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History in Somalia
Main articles: History of Somalia and Maritime history of Somalia
History of Somalia
Laas Geel Culture
Kingdom of Punt
Malaoites · Oponeans
Kingdom of Ifat
Sultanate of Hobyo
Aden Adde Administration
Somali maritime history
Ancient rock art depicting a camel.
Somalia has been inhabited by man since the Paleolithic period. Cave paintings dating back as far as 9000 BC have been found in northern Somalia. The most famous of these is the Laas Geel complex, which contains some of the earliest known rock art on the African continent. Inscriptions have been found beneath each of the rock paintings, but archaeologists have so far been unable to decipher this form of ancient writing. During the Stone age, the Doian culture and the Hargeisan culture flourished here with their respective industries and factories.
The oldest evidence of burial customs in the Horn of Africa comes from cemeteries
in Somalia dating back to the 4th millennium BC. The stone implements from the
Jalelo site in northern Somalia are said to be the most important link in evidence
of the universality in Paleolithic times between the East and the West.
Antiquity and classical era
Main article: Architecture of Somalia
The Silk Road extending from southern Europe through Arabia, Somalia, Egypt, Persia, India and Java until it reaches China.
Ancient pyramidal structures, tombs, ruined cities and stone walls such as the Wargaade Wall littered in Somalia are evidence of an ancient sophisticated civilization that once thrived in the Somali peninsula. The findings of archaeological excavations and research in Somalia show that this civilization had an ancient writing system that remains undeciphered, and enjoyed a lucrative trading relationship with Ancient Egypt and Mycenaean Greece since at least the second millennium BC, which supports the view of Somalia being the ancient Kingdom of Punt.
The Puntites "traded not only in their own produce of incense, ebony and short-horned cattle, but also in goods from other neighbouring regions, including gold, ivory and animal skins." According to the temple reliefs at Deir el-Bahri, the Land of Punt was ruled at that time by King Parahu and Queen Ati.
Ancient Somalis domesticated the camel somewhere between the third millennium
and second millennium BC from where it spread to Ancient Egypt and North Africa.
In the classical period, the city states of Mossylon, Opone, Malao, Mundus and
Tabae in Somalia developed a lucrative trade network connecting with merchants
from Phoenicia, Ptolemaic Egypt, Greece, Parthian Persia, Saba, Nabataea and
the Roman Empire. They used the ancient Somali maritime vessel known as the
beden to transport their cargo.
Ruins of Qa’ableh.
After the Roman conquest of the Nabataean Empire and the Roman naval presence at Aden to curb piracy, a mutual agreement by Arab and Somali merchants barred Indian ships from trading in the free port cities of the Arabian peninsula because of the nearby Romans. However, they continued to trade in the port cities of the Somali peninsula, which was free from any Roman threat or spies. The reason for barring Indian ships from entering the wealthy Arabian port cities was to protect and hide the exploitative trade practices of the Somali and Arab merchants in the extremely lucrative ancient Red Sea– Mediterranean Sea commerce.
The Indian merchants for centuries brought large quantities of cinnamon from
Ceylon and the Far East to Somalia and Arabia. This is said to have been the
best kept secret of the Arab and Somali merchants in their trade with the Roman
and Greek world. The Romans and Greeks believed the source of cinnamon to have
been the Somali peninsula but in reality, the highly valued product was brought
to Somalia by way of Indian ships. Through Somali and Arab traders, Indian/Chinese
cinnamon was also exported for far higher prices to North Africa, the Near East
and Europe, which made the cinnamon trade a very profitable revenue generator,
especially for the Somali merchants through whose hands large quantities were
shipped across ancient sea and land routes.
 Birth of Islam & the Middle Ages
Main articles: Adal Sultanate, Ajuuraan State, and Warsangali Sultanate
Ruins of the Adal Sultanate in Zeila, Somalia.
The history of Islam in the Horn of Africa is as old as the religion itself. The early persecuted Muslims fled to the Axumite port city of Zeila in modern day Somalia to seek protection from the Quraysh at the court of the Axumite Emperor in present day Ethiopia. Some of the Muslims that were granted protection are said to have settled in several parts of the Horn of Africa to promote the religion.
The victory of the Muslims over the Quraysh in the 7th century had a significant
impact on Somalia's merchants and sailors, as their Arab trading partners had
then all adopted Islam, and the major trading routes in the Mediterranean and
the Red Sea came under the sway of the Muslim Caliphs. Through commerce, Islam
spread amongst the Somali population in the coastal cities of Somalia. Instability
in the Arabian peninsula saw several migrations of Arab families to Somalia's
coastal cities, who then contributed another significant element to the growing
popularity of Islam in the Somali peninsula.
13th century Fakr ad-Din mosque
Mogadishu became the center of Islam on the East African coast, and Somali merchants established a colony in Mozambique to extract gold from the Monomopatan mines in Sofala. In northern Somalia, Adal was in its early stages a small trading community established by the newly converted Horn African Muslim merchants, who were predominantly Somali according to Arab and Somali chronicles.
The century between 1150 and 1250 marked a decisive turn in the role of Islam in Somali history. Yaqut Al-Hamawi and later ibn Said noted that the Berbers (Somalis) were a prosperous Muslim nation during that period. The Adal Sultanate was now the center of a commercial empire stretching from Cape Guardafui to Hadiya. The Adalites then came under the influence of the expanding Horn African Kingdom of Ifat, and prospered under its patronage.
The capital of the Ifat was Zeila, situated in northern present-day Somalia,
from where the Ifat army marched to conquer the ancient Kingdom of Shoa in 1270.
This conquest ignited a rivalry for supremacy between the Christian Solomonids
and the Muslim Ifatites that resulted in several devastating wars, and ultimately
ended in a Solomonic victory over the Kingdom of Ifat after the death of the
popular Sultan Sa'ad ad-Din II in Zeila by Dawit II. Sa'ad ad-Din II's family
was subsequently given safe haven at the court of the King of Yemen, where his
sons regrouped and planned their revenge on the Solomonids.
Model of a medieval Mogadishan ship.
During the Age of the Ajuuraans, the sultanates and republics of Merca, Mogadishu, Barawa, Hobyo and their respective ports flourished and had a lucrative foreign commerce with ships sailing to and coming from Arabia, India, Venetia, Persia, Egypt, Portugal and as far away as China. Vasco da Gama, who passed by Mogadishu in the 15th century, noted that it was a large city with houses of four or five storeys high and big palaces in its centre in addition to many mosques with cylindrical minarets.
In the 1500s, Duarte Barbosa noted that many ships from the Kingdom of Cambaya in modern-day India sailed to Mogadishu with cloth and spices, for which they in return received gold, wax and ivory. Barbosa also highlighted the abundance of meat, wheat, barley, horses, and fruit on the coastal markets, which generated enormous wealth for the merchants. Mogadishu, the center of a thriving weaving industry known as toob benadir (specialized for the markets in Egypt and Syria), together with Merca and Barawa, also served as a transit stop for Swahili merchants from Mombasa and Malindi and for the gold trade from Kilwa. Jewish merchants from the Hormuz brought their Indian textile and fruit to the Somali coast in exchange for grain and wood.
Trading relations were established with Malacca in the 15th century with
cloth, ambergris and porcelain being the main commodities of the trade.
Giraffes, zebras and incense were exported to the Ming Empire of China, which
established Somali merchants as leaders in the commerce between the Asia and
Africa and influenced the Chinese language with the Somali language in the
process. Hindu merchants from Surat and Southeast African merchants from Pate,
seeking to bypass both the Portuguese blockade and Omani meddling, used the
Somali ports of Merca and Barawa (which were out of the two powers' jurisdiction)
to conduct their trade in safety and without interference.
 Early modern era & the Scramble for Africa
Main articles: Dervish State, Gobroon Dynasty, and Sultanate of Hobyo
17th century mosque in Hafun, Somalia.
In the early modern period, successor states of the Adal and Ajuuraan empires began to flourish in Somalia. These were the Gerad Dynasty, the Bari Dynasties and the Gobroon Dynasty. They continued the tradition of castle-building and seaborne trade established by previous Somali empires.
Sultan Yusuf Mahamud Ibrahim, the third Sultan of the House of Gobroon, started the golden age of the Gobroon Dynasty. His army came out victorious during the Bardheere Jihad, which restored stability in the region and revitalized the East African ivory trade. He also received presents from and had cordial relations with the rulers of neighbouring and distant kingdoms such as the Omani, Witu and Yemeni Sultans.
Sultan Ibrahim's son Ahmed Yusuf succeeded him and was one of the most important
figures in 19th century East Africa, receiving tribute from Omani governors
and creating alliances with important Muslim families on the East African coast.
In northern Somalia, the Gerad Dynasty conducted trade with Yemen and Persia
and competed with the merchants of the Bari Dynasty. The Gerads and the Bari
Sultans built impressive palaces, castles and fortresses and had close relations
with many different empires in the Near East.
Somali soldiers board a British naval batilla.
In the late 19th century, after the Berlin conference, European powers began the Scramble for Africa, which inspired the Dervish leader Muhammad Abdullah Hassan to rally support from across the Horn of Africa and begin one of the longest colonial resistance wars ever. In several of his poems and speeches, Hassan emphasized that the British infidels "have destroyed our religion and made our children their children" and that the Christian Ethiopians in league with the British were bent upon plundering the political and religious freedom of the Somali nation. He soon emerged as "a champion of his country's political and religious freedom, defending it against all Christian invaders."
Hassan issued a religious ordinance stipulating that any Somali national who did not accept the goal of unity of Somalia and would not fight under his leadership would be considered as kafir or gaal. He soon acquired weapons from Turkey, Sudan, and other Islamic and/or Arabian countries, and appointed ministers and advisers to administer different areas or sectors of Somalia. In addition, he gave a clarion call for Somali unity and independence, in the process organizing his forces.
Hassan's Dervish movement had an essentially military character, and the Dervish
state was fashioned on the model of a Salihiya brotherhood. It was characterized
by a rigid hierarchy and centralization. Though Hassan threatened to drive the
Christians into the sea, he executed the first attack by launching his first
major military offensive with his 1500 Dervish equipped with 20 modem rifles
on the British soldiers stationed in the region.
Taleex was the capital of the Dervish State.
He repulsed the British in four expeditions and had relations with the central powers of the Ottomans and the Germans. In 1920, the Dervish state collapsed after intensive aerial bombardments by Britain, and Dervish territories were subsequently turned into a protectorate.
The dawn of fascism in the early 1920s heralded a change of strategy for Italy, as the north-eastern sultanates were soon to be forced within the boundaries of La Grande Somalia according to the plan of Fascist Italy. With the arrival of Governor Cesare Maria De Vecchi on 15 December 1923, things began to change for that part of Somaliland known as Italian Somaliland. Italy had access to these areas under the successive protection treaties, but not direct rule.
The Fascist government had direct rule only over the Benadir territory. Fascist Italy, under Benito Mussolini, attacked Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 1935, with an aim to colonize it. The invasion was condemned by the League of Nations, but little was done to stop it or to liberate occupied Ethiopia. On August 3, 1940, Italian troops, including Somali colonial units, crossed from Ethiopia to invade British Somaliland, and by August 14, succeeded in taking Berbera from the British.
A British force, including troops from several African countries, launched
the campaign in January 1941 from Kenya to liberate British Somaliland and Italian-occupied
Ethiopia and conquer Italian Somaliland. By February, most of Italian Somaliland
was captured and in March, British Somaliland was retaken from the sea. The
British Empire forces operating in Somaliland comprised three divisions of South
African, West and East African troops. They were assisted by Somali forces led
by Abdulahi Hassan with Somalis of the Isaaq, Dhulbahante, and Warsangali clans
prominently participating. After World War II, the number of the Italian colonists
started to decrease; their numbers had dwindled to less than 10,000 in 1960.
 The State of Somalia
Main article: Greater Somalia
Somali Youth League monument
Following World War II, Britain retained control of both British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland as protectorates. In November 1949, the United Nations granted Italy trusteeship of Italian Somaliland, but only under close supervision and on the condition — first proposed by the Somali Youth League (SYL) and other nascent Somali political organizations, such as Hizbia Digil Mirifle Somali (HDMS) (which later became Hizbia Dastur Mustaqbal Somali) and the Somali National League (SNL), that were then agitating for independence — that Somalia achieve independence within ten years. British Somaliland remained a protectorate of Britain until 1960.
To the extent that Italy held the territory by UN mandate, the trusteeship
provisions gave the Somalis the opportunity to gain experience in political
education and self-government. These were advantages that British Somaliland,
which was to be incorporated into the new Somali state, did not have. Although
in the 1950s British colonial officials attempted, through various development
efforts, to make up for past neglect, the protectorate stagnated. The disparity
between the two territories in economic development and political experience
would cause serious difficulties when it came time to integrate the two parts.
Aden Abdullah Osman Daar, the first President of Somalia.
Meanwhile, in 1948, under pressure from their World War II allies and to the dismay of the Somalis, the British "returned" the Haud (an important Somali grazing area that was presumably 'protected' by British treaties with the Somalis in 1884 and 1886) and the Ogaden to Ethiopia, based on a treaty they signed in 1897 in which the British ceded Somali territory to the Ethiopian Emperor Menelik in exchange for his help against plundering by Somali clans.
Britain included the proviso that the Somali nomads would retain their autonomy, but Ethiopia immediately claimed sovereignty over them. This prompted an unsuccessful bid by Britain in 1956 to buy back the Somali lands it had turned over. Britain also granted administration of the almost exclusively Somali-inhabited Northern Frontier District (NFD) to Kenyan nationalists despite an informal plebiscite demonstrating the overwhelming desire of the region's population to join the newly formed Somali Republic.
A referendum was held in neighbouring Djibouti (then known as French Somaliland)
in 1958, on the eve of Somalia's independence in 1960, to decide whether or
not to join the Somali Republic or to remain with France. The referendum turned
out in favour of a continued association with France, largely due to a combined
yes vote by the sizable Afar ethnic group and resident Europeans. However, the
majority of those who voted no were Somalis who were strongly in favour of joining
a united Somalia as had been proposed by Mahmoud Harbi, Vice President of the
Government Council. Harbi was killed in a plane crash two years later. Djibouti
finally gained its independence from France in 1977 and Hassan Gouled Aptidon,
a French-groomed Somali who campaigned for a yes vote in the referendum of 1958,
eventually wound up as Djibouti's first president (1977–1991).
Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, Somalia's second Prime Minister and President.
British Somaliland became independent on June 26, 1960, and the former Italian Somaliland followed suit five days later. On July 1, 1960, the two territories united to form the Somali Republic, albeit within boundaries drawn up by Italy and Britain. A government was formed by Abdullahi Issa with Aden Abdullah Osman Daar as President, and Abdirashid Ali Shermarke as Prime Minister, later to become President (from 1967–1969). On July 20, 1961 and through a popular referendum, the Somali people ratified a new constitution, which was first drafted in 1960.
However, inter-clan rivalry persisted. In 1967, Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal became Prime Minister, a position to which he was appointed by Shermarke. Egal would later become the President of the autonomous Somaliland region in northwestern Somalia.
In late 1969, following the assassination of President Shermarke, a military
government assumed power in a coup d'état led by Major General Salaad
Gabeyre Kediye, General Siad Barre and Chief of Police Jama Korshel. Barre became
President and Korshel vice-president. The revolutionary army established large-scale
public works programmes and successfully implemented an urban and rural literacy
campaign, which helped dramatically increase the literacy rate from 5% to 55%
by the mid-1980s. However, struggles continued during Barre's rule. At one point
he assassinated a major figure in his cabinet, Major General Gabeyre, and two
The old parliament building in Mogadishu
It was in July 1976 when the real dictatorship of the Somali military commenced with the founding of the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (Xisbiga Hantiwadaagga Kacaanka Soomaaliyeed, XHKS). This party ruled Somalia until the fall of the military government in December 1990–January 1991. It was violently overthrown by the combined armed revolt of the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (Jabhadda Diimuqraadiga Badbaadinta Soomaaliyeed, SSDF), United Somali Congress (USC), Somali National Movement (SNM), and the Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM) together with the non-violent political oppositions of the Somali Democratic Movement (SDM), the Somali Democratic Alliance (SDA) and the Somali Manifesto Group (SMG). The country was renamed the Somali Democratic Republic.
In 1977 and 1978, Somalia invaded its neighbour Ethiopia in the Ogaden War, in which Somalia aimed to unite the Somali lands that had been partitioned by the former colonial powers, and to win the right of self-determination for ethnic Somalis in those territories. Somalia first engaged Kenya and Ethiopia diplomatically, but this failed. Somalia, already preparing for war, created the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF, then called the Western Somali Liberation Front, WSLF) and eventually sought to capture Ogaden. Somalia acted unilaterally without consulting the international community, which was generally opposed to redrawing colonial boundaries, while the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries refused to help Somalia, and instead, backed Communist Ethiopia. Still the USSR, finding itself supplying both sides of a war, attempted to mediate a ceasefire.
In the first week of the conflict Somali armed forces took southern and central
Ogaden and for most of the war, the Somali army scored continuous victories
on the Ethiopian army and followed them as far as Sidamo. By September 1977,
Somalia controlled 90% of the Ogaden and captured strategic cities such as Jijiga
and put heavy pressure on Dire Dawa, threatening the train route from the latter
city to Djibouti. After the siege of Harar, a massive unprecedented Soviet intervention
consisting of 20 thousand Cuban forces and several thousands Soviet experts
came to the aid of Ethiopia. The Somali Army was forced to withdraw and consequently
Somalia sought the help of the United States. Although the Carter Administration
had expressed interest in helping Somalia, it later declined, as did American
allies in the Middle East and Asia.
The Somali-Soviet Union friendship and later partnership with the United States enabled Somalia to build the largest army in Africa.
By 1978, the moral authority of the Somali government had collapsed. Many Somalis had become disillusioned with life under military dictatorship and the regime was weakened further in the 1980s as the Cold War drew to a close and Somalia's strategic importance was diminished. The government became increasingly totalitarian, and resistance movements, encouraged by Ethiopia, sprang up across the country, eventually leading to the Somali Civil War.
During 1990, in the capital city of Mogadishu, the residents were prohibited from gathering publicly in groups greater than three or four. Fuel shortages caused long lines of cars at petrol stations. Inflation had driven the price of pasta, (ordinary dry Italian noodles, a staple at that time), to five U.S. dollars per kilogram. The price of khat, imported daily from Kenya, was also five U.S. dollars per standard bunch. Paper currency notes were of such low value that several bundles were needed to pay for simple restaurant meals. Coins were scattered on the ground throughout the city being too low in value to be used.
A thriving black market existed in the centre of the city as banks experienced shortages of local currency for exchange. At night, the city of Mogadishu lay in darkness. The generators used to provide electricity to the city had been sold off by the government. Close monitoring of all visiting foreigners was in effect. Harsh exchange control regulations were introduced to prevent export of foreign currency and access to it was restricted to official banks, or one of three government-operated hotels.
Although no travel restrictions were placed on foreigners, photographing many
locations was banned. During the day in Mogadishu, the appearance of any government
military force was extremely rare. Alleged late-night operations by government
authorities, however, included "disappearances" of individuals from
The Somali Civil War
Main article: Somali Civil War
1991 was a time of great change for Somalia. President Barre was ousted by combined northern and southern clan-based forces, all of whom were backed and armed by Ethiopia. And following a meeting of the Somali National Movement and northern clans' elders, the northern former British portion of the country declared its independence as Somaliland in May 1991; although de facto independent and relatively stable compared to the tumultuous south, it has not been recognised by any foreign government.
In January 1991, President Ali Mahdi Muhammad was selected by the manifesto
group as an interim state president until a conference between all stakeholders
to be held in Djibouti the following month to select a national leader. However,
United Somali Congress military leader General Mohamed Farrah Aidid, the Somali
National Movement leader Abdirahman Ahmed Ali Tuur and the Somali Patriotic
Movement leader Col Jess refused to recognize Mahdi as president.
Prior to the civil war, Mogadishu was known as the "White pearl of the Indian Ocean".
This caused a split between the SNM, USC and SPM and the armed groups Manifesto, Somali Democratic Movement (SDM) and Somali National Alliance (SNA) on the one hand and within the USC forces. This led efforts to remove Barre who still claimed to be the legitimate president of Somalia. He and his armed supporters remained in the south of the country until mid 1992, causing further escalation in violence, especially in the Gedo, Bay, Bakool, Lower Shabelle, Lower Juba, and Middle Juba regions. The armed conflict within the USC devastated the Mogadishu area.
The civil war disrupted agriculture and food distribution in southern Somalia. The basis of most of the conflicts was clan allegiances and competition for resources between the warring clans. James Bishop, the United States last ambassador to Somalia, explained that there is "competition for water, pasturage, and... cattle. It is a competition that used to be fought out with arrows and sabers... Now it is fought out with AK-47s."The resulting famine (about 300,000 dead) caused the United Nations Security Council in 1992 to authorise the limited peacekeeping operation United Nations Operation in Somalia I (UNOSOM I). UNOSOM's use of force was limited to self-defence and it was soon disregarded by the warring factions.
In reaction to the continued violence and the humanitarian disaster, the United
States organised a military coalition with the purpose of creating a secure
environment in southern Somalia for the conduct of humanitarian operations.
This coalition, (Unified Task Force or UNITAF) entered Somalia in December 1992
on Operation Restore Hope and was successful in restoring order and alleviating
the famine. In May 1993, most of the United States troops withdrew and UNITAF
was replaced by the United Nations Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOM II).
Propaganda leaflet depicting a white dove of peace being crushed by a fist labeled "USC/SNA" ("United Somali Congress/Somali National Alliance").
However, Mohamed Farrah Aidid saw UNOSOM II as a threat to his power and in June 1993 his militia attacked Pakistan Army troops, attached to UNOSOM II, (see Somalia (March 1992 to February 1996)) in Mogadishu inflicting over 80 casualties. Fighting escalated until 19 American troops and more than 1,000 civilians and militia were killed in a raid in Mogadishu during October 1993.The UN withdrew Operation United Shield in 3 March 1995, having suffered significant casualties, and with the rule of government still not restored. In August 1996, Aidid was killed in Mogadishu.
A consequence of the collapse of governmental authority that accompanied the civil war has been the creation of a significant problem with piracyoff the coast of Somalia originating in coastal ports.Piracy arose as a response by local Somali fishermen from coastal towns such as Eyl, Kismayo and Harardhere to predatory fishing by foreign fishing trawlers that followed the collapse of Somali governmental authority.An upsurge in piracy off the coast has also been attributed to the effects of the December 26, 2004 tsunami that devastated coastal villages fishing fleets.Piracy has been described as Somalia's "only booming economy" and as a "mainstay" of the Puntland economy.
From 1800 to 1890, between 25,000–50,000 Bantu slaves from Mozambique and Tanzania are thought to have been sold from the slave market of Zanzibar to the Somali coast. Bantus are ethnically, physically, and culturally distinct from Somalis, and have remained marginalized ever since their arrival in Somalia.The number of Bantu in Somalia before the civil war is thought to be about 900,000. Since 2003, more than 12,000 Bantu refugees have settled in the United States.The Tanzanian government has also begun granting Bantus citizenship and land in areas of Tanzania where their ancestors are known to have been removed from.