The Egyptians knew Somalia in ancient times
as the Land of Punt. From the 2nd to the 7th century AD parts of the area
belonged to the Ethiopian kingdom of Aksum. Arab tribes in the 7th century
settled along the coast of the Gulf of Aden and established the sultanate
of Aden, which centred on the port of Zeila. The Somali people began slowly
to migrate into this region from Yemen in the 13th century. The sultanate
disintegrated during the 16th century into small independent states, many
of which were ruled by Somali chiefs. Zeila became a dependency of Yemen,
and was then captured by the Ottoman Empire.
European exploration began in the 19th century and in 1884 the British set up a protectorate in the north. In order to protect British trade routes and provide safe anchorage for ships, Great Britain took possession of Aden (now in the Republic of Yemen) on the Arabian coast in 1839. Subsequently, about 1875, Egypt, disregarding Turkish claims, occupied some of the towns on the Somali coast and part of the adjacent interior. When the Egyptian troops left the area in 1882 to help stem the revolt of the Mahdi in the Sudan, Great Britain occupied the territory in order to safeguard the route to India through the Suez Canal, which had been opened in 1869. In 1887 a British protectorate, known as British Somaliland, was proclaimed. The protectorate, initially a dependency of Aden, was placed under the administration of the British foreign office in 1898 and of the colonial office in 1905.
Italian interest in the Somali coast developed in the late 19th century. By the terms of the treaties with native Somali sultans, and conventions with Great Britain, Ethiopia, and Zanzibar, Italy acquired a foothold along the Indian Ocean coast.
British control of the interior of the protectorate was challenged by native revolts between 1899 and 1910. In 1910 the British abandoned the interior and withdrew to the coastal regions. They finally subdued the rebels in 1920. During this period Italy extended control over the area inland from the Indian Ocean coast by the Treaty of London in 1915 and by various post-war agreements. In 1936 Italy merged Italian Somaliland, Eritrea, and the newly conquered Ethiopia into the colonial state of Italian East Africa. After the Italian entrance into World War II (1939-1945) on the side of Germany in 1940, Italian troops invaded British Somaliland and succeeded in expelling the British. Great Britain re-conquered its protectorate in 1941.
By the terms of the Italian peace treaty adopted in 1947, Italy was forced to renounce title to the possessions in Africa, and responsibility for disposition of these colonies was allocated to the so-called Big Four (the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR). In 1948 the Big Four, having failed to reach an agreement on disposition, referred the matter to the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN). The General Assembly approved a plan granting independence to Italian Somaliland after ten years as a UN trust territory under Italian administration in November 1949. On April 1, 1950, after Italy had accepted the terms of a UN trusteeship agreement, the British military government was replaced by a provisional Italian administration. The territory was named Somalia.
On July 1, 1960, by agreement with the UN Trusteeship Council, Somalia was granted independence. It merged thereupon with the former British protectorate, to which Great Britain, by pre-arrangement, had given independence on June 26. The first president, Aden Abdullah Osman Daar, elected in 1960, was defeated for re-election in 1967 by the former premier Abdi Rashid Ali Shirmarke. On October 15, 1969, Shirmarke was assassinated, and days later a military group, led by Major General Muhammad Siad Barre, seized power. In 1970 Barre declared Somalia a socialist state, and in the following years most of the modern economy of the country was nationalised. A drought in 1974 and 1975 caused widespread starvation.
The British gave the Ogaden region, in the west-central part of the country, to Ethiopia in 1948. It was the source of constant conflict between Somalia and Ethiopia. In mid-1977 ethnic Somalis in the adjacent Ogaden region of Ethiopia initiated open warfare aimed at ending Ethiopian control of the area. The rebels were armed by Somalia, which also contributed troops to the effort. The Somalis captured most of the Ogaden by late 1977, but Ethiopia, aided by Cuba and the USSR, reasserted control over the region in early 1978, as Somalia's army suffered heavy losses. Subsequent fighting in the Ogaden precipitated a flood of refugees into Somalia; the number of homeless in 1981 was estimated at close to 2 million. The United States gave both humanitarian and military aid and was in return granted use of the naval facilities at Berbera, previously a Soviet base.
Opposition to Barre's rule began to coalesce in 1981 after Barre chose members of his own Marehan clan for government positions while excluding members of the Mijertyn and Isaq clans. Insurgent groups from those clans initiated clashes with government troops beginning in 1982. A peace accord ended hostilities with Ethiopia in 1988, but the civil war intensified, despite Barre's attempts to placate insurgents by proposing a multiparty government. By 1989 only Mogadishu and portions of Hargeisa and Berbera were firmly in government control. In 1990 a Civil War broke between different factions and is still going on. The people who suffer the consequences of this war are women, children and the elderly.
Abdulhakim Mohammed Abdi Hassan