Somalia


Somalia

geographical name

Country, eastern Africa. Located in the Horn of Africa, it stretches from just south of the Equator to the Gulf of Aden. Area: 246,201 sq mi (637,657 sq km). Population (2009 est.): 9,133,000 (excluding an estimated 450,000 refugees in other countries). Capital: Mogadishu. Most of the people are nomadic or seminomadic Somali. Languages: Somali, Arabic (both official); also English, Italian. Religion: Islam (official; predominantly Sunni). Currency: Somali shilling. Much of Somalia is semidesert. The central and southern regions are flat, while the northern region rises to form rugged mountain ranges. Only a tiny proportion of its land is arable, though more than half is grazeable. Somalia has a developing mixed economy based largely on livestock and agriculture. It is one of the poorest countries in the world. It has a transitional regime with one legislative body; the head of state and government is the president, assisted by the prime minister. Muslim Arabs and Persians first established trading posts along the coasts in the 7th–10th centuries. By the 10th century Somali nomads occupied the area inland from the Gulf of Aden, and the south and west were inhabited by various groups of pastoral Oromo peoples. Intensive European exploration began after the British occupation of Aden in 1839, and in the late 19th century Britain and Italy set up protectorates in the region. During World War II the Italians invaded British Somaliland (1940); a year later British troops retook the area. Britain administered the region until 1950, when Italian Somaliland became a UN trust territory. In 1960 it was united with the former British Somaliland, and the two became the independent Republic of Somalia. Since then it has suffered political and civil strife, including military dictatorship, civil wars, drought, and famine. No effective central government has existed since the early 1990s. In 1991 a Republic of Somaliland was proclaimed by a breakaway group on territory corresponding to the former British Somaliland, and in 1998 the autonomous region of Puntland in the northeast was self-proclaimed; neither received international recognition, but both were more stable than the rest of Somalia. Several attempts have been made to end the conflict and create a new central government; Somalia's most recent transitional government was approved in 2004, but the country subsequently remained in turmoil. Incidents of piracy increased along the country's coast in the early 21st century and were the focus of international concern.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on Somalia, visit Britannica.com.

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