Somalia (1988 – first combat deaths)




The Conflict at a Glance:

Who (are the main combatants): The Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), along with the  Puntland and Jubaland administrations, are trying to create stability in the country. They are supported by Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama; Raskambomi; the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM); the United Nations; and the Kenyan, Ethiopian, and Egyptian governments. Their efforts are challenged by al-Shabaab, an armed opposition group established in 2004 with support from al-Qaeda. Al-Shabaab rejects the idea of a centralized government and wants to establish an Islamic state. Clan-based militias from the Darood, Dir, Hawiye, and Rahanweyn clans, as well as the Islamic State and pirates on the coast, have also caused internal unrest.

What (started the conflict): In 1991, Siad Barre, in power since 1969, was deposed and the capital city, Mogadishu, was occupied by the United Somali Congress (USC). The opposition that ousted Barre failed to unite and Somalia descended into clan-based warfare. In 1992, the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) was established to help rescue the country from famine and violence, but disbanded in 1995. After numerous failed peace efforts, the Transitional Federal Parliament was formed in 2004. In 2007, Somalia’s transitional government, assisted by regional and international actors, retook control of Mogadishu and the UN Security Council approved an African Union peacekeeping mission (AMISOM) to usher in a central government and bolster regional stability (2007 to present). In 2012, the mandate of the TFG expired and it was replaced by the Somali Federal Government (SFG). In an effort to gain legitimacy, the new SFG has attempted to introduce a new constitution, expand their territorial control, and reform the Somali National Army, especially in the southern regions where al-Shabaab remains the dominant power.

Over the last few years, al-Shabaab has lost significant territory to the FGS and security forces. However, it still poses a substantial risk to civilian security. Clan-based militias and warlords also continue to push back against the government. The majority oppose secular governance and foreign intervention.

When (has fighting occurred): Somalia was declared a failed state in 1991 and has experienced continuous internal unrest since. However, significant gains in stability occurred in 2000 when the Transitional National Government was created during the National Peace Conference brokered by Djibouti. In 2006 the Islamic Courts Union, the political wing of al-Shabaab, took control of Mogadishu after fighting with warlords. From December 2006 to January 2007, troops from Ethiopia fought in support of Somalia’s central government against the Islamic Courts Union. In 2009, al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam began a large-scale offensive to topple the Somali government. In 2010, al-Shabaab declared its alliance with al-Qaeda. In 2011, al-Shabaab withdrew from Mogadishu and was driven out of Baidoa and Afgoye townships by Kenyan, AMISOM, and Somali government forces. In August 2011, pro-government forces retook the port of Merca from al-Shabaab (Al Jazeera).

Where (has the conflict taken place): Conflict is prevalent throughout the country, as the actors fight to claim and reclaim territory. As of 2013, southern states such as Lower Shebelle and Bay are mainly controlled by al-Shabaab, especially the rural areas. The FGS controls Mogadishu and surrounding cities such as Baidoa, and the port city Kismayo, captured in 2012. However, residents still experience gun battles and explosive attacks by al-Shabaab and unidentified armed groups. Somaliland, the semi-autonomous Puntland region, Galmudug region, and the newly established administration in the Jubaland region are relatively stable in comparison (IRIN).

Despite recent successes at reclaiming territory from al-Shabaab, the insurgency has continued attacks on government buildings, schools, shopping centres, hotels, and labour sites. It also tortures and kills citizens unwilling to conform to its faith. In 2016, the Islamic State in Somalia (ISS)—led by Abdul Qadir Mumin, former al-Shabaab member—took control of a mountainous coastal town, Qandala, after defeating local Puntland Security Forces (International Crisis Group).



2017 Al-Shabaab experienced increased military pressure from the Somali military and partner militaries, including those of the United States, and the African Union mission; however, it still exercised a great deal of control across Somalia. Al-Shabaab continued to carry out terrorist attacks, most in or near the capital of Mogadishu. The northeastern semi-autonomous Puntland region saw an increase in ISIS activity in remote parts of the region, which began in 2015, when a faction of al-Shabaab defected and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. The northwestern self-declared independent region of Somaliland saw further fighting between clan militias in the east. On October 14 in Mogadishu, explosives on a truck were detonated, killing 512 people in the single deadliest attack in the country’s history. No group claimed responsibility, but the government blamed the attack on al-Shabaab. Because of ongoing conflict, more than half of Somalia’s 12.4-million people require emergency humanitarian assistance. Meanwhile, the threat of widespread famine grew

2016 Al-Shabaab continued to stage attacks, particularly suicide bombings, against public infrastructure, government buildings, and private businesses in an effort to thwart political progress and oppose the Provisional Constitution enacted by the Federal Government. Conflict between states and clan violence continued to undercut the prospect of a unified government capable of dealing with serious challenges to state control (International Crisis Group). On March 24, the United Nations Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia until March 31, 2017. In July, the African Union Mission in Somalia mandate was extended to May 31, 2017. Limited elections were held on October 23 and November 10, with 14,025 people voting. In 2012 elections, only 135 tribal elders voted for 275 members of parliament. Al-Shabaab opposed the electoral process and sought to undermine it through continued attacks. Some 1.1 million people are displaced, with 4 million requiring humanitarian aid.

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. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected president in September 2012, following the development of a national constitution earlier in the year, and held the position until February 16, 2017. In December 2014, tensions between President Mohamud and Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed led parliament to vote Ahmed out of office, replacing him with Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke. The previous prime minister, Abdi Farah Shiron, was ousted in 2013. The Somali Armed Forces are overseen by the Ministry of Defence.

2. Transitional Federal Government (TFG)/Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP): The TFG was the internationally recognized government of Somalia from 2004 until 2012. From 2009 to 2012, it was led by President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who later became Prime Minister in the Federal Government of Somalia. 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. Both the TFG and al-Shabaab used child soldiers, but in 2012, the TFG agreed to work with the UN to end its recruitment of child soldiers. The TFG controlled only selected neighbourhoods of Mogadishu. The TFG replaced the Transitional National Government (TNG), established at the Somalia National Peace Conference in 2000.

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 its leader was Abdirahman Mohamud Farole. In early January 2014 elections he was replaced by Abdiweli Mohamed Ali (former prime minister 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, militant attacks in Puntland intensified and a number of MPs were targeted and killed. Although the Puntland Administration supported an eventual return to central government, their relationship with the TFG grew tense and 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 anti-piracy operations.

4. Jubaland State Administration: On May 15, 2013 a conference was held in Kismayo, the commercial capital of Jubaland, to consider the possibility of forming a regional administration. Sheikh Ahmed Madobe, leader of the Ras Kamboni militia, 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 Kismayo. 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. Ras Kamboni: 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 fighting al-Shabaab.

Supported by:

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

6. Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a (ASWJ): Created as a religious movement in 1991, ASWJ is an organization of Sufi religious leaders. ASWJ developed in response to the increasing influence of Wahhabists and Salafists in Somalia, who were hostile to the role that Sufism has historically played in the country. In 2008, ASWJ took up arms against al-Shabaab and is seen to be the most effective obstacle to al-Shabaab’s advance into the north. ASWJ has been active in fighting in central Somalia. In early 2010, ASWJ entered into an agreement with the Transitional Federal Government, despite internal divisions as to how much support ASWJ should give to the TFG. In 2012, ASWJ fighters engaged in heavy clashes with al-Shabaab, backed by TFG soldiers. ASWJ has continued to cooperate with the TFG’s successor, the Federal Government of Somalia, and parties signed a March 2013 agreement 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 was meant to be a transitional mission, until the UN could provide its own peacekeeping force. 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. In the past, AMISOM, arguably underequipped for most of its existence, relied on weapons and troops from Uganda and Burundi. In 2014, troops from Ethiopia were incorporated into AMISOM. In 2015, it had 6,200 troops from Uganda, 5,450 from Burundi, 4,400 from Ethiopia, 3,650 from Kenya, and 1,850 from Djibouti (The Military Balance). 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 July 2016, the UN Security Council authorized AU members to maintain the AMISOM deployment of up to 22,126 uniformed personnel until May 31, 2017.

8. United Nations: The UN supported 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 Government of Ethiopia: Ethiopia supported the TFG and sent troops into Somalia in 2006 to remove the Islamic Courts Union from power and reinstall the TFG. The United States supported the Ethiopian action and provided military and financial assistance to the TFG. Ethiopia welcomed the formal establishment of the Somali federal government in 2012; Ethiopian Prime Minister Desalegn was present at former Somali President Mohamud’s inauguration.

10. The Government of Kenya: In response to kidnappings and small-scale attacks on its soil, Kenya sent nearly 3,000 soldiers into southern Somalia to fight al-Shabaab on October 16, 2011. In June 2012, Kenyan forces were formally integrated into AMISOM and have since played an integral role in the Somali government’s gradual expansion of territorial control. In June 2013, however, the Kenyan government was accused of siding with some Ras Kamboni groups, which created tension between it and the Somali Federal Government. In early July, the press published a leaked letter calling for the removal of Kenyan troops from AMISOM. Written by Fawzia Yusuf, Somalia’s Foreign Minister to the AU, the letter escalated Kenya’s distrust of Somalia. On September 21, al-Shabaab militants attacked Westgate mall in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. The siege lasted four days; and led to 61 civilian and six security personnel deaths.


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”): Al-Shabaab was formed in 2004 as the military wing of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) and was further radicalized after the Ethiopian invasion in 2006 and the subsequent dissolution of the ICU. In 2007 al-Shabaab emerged as the most dominant armed opposition group in Somalia. Al-Shabaab seeks the establishment of an Islamic state in Somalia based on a strict and rigid version of Wahabi-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 suffered several military defeats, al-Shabaab effectively took over Hizbul Islam. In September 2012, however, Hizbul Islam announced an end to its association with al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab continues to carry out attacks on government officials, national security forces and civilians to oppose the Federal Government of Somalia. 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, Al-Shabaab has largely been chased out of its operational centres. In September 2012 combined Somali-AMISOM forces recaptured the strategic port of Kismayo with limited resistance from al-Shabaab. Kismayo was seen as al-Shabaab’s last stronghold, and provided them with an income base and a means to import supplies.

Former al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane killed or imprisoned anyone who challenged him, which led to strong dissent within al-Shabaab in 2013. In September 2014, Godane was killed during U.S. drone strikes and replaced by Ahmed Umar. In 2015 the organization began to show a visible rift between those members who supported al-Qaeda and those who supported Islamic State.

12. Hizbul Islam: In 2009, Hizbul Islam was formed by the merger of four groups fighting against President Sheikh Ahmed’s government. These groups 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. During this time, the position of Hizbul Islam leader Hassan Dahir Awey in the expanded al-Shabaab organization was unclear. In September 2012, Hizbul Islam announced the end of 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. Hizbul Islam indicated that it was open to political negotiations with groups working in the national interest.

Supported by:

13. Al-Qaeda: Al-Shabaab is allied to and linked with al-Qaeda. In 2009 and 2010, reports indicated increased flows of weapons, money, and fighters from al-Qaeda to al-Shabaab, especially from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda. 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’s Boko Haram have attempted to collaborate in their funding and operational activities.

14. Mohamed Said Atom: Atom is a warlord from Puntland, who, along with his armed supporters, has pledged allegiance to al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab initially denied any links with Atom, but confirmed their alliance in February 2012. 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 the city of Bosaso and areas surrounding the country’s main seaport, 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. The Government of Eritrea: Eritrea has been accused of supporting the Islamic Courts Union. Eritrea’s support for opposition groups is usually seen as an attempt to counter Ethiopia’s influence in the region. In a 2010 report, the UN Monitoring Group alleged that Eritrea 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: Clan-based militias and warlords have engaged in violence in Somalia 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. However, this changed with the creation of the TFG, the inauguration of the Somali Federal Government in 2012, and the rise of al-Shabaab. Occasional conflict between clan-based groups, usually over territory and water, continues.

17. Islamic State of Somalia (ISS): Islamic State emerged slowly in Somalia, led by former al-Shabaab member Abdul Qadir Mumin. In 2016, it seized the small coastal town of Qandala from local Puntland security forces. Qandala offers strategic access to coastal routes in the Gulf of Aden, easing the ability of ISS to obtain supplies from Yemen (International Crisis Group).

Status of the Fighting

2017 Al-Shabaab attacks continued throughout the year, causing civilian deaths and destruction of civilian infrastructure. On January 25, al-Shabaab carried out an attack on members of parliament at the Dayah Hotel in Mogadishu. After a car drove into a gate of the hotel and exploded, gunmen stormed the building. Shortly after, the second car bomb exploded outside the hotel, wounding four reporters. A total of 28 people were killed and 51 wounded. Also in January, al-Shabaab killed 50 Kenyan troops assisting the Somali military in Kolbiyow in the south.

On February 8, six people were killed by al-Shabaab at a hotel in the capital of Puntland. On February 20, at least 39 people were killed and more than 50 injured by a car bomb at a market in the Medina district of Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab did not claim responsibility for the attack.

On March 2, the African Union and Somali forces carried out an attack on an al-Shabaab camp in the southern region of Juba, killing 57. On March 21, another car bomb from al-Shabaab killed at least five and wounded 10 at a security checkpoint near the second gate of the Presidential Palace in Mogadishu. Casualties include security personal and civilians.

On April 6, at least 19 people were killed in the southern Lower Shabelle region, about 120 kilometres from Mogadishu, when a minibus carrying villagers, including children. drove over a landmine. Al-Shabaab is believed to be responsible. On April 15, Somali official reported that more than 100 al-Shabaab fighters were killed by a U.S. airstrike in El Adde in the southwest. The U.S. Africa Command denied the attack. On April 23, six soldiers were killed and eight injured when a military vehicle drove over a roadside bomb in Bosaso, Puntland. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility.

On May 5, a U.S. Navy SEAL was killed and two were wounded by al-Shabaab during a U.S. operation near Barii, about 64 kilometres west of Mogadishu. The U.S. operation was assisting the Somali national army search for al-Shabaab commander Abdirahman Mohamed Warsame. On May 7, Moalin Osman Abdi Badil, the leader of al-Shabaab’s Lower Shabelle region group, and three associates were killed in a raid by the Somali military in Bariire, west of the capital. On May 8, at least three Somali soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb at a checkpoint in Shalanbood in the southern Lower Shabelle region, 90 kilometers from Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility. The same day, al-Shabaab detonated  a car bomb at a cafe near the immigration directorate in Mogadishu; gunfire then ensued. At least eight were killed and 20 wounded 20, with police, intelligence, military officials, and immigration workers the targets, according to a spokesman. In a rare attack in Puntland, on May 23, a suicide bomber killed five and wounded 12 at a checkpoint. The attack was carried out by a small armed group that split from al-Shabaab to declare allegiance to the Islamic State. On May 24, eight people were killed and 15 wounded in a car bombing in Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab attacks on villages in the Lower Shabelle region in late May displaced more than 15,000 civilians.

In early June, the al-Shabaab faction affiliated with ISIS stormed a military base in Puntland near the Galgala Mountains and claimed to kill 61 government troops. The extent of the killing was denied by the Puntland government. Also in June, Somali and U.S. military forces killed at least eight al-Shabaab militants in an airstrike on the group’s training base near Sakow in the Middle Jubba region. According to Somali President Farmajo, the strike, which destroyed an al-Shabaab supply hub, “will disrupt the enemy’s ability to conduct new attacks within Somalia.”

On June 9, at least 13 civilians were killed and 20 wounded as soldiers clashed at a food distribution centre in Baidoa. Some soldiers had attempted to steal the food meant for displaced individuals and clashed with the soldiers guarding the food. On June 15, 31 people were killed in Mogadishu when an al-Shabaab suicide bomber drove into the Posh Hotel and militants then took 20 people hostage at a nearby restaurant. Somali security forces killed all five attackers. On June 20, a suicide car bomber killed at least 15 and wounded at least nine, including civilians and Somalia officials, at Wadajir district headquarters in Mogadishu.

In July, top al-Shabaab commander Ali Muhammad Hussein was killed in a U.S. airstrike in the Lower Shabelle region. Hussein was responsible for planning and carrying out attacks in Mogadishu. On July 23, a roadside blast by al-Shabaab killed four Somali soldiers from a security convoy in Baido, southwest of Mogadishu. On July 30, at least 23 African Union troops and one Somali soldier were killed in the village of Golweyn, in the Lower Shabelle region, when al-Shabaab fighters ambushed the convoy.

On August 19, African Union and Somali forced recaptured the city of Bariire from al-Shabaab. On August 25, Somali and U.S. forces raided a farm on the outskirts of Bariire, killing at least 10 unarmed civilians, including three children.

On September 3, al-Shabaab attacked Somali and semi-autonomous forces at a military base in the village of Bula Gudud, in Jubbaland. Al-Shabaab claimed to have killed 26 soldiers. On September 11, 10 Somali soldiers and seven al-Shabaab militants were killed after al-Shabaab attacked a military base after detonating a car bomb. On September 29, al-Shabaab stormed the Somali military base in Bariire, killing 17 soldiers. Al-Shabaab claimed control of Bariire. The deputy governor of the Lower Shabelle region confirmed the attack, but not the number of fatalities.

On October 14, at least 358 people (a later number was as high as 512) were killed  and hundreds injured in the deadliest single attack in the country’s history. A truck carrying 350 kilograms of military-grade explosives blew up, igniting a fuel tanker parked close by. The explosion occurred near the foreign ministry, in a heavily populated neighbourhood in Mogadishu. President Farmajo blamed al-Shabaab for the attack, although al-Shabaab did not take responsibility. The truck driver was identified as a former Somali soldier, whose home was attacked in an August raid by Somali and U.S. forces that killed 10 civilians.

Near the end of the year, after U.S. President Trump relaxed defence regulations, there was a significant spike in airstrikes. In early November, the U.S. Africa Command carried out two separate airstrikes against ISIS in Puntland, where a small militant group of at least 200 fighters connected with ISIS took over a port town in the Galgala Mountains in October.  Four more U.S. strikes between November 9 and 12 in the Lower Shabelle region killed more than 40 militants. On November 14, six al-Shabaab fighters were killed by a U.S. airstrike in Ido Jalad, in Lower Shabelle. On November 21, U.S. and Somali forces carried out an airstrike on al-Shabaab camps, 200 kilometres northwest of Mogadishu, killing more than 100 al-Shabaab militants.

On December 5, eight members of al-Shabaab were killed by a U.S. airstrike near Kismayo. On December 14, an al-Shabaab suicide bomber, who entered the police academy in Mogadishu disguised as a police officer, killed 18 police officers and wounded 15. A December 24 airstrike on an al-Shabaab basecamp in Ball Raho in southern Somalia killed 13. A December 27 U.S. airstrike killed four al-Shabaab members and destroyed a vehicle carrying explosives to Mogadishu.  

2016 Al-Shabaab employed IEDs, suicide bombers, and small arms against civilians; government workers; Somali, Kenyan, and Ethiopian military personnel; and heavily used public and government infrastructure, particularly in Mogadishu. On January 15, al-Shabaab carried out a large attack on a Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) camp in El Adde, Gedo region, near the Kenyan border. Al-Shabaab militants stormed the base following a suicide bombing that exploded a vehicle near the perimeter. Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers, KDF soldiers, and AMISOM peacekeepers came under heavy fire. Somali and Kenyan soldiers and peacekeepers, along with al-Shabaab militants, were reportedly killed (Al Jazeera). An attack of similar magnitude occurred January 21, when al-Shabaab suicide bombers drove a car full of explosives into a beachfront hotel in downtown Mogadishu; al-Shabaab militants then opened fire on the hotel and the adjoining restaurant, killing approximately 20 (Al Jazeera). On June 8, a broadcaster  of state television and radio was shot in West Mogadishu (UN News Centre).

On July 26, suicide bombers detonated two vehicles loaded with explosives at Mogadishu airport, killing approximately 12. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia claimed that al-Shabaab was responsible (UN News Centre). On August 31, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for an attack on a hotel in Mogadishu that killed 13 and injured 20 (UN News Centre). The UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) reported that government officials and members of the federal parliament were meeting inside the hotel at the time of the blast.  In October, a vehicle laden with explosives was used in a suicide bombing at a police station in Afgooye City; the blast killed approximately 10, including local security forces and civilians (Al Jazeera). That month, a burgeoning Islamic State (IS) cell took the coastal city of Qandala from Puntland security forces (Long War Journal). In December, an al-Shabaab suicide bomber detonated a vehicle containing explosives in Mogadishu’s largest port. Police reported 29 laborers, police, and children killed and 48 people injured (Al Jazeera).

The United States launched numerous drone strikes in 2016. In March, it targeted  intelligence officer Hassan Ali Dhore and an al-Shabaab training camp in Hiiraan region that reportedly killed 150 militants. In May, drone strikes targeted intelligence officer Daud Ma’alim and in June, military officer Ma’alim Aden Hassan. A U.S. private military contractor trained an elite force of 570 Somalis called the Danab Brigade. These commandos killed Mohammed Mahmoud, a radicalized commander responsible for the 2015 Garissa University College attacks in Kenya (International Crisis Group).

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.

2017 According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), 1,228 civilians were killed between January and September 2017. 

Refugees and IDPs: Almost a million Somalis were newly displaced in 2017, bringing the total number of IDPs to 2.1 million people. Between October 2016 and October 2017, the number of IDPs increased from 85,573 to 1.2 million.

2016 According to ACLED, there were 5,572 casualties in 2016 (ACLED, Real time Complete All Africa File, results filtered for Somalia, 2015).

Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP): More than 1.1-million Somalis remained displaced internally and continued to settle along the Afgooye corridor between Mogadishu and the town of Afgooye (Amnesty International).

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

2017 In advance of the presidential election in early February, al-Shabaab increased attacks on government buildings and hotels in the capital. After three decades without an effective central government, Somalia elected former prime minister and dual U.S.-So9mali national Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo on February 8. One week later, U.S. President  Trump banned Somali immigrants from entering the United States. On February 19, al-Shabaab threatened to wage a “vicious war” against the new government. Also in February, a Somali military court in Bosaso sentenced seven al-Shabaab militants to death.

In March, President Trump relaxed restrictions on U.S. military activity in Somalia. Designating part of the country an “area of active hostilities” allowed the U.S. Africa Command to carry out raids and airstrikes without claiming self-defence.

Political developments in Somalia contributed to the emerging famine, which many fear will be like the famine in 2012 that killed 25,000 people. The famine was worsened by ongoing drought as well as blockades by al-Shabaab that kept aid out. U.S. and British counter-terrorism laws also prohibited a significant amount of foreign aid from entering the country.

In May, President Farmajo pleaded for world leaders to lift the arms embargo on the country, so that Somalia could acquire the tools to defeat al-Shabaab and regain territory facing Somalia’s worst drought in 40 years and desperately in need of assistance. In December, the United States suspended aid to the Somali military after it was unable to account for missing food, fuel, weapons, and vehicles funded by the United States.

2016 The UN provided technical support to Somalia as it prepared to conduct both parliamentary and presidential elections. To enhance the credibility of the process, the UN prepared a code of conduct for all candidates, and created an electoral dispute mechanism. Initially slated to be held in August, parliamentary elections occurred between October 23 and November 10, despite concerns that postponement might create greater opportunities for vote rigging in the first such elections since 1984 (UN News Centre).

The newly elected Parliament was due to elect the President on November 30, but this election was delayed until 2017. Presidential candidate Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo gained popularity; his nationalism and short tenure as Prime Minister in 2011 appealed to Somalia’s young Members of Parliament and Senators intent on national security reform (International Crisis Group).

Throughout the year, overstretched National Army soldiers defected to al-Shabaab and extorted money that enabled insurgents to capture strategic government checkpoints. Friction among semi-autonomous states and the FGS made it difficult to coordinate a cohesive national security effort aimed at reducing extremist attacks and clan disputes (International Crisis Group).

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. The civil war that began in 1988 led to state collapse in 1991 and evolved into clan-based warfare and warlordism throughout most of the 1990s. In the past 20 years, the conflict has taken on new ideological and international dynamics related to the global war on terror.

The third president of Somalia, Siad Barre, came to power in 1969. His regime became increasingly oppressive and opposition to his rule grew in the 1980s. Political opponents formed the Somali National Movement (SNM) in 1982 and attacked government forces in northwestern Somalia in 1988. Other armed opposition groups, mainly clan-based, appeared in southern Somalia over the next few years. In 1991, Barre was deposed and the United Somali Congress (USC) occupied Mogadishu. Soon after, the SNM declared an independent Somaliland in the northwest of Somalia, although the international community did not recognize it. The opposition that ousted Barre failed to unite and the country descended into clan-based warfare.

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; Cold War politics and the shifting allegiance of major superpowers; and the devastating war to reclaim the Ogaden region from Ethiopia in the late 1970s all weakened Somalia’s cohesion. In addition to these historical legacies, some experts argue that the model of a centralized governing authority is at odds with Somalia’s kinship system and pastoral culture.

For most of the 1990s and early 2000s, Somalia had no centralized government. In 1992, the UN Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) was established on a small scale to help rescue Somalia from famine and clan violence. UNOSOM was bolstered later in that year by a 37,000-strong U.S.-led international force. The operation lost local and international support after they launched an unsuccessful manhunt for one of the most prominent warlords, Mohammed Farah Aideed, and became embroiled in clashes with Somali militias. What began as a humanitarian mission to save U.S. troops 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 corpse was dragged through the streets of Mogadishu and photographed. Approximately 3,000 Somalis were killed in the operation. UNOSOM ended in 1995 without a national political settlement or any process for reestablishing a national government. In 1996, Mohammed Farah Aideed died and his position was taken by his son Hussein.

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.

The Arab League, the Organization of African Unity, and the UN made unsuccessful attempts to end the fighting. In 1997, 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. In mid-1998, clan leaders in the northeast proclaimed the formation of the Puntland state. 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 on 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, were successful 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 Transitional Federal Government reunited and moved to the provincial town of Baidoa. A group of Sharia courts united to form a rival administration to the TFG, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). They expelled warlords from Mogadishu and other major Somali cities, and controlled most of southern Somalia. The UN Security Council voted to weaken the 15-year-old arms embargo in preparation for an African Union peace force, which 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 from the ICU. 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 volatile conditions made it difficult for relief organizations to provide assistance.

In early 2007, a small contingent of AU peacekeepers deployed to protect the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs). However, the TFG and Ethiopia’s attempts to impose a “victor’s peace” prompted violent resistance. The now-defeated ICU fled to Eritrea, where they formed the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) with other opposition figures. The ARS mobilized support against Ethiopia’s occupation of Somalia and refused to negotiate until Ethiopian troops withdrew. During 2008 UN-mediated talks in Djibouti, the ARS and TFG agreed on 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. The new TFG raised hopes for a moderate Islamic government with support from both the Somali and international community. However, the Ethiopian invasion and the Djibouti talks led to the further radicalization of al-Shabaab, which denounced the talks as a betrayal of the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia.

Al-Shabaab continued to oppose the TFG, which was not able to build a coalition strong enough to combat al-Shabaab. The TFG retained the little power it had over Somalia with military support from AMISOM and foreign governments, such as the U.S. In 2012, the TFG was replaced by the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), which continues to combat the al-Shabaab insurgency and attempt to regain control of the south of the country. In 2012 and 2013, the FGS made significant progress and recaptured major port cities.

In 2013, the international Somali Compact initiative was developed to help rebuild Somalia; it proposed a three-year plan to approve a federal constitution by 2015 and hold elections in 2016. An official federal constitution was not achieved in 2015. Originally scheduled for August 2016, elections were held in February 2017 and a peaceful transition of power occurred after former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud conceded defeat.

Arms Sources

Since 1992, Somalia has been under an arms embargo imposed by the UN Security Council. In 2006, the embargo was amended to allow arms to be sent to the proposed AMISOM force and again in 2007, to allow states to supply arms to TFG security forces. The UN encouraged the international community to supply arms to both the TFG and AMISOM. During the 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 allegedly provided military support to ASWJ, a government-aligned non-state actor. The United States was also a major supplier of weapons and military assistance to the TFG, and of arms to Ethiopia. In 2009-2010, Uganda delivered 94 tons of weapons to the TFG, which was reimbursed by the United States. The United States also gave the TFG $2-million to procure weapons locally. During this time, Amnesty International called for tighter controls, as weapons were reportedly being used to commit war crimes and human rights abuses; Amnesty also claimed that the TFG lacked capacity to prevent large quantities of weapons from being diverted to other armed groups.

A variety of sources have provided nonstate opposition groups in Somalia with weaponry (usually small arms and light weapons and ammunition, as well as some heavier infantry weapons). In 2006 a UN report listed Syria, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Egypt, Eritrea, Djibouti and Saudi Arabia as principal arms traders to nonstate actors in Somalia. Eritrea has consistently been accused of supplying weapons to Somali opposition groups. Commercial arms shipments, especially from Yemen, were also a major source of arms.

Somalia is home to large informal weapons markets, such as the Bakaara Market in Mogadishu. Although the TFG banned Bakaara 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 were accused of selling their weapons to non-state groups. Captured TFG and AMISOM stockpiles were also a major source of arms and ammunition for opposition groups.

In late 2011 and early 2012, many entities provided Somali security forces with assistance without receiving permission from the Sanctions committee, including Ethiopia, France, Turkey, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, the United States, several private companies, and the UN. In July 2012, the UN Monitoring Group for Somalia and Eritrea reported that Yemeni arms markets were a significant source of weapons for non-state actors in Somalia, while Eritrea’s role had declined. In late 2012, UN sanctions monitors reported that al-Shabaab had received small arms sourced primarily from Yemeni and Iranian distribution networks. The arms were thought to enter Somalia 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.

The inauguration of the federal government in 2012 resulted in additional changes to the 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. FGS Security Forces are required to report to the UN every six months.

At its inception, the large Somali National Army (SNA) lacked logistical capacity. In 2013, SIPRI indicated that the U.K. supplied as many as 25 second-hand armored personal carriers to Somalia. In 2014 the United States sent military advisers to aid the SNA and AMISOM in security operations. In March of that year, the U.S. State Department reported that between 2007 and 2014 the United States had given more than $512-million to AMISOM and $171-million to the SNA.

In a 2014 report, the UN Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group produced evidence that weapons and ammunition had been diverted from government stockpiles to illegal weapons markets where they were being 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 that Ethiopia supplied to the Somali National Army (SNA). The report emphasized the danger of small arms proliferation after the partial lifting of the arms embargo, during which Somalia imported more than 13,000 weapons and 5.5 million rounds of ammunition.

In 2016, France supplied Somalia with 13 ACMAT APC vehicles (financed by the United States), while the Netherlands delivered six SP 5509 patrol crafts (SIPRI). SEMG data on arms seizures indicated illicit arms transfer in 2016 to Somalia from Iran, Libya, North Korea, and Sudan (Small Arms Survey, Measuring Illicit Arms Flows: Somalia). The Small Arms Survey report indicated that since the partial lifting of the UN arms embargo in 2013, the FGS had legally received more than 17,500 weapons and nine million rounds of ammunition.

In November 2017, the United Nations Security Council renewed for another year (until November 15, 2018) the partial lifting of the arms embargo on Somalia. UNSC also extended the mandate of the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group to December 15, 2018.

In 2017, the Monitoring Group reported  that the United Arab Emirates were building a naval base near the city of Berbera in Somaliland.

Economic Factors

After decades of war, a war economy has developed in Somalia. Much of the money used to fuel conflict comes from “taxing” infrastructure such as airports, bridges and roads. Despite a 2009 ban by the TFG, charcoal exports to neighbouring Gulf States have been an important source of revenue for opposition groups, including al-Shabaab. 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, a plant from the Horn of Africa, is an amphetamine-like stimulant that can cause serious health affects if consumed on a regular basis. It is suspected that money derived from piracy has been laundered through the miraa trade.

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, however, with only 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 on their fellows. From 2005 to 2012 an estimated $330-million to $413-million in ransom payments were made.

Somalia has 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 began deserting in 2008, complaining that they were not being paid their $100-per-month wage, and many reportedly joined the insurgency. Al-Shabaab offered recruits $400 for joining and promised regular wages.

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. 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.

Since 2012, public spending has increased significantly, as the government has improved domestic revenue collecting practices and increased public savings. However, domestic revenues remained insufficient to provide public services; the administrative and security sectors made up 85 per cent of government spending and social services only 10 per cent (World Bank).

The World Bank projected that Somalia’s GDP would reach $6.2-billion in 2016. Somalia’s recent GDP growth is attributable to increased agricultural production, specifically livestock exports to the Gulf States in 2016. Growth was also fostered by a resurfacing service industry that included telecommunications and money transfers, and a burgeoning fishing trade. Despite this economic growth, Somalia remained ineligible for financial assistance from the IMF as it has arrears of $328-million (United Nations). Somalia relies heavily on imports; import consumption constitutes approximately two-thirds of GDP, resulting in a significant trade deficit. Approximately half of Somalia’s population lived below the poverty line in 2016.


map: CIA Factbook

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