Somalia (1988 – first combat deaths)

Tasneem Jamal Africa

Updated: June 2015


The Conflict at a Glance:

Who (are the main combatants): The Somali Federal Government (SFG), Puntland Administration and the Jubaland administration, with the support of Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama, Raskambomi, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the United Nations, and the Kenyan and Ethiopian governments, are trying to create stability in the country. Their efforts are challenged by al-Shabaab, an armed opposition group that has support from al-Qaeda, Mohamed Said Atom and the government of Eritrea. Al-Shabaab rejects the idea of a centralized government and wants to establish an Islamic state. Clan-based militias and warlords also cause internal unrest.

What (started the conflict): In an effort to gain legitimacy, the SFG is attempting to introduce a new constitution and expand their territorial control, especially in the southern regions where al-Shabaab remains the dominant power. Clan-based militias and warlords continue to push back against the government. Al-Shabaab has lost significant territory to the SFG and their security forces over the last few years. Attacks made by al-Shabaab are still frequent and pose substantial risk to civilian security. The number of deaths remains high, with approximately 800 killed in 2013.

When (has fighting occurred): Somalia was declared a failed state in 1991 and has experienced continuous internal unrest since. However, significant changes were made to increase stability in the country when the Transitional National Government was created during the National Peace Conference in 2000. The Transitional Federal Government existed from 2004 to 2012 and was replaced by the SFG. Al-Shabaab was established in 2004. In 2006 the Islamic Courts Union took control of Mogadishu after fighting with warlords. In December 2006 and January 2007 troops from Ethiopia fought in support of the Somali central government against the Islamic Courts Union. In 2009 al-Shabaab, the military wing of the Islamic Courts, and Hizbul Islam began a large-scale offensive to topple the Somali government.

Where (has the conflict taken place): Conflict is prevalent throughout the country, as the actors fight to claim and reclaim territory. As of 2013, the southern states, especially the rural regions, are mainly controlled by al-Shabaab; the SFG controls the capital of Mogadishu and surrounding cities such as the port city Kismayo, captured in 2012.  Somaliland, the semi-autonomous Puntland region and the newly established administration in the Jubaland region are relatively stable.



2015 The Federal State Formation process continued to cause tension in Somalia. Al-Shabaab maintained a heightened level of activity, with frequent low- to mid-intensity attacks. AMISOM and Somali National Army operations against Al-Shabaab led to a number of clashes over territorial control. Three consultative meetings between the Somali Federal Government and the interim federal states took place. The Jubaland Parliament was inaugurated in March, with members of parliament selected in April. Many civilians were killed and displaced.

2014 AMISOM troops and the Somali army made significant advances against al-Shabaab, pushing it out of Barawe, its coastal stronghold. Attacks attributed to the group continued throughout the country, intensifying during the Ramadan holiday. Civilian deaths, displacements, and human rights abuses continued, with all parties accused of wrongdoing. Prime Minister Abdiweli was ousted in a parliamentary vote in December and was succeeded by Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke. In September al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane was killed during drone strikes by the United States.Ahmed Umar became the new leader of the group. Also in September the Government offered amnesty to al-Shabaab fighters. According to International Crisis Group, there were more than 750 conflict-related deaths. The United Nations reported that 120,000 people were displaced.

2013 There were three significant political developments: the establishment of a new administration and President in Jubaland, the election of a new President in Puntland and the appointment of a new Prime Minister in the Somali Federal Government (SFG). Somali-AMISOM forces continued to take substantial territory from al-Shabaab in the early months of 2013. Security operations resulted in the arrests of thousands of militants.Al-Shabaab continued to employ car and suicide bombings to terrorize civilians and government officials. A strike by the Kenyan government killed 300 al-Shabaab militants in late October. Approximately 180 government officials and 80 civilians were killed in the ongoing violence. UN Resolution 2124 increased African Union (AU) forces in the region by 4,400 and UN Resolution 2093 lifted the arms embargo against Somali Security Forces while maintaining it against non-state actors. “The Somali Compact” international initiative to rebuild Somalia proposed a plan to develop a federal constitution by 2015 and hold elections in 2016. According to recent statistics by the UNHCR there are still one million Somali refugees; it was reported that 21,361 Somalis sought refuge in bordering countries in 2013. As well there were 1.1 million internally displaced persons.

2012 The year was characterized by significant political transformation. A new constitution was adopted; a new parliament, president, and prime minister were selected; and government security forces, multinational peacekeepers, and allied clans and militias expanded the government’s territorial control. In September combined Somali-AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) forces launched a surprise attack on the strategic port of Kismayo, capturing the city with limited resistance from al-Shabaab. This followed the earlier captures of Baidoa, Afgoye, Afmadow, Balad and Merca by combined Somali-AMISOM and Ethiopian forces. Kismayo was regarded as the last stronghold of al-Shabaab; it supplied the group with an income base and the ability to import supplies. Although al-Shabaab had largely abandoned fixed territorial positions, it continued to engage in guerrilla-style attacks, actively targeting federal and multinational forces in ambushes, suicide and bomb attacks, and low-intensity clashes. In spite of a National Security and Stabilization Plan to tackle national integration and institutional development, the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia continued to document high-level corruption, diversion of humanitarian aid, illegal exports and collusion between government personnel and pirate leaders.

2011 The mandate for the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was set to expire in August, by which time the Somali government and parliament were supposed to have enacted a new constitution and held an election, neither of which happened. In June, the signing of the Kampala Accord extended the parliament and TFG’s mandate for one year. In September, the UN Security Council extended the AMISOM mandate for another year. According to Human Rights Watch, all parties engaged in fighting were responsible for indiscriminate attacks on civilians and continued recruitment of child soldiers. In June, al-Shabaab declared its allegiance to the new leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri. In August, al-Shabaab withdrew from Mogadishu, citing tactical reasons, but continued to attack the capital. In August, after a string of kidnappings along the Kenyan border, the Kenyan government sent in a force of 3,000 troops to secure the border. In November, al-Shabaab banned 16 aid agencies, including UNICEF, WHO, and Concern Worldwide from areas experiencing famine.

2010 The TFG, backed by AMISOM troops and the pro-government militia Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a (ASWJ), clashed repeatedly with al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam, leading to higher rates of displacement and death than in the previous year. Fighting was particularly heavy in January, when al-Shabaab and ASWJ clashed in central Somalia, and in August, when al-Shabaab declared a “massive new war” on the TFG. AMISOM increased its troop strength from 5,000 to 7,100 and Ethiopia provided additional support for the ASWJ. Politically, the TFG remained fragile; internal divisions led to the resignations of Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke and other key ministers. Violence increased in the Puntland region, especially from October to December, when clashes between rebels led by warlord Mohamed Atom and Puntland government troops resulted in the deaths of a number of MPs and destabilized the Puntland Administration. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for a twin bomb attack in Kampala, marking the first time the group had struck outside Somalia, and raising fears that al-Shabaab was becoming increasingly linked with transnational terrorist networks.

2009 The year was marked by suicide bombings, clashes between militant groups and clashes between government/AMISOM forces and militant groups Hizbul Islam and al-Shabaab. An estimated 550 to 700 civilians, peacekeepers and soldiers were killed, with the heaviest fighting in the capital, Mogadishu. Ethiopian troops pulled out in January; spontaneous celebrations by Somalis followed their departure. President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed forged a peace deal with Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS), but neither Hizbul Islam nor al-Shabaab signed the agreement. Sharia law was implemented in an attempt to appease these groups. Al-Shabaab appeared to gain strength through the support of international recruits and al-Qaeda, raising concerns the group would strike outside Somalia. The United States provided the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) with an estimated 40 tons of weapons in 2009. The humanitarian crisis deepened, particularly in Kenya where the main refugee camp in Dadaab was overpopulated and lacked basic services. Donations to aid agencies were down, humanitarian workers were increasingly targeted and flash floods struck in October, leaving refugees and internally displaced people in a desperate situation by year’s end.

2008 Violence plagued Somalia almost daily. The Supreme Council of Islamic Courts and backer Eritrea continued to do battle with the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and its associates, including African Union troops and Ethiopian troops backed by the United States. The capital, Mogadishu, was close to deserted by the end of 2008, while more than two million Somali residents were displaced and 3.5 million were surviving on food aid. Despite calls for international assistance, the UN did not mandate a peacekeeping and stabilizing mission to Somalia. A June peace deal between the TFG and the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) proved unsuccessful. The militant wing of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), al-Shabaab, refused to acknowledge any deals and pledged to continue attacks until Ethiopian troops left the country. During 2008, the United States bombed locations where al-Qaeda insurgents were allegedly hiding, leading to protests by civilians. Ethiopian troops began pulling out of Somalia in December as the ICU took control of two port cities, rural areas and most of Mogadishu. According to the UN, nearly 15,000 members of Somalia’s police force and military deserted in December. Piracy increased along the southern coast and in the Gulf of Aden; approximately 27 ships were attacked and held for ransom in 2008.  After 33 members of aid agencies, including the Somali head of the UNDP, were killed and 13 more kidnapped by insurgents, most international aid agencies left Somalia. The civilian death toll for the year was estimated at 3,500.

2007 Violence escalated as clashes continued between the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC) and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), supported by Ethiopian troops. Civilian casualties were high and more than one million residents of Mogadishu were forced from their homes. The United Nations declared Somalia the biggest humanitarian crisis in Africa, but did not send a peacekeeping force, citing the level of violence. The African Union mandated a peacekeeping force at the beginning of the year. By year’s end, approximately 2,000 of the mandated 8,000 troops had been deployed. Ethiopian troops were on the ground defending the TFG and Eritrea provided refuge to leaders of the ousted SCIC. An attempt at reconciliation failed in July when the SCIC refused to negotiate while foreign troops remained on Somali soil. Regional disputes between Somaliland and the semi-autonomous Puntland flared up late in the year.

2006 Fighting in the capital of Mogadishu and surrounding areas between warlords and the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC) resulted in more than 300 deaths, most civilian. The reunified Transitional Federal Government (TFG) remained powerless and isolated in the provincial town of Baidoa. Ethiopia and Eritrea became involved in hostilities when Ethiopia sent troops to protect the TFG and Eritrea sent military supplies to the SCIC. The SCIC expressed outrage at U.S. backing of the Alliance for Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT), a warlord group, and the presence of Ethiopian troops. In October, the SCIC declared jihad against Ethiopia, raising the spectre of large-scale regional violence.

2005 The Transitional Federal Government split into two contending factions, threatening renewed fighting on a large scale. Inter-clan violence and fighting between rival warlords continued while piracy off the coast of Somalia hampered international shipping.

2004 The Somalia National Reconciliation Conference took significant steps toward comprehensive peace with the formation of a transitional parliament and the election of a President. But fighting continued. The new government received international recognition and sought financial aid and peacekeeping troops.

2003 Rival clans and armed factions clashed throughout Somalia, with most reported deaths occurring in Mogadishu. Despite setbacks, the Somalia National Reconciliation Conference in Kenya produced a transitional charter, outlining the structure of the future Somali government. In May, the African Union made initial preparations for a military observer mission to Somalia.

2002 Fighting between rival factions and transitional government forces continued in many parts of Somalia. The Somalia National Reconciliation Conference opened in mid-October in Kenya with representatives from a number of rival clans, the Transitional National Government (TNG) and various communities discussing peace, stability and governance.

2001 Fighting between rival clans continued throughout Somalia; Mogadishu saw the most intense fighting in years. According to reports, more than 400 people, most civilian, were killed. In January, the United Nations agreed to send a peacebuilding mission and recognized the government in Somalia.

2000 Although a new Somali government was created in Djibouti, fighting among rival clans continued in central and southern Somalia, especially Mogadishu. At least 200 people, including local humanitarian workers, were killed.

1999 Inter-clan fighting continued, mainly in central and southern Somalia. While more than 100 people were killed, the number of dead was down from the previous year.

1998 Clan fighting was concentrated in certain regions.


Type of Conflict

Failed State
State Control

Parties to the Conflict

Somali Government Actors:

1. The Federal Government of Somalia: The FGS was established in 2012 when the mandate of the Transitional Federal Government ended. Current president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected in 2012, following the development of a national constitution earlier in the year. Political tensions between President Mohamud and Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed led parliament to vote Ahmed out of office in December 2014. (Ahmed’s predecessor, Abdi Farah Shiron, had been ousted in 2013.) Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke became the new Prime Minister. The Somali Armed Forces are overseen by the Ministry of Defence.

2. Transitional Federal Government (TFG)/Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP): The TFG, led at its demise by President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed (elected 2009), was the internationally recognized government of Somalia from 2004 until 2012. The TFG replaced the Transitional National Government (TNG), established at the Somalia National Peace Conference in 2000. After the mandate of the TFG ended, the Federal Government of Somalia was formally inaugurated in 2012.

The TFG experienced internal divisions from its inception. Public support was inconsistent and weakened in 2006 when the Islamic Courts Union (ICU)—also known as the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC)—rose to power and brought some stability to Mogadishu. After Ethiopian troops defeated the ICU and reinstalled the TFG in late 2006, many former ICU members joined the TFG, including President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, formerly ICU Commander-in-Chief. It is estimated that the TFG had between 6,000 and 10,000 troops, many trained in Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti, Ethiopia or Sudan. There was an attempt to integrate former ICU troops into the national forces. The TFG controlled only selected neighbourhoods of Mogadishu.

3. Puntland Administration: The Puntland State of Somalia, located in northeastern Somalia, was established in 1998 when political leaders, frustrated by the lack of progress in establishing a national government, came together to create a self-governing region. Unlike Somaliland, the Puntland State does not seek independence, but functions as a self-governing, semi-autonomous region that would form part of a federal state if that option were to become viable. From 2009 to 2013 the leader of Puntland was Abdirahman Mohamud Farole; however, in early January 2014 elections Farole was replaced by former Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali (previously under President Sheikh Sharif). He became the fifth president of Puntland, with a five-year mandate.

Despite internal division and occasional conflict over territory with Somaliland, Puntland has remained relatively stable. In 2010, however, militant attacks in Puntland intensified and a number of MPs were targeted and killed. Although the Puntland Administration supported an eventual return to a central government, their relationship with the TFG grew increasingly tense. In early 2011, they asked the UN Somalia office to reconsider its support for the TFG.

In 2012, the Puntland government inaugurated a new state constitution, marking a significant milestone in broader efforts to introduce multiparty politics to the region. Numerous political parties have since been formally registered. In late 2012, former President Farole announced his intention to extend his term by one year, pushing back elections to early 2014. The move triggered largely peaceful street protests. The Puntland government has been active in regional maritime anti-piracy operations.

4. Jubaland State Administration: On May 15, 2013 a conference was held in Kismayo to consider the possibility of forming an administration for the Jubaland region. Raskamboni leader Sheikh Ahmed Madobe was tentatively named President and was formally recognized by the federal government on August 28, 2013.The Jubaland state administration was inaugurated early in January 2014 and has been recognized by the international community. The state headquarters are in Kismayu.

Jubaland, in the south of Somalia, consists of Gedo, Middle Juba and Lower Juba. With a population of approximately 1.3 million, it is home to many clans, including Ogaden-Darod, Maheran-Darod, Sheekhaal, Coormale, Biimaal, Gaaljecel, Raxanweyn, Dir, Gawaaweyn, Murile, Bejuni Boni and various Bantu groups.

a. Raskamboni: This pro-government militia operates primarily in Jubaland in the south. Led by Sheikh Ahmed Madobe, now President of Jubaland state, it has joined the armed forces of the Somali government in numerous armed clashes against al-Shabaab.

Supported by:
5. Galmadug State Administration: Galmadug is a self-governing, semi-autonomous region in central Somalia. It does not seek independence but, much like the neighbouring region of Puntland, aims to form part of a larger Federal Republic of Somalia. Galmadug’s name combines the names of the Galgaduud and Mudug regions.

6. Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a (ASWJ) is an organization of Somali Sufi religious leaders created in 1991. Originally primarily a religious movement. ASWJ developed in response to the increasing influence in Somalia of Wahabbists and Salafists, who were hostile to the role that Sufism has historically played in the country. In 2008, ASWJ took up arms against al-Shabaab, a group it staunchly opposes. ASWJ has been active in fighting in central Somalia, and is seen to be the most effective obstacle to al-Shabaab’s advance into the north. In early 2010, ASWJ entered into an agreement with the TFG, despite internal divisions concerning the amount of support the group should give to the TFG. Backed by TFG soldiers, ASWJ fighters engaged in heavy clashes with al-Shabaab in 2012. ASWJ has continued to cooperate with the TFG’s successor, the Federal Government of Somalia, and on March 6, 2013 an agreement was signed to include the ASWJ in Somali Security Forces.

International Actors:

7. African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM):  In early 2007 a small contingent of AU peacekeepers with UN backing deployed to Somalia to protect the TFG and create conditions suitable for a UN mission. AMISOM’s original six-month mandate was extended by the UN when the situation remained too unstable for a UN peacekeeping mission. In October 2013 the AU agreed that it would increase its forces by 6,000, pending UNSC approval, to combat al-Shabaab. On November 12, 2013 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2124 to increase AU forces by 4,400. The United States remained active in training and equipping AMISOM forces, as part of broader efforts to reduce the threat of al-Shabaab military operations in the region. In October 2014 the UN Security Council extended the AMISOM mandate until the end of November 2015.

8. The United Nations supports the TFG and provides logistical and financial support to AMISOM. AMISOM was meant to be a transitional mission, until the UN could provide its own peacekeeping force. In January 2012, following notable security improvements in Mogadishu, the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, overseeing the UN Political Office for Somalia, formally reopened in Mogadishu after a 17-year closure. In May 2013, the UN Security Council approved the mobilization of a UNISOM force to support the Somali government and AMISOM forces.

9. The Ethiopian government supports the TFG. In 2006, it sent troops into Somalia to remove the ICU from power and reinstall the TFG. The United States provided military and financial assistance to the TFG and supported the Ethiopian action. Ethiopia welcomed the formal establishment of the Somali government in 2012; Ethiopian Prime Minister Desalegn was present at Somali President Mohamud’s inauguration.

10. The Kenyan government: On October 16, 2011, in response to kidnappings and small-scale attacks on Kenyan soil, Kenya sent nearly 3,000 soldiers into southern Somalia against al-Shabaab. In June 2012, Kenyan forces were formally integrated into AMISOM and have since played an integral role in the gradual expansion of territorial control by the Somali government. However, in June 2013, the Kenyan government was accused of siding with some Raskamboni groups, which created tension with the Somali Federal Government. Distrust escalated when a letter by Foreign Minister Fawzia Yusuf to the African Union calling for the removal of Kenyan AMISOM troops was leaked in early July. On September 21, al-Shabaab militants attacked Westgate mall in Nairobi. The siege lasted four days; 61 civilians and six security officials died.


11. Al-Shabaab (“the Youth” in Arabic; the group’s full name is Harakat al-Shabaab, Harakat al-Shabaab Mujahideen, “Movement of Warrior Youths” or “Mujahideen Youth Movement”): In 2007 al-Shabaab emerged as the most dominant armed opposition group. Al-Shabaab was formed in 2004 as the military wing of the ICU and was further radicalized after the Ethiopian invasion in 2006 and the subsequent dissolution of the ICU. Al-Shabaab seeks the establishment of an Islamic state in Somalia based on a strict and rigid version of Wahabbi- Salafi interpretations of Sharia law. In February 2010 al-Shabaab leaders publically declared allegiance to Osama bin Laden. In March 2010 Canada added al-Shabaab to its list of banned terrorist organizations. The group is also listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Sweden and Norway. Al-Shabaab is estimated to have between 5,000 and 9,000 fighters, including some foreigners. In late December 2010, after Hizbul Islam had suffered a number of military defeats, al-Shabaab effectively took over Hizbul Islam. However, in September 2012 Hizbul Islam announced an end to its association with al-Shabaab.

In February 2012 al-Shabaab announced a formal merger with al-Qaeda under the leadership of Ayman al-Zawahiri. Some senior figures refused to recognize the change in leadership, while others refused to adopt a proposed name change to al-Qaeda in East Africa. Large-scale defections were reported. During 2012 al-Shabaab faced mounting territorial defeats by combined Somali-AMISOM forces. Since abandoning fixed territorial positions in August 2012, the group has largely been chased out of its operational centres. In September 2012 combined Somali-AMISOM forces captured the strategic port of Kismayo after limited resistance from al-Shabaab. Seen as the last stronghold of al-Shabaab, Kismayo provided an income base and a means to import supplies.

In 2013 al-Shabaab experienced strong internal dissension that focused on leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, who killed or imprisoned anyone who challenged him. Godane was killed during U.S. drone strikes in September 2014. Ahmed Umar became the new leader.

In 2015 the group began to display a visible rift between members supporting al-Qaeda and those supporting Islamic State.

12. Hizbul Islam,  led by Hassan Dahir Awey, was formed in 2009, when four groups fighting against President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s government merged. These groups had all opposed the TFG and its predecessor, the TNG. Although Hizbul Islam allied itself with al-Shaabab, the two groups occasionally clashed over territorial control of south-central Somalia and Mogadishu. After military defeats in late 2010, Hizbul Islam announced that it would officially merge with al-Shabaab under the name of al-Shabaab. Hassan Dahir Awey’s position in al-Shabaab is unclear. In September 2012, Hizbul Islam announced an end to its association with al-Shabaab, citing al-Shabaab’s strategic weakening, the emergence of philosophical differences and the need to work with other political actors. Notably, Hizbul Islam indicated that it was open to political negotiations with groups working in the national interest.

Supported by:

13. Al-Qaeda: Al-Shabaab has links with al-Qaeda. In 2009 and 2010 reports grew of transfers of weapons, money and fighters, especially from the Yemeni-based branch of al-Qaeda (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula). In May 2011, Osama bin Laden was killed and Ayman al-Zawahiri became al-Qaeda’s leader. The United States has suggested that al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Nigeria-based Boko Haram have attempted to collaborate in funding and operational activities.

14. Mohamed Said Atom, a warlord from Puntland, and his armed supporters have pledged allegiance to al-Shabaab. Initially al-Shabaab denied any links, but in February 2012 their alliance was confirmed. The alliance caused internal tensions, as some of Atom’s men felt they were moving away from their primary purpose of defending their people. In September 2013, Puntland security forces increased operations within Bosaso and the surrounding areas, and were  able to limit expansion of Atom’s militia in the region. The UN has accused Atom of delivering arms from Eritrea to al-Shabaab.

15. Eritrea has been accused of supporting the ICU. Eritrea’s support for opposition groups is usually seen as an attempt to counter Ethiopia’s influence in the region. The 2010 report of the UN Monitoring Group alleges that Eritrea has provided significant financial, material and political support, including weapons, ammunition and training, to opposition groups since at least 2007. In July 2011, the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea reported Eritrea’s continued support for al-Shabaab. In July 2013, the UN Monitoring Group found evidence to suggest that Eritrea is supporting warlord Abdi Nur Said and extended its mandate until November 2014 to investigate matters further.

Other actors:

16. Clan-based militias and warlords have been involved in fighting since the onset of civil war in the early 1990s. During the 1990s and early 2000s, clan-based groups were responsible for most of the violence. But this changed with the creation of the TFG, the 2012 inauguration of the SFG and the rise of al-Shabaab. Occasional conflict between clan-based groups, usually over territory and water, continues.

In June 2013, senior al-Shabaab commander Hassan Dahir Aweys was arrested, leading to the possibility of division between rival Hawiye clans that support him and the Somali president.

Status of the Fighting

2015 Al-Shabaab maintained their blockade of towns in south and central Somalia previously liberated by AMISOM and the Somali National Army. Later in the year AMISOM and Somali forces made inroads in the south-central region by ejecting al-Shabaab from two major strongholds, Bardheere and Dinsoor.  An al-Shabaab suicide attack on a Mogadishu hotel in late February killed 25 and wounded 40. In March the Somalia Federal Government (SFG) and Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa (ASWJ) Sufi militia agreed to a ceasefire following clashes in the Galgaduud region that killed 15 in February. Violence increased in June: Somali militias clashed with Ethiopian police in Galgaduud, resulting in more than 45 deaths; and an al-Shabaab attack on the Leego AMISOM base in the lower Shabelle region killed 40 peacekeepers (Hiiraan). In December the Somali National Army and AMISOM forces clashed repeatedly with al-Shabaab in the Lower Shabelle, Hiiraan, and Bay regions.

Clashes in Galkayo between Puntland and Galmudug militia killed at least 30, according to International Crisis Group. In December Puntland and Galmudug officials signed a ceasefire agreement.

2014 In a joint military offensive, AMISOM troops and the Somali army made significant advances against al-Shabaab, pushing the group out of Barawe, its coastal headquarters. The end of the year saw al-Shabaab militants mainly on the border with Kenya. Even in towns where the group had withdrawn, it continued to control access routes and hindered the passage of supplies. Attacks by al-Shabaab killed approximately 40 government and security officials in July during Ramadan, with attacks on the presidential compound and a bomb blast near the parliament building. Conflict resulted in civilian deaths and displacements, and all parties were accused of human rights abuses. Violence against women and children was prevalent. In towns controlled by al-Shabaab, civilians faced public executions, beatings, and other human rights abuses. Human Rights Watch reported on the sexual exploitation of women and girls by AMISOM troops. AU investiged the allegations, but criticized some of HRW’s research methods. According to International Crisis Group, there were more than 750 conflict-related deaths; almost 100 were related to clan and ethnic conflict.

2013 After taking back significant territory from al-Shabaab in 2012, Somali-AMISOM forces made further gains in 2013. On January 15, approximately 1,700 suspected al-Shabaab militants were arrested and on January 19, 730 more suspects were detained. Large-scale arrests continued until the end of February. In mid-February, thousands of civilians gathered to peacefully protest the continued presence of al-Shabaab. Somali forces recaptured Hudur, the capital of Bakool region, in March. The AU in November, with the permission of the UN Security Council, passed Resolution 2124 to increase AMISOM troops by 4,400. Al-Shabaab experienced substantial internal division. Despite major efforts to prevent attacks by al-Shabaab against security forces, international actors and civilians, suicide and car bombings occurred frequently. In late September 61 civilians and six security officers were killed in an al-Shabaab-organized attack on Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Former President Farole admitted that the safety of Somali civilians had been threatened by violent actions of security forces. The Somali Federal Government faced pressure from certain clans and warlords who oppose a strong central government.

2012 Combined Somali-AMISOM forces made significant territorial gains, effectively pushing al-Shabaab out of numerous operational bases and strongholds. In February, the UN Security Council boosted AMISOM troop deployment by 5,000, following a series of notable successes against a weakened al-Shabaab. Kenya later announced its intention to contribute an additional 5,000 troops to the AMISOM force. With the apparent shift in momentum, the United States indicated its intention to enhance efforts to train and equip AMISOM forces. In April, AMISOM troops deployed outside Mogadishu for the first time. In September, combined Somali-AMISOM forces launched a surprise attack on the strategic port of Kismayo, capturing the city after limited resistance from al-Shabaab. Combined Somali-AMISOM and Ethiopian forces had previously captured strategic centres Baidoa, Afgoye, Afmadow, Balad and Merca. Kismayo was regarded as the last stronghold of al-Shabaab. Although al-Shabaab has largely abandoned fixed territorial positions, it continues to engage in guerrilla-style attacks, targeting federal and multinational forces in ambushes, suicide and bomb attacks, and low-intensity clashes.

2011 In August, al-Shabaab withdrew from Mogadishu, citing tactical reasons, but continued to attack the capital. In October, al-Shabaab launched a series of guerilla-style attacks, including roadside and suicide bombings. One roadside bomb killed more than 100 students. On October 16, after a string of kidnappings along the Kenyan border, Kenya sent 3,000 troops to confront al-Shabaab and secure the northern border with Somalia. Over a few weeks beginning in late November, al-Shabaab was linked to 15 bomb attacks in Mogadishu. After a brief period of calm after al-Shabaab’s retreat from Mogadishu, fighting intensified in October; several incursions resulted in more than 100 combatant deaths. According to Human Rights Watch, all parties engaged in fighting were responsible for indiscriminate attacks on civilians and continued recruitment of child soldiers.

2010 Clashes between the TFG, backed by AMISOM troops, and al-Shabaab continued during the year, but were particularly intense in January and again in August, when al-Shabaab declared a “massive new war” against the transitional government. In January, the pro-TFG militia Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a (ASWJ) took on al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam in central Somalia. The ASWJ retained control of key cities. Also in January, the UN World Food Programme suspended all aid to the south indefinitely, citing insecurity and al-Shabaab’s demands for payments; the cuts were expected to affect one million people. By late March, the UNHCR estimated that 169,000 people had already been displaced that year—a higher rate of displacement than in previous years. AMISOM troop strength increased from 5,000 to 7,100 by year’s end. Thousands of Somali troops being trained in neighbouring countries were scheduled to return to Somalia to support the TFG. The TFG announced plans to step up the integration of an Islamic Courts Union faction and TFG forces. Most of the fighting for the rest of the year was in Mogadishu; a May bomb attack on a mosque appeared to target al-Shabaab leader Fuad Shongole. Shongole blamed foreign security companies operating under AMISOM for the attack, although reports pointed to a faction of al-Shabaab. In October, fighting shifted to central and southern regions when the TFG launched an attack to regain control of Bula Hawo. Regions in central Somalia experienced deadly inter-clan conflicts over farmland and water during the year, while fighting continued between al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam for control in and outside Mogadishu. The year saw a marked increase in violence in the Puntland region, especially from October to December, when rebels led by warlord Mohamed Atom clashed with Puntland government troops, killing a number of parliamentarians. In July, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for twin bomb attacks in Kampala, Uganda, marking the first time the group had struck outside Somalia and sparking fears that al-Shabaab was becoming increasingly connected with transnational terrorist networks with aims that reach beyond Somali borders.

2009 The year saw a rise in suicide bombings, including an attack on a hotel in Mogadishu that killed a number of government ministers. Al-Qaeda and al-Shabaab were held responsible. A twin car bombing aimed at Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers killed 17, bringing the total death count of peacekeepers since 2007 to 60. According to various news sources, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) was understaffed and underequipped, hampering efforts to protect sea ports, the airport and areas of the capital Mogadishu. In September, rebels captured and shut down the airport, then attacked an AMISOM plane attempting to land. Ethiopian forces withdrew in January. A top UN official suggested that al-Shabaab practices constituted war crimes, including the use of child soldiers as human shields, extrajudicial executions and  planting landmines in civilian areas. Sexual and gender-based violence continued, particularly in camps for internally displaced persons. Four inter-clan clashes left 19 dead. According to Integrated Regional Information Networks, rival clans were better armed. According to various media sources, 2009 saw a record number of attacks by Somali pirates, despite international monitoring. Of an estimated 214 attacks, 47 were successful hijacks.

2008 Violence continued in the capital, parts of southern Somalia and along the coast as TFG forces, AU peacekeepers and Ethiopian forces battled the insurgency. Al-Shabaab, the militant wing of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), launched attacks on Mogadishu, particularly in the Bakara market area, and outside the capital, forcing already displaced people to move again. Children, some volunteers, continued to be recruited as fighters. For many armed young people, piracy proved a lucrative opportunity. According to independent media sources, in 2008, approximately 28 ships were taken hostage and ransomed for up to $1-million (U.S.). The approximately 1,000 pirates support both insurgent and government forces. Thirty-three aid workers were killed and 13 kidnapped, forcing international aid agencies to withdraw or replace foreign staff with locals. Near the end of the year, as Ethiopian troops withdrew, the ICU took control of the port towns of Kismayo and Merka and began to let food aid flow back into the country. The humanitarian crisis continued to grow. Two million Somalis remained in displacement camps and an additional 3.5 million were said to be in dire need of food aid. Many displaced people moved from the “war zone” near the capital to the “hunger zone” further south where aid groups had more difficulty reaching them.

2007 On December 24, 2006, Ethiopian troops entered Somalia in an effort to reinstall the transitional government of President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed. The U.S.-backed troops claimed to be rooting out Islamic terrorism in Somalia by removing the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC) from power. In response, the SCIC announced a campaign of suicide bombings and roadside attacks. Women and children were increasingly the victims of large-scale sexual violence by all sides in the conflict. Children were also recruited as fighters. Most aid agencies were forced to withdraw because of the increasing instability. Heavy fighting prevented peacekeeping forces from entering the capital Mogadishu. Two incidents in April, one lasting four days and the other lasting nine, killed thousands of civilians as Ethiopian-backed government forces battled Islamic insurgents and members of the Hawiye tribe for control of Mogadishu. The SCIC wanted all foreign troops to leave Somalia. Ethiopia said it could not withdraw its troops with only 1,600 AU peacekeepers in Somalia. More than one million residents of Mogadishu had been internally displaced, creating one of the biggest humanitarian crises in Africa. Crowded internally displaced persons (IDP) camps lacked basic supplies. A dispute between Somaliland and Puntland over the region of Sool resulted in the deaths of an estimated 30 people and the displacement of thousands.

2006 Fighting erupted in the capital Mogadishu when warlord-backed gunmen attempted to set up a checkpoint and were attacked by militiamen belonging to the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC).  Some analysts called this the worst violence the country has seen since the early 1990s. The fighting lasted two months and resulted in hundreds of mostly civilian deaths before the Islamic militia declared victory and seized control of the capital, its sea ports and airstrips. The SCIC continued its campaign northward, seizing strategic points such as Siisii, the port of El Maan, Balad, Hobyo, Harardheere, Burr Hakaba, Eldher, Bandiradley and Jowhar.  By December 31, the SCIC controlled almost all major cities and had established a military-enforced system of sharia law. The TFG remained isolated in Baidoa, protected by Ethiopian military forces. The SCIC boycotted peace talks with the TFG and declared jihad against Ethiopia for its role in protecting the weak TFG.

2005 Deadly inter-clan fighting in south and central Somalia over resources and control of land took place. Minor clashes were reported between warlords and clans siding with opposing factions of the transitional government; and both sides reportedly stockpiled weapons. The three main Mogadishu warlords merged militias to create a united force in the city. A disarmament program in Mogadishu failed to achieve any significant results, while the self-declared autonomous government of Puntland began its first disarmament program. The UN Security Council rejected President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed’s request to end the arms embargo on the Transitional Federal Government. Pirates continued to operate off the Somali coast, hijacking several large ships.

2004 Inter-clan fighting continued in various regions. In the latter part of the year, violent confrontations occurred between rival factions in the port town of Kismayo. Despite the signing of a ceasefire agreement by the Somali transitional parliament in September, fighting erupted in the north between Puntland and Somaliland.

2003 Fighting between rival factions continued during 2003 in spite of ceasefires signed in late 2002. While Mogadishu witnessed the most conflict, the Mudug region of central Somalia, the southern city of Baidoa and the self-proclaimed sovereign state of Puntland also experienced violence. Most violence was the result of rival clans and factions competing for control of local areas, but there were also reports of clashes among nomadic groups over water and grazing land. The presence of “freelance militias” —fighters neither aligned with any faction nor bound by any organizational structure or authority—further contributed to the conflict.

2002 Fighting continued among rival clans and government forces. Sixty people were killed in Mogadishu when fighting broke out between Transitional National Government forces and those loyal to faction leader Muse Sudi Yalahow. The Baidoa, Puntland and Gedo regions also experienced outbreaks of intense violence.

2001 Clashes continued between rival clans throughout Somalia. Heavy fighting took place in Mogadishu in May between militias loyal to the Transitional National Government (TNG) and factions loyal to Hussein Aideed. Numerous other clashes between pro-government militia and other militia forces were also reported in Mogadishu.

2000 Fighting, sometimes involving religious groups, continued among rival clans in central and southern regions. The Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA) and its ally, the Digil Salvation Army, clashed with Islamic court militiamen loyal to Hussein Aideed early in the year for the control of Qoryooley in the lower Shabeele region. Mogadishu saw heavy fighting after the election of Abdulqassim Salad Hassan as President, as local militia groups fought against armed groups sympathetic to the new government.

1999 Inter-clan fighting continued, mostly in the central and southern regions. Despite the absence of any internationally recognized authorities, the northern regions saw some degree of stability. On several occasions the Ethiopian army crossed into Somalia to pursue guerrilla forces fighting the Ethiopian government; there were reports that the army used excessive force against Somali civilians.

1998  Fighting continued between rival clans. Hussein Aideed’s United Somali Congress/Somali National Alliance (USC/SNA) and the Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA) clashed in Bay and Bakool and in the southern regions of Gedo and Lower Juba. Around Kismayo and Mogadishu there was fighting between the USC/SNA, Ali Mahdi’s Somali Salvation Alliance (SSA) and other factions.


Number of Dead and Displaced

Total: Estimates of total fatalities since the beginning of the conflict range from 300,000 to 550,000. At least 3.5 million people have been displaced. Since 2007, an estimated 19,000 to 21,000 people have been killed and 1.5 million displaced.

2015 According to ACLED, 4,096 people were killed: 2,825 as a direct result of armed conflict and 584 in violence against civilians (ACLED, Real time Complete All Africa File, results filtered for Somalia, 2015).

Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP): The UNHCR reported 3,582 refugees and 9,320 asylum seekers in Somalia in June 2015 (UNHCR). An additional 1,105,618 refugees and 49,900 asylum seekers originated from Somalia; an estimated 1,333,000 Somalians were internally displaced. 

2014 According to International Crisis Group, there were more than 760 conflict-related deaths, mainly due to al-Shabaab militancy and security operations against it. Almost 100 were related to clan and ethnic conflict. In November 2014 the UN OCHA reported a 1.8-per-cent increase in civilian casualties over the previous year.

Refugees and IDPs: According to UNHCR, in July 2014 there were 1,080,788 refugees and 38,739 asylum seekers originating from Somalia, and 1,133,000 internally displaced people. In 2014 there were 120,000 newly displaced Somalis.

As security seemed to improve in Mogadishu, some countries hosting Somali refugees and asylum seekers began to send them back. According to Human Rights Watch, Kenya deported 359 Somalis, including some registered refugees. Saudi Arabia deported 33,605 Somalis between December 2013 and May 2014.

2013 According to International Crisis Group, 798 people were killed in Somalia, while 130 people were wounded. Most casualties resulted from suicide attacks and car bombings by al-Shabaab on Somali security forces and international officials. Among the dead were 333 al-Shabaab members, 180 government troops and 80 civilians. A military strike by Kenya on an al-Shabaab training camp killed 300 people in late October. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the deaths of more than 127 suspected government spies. Five journalists were killed.

Refugees: According to the UNHCR, one million Somali refugees are living in Kenya, Yemen, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Tanzania and Uganda. It was reported that 21,361 Somalis sought refuge in bordering countries in 2013. There were 1.1 million IDPs.

2012 Conflict-related deaths numbered between 700 and 1,000. Approximately 12 AMISOM troops were reported killed, while 20 were wounded in direct hostilities. Media sources place the death toll for irregular fighters in the range of 500 to 600, with an additional 40 to 60 wounded in direct action. This estimate includes al-Shabaab and Ahlu Sunna fighters. Approximately 400 to 450 al-Shabaab militants reportedly surrendered to combined Somali-AMISOM forces, notably during the fall of Kismayo. Approximately 50 to 100 Somali government troops were reported killed, with another 30 to 50 wounded in direct hostilities. Between 50 and 60 Ethiopian soldiers were killed in a series of ambushes, bomb attacks and conventional skirmishes with militants. Between 100 and 200 civilians were killed in direct hostilities, while between 30 and 50 were wounded. Civilians were commonly killed in suicide or bomb attacks and factional clashes, or were direct targets of retribution; 30 to 40 were killed and approximately 60 wounded in clan violence. Between eight and 10 journalists were targeted and killed.

2011 According to International Crisis Group, there were more than 723 conflict-related deaths, many civilian. Indiscriminate bombings and mortar attacks from both sides killed many civilians. UN officials estimated that tens of thousands of Somalis died because of famine and approximately 318,000 people left Somalia, most going to Kenya or Ethiopia.

2010 According to Crisis Watch and news media, between 800 and 855 people were killed in conflict-related violence in 2010. Most fatalities occurred in Mogadishu and included civilians and militants as well as four MPs and six AMISOM peacekeepers. An estimated 146 people, mainly militants, were killed in Puntland. Approximately 150 people were killed during fighting between the TFG and militants in south-central Somalia. An estimated 56 people were killed in inter-clan conflicts. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for twin bomb blasts that killed up to 85 in Kampala, Uganda. According to the International Displacement Monitoring Centre, at least 300,000 additional people were internally displaced this year.

2009 An estimated 550 to 700 civilians, peacekeepers and soldiers were killed in 2009. These figures do not include fatalities caused by clan violence in Somaliland.

2008 Approximately 3,500 civilians were directly killed by conflict violence. An additional one million were displaced.

2007 More than 6,500 civilians were killed and more than 8,500 wounded. These counts do not include military deaths.

2006 As many as 300 civilians were killed and close to 1,700 wounded during fighting that erupted in the capital of Mogadishu and subsequently spread throughout the country. According to local doctors, the fatality numbers were likely much higher as many civilians had no access to medical care.

2005 At least 200 people were reported killed this year, mostly in inter-clan clashes over land and other economic resources. The actual number of deaths was likely higher because information could not be obtained from remote regions. Nearly one million people were in need of humanitarian assistance by the end of the year.

2004 Independent reports estimated that more than 520 people were killed in conflict.

2003 According to independent media reports, approximately 150 people, many civililans, were killed as a result of the fighting.

2002 At least 500 people, many civilians, were killed in the first 10 months of 2002.

2001 According to media reports, at least 400 people were killed from conflict violence, the majority civilians killed by stray bullets.

2000 At least 200 people, including local humanitarian workers, were killed in fighting by the end of September.

1999 More than 100 people were killed.

1998 At least 230 people, mainly unarmed civilians, were killed in inter-clan conflicts.


Political Developments

2015 In early February Parliament approved Prime Minister Sharmarke’s third proposed cabinet, ending the government paralysis that followed the December ousting of Prime Minister Abdiwelli Sheikh Ahmed. In August more than 100 Somali Federal Government Members of Parliament presented a no-confidence motion against President Hassan Sheikh (Crisis Watch).

The Somali Federal Government and existing and emerging federal states met at three National Consultative Forums to devise an appropriate and feasible electoral process to take effect when the mandates of the federal legislative and executive branches expire in 2016. The High-Level Partnership Forum held in Mogadishu late July concluded that conditions in Somalia are not yet conducive to the conduct of “one person one vote” elections in 2016 (AMISOM-AU) The May meetings resulted in a plan to integrate government-controlled militias and regional forces into a national army. The October 19-20 session discussed 2016 general elections. In December the Forum released conclusions from public consultations about the 2016 government formation process, including a preliminary election framework.

On March 6 Puntland President Gaas signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with President Madobe of the Interim Jubaland Administration on regional cooperation over natural resources and finalizing a provisional federal constitution. The Jubaland parliament was inaugurated on March 7; selection of the Members of Parliament concluded on April 15. In June the Somali Federal Government passed a vote of no-confidence in the selection process for the Jubaland regional assembly, claiming that the assembly was dominated by President Madobe’s allies. Jubaland then suspended relations with the Somali Federal Government (Somalia Newsroom)

The New Galmudug Interim State assembly elected its first president, Abdikarim Guled, in early July (UNSOM).

2014 Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas was elected the new president of Puntland autonomous region in January. On October 12 Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed began talks with Gaas to address political disagreements between the Somali Federal Government and the Puntland State Government. The October 14 agreement confirmed that the Central Regions State would not incorporate land that is presently under the jurisdiction of Puntland. The Jubaland state administration, headed by President Ahmed Madobe, was inaugurated in January.

During a meeting in May that was attended by more than 100 members of Parliament, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud was accused of being a poor leader, incapable of serving as a bridge between clans; he was asked to resign, but refused. In September al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane was killed during drone strikes by the United States; Ahmed Umar became the new leader. Also in September the government offered amnesty to al-Shabaab fighters. Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed was voted out by Parliament in December after months of infighting with President Mohamoud over changes in the Cabinet. Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke became prime minister. A UN Monitoring Group stated that Somalia’s government had allowed the diversion of arms to illicit markets; these weapons were then purchased by al-Shabaab.

In January the United States announced that it would send military advisers to Somalia. That same month, 4,395 Ethiopian troops were incorporated into AMISOM. In May the AMISOM mission was extended by the UN Security Council until November 30, 2015. A UN military force of 400 was deployed to protect aid workers in Somalia on May 18.

2013 There were three significant political developments in 2013: the establishment of a new administration and president in Jubaland, the election of a new president in Puntland, and the appointment of a new Prime Minister in the Somali Federal Government (SFG). From the Kismayo conference in May, talks about forming a Jubaland administration emerged. Raskamboni leader Sheikh Ahmed Madobe formally gained recognition by the federal government on August 28. In early December, at the height of political tensions between President Mohamud and Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shiron, Shiron was voted out of office and was succeeded by Somali-Canadian Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed. In January 2014, Puntland leader Abdirahman Mohamud Farole was replaced by former Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali (who previously served under President Sheikh Sharif). He became the fifth President of Puntland and has a five-year mandate.

Corruption and human rights abuses permeated Somali security forces and AMISOM.  In early April, Somali security forces were ousted by former Puntland President Farole, who claimed that they were violent to civilians. According to Human Rights Watch, AMISOM has been accused of repeated sexual violence. Although the Somali Federal Government remained committed to UN Resolution 2093, which obligated it to protect civilians from sexual violence and exploitation, the SFG made little headway in resolving the problem.

Many European countries have tried to send back Somali asylum seekers, but have been prevented by the European Court of Human Rights. However, Human Rights Watch noted that in November 2013 the European Court of Human Rights allowed the Netherlands to send back an asylum seeker. Two days after his return he was injured by an explosion. Maintaining security and achieving stability remain at the center of international initiatives, as seen by the inauguration of “The Somali Compact” in 2012 and its advancement in 2013. The compact details the proposed trajectory of the Somali political process over the next three years, encompassing a six-pillar program for the SFG, a five-year plan for Puntland and special consideration for Somaliland. The goals: a federal constitution by 2015 and elections in 2016.

2012 The year saw the adoption of a new constitution; the selection of a new parliament, President and Prime Minister; and the expansion of territorial control by government security forces, multinational peacekeepers, and allied clans and militias. The mandate of the Transitional Federal Government ended, as President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of the Peace and Development Party assumed political leadership of the new Somali Federal Government. Abdi Farah Shirdon was subsequently appointed prime minister. Although a National Security and Stabilization Plan was implemented to work on national integration and institutional development, the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia continued to document high-level corruption, diversion of humanitarian aid, illegal exporting patterns, and collusion between government officials and pirates. Following the enhancement and extension of numerous sea and land counter-piracy operations, the International Maritime Bureau noted a significant decrease in the number of Somali piracy events. Al-Shabaab announced a formal merger with al-Qaeda. After many military defeats and strategic withdrawals, al-Shabaab largely abandoned fixed territorial positions. The UN Refugee Agency advised that changes in territorial control had triggered high rates of displacement. In particular, approximately 1,000 residents fled Kismayo every day in the period immediately before its fall. Hizbul Islam announced the end of its association with al-Shabaab and indicated that it was open to political negotiations with groups working in the national interest. The semi-autonomous government of Puntland inaugurated a new state constitution, marking a significant milestone in broader efforts to introduce multiparty politics to the region.

2011 The mandate for the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was set to expire in August, by which time the Somali government was supposed to have enacted a new constitution and held an election. Neither happened. The UN warned the TFG that this lack of progress had cost it international support. In March, the transitional cabinet extended its term by a year. In June, the signing of the Kampala Accord extended the parliament and TFG’s mandate by one year. The accord—mediated by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni –was meant to break the political deadlock between President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and Speaker of Parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden and establish a road map for national elections as well as a new constitution. In September, the UN Security Council extended the AMISOM mandate for another year. In June, al-Shabaab declared its allegiance to the new leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri. In November, al-Shabaab banned 16 aid agencies, including UNICEF, WHO and Concern Worldwide from areas experiencing famine. According to International Crisis Group, when Kenyan forces entered Somalia in October to confront al-Shabaab, President Sharif originally disapproved of the move. However, in November Sharif met with Kenyan and Ugandan counterparts to agree on a coordinated response to al-Shabaab. In December, the participants of the Somali national consultative constitution conference signed the Garowe Principles, agreeing to finalize a constitution by April 2012 and to reform parliament by August 2012.

2010 The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) remained fragile amid increasing violence. In May, Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke’s government lost a non-confidence vote. A week later, President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed reinstated Sharmarke as Prime Minister. Three government ministers, including the defence minister, resigned in June, citing the TFG’s failure to restore order. In September, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called an emergency meeting on Somalia and urged member states to provide military and financial support to the TFG. In late September, Sharmarke resigned; Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Farmajo) became the new Prime Minister in October. On November 22 the parliamentary session ended in chaos when MPs failed to vote on the cabinet nominees of the new Prime Minister; a week later, a new cabinet was approved. The TFG retained what little control it had of Mogadishu only through increased support from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which increased its troop strength with promised additions from Guinea, Djibouti, Uganda and Burundi. The Puntland administration became increasingly unstable, facing heightened opposition from Warlord Mohamed Atom’s rebels. Terrorist bombings in Kampala, reports of foreign fighters in its ranks, and exchanges of weapons and troops with the Yemen-based branch of al-Qaeda led analysts to conclude that al-Shabaab was becoming part of a transnational terrorist network. In late December, after a number of al-Shabaab victories over Hizbul Islam, the two groups announced that they would merge.

2009 Sheikh Sharif Ahmed was elected in January 2009 as president of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Soon after, the TFG signed a peace agreement with the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) in Djibouti. Hizbul Islam and al-Shabaab refused to sign until all international troops withdrew. Al-Shabaab was reportedly recruiting internationally, including from Canada and the United States, and stepped up its attacks on humanitarian workers and UN agencies in Somalia.

2008 In May, peace talks between the TFG and the ARS in Djibouti began. A peace agreement was reached, but the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) and al-Shabaab vowed to violate any terms of a peace agreement. Violence increased when the ICU and al-Shabaab demanded Ethiopian troops withdraw from Somalia. U.S. bombings of civilian areas sparked protests. It was unclear whether the TFG had authorized or even knew of the U.S. attacks. The UN Security Council extended the African Union (AU) peacekeeping mandate after the AU asked for more funds and supplies. In 2008, 2,600 AU troops out of a mandated 8,000 were on the ground. At the end of the year, Ethiopia announced that it was withdrawing its AU troops. Burundi and Uganda reiterated their intention to maintain an AU presence in Somalia. The UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing neighbouring countries to chase pirated ships back into the coastal waters of Somalia. The arms embargo was often violated. In December, Ethiopian troops withdrew. The ICU controlled much of the country at the end of 2008.

2007 In early November, Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Ghedi stepped down in the face of national and international pressure. He was replaced by Nur Hassan Hussein, former police and head of the Somali Red Crescent. The international community expressed concern over the rising numbers of civilian deaths during the year. Members of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) accused government-backed Ethiopian troops of war crimes.  The United States came under criticism for supporting the Ethiopian troops. In July, Somalia held a national reconciliation conference, after twice delaying the event. The Supreme Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC) refused to attend proceedings. More than 1,000 delegates from clans throughout the country attended, but no real progress was made.

2006 In January 2006, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) led by President Abdullahi Yusuf reunited and was moved to the provincial town of Baidoa. The capital, Mogadishu, fell to the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC), which asserted sharia law in June. The Ethiopian government and Eritrean militias also became involved, with Ethiopia backing the TFG, and Eritrea backing the SCIC. In June, the TFG and the SCIC signed a peace agreement stipulating that each recognize the other’s legitimate authority, but this agreement quickly deteriorated. Reported U.S. involvement through the Alliance for Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism came to light when internal correspondence suggesting covert military operations was leaked to the press. The SCIC, which effectively controlled all the major cities in the country, opposed international intervention and pledged to boycott peace talks with the TFG until all international troops (especially those of Ethiopia) left Somalia. An attempt to assassinate Yusuf killed five people. The TFG boycotted talks with the SCIC, claiming that the SCIC was aiming to overthrow its leadership. Constitutional and Federal Affairs Minister Abdallah Issaq Deerow was slain outside a mosque. In July, the UN eased a 15-year-old arms embargo against Somalia in preparation for an African Union peace force. As a result of renewed violence, some analysts expressed concern that a weak TFG combined with Ethiopian and international involvement against the wishes of the SCIC would result in full-scale war.

2005 The newly formed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) split into rival factions led by President Abdullahi Yusuf and Parliamentary Speaker Hassan Sherriff Aden. The split focused on the presence of African Union peacekeepers in the country and the future seat of government. In May, Aden and the 130 MPs allied with Mogadishu’s warlords relocated to Mogadishu, while the Yusuf-led faction of the TFG relocated to Jowhar in June. Parliamentary elections were held in the self-declared independent republic of Somaliland in September.

2004 The Somali National Reconciliation Conference (SNRC) made great strides toward  comprehensive peace with the formation of a transitional parliament and the election of President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed. The President named Ali Muhammad Gedi as transitional Prime Minister and, despite early objections; his appointment was endorsed by parliament. While the new government received international diplomatic support, it continued to seek financial assistance and peacekeepers to ensure security and disarm militias. In November, the European Commission pledged more than €1.9-million to support the new Somali parliament, and the African Union announced that it would send a peacekeeping force to Somalia in 2005.

2003 The Somali National Reconciliation Conference (SNRC), which brought together the Transitional National Government (TNG), Somali political factions and community leaders, continued in Kenya throughout 2003. Numerous violations of 2002 ceasefire agreements between the TNG and various factions, and the withdrawal of key parties from the proceedings hindered progress. In September, the SNRC adopted a transitional charter that outlined the future government structure. However, President Abdiqassim Salad Hassan and faction leaders who had withdrawn from the conference refused to recognize the document. Moreover, when the TNG’s mandate expired in August, Hassan fired the Prime Minister and declared his intention to remain in power until new institutions had been formed. In the self-declared Republic of Somaliland, Dahir Riyale Kahin was reelected president in May. The Somaliland government refuse to attend the Somalia reconciliation talks in Kenya, claiming that the process did not involve them. In a further step toward international recognition, Somaliland government officials held talks with international donors and the UN. In the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland in May, disputed leader Colonel Abdullah Yusaf signed a power-sharing agreement with one of his main opponents, General Ade Muse Hirsi. Also in May, the World Bank resumed operations in Somalia after more than a decade and an African Union/Intergovernmental Authority on Development (AU/IGAD) fact-finding mission was sent to Mogadishu to pave the way for an AU military observer mission.

2002 The Somalia National Reconciliation Conference, sponsored by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development and supported by the UN, began in Eldoret, Kenya, in October. Heads of Somali factions, members of the Transitional National Government (TNG) and community leaders gathered to discuss ways to end fighting and create a broad-based government. Although some groups, including leaders from Somaliland, refused to attend, the conference made immediate progress. On October 27, the various political factions and the TNG signed a ceasefire agreement and on December 3, the TNG and five Mogadishu-based factions committed to end violence in that city.

2001 In January, the UN Security Council agreed to send a peacebuilding mission to Somalia that would include political officers and aid agency officials, but no military forces. A representative for the Secretary-General announced that the international community recognized the interim government in Somalia.

2000 Abdiqassim Salad Hassan was elected President in August by an exiled transitional parliament established in neighbouring Djibouti the same month. Prominent Mogadishu warlords and leaders from Somaliland and Puntland refused to recognize the new government. The new President committed himself to a disarmament program for militia groups in an effort to advance peace.

1999  Speaking to the UN General Assembly in September, President of Djibouti Ismail Omar Guelleh announced the Djibouti Initiative, aimed at bringing peace and reconciliation to Somalia. Under the aegis of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the initiative called for warlords to step aside and allow representatives of Somali civil society to administer the war-ravaged country.

1998 IGAD, a group of international organizations and regional ambassadors, met in October in a first-stage attempt to broker peace among the clans; faction leaders were not present.



In the last two decades, the nature of armed conflict in Somalia has changed significantly. What began as civil war in 1988 led to state collapse in 1991, which evolved into clan-based warfare and warlordism throughout most of the 1990s. In the 15 years, the conflict has taken on new ideological and international dynamics related to the global war on terror.

The 1988-1991 civil war and subsequent collapse of the Somali state had a number of causes, both internal and external. The legacies of European colonialism—which divided Somalia into five states, ruled by the British, Italians and Ethiopians, the impact of Cold War politics and shifting allegiances of the major superpowers, as well as the devastating war to reclaim the Ogaden region from Ethiopia in the late 1970s, weakened state cohesiveness. Some argue that the model of a centralized governing authority is at odds with Somalia’s kinship system and pastoral culture.

The government of Siad Barre, in power since 1969, shortly after Somali independence, became increasingly oppressive and opposition grew in the 1980s. In 1982, the Somali National Movement (SNM) was formed; it began outright attacks on Barre’s government in northwestern Somalia in 1988. Other armed opposition groups, mainly clan-based, appeared over the next few years in southern Somalia. In 1991, Barre was deposed and the capital city, Mogadishu, was occupied by the United Somali Congress (USC). Soon after, the SNM declared the northwest independent, although the international community has not recognized Somaliland. The opposition movements that ousted Barre failed to unite and Somalia soon descended into clan-based warfare.

For most of the 1990s and early 2000s, Somalia had no centralized government.

The United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) was initially established on a small scale in 1992 to help rescue the country from famine and clan violence, and was augmented later in that year by a 37,000-strong U.S.-led international force. However, the operation lost local and international support when troops became embroiled in clashes with Somali militias after they launched an unsuccessful manhunt for one of the most prominent warlords, Mohammed Farah Aideed. What began for the United States as a humanitarian mission turned into the Battle of Mogadishu. Between October 3 and 4, 1993, two U.S. Blackhawk helicopters were shot down, and 18 American soldiers were killed, including Staff Sergeant William David Cleveland, whose dead body was photographed being dragged by Somalis in the streets of Mogadishu. There were 3,000 Somali casualties. UNOSOM ended in 1995 without a national political settlement or any process for reestablishing a national government. In 1996, Aideed died and was replaced by his son Hussein Aideed.

In 1992 peacekeeping efforts in Somalia required more military assistance, which led to the involvement of the Canadian Airborne Regiment. The goal of Operation Deliverance was to restore order in the country, but without stable leadership, some soldiers in the Regiment committed heinous acts against Somali civilians. The most notable occurred on March 16, 1993 when two Canadian soldiers, Master Corporal Clayton Matchee and Private Kyle Brown, tortured and killed 16-year-old Shidance Abukar Arone. Brown commemorated the act by taking ‘trophy’ photos. Both were charged. Matchee was declared unfit to stand trial after a suicide attempt left him brain-damaged. Brown was sentenced to five years in military prison. The Canadian Airborne Regiment was disbanded.

In 1997, after unsuccessful attempts by the Arab League, the Organization of African Unity and the UN to end the fighting, more than 20 clans signed the Cairo Declaration to establish a 13-person Council of Presidents, a Prime Minister and National Assembly, none of which was ever realized. Clan leaders in the northeast proclaimed the formation of the Puntland state in mid-1998. Unlike Somaliland, Puntland does not seek independence, but functions as a self-governing region within Somalia.

After numerous failed peace efforts, Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh announced at the UN General Assembly in September 1999 his initiative to bring about peace and reconciliation in Somalia. Operating under the aegis of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the initiative called for the warlords to step aside and allow representatives of Somali civil society to administer the war-ravaged country. In August 2000, a transitional parliament, based on clan representation, was formed in Djibouti and President Abdulqassim Salad Hassan was elected by parliamentarians. Key Mogadishu warlords and leaders from Somaliland and Puntland withheld their support.

The IGAD-sponsored Somali National Reconciliation Conference (SNRC), which began in 2002, experienced some success in bringing together Somali stakeholders. However, some factions and government officials did not recognize its legitimacy. In 2004, the Somali Transitional Federal Parliament was formed, but by 2005 the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) had split into rival factions based in Mogadishu and Jowar.

In 2006, the TFG reunited and moved to the provincial town of Baidoa. However, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), also known as the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC) emerged to expel controlling warlords from the capital, Mogadishu, as well as other major cities in the country. The UN Security Council voted to weaken the 15-year-old arms embargo in preparation for an African Union peace force, something the ICU strongly opposed. The ICU was also fundamentally against the involvement of the United States, which was reportedly supporting the Alliance for Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT) with funding and military training.

In late 2006, with significant military assistance from Ethiopia, the TFG launched an offensive to retake control of Mogadishu. Heavy fighting and almost daily suicide bombings and roadside attacks killed more than 6,500 civilians and displaced more than one million. The UN declared Somalia the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa, but aid groups were hampered from providing help by highly volatile conditions.

In early 2007, a small contingent of AU peacekeepers was deployed to protect the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs), but attempts by the TFG and Ethiopia to impose a “victor’s peace” prompted violent resistance. The defeated ICU fled to Eritrea where, with other opposition figures, they formed the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somali (ARS). The ARS mobilized support against the Ethiopian occupation and refused to negotiate until Ethiopian troops withdrew. In 2008, under UN-mediated talks in Djibouti, the ARS and TFG agreed to a timeline for Ethiopia’s withdrawal. TFG President Abdullahi Yusuf resigned, opening the way for a new TFG under the leadership of former chair of the ICU, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

While the new TFG raised hopes for a moderate Islamic government with support from both the Somali and international community, the Ethiopian invasion and Djibouti talks led to the further radicalization of al-Shabaab, which denounced the Djibouti talks as a betrayal of ARS. Al-Shabaab has since declared its support for al-Qaeda and continues to oppose the TFG. The TFG was not able to build a coalition strong enough to combat al-Shabaab. The TFG retained the little power it had with support from AMISOM and military assistance from foreign governments such as the United States.

In 2012, the TFG was replaced by the Somali Federal Government (SFG). The SFG continues to combat the al-Shabaab insurgency in an attempt to regain control of the southern states. It made significant advances and recaptured some major port cities in 2012 and 2013. “The Somali Compact” international initiative was developed to aid in rebuilding Somalia; it proposed a three-year political plan, with the goals of a federal constitution by 2015 and elections in 2016.

An official federal constitution was not achieved in 2015 and 2016 election discussions are ongoing.

Arms Sources

Somalia has been under an arms embargo imposed by the UN Security Council since 1992; the embargo was amended in 2006 to allow arms to be sent to the proposed AMISOM force and further modified in 2007 to allow states to supply arms to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) security forces. The UN encouraged the international community to supply arms to both the TFG and AMISOM. The inauguration of the federal government in 2012 resulted in additional changes to the UN arms embargo. In 2012 the AU Peace and Security Council asked for the UN arms embargo to be lifted for the Somali Security Forces, but maintained for non-state actors. The ban was partially lifted for 12 months in March 2013 by UN Resolution 2093; in 2014 the partial lifting of the ban was extended to October 30, 2015. . In October 2015 the UN arms embargo was extended until November 2016. SFG Security Forces are required to report to the UN every six months.

During the arms embargo, states including Yemen and Uganda reportedly supplied arms to the TFG. Since 2005 Ethiopia has been a principal supplier of arms to the TFG and has also allegedly provided military support to ASWJ, a government-aligned non-state actor. The United States is also a major supplier of weapons and military assistance to the TFG and of arms to Ethiopia. In 2009-2010, 94 tons of weapons were delivered to the TFG from Uganda, which was reimbursed by the United States. The United States also gave the TFG $2-million to procure weapons locally. Amnesty International calls for tighter controls, as weapons are being used to commit war crimes and human rights abuses; AI has also claimed that the TFG lacked the capacity to prevent diversion of large quantities of weapons to other armed groups.

Non-state opposition groups in Somalia receive weapons, usually small arms and light weapons and ammunition, as well as some heavier infantry weapons, from a variety of sources. In 2006 a UN report listed Syria, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Egypt, Eritrea, Djibouti and Saudi Arabia as principal arms traders to various groups in Somalia. Eritrea has consistently been accused of supplying weapons to opposition groups; commercial arms markets, with significant shipments from Yemen, are also a major source of arms. In late 2011 and early 2012 Ethiopia, France, Turkey, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, the United States, several private companies and the UN provided Somali security forces with assistance without receiving permission from the Sanctions committee. In July 2012 the UN Monitoring Group for Somalia and Eritrea reported that arms markets in Yemen were a common source of weapons for non-state actors in Somalia, while Eritrea’s role had declined. Somalia is home to large informal weapons markets, such as Bakara in Mogadishu. Although Bakara was banned by the TFG in 2007, an underground market continued. In 2008 the UN Monitoring Group estimated that as much as 80 per cent of supplies to the TFG were diverted for private purposes. TFG and AMISOM personnel, TFG deserters and Ethiopian troops have been accused of selling their weapons to non-state groups. Captured TFG and AMISOM stockpiles are also a major source of arms and ammunition for opposition groups.

In late 2012 UN sanctions monitors reported the receipt by al-Shabaab of small arms, sourced primarily from Yemeni and Iranian distribution networks. The arms were thought to enter via Puntland and Somaliland. In one instance, UN monitors found Iranian- and North-Korean-manufactured arms at an AMISOM base, indicating that UN-backed forces might be operating internal arms-smuggling networks.

A report released by the UN Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group in 2014 produced evidence of the diversion of weapons and ammunition from government stockpiles to illegal weapons markets where they are purchased by foreign arms traffickers and militant groups—namely al-Shabaab. A new AK-pattern assault rifle sold in an illegal market was identical to the type supplied by Ethiopia to the Somali National Army (SNA). The report emphasized the danger of small arms proliferation after the arms embargo on the country was partially lifted.  After the partial lifting of the ban, Somalia imported more than 13,000 weapons and 5.5 million rounds of ammunition.

AMISOM, arguably underequipped for most of its existence, in the past relied on weapons and troops from Uganda and Burundi. In 2014 troops from Ethiopia were incorporated into AMISOM.

According to The Military Balance in 2015, AMISOM had 6,200 troops from Uganda, 5,450 from Burundi, 4,400 from Ethiopia, 3,650 from Kenya, and 1,850 from Djibouti.

The large SNA infantry lacked logistical capacity. In 2014 the United States sent military advisers to aid SNA and AMISOM in security operations. In March the U.S. State Department reported that between 2007 and 2014 the United States had given more than $512-million to AMISOM in financial support and $171-million to the Somali National Army. The United States also used drones to conduct anti-terrorism operations in Somalia.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s arms transfer database indicated that the United Kingdom supplied as many as 25 second-hand armored personal carriers to Somalia in 2013.

Economic Factors

A war economy developed in Somalia. Much of the money to fuel conflict came by “taxing” infrastructure such as airports, bridges and roads. Charcoal exports to neighbouring Gulf States have been an important source of revenue for opposition groups, including al-Shabaab, in spite of a 2009 ban by the TFG. In 2012 the SFG pushed al-Shabaab out of Kismayo, a significant port city that had provided al-Shabaab with sea access for importing weapons and exporting charcoal. The miraa trade between Somalia and Kenya remained profitable. Miraa, or khat, is a plant from the Horn of Africa that can cause serious health affects if consumed on a regular basis. It is suspected that money from piracy has been laundered through this trade.

From 2005 to 2012 an estimated $330-million to $413-million was paid in ransom. Piracy was the most lucrative trade in Somalia for many years. Pirates collected approximately $23-million (U.S.) in 2008. In 2013 piracy rates were the lowest since 2006, with two reported hijackings. This decrease was partly due to initiatives by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud that gave partial amnesty to low-level pirates who provided information.

With no formal banking system, Somalia maintained a relatively healthy, informal private sector through livestock trade, remittances from the diaspora and telecommunication companies. Fifty per cent of food was imported by local traders. Somalia experienced many droughts over the years; in the 2010-2012 drought 260,000 Somalis died. Food prices skyrocketed and civilians became increasingly dependent on aid. The food crisis and a devalued currency hindered economic stability. TFG security forces, complaining that they were not being paid their $100-per-month wages, began deserting in 2008, reportedly joining the insurgency. Al-Shabaab offered recruits $400 for joining and promised regular wages.

In 2012 the government of Puntland approved an oil exploration project—the first of its kind in Somalia. Some initial drilling revealed oil. Industrial development in Somalia faced many challenges, including lack of resource-sharing arrangements between the federal government and regional administrations.

*Child Soldiers:
In the past, both the TFG and al-Shabaab used child soldiers. In 2012, the Somali transitional government agreed to work with the UN to end the recruitment of child soldiers to its forces. The amount of progress is not known.

map: CIA Factbook

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