HALKAN WAXAAN IS KOOBAN KUUGU SOO GUDBINAYAA TAARIIKHDA SOOMAALIDA OO KU QORAN AFKA INGIRIISKA WAANA SOO TURJUMI DOONAA INSHAA ALLAAH
In the 7th century Arabs and Persians developed a series of trading posts along the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. In the 10th century the area was peopled by Somali nomads and pastoral GALLA from southwest Ethiopia. For the next 900 years Somalis spread throughout the Horn of Africa. Britain and Italy occupied different parts of the territory in the 1880s, and until World War II, Somalia remained under colonial control. In 1941, Britain occupied Italian Somaliland and in 1948 gave the OGADEN region to Ethiopia, although it was populated largely by Somalis. By 1950 the United Nations had voted to grant independence to Somalia, and in 1960 the two former colonies were united to form the Somali Republic.
Somalia was ruled by a civilian government until 1969, when President Siad Barre came to power in a military coup. His Somali Revolutionary Socialist party, created in 1976, formed the government. Areas inhabited primarily by Somalis, including Djibouti, the Ogaden, and northeast Kenya, had long been considered lost Somali territories. Somalia invaded the Ogaden in 1977, but Ethiopia regained control of the area, and Soviet forces were expelled from Somalia in 1977 for their support of Ethiopia. The country then received U.S. and other Western aid (mostly food for its refugee population). Sporadic conflict with Ethiopia continued until 1988. Armed domestic opposition to Siad Barre began in the north in 1988 with the Isaaq-based Somali National Movement (SNM) and was brutally suppressed. Other clan-backed groups, most notably the Hawiye United Somali Congress (USC) and the Ogadeni Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM), joined the antigovernment struggle, and Siad Barre fled on Jan. 27, 1991. In May the SNM declared northern Somalia the independent Republic of Somaliland, an act that was not recognized by any foreign nation. Northern Somalia has since governed itself independently, completing a planned two-year transition to multiparty democracy with the indirect election of a new president in May 1993.
Elsewhere in Somalia, fighting soon erupted between various rebel groups, most notably those of transitional president Ali Mahdi Mohammed and the Aidids -Father/Son- (both USC subclan warlords). Violence in Mogadishu continued after authority for the peacekeeping effort was transferred from U.S. to UN forces on May 1, 1993. After the death of 18 U.S. soldiers in a firefight with forces loyal to Aidid in October, the United States announced plans to leave Somalia. The last U.S. combat troops departed on Mar. 25, 1994, officially bringing the 15-month U.S. mission to a close. Later that year, as a result of renewed violence and a lack of progress in diplomatic efforts to create a new political structure for the country, the UN reduced the size of its peacekeeping force in Somalia.
Siad Barre died in exile in Lagos, Nigeria, on Jan. 2, 1995. The UN mandate, which had been scheduled to expire on Oct. 31, 1994, was briefly extended, but the last UN troops withdrew from Somalia on Mar. 3, 1995. In the absence of a strong central government, the civil war continued; renewed fighting also erupted in northern Somalia. Neither Aidid nor his rival claimants to the presidency were recognized by the UN or other international organizations, and Aidid was ousted as the chairman of his own faction in June 1995.
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Origin: Sudan, Southern Ethiopia100 BC: Land of Punt (Myrreh/Incense)Middle ages: Part of Othman Empire (lffat, Awdal)1800: Part of Omani East African Empire1888: British Somaliland (protectorate); Italian Somaliland (Colony); French Somaliland (Djibouti); Northern Frontier District (Kenya); Ogaden (Ethiopia)1950: Italian Somaliland (a UN Trusteeship)1960: Independence (Union of-British protectorate an the Italian colony)1969: A coup followed by dictatorship1990: Civil WarFacts and FiguresWhy are they here?Somalia civil war 1990 - Present. Somalia is without a government.Who is here?Refugees (secondary immigrants, 60%)In what number?Estimates:US: 22,000Minnesota: 13,000Minneapolis: 10,000 St. Paul: 800This material previously appeared in the Minnesota Department of Human Rights' newsletter,The Rights Stuff.
Waa qarada wadankeena hooyo Somaliah SOMALIS ARE ARAB FAMILIES
Somalis claim descent from Arabian families who settled on the Somali coast 1,000 years ago. Although there undoubtedly is an infusion of Arab blood among Somalis, historians and linguists trace the origins of the Somali people to a much earlier time in the region.
While scholars still debate the origins of the Somalis and the time of their entry into present-day Somalia, there is no doubt that they were in the region several hundred years before the first recorded use of their names in the early 15th century. Among ancient Egyptians, Somalia was known as the Land of Punt and was renowned for its frankincense and myrrh, which it still exports. Descriptions of the northern inhabitants of the region are found in The Periplus of the Erythrean Sea, an A.D. 60 Greek guide to sailors, and in Ptolemy's Geography, compiled between the 2nd and 5th centuries; contact with Egyptian, Phoenician, Persian, Greek, and Roman traders dates to this time. In the 10th century, Chinese merchants returned home from Somalia with giraffes, leopards, and tortoises for the imperial menagerie. By this time, Arab and Persian merchants had established towns along the coasts of the northern plains and the Indian Ocean.
By the 12th century, the ancestors of some clan families were established in their present territories. Southward movements of others, however, continued into the 19th century. When the borders of present-day Somalia were set by the colonial powers toward the end of the 19th century, large numbers of Somalis were left out, and today there are an estimated three million Somalis living in eastern Ethiopia and northern Kenya. The existence of Somalis outside the country's national borders continues to be a source of conflict in the region.
The process of Somali conversion to Islam in the north began very early, probably in the 11th and 12th centuries. From the 13th to 16th centuries, Somalis fought in regional wars between Christians and Muslims. In the 16th century, Somali clans participated in campaigns against Ethiopia, then called Abyssinia, led by Ahmed ibn Ibrahim al Ghazi, who was called Ahmed Granthe Left Handed.
Toward the end of the 19th century, Somalia took part in a general Moslem reaction in North Africa against colonialism.
The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 stimulated European expansion into the region. By the end of the century, Somali people were living under the rule of four foreign powers: the British (in north central Somalia and in northeast Kenya), the Italians (in southern Somalia), the French (in the northwest, in what is now Djibouti), and the Ethiopians (in the Ogaden region). A Somali poet, Farrah Nuur, had this to say about Somalia's dismemberment:
The British, the Ethiopians, and the Italians are squabbling,
the country is snatched and divided by whosoever is stronger.
The country is sold piece by piece without our knowledge.
And for me, all this is the Teeth of the Last Days!
Toward the end of the 19th century, Somalia took part in a general Muslim reaction in North Africa against colonialism. In 1899, Mohammed ibn Abdullah Hassan, called the "Mad Mullah" by the British and known as "the Sayyid" by Somalis, launched a 20-year insurrection against colonial occupation. His movement controlled a large part of inland British Somaliland and initially enjoyed strong support among Somalis in the Ogaden and Italian Somalia. The Sayyid's abilities as a poet and orator, highly valued skills among Somalis, won him many disciples, and much of his success was in commanding trans-clan loyalty. Although ultimately he failed to maintain unity, the Sayyid is nonetheless viewed as one of the founders of Somali national identity.
The impact of colonialism on Somalia's economy was limited. To the colonial powers, Somalia's value was more strategic than economic. Only the Italians attempted a program of economic development; their banana and sugarcane plantations in the south became the basis for large-scale commercial agriculture. In contrast, the British mainly used their colony as a supplier of meat products to Aden.
One economic effect of colonialism was the creation of a group of salaried employees. Somalis educated in colonial schools worked for the colonial government as police officers, custom agents, bookkeepers, medical personnel, and teachers. In later years, this group played an important role in the independence movement.
The rivalry between Allied and Axis powers in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s played out in the Horn of Africa. Early in 1940, Italy invaded British Somaliland and threw out the British. A year later the British retook the protectorate, conquering Italian Somalia and the Ogaden as well, and placed all three under British administration. Britain administered the entire area for nearly a decade. This period witnessed a growing national awareness, as more and more Somalis questioned the legitimacy of colonial rule and called for political unity.
On July1, 1960, former British and Italian Somalia merged to form the Somali Republic.
British control of Italian Somalia ended in November 1949, when the area became a U.N. trust territory. Somali nationalists in Italian Somalia won assurances of independence in a decade. These assurances in turn inspired Somalis in the British protectorate to press for independence and unity with Italian Somalia. Finally, the two areas were granted independence, and on July 1, 1960, they merged to form the Somali Republic.
Independence brought not only unity but democracy. For the next nine years, the citizens of the new republic enjoyed a high level of political participation. Politics was seen as a realm open to every Somali, regardless of background. During this era of parliamentary democracy, clan and regional differences were worked out through frequent democratic elections involving many political parties.
The previous decades had been marked by a rise in Pan-Somalism, the belief that Somalia should be united with all Somali-occupied territories. In the post-independence years, preoccupation with Pan-Somalism led to a build-up of the Somali military and ultimately to war with Ethiopia and fighting in northern Kenya.
Somalia's leaders, many of whom had been educated in Italy and Britain, were initially well disposed to the West. Their desire to be nonaligned, however, led them to establish close ties with the Soviet Union and China. During the 1960s, the Soviet Union provided both military and economic aid, while China provided considerable development assistance. The United States provided development aid only. During that time, Ethiopia was the United States' principal ally in the region and a beneficiary of large-scale U.S. development and military aid. For as long as that alliance lasted, the United States remained reluctant to provide military assistance to Somalia.
In October 1969, the army, under Major-General Mohammed Siyaad Barre, took over
With the fall of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974, political dynamics in the region changed
Abandoned by the Soviets, Siyaad Barre turned toward the West.
The Revolutionary Regime
By the late 1960s, the government was perceived as inefficient and corrupt and was accused of improving relations with Ethiopia at the expense of its stated commitment to Pan-Somalism. In October 1969, one of the president's bodyguards, motivated by clan animosity, assassinated the president. A few days later, while politicians were busy with matters of succession, the army, under Major General Mohammed Siyaad Barre, took over. The new governing body, the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC), named Siyaad Barre president. Closely allied with the Soviet Union, the regime adopted as its creed "scientific socialism," based on three elements: community development through self reliance, a variant of socialism based on Marxist principles, and Islam. To develop the economy, the government launched a series of wasteful "crash programs" as well as well-conceived development projects in infrastructure, health, and education. The socialist regime sought to improve the status of minorities and women, and, after introducing a Somali writing system in 1972, launched a countrywide literacy campaign.
Most of these actions had popular support. However, there was growing opposition to the regime among Islamic scholars, in Somalia and abroad, as a result of the adoption of the Latin alphabet for the Somali script and the introduction of laws that were seen to be in conflict with Islamic law. The Islamic opposition was crushed by the military, and a number of Islamic leaders were executed.
Despite the new regime's popularity, it soon became clear that Somalia's experiment with democracy had ended. Shortly after taking over, Siyaad Barre abolished the National Assembly, suspended the constitution, prohibited any form of political association, and put some prominent politicians and members of the previous government into custody. Later, under Soviet pressure, the regime created the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (SRSP), which replaced the SRC as the supreme authority in the country.
The Soviet Union, which already had a foothold in the army in the 1960s, became the dominant foreign influence in the 1970s. It armed, trained, and gave development assistance to Somalia. As Somalia became more pro-Soviet, its relations with the United States became strained, and in the early 1970s, the United States suspended aid to Somalia.
With the fall of the Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974, political dynamics in the region changed. Siyaad Barre continued to press the new military leaders in Ethiopia for control over the territory in the Somali-inhabited Ogaden Region. In 1977, Somalia invaded Ethiopia to support the Western Somali Liberation Front, a Somali guerrilla organization based in Ethiopia that sought to free the Ogaden and unite it with Somalia.
Meanwhile, the Soviet Union and its allies (South Yemen, Libya, and Cuba) attempted unsuccessfully to mediate between Ethiopia and Somalia. The continued push of the Somali forces and their capture of most of the Ogaden forced the Soviet Union to choose sides; it cut off all arms to Somalia and provided Ethiopia with massive military assistance in the form of air power and Cuban and Yemeni troops. In November 1977, Siyaad Barre expelled the Soviets from Somalia. By the spring of 1978, as a result of the Soviet shift of support to Ethiopia, Somalia lost all the territory it had won.
Abandoned by the Soviets, Siyaad Barre turned toward the West. From 1978 onward, closer ties were created with Europe and the United States, as well as with Arab countries. Large amounts of foreign aid flowed in, some of it in the form of military equipment. The rift between Somalia and the Soviet Union and the new relationship between the Soviet Union and Ethiopia prompted Western countries to support Somalia economically and militarily.
The United States' decision to begin a military assistance program in Somalia was precipitated by the fall of the Shah of Iran, the United States' closest ally in the Gulf. In exchange for defensive military equipment, Somalia agreed to provide the United States with access to Somali ports and airfields in Berbera, Mogadishu, and Kismaayo. In the last years of the Siyaad Barre government, the United States reduced its military and development aid programs as the regime became increasingly repressive and guilty of human rights violations.
Siyaad Barre exploited clan rivalries, pitting one clan against another, as a way to stay in power.
Opposition to Siyaad Barre
During its early years, Siyaad Barre's regime enjoyed considerable popularity and a wide base of support. Even this era, however, had its share of power struggles among military and police officers in the SRC. In 1970, the vice president of the SRC was imprisoned, and in 1971, several prominent SRC members were executed. But the first effective opposition did not come until April 1978, after the army's humiliating defeat in the Ogaden, when some Majerteen clan officers organized an unsuccessful coup. Some of the coup organizers escaped to Ethiopia, where they organized the first opposition movement, which came to be known as the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF). The movement had a strong following in the central and northeastern regions and was supported by Ethiopia and Libya. The movement provided President Mengistu of Ethiopia with a golden opportunity to retaliate against Siyaad Barre for his support for the Western Somali Liberation movement, various Eritrean liberation fronts, the Oromo Liberation Front, and other opposition groups in Ethiopia.
For opposing his regime, Siyaad Barre singled out the Majerteen clan, imprisoning some Majerteen military and civilian leaders and removing many others from their duties. Thus began a cycle of nepotism, as a government once based on broad clan support began to rely on a limited number of clans considered loyal. Loyalty to Siyaad Barre replaced job qualification as a criterion for government appointment. With less competent civil servants and military officers moving into positions of prominence, the quality of government deteriorated. This, in turn, resulted in widespread dissatisfaction. The problem was made worse by government involvement in economic activities, such as banking and commerce. Government corruption, together with nepotism, inefficiency, and a lack of accountability, resulted in gross inequities throughout the country.
Nomadic Somalis, whose culture is egalitarian, found the growing inequities in Somali society especially difficult to accept. Dissidents from the Isaaq clans of northwestern Somalia formed the Somali National Movement (SNM) in London and soon found a home in Ethiopia from which they could launch guerrilla raids into Somalia. In 1989, Hawiye clans in central Somalia formed their own opposition movement, the United Somali Congress (USC). USC also established guerrilla bases in Ethiopia.
By the mid-1980s, government and opposition movements were clan based. As the influence of the opposition movements increased, the government retaliated with brutal reprisals against territories it believed were controlled by the opposition. The government missed several opportunities at reconciliation, and the society became polarized into clan groups.
In 1988, the SNM launched a successful guerrilla attack against government forces in Hargeisa and Burao in the north. The government forces were able to regain the two cities only by using great force, including aerial bombardments. High civilian casualties and the exodus of refugees to Ethiopia further alienated the north.
Under increasing pressure, the government attempted some reforms. The government re-introduced a multi-party system, adopted a new constitution, and called for elections. The opposition, however, did not trust the government and continued to fight both in the north and in the central regions. By the end of December 1990, the conflict had spread to the capital, Mogadishu. On January 27, 1991 Siyaad Barre's regime collapsed. Siyaad Barre fled Mogadishu and established a base in the southwestern region of Gedo. After twice failing to regain power, he left the country in early 1992.
Nomadic Somalis, whose culture is egalitarian, found it especially difficult to accept the growing inequities in Somali society.
In August 1992, an estimated one fourth of Somalia's population, about 1.5 million people, was in danger of starvation.
In the absence of an accepted government, power and food were in the hands of those with guns.
Hostilities did not end with the ouster of Siyaad Barre. Clan competition for power and the desire to settle old scores continued, with disastrous results for the civilian population. As soon as Siyaad Barre left Mogadishu, one faction of the USC, headed by Ali Mahdi Mohammed, formed an interim government without consulting other USC factions or other opposition or government-aligned groups. Angered by this unilateral action and responding to public pressure, the Somali National Movement held a two-month regional conference which resulted in declaring the North independent as the Somaliland Republic. In the South, the USC split into two warring factions, one led by interim President Ali Mahdi Mohammed, the other led by the USC military wing leader, General Mohammed Farah Aideed. The Northeast, which had remained fairly uninvolved in these political events, largely maintained local peace and began restoring local government.
Mogadishu and much of southern and central Somalia slipped into anarchy. Over the course of the year, several hundred thousand Somalis died from violence, disease, and famine. At least 45% of the population was displaced internally or fled Somalia to neighboring countries, the Middle East, or the West. In August 1992, an estimated one fourth of Somalia's population, about 1.5 million people, was in danger of starvation. A study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control showed that in the city of Baidoa, at least 40% of the population had died between August and November. Relief organizations estimated that by early 1993, one half of all Somali children under five years old had died.
Hardest hit were the coastal communities of Mogadishu, Merka, Brava, and Kismaayo, the farming communities of the Shabeelle and Jubba valleys, and the interriverine areas of Baidoa, Buur Hakaba, Diinsoor, Xuddur, and Qansaxdheere. With the uprooting of the population in these areas, Somalia lost most of its commercial and farming communities.
Armed bandits, who looted warehouses and food shipments, greatly aggravated problems of food distribution. These bandits were under the authority of local warlords who filled the power vacuum created by the government's collapse. In addition to stealing food aid, they also looted public property left by the previous government and disrupted commercial activities. In the absence of an accepted government, power and food were in the hands of those with guns, and in a country that had been the recipient of much foreign military aid, there was no shortage of arms.
In August 1992, the United States began Operation Provide Relief, airlifting emergency supplies into Somalia from Mombasa, Kenya, in coordination with the Disaster Assistance Response Team at the U.S. Agency for International Development. This was followed in December 1992 by the U.S.-led Operation Restore Hope, which reduced the level of violence and facilitated the delivery of humanitarian assistance. On May 1, 1993, the United Nations took over command from the United States. Operation Restore Hope and subsequent actions by the United States and the United Nations have stabilized the situation in the south. Starvation has all but ended, agricultural production has partly recovered, and hostilities have decreased. The exception is Mogadishu, where the warlord General Mohammed Farah Aideed continues to wage a guerrilla campaign against the United Nations. Most warlords, including Aideed, feel they will lose power in a society in which the advantage of military force is eliminated.
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Situated in eastern Africa, Somalia forms the cap of the Horn of Africa. Bordered by Kenya in the south, Ethiopia in the west, Djibouti in the northwest, the Gulf of Aden in the north, and the Indian Ocean in the east, Somalia covers an area of about 638,000 square kilometers, making it slightly smaller than Texas. Somalia is mostly flat, rising in the southern and central regions to a few hundred meters above sea level near the Ethiopian border. The higher area is along the northern coast, where mountains rise to some 2,000 meters. Somalia's long coastlineabout 3,300 kilometers, the longest in Africahas been vital to its trade with the Middle East and the rest of East Africa.
Climate is the primary factor in much of Somali life. With hot, dry weather year-round, except at the higher elevations in the north, most of Somalia has a semi-arid to arid environment suitable primarily for the nomadic pastoralism that more than half the population practices. Agriculture is practiced primarily in the northwest and in the interriverine areas in the south.
Somalia has two rainy seasons: the Gu (April to June) and the Dayr (October to November). Droughts usually occur every two to three years in the Dayr and every eight to ten years in both the Dayr and the Gu. The coastal region in the south around Mogadishu and Kismaayo has an additional rainy season, the Xagaaye (July to August), in which isolated rain showers prevail.
In the south, the mean monthly temperature ranges from 68Ã˜Â£ÃšÂ©Ã˜Â¢Ã‚Â£Ã˜Â£Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ã˜Â¥Ã˜Å’Ã˜Â£ÃšÂ©Ã˜Â¢Ã‚Â¢Ã˜Â£Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã˜Â¢Ã‚Â° F to 92Ã˜Â£ÃšÂ©Ã˜Â¢Ã‚Â£Ã˜Â£Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ã˜Â¥Ã˜Å’Ã˜Â£ÃšÂ©Ã˜Â¢Ã‚Â¢Ã˜Â£Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã˜Â¢Ã‚Â° F. The hottest months are February through April. Somalia's hottest climate is on the northern coastal strip along the Gulf of Aden, where temperatures range from 105Ã˜Â£ÃšÂ©Ã˜Â¢Ã‚Â£Ã˜Â£Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ã˜Â¥Ã˜Å’Ã˜Â£ÃšÂ©Ã˜Â¢Ã‚Â¢Ã˜Â£Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã˜Â¢Ã‚Â° F in the summer to 78Ã˜Â£ÃšÂ©Ã˜Â¢Ã‚Â£Ã˜Â£Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ã˜Â¥Ã˜Å’Ã˜Â£ÃšÂ©Ã˜Â¢Ã‚Â¢Ã˜Â£Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã˜Â¢Ã‚Â° F in thewinter. In the northern mountain regions, the climate is moderate, with temperatures ranging between 63Ã˜Â£ÃšÂ©Ã˜Â¢Ã‚Â£Ã˜Â£Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ã˜Â¥Ã˜Å’Ã˜Â£ÃšÂ©Ã˜Â¢Ã‚Â¢Ã˜Â£Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã˜Â¢Ã‚Â° F in the winter to 78Ã˜Â£ÃšÂ©Ã˜Â¢Ã‚Â£Ã˜Â£Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ã˜Â¥Ã˜Å’Ã˜Â£ÃšÂ©Ã˜Â¢Ã‚Â¢Ã˜Â£Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã˜Â¢Ã‚Â° F in the summer.
Somalia has only two perennial rivers, the Jubba and the Shabeelle. Originating in the Ethiopian highlands, the rivers flow in a generally southerly direction. The Shabeelle, the longer of the two, is about 1,800 kilometers, of which 1,000 kilometers are in Somalia. The Shabeelle enters Somalia near the southern border town of Beled Weyn and flows toward the coast until it nears Mogadishu, where it turns parallel to the coast and flows southwest before ending in a series of swamp basins that serve as wildlife habitat. In years of high flow, the Shabeelle merges with the Jubba River and provides water for the most developed and productive irrigated agriculture in the country.
The Jubba River enters Somalia near the southern town of Luuq and flows for 800 kilometers to the coast. It follows a narrow rock stream up to Dujuma, where it meanders in a rich flood plain before flowing to the Indian Ocean.
OUR BELOVED LAND
The first Somali immigrants came to the United States in the 1920s and settled in the New York area.
Clans constitute the heart of Somali society, and the central challenge facing modern Somalia is how to unify a country whose people often give greater allegiance to lineage than to nation.
The Somali People
Before the civil war, the population of Somalia was estimated at 7.7 million people. It is believed that about 400,000 people died of famine or disease or were killed in the war, and nearly 45% of the population was displaced inside Somalia or fled to neighboring countries, to the Middle East, or to the West.
Somalia's population is mostly rural. Nearly 80% of the people are pastoralists, agriculturalists, or agropastoralists. Except for a small number of Somalis who rely on fishing, the rest of the population are urban dwellers. Somalia's chief cities and towns are Mogadishu* (the capital), Hargeisa, Burao, Berbera, Bossaso, Marka, Brava, Baidoa, and Kismaayo. In the past few years, civil war and famine have changed urban demographics, as hundreds of thousands of displaced Somalis have poured into the cities seeking sanctuary and relief.
Ethnically and culturally, Somalia is one of the most homogeneous countries in Africa. Somalia has its minorities: There are people of Bantu descent living in farming villages in the south, and Arab enclaves in the coastal cities. A small number of Europeans, mostly Italians, live on farms in the south. But the great majority of the people are ethnic Somalis who speak dialects of the same language, Somali, and who practice the same religion, Islam. In a land of sparse rainfall, more than half the population are pastoralists or agropastoralists who raise camels, cattle, sheep, and goats. There are farmers, mostly in the south and northwest, and in recent years a new urban group of government workers, shopkeepers, and traders has emerged, but it is the nomadic way of life, with its love of freedom and open spaces, that is celebrated in Somali poetry and folklore.
Clans constitute the heart of Somali society, and the central challenge facing modern Somalia is how to unify a country whose people often give greater allegiance to lineage than to nation. It is important to note, however, that while Somalis have traditionally fought among themselves, their greater identity as Somalis takes hold in front of strangers.
*We apologize to Somalis who may object to seeing Anglicized spelling of Somali words. The official Somali orthography uses letters of the Latin alphabet, but in a manner which departs from the orthographic conventions of English. We have used Anglicized spellings for proper names for the sake of the readreader who would not recognize Muqdisha, Cali, and Maxammed as Somali renderings of Mogadishu, Ali, and Mohammed.