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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #44 of 54: Seychelles | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #46 of 54: South Africa »

August 13, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #45 of 54: Somalia

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) ---
Flag of Somalia

Formal Name: Republic of Somalia.

Term for Citizens: Somali.

Capital: Mogadishu. Population: 1, 212, 000.

Independence Achieved: June 26, 1960, from Britain.

Major Cities: Mogadishu.


Somalia is in East Africa. It is bordered by the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Kenya. Somalia covers an area of 246, 201 square miles. Northern Somalia is a land of mountains and high plateaus, followed by low lands and dry valleys. The plateau steps down into an agricultural valley watered by the Shabeele and Juba Rivers. Following this farming land is a dry region that proceeds into Kenya and Ethiopia.


The population of Somalia is estimated at 9, 890,000.

Ethnic Groups: Somali. (There is a large Arab presence.)

Languages: Somali. Arabic and English are commercial languages.

Religion: Most Somalis are Sunni Muslims.

Education: Primary education is available but scantly utilized. Literacy rate is estimated at 37.8%.

Economy: Subsistence farming (maize, bananas, sorghum). Cattle, sheep, camel and goat herding is still the major occupation of Somalis. Fishing was a growing industry before the internecine wars by the various Somali clans disrupted it. Somalia is a very poor country. The people who live in the capital city engage in petty trading. GDP estimated: $4.1 billion; Per Capita GDP: $550. Monetary Unit: Shilling (SOS).

History and Government:

Somalia is where Africa meets Arabia. Africans and Arabs have had interchanges for thousands of years in Somalia. Italy seized northern Somalia and ruled it. Britain entered the pictured in the 1880s. Britain wanted to secure meat from Somalia for its military garrison at Aden. The Italians eventually took over the south of Somalia. Ethiopia under emperor Minilik took over western Somalia, Ogaden, and that has been a bone of major contention between the two countries since then. Upon independence, and brief flirting with democracy where the president is supposedly to be elected for six-year terms, a military general, Siad Barre, seized power in 1969. After the overthrow of Siad Barre’s government in early 1991, Somalia descended into clannish wars, a war that decimated whatever political and economic infrastructure there was in the country. The country reverted to a (Thomas) Hobbesian world, and life is nasty, brutish and short. At present the various clans are attempting to form a constitution and subsequent government. Somalia is divided into 18 regions. At present there is no workable central government holding the country together.


Somalia’s location makes it a bridge between the Arab world and Africa. Trade between Africans and Arabs have passed through Somalia for hundreds of years. However, the contemporary history of Somalia began when Europeans decided to seize African lands. First, the Italians came calling and they were replaced by the English in 1943.

England gave Somalia independence in 1960. A prime minister, Abdullahi Isse, was installed. For a while it seemed that parliamentary democracy would work but in 1969 General Mohamed Siad Barre seized the government and began his dictatorate, which lasted until he was ousted in 1991.

Thereafter, Somalia went into a free fall, as war lords carved the country up and each clan declared its intendance from Somalia. A civil war, or is it a gangs war for the control of sections of the land, ensued and, up to a point, is still going on.

The international community tried to intervene, the United Nations sent in peace keepers (US Army), but the country did not seem to desire peace so it was left to have its fill of fighting and when it desires peace it would do something about it.

The various gangs, for that is what they are, have destroyed every city and economic infrastructure that exists in Somalia.

In 2004, Somalis met in Nairobi, Kenya, and signed a peace treaty and wrote a new constitution on how they were going to govern themselves. That government still has not fully returned to Mogadishu, for the city is still roamed by marauders with AK rifles.

Lately, the Somali marauders have taken to pirating and in speed boats intercede ships going through the Red sea and Indian Ocean. It is total lawlessness in the land.

Those Somalis that can swing it have left the country and left the rest to live in their chosen lawless state. Somalia descended into classic Hobbesian state of nature without government: and life became nasty, brutish and short.

On paper the country is divided into 18 regions, which in turn are subdivided into districts. But in reality there is no functioning government in Somalia. What exist are anarchy, chaos and mayhem.

The Somali economy has been destroyed and there is not much there is to be said about it. In rural areas, however, as before the modern era, there is some farming and herding of life stock going on.

Posted by Administrator at August 13, 2006 10:10 AM


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