Population: 10,085,638 (est.)
Languages: Somali, Arabic
- The Somali shilling is the official currency of Somalia.
- Most Somalis are Muslims, the majority belonging to the Sunni branch of Islam and the Shafi’i school of Islamic jurisprudence, although some are adherents of the Shia Muslim denomination.
- The turmoil experienced by the country has led to Somalia becoming one of the poorest countries in the world.
- Somalia is one of those few African nations with the lowest HIV infection rates. However, almost 35% of children under the age of five in Somalia die every year due to epidemics and dehydration.
- Somalia is the only country in the world that does not possess a central form of government.
- Dadaab camp, Somalia, is the largest refugee camp in the world.
- Somalia has been mostly inaccessible to Western tourists since 1969 due to the persistent war and conflict that the country has experienced.
- Somaliland is a self declared country that takes up most of the northern part of Somalia. It is not recognized internationally as an independent nation, but is recognized as a autonomous region of Somalia.
Somalia, officially the Federal Republic of Somalia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Ethiopia to the west, Djibouti to the northwest, the Gulf of Aden to the north, the Indian Ocean to the east, and Kenya to the southwest. Somalia has the longest coastline on the continent, and its terrain consists mainly of plateaus, plains and highlands. Hot conditions prevail year-round, along with periodic monsoon winds and irregular rainfall.
Somalia has a population of around 10 million inhabitants. About 85% of local residents are ethnic Somalis, who have historically inhabited the northern part of the country. Ethnic minority groups make up the remainder of the nation’s population, and are largely concentrated in the southern regions. Somali and Arabic are the official languages of Somalia, both of which belong to the Afro-Asiatic family. Most people in the territory are Muslims, the majority being Sunni.
In antiquity, Somalia was an important centre for commerce with the rest of the ancient world,and according to most scholars, it is among the most probable locations of the fabled ancient Land of Punt. During the Middle Ages, several powerful Somali empires dominated the regional trade, including the Ajuuraan State, the Adal Sultanate, the Warsangali Sultanate and the Geledi Sultanate. In the late nineteenth century, through a succession of treaties with these kingdoms, the British and Italians gained control of parts of the coast, and established British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland. In the interior, Muhammad Abdullah Hassan’s Dervish State successfully repulsed the British Empire four times and forced it to retreat to the coastal region, but the Dervishes were finally defeated in 1920 by British airpower. Italy acquired full control of the northeastern and southern parts of the territory after successfully waging a Campaign of the Sultanates against the ruling Majeerteen Sultanate and Sultanate of Hobyo. This occupation lasted until 1941, when it was replaced by a British military administration. Northern Somalia would remain a protectorate, while southern Somalia by agreement became a United Nations Trusteeship in 1949. In 1960, the two regions united as planned to form the independent Somali Republic under a civilian government. Mohamed Siad Barre seized power in 1969 and established the Somali Democratic Republic. In 1991, Barre’s government collapsed as the Somali Civil War broke out.
In the absence of a central government, Somalia’s residents reverted to local forms of conflict resolution, consisting of civil law, religious law and customary law. A few autonomous regions, including the Somaliland, Puntland and Galmudug administrations, emerged in the north in the ensuing process of decentralization. The early 2000s saw the creation of fledgling interim federal administrations. The Transitional National Government (TNG) was established in 2000 followed by the formation of its successor the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in 2004, which reestablished national institutions such as the Military of Somalia. In 2006, the TFG, assisted by Ethiopian troops, assumed control of most of the nation’s southern conflict zones from the newly formed Islamic Courts Union (ICU). The ICU subsequently splintered into more radical groups such as Al-Shabaab, which battled the TFG and its AMISOM allies for control of the region, with the insurgents losing most of the territory that they had seized by mid-2012. In 2011-2012, a Roadmap political process providing clear benchmarks leading toward the establishment of permanent democratic institutions was launched. Within this administrative framework, a new Provisional Constitution was passed in August 2012, which designates Somalia as a federation. Following the end of the TFG’s interim mandate the same month, the Federal Government of Somalia, the first permanent central government in the country since the start of the civil war, was also formed. The nation has concurrently experienced a period of intense reconstruction, particularly in the capital, Mogadishu. Through the years, Somalia has maintained an informal economy, based mainly on livestock, remittance/money transfer companies, and telecommunications.