Somalia is located on the Horn of Africa and borders on Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya. Today’ Somalia has resulted from the unification of the northern province of British Somaliland and the southeastern province of Italian Somaliland in 1960. Despite the separation of the Somali people during the colonial era, they remain one of the most homogenous and cohesive of Africa’s peoples. Somalis also live in parts of the neighboring states and their attempts at unification have been a source of conflict.
Somalia became independent in 1960 and Said Barre seized power in 1969, proclaiming a socialist regime, but ignoring any of the social and political foundations of socialism. Instead of developing the country, Barre launched military offensives against Ethiopia, attempting to annex the Ogaden plateau region in 1976. Ethiopia repelled the incursions with the aid of Cuban troops and Soviet support. The Soviets withdrew their support of Barre’;s regime.
In the aftermath, Somalia’s economy deteriorated and a weakened Barre assumed authoritarian powers, as the nation plunged into internal discord. In 1991, Mohammad Ali Mahdi assumed power as factional fighting between clans divided the country, with General Mohammad Farah Aidid holding virtual control of the capital Mogadishu. Inter-clan fighting enveloped the nation while the common people starved. During the clan warfare an estimated 300,000 people died and 1.5 million were forced to flee to refuge in neighboring areas.
In response to the famine and human crisis, the UN sent a humanitarian mission and deployed a peacekeeping force in 1992. The heavily armed militias provoked clashes with UN troops and US troops initiated operations to capture Aidid and his lieutenants. This led to the so-called “black hawk down” incident in which 18 US soldiers were killed and subsequently the withdrawal of US forces. UN forces withdrew completely by 1995.
Since then, international efforts to construct a functioning government have continued and a transition government has been created, though few details of its authority and operation have been established. The warlords of Somalia’s clans have all lost influence and territory, but while they continue to oppose the new government, their power is greatly diminished. A general cease-fire is presumably in effect, but there are regular breeches as conflicts flare-up regularly.
It’s a long road from Somalia’s anarchy to a functioning government. Somalis have little experience in governance and few resources with which to work. Meanwhile, the international community is no longer focused on this area and the prognosis for recovery remains as bleak as ever.
A serious problem is that faction leaders and civil society representatives are self-appointed, with real risk that the negotiation will produce another "government in exile" unable to provide a working administration inside the country that represents popular will. The 27 October 2002 ceasefire was violated so often it is practically meaningless.