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Somalia is a country in the Horn of Africa. Its capital is Mogadishu.



Somalia has a long coastline, on the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. It is bordered by Dijibouti in the north, Ethiopia in the west, and Kenya to the south.


Somalia is mainly desert, with little arable land. The area is subject to seasonal monsoons, and the country suffers from recurring droughts.


During the colonial period in Africa, Somalia was divided between Britain and Italy. In World War II, Italian forces seized British Somaliland, but British counterattacks in 1941 from Kenya and Sudan were successful and all of East Africa was in Allied hands until the end of the war. The British military government remained in Italian Somaliland until 1950, when it was renamed Somalia and made a United Nations trust territory under Italian administration. Somalia achieved independence on July 1, 1960, simultaneously uniting with British Somaliland.[1]

During the Cold War, Somalia received arms and aid from the Soviet Union, while regional rival Ethiopia was in the American camp. Sometimes this rivalry escalated into open warfare, most prominently in the Ogaden War of 1977-78.[2]

In 1991, dictator Siad Barre, who had ruled Somalia since a 1969 military coup, was ousted from office, resulting in nation-wide chaos. Northern clans declared independence as the state of Somaliland, and the rest of the country was torn by factional fighting. A UN humanitarian effort began, which succeeded in alleviating some of the suffering in the region, but was unable to bring order, and withdrew in 1995. American forces joined the UN mission in 1993, but pulled out the next year after the Battle of Mogadishu. In 2007, Ethiopia invaded southern Somalia to expel the Islamic Courts Union, a faction that had taken control of Mogadishu and most of the surrounding area.[3]


  1. The Second World War: The Mediterranean 1940-1945, by Paul Collier, Osprey Publishing, 2003
  2. Ogaden War, 1977-1978
  3. CIA World Factbook—Somalia
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