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(sōmä`leə), officially Federal Republic of Somalia, country (2015 est. pop. 10,616,000), 246,200 sq mi (637,657 sq km), extreme E Africa. It is directly south of the Arabian peninsula across the Gulf of Aden. Somalia comprises almost the entire African coast of the Gulf of Aden and a longer stretch on the Indian Ocean. It is bounded on the NW by Djibouti, on the W by Ethiopia, on the SW by Kenya, and on the S and E by the Indian Ocean. MogadishuMogadishu
or Mogadisho
, Ital. Mogadiscio, city (1990 est. pop. 1,200,000), capital of Somalia, on the Indian Ocean. It is the country's largest city, a port, and a commercial and financial center.
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 is the capital.

Land and People

Arid, semidesert conditions make the country relatively unproductive. In most areas, barren coastal lowland (widest in the south) is abruptly succeeded by a rise to the interior plateau, which is generally c.3,000 ft (910 m) high and stretches toward the northern and western highlands. The Jubba and the Webe Shebele are the only important rivers. In addition to Mogadishu, other important cities are HargeisaHargeisa,
or Harghessa
, town (1984 est. pop. 70,000) and capital of the Somaliland region, N Somalia. It is a commercial center and watering place for nomadic stock herders. The town is a transportation hub and has an international airport.
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, BerberaBerbera
, city (1985 est. pop. 67,000), Somaliland region, N Somalia, a port on the Gulf of Aden. The city, which was first described in the 13th cent. by Arab geographers, was taken in 1875 by the rulers of Egypt; when they withdrew in 1884 to fight the Mahdi in Sudan, Britain
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 (the main northern port), and KismayoKismayo
or Kismayu
, town (1984 est. pop. 70,000), SW Somalia, on the Indian Ocean. It is the principal town and port of the Jubbada Hoose region. Kismayo was founded in 1872 by the sultan of Zanzibar, passed to Great Britain in 1887, and was held until 1924, when it
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 (the principal port of the south).

The vast majority of the republic's population is Somali; they speak a Cushitic language and are Sunni Muslims. They are divided into five principal clans and many subclans. Islam is the state religion. Although Somali is the national tongue, Arabic, Italian, and English are used officially. There are Bantu-speaking ethnic groups in the southwest and numerous Arabs in the coastal towns.


Pastoralism is the dominant mode of life; both nomadic and sedentary herding of cattle, sheep, goats, and camels are carried on. The major cash crops are bananas, mangoes, and sugarcane. Other important crops include sorghum, corn, coconuts, rice, sesame seeds, and beans. There is a small fishing industry. Somalia's most valuable mineral resource is uranium. Iron ore and many other minerals are largely unexploited. Petroleum deposits have been found, and a refinery was built in 1979. However, much industry has been shut down due to civil strife. Agricultural processing constitutes the bulk of Somalian industry, which includes sugar refining, meat and fish (notably tuna) canning, oilseed processing, and leather tanning. Textiles are manufactured. There are no railroads. Remittances from Somalis living abroad are important to the economy. Livestock, bananas, hides and skins, fish, charcoal, and scrap metal are exported. Imports include manufactured goods, petroleum products, foodstuffs, construction materials, and khat. The chief trading partners are the United Arab Emirates, Djibouti, Yemen, and Oman.


Somalia is governed under a provisional constitution approved in 2012. The Federal Parliament consists of a 275-seat House of the People, whose members are chosen for four-year terms by an electoral college named by clan elders because the civil war has made direct election too difficult, and a 54-seat Upper House (to be chosen for the first time in 2016), elected by state governments to four-year terms. The parliament elects the president, who serves for a single four-year term. Administratively, the country's 18 regions are grouped into six states.


Early and Colonial Periods

Between the 7th and 10th cent., immigrant Muslim Arabs and Persians established trading posts along Somalia's Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean coasts; Mogadishu began its existence as a trading station. During the 15th and 16th cent., Somali warriors regularly joined the armies of the Muslim sultanates in their battles with Christian Ethiopia.

British, French, and Italian imperialism all played an active role in the region in the 19th cent. Great Britain's concern with the area was largely to safeguard trade links with its Aden colony (founded 1839), which depended especially on mutton from Somalia. The British opportunity came when Egyptian forces, having occupied much of the region in the 1870s, withdrew in 1884 to fight the Mahdi in Sudan. British penetration led to a series of agreements (1884–86) with local tribal leaders and, in 1887, to the establishment of a protectorate. France first acquired a foothold in the area in the 1860s. An Anglo-French agreement of 1888 defined the boundary between the Somalian possessions of the two countries.

Italy first asserted its authority in the area in 1889 by creating a small protectorate in the central zone, to which other concessions were later added in the south (territory ceded by the sultan of Zanzibar) and north. In 1925, Jubaland, or the Trans-Juba (east of the Juba [now Jubba] River), was detached from Kenya to become the westernmost part of the Italian colony. In 1936, Italian Somaliland was combined with Somali-speaking districts of Ethiopia to form a province of the newly formed Italian East AfricaItalian East Africa,
former federation of the Italian colonies of Eritrea and Italian Somaliland and the kingdom of Ethiopia. The federation was formed (1936) to consolidate the administration of the three areas.
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. During World War II, Italian forces invaded British Somaliland; but the British, operating from Kenya, retook the region in 1941 and went on to conquer Italian Somaliland. Britain ruled the combined regions until 1950, when Italian Somaliland became a UN trust territory under Italian control.

Independence and Its Aftermath

In accordance with UN decisions, Italian Somaliland, renamed Somalia, was granted internal autonomy in 1956 and independence in 1960. Britain proclaimed the end of its protectorate in June, 1960, and on July 1 the legislatures of the two new states created the United Republic of Somalia. In the early years of independence the government was faced with a severely underdeveloped economy and with a vocal movement that favored the creation of a "Greater Somalia" encompassing the Somali-dominated areas of Kenya, French Somaliland (now Djibouti), and Ethiopia. The nomadic existence of many Somali herders and the ill-defined frontiers worsened the problem. Hostilities between Somalia and Ethiopia erupted in 1964, and Kenya became involved in the conflict as well, which continued until peace was restored in 1967. The inhabitants of French Somaliland, meanwhile, voted to continue their association with France.

In 1969 President Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke was assassinated. The new rulers, led by Maj. Gen. Mohammed Siad Barre, dissolved the national assembly, banned political parties, and established a supreme revolutionary council with the power to rule by decree pending adoption of a new constitution. The country's name was changed to the Somali Democratic Republic.

Under Barre's leadership Somalia joined the Arab League (1974) and developed strong ties with the Soviet Union and other Communist-bloc nations. In the late 1970s, however, after Somalia began supporting ethnic Somali rebels seeking independence for the disputed Ogaden region of Ethiopia, the Soviet Union sided with Ethiopia, and Somalia won backing from the United States and Saudi Arabia. Somalia invaded the disputed territory in 1977 but was driven out by Ethiopian forces in 1978. Guerrilla warfare in the Ogaden continued until 1988, when Ethiopia and Somalia reached a peace accord.

Warfare among rival factions within Somalia intensified, and in 1991 Barre was ousted from his power center in the capital by nationalist guerrillas. Soon afterward, an insurgent group in N Somalia (the former British Somaliland) that had begun its rebellion in the 1980s announced it had seceded from the country and proclaimed itself the Republic of Somaliland. In Mogadishu, Mohammed Ali Mahdi was proclaimed president by one group and Mohammed Farah Aidid by another, as fighting between rival factions continued. Civil war and the worst African drought of the century created a devastating famine in 1992, resulting in a loss of some 220,000 lives.

A UN-brokered truce was declared and UN peacekeepers and food supplies arrived, but the truce was observed only sporadically. Late in 1992, troops from the United States and other nations attempted to restore political stability and establish free and open food-aid routes by protecting ports, airports, and roads. However, there was widespread looting of food-distribution sites and hostility toward the relief effort by heavily armed militant factions.

Efforts to reestablish a central government were unsuccessful, and international troops became enmeshed in the tribal conflicts that had undone the nation. Failed attempts in 1993 by U.S. forces to capture Aidid, in reaction to an ambush by Somalis in which 23 Pakistani peacekeepers were killed, produced further casualties. Clan-based fighting increased in 1994 as the United States and other nations withdrew their forces; the last UN peacekeepers left the following year. Aidid died in 1996 from wounds suffered in battle.

The country was devastated by floods in 1997 and in the late 1990s was still without any organized government. Mogadishu and most of the south were ruled by violence. The breakaway Somaliland Republic, although not recognized internationally, continued to maintain a relatively stable existence, with Mohammed Ibrahim Egal (1993–2002), Dahir Riyale Kahin (2002–10), and Ahmed Mohamud Silanyo (2010–) as presidents; extensions of Riyale's term beginning in 2007 led to confrontations between the government and opposition. Somaliland had a growing economy and in the late 1990s began receiving aid from the European Union. The northeast (Puntland) section of the country also stablilized, with local clan leadership providing some basic services and foreign trade being carried on through its port on the Gulf of Aden. Both Puntland and Jubaland (in S Somalia) declared their independence in 1998. Although Jubaland was subsequently the scene of clan and sectarian fighting and ceased to have a separate existence, Puntland both retained its own government and participated in attempts to establish a Somali federal government.

In 2000 a five-month conference of mainly southern Somalis that had convened in Djibouti under the sponsorship of that nation's president established a national charter (interim constitution) and elected a national assembly and a president, Abdikassim Salad Hassan, who had been an official in Barre's regime. The new president flew to Mogadishu in August. A number of militias refused to recognize the new government, and officials and forces of the government were attacked several times by militia forces, and the government exercised minimal authority in the capital and little influence outside it. The establishment (Mar., 2001) of the Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council by opposition warlords supported by Ethiopia, an overwhelming vote (June, 2001) in the Somaliland region in favor of remaining independent, and a declaration of independence (Apr., 2002) by Southwestern Somaliland, the fourth such regional state to be proclaimed, were further obstacles to the new government's acceptance.

In Oct., 2002, a cease-fire accord that also aimed at establishing a federal constitution was signed in Kenya by all the important factions except the Somaliland region. Fighting, however, continued in parts of the country. The sometimes stormy talks that followed the cease-fire were slow to produce concrete results, but a transitional charter was signed in Jan., 2004. Meanwhile, the mandate of the essentially symbolic interim government expired in Aug., 2003, but the president withdrew from talks, refused to resign, and had the prime minister (who remained involved in the talks) removed from office. In Sept., 2004, after many delays, a 275-member parliament was convened (in Kenya) under the new charter, and a new president, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, a former general who had served as president of Puntland, was elected in October. Somaliland remained a nonparticipant in the transitional government (and held elections for its own parliament later, in Oct., 2005). Coastal areas of Somalia, particularly in Puntland, suffered damage and the loss of several hundred lives as a result of the Dec., 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami.

The new government was slow to move to Somalia, delayed by disputes over who would be in the cabinet, whether nations neighboring Somalia would contribute troops to African Union peacekeeping forces, and whether the government would be initially established in the capital or outside it. The disputes in Kenya boiled over into fighting in Somalia in March and May, 2005, where the forces of two warlords battled for control of Baidoa, one of the proposed temporary capitals. Some government members, allied with the speaker of the parliament, meanwhile relocated to Mogadishu.

In June the president returned to his home region of Puntland, and in July he announced plans to move south to Jowhar, the other proposed temporary capital. A coalition of Mogadishu warlords announced that they would attack Jowhar if the president attempted to establish a temporary capital there, but the president nonetheless did so. The year also saw a dramatic increase in piracy and ship hijackings off the Somalia coast, including the hijacking of a UN aid ship and an attack on a cruise ship, and in subsequent years pirate attacks for ransom off the coast were a significant problem. By 2010 Somali pirates were ranging across much of the NW Indian Ocean. The pirates were mainly based in S Puntland, around the port of Eyl; the government of Puntland was accused of colluding with them. By 2012, however, antipiracy measures in the shipping lanes had led to a large drop in ship seizures.

In Jan., 2006, the disputing Somali factions agreed to convene the parliament at Baidoa, Somalia, and the following month it met there. There were outbreaks of fighting in Mogadishu in Feb.–Mar., 2006, between militia forces aligned with unofficial Islamic courts and militias loyal to several warlords. In April, Baidoa was officially established as Somalia's temporary capital. Fighting re-erupted in Mogadishu in April and by July the Islamist militias had won control of Mogadishu and, through alliances, much of S Somalia, except for the Baidoa region. A truce in June between the government and the Islamist was not generally honored. In Aug., 2006, Galmudug was established as an autonomous region just S of Puntland.

The Islamists, who were split between moderates and hardliners, established the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) and imposed Islamic law on the area under their control. In some areas their rule recalled that of the Taliban in Afghanistan. They were accused of having ties to Al QaedaAl Qaeda
or Al Qaida
[Arab.,=the base], Sunni Islamic terrorist organization with the stated goals of uniting all Muslims and establishing a transnational, strict-fundamentalist Islamic state.
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, which they denied, but there was apparent evidence of non-Somali fighters in the militia. Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a hardliner who became leader of the UIC shura [council], had led an Islamist group ousted from Puntland by President Yusuf, and was regarded as a threat by Ethiopia for having accused that nation of "occupying" the Ogaden.

As the UIC solidified its hold over S Somalia, taking control of the port of Kismayo in September, hundreds of Somalis fled to NE Kenya. Also in September there was an attempt to assassinate President Yusuf. There were increased tensions between the UIC and Ethiopia over the presence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia in support of the interim government, a situation that Ethiopia denied until October, when it said they were there to train government forces. Eritrea was accussed of supplying arms to the UIC, raising the specter of a wider war involving Ethiopia and Eritrea.

In Oct., 2006, government and UIC forces clashed several times over Bur Hakaba, a town outside Baidoa on the road to Mogadishu. A number of attempts over the summer to restart talks between the government and the UIC stalled over various issues. The interim government was split between those who favored negotiations with UIC and the prime minister, who strongly objected to any negotiations. In addition, the government objected to the Islamists' seizure of additional territory since the June truce, and the UIC objected to the presence of Ethiopian forces in Somalia.

After increasing tension and clashes between the two sides in November, the UIC demanded that Ethiopian troops leave or face attack. Major fighting erupted late in December, and Somali government forces supported by Ethiopian forces soon routed the Islamists, who abandoned Mogadishu and then Kismayo, their last stronghold, by Jan. 1, 2007. Fighting continued into early 2007 in extreme S Somalia. The United States launched air strikes (using carrier aircraft offshore) against suspected Al Qaeda allies of the UIC, and U.S. special forces also conducted some operations in S Somalia. The government assumed control over the capital, declared a state of emergency, and called for the surrender of private weapons. Several warlords surrendered arms and merged their militias into the army, but concern over the warlords' forces remained.

Ethiopian and government forces soon found themselves fighting militias opposed to disarmament and motivated also by interclan distrust and anti-Ethiopian sentiment and Islamist guerrillas. Fierce battles in March and April in the capital caused hundreds of thousands to flee, and hundreds died. The presence of African Union peacekeepers, who began arriving in March and were stationed in Mogadishu, did little initially to alter the situation, but the situation quieted after the government largely established control in late April. Sporadic antigovernment attacks continued, however, occasionally erupting into more intense fighting. Also in April, some prominent members and former members of the government formed an anti-Ethiopian alliance with members of the UIC; the alliance subsequently included Ethiopian rebel groups as well.

A national reconciliation conference in July–Aug., 2007, was boycotted by Islamists and some clans. Divisions in the government between the president and Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi over their respective powers led to Gedi's resignation in October. That same month, tension and clashes between Somaliland and Puntland over the disputed border town of Los Anod erupted into significant fighting. In November, Nur Hassan Hussein, the head of the Somali Red Crescent, was named prime minister. By the end of 2007, some 600,000 had fled the capital due to the fighting there.

In Jan., 2008, the government officially returned to Mogadishu, but the ability of the Islamists during the year to seize and towns in S and central Somalia, including the ports of Kismayo in August and Merka (55 mi/90 km S of Mogadishu) in November, and the continuing fighting in the capital belied the government's gesture toward establishing its authority. A peace agreement was negotiated between the government and more moderate Islamist insurgents in June, 2008; in August both sides agreed to a joint police force and a phased Ethiopia pullback, and in November a power-sharing agreement was signed. More militant Islamists, however, rejected the agreements, which did not diminish violence in Somalia. Radical Islamists continued to make gains, and there was fighting between the radicals and more moderate Islamists; government control was restricted mainly to Mogadishu and Baidoa.

President Yusuf attempted to dismiss Prime Minister Nur in December and replace him, but Nur retained the support of the parliament. Yusuf, who was seen by many as an obstacle to the power-sharing agreement with the moderate Islamists, subsequently resigned. In Jan., 2009, Ethiopian forces withdrew from Somalia, although occasional incursions occurred in subsequent months and years; moderate Islamists joined the government the same month. Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, was elected president; Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, son of the country's first president, became prime minister the following month.

Hardline Islamists continued their attacks, however, capturing Baidoa in January and other towns in the following months, gaining control of most of S and central Somalia. Fighting also occurred in the Mogadishu, becoming heavy beginning in May when hardliners seized large areas in the capital (though the government, defended primarily by AU peacekeepers, retained control of key buildings and infrastructure); fighting, at times heavy, has continued off and on in Mogadishu since then. In May, 2009, the interim government officially adopted Islamic law.

By July, 2009, an estimated 1.2 million Somalis had been displaced within Somalia by the fighting; some 300,000 were in border areas in Kenya. Tensions between hardline allies turned violent in Sept.–Oct., 2009, when two groups briefly fought for control of Kismayo, and fighting between some hardline factions continued sporadically in S Somalia. Divisions within the hardliners have been outweighed, however, by the weakness and corruption of the interim government, which in 2010 experienced a power struggle between the president and prime minister. Tensions between the prime minister and parliament led the president to dismiss Sharmarke in May, 2010, but the prime minister denounced the move as unconstitutional and ultimately remained in office. In Sept., 2010, however, amid worsening power struggles in the government, the prime minister resigned; Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a former diplomat succeeded him in October.

In July, 2010, meanwhile, Somali hardline Islamists mounted suicide bomb attacks in Kampala, Uganda, in retaliation for Uganda's participation in the peacekeeping forces in Somalia. A failed militant offensive in August to seize control of Mogadishu and divisions within the dominant militant group, Al ShababAl Shabab
or Al Shabaab
, [Arab.,=the youth], Islamic fundamentalist militia based in Somalia. One of several hardline Somali Islamist militias, Al Shabab has operated primarily in southern and central Somalia but it also has recruited and carried out terrorist attacks
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, led to some territorial gains in the capital by African Union forces that continued into 2011. In Dec., 2010, the two main hardline Islamist groups, Al Shabab and Hizbul Islam, announced that they had merged.

In Feb., 2011, the transitional parliament voted to extend its term, which was due to expire in Aug., 2011, by three years; in March, the mandate of the government, due to expire at the same time, was extended for a year. In June, 2011, however, an agreement negotiated by Uganda between the president and the parliament speaker called for extending presidential and legislative terms until Aug., 2012, when new leaders would be chosen. Additionally, the agreement called for the resignation of the prime minister and the formation of a new government, and in June, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, a Somali-American economist, became prime minister.

By mid-2011, food shortages due to drought had become a problem in parts of Somalia, which was hit by its worst drought in 60 years. The drought was especially dire in areas controlled by hardline Islamists, who had banned international aid groups in 2010. Some 260,000 people died and 1.5 million people migrated to the capital as a result of the famine, which ended early in 2012.

In Aug., 2011, hardline forces withdrew from most areas of Mogadishu, but their control over much of S and central Somalia was unaffected by the move, and fighting recurred in sections of the capital at times. In October, Kenyan forces invaded S Somalia to attack hardline Islamists, whom Kenya held responsible for a series of attacks in Kenya. Kenya agreed in December to incorporate its troops into the African Union forces operating in Somalia, and an offensive by government-aligned Somali forces in conjunction with AU, Kenyan, and Ethiopian troops continued into 2012. At the same time, however, the government remained divided and largely ineffective, and outside the capital a number of self-proclaimed autonomous regions and warlords sought to exercise power in areas no longer under hardline Islamist control.

In Feb., 2012, the hardline Islamist Al Shabab publicly proclaimed that it had joined its movement to Al Qaeda; the group suffered a series of setbacks in the first half of 2012, losing control in Mogadishu and other other towns. By July, many of its fighters had retreated north or toward Kismayo in the south; Kismayo was the most important urban area still under Al Shabab control. In August, a national constituent assembly approved and adopted a provisional constitution to replace the Transitional Federal Charter and a parliament was chosen by clan elders; the following month, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, a moderate Islamist and academic, was elected president. In October, Abdi Farrah Shirdon Said, a businessman, was named prime minister.

Also in October, a Somali-Kenyan offensive took control of Kismayo as Al Shabab withdrew. Al Shabab remained in control of many rural areas in S Somalia, and at times returned to areas from which they had been expelled after government-aligned forces withdrew. In the first half of 2013 several clan militia leaders claimed to head a new government for Jubaland in S Somalia. The formation of Jubaland, seen as a potential buffer region between central Somalia and Kenya, was supported supported by Kenyan forces but opposed by the Somali government. Subsequently control of the region was contested by the rival militias. A leader allied with Kenyan forces but opposed by the Somalia government gained power in Kismayo after fighting broke out in mid-2013, and then was recognized as the region's leader.

In June, 2013, there was a split in Al Shabab that subsequently led to fighting between hardline Islamists. The president survived an apparent assassination attempt unharmed in Sept., 2013; there was a significant attack on the presidential palace in Feb., 2014, but the president was unharmed. Disputes between the president and prime minister led to the latter's removal in Dec., 2013, by a no-confidence vote. Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed, a development economist, was then appointed prime minister, but he resigned a year later after conflicts with the president.

In early 2014 Somali and UN peacekeeping forces mounted an offensive against Al Shabab, dislodging them from strongholds in regions near the Ethiopian border and around the capital, and in October the group lost control of the port of Barawe, its last coastal stronghold. The group was nonetheless able to mount of number of attacks against the government in the capital in 2014. In Dec., 2014, former prime minister Sharmarke was appointed to a second term in the office. In July, 2015, government and African Union forces gained control of Bardere (Bardera), in SW Somalia, one of the last towns held by Al Shabab. Sporadic attacks by Al Shabab, including suicide bombings, continued through 2019 against military and civilian targets in Somalia, and the group at times regained or reoccupied territory. In Oct., 2017, the deadliest bomb attack in years killed more than 500 people in the capital and injured as many.

The 2016 parliamentary elections saw the members of the lower house selected by a larger, if still very limited, group of electors than in the previous election, though the process was flawed and subject to bribes and delays; an upper house was also elected. The slowly progressing parliamentary elections postponed the presidential ballot into Feb., 2017, when former prime minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed was elected; he appointed Hassan Ali Khaire prime minister. Tensions over the election in Mar., 2020, of a new president of Galmudug led led to fighting there that month between a government-aligned Sufi Muslim militia and government forces. In July, Khaire was forced from office by a no-confidence vote; Mohamed Hussein Roble succeeded him in September. In Dec., 2020, Somalia broke diplomatic ties with Kenya, accusing it of intereference in Somali affairs, particularly with respect to Jubaland and the planning for Somali federal elections.


See R. L. Hess, Italian Colonialism in Somalia (1966); D. D. Laitin and S. S. Samatar, Somalia (1985); I. M. Lewis, A Modern History of Somalia (1988); A. I. Samatar, The State and Rural Transformation in Northern Somalia (1989).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Somali Democratic Republic), a country in northeastern Africa, on the Somali Peninsula (Horn of Africa). It is bounded by the Gulf of Aden on the north, by the Indian Ocean on the east and southeast, by Ethiopia and Kenya on the west, and by Djibouti (formerly French Somaliland) on the northwest. Area, 637,700 sq km. Population, 3.09 million (1974, estimate). Its capital is Mogadishu (Mogadiscio). Somalia is divided into 15 regions; Mogadishu is administered separately.

Constitution and government. The head of state is the president, who is also head of the government. General Muhammad Siyad Barre became president in 1976. Supreme legislative authority is vested in the Central Committee of the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party.

Natural features. Central Somalia is occupied by a plateau lying at an elevation of 500–1,500 m. The northern edge of the plateau is uplifted and divided into massifs dissected by deep narrow ravines. Here, the Mijirtein Mountains rise to 2,406 m. The plateau descends gradually, in two stages, to the southeast. Both in the north and in the southeast it is fringed by somewhat hilly lowlands up to 100 km wide.

Somalia occupies the northeastern part of the African Platform, whose basement crops out in the uplands south of the Aden Rift Zone and in the Bur Massif. The basement consists of pre-Riphean schists, and amphibolites, Riphean shales, rhyo-lites, and tuffs, and Vendían or Cambrian sandstones and shales. The mantle is composed of marine and lagoonal deposits from the Jurassic, Cretaceous, and Paleogene that reach a thickness of 7,000–8,000 m in the downwarps of Marehan, Mudugh, and Northeastern Mijirtein. In the fault zone along the coast of the Indian Ocean, the mantle is up to 14 km thick. The rocks of the basement contain piezoquartz, beryllium, tantalum, niobium, tin (pegmatites), thorium ores, and iron ore. In the Paleogene rocks are deposits of vanadium ores, and ilmenite is found in coastal placers.

With the exception of the north, which has a desert and semi-desert climate, Somalia’s climate is equatorial monsoonal and arid. The annual precipitation decreases from south to north and from west to east from 500–600 mm to 100 mm or less. The main rainy season, called gu, lasts from April to July, when corn, cotton, sesame, and legumes are planted. Sorghum and millet are grown during a second rainy season, called dayr, which extends from October to December. During the dry seasons of haga (July to October) and jilal (December to March) the land is not cultivated and virtually all vegetation burns up. Temperatures vary little throughout the year. In the north, January temperatures average 25o–30°C and July temperatures, 32°C. In the south, the annual range is 2°–3°C. Daily temperature fluctuations, however, may reach 30°C in the interior.

There are two permanent rivers: the Juba, navigable in its lower course, and the Webi Shebeli. The remaining rivers, dry channels called tugs, contain water only during the rainy season.

Much of the territory is occupied by grass and scrub deserts and by thorn woodlands and shrubs that are leafless during the dry season. The soils are reddish brown and red-brown. Palms—date, doum, and coconut—grow in the oases. There are many shrubs that yield valuable aromatic resins. In the valleys of the Juba and the Webi Shebeli grow dense gallery tropical forests.

Wildlife includes many herbivorous mammals, among them antelopes, zebras, buffaloes, and giraffes, and such predators as lions, leopards, hyenas, and jackals. Elephants, rhinoceroses, and boars inhabit the thickets along rivers, and crocodiles and hippopotamuses are found in the rivers. Monkeys are numerous, and there are many species of birds, reptiles, and insects.


Population. Somalis make up the bulk of the population. In the south live small groups of peoples speaking Bantu languages, among them the Wa-Gosha and Swahilis. Arabs, Amharas, Indians, and Europeans, chiefly Italians, live in the coastal cities. The official languages are Somali and Arabic. Most of the people are Sunni Muslims. The official calendar is the Gregorian.

Between 1970 and 1974 the population grew at an average annual rate of 2.5 percent. Some 82 percent (1970) of the gainfully employed population is engaged in agriculture. Of these, two-thirds are nomadic or seminomadic herders. The average population density is about 5 persons per sq km; in the Juba and Webi Shebeli river valleys and on the Benadir coast it increases to 50 persons per sq km. In 1973 urban dwellers accounted for 13 percent of the population. The major cities are Mogadishu, with more than 250,000 inhabitants in 1973, Berbera, Hargeisa, Kis-mayu, and Iscia Baidoa.

Historical survey. Somalia was inhabited as early as the Paleolithic. Roman authors describe Somalia as a land of nomadic pas-toralists. To judge by the remains of irrigation works, however, irrigation farming was practiced on the coast of the Gulf of Aden in antiquity. The first large settlements and towns appeared in the early centuries of the Common Era, a time of flourishing trade with the Arabs, Indians, and Greeks.

During the seventh and eighth centuries Muslim Arabs migrated to the Somali Peninsula in ever greater numbers, exerting a strong influence on the religious, linguistic, and cultural development of the inhabitants. Between the 12th and 16th centuries, the Muslim sultanates of Zeila (Adal), Ifats, and Hadya existed on the territory of present-day Somalia. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, the sultanates disintegrated into a number of small emirates. In the 19th century, a struggle broke out among the European powers for possession of the Somali Peninsula, which in the early 20th century was partitioned into three colonies: British Somaliland, French Somaliland, and Italian Somaliland.

The imperialist partition and colonization provoked a popular uprising led by Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah Sayyid al-Hasan that lasted from 1899 to 1920. Taking the form of a religious war, the uprising was motivated by a desire for national liberation from the very beginning. Led by the feudalized tribal aristocracy, all the main strata of the indigenous population united in the struggle against the British and Italian colonialists. In 1910 the British government had to evacuate its troops from the interior regions of the Somali Peninsula, and on the eve of World War I the insurgents began to create a Somali state there. In 1919 the British launched a general offensive against the insurgents, and the next year the uprising was suppressed. The British colonialists seized the best lands and a considerable portion of the livestock, and they imposed numerous taxes on the indigenous population. In Italian Somaliland, the exploitation of the local population intensified after the fascists came to power in Italy. Both British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland lacked a national industry, and the living standard in both areas was extremely low.

From the outbreak of World War II, Somalia was an arena of military operations. In August 1940 the Italian Army occupied British Somaliland, and in early 1941, British troops drove the Italians out of British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland, establishing a military occupation there. During the war years, a number of manufacturing industries were founded in Somalia, and a small Somali bourgeoisie emerged, as well as an intelligentsia and a working class, represented chiefly by the agricultural proletariat. The Somali Youth Club was founded in Mogadishu in 1943 for the purpose of undertaking cultural and educational work. The club was renamed the Somali Youth League (SYL) in 1947 and shortly thereafter became the leading political party. Its main demand was the unification of all parts of Somalia and the formation of an independent state. The SYL also called for the establishment of a democratic republic, social reforms, and the abolition of tribal-clan relations.

On Nov. 21, 1949, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution placing Italian Somaliland under international trusteeship for ten years. (Italy was designated the administering country.) The Italian authorities adopted a policy of reasserting the colonial system in Somalia. All the positions in the country’s administration and economic life were held by Italians. With respect to the African population, the Italian authorities pursued an essentially colonial policy of oppression, exploitation, and racial discrimination. Despite the repression, the Somali people did not give up the liberation movement, in which they made use of all forms of struggle—petitions to the UN, strikes, demonstrations, meetings, and overt disobedience of the authorities. During the 1950’s large anti-imperialist outbreaks occurred in Kismayu, Gal-ka’yo, Merca, and other cities. In 1956, under pressure from the Somalis, the Italian authorities held elections to a legislative assembly in which the SYL was victorious. The first national government in the history of Somalia was formed, with the post of prime minister being assumed by the general secretary of the SYL, Abdillahi Issa. Nevertheless, the most important functions of state power remained in the hands of the Italian trusteeship administration.

Meanwhile, in British Somaliland, the founding during World War II of the Somaliland National League (SNL), advocating the independence and unity of Somalia, was followed by the establishment of the Somaliland National Society (SNS) in 1946. A wave of demonstrations calling for struggle against imperialism engulfed British Somaliland in 1957. The growing national liberation movement compelled the British colonial authorities to hold elections for a legislative council in 1960. The elections brought victory to the SNL. On June 26,1961), British Somaliland gained its independence, and on July 1 the former British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland united to form the independent Somali Republic, which joined the UN that same year.

As a result of long colonial domination, the country’s economy was poorly developed, and the bulk of the population was illiterate. There was an acute shortage of skilled personnel in all spheres of the national economy, and the main branches of the economy remained under the control of foreign capital. State power passed to the tribal leadership and the national bourgeoisie. The ideological and practical course adopted by the ruling circles, whose interests were upheld by the SYL, was aimed at steering Somalia along the capitalist road.

As a member of the Organization of African Unity, the UN, and other international organizations, Somalia opposed colonialism and racism. Nevertheless, the government of the Somali bourgeoisie was unable to stimulate rapid economic development or to eliminate the consequences of colonial domination and dependence on the imperialist powers.

On Oct. 15, 1969, President A. A. Shermarke was assassinated. To avert a takeover by reactionary elements, supported by imperialist circles, the patriotic forces of Somalia were compelled to take strong measures. In the early morning of Oct. 21, 1969, army officers under the leadership of General Muhammad Siyad Barre, the commander of the army, staged a coup and took power. The ministers of the former government were arrested, and the parliament, political parties, and public organizations were dissolved. All power passed to the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC), presided over by Muhammad Siyad Barre. Somalia was renamed the Somali Democratic Republic (SDR). The Somali leadership announced that “a society based on labor and social justice” would be created in the republic. In 1970 the country’s leaders declared that the SDR would adhere to socialist orientation.

Pursuing this policy, the government effected a number of socioeconomic reforms. The SDR has received much assistance from the Soviet Union and other socialist states. Enterprises built with the aid of the USSR have become the keystone of the state sector of the national economy. The SDR proclaimed positive neutrality and nonalignment to be the main principles of its foreign policy. At the same time the SDR laid claim to considerable territories in the neighboring states—to Ogaden in Ethiopia, to territory in Kenya, and to Djibouti. In July 1977 the Somali government, fired with chauvinistic and expansionist ambitions, launched military operations against Ethiopia and occupied a large portion of Ogaden. This caused the Organization of African Unity to once again emphasize the principle of the inviolability of the borders of African nations. After a counteroffensive carried out in February and March 1978, the Ethiopian armed forces drove the Somali troops from its territory. On Mar. 9, 1978, the Somali government announced the withdrawal of its troops from Ethiopian territory.

Diplomatic relations with the USSR were established in 1960, and the next year the two countries concluded agreements on trade and economic and cultural cooperation. On July 11, 1974, the SDR and the USSR signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation. On Nov. 13, 1978, the Somali government, displeased because the USSR had not backed Somali claims to territory in Ethiopia, unilaterally abrogated the treaty. The SDR has been a member of the Arab League since February 1974.

A. M. KHAZANOV (to 1960) and E. B. DEMENTEV, and L. DAVYDOV (since I960)

Economic geography. Somalia is an agricultural country. Progressive socioeconomic measures have been carried out since 1969. Foreign banks, mines, and certain other industrial enterprises have been nationalized; the sale and distribution of petroleum products have come under state control; and a state monopoly has been created for the purchase and export of cereals, cotton, hides, skins, aromatic resins, and other agricultural products. Cooperative farming is expanding. A national airline has been established. The per capita gross domestic product was estimated to be $70 in 1971. The state sector occupies a prominent place in the economy, accounting for about 70 percent of the value of industrial production in 1973. Economic development programs have been launched. A number of enterprises have been built with Soviet aid, among them a meat packing plant in Kismayu, a milk plant in Mogadishu, and a fish cannery in Las Khoreh. The Soviet Union has also provided funds for modernizing the Berbera port, for the building of an irrigation system and hydroelectric power plant on the Juba River, and for expanding the shipyard constructing motorized fishing boats at Mogadishu.

AGRICULTURE. Only one-third of Somalia’s territory is suitable for agriculture; most of the agricultural land lies in the southwest. The main occupation is livestock raising, much of which is subsistence or semisubsistence herding. Goats, sheep, and camels are raised in the northern and central regions and cattle in the southwest. In 1974 the livestock population numbered 2.97 million cattle, 3.9 million sheep, 5 million goats, and 3 million camels. The drought of the 1970’s caused heavy livestock losses. In 1974 losses from epizootic death were estimated at 1.6 billion Somali shillings.

Crop farming is concentrated in the valleys and interfluvial area of the Juba and Webi Shebeli. Only 1.3–1.5 percent of Somalia’s area is cultivated. Irrigated land makes up about one-fifth or one-sixth of the cultivated land, or 162,000 hectares (ha) in 1970. About 32 percent of the country’s area is under meadow or pasture. Most farms are small subsistence or semisubsistence peasant holdings on which sorghum, corn, millet, legumes, sesame, and vegetables are grown. The main export crop is bananas. In 1974 the 8,000 ha planted to bananas yielded 140,000 tons of bananas, of which 116,500 tons were exported. Since 1970 the export of bananas has been regulated’ by the National Banana Board. Sugarcane (35,000 tons of unrefined sugar in 1974) and cotton are also grown on plantations.

Whereas the sugarcane plantations belong to the state, banana and fruit plantations are privately owned. Cotton is raised on small farms. The plantations are situated in the irrigated areas in the Juba and Webi Shebeli valleys. Somalia contributes a substantial portion of the world output of aromatic resins (gum, myrrh, and frankincense). Fishing is developing in the coastal areas, where fishing cooperatives have been established.

INDUSTRY. Somalia’s small mining industry produces niobium ores and salt. Exploitation of the country’s hydroelectric resources, estimated at 380 megawatts, is only beginning. The thermal electric power plants operating in Mogadishu and other cities generated 38.3 million kW-hrs in 1971.

Manufacturing, also poorly developed, is for the most part restricted to the processing of agricultural products. About 90 percent of the manufacturing output is provided by the state sector. The country’s largest enterprise is the sugar refinery at Jowhar, with an annual capacity of 40,000–45,000 tons. There are fish canneries at Habo, Las Khoreh, and Cándala, meat packing plants at Mogadishu, Kismayu, and Merca, a dairy plant at Mogadishu, tanneries at Mogadishu and Brava, vegetable-oil, soap, and textile plants at Balad, and cotton-ginning and metalworking enterprises at Mogadishu. Artisan production includes weaving, tanning, and bone carving.

TRANSPORTATION There are no railroads. In 1973, Somalia had some 18,000 km of motor vehicle roads, of which 1,400 km were paved, and 13,400 motor vehicles. The largest seaports are Mogadishu (with a freight turnover of more than 200,000 tons in 1972), Berbera (300,000 tons), Kismayu (170,000 tons), and Merca (115,000 tons). There are airports in Mogadishu, Hargei-sa, Berbera, Kismayu, and elsewhere.

FOREIGN TRADE. In 1973, Somalia’s exports were valued at 361 million Somali shillings and its imports at 708 million Somali shillings. That year the leading exports were livestock (accounting for 55 percent of the value of exports), bananas (21 percent), livestock products (10 percent), smoked and canned fish, and aromatic resins. The major imports were machinery and equipment (27 percent), petroleum products (11 percent), and industrial goods (31 percent). Somalia’s main trading partners are Italy (which bought 31.3 percent of its exports and contributed 16.5 percent of its imports) and Saudi Arabia (57 percent of exports). The USSR accounts for about 9.4 percent of Somalia’s imports and for about 2.7 percent of its exports. The monetary unit is the Somali shilling. At the exchange rate of the State Bank of the USSR in April 1976, 100 Somali shillings equaled 11 rubles and 97 kopeks.


Armed forces. The Somali National Army is composed of ground forces, an air force, and a navy, together numbering more than 23,000 men in 1975. In addition, there is a police force of 6,500 men. The commander in chief is the president, and overall direction of the armed forces is exercised by the secretary of state, who is also the commander of the army. The army is maintained by voluntary enlistment. Officers are trained abroad and within the country. The largest branch of the armed forces is the army, with 20,000 men. The air force has more than 2,700 men and is equipped with 52 combat and ten transport planes. The navy only has about 300 men.

Health and social welfare. According to statistics provided by the World Health Organization, the birth rate averaged 45.9 per 1,000 between 1965 and 1970 and the mortality rate, 24 per 1,000. Infant mortality is high, as much as 200 per 1,000 live births. Infectious and parasitic diseases are the most common diseases and also the main cause of death (malaria is the leading killer). Intestinal and children’s infections, tuberculosis, venereal diseases, and dermatomycosis are found throughout the country. Among the most common helminthic diseases, which are especially widespread along the coast, are ascariasis, enterobiasis, trichocepha-liasis, hymenolepiasis, and trichinosis. Malaria is endemic along the middle and lower courses of the Juba and Webi Shebeli, where ascariasis, genitourinary schistosomiasis, and ancylosto-miasis are also prevalent. The incidence of these diseases reaches 40–90 percent in densely settled regions of irrigated farming. Every six or seven years malaria epidemics occur in the north. Echinococcosis has been recorded in livestock-raising regions.

In 1970 there were 5,000 hospital beds, or 1.9 beds per 1,000 inhabitants. In 1974, Somalia had 180 doctors (one for 17,200 people), 13 pharmacists (1970), and about 4,500 intermediate medical personnel. Free medical service was introduced in 1970, and all doctors have been assigned to state medical institutions. Physicians are trained abroad and at the medical faculty of the National University of Somalia. Intermediate medical workers are trained in the country’s medical schools. In 1971 public health expenditures amounted to 7.7 percent of the total state budget. In 1964 the USSR built and presented to Somalia as gifts two 50–bed hospitals (at Sheik and Wajid), each with an outpatient department and residential buildings.


VETERINARY SERVICES. The greatest livestock losses are due to trypanosomiasis, cattle plague, scabies, infective pneumonia of goats, and helminthiases. Among other prevalent diseases are infectious abortion of sheep, rickettsial keratoconjunctivitis, contagious agalactia, Newcastle disease, spirochetosis, and piroplasmosis. Notable advances in the organization of veterinary services were made after the coup of 1969, when the government enacted a law on combatting infectious animal diseases. An institute for the preparation of serums and vaccines established near Mogadishu also conducts research on animal diseases. The diagnostic laboratory in Hargeisa has been expanded. In 1969 a plan ned campaign was launched to eradicate cattle plague, and in 1970 regulations were adopted for veterinary meat inspection. All these measures improved the veterinary-hygienic conditions of livestock raising. Since 1973 veterinary services have been free in Somalia. That year a veterinary faculty was opened at the National University in Mogadishu. In 1974, Somalia had 40 veterinarians.


Education. Prior to independence, 95 percent of the population was illiterate, and only 3 percent of the country’s children attended school. A script was adopted for Somali in January 1973, and a nationwide campaign was launched to eradicate illiteracy in 1974–75. All private schools were placed under state control in the 1972–73 school year, and the next year a law was enacted making primary education compulsory.

The present school system includes preprimary, primary, intermediate, and secondary schools. Before the age of seven, children attend kindergartens and two-year Koran schools, in which they study writing, arithmetic, and the Koran. At the age of seven or eight they enroll in a four-year primary school. The next level is a four-year intermediate school. Both primary and intermediate education is free. The secondary school also has a four-year course of study. A reorganization of the school structure was undertaken in 1975 with the aim of shifting to a ten-year system of instruction. In the 1973–74 school year, 69,000 students were enrolled in primary schools and 27,000 students in secondary schools. Two to four years of vocational training are available to those who have completed the intermediate school. In the 1973–74 school year more than 2,000 students were receiving vocational training. There are also veterinary, public health, industrial, and teachers colleges in Mogadishu. Higher education is provided by the National University, founded in 1954 in Mogadishu as a university institute and constituted a university in 1959.

Also in Mogadishu are the National Library, founded in 1934 and containing more than 8,000 volumes, the library of the National University, and the National Museum.


Scientific institutions. Systematic scientific research essentially began after the coup of 1969. The coordinating center for research is the Ministry of Culture and Higher Education. Located for the most part in Mogadishu, the country’s research institutions operate under the auspices of state bodies. The Office of Planning and Coordination was established in 1974 under the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) to study socioeconomic, demographic, and other problems. The Survey and Mapping Department, founded in 1966, is attached to the SRC and the Council of the Secretaries of State. The Ministry of Culture and Higher Education runs the National Museum and the Academy of Somali Studies (1972, reorganized in 1974), with divisions of history, geography, literature, and folklore. The Somali Institute of Development and Administration (1966, reorganized in 1974) is affiliated with the Ministry of the Interior. The Ministry of Minerals and Water Resources operates the Geological Survey Department (1964), equipped with chemical, petrographic, and geophysical laboratories. The Ministry of Agriculture supervises the Central Agricultural Research Station, established in 1965 at Afgoi, and the Ministry of Public Health runs the Institute for the Preparation of Vaccines and Serums (which conducts research in epidemiology and veterinary medicine) and the Laboratory of Hygiene and Prophylaxy.


Press and radio. The leading newspapers and periodicals, published in Somali and Arabic since 1975, are the Hiddigta Oktoobar (since 1973, circulation 15,000), a governmental newspaper issued daily except Friday (prior to 1973 it was published in English, Italian, and Arabic); Waaga Cusub (since 1974, circulation about 10,000), a monthly magazine issued by the Ministry of Information and National Guidance (also published in English and Italian); Kacaan (since 1974, circulation 10,000), a sociopolitical and literary magazine published by the literary division of the Academy of Somali Studies; Hawl iyo Hantiwadaag (since 1973, circulation 30,000), a monthly theoretical and sociopolitical magazine issued by the Political Bureau under the SRC; and the magazine Odka Maalinka (since 1973, circulation about 5,000). The weekly newspaper Horseed (since 1970, circulation about 5,000) is published in English, Italian, and Arabic.

The government information agency is the National News Agency (SONNA), founded in 1963 and operating since 1964. Established in 1941, the National Broadcasting Service, a government service, broadcasts in Somali, English, Arabic, Amharic, Galla, Italian, Swahili, French, and Afar.

Literature. The imperialist division of the Somali Peninsula in the early 20th century and the subsequent period of colonial domination hindered literary development. The Somali language acquired a script based on the Latin alphabet only in 1973. Somalia’s rich folklore continues to be transmitted orally, although some works have been set down in writing.

The 16th-century sultan Wiil Waal is regarded as the first Somali poet. Raage Ugas, who lived in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, was a leading exponent of Somali classical poetry. Sa-laan Arabey (c. 1890–1949) introduced into poetry the theme of the relations between the Somalis and the Europeans and Arabs. The national hero Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah Sayyid al-Hasan (c. 1860–1920) was also an outstanding poet. An anthology of his poems was published in 1974. Many of Muhammad’s works call for freedom and the unification of the country. Another well-known poet was Ismaa’iil Mire (1884–1950), a prominent military leader whose poetic works are a valuable source of information about the country’s history. Gaman Sheikh Ahmed Bagiu was an important poet of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among other noteworthy poets are Elmi Bonder (1898–1954), Kamaan Bulhan, Ali Duuh, Tahir Adam, and Omar Mohammed.

The poetic genres called hees and heello, which appeared after World War II, enjoy great popularity. During the upsurge of the liberation struggle, Kassem Hilóle Skiffo (born 1923) produced patriotic songs, of which the most famous are “Somalis, Rise Up!” and “Youth.” Another creator of new song genres was the poet and singer Abdullahi Karshe (born 1924), who wrote more than 170 songs and was the first to perform them to Somali national melodies. Among famous contemporary authors are Ali Jerir, Abd-i Mohammed Amin, and Ahmed Abdullah Kalib. Patriotic musical plays directed against colonialism were written in the 1950’s and 1960’s by Mohammed Hadji, Ismail Balayu, Hu-sein Ali Farah, and Ali Sugulle.

Important work in preserving Somalia’s oral national literature and folklore is being done by the Academy of Somali Studies and the Ministry of Culture and Higher Education, which has established a library of tapes of the poetic works of the best national poets and which organizes annual festivals of national poetry.

Some modern Somali poets write in foreign languages, among them William Syad (born 1931), who uses French and English. His collection Khamsine (1959) contains poems protesting colonial oppression and appealing to the African peoples to unite. The progressive poets Mohammed Turier and Ahmed Omar al-Azhari write in Arabic. The latter is the editor of the magazine New Era, president of the Somali Writers’ Association, and a participant in the Tashkent Conference of Writers of the Asian and African Countries (1958).

In 1970 the first Somali novel appeared—Nuruddin Farah’s (born 1945) From a Crooked Rib, about the fate of the Somali woman. The novel was published in English in London in the African Writers Series. Since the introduction of the Somali script stories and tales have been written in the native language by Ahmed Artan Hange, Ahmed Shire Jama, and Omar Au Nuh.


Architecture and art. Sedentary Somalis build huts of woven branches coated with clay and topped by conical roofs. Some of them construct frame dwellings. The nomads build portable oval huts made of branches, grass, camel hides, or mats. Limestone buildings in the style of Arabic architecture were erected in port cities from the eighth century. Urban architecture of the 19th and early 20th centuries was marked by eclecticism. Since the 1960’s efforts have been made to improve the layout of cities and to provide them with services and amenities. Housing construction is expanding; the leading architect is J. Diri. Contemporary art is represented by decorative compositions on local themes. The most important artists are Abdi Mohammed and Sufi. Traditional artistic crafts include plaiting and the production of modeled ceramics and wooden utensils decorated with geometric designs.


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Official name: Somalia

Capital city: Mogadishu

Internet country code: .so

Flag description: Light blue with a large white five-pointed star in the center; blue field influenced by the flag of the United Nations

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

Total area: 246,199 sq. mi. (637,657 sq. km.)

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

Nationality: noun: Somali(s); adjective: Somali

Population: 9,118,773 (this July 2007 CIA estimate was derived from an official census taken in 1975 by the Somali Government; population counting in Somalia is complicated by the large number of nomads and by refugee movements in response to famine and clan war­fare)

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

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

Religions: Sunni Muslim 99.9%

Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


a republic in NE Africa, on the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden: the north became a British protectorate in 1884; the east and south were established as an Italian protectorate in 1889; gained independence and united as the Somali Republic in 1960. In 1991 the former British Somaliland region in the north unilaterally declared itself independent as the Republic of Somaliland, and other areas are also operating effectively as separate states, but this has not been recognized officially. Official languages: Arabic and Somali. Official religion: (Sunni) Muslim. Currency: Somali shilling. Capital: Mogadishu. Pop.: 10 312 000 (2004 est.). Area: 637 541 sq. km (246 154 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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