagaa (pronounced "Hagaa"). The Dayr, which is the shortest rainy season, lasts from October to December. The tangambili periods that intervene between the two monsoons (October–November and March–May) are hot and humid.


A camel in the northern mountains.

Somalia contains a variety of mammals due to its geographical and climatic diversity. Wildlife still occurring includes cheetah, lion, reticulated giraffe, baboon, serval, elephant, bushpig, gazelle, ibex, kudu, dik-dik, oribi, Somali wild ass, reedbuck and Grévy's zebra, elephant shrew, rock hyrax, golden mole and antelope. It also has a large population of the dromedary camel.

Somalia is currently home to around 727 species of birds. Of these, eight are endemic, one has been introduced by humans, and one is rare or accidental. Fourteen species are globally threatened. Birds species found exclusively in the country include the Somali Pigeon, Alaemon hamertoni (Alaudidae), Lesser Hoopoe-Lark, Heteromirafra archeri (Alaudidae), Archer's Lark, Mirafra ashi, Ash's Bushlark, Mirafra somalica (Alaudidae), Somali Bushlark, Spizocorys obbiensis (Alaudidae), Obbia Lark, Carduelis johannis (Fringillidae), and Warsangli Linnet.

Somalia's territorial waters are prime fishing grounds for highly migratory marine species, such as tuna. A narrow but productive continental shelf contains several demersal fish and crustacean species. Fish species found exclusively in the nation include Cirrhitichthys randalli (Cirrhitidae), Symphurus fuscus (Cynoglossidae), Parapercis simulata OC (Pinguipedidae), Cociella somaliensis OC (Platycephalidae), and Pseudochromis melanotus (Pseudochromidae).

There are roughly 235 species of reptiles. Of these, almost half live in the northern areas. Reptiles endemic to Somalia include the Hughes' saw-scaled viper, the Southern Somali garter snake, a racer (Platyceps messanai), a diadem snake (Spalerosophis josephscorteccii), the Somali sand boa, the angled worm lizard, a spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastyx macfadyeni), Lanza's agama, a gecko (Hemidactylus granchii), the Somali semaphore gecko, and a sand lizard (Mesalina or Eremias). A colubrid snake (Aprosdoketophis andreonei) and Haacke-Greer's skink (Haackgreerius miopus) are endemic species.



Somali food
Various types of popular Somali dishes

The cuisine of Somalia, which varies from region to region, is a mixture of diverse culinary influences. It is the product of Somalia's rich tradition of trade and commerce. Despite the variety, there remains one thing that unites the various regional cuisines: all food is served halal. There are therefore no pork dishes, alcohol is not served, nothing that died on its own is eaten, and no blood is incorporated. Qaddo or lunch is often elaborate.

Varieties of 'bariis' (rice), the most popular probably being basmati, usually act as the main dish. Spices including cumin, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and garden sage are used to add aromas to these different rice dishes. Somalis serve dinner as late as 9 pm. During Ramadan, the evening meal is often presented after Tarawih prayers; sometimes up to 11 pm.

'Xalwo' (halva) is a popular confection reserved for special festive occasions, such as Eid celebrations or wedding receptions. It is made from corn starch, sugar, cardamom powder, nutmeg powder and ghee. Peanuts are also sometimes added to enhance texture and flavour. After meals, homes are traditionally perfumed using frankincense (lubaan) or incense (cuunsi), which is prepared inside an incense burner referred to as a dabqaad.


Somalia has a rich musical heritage centred on traditional Somali folklore. Most Somali songs are pentatonic. That is, they only use five pitches per octave in contrast to a heptatonic (seven note) scale like the major scale. At first listen, Somali music might be mistaken for the sounds of nearby regions such as Ethiopia, Sudan or the Arabian Peninsula, but it is ultimately recognizable by its own unique tunes and styles. Somali songs are usually the product of collaboration between lyricists (midho), songwriters (laxan) and singers (codka or "voice").

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Somalia para niños

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