LAND AND RESOURCES
Vegetation and Animal Life
Religion and Language
C Education Before Somalia’s government collapsed in 1991 and fighting escalated among clans seeking control of the country, education was free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6) and 14. The literacy rate increased from 5 percent of the adult population in the early 1970s to 24 percent in 1990 following an intensive government-sponsored literacy campaign. As a result of Somalia’s civil war, the educational system collapsed and most schools closed, including the Somali National University (1954-1991) in Mogadishu, which had an enrollment of about 4,600 prior to the war. In 1996 primary schools enrolled only 8 percent of school-aged children, and general secondary schools enrolled a mere 5 percent.
A Agriculture Livestock raising is the principal occupation in Somalia. The size of livestock herds began to recover in the mid-1990s after falling during the country’s civil war. In 1998 it was estimated that the country had 12.5 million goats, 13.5 million sheep, and 5.2 million cattle. The principal crops were cereal grains (232,000 metric tons), including maize and sorghum; fruits (205,800 metric tons), including bananas; and sugarcane (160,000 metric tons). Each crop showed a significant improvement from yields in the early 1990s.
Forestry and Fishing
C Manufacturing Before the civil war escalated in the early 1990s, manufacturing in Somalia was in the early stages of development. A cement factory, a cotton gin, a meat and fish cannery, and a textile plant were established. Other industries included oilseed and fruit processing plants, leather and shoe factories, and petroleum and sugar refineries. Most industry shut down in the early 1990s as a result of civil disorder.
D Currency and Banking The unit of currency is the Somali shilling, consisting of 100 cents (about 7,000 Somali shillings equal U.S.$1; 1996), issued by the Central Bank of Somalia (1960). Somalia is a member of the Islamic Development Bank and the African Development Bank.
E Foreign Trade Before the war, Somalia’s chief exports were livestock and bananas. Other exports included meat, fish, leather and hides, and wood. The principal imports were foodstuffs, chemicals, machinery, textiles, and petroleum. Major trading partners in the mid-1980s were the United States, Italy, Germany, Kenya, the United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia. The civil war halted nearly all foreign trade. Once trade resumed in 1994, Somalia exported livestock and fruit to Yemen and Persian Gulf countries. Traders were active in Mogadishu, benefiting from its duty-free status, even as clan fighting continued. In 1996 Somalia’s exports totaled $179 million, and imports were $274 million.
F Transportation and Communications Somalia has no railroads; of its 22,100 km (13,732 mi) of roads, about 25 percent are paved or gravel. Mogadishu is the leading port. A government-owned airline provides international service. Until the early 1990s, two government-owned radio stations broadcast in Arabic, English, Italian, Somali, and several other languages, but the collapse of Somalia’s infrastructure because of the civil war has caused much of the country’s telecommunications to be disrupted. Three of the competing factions provide some broadcasting.
A Executive Under the 1979 constitution, as subsequently amended, executive power was held by a president, who was head of state and leader of the country’s sole legal political party, the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party. Nominated by the party’s Central Committee, the president was elected to a seven-year term by direct universal vote.
B Legislature and Judiciary Legislative power was vested in the 177-member People’s Assembly. The president appointed 6 members, and the other 171 were popularly elected; all served five-year terms. The highest civilian courts in Somalia were the Supreme Court, two courts of appeal, and eight regional courts.
C Local Government For purposes of local administration Somalia is divided into 18 regions and 84 districts.
D Health and Welfare Hospital and clinic services in Somalia are free, but resources were severely strained by Somalia’s civil war. Although international relief ended a famine crisis in the early 1990s, primary health care remained an urgent need in the countryside. The average life expectancy at birth in 1998 was 46 years; the infant mortality rate was 126 deaths per 1,000 live births.
E Defense Until the early 1990s military service of 18 months was compulsory for men between the ages of 18 and 40. In 1990 the army had a force of some 60,000; the navy, 1,200; and the air force, 2,500. Since the overthrow of Muhammad Siad Barre in January 1991, there have been no national armed forces, although the clans maintained separate armies.
VI HISTORY The history of the region now included in Somalia dates from antiquity, when the land was known to the ancient Egyptians as Punt. From the 2nd to the 7th century AD parts of the area belonged to the Ethiopian kingdom of Aksum. Arab tribes in the 7th century settled along the coast of the Gulf of Aden and established the sultanate of Adel, which centered on the port of Zeila. The Somali people began slowly to migrate into this region from Yemen in the 9th century. The sultanate disintegrated during the 16th century into small independent states, many of which were ruled by Somali chiefs. Zeila became a dependency of Yemen, and was then captured by the Ottoman Empire.
Italian interest in the Somali coast developed in the late 19th century. By the terms of the treaties with native Somali sultans, and conventions with the United Kingdom, Ethiopia, and Zanzibar, Italy acquired a foothold along the Indian Ocean coast.
British control of the interior of the protectorate was challenged by native revolts between 1899 and 1910. In 1910 the British abandoned the interior and withdrew to the coastal regions. They finally subdued the rebels in 1920. During this period Italy extended control over the area inland from the Indian Ocean coast by the Treaty of London in 1915 and by various postwar agreements. In 1936 Italy merged Italian Somaliland, Eritrea, and the newly conquered Ethiopia into the colonial state of Italian East Africa. After the Italian entrance into World War II (1939-1945) on the side of Germany in 1940, Italian troops invaded British Somaliland and succeeded in expelling the British. the United Kingdom reconquered its protectorate in 1941.
By the terms of the Italian peace treaty adopted in 1947, Italy was forced to renounce title to the possessions in Africa, and responsibility for disposition of these colonies was allocated to the so-called Big Four (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR). In 1948 the Big Four, having failed to reach an agreement on disposition, referred the matter to the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN). A plan granting independence to Italian Somaliland after ten years as a UN trust territory under Italian administration was approved by the General Assembly in November 1949. On April 1, 1950, after Italy had accepted the terms of a UN trusteeship agreement, the British military government was replaced by a provisional Italian administration. The territory was named Somalia.
In mid-1977 ethnic Somalis in the adjacent Ogadçn region of Ethiopia initiated open warfare aimed at ending Ethiopian control of the area. The rebels were armed by Somalia, which also contributed troops to the effort. The Somalis captured most of the Ogadçn by late 1977, but Ethiopia, aided by Cuba and the USSR, reasserted control over the region in early 1978, as Somalia’s army suffered heavy losses. Subsequent fighting in the Ogadçn precipitated a flood of refugees into Somalia; the number of homeless in 1981 was estimated at close to 2 million. The United States gave both humanitarian and military aid and was in return granted use of the naval facilities at Berbera, previously a Soviet base.
Opposition to Barre’s rule began to coalesce in 1981 after Barre chose members of his own Marehan clan for government positions while excluding members of the Mijertyn and Isaq clans. Insurgent groups from those clans initiated clashes with government troops beginning in 1982. A peace accord ended hostilities with Ethiopia in 1988, but the civil war intensified, despite Barre’s attempts to placate insurgents by proposing a multiparty government. By 1989 only Mogadishu and portions of Hargeysa and Berbera were firmly in government control. In 1990 the clans opposing Barre formed a united front to fight the war. Barre was forced to flee the capital in January 1991, and was eventually accepted for asylum in Lagos, Nigeria, where he died of a heart attack in 1995.
As Somalia descended into chaos in 1991 the northern region of Somaliland (former British Somaliland) declared itself an independent republic. While independent Somaliland is not recognized by the UN, it has its own president, legislature, currency, and constitution. Southern Somali warlords have attacked Somaliland, and the breakaway republic also suffers from internal fighting and economic stagnation.
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