#Trailblazers: Rwanda
July 1, 2016
July 5, 2016

#GetToknow : Somalia

SOMALIA, Mogadishu: In a photograph released by the African Union-United Nations Information Support Team 25 March, a woman holds the Somali flag at Mogadishu International Airport during a ceremony held to recieve the casket containing the body of fomer Somali president Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed who died aged 77 on Friday at a hospital in the Gulf State of Abu Dhabi. AU-UN IST PHOTO / STUART PRICE.

Located in the Horn of Africa, Somalia is the 44th largest nation in the world, with the longest coastline on the African continent. Somalia is bordered by Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, the Gulf of Aden, and the Indian Ocean. Other neighbouring countries include Yemen and Eritrea.

Having been colonised by Egypt and Ethiopia within Africa, Somalia also experienced colonisation by European countries; Britain, France and Italy. It was however Britain and Italy that set Protectorates over Somaliland, and where regarded the major colonisers of Somalia. On 26th June 1960, the British Protectorate of Somaliland gained independence. Shortly afterwards, on the 1st of July 1960, the Italian Protectorate also gained its independence. It is on this day that the colonised parts of the Somali coast converged to form the United Republic of Somalia, under the leadership of President Aden Abdullah Osman Daar. He was the first president of Somalia, and served from 1960 to 1967.

Abdirashid Ali Shermarke succeeded Daar in 1967, but was later assassinated in 1969. It was from the year 1969 to 1991 that Somalia experienced the beginnings of dictatorial leadership, under military ruler and President Mohamed Siad Barre. , who was later overthrown in 1991. Succeeding Barre, was Ali Mahdi Muhammad, who took office from 1991 to 1997. Throughout the 1990s, Somalia underwent numerous civil wars in various regions, due to the proliferation and persistence of conflicts between Somalia’s warlords, resulting in a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission entering the country due to the instability.

Both Northern and Southern Somalia conducted themselves as two distinct countries with varying educational, legal and institutional systems. In fact, for nearly two decades, Somalia had no national government, instead, it had been governed by local authorities unrecognised by the international community. It was only in 2000 that the nation attempted a transitional, internationally-backed unity government in an effort to improve control over the nation; this effort however proved unsuccessful.

Somalia is thus a representative model of a failed state; prior to 2004, it had had 14 attempts to reconstitute its state authority, but the country has been continuously afflicted by clan-based armed groups, Islamic extremists, regional proxy wars, terrorists pledging allegiance to Al-Qaeda, pirates, kidnappings, and famine.

From 2006-2011, a coalition of Islamic courts achieved control over much of Southern Somalia, and it is from these that Al-shabaab was born. The gruesome violence caused by Al-Shabaab’s presence in Somalia, prompted the intervention of Ethiopian troops in fighting with the Al-Shabaab militant wing within the country. In 2011 the Kenyan government also intervened against Al-Shabaab’s presence1, by further assisting the nation to establish the Somali Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu – the capital city. During this time, Somalia consisted of more than twenty separate regional governing authorities that had developed across the country, and continue to stand to this day.

In August 2012, the Constitution of Somalia was approved and adopted by its 825-member National Constituent Assembly in Mogadishu, Banaadir. Features of the provisional constitution included; a bill of rights, provision that Islam is the only religion of the state, the outlawing of female genital mutilation (FGM), and an emphasis on the peaceful settlement of territorial disputes – to name a few.

In a run-off presidential vote in September 2012, civic activist Hassan Sheikh Mohamud beat the incumbent Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and became Somalia’s eighth and current president. This was the first presidential election held in Somalia since 1967; it was in 2013 that Somalia gained recognition as a State from the international community, for first time in its history. In that same year, the country was promised €1.8bn from donors, under a three-year reconstruction agenda, entitled the “New Deal2”; the deal has however not been implemented to date.

Today, Somalia is still emerging from decades of civil war and continues to be impaired by perpetual and increased Al-Shabaab attacks, which African Union (AU) leaders have actively provided relief for3. Despite its profuse challenges, the country is looking forward to holding elections later in 2016 as the current governmental term concludes in August of this year. In Somalia, the President is elected for a four year term and can only serve 2 terms in office.

                       Independence Year                                   1960
                             President                     Hassan Sheikh Mohamud
                           Government                            Federal Republic
                            Capital City                                Mogadishu
                            GDP (2014)                                 $5.707bn4
                        Population (2016)                              11, 029, 2205
                              Religion                                    Islam
                         Major language(s)                              Somali, Arabic
                              Currency                             Somali Shilling
                        Life Expectancy                                50.4 Years6