In the 7th century Arabs and Persians
developed a series of trading posts along the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. In the 10th century the area was peopled by Somali nomads and pastoral GALLA
from southwest Ethiopia. For the next
900 years Somalis spread throughout the Horn of Africa. Britain and Italy occupied different parts of the territory in the 1880s, and until World War II, Somalia remained under colonial control. In 1941, Britain occupied Italian Somaliland and in 1948 gave the OGADEN region to Ethiopia, although it was populated largely by Somalis. By
1950 the United Nations had voted to grant independence to Somalia, and
in 1960 the two former colonies were united to form the Somali
was ruled by a civilian government until 1969, when President Siad Barre came to power in a military coup. His Somali Revolutionary
Socialist party, created in 1976, formed the government. Areas inhabited primarily by Somalis, including Djibouti, the Ogaden, and northeast Kenya,
had long been considered lost Somali territories. Somalia invaded the Ogaden
in 1977, but Ethiopia regained control of the area, and Soviet forces were
expelled from Somalia in 1977 for their support of Ethiopia. The country then received U.S. and other Western aid (mostly food for its refugee population). Sporadic conflict
with Ethiopia continued until 1988. Armed
domestic opposition to Siad Barre began in the north in 1988 with the Isaaq-based Somali National Movement (SNM) and was brutally
suppressed. Other clan-backed groups, most notably the Hawiye United Somali Congress (USC) and the Ogadeni Somali Patriotic
Movement (SPM), joined the antigovernment struggle, and Siad Barre fled on Jan. 27, 1991. In May the SNM declared northern
Somalia the independent Republic
of Somaliland, an act that was not recognized by any foreign nation.
Northern Somalia has since governed itself independently, completing a planned two-year transition
to multiparty democracy with the indirect election of a new president in May 1993.
Elsewhere in Somalia,
fighting soon erupted between various rebel groups, most notably those of transitional president Ali Mahdi Mohammed and the
Aidids -Father/Son- (both USC subclan warlords). Violence in Mogadishu continued after authority
for the peacekeeping effort was transferred from U.S.
to UN forces on May 1, 1993. After the death of 18 U.S. soldiers in a firefight
with forces loyal to Aidid in October, the United States announced plans
to leave Somalia. The last U.S. combat troops departed on Mar. 25, 1994, officially bringing the 15-month U.S. mission to a close. Later that year, as a result of renewed
violence and a lack of progress in diplomatic efforts to create a new political structure for the country, the UN reduced
the size of its peacekeeping force in Somalia.
Siad Barre died in exile in Lagos,
Nigeria, on Jan. 2, 1995. The UN mandate, which had been scheduled
to expire on Oct. 31, 1994, was briefly extended, but the last UN troops withdrew from Somalia on Mar. 3, 1995. In the absence of a strong central government, the civil
war continued; renewed fighting also erupted in northern Somalia.
Neither Aidid nor his rival claimants to the presidency were recognized by the UN or other international organizations, and
Aidid was ousted as the chairman of his own faction in June 1995.