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Politics of Somalia


Somalia has no national government at present. For administrative purposes, Somalia is divided into 18 regions; the nature, authority, and structure of regional governments vary, where they exist.

The only entity in Somalia claiming to represent the country as a whole is the Transitional National Government, based in Mogadishu, although it controls only a limited portion of the national territory. In February 2002, the TNG announced a new cabinet of 31 members, including Foreign Minister Yusuf Hassan Ibrahim. The Transitional National Government has ambassadors in a few countries that have recognized it, including Djibouti and Saudi Arabia. It also represents Somalia in the United Nations, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Arab League, and some other multilateral organizations.

Political conditions

In the wake of the collapse of the Somali Government, factions organized around military leaders took control of Somalia. The resulting chaos and loss of life promoted the international intervention led by the United States, UNITAF. That operation was followed by the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM), which ended in 1994. Since 1991, there have been more than a dozen efforts at national reconciliation; to date, none has been successful. Various groupings of Somali factions have sought to control the national territory (or portions thereof) and have fought small wars with one another. Mohamed Ibrahim Egal was selected by elders in 1991 as President of the "Republic of Somaliland," which is made up of the former northwest provinces of the republic. In 1998, the area of Puntland in the northeast declared itself autonomous (although not independent) as the "State of Puntland," with its capital at Garowe. Puntland declared it would remain autonomous until a federated Somalia state was established. Abdullahi Yusuf, Puntlandís original president, ruled until mid-2001. In November 2001, a convention of elders, in a process disputed by Abdullayi, selected Col. Jama Ali Jama to succeed him. Forces loyal to Abdullayi, who had retreated to Galkayo, attacked Garowe in November, resulting in a de facto division of Puntland. As many as 30 other factions vie for some degree of authority in the country.

Efforts at mediation of the Somali internal dispute have been undertaken by many regional states. In the mid-1990s, Ethiopia played host to several Somali peace conferences and initiated talks at the Ethiopian city of Sodere, which led to some degree of agreement between competing factions. The Governments of Egypt, Yemen, Kenya, and Italy also have attempted to bring the Somali factions together. In 1997, the Organization of African Unity and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) gave Ethiopia the mandate to pursue Somali reconciliation. In 2000, Djibouti hosted a major reconciliation conference (the 13th such effort), which in August resulted in creation of the Transitional National Government, with a 3-year mandate to pursue national reconciliation. In early 2002, Kenya organized a further reconciliation effort under IGAD auspices.

The absence of a central government in Somalia since 1991 has allowed outside forces to become more influential by supporting various groups and persons in Somalia. Djibouti, Eritrea, and Arab states have supported the TNG. Ethiopia has provided political support to Somaliland and assisted a group of southern warlords organized as the Somalia Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC), which opposes the TNG.

Country name:
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Somalia
former: Somali Republic, Somali Democratic Republic

Data code: SO

Government type: none

Capital: Mogadishu, Somalia

Administrative divisions: 18 regions (plural - NA, singular - gobolka); Awdal, Bakool, Banaadir, Bari, Bay, Galguduud, Gedo, Hiiraan, Jubbada Dhexe, Jubbada Hoose, Mudug, Nugaal, Sanaag, Shabeellaha Dhexe, Shabeellaha Hoose, Sool, Togdheer, Woqooyi Galbeed

Independence: 1 July 1960 (from a merger of British Somaliland, which became independent from the UK on 26 June 1960, and Italian Somaliland, which became independent from the Italian-administered UN trusteeship on 1 July 1960, to form the Somali Republic)

National holiday: July 1st.

Constitution: 25 August 1979, presidential approval 23 September 1979

Legal system: NA

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch: Somalia has no functioning government; the United Somali Congress (USC) ousted the regime of Major General Mohamed SIAD Barre on January 27, 1991; the present political situation is one of anarchy, marked by interclan fighting and random banditry

Legislative branch: unicameral People's Assembly or Golaha Shacbiga
note: not functioning

Judicial branch: (not functioning); note - following the breakdown of national government, most regions have reverted to Islamic law with a provision for appeal of all sentences

Political parties and leaders: none

Political pressure groups and leaders: numerous clan and subclan factions are currently vying for power

International organization participation: ACP, AfDB, AFESD, AL, AMF, CAEU, ECA, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IGAD, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ITU, NAM, OAU, OIC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO (observer)

Flag description: light blue with a large white five-pointed star in the center; design based on the flag of the UN (Italian Somaliland was a UN trust territory)

Government - note: While chaos and clan fighting continue in most of Somalia, some orderly government has been established in the northern part. In May 1991, the elders of clans in former British Somaliland established the independent Republic of Somaliland, which, although not recognized by any government, maintains a stable existence, aided by the overwhelming dominance of the ruling clan and the economic infrastructure left behind by British, Russian, and American military assistance programs. Neighboring Puntland has also made strides towards reconstructing legitimate, representative government. In February 1996, the EU agreed to finance the reconstruction of the port of Berbera; since then, other aid projects have been assumed by the EU and by a non-governmental Italian organization.

See also : Somalia