List of Abbreviations...............................................................................................................6
Pre-history and Ancient History (4th millennium BCE).............................................................17
The Middle Ages (13th–18th centuries).....................................................................................17
Pre-colonial and colonial Somalia (1885–1960).....................................................................18
Post-Colonial Period (1960–1969)..........................................................................................20
Military Regime (1969–1991)..................................................................................................22
Civil War and UN Interventions (1991–1995).........................................................................25
Post-Transitional period: State-building and Democratisation......................................32
Developing the Framework towards Vision 2016....................................................................33
Page 6 Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
AMISOM African Union Mission in Somalia
ASWJ Ahlu Sunna wal Jama
AWEPA Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa
CSO Civil Society Organisations
HDI Human Development Index
ICG International Crisis Group
ICRIC Independent Constitutional Review
ICU Islamic Courts Union
IDP Internally Displaced Person
IGAD Intergovernmental Authority for Development
IJA Interim Jubba Administration
IPU Inter-Parliamentary Union
NCA National Constituent Assembly
NCSC National Civil Service Commission
NFP National Federal Parliament
SNM Somali National Movement
SYL Somali Youth League
TFC Technical Facilitation Committee
TFG Transnational Federal Government
TNG Transitional National Government
TSC Technical Selection Committee
TRC Technical Review Committee
UNDP United Nations Development Program
UNSOM United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia
UNOSOM United Nations Operations in Somalia
UNITAF Unified Task Force
USC United Somali Congress
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
Page 7Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
Herewith, I have the pleasure to introduce “Somalia: a brief country report”, written by Ms. Ayaan Abukar
on AWEPA’s request. With the growing possibilities of a new future for Somalia, and bearing in mind the
enormous challenges ahead, there is an increasing interest in the history and recent developments of
Somalia. This country report provides basic information for a broader public and I am very grateful to
Ms. Ayaan Abukar for her contribution to increasing knowledge about Somalia. Well-functioning modern
state-building is the big challenge for Somalia, including the Somali Parliament, the House of the People.
AWEPA’s involvement in Somalia dates back to the year 2002, when a relationship was established with
the legislative institution.
Since then, AWEPA has been supporting Somalia’s legislative institutions with funding from the European
Union and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. AWEPA mounted a series of interventions to build
the capacities of the Transitional Federal Parliament with a view to empowering it to more effectively
play the leading role in tackling the myriad of challenges Somalia faces. These challenges emanated from
the breakdown of law and order following the collapse of the Siad Barre regime in 1991. As a result of
the absence of an effective central government, Somalia fell under the control of clan warlords. This led
to widespread conflict over scarce natural resources, a situation that resulted in civil war throughout
Somalia. Prolonged armed conflict brought about severe natural and man-made disasters such as
famine and displacement of entire communities both within and outside Somalia.
The intractable socio-political tensions did not permit the Transitional Federal Parliament (2004-2012) to
forge reconciliation, peace and unity in Somalia. Expectations of new era of hope for a better Somalia rose
in 2012, following the promulgation of a new Provisional Constitution that was crafted in a comparatively
more inclusive political process. A Provisional Parliament was established, which in turn elected a new
Following these positive steps, AWEPA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Speaker of the
National Federal Parliament (NFP) in August 2012, which formed the basis upon which a re-energised
programme of support was formulated. The new programme was intended to empower the NFP to start
functioning as a legislature that would effectively call upon the government to adequately respond to
the needs and aspirations of the Somali People, whilst opening avenues for their participation in making
decisions that affect their day to day life.
The AWEPA interventions in the Federal Parliament were planned taking into account three strategic
• Provision of continuous capacity-building for MPs and parliamentary staff;
• Establishment of an effective Parliamentary Administration capable of effectively supporting the
Parliament in carrying out its constitutional mandate;
• Promotion of parliamentary business by providing direct technical support to the Chair of the House
and by building the capacities of the committees and the staff to carry out their respective roles and
responsibilities more effectively, including the enactment of priority legislation necessary to move
the country forward to a new democratic order through a free and fair election in 2016.
Page 8 Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
As a result of its long history and experience of working with parliaments, AWEPA has developed a
deep understanding of how parliaments work in different situations and a network of experienced
parliamentary experts to support the realisation of its interventions.
In Somalia, AWEPA’s interventions have been well-received by the leadership of the House of the
People, as illustrated by the Speaker’s letter of commendation. AWEPA defines its interventions
in full consultation with the parliamentary leadership and members and staff of the respective
legislative institutions. This has promoted local ownership of the interventions, hence promoting their
sustainability. AWEPA’s interventions include the following:
• Providing technical support to design optimal, efficient and effective organisational structures for
• Providing technical support to the National Civil Service Commission (NCSC) to revert to merit-
based, competitive recruitment procedures for the senior staff of the National Federation
Parliament (NFP) Secretariat;
• Training of staff in a range of topics, including parliamentary practice and procedure, the role of
parliament in the framework of the doctrine of Separation of Powers, the functions and operations
of Parliamentary Committees, documentation and archiving of parliamentary documents such as
minutes of the plenary and committees, reports of parliamentary committees, etc.;
• Providing technical support to the relevant parliamentary committee to identify gaps in the Rules
of Procedure and draft proposals for amendments;
• Capacitating MPs with knowledge and skills on the legislative and budget processes; on conducting
parliamentary oversight; on policy analysis and formulation; on the role of committees in
carrying out parliamentary oversight; and on promoting public participation with Civil Society
Organisations (CSOs), the media, interest groups and subject matter specialists, among others,
in policy scrutiny and decision-making processes. The above presentations have been captured
in four handbooks, whose dissemination is planned for the NFP and the Regional Parliaments
in Somaliland and Puntland. The four handbooks cover Parliamentary Committees, Minutes and
Reports of Parliamentary Committees, Parliamentary Oversight and Debate in the House, for ease
• Designing a specific programme for empowering Somali Women Political Leaders with knowledge
and skills to enable them to participate more effectively in the political and peace-building processes
in Somalia, from 2015 onwards (2015-2017);
• Providing on-going direct expert support to the Chair of the NFP in a variety of areas such as
Drafting of Motions for Resolutions of the House; preparing briefing/opinion papers on
controversial business before the House; and, in situations where the Rules of Procedure are
lacking, drafting private members bills on important issues that are not forthcoming from the
Executive. The direct technical support provided to the Chair of the House has, for example,
enabled the House to transact business on contemporary issues of concern to all the legislatures
in the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
Through its contributions, AWEPA has supported the National Federal Parliament in becoming an
independent and a more effective legislative body that is enjoying increasing levels of public confidence.
Page 9Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
By providing much needed technical support and training to the Parliament, it was possible to design and
put in place critical mechanisms enabling parliamentarians to carry out their mandate more effectively.
Alongside our capacity-building for MPs, AWEPA has made significant improvements in developing and
strengthening the functioning of the House of the People Administration, which is vital for effective
parliamentary business. AWEPA is confident that its contribution to the improvement of the performance
of the legislative institutions in Somalia has positively contributed to the efforts to re-establish democratic
governance and restoration of the rule of law. This has been manifested in increased confidence and
trust of the people in their parliament.
I wish to thank the leadership of the House of the People for their cooperation and the AWEPA Somalia
staff for their contributions. Special thanks go to the Programme Coordinator Chris Kaija-Kwamya.
Without him and the supporting AWEPA staff in Africa and Headquarters, the progamme would not have
Mr. Cees Bremmer
Political Coordinator AWEPA Somalia
Dr. Jan Nico Scholten
Founding President AWEPA
Political Coordinator AWEPA Somalia (2002 – 2015)
Page 10 Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
The Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA) works in cooperation with African
parliaments to strengthen parliamentary democracy in Africa, keep Africa high on the political agenda
in Europe, and facilitate the African-European parliamentary dialogue.
It is the organisation’s firm belief that strong parliaments- in their role as arbiters of peace, stability
and prosperity - lie at the heart of Africa’s long-term development. Accordingly, AWEPA strives to
strengthen African parliaments, and promote human dignity by supporting complex democratisation
operations across the continent.
The key to AWEPA’s work lies in the organisation’s unique character and tools including:
• An extended membership skills base of more than 1,900 European parliamentarians, who devote
their wide-ranging expertise to peer-learning with African colleagues;
• Long-term partnerships with African parliamentary colleagues, which ensure local ownership and
• An infrastructure of political and parliamentary entry points, which span nine African and two
European offices, as well as 30 parliaments in Africa and 28 in Europe, including the Pan-African
Parliament (PAP) and the European Parliament.
With these tools, AWEPA works to promote parliamentary competency and authority; good governance
based on the separation of powers; the increased participation of women in decision-making; the
participation of civil society in the political process; and an independent and qualified media, as a
component of the democratic process.
Page 11Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
Over the past years, AWEPA’s Programme in Somalia has contributed to the improved functioning of
the National Federal Parliament of Somalia, Houses of Assembly in Somaliland and the Parliament of
Puntland, in five main areas:
AWEPA has provided support to the House of the People, Houses of Assembly in Somaliland and the
Parliament of Puntland, ensuring that the MPs better understand and execute their legislative function.
This has contributed to the transformation of these parliaments into more effective legislative bodies.
»» AWEPA engaged with numerous parliamentary committee Members and supporting staff to equip
them with the knowledge and skills to perform their duties.
»» AWEPA contributed to the quality improvement of legislative analysis and amendments presented
by the legislatures, through various trainings and workshops for MPs and staff.
Although the security situation in Somalia remains fragile, especially in Mogadishu, AWEPA’s efforts
have contributed to transforming the House of the People, Houses of Assembly in Somaliland and the
Parliament of Puntland, into more effective representative bodies that are enjoying increasing levels of
public confidence. Overall, there is more responsiveness and commitment to the needs of the people.
»» AWEPA supported the Members of the House of the People, Houses of Assembly in Somaliland
and the Parliament of Puntland to undertake outreach visits, enabling them to interact with their
constituents to discuss matters of national interest, such as the inclusion of women and minority
groups in decision-making processes.
AWEPA conducted intensive trainings for parliamentary committees aimed at strengthening their
capacity to perform their oversight function. This has led to more effective parliamentary oversight
mechanisms over the implementation of policies and programmes by the Executive Bodies.
»» AWEPA provided technical support and training to parliamentary committees on the use of oversight
instruments, e.g. questions, interpellations, missions of enquiry.
»» Separate trainings were organised for parliamentary committees on the budget process and how to
monitor budget implementation.
By providing technical support and training, AWEPA assisted the House of the People, Houses of Assembly
in Somaliland and the Parliament of Puntland in strengthening their administrative infrastructure,
including their HRM systems and committee arrangements.
Empowerment of Somali women
Whether women MPs or female staff members of the legislative institutions, AWEPA has committed itself
on promoting and fostering the participation of women in the House of the People, Houses of Assembly
in Somaliland and the Parliament of Puntland. This resulted in the development of the recently launched
programme “Empowerment of Somali Women Political Leaders”, aiming at strengthening their role in
peace-building and decision-making processes.
TRACK RECORD - AWEPA SOMALIA PROGRAMME
Page 12 Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
Page 13Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
For the two decades leading up to the new millennium, the people of Somalia lived in a state of chaos,
violence and anarchy. Conflict between rival warlords and their factions raged throughout the 1990s,
and images of violence, famine, piracy and terrorism dominated the news. Somalia has become
synonymous with these issues, and the long conflict has overshadowed the great history of the country.
In 2012, the newly installed Federal Parliament elected the first Somali President in 40 years, Hassan
Sheikh Mahamoud. His inauguration marked the end of the transitional period and the beginning of a
new chapter of hope and prosperity. The new Government has committed itself to the implementation
of Vision 2016, a comprehensive plan to establish a democratic government and solid institutions.
The years since 2012 have brought important changes for Somalia on many levels. The country has
reached a turning point and now has a realistic chance of leaving chaos and violence behind and
building a better future for its citizens. As the country prepares itself for the long-promised free and
fair elections scheduled for 2016, the Government and Parliament are facing numerous challenges
implementing Vision 2016.
Finding sustainable solutions requires in-depth knowledge of the history of Somalia and its unique
structures and foundation. This report provides a brief summary of the country’s history and an
overview of current political developments. In addition, it highlights the challenges the current Somali
Government is facing in its attempts to implement the Vision 2016 plan. The aim of this report is to
provide useful information about the long and complex history of the country and thus provide a
unique perspective on contemporary Somalia.
The focus of this report is the developments and activities that have impacted the Central and Federal
Government of Somalia. However, the author and publisher acknowledge that the history of a country
such as Somalia cannot be comprehensively discussed in a concise report. The historical timeline
outlined in the report includes selected events and does not represent the complete history of the
country. The content of the report is based on the knowledge and views of the author.
Page 14 Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
To comprehend Somali politics, a basic understanding of the clan system is necessary. Somali society is
an ethnically, religiously and linguistically homogenous society, composed of various clan families that
are often related to each other, speak or understand the same language, and have the same Islamic
beliefs. Somalis belong ethnically to the Cushitic-speaking family, which includes the Afar people in
neighbouring Djibouti and the Awash Valley, many of the Oromo people in Ethiopian, and the Borano
people in Northern Kenya (Lewis, 2008).
The clan system in Somalia is composed of five primary clans, which, in turn, branch out into numerous
sub-clans and minority groups. The five main clans are the Dir, Hawiye, Darood, Isaaq and the combined
Digil and Mirifle. Each of these primary clans is composed of various segments of sub-clans. Clans who
fall outside the major clan lineage divisions are considered minorities.
The minority groups include the Bantu, Benadiri, Bajuni and other occupational groups (known as
the Yibri, Midgan and Tumal). The Bantu are believed to be descendants of Bantu communities in
Central and East Africa. Most Bantu are small-scale farmers or labourers who live in the river areas of
southern Somalia. The Benadiri minority group consists of several urban lineages from Mogadishu,
Marka and Barawe such as the Reerhamar and Baravnese. They are believed to be descendants of
Arab traders who settled in coastal towns of southern Somalia centuries ago and are mainly business
people and traders. The Bajuni group live mainly in Kismayo and on the islands off the south coast, and
many work as fishermen. Occupational groups live in different parts of Somalia, including urbanised
areas. Traditional occupations include metal crafters, potters, blacksmiths, tanners, shoemakers and
The clan structure is based on two principles: kinship (descent, also known as tol in Somali) and contract
(xeer). According to the principle of descent, Somalis are divided according to their ancestors. Kinship
is based on genealogical distance, with each generation counted from the name of a person’s father.
Clan groups share a common ancestor by only one generation in the genealogical tree, and clans are
segmented into separate sub-clans and clan families. As Luling explained:
“A group of men and women descended from a common male ancestor about five generations
back forms a lineage. Several such lineages, all of whom trace descent from an earlier ancestor,
form a larger group, and several of these groups again coalesce at an earlier point in the
genealogy, and so on until one reaches the ancestor of the clan.” (Luling, 2006).
Sub-clans coexist as neighbours, and communities share farming land on the principle of deegaan,
a term that refers to settlement communities. The rules of the settlement communities comprise
general regulations of cohabitation that include grazing rights and the use of water wells.
The principle of contract, or xeer, guarantees the rights of all members of a clan community, particularly
their property and traditional rights. Xeer includes a number of rights, duties and obligations that
govern clan groups and is based on the collective responsibility of the clan. Crimes committed by
Page 15Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
individuals are resolved in a collective manner, and xeer serves as a mechanism for conflict resolution.
It requires clan members to pay and receive Diya (blood money) for death, theft or any kind of physical
harm they receive. In the past, Diya was paid in livestock (Harper, 2012).
Clan groups are ruled by a clan leader, who, in most cases, is the oldest member. Clans reach decisions
after long deliberation, known as Shir. All adult men participate in Shir, and the position of each
member is a reflection of a number of factors, including religious knowledge, wisdom, age, and wealth.
Traditionally, Shir is a male-oriented mechanism, and women do not participate in Shir meetings. To
avoid fragmentation and internal conflict, decisions in Shir meetings are made by consensus (Hesse,
These two principles of the Somali clan structure—Xeer and Shir—have been the backbone of the
Somali political, culture, social and legal systems for centuries.
“For in any given situation, contract determines the range within which genealogically founded
relationships are regarded as legally and politically binding. Equally, the political and judicial
status of individuals, defined at birth by their membership of determinate lineages, may be
alerted by contracts of their own making. In this sense, Somali contract might be regarded as a
form of social contract of the political philosophers.” (Lewis, 1999).
The clan structure is a way of life and the basis of the entire political and legal system in Somalia,
and individual members identify with their clan. These principles ensure peaceful coexistence among
members of the various clan groups and cohesive communities where the rule of law is respected by
all. Despite well-structured clan governance and rule of law, clan divisions over resources have caused
internal and intra-clan competition. Lewis described the nature of the division: “The reason for division
or unity depended on interest, as perceived, at different points in time, e.g. competition over grazing or water
or commercial control of towns.” (Lewis, 2008).
Page 16 Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
Page 17Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
PRE-HISTORY AND ANCIENT HISTORY (4TH MILLENNIUM BCE)
Little is known about the prehistoric inhabitants of present-day Somalia. Archaeological research has
shown that the area has been inhabited since the early Holocene and possibly earlier by pastoral and
agro-pastoral communities. Archaeological researchers discovered hundreds of pottery sherds and
the remains of 14 humans from the Buur Heybe site, which is 180 km northwest of Mogadishu as well
other rock shelters. This is the earliest indisputable evidence of human burial in the northern East
Africa area dating to the early Holocene era, approximately 11,000 years ago. Researchers have also
found evidence of the traditional ways in which Somali people dealt with drought (Parmelee, 1988).
Additional archaeological evidence has been found in northern Somalia (in present-day Somaliland).
Laas Geel (literally, water point for camels) contains granite rock shelters decorated with polychromatic
paintings of cows in ceremonial robes accompanied by human figures. Recent studies have estimated
that the paintings are from the Holocene era. “Through the abundance of its paintings, their quality, the
originality of the type of representation of bovines and human figures, the Las Geel site will henceforth take
its place among the major Holocene sites of rock art in this region of Africa” (Gutherz, Cros & Lesur, 2003).
Along with other archaeological discoveries, these paintings reveal the long history of Somalia and the
prehistoric agro-pastoral civilizations of the country.
During ancient times, Somalia was an important trade centre for many ancient civilisations. The Somali
coast was referred to as the land of Punt by ancient Egyptians and the land of the Barbaroi by Greek
sailors. The Romans called it the land of cinnamon because they believed that the spice was produced
on the Somali coast.
THE MIDDLE AGES (13TH–18TH CENTURIES)
Several powerful empires, including the Ajuraan and Warsangali Sultanates, dominated the region
during the Middle Ages, with some of these empires co-existing during the same period.
The Ajuran Sultanate was a successful Muslim empire that ruled parts of Somalia between the 13th
and 17th centuries. The empire controlled regional water systems and had strong relations with the
nomads in its territories, which allowed it to become very successful. Advances in administrative and
taxation systems combined with a strong military helped the empire to defeat aggressors. In the
Historical Dictionary of Somalia, Mohamed Haji Mukhtar describes the Ajuran as a powerful ruler:
“another feature of Ajuran rule was a powerful armed mounted army that policed the state and collected
taxes, or ‘attributes’ of cereal and livestock.” (Mukhtar, 2003).
The Ajuran Sultanate successfully resisted an Oromo invasion from the west and a Portuguese incursion
from the east during the Gaal Madow and the Ajuran-Portuguese wars. The Sultanate also developed
Page 18 Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
advanced systems for cultivation and introduced a highly developed engineering system: “Ajuran are
also remembered for public works: many of the deep stone-wells still in use and many abandoned stone
fortifications still standing in southern Somalia are reliably attributed to Ajuran engineering.” (Mukhtar,
2003). The Sultanate maintained a strong economy, dependent on agriculture and commerce, for
many years, but the empire became weaker at the end of the 17th century and finally declined in
The Sultanate of Mogadishu
The Sultanate of Mogadishu was established in the 10th century and became an important trade centre
for the entire region during the 12th and 13th centuries before it became part of Ajuran Sultanate. The
well-known Moroccan scholar and medieval traveller Ibn Battuta visited Mogadishu in 1331. In the
account of his travels, he described Mogadishu as a city “endless in its size” and mentioned the large
number of camels and sheep slaughtered in town. “Mogadishu is a very large town. The people have very
many camels, and slaughter many hundreds every day. They have also many sheep. The merchants are
wealthy, and manufacture a material which takes its name from the town and which is exported to Egypt and
elsewhere.” (World History: Patterns of Interaction).
The Warsangeli Sultanate was founded in the 13th century in north-eastern and south-eastern Somalia.
(Surhone, Timpledon & Marseken, 2010). The Sultanate was founded by the Warsangali tribe, which was
part of the Darood Clan. A number of powerful rulers led the empire for centuries.
The Geledi Sultanate was a loose confederation of agro-pastoral clans led by the Goobroon Sultans,
whose power was based partly on their military and commercial agriculture (Reese, 2003). Sultan
Ibrahim Adeer established the Sultanate in the late 17th century after defeating the Ajuran vassal
state. Afgooye, a town in the Lower Shabella region, located about 30 km north-west of Mogadishu,
was the epic centre of the Geledi Sultanate (Reese, 2003).
PRE-COLONIAL AND COLONIAL SOMALIA (1885–1960)
In the years before Somalia was colonised, many rulers led its empires and the country was not united
by any overarching political organisation or unit. Law and order in the pre-colonial Somali state was
based on the kinship (descent or tol) and contract (xeer) system. During this period, Somalis participated
in pastoral nomadism as their primary communal mode of production since the only economic activity
the dry climate could sustain was animal husbandry (Mohamoud, 2002). Other economic activities such
as trade and agriculture were marginalised under the dominance of this nomadism. Somali nomads
moved frequently with their livestock in search of water and, for the large nomadic population, the
timing and amount of rainfall were crucial determinants of the adequacy of grazing and prospects for
Traditional Somali life was greatly influenced by effects of the ecosystem such as drought, which
resulted in unequal use of water and livestock. Somali clans used their clan customs (tol and xeer) to
reach agreements on how to distribute water and other resources. Abdullah Mohamoud described
Page 19Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
this: “Accordingly, the ethos and norms of the kin-ordered system provided mechanisms and social sanctions
which have been effective in resolving conflicts among the lineages and clans and also ensured the production
of stable social order.”
By the end of the 19th century, Somalia had multiple colonisers, including France, the United Kingdom
and, later, Italy. The primary interest of the colonisers was gaining control of the waters of the Nile
River and ensuring they benefited from the strategic position of the country (Lewis, 2008). They fuelled
existing competition among clans to gain power and introduced rules to develop new economic
Somalia was divided into five different political entities based on different colonial interests. The
northern part of the country came under British rule in 1885. British authorities sought to gain overall
control of the area as this was the most efficient way to ensure trade treaties with clan elders were
signed. The United Kingdom became the protectorate of Somaliland (northern Somalia) mainly for
commercial objectives. Somaliland was rich with livestock and in a strategic position to protect British
trade routes to India. By occupying Somaliland, Britain prevented other European countries from
taking control of this strategic area of coastline.
Other European powers had different interests in Somalia. France had grander imperial ambitions in
the Horn of Africa that included trade ambitions with Ethiopia and a great need for safe ports for its
ships. Control of the Nile River played a key role in colonisers’ competitiveness over Somalia. When the
Suez Canal opened in November 1869, the Somali coast gained strategic importance in the sea route
from Europe to India that passed through the new canal. The French authority in the area signed a
French-Anglo treaty, which officially defined the possession and border of the French colony in Somalia.
In 1888, France occupied French Somaliland (Djibouti).
In 1893, Italy occupied Italian Somaliland (southern Somalia) with the objective of controlling the
southern side of the Red Sea. In addition, it sought territory in the most fertile part of the country to
establish fruit plantations. Italy adopted a different colonial administration system than the British
and implemented coercive measures such as operating plantations and subjecting Somali farmers to
All regions in Somalia were forced to adapt to their colonisers’ codes of conduct, which led to a shift
in traditional political and economic institutions. Despite the small amount of colonial manpower, the
rule of the colonial state was based on force. For the colonial states to achieve their goals and take
maximum advantage of their colonies, it was essential to maintain peace and security. However, the
presence of the colonial states increased conflict among the Somali clans, partly due to the divide-and-
rule policy the colonial powers had employed to play the Somali clans against each other. Clans who
cooperated with the colonial administration were armed with modern weapons; clans who resisted
the cooperation remained unarmed. This change in the type of weaponry used led to an increase in
the intensity of the violent clashes among clans. The colonial powers were determined to eliminate
any group that could challenge their supremacy in the country, which caused a new kind of conflict
Page 20 Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
POST-COLONIAL PERIOD (1960–1969)
After years of colonialism, Somali nationalists won their independence, due in part to factors
surrounding the end of the Second World War. British Somaliland and Italian Somalia merged and
became the Republic of Somalia in 1960 and French Somalia became Djibouti in 1977 (The Center for
Justice & Accountability, 2014).
The new Somali state had a population of approximately two million people. Aden Abdullah Osman
was elected Somalia’s first President and, in 1961, the Somali people ratified a constitution drafted in
1960 through popular referendum.
At the same time as the country gained independence, the Western multi-party democratic model was
introduced to clan-based Somali society; the democratic institutions created stood on unstable ground
with the traditional clan structure. Although Somali clans share cultural traditions and religious beliefs,
they were unable to form a cohesive political unit. The major clans did not function as operational
political units with common goals and were too large and geographically fragmented to unite as a
nation-state. The new Somali Republic had no national identity and was far from being a nation-state.
Immediately after independence was gained in 1960, tensions arose within the country when a group
of army officials carried out a failed coup. Their main motivation for the coup was the choice of
Mogadishu as a capital and the perception that the southern part of Somalia was favoured. The group
attempting the coup advocated for the independence of Somaliland, located in the northern part of
The new Somali state faced many contradictions. It was forced to continue the political and social
developments of the colonial administration but, at the same time, there was little to almost no
understanding of the difficulties and challenges the new nation had inherited from the colonial state.
The complexity of inheriting the modern state system and all its institutions in a society based on
traditional and religious political institutions was underestimated.
The post-colonial Somali state was pushed into modern state-making through the processes of
imperialism and colonialism. This forced the new state to integrate into the international political
economy, not with the aim of modernising the state and society, but primarily in the interest of the
colonising states, as raw materials were crucial for industrial production and western markets.
The early years of the post-colonial Somali state were characterised by a fixation on liberating Somali
territories in Ethiopia and Kenya and political struggles among the elites. Internal struggle, corruption
and massive dependence on external contributions for development weakened the Somali civil state.
The Somali political elite, European countries and the United Nations believed that the problems of
the post-colonial Somali state were caused by a lack of resources that could be solved with foreign aid
On October 15 1969, Abdirashid Ali Shermarke, the second Somali President, was shot by a policeman
during a visit to northern Somalia (Chapin, 2009). On October 21, four colonels from the Somali army
Page 21Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
carried out a bloodless coup and Major General Muhammed Siad Barre took over the civilian government.
The army and police seized power in Mogadishu, and the Supreme Revolutionary Council was established.
The National Assembly and Cabinet were dissolved, the Constitution was suspended and the political
parties of the time were abolished. The new military regime promised the elimination of corruption and
reconstruction of social and economic institutions.
Background photo: A view of the fishing harbour in Mogadishu, Somalia. Photo/ Ayaan Abukar
Page 22 Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
MILITARY REGIME (1969–1991)
After the 1969 coup, General Siad Barre became the third President of the Somali Republic. The new
military leadership described itself as a Revolutionary Nationalist regime and claimed that its aim
was to protect the national interests of the Somali Republic. The regime justified the coup with the
claim that the independence of the Somali state was in danger and thus their main interest was the
protection of the nation’s safety and independence.
The regime introduced a new nationalistic ideology to replace and reform many colonial and post-
colonial institutions. Private companies owned by foreigners were nationalised, including companies
in the Italian-Somali sugar industry, the Italo-Somali Electric Society and four major international
banks. This had a great impact on the economy of the young state. In addition, Barre’s regime replaced
colonial languages in the education system with the Somali language. As it was an oral language, the
process to develop a script for Somali was initiated and adopted in 1973. Andrzejewski (1974) described
it as follows: “The works which had been prepared by the Language Committee were published with all
speed and in the first months of 1973, Somali was adopted as the sole medium of instruction in elementary
schools and in National University.” Barre also succeeded in making important improvements such as
the widespread expansion of healthcare and education.
Despite the regime’s nationalistic rhetoric, Barre invested in demobilising and minimising the influence
of all kinds of political and social forces that existed in Somalia before the coup. The regime began
the process of abolishing the clan norms, rules and regulations that had been used to govern Somali
society for centuries. The clan system was banned from public life and “clanism” was declared as
the enemy of the modern state. In addition, several attempts were made to break up the traditional
divisions between clans. The regime confronted what they called the evil of clanism and declared it a
negative aspect of the social structure.
In its efforts to destabilise the clan system, the Government restructured the eight post-colonial
provinces of the Republic to 16 new regions in 1982, which was expanded to 18 regions in 1988. In
some cases, clan names were excluded; for example, Mijerteinia became the Bari region (Lewis, 2008).
In an attempt to undermine the traditional position of the clan elders and chiefs, they were called
“Peace Seekers” instead of their traditional Somali names. In addition to the deliberate attempts to
change the traditional structure of society, the regime introduced a state-controlled economy (Lewis,
The regime relied heavily on the army to maintain its security. Army leaders and staff members were
represented in government in almost every state and enjoyed a great deal of autonomy in leading
some departments within the ministries. All types of opposition were suppressed, and relationships
with pro-Western neighbouring countries were put under pressure. Barre declared Somalia a socialist
and democratic republic and, in 1977, the Somali army crossed international boundaries into the
Ogaden area of Ethiopia. With the support of the Soviet Union, Barre’s regime made an attempt to
recapture this area. Months later, the Ethiopian army, backed by Cuba and the Soviet Union, who had
switched alliances, carried out a major counterattack and defeated the Somali army.
Page 23Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
In the following years, the country continued to slip into increasing political instability and chaos. Barre’s
efforts to eliminate clanism backfired when a number of clan-based rebel groups with militias sprang up in
opposition to the ruling regime. The Somali National Movement (SNM) was among the first armed groups
to oppose the Barre regime. The SNM’s core leadership was mainly composed of Isaaq clan members
who expressed their disaffection with the regime, but the group also included non-Isaaq members. The
SNM’s operational headquarters were located across the Ethiopian-Somali border. The regime accused
people in the north of being pro-SNM and subjected them to economic and political harassment (Lewis,
2008). In 1988, fearing an attack by the Barre regime, the SNM launched an offensive. While this was
unsuccessful, it led to vicious armed opposition to Barre’s regime in Somalia that weakened its power.
In 1987, the United Somali Congress (USC) was founded by key leaders of the Hawiye clan. The USC
became one of the major armed groups opposing the military regime and played a key role in the eventual
overthrow of the Barre Government. In years following the creation of the group, armed opposition to
Barre’s regime spread throughout the country. In 1991, General Barre was removed from power by clan-
organised armed movements.
“From November 1991, there was heavy fighting in the Somali capital of Mogadishu between armed
elements allied to General Mohamed Farah Aideed, or to Mr. Ali Mohamed Mahdi, the appointed “interim
President”, and yet other factions. In addition to Mogadishu, there was conflict in Kismayo, and in the
north-west, local leaders were pushing to create an independent “Somaliland”. The country as a whole
was without any form of central government.” United Nations/ Somalia UNOSOM I, Background
Photo: A poster of Mahammad Siad Barre, a revolutionary leader of Somalia, who became the third President of the
Somali Republic after the 1969 coup, lies in the streets of Mogadishu. Courtesy: Hiram A. Ruiz/Wikimedia Commons
Page 24 Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
The skyline beyond the northern suburbs of Mogadishu is seen through a bullet hole in the window of a hotel in Yaaqshiid District. UN Photo/Stuart Price.
Page 25Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
CIVIL WAR AND UN INTERVENTIONS (1991–1995)
The major clans were unified in their opposition to Siad Barre, but no common political vision for the
future of Somali emerged from their leadership. Consequently, while civil discord was reduced after
the overthrow of the Barre regime, some issues lingered, albeit at a decreased level. The SNM, which
was the dominant party in the north, denied the legitimacy of the interim government established by
the USC. In June 1991, in response to pervasive dissatisfaction with the Central Government, the SNM
declared an independent state comprising the area of the Republic of Somaliland that had been British
Somaliland before independence. Somaliland’s self-proclaimed independence remains unrecognised
by the international community.
In southern Somalia, a prolonged period of violence, lawlessness, power struggles, clan clashes and
the break-down of institutions followed the removal of the Barre regime. Chaos and fighting between
armed factions of the regime raged across Mogadishu and some parts of southern Somalia. The former
leaders of the USC, General Mohamed Farah Aideed and Ali Mahdi Mohamed, competed for control of
Mogadishu, and the capital became the stage for killing, looting and other criminal activities, with many
individuals and groups seeking to profit from the ensuing anarchy and chaos. Police stations, hospitals,
banks, army bases, shops and even museums were robbed. The battle for Mogadishu among various
warlords continued through the 1990s, and a demarcation line divided the northern and southern
parts of the city.
Fighting among rival factions led to the killing, displacement and starvation of thousands of Somalis.
Armed conflict and extreme drought prevented farmers from planting and harvesting corps, and
increased violence restricted movement. Agro-pastoral communities were caught in the fighting and,
along with minority groups, suffered waves of invasions from the militias of different fighting clans.
According to the UN, more than four million Somalis were threatened by starvation:
“Almost 4.5 million people and more than half the total number in the country, were threatened
with starvation, severe malnutrition and related diseases. The magnitude of suffering was
immense. Overall, an estimated 300,000 people, including many children, died. Some 2 million
people, violently displaced from their home areas, fled either to neighbouring countries or
elsewhere within Somalia. All institutions of governance and at least 60 per cent of the country’s
basic infrastructure disintegrated.” United Nations/ Somalia UNOSOM I, Background
The deteriorating situation in Somalia led the United Nations Secretary-General to become more
involved in the political aspects of the crisis and advocate for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
On 3 March 1992, after four days of negotiations, Interim Somali President Ali Mahdi and General
Aideed signed the “Agreement on the Implementation of a Ceasefire.” This agreement included the
acceptance of a UN security component for humanitarian assistance convoys and the deployment of
20 military observers on each side of Mogadishu to monitor the ceasefire. At the same time, the joint
delegation was consulted regarding a national reconciliation conference to which all Somali groups
would be invited. On 24 April, 1992, in response to a recommendation of the Secretary-General,
the Security Council adopted resolution 751 (1992), which established United Nations Operations in
Page 26 Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
The ceasefire was ignored by the fighting groups and the armed conflict continued in all areas of
Somalia, putting relief operations at great risk. Outgoing US President George H.W. Bush (George Bush
Sr.) proposed that American troops should lead a much larger UN operation to ensure the safe delivery
of humanitarian supplies to the starving, displaced and wounded people of Somalia. The Security
Council consented and 25,000 US troops were deployed to Somalia in December 1992 (Snyder, 2011).
The United Taskforce (UNITAF) replaced UNOSOM as leader of Operation Restore Hope. UNITAF was
not intended to be an open-ended commitment and had the objective of rapidly securing trade routes
in Somalia to deliver much needed food supplies. UNITAF’s principal goal was to establish a secure
environment in Somalia for urgent humanitarian assistance, after which military command would be
handed over to the UN. Good coordination on the ground and at UN Headquarters was established
between UNITAF and the UN. During this time, UNOSOM retained full responsibility for the political
and humanitarian assistance aspects of operations. UNOSOM remained in the capital and continued
to liaise with UNITAF to plan for the transition to normal peacekeeping functions.
Despite improvements, it was difficult to establish a secure environment in Somalia and violence
continued. The country lacked an effective and functioning government, an organised civilian police
force and a disciplined national army. The security threat to personnel of the UN, UNITAF, Red Cross
and NGOs was high in some parts of Mogadishu and other areas in Somalia. Moreover, no UNITAF
or UNOSOM troops were deployed to the north-east and north-west of Somalia or along the Kenyan-
Somali border, where security continued to be a major concern.
As a result, the UN Secretary-General concluded that, when the Security Council determined that it
was time for the transition from UNITAF to the second phase of UNOSOM, the latter should be given
enforcement powers under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter to establish a secure environment
in Somalia (United Nations). Under this mandate, UNOSOM II would complete, through disarmament
and reconciliation, the tasks initiated by UNITAF for the restoration of peace, stability, and law and
order. The mandate would also empower UNOSOM II to provide assistance to Somalis for rebuilding
economic, social and political life, re-establishing the country’s institutions, attaining national political
reconciliation, creating a Somali state based on democratic governance and recovering infrastructure.
UNITAF transitioned to UNOSOM II in March 1993. UNOSOM II’s efforts to protect humanitarian
assistance deliveries were directly opposed by warlord Muhammad Farah Aideed. The most significant
challenge came on 3 October, 1993, when Aideed’s forces shot down two Black Hawk helicopters in
a confrontation that resulted in the deaths of 18 US soldiers and hundreds of Somalis. The deaths
turned the tide of public opinion in the United States, and President Bill Clinton removed US troops
from combat four days later. Although fighting continued in the country, all US troops left the country
in March 1994 and the UN withdrew in March 1995, leaving Somalia in a virtual state of anarchy and
Page 27Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
Women and children queue to enter a free medical clinic run by Ugandan and Burundian personnel of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM)
in Baidoa, capital of Somalia’s Bay region. UN Photo/Abdi Dakan.
Page 28 Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
Page 29Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
After 13 failed reconciliation conferences, President Ismail Omar Ghelle of Djibouti announced in his
inaugural address to the 54th session of the United Nations General Assembly that his country would
host another peace conference for the warring factions in Somalia. President Ghelle realised that the
question of which groups participated would be critical not only for the outcome of the negotiations
but also for their legitimacy. He replaced warlords with representatives of Somali civil society and clan
elders. From May to August 2000, more than 2,500 participants from all sections of Somali society met
in Djibouti for the National Reconciliation Conference. Representatives of the international community
and the African Union were among the participants.
“The peace conference began on 2 May 2000 in Arta, just outside the Djibouti capital. The first phase
consisted of a meeting of traditional and clan leaders, including elders from across the country.
For six weeks, the participants worked on clan reconciliation and on drawing up an agenda and
lists of the delegates to represent the various clans. Delegates were to include political, business
and religious leaders along with representatives of civil society. When President Gelle opened
the second phase of the Arta process on 15 June 2000, there were no fewer than 810 delegates:
four delegations of 180 each (including 20 women) representing the major clan families (Darod,
Hawiye, Rahanweyn, Dir) plus 90 delegates representing smaller groups (including ten women).”
TRANSITIONAL NATIONAL GOVERNMENT
The National Reconciliation Conference (Arta Conference) established the Transitional National
Government (TNG) with Dr. Abdikassim Salad Hassan as President. The international community
welcomed the new Somali government, and the newly elected President visited a number of countries
and validated his position internationally by taking Somalia’s empty seat at the UN, Arab League and
African Union. However, the TNG failed to serve as a government of national unity over the course
of its three-year mandate and remained dominated by only a couple of clans, leading the regional
Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) to initiate a new Somali peace conference in 2002
in Kenya. The new peace talks were structured by IGAD, the UN and the European Commission.
During the 2002 reconciliation conference in Kenya, major progress was made, and a three-phase
process was launched, consisting of the declaration of a ceasefire, resolution of key conflict issues
and an agreement on power sharing in the central government. As the peace talks moved to the third
phase, some of the key figures involved in the conflict suggested use of the 4.5 formula (see box 1) for
power sharing. However, due to rivalries within the clans, this formula has been unable to successfully
engender equal power sharing. Representatives of the clans that became splintered during the course
of 15 years of war have suffered the consequences of this method of power sharing.
Page 30 Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
TRANSITIONAL FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
In 2004, an additional international peace conference was held in Nairobi, Kenya, and led to the
formation of the Transnational Federal Government (TFG) and the election of Abdulahi Yusuf Ahmed
as the new Somali President. The government endorsed the TFG charter of the Somali Republic, and
TFG became the second interim administration since the collapse of the Siad Barre regime and the
ensuing civil war.
The TFG faced great challenges in its efforts to restore law and order and bring reconciliation to a
divided nation. Its authority was further compromised in 2006 by the rise of the Union of Islamic
Courts (ICU), which gained control of much of southern Somalia. In 2006, Ethiopian forces launched
an operation inside Somalia in an effort to dislodge ICU administration and consolidate the TFG. With
the support of Ethiopian forces and US airstrikes, the TFG seized control from the Islamists at the end
of 2006. Three years later, after a long battle, Ethiopian forces pulled out and 149 new Members of
Parliament from the main opposition movement, the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, were
sworn in in neighbouring Djibouti. Parliament extended the mandate of the TFG for another two years,
and the former leader of the ICU, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad, was sworn in as the new President.
The Ethiopian intervention was unsuccessful in eliminating the power of the ICU in Somalia and
instead resulted in a more radical and dangerous opposition. The dispersed ICU splintered into several
factions, triggering the emergence of the Islamic group Al-Shabaab, a terrorist organisation striving to
build an Islamic state in Somalia through the use of violence against the Somali government, diaspora,
and western countries and organisations. Al-Shabaab fought back against the Interim Administrative
Government and Ethiopian troops regained control of most of southern Somalia by late 2008.
Meanwhile, in February 2007, the United Nations Security Council authorised the African Union to
deploy a peacekeeping mission in Somalia. Two months later, the African Union Mission in Somalia
(AMISOM) began deploying in Mogadishu. The mandate of AMISOM is to protect the Somali government,
promote reconciliation and support the delivery of humanitarian aid.
The 4.5 Formula - Box 1
The 4.5 formula is a selection method for power sharing and was first implemented in Lebanon.
In Somalia, the four main clans are the Darood, Hawiye, Dir and Rahanweyn. The ‘0.5’ collectively
includes all the minority clans (Harper, 2012).
For the purposes of this formula, the Isaaq and Gadabursi clans are grouped together in the Dir
clan group. Each clan selects 61 members of Parliament from their lineage. The 4.5 formula is highly
disputed as a mechanism for conflict resolution and power sharing in a country with a long history
Page 31Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
The transitional government of Sheik Sharif Sheikh Ahmad led the final stages of the transition. The main
players were H.E. Sheik Sharif Sheikh Ahmad, President of the Transnational Federal Government (TFG);
H.E. Dr Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, Prime Minister of the TFG; H.E. Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, Speaker of the
Transitional Federal Parliament; H.E. Abdirahman Mohamed Mohamud (Farole), President of Puntland
State; H.E. Mohamed Ahmed Aalim, President of Galmudug State; Khaliif Abdulkadir Moallim Noor,
leader of the Ahlu Sunna wal Jama (ASWJ); and Amb. Augustine Mahiga, the UN Special Representative to
Somalia (Communiqué of Somali Road Map Signatories, 2012). These were the signatories of the roadmap
signed in September 2011 that has remained the focus of international engagement. The roadmap
focused on two goals: finalisation of a provisional constitution and creation of the National Constituent
Assembly (NCA), which would endorse this constitution.
According to the roadmap, the Members of the Federal Parliament were to be selected by the traditional
elders, supported by the Technical Selection Committee (TSC). The TSC had the mandate to publicise
the list of 135 recognised traditional elders who were engaged in selecting members for the National
Constituent Assembly (NCA) and the new Federal Parliament in accordance with the relevant procedures.
In addition, the TSC had the following functions and responsibilities (Somali Roadmap Signatories, 2012):
• To evaluate progress against objective criteria as stipulated in the roadmap;
• To determine the rules for the process of nominating and selecting candidates for appointment to
the NCA and the Federal Parliament;
• To promote full transparency in the process of nominating and selecting candidates for the NCA and
The TFG was supported by many international governments and engaged in several high-level
conferences. The most important of these took place in London, United Kingdom, and Istanbul, Turkey,
in February and May 2012, respectively.
Meanwhile, on the ground, the security situation improved. Somali National Army troops, supported by
African Union troops, defeated Al-Shabaab and forced them to withdraw completely from Mogadishu
after heavy fighting.
Page 32 Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
Background photo: A Somali boy holds a shirt aloft to dry in the wind at Lido Beach in Mogadishu. UN Photo/Stuart Price.
Page 33Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
POST-TRANSITIONAL PERIOD: STATE-BUILDING AND DE-
As per its Provisional Constitution, Somalia has a two-level government—the Federal Government of
Somalia and the Regional Government, which consists of Federal Member States and local governments.
On 1 August 2012, the NCA, which consisted of 825 members, adopted the Provisional Constitution.
Meanwhile, traditional elders elected the 275 members of the House of the People to the Federal
Parliament. Following their nomination, the new Members of the Federal Parliament took office on 20
August 2012. On 10 September 2012, Somalia’s Federal Parliament elected Hassan Sheikh Mahamoud,
a former civil society activist, as the new President of Somalia. His inauguration marked the end of the
transitional period and the beginning of a new chapter in Somalia’s history.
Shortly after his election, President Mohamoud appointed Abdi Farah Shirdon as Prime Minister. He
and his ten-member cabinet were endorsed by Parliament on 13 November 2012. The international
community welcomed the newly elected President and recommitted efforts to support the new
Government. In January 2013, the United States granted official recognition to the Somali Government
in Mogadishu. Many European, Asian and Arabic countries have since re-opened their embassies in
The post-transition period has been marked by economic recovery and a large portion of the diaspora
returning to the country. Mogadishu’s main seaport officially began exporting livestock for the first time
in two decades. Huge reconstruction projects are being developed and many new businesses have
been opened. The Turkish Government has supported the rebuilding of infrastructure such as main
roads, and solar lights have been installed in the streets of Mogadishu.
DEVELOPING THE FRAMEWORK TOWARDS VISION 2016
The first priority of the new President was to organise national conferences to develop frameworks and
set priorities for the coming years in cooperation with national experts, regional authorities, scholars
and the international community. The second and most important conference was Vision 2016 in
September 2013, which was followed by the Brussels New Deal Conference, also in September 2013.
The national Vision 2016 conference was held in Mogadishu on 2-6 September 2013. The aim of the
conference was to gather national experts, regional authorities, religious leaders, Somali scholars,
professional groups, and women’s and youth groups to produce a general framework for advancing
the political process of the Federal Government.
In addition, the conference sought to engage political stakeholders throughout the country in the political
process to complete the Provisional Constitution of Somalia and encourage dialogue and consensus
building among the population on the process of transitioning towards democratic legitimacy by 2016.
The conference marked the kick-off of a long process of national dialogue on concrete questions of
federalism, democratisation, and constitutional review. The aim of Vision 2016 was to initiate a national
dialogue on constitutional and political issues that pose challenges to Somalia in moving forward as a
peaceful and democratic federal republic.
Page 34 Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
The Vision 2016 document was presented as a guideline for Somalia to reach its post-transition
benchmarks and covers items such as a constitutional review and referendum, and the first post-
transition national elections, which are scheduled for 2016. The conference delegates deliberated on
the following thematic issues:
• Constitutional development, including review, oversight and implementation;
• Options for models of federalism;
• Reform and good governance;
• The electoral process and party politics;
• Political outreach, public engagement, reconciliation and transitional justice.
court as well as the establishment of the following commissions:
• Constitution Review and Implementation Commission
• Boundaries and Federations Commission
• Independent Electoral Commission
• Truth and Reconciliation Commission
• Land and Property Commission
On 16 September 2013, Somalia signed the New Deal Compact at the New Deal Conference in Brussels.
The conference was co-hosted by the European Union and Somalia. The international community
endorsed the Somali Compact and pledged financial support to facilitate its implementation. The
compact is considered a roadmap for promoting state-building and peace-building. The New Deal lays
out five peace-building and state-building goals that focus on inclusive political processes, security,
justice, economic foundations and revenue and services. The compact has a special arrangement
for Somaliland and, under the New Deal partnership, is the sole framework for engagement with
the development process in the country. Vision 2016 and the New Deal outline goals for Somalia’s
commitment to its Constitution and to holding elections by 2016.
Delivering Somalia’s Vision 2016 plan has been a long and challenging process. Political instability,
the poor security situation, and a lack of human capital and financial resources have slowed down
the process. However, the Government of Somalia has taken important steps in the implementation
process of the Vision 2016 framework. It has nominated key commissions; the Federal Parliament has
passed important legislation; and new federal states have inaugurated administrations.
As of April 2015, the Government and Federal Parliament have approved the following commissions:
• In May 2014, the Somali Council of Ministers approved the nomination of five experts to serve
as commissioners on the Independent Constitutional Review and Implementation Commission
(ICRIC). On 19 June 2014, the Federal Parliament of Somalia approved the nominations.
• In November 2014, the Somali cabinet approved legislation for the National Independent Electoral
Page 35Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
Bill. The bill established a new independent Electoral Commission, which will play a major role in the
administration of the national elections in 2016. The commission should be operationalised before
July 2015, including the nomination of commissioners.
• In December 2014, Somali Parliament approved Boundaries and Federation Commission legislation,
will be appointed.
• On 7 May 2015, the Council of Ministers endorsed nominations for members of the National
Independent Electoral Commission; Boundaries and Federation Commission; and Judicial Services
Commission. All three commissions are vital for the implementation of Vision 2016.
• In August 2013, the first regional administration, the Interim Jubba Administration (IJA) was formed
as the result of talks between the Federal Government of Somalia and the Jubba delegation. They
agreed on an interim administration for Jubba, comprising the Gedo, Lower Jubba and Middle Jubba
regions, which would consist, without prejudice, of whatever the people of these regions eventually
decided on as a result of the constitutional process. On 20 January 2014, the IJA was officially launched
in Kismayo. The formation of new regional administrations has been an important milestone in
implementing the Vision 2016 framework.
• On 17 November 2014, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan was elected as the leader of the Interim Southwest
Administration (ISWA), which is composed of the three regions of Bay, Bakool and Lower Shebelle.
In May 2015, stakeholders gathered in Adado town for the Central State formation conference. On 23
March 2015, Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke met with development partners and the
Somali Development and Reconstruction Facility-Steering Committee to review funding for projects
under the New Deal for Somalia. The Somali Development and Reconstruction Facility is the umbrella
organisation that streamlines funding instruments and coordinates and aligns development support for
projects under the Somali New Deal Compact. The high-level delegation is composed of representatives
from the Federal Government and regional administrations as well as the international community.
The main objective of the meeting was to discuss priority actions that the Federal Government can
implement in partnership with the international community as part of the New Deal Framework. The
meeting endorsed 11 priority programs that support constitutional review, state formation, and the
electoral process, rule of law, youth employment, information and communication technologies, and
institutional capacity development (UNSOM, 2015).
Page 36 Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
Preparing for and holding credible elections by 2016 is a key element of Vision 2016 and the New Deal
Compact for Somalia. It was a challenging commitment made in 2012 in the wake of the new post-
transition roadmap. The aim is to create an electoral framework that can assemble broad support
from all Somalis. The Vision 2016 document states that, to deliver this priority, a functioning and
independent election commission and the ratification of related legislation - including that which
governs political parties and voter registration - should be established within a specific timeline. In
addition, it mandates that the Provisional Constitution should be reviewed and adopted by popular
referendum. However, the document does not elaborate on how general elections should be organised
considering the security situation and logistical challenges to holding free and fair elections.
In September 2013, in the closing speech of the Vision 2016 conference, President Mohamoud
reaffirmed his commitment to organising elections in 2016 and stated that there will be no extension
or involvement of elders in selection committees. However, as of May 2015, little is known about how
the general elections will be organised, despite the major logistical obstacles such as ensuring voter
registration, organising a referendum on the Constitution and setting mechanisms to ensure the
transparency and legality of political parties. The Electoral Commission was recently approved and
nominated, without any clarity on how voters will be identified and registered. Additionally, in order to
hold general elections, a significant number of districts must be liberated from Al-Shabaab.
Despite these challenges, the strict policy line of the Government and the international community—
that elections will be held in 2016—remains unaffected. Ambassador Nicholas Kay, United Nations
Special Representative for Somalia, asserted in a press statement that a year-long extension would be
unacceptable and that the Federal Government should do whatever is necessary to ensure that the
timeline of Vision 2016 is implemented.
There are valid arguments for refusing to consider an extension. Recent developments in the country
will be strengthened further before the general elections in 2016. However, many argue that the push
for elections is placing massive pressure on the Parliament and could endanger work that needs to be
completed on other issues. The sole focus on the general elections may threaten the synergy between
various political processes. Regulations for the electoral system should be created in concert with
other processes and frameworks, as declared in Vision 2016.
The International Crisis Group (ICG), an organisation committed to preventing and resolving conflict,
has stated that the dogged focus on holding elections in 2016 will inevitably distract from other
essential activities, such as the need to strengthen gains against Al-Shabaab outside of Mogadishu
(International Crisis Group).
Somali politicians have been discussing alternatives for the one man, one vote elections. Different
scenarios are being discussed, such as the possibility of organising local elections in the regional states
and have their representatives elect the Federal Parliament. A different option could be a model similar
to the 2012 elections in which the elders would choose the representatives. None of these options or
others has been publicly discussed by the Federal Government.
Page 37Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
Despite the overall improvements in the security situation in Somalia, the Federal Government still faces
huge challenges and setbacks. A great deal has been achieved, particularly through concerted, joint
efforts of the Federal Government and the international community, but political instability and the
security situation in the country has had a profound impact on the implementation of Vision 2016.
The Somali National Army, supported by AMISOM, has launched a number of operations against Al-
Shabaab. Operation Eagle (March 2014) and Operation Indian Ocean (September 2014) targeted Al-
Shabaab in major inland cities and strategic coastal towns. The operations resulted in the liberation of
18 significant towns, including the Al-Shabaab strongholds of Barawe and Adale.
By October 2014, almost 80% of the country was under the control of the Somali Government. However,
despite recent losses, Al-Shabaab remains a major player still able to hit key targets and officials. Weak
Somali security institutions are currently fragmented and struggling to deliver a decisive defeat to Al-
Shabaab. In 2014, Al-Shabaab attacked the presidential palace (Villa Somalia), the Parliament building,
the AMISOM Compound and several hotels including Jazeera Hotel and Makka Makurama Hotel, as well
as many popular restaurants and some crowded public areas. Al-Shabaab has continued the targeted
killing of Members of Parliament, government officials, and members of the business community and
diaspora. The imminent threat of terrorist attacks has had a great impact on political processes and
economic development. In April 2015, the Government adopted a new strategy for countering the threat
of terrorism in Somalia. The counter terrorism strategy came just days after the horrific attack of Al-
Shabaab against students in Garissa, Kenya.
AMISOM and Somali Troops Conduct Patrols near Baidoa. UN Photo/Abdi Dakan.
Page 38 Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
On 2 December 2013, Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon was removed after a no-confidence vote in
the Somali Federal Parliament, and a new cabinet under Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed was
endorsed by Parliament on 22 January 2014. The end of 2014 saw another political row between the
Prime Minister and President over a cabinet reshuffle. The European Union Representative in Somalia,
the UN Ambassador and several other stakeholders issued separate press statements urging the
President and Prime Minister to set aside their differences and continue working on the implementation
of Vision 2016. In addition, they urged the Federal Parliament to fulfil its constitutional duty and adhere
to standard legislative protocols.
On 6 December 2014, the Parliament held a session to vote on the no-confidence motion against the Prime
Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed. 153 of the present MPs voted in favour of the motion, 80 voted against
it and two abstained. The Prime Minister thus lost the confidence of the Parliament, which signified the
end of his term. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud named Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke his third
Prime Minister. In February 2014, Prime Minister Sharmarke appointed his cabinet, which was the third
The ambiguity and contradictions in the Provisional Constitution regarding the division of power
between the President and the Prime Minister are seen by many as the root cause of political in-fighting.
The Constitution grants the President the mandate to appoint and dismiss minsters, deputy ministers
and state ministers, as recommended by the Prime Minister. At the same time, the Prime Minister has
the right to appoint and dismiss ministers and other members of the Council of Ministers. In addition,
the President has the constitutional mandate to appoint senior governmental officials and heads of
government institutions, on the recommendation of the Council of Ministers. The Constitution gives the
President power to appoint and dismiss the Commanders of the Forces at the Federal Government level,
on the recommendation of the Council of Ministers. However, the extent to which the recommendation
of the Council of Ministers is necessary for implementation is unclear. Most of the above-mentioned
powers that are constitutionally mandated to the executive branch and the President have been
interpreted in many different ways in practice.
Furthermore, while the House of the People can propose the dismissal of the President if he is accused
of treason or gross violation of the Constitution or the laws of the Federal Republic of Somalia, the
must be presented to the constitutional court, which does not currently exist, which will examine the
grounds for dismissing the President (Provisional Constitution). In view of the absence of a constitutional
court, Members of Parliament will continue to hold the power to begin impeachment procedures, which
will contribute to continued political instability. Political crisis risks further delays in progress on crucial
political and security issues.
The United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) 2012 Human Development Report stated that
Somali development and humanitarian indicators are among the lowest in the world. Somalia has
one of the lowest Human Development Index (HDI) scores, achieving only 0.285 out of 1.0. Overall
unemployment among people aged 15-64 is estimated to be at 54%, and unemployment for youth aged
14-29 is 67%, some of the highest rates in the world. The average life expectancy in Somalia is 50 years,
Page 39Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
up from 47 years in 2001. The UNDP report estimated GDP in Somalia to be US$284 per capita against a
sub-Saharan Africa average of US$1,300 per capita. External aid (mostly humanitarian) and remittances
are key sources of national income (UNDP, 2012).
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
Armed conflicts accompanied by drought, flood, and famine have caused large numbers of IDPs in
Somalia. According to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), there are an estimated
964,000 IDPs living in southern and central Somalia, including 369,000 in Mogadishu and the surrounding
area. Many of these IDPs live under harsh conditions in camps, and women and children are at risk of
serious human rights abuses. Ongoing military operations against Al-Shabaab have led to an increase in
the number of new IDPs. International organisations have established various resettlement programs
for IDPs to support the Federal Government in dealing with this issue.
Political Participation of Women
The collapse of the state affected the political participation of Somali women in several ways. Their legal
status became weaker, the lack of law and order often caused serious harm and their political roles were
marginalised. However, Somali women actively participated in peace-building and conflict resolution
during the civil war. Women have also been successful in influencing clan elders to mediate during
During the International Peace conferences, women’s organisations have successfully advocated for
sufficient representation in Parliament. The Garowe II Conference (February 2012) agreed to a 30%
minimum representation of women in Parliament. However, the political arena in Somalia remains
mostly male dominated, with limited participation of women. While women have focused their energy
on creating a strong civil society, at the end of the transition period, their position had changed very little.
Their political participation continues to be very limited, and they are still underrepresented in other
areas. Fewer than 15% of Federal Parliament seats are occupied by women (39 of 275 seats).
Recent developments continue to reflect an exclusion of women in significant state-building processes.
For example, women have not been sufficiently represented in the ongoing implementation of Vision
2016, including the formation of the federal system and the electoral and constitutional review
processes. They are rarely invited to participate in processes for reconciliation and peace negotiation
and remain underrepresented in government, particularly in security institutions. It is no surprise that
United Nations Development Program (UNDP) ranks Somalia in the bottom five countries for gender
equality (UNDP, 2012).
A key obstacle to women’s participation is the clan-based election system, in which elders play a major
role in electing Members of Parliament, and the traditional customs of Somali society. International
instruments that support women’s full inclusion in politics, such as the United Nations Security Council
Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, have not been fully implemented in Somalia. Despite
these challenges, the implementation process of Vision 2016 provides a window of opportunity that can
contribute significantly to the role of women in the new institutions it creates. The Somali Parliament
can play a key role in institutionalising women’s rights for equal participation and help create public
awareness of the importance of women’s participation in the social, economic and political development
of the country.
Page 40Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
Page 41 Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
Somalia has a long, rich history that dates back to the prehistoric era. Although Somalia’s pastoral,
nomadic communities traditionally had strong shared cultural and religious beliefs, they have never
formed a single political entity. The clan structure and customs such as xeer and kinship (tol) have
been instrumental in maintaining peace, but clans have been competing over resources for centuries.
The colonial powers and military regime effectively dismantled the traditional mechanisms of law and
order. The collapse of the state and other governing institutions left the country in total chaos and
In the early years of the civil war, nearly every clan or clan group formed a militia. Clans became self-
governing entities that legitimised the use of violence, and little remained of the pan-Somali concept
of the fathers of independence. However, Somalia has not remained in anarchy. In recent years, the
Somali people have used their traditions, methods of conflict resolution and religion to restore security
and authority in many regions. Many initiatives have been launched and led by Somalis with the aim of
re-establishing the political and social institutions of the country.
At the many peace conferences, the international community has emphasised the use of the clan
structure to create political unity and resolve conflict in efforts to end the civil war. Clan elders and
members of the political elite who lacked legitimacy were invited to these conferences in attempts
to return safety and security to Somalia. The clan structure remains a major factor in current Somali
Somali politicians and Members of Parliaments have the formidable task of leading the nation to the
first free and fair elections since the military coup. Building a democratic parliamentary system from
scratch is a great challenge, a challenge that requires a comprehensive approach and not the limited
focus on the elections and the process of federalisation which could undermine other important areas
such as security and delivery of basic services to the population. Even if the general elections are not
organised as expected, Somalia will still enter a new phase of its history and will face challenges that
require the facilitation of the international community and organisations.
As Somalia moves forward into this new phase, it is important to keep in mind the lessons that history
has offered. The lingering effects of colonisation regarding foreign influence and forced state-building
that ensued in the post-colonial era have changed the shape of the contemporary political landscape
in Somalia. The summary of the history and social and political structures of Somalia provided in this
report offers insight into how to manage the current challenges the Somali government faces as it
moves into the future.
Background photo: Lifeguards patrol the water for swimmers in distress at Lido Beach in Mogadishu. UN /Tobin Jones.
Page 42 Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
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Members of the business community in Kismayo attend a meeting with foreign journalists to discuss the recent liberation
of the city by al-Shabab and the future of the region’s charcoal industry. UN Photo / Tobin Jones.
Page 44 Somalia: A Brief Counrty Report
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