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World Mission

Somalia

Basic info

  • Area: 246,201 sq mi
  • Population: 14,317,996
  • Infant mortality: 109.6 per 1000
  • Life expectancy: 48.2 (men), 51 (women)
  • Urbanisation: 40.52%
  • Literacy: 37.8%

History

Somalia’s history dates back to early times, evidenced by the ancient cave paintings which can be found at Laas Geel near Hargeisa. The region was then inhabited by migrant Persians and Arabs who fled persecution by the empire then ruling modern-day Ethiopia. It was during this period that Islam was brought to the area.

Arab rule extended for centuries but began to wane with the arrival of European colonial powers. With the ‘Scramble for Africa’, during which European powers split the African continent between themselves, Somalia was divided into five parts, with the British taking the north, Italy taking the south, and the rest going to the French.

The Somalia we know today was created from the British and Italian protectorates after independence was granted in 1960. Soon after independence however, the country experienced a military coup d’état which signaled the start of conflict for years to come. After years of repressive military rule, supported by the Soviet Union, the government’s power began to dissipate in the 1980s and top military generals were forced out of power by several rebel groups.

In 1991, rebel groups succeeded in disbanding government but did not have the capacity to fill the vacuum. For nearly two decades, Somalia was without any centralized power but was instead controlled by brutal and power-hungry warlords. Mogadishu became known as the most lawless city in the world.

In September of 2012, however, the country finally managed to hold a general election and a new president was instated. The road toward recovery looks set to be slow as warlords refuse to relinquish power and the former British protectorate, now known as Somaliland, has declared itself independent from the rest of the country.

Environment

Later, Fatima Jibrell, a prominent Somali environmental activist, mounted a successful campaign to salvage old-growth forests of acacia trees in the northeastern part of Somalia. These trees, which can live for 500 years, were being cut down to make charcoal since this so-called "black gold" is highly in demand in the Arabian Peninsula, where the region's Bedouin tribes believe the acacia to be sacred. However, while being a relatively inexpensive fuel that meets a user's needs, the production of charcoal often leads to deforestation and desertification.

Following the massive tsunami of December 2004, there have also emerged allegations that after the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in the late 1980s, Somalia's long, remote shoreline was used as a dump site for the disposal of toxic waste. The huge waves that battered northern Somalia after the tsunami are believed to have stirred up tons of nuclear and toxic waste that might have been dumped illegally in the country by foreign firms.

The European Green Party followed up these revelations by presenting before the press and the European Parliament in Strasbourg copies of contracts signed by two European companies — the Italian Swiss firm, Achair Partners, and an Italian waste broker, Progresso — and representatives of the then "President" of Somalia, the faction leader Ali Mahdi Mohamed, to accept 10 million tonnes of toxic waste in exchange for $80 million (then about £60 million).

According to reports by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the waste has resulted in far higher than normal cases of respiratory infections, mouth ulcers and bleeding, abdominal haemorrhages and unusual skin infections among many inhabitants of the areas around the northeastern towns of Hobyo and Benadir on the Indian Ocean coast — diseases consistent with radiation sickness. UNEP adds that the current situation along the Somali coastline poses a very serious environmental hazard not only in Somalia, but also in the eastern Africa sub-region.">Somalia is a semi-arid country with about 1.64% arable land. From 1971 onwards, a massive tree-planting campaign on a nationwide scale was introduced by the Siad Barre government to halt the advance of thousands of acres of wind-driven sand dunes that threatened to engulf towns, roads and farm land. By 1988, 265 hectares of a projected 336 hectares had been treated.

In 1986, the Wildlife Rescue, Research and Monitoring Centre was established by Ecoterra Intl., with the goal of sensitizing the public to ecological issues. This educational effort led in 1989 to the so-called "Somalia proposal" and a decision by the Somali government to adhere to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which established for the first time a worldwide ban on the trade of elephant ivory.

Later, Fatima Jibrell, a prominent Somali environmental activist, mounted a successful campaign to salvage old-growth forests of acacia trees in the northeastern part of Somalia. These trees, which can live for 500 years, were being cut down to make charcoal since this so-called "black gold" is highly in demand in the Arabian Peninsula, where the region's Bedouin tribes believe the acacia to be sacred. However, while being a relatively inexpensive fuel that meets a user's needs, the production of charcoal often leads to deforestation and desertification.

Following the massive tsunami of December 2004, there have also emerged allegations that after the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in the late 1980s, Somalia's long, remote shoreline was used as a dump site for the disposal of toxic waste. The huge waves that battered northern Somalia after the tsunami are believed to have stirred up tons of nuclear and toxic waste that might have been dumped illegally in the country by foreign firms.

The European Green Party followed up these revelations by presenting before the press and the European Parliament in Strasbourg copies of contracts signed by two European companies — the Italian Swiss firm, Achair Partners, and an Italian waste broker, Progresso — and representatives of the then "President" of Somalia, the faction leader Ali Mahdi Mohamed, to accept 10 million tonnes of toxic waste in exchange for $80 million (then about £60 million).

According to reports by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the waste has resulted in far higher than normal cases of respiratory infections, mouth ulcers and bleeding, abdominal haemorrhages and unusual skin infections among many inhabitants of the areas around the northeastern towns of Hobyo and Benadir on the Indian Ocean coast — diseases consistent with radiation sickness. UNEP adds that the current situation along the Somali coastline poses a very serious environmental hazard not only in Somalia, but also in the eastern Africa sub-region.

Economy

Somalia is classified by the UN as a least developed country. Despite experiencing two decades of civil war, the country has maintained an informal economy, based mainly on livestock, remittance/money transfers from abroad, and telecommunications.

Due to a dearth of formal government statistics and the recent civil war, it is difficult to gauge the size or growth of the economy. In 2009, the CIA estimated GDP to be at $5.731 billion.

Unlike the pre-civil war period when most services and the industrial sector were government-run, there has been substantial, albeit unmeasured, private investment in commercial activities; this has been largely financed by the Somali diaspora, and includes trade and marketing, money transfer services, transportation, communications, fishery equipment, airlines, telecommunications, education, health, construction and hotels.

According to the UN Development Programme, Somalia has some of the lowest development indicators in the world.

Somalia's economy consists of both traditional and modern production, with a gradual shift to more modern industrial techniques. According to the Central Bank of Somalia, about 80% of the population are nomadic or semi-nomadic pastoralists, who keep goats, sheep, camels and cattle. The nomads also gather resins and gums to supplement their income.

According to the World Bank, Somalia's economy has suffered as a result of the state failure that accompanied the country's civil war. Some economists, including libertarian Peter T. Leeson, have argued instead that state collapse has actually helped improve economic welfare, because the previous Somali state was predatory.

Ethnic groups

Ethnic Groups(%)

Somali

12

Other

2

Religion

Religion(%)

Christianity

1000

Islam

14

Other

13

Languages

  • 58%

    Somalian

  • 42%%

    Other