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What Should I Know About Somalia?

Somalia, which is located on the East African peninsula known as the Horn of Africa, is plagued by piracy and tribal warfare.
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  • Written By: Kathy Hawkins
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 July 2014
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Somalia, or the Somali Republic, is a region in East Africa's Horn of Africa that has been plagued with tragedy for hundreds of years. Somalia is not recognized as an official country, and is governed by the Transitional Forces Government.

For more than 2,500 years, Somalia has been inhabited by a range of ethnic groups, but the Somalian people led an independent government until the rise of European colonialism in the 1800s. In the late 1880s, Somalia was conquered and divided into three separate colonies by Britain, Italy, and France.

Led by nationalist leader Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, the Somalian people fought for independence from their colonialist rulers, but to no avail. Until 1949, the three colonial powers struggled for dominance of Somalia's entirety, with Italy eventually taking control. Somalia was finally reinstated as an independent country in 1960, though parts of the country remained under British and French rule.

In 1977, Somalia engaged in an eight-month war against neighboring Ethiopia in an attempt to regain land that had been lost in the early 1900s. The Somalian troops suffered severe losses in soldiers, weapons, and planes. In 1991, Somalia's president fled the country, leaving several guerrilla factions fighting for political power. This internal conflict, combined with a major drought, caused a major famine that resulted in more than 300,000 deaths.

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Also in 1991, the northwest part of Somalia broke away and declared itself the Republic of Somaliland. Unlike Somalia itself, Somaliland has remained relatively stable, with few violent outbreaks.

From that point, Somalia became a lawless state, with constant violence and turmoil. Many Somalians were killed, and others escaped and spent years at refugee camps in Kenya and other African countries. Many have now been given refuge in other countries, including the United States. Though there have been subsequent attempts to establish stable governments in Somalia, none have been successful. In 2006, Somalia engaged in its worst violence in a decade with Islamic militants.

Though the Transitional Forces Government was established in 2004 with the intention of promoting peace within Somalia, the administration is located far from Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, and has proven to have little impact on Somalia.

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