|General background: The SIAD BARRE regime was
ousted in January 1991; turmoil, factional fighting,
and anarchy have followed for eleven years. In May of
1991, northern clans declared an independent Republic
of Somaliland that now includes the administrative regions
of Awdal, Woqooyi Galbeed, Togdheer, Sanaag, and Sool.
Although not recognized by any government, this entity
has maintained a stable existence, aided by the overwhelming
dominance of a ruling clan and economic infrastructure
left behind by British, Russian, and American military
assistance programs. The regions of Bari and Nugaal
comprise a neighboring self-declared autonomous state
of Puntland, which has been self-governing since 1998,
but does not aim at independence; it has also made strides
towards reconstructing legitimate, representative government.
Puntland also claims Sool and eastern Sanaag. Beginning
in 1993, a two-year UN humanitarian effort (primarily
in the south) was able to alleviate famine conditions,
but when the UN withdrew in 1995, having suffered significant
casualties, order still had not been restored. A Transitional
National Government (TNG) was created in August 2000
in Arta, Djibouti which was attended by a broad representation
of Somali clans. The TNG has a three-year mandate to
create a permanent national Somali government. The TNG
does not recognize Somaliland as an independent republic
but so far has been unable to reunite either Somaliland
or Puntland with the unstable regions in the south.
Numerous warlords and factions are still fighting for
control of Mogadishu and the other southern regions.
Suspicion of Somali links with global terrorism complicate
Area comparative: Slightly
smaller than Texas.
desert; December to February - northeast monsoon, moderate
temperatures in north and very hot in south; May to
October - southwest monsoon, torrid in the north and
hot in the south, irregular rainfall, hot and humid
periods (tangambili) between monsoons.
Mostly flat to undulating plateau rising to hills in
Ethnic groups: Somali 85%, Bantu and other
non-Somali 15% (including Arabs 30,000)
Religions: Sunni Muslim
Language: Somali (official), Arabic, Italian,
Government type: No permanent national government;
transitional, parliamentary national government
Legal system: No national system; Shari'a
and secular courts are in some localities.
Economic overview: One of the world's poorest
and least developed countries, Somalia has few resources
and is prone to drought. Moreover, much of the economy
has been devastated by civil war since 1991. Agriculture
is the most important sector, with livestock accounting
for about 40% of GDP and about 65% of export earnings.
Nomads and semi-nomads, who are dependent upon livestock
for their livelihood, make up a large portion of the
population. Livestock, hides, charcoal, and bananas
are Somalia's principal exports, while sugar, sorghum,
corn, fish, qat, and machined goods are the principal
imports. Somalia's small industrial sector, based
on the processing of agricultural products, has largely
been looted and sold as scrap metal. Despite the seeming
anarchy, Somalia's service sector has managed to survive
and grow. Telecommunication firms provide wireless
services in most major cities and offer the lowest
international call rates on the continent. In the
absence of a formal banking sector, money exchange
services have sprouted throughout the country, handling
between $200 million and $500 million in remittances
annually. Mogadishu's main market offers a variety
of goods from food to the newest electronic gadgets.
Hotels continue to operate, and security is provided
by militias. Ongoing civil disturbances and clan rivalries,
however, have interfered with any broad-based economic
development and international aid arrangements. The
failure of spring rains caused major food shortages
in the south in 2001. Economic data is scare and prone
to a wide margin of error.
Communication/Telephone system: The public
telecommunications system was almost completely destroyed
or dismantled by the civil war factions; private wireless
companies offer service in most major cities and charge
the lowest international rates on the continent.
Places of interest:
Travel tips: Support for Osama bin Laden is
strong, leading the USA to view Somalia as a possible
military target in its war against terrorism. Be very
cautious and alert if you have to go there.