Somali Civil War


Like many African countries, Somalia suffers from the aftereffects of colonization. Italy and Great Britain left the country unstable, forcing duelling clans to coexist. After an unpopular war against Ethiopia, the longstanding dictator, Mohammed Siad Barre, was thrown out of power, leaving Somalia with no strong government. Somalia structures itself based on clans (groups of people with the same ancestry). Since then, the people of Somalia have suffered from clan violence, disease, terrorism, and famine. Many have fled to Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya and one of the largest refugee camps in the world.


Where: Somalia

Population: 11 million

Deaths: Approx. 1 million

Refugees/Displaced peoples: 1.1 million

Al-shabaab fighters: 7,000 to 9,000

Key actors

The central government has been re-established and remains susceptible to corruption

Meaning “The Youth” in Arabic, this local Al-Qaeda affiliate has grown weaker in recent years, although it continues to dominate much of southern and central Somalia—at its peak it controlled parts of the capital city of Mogadishu and the port of Kismayo.

officially began operating in Somalia in 2016, after staging its first attack against African Union military peacekeepers. They are actively recruiting dissatisfied al-Shabaab fighters.

has actively been involved in the fight against al-Shabab since 2007 (mainly in a peacekeeping role, taking over from the United Nations). Its troops are from Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti, although, it has been slowly reducing its troop presence in recent years.

has had interest in fighting terrorism in Somalia. However, President Trump also plans to reduce spending in Somalia and has consistently included Somalia as a country in his failed travel ban

conducted multiple failed peacekeeping missions in Somalia during the 1990s, but has since played a smaller role in resolving the conflict.

Timeline of the crisis

Dictator Mohammed Siad Barre flees Mogadishu after rival clan militias attack.  Mhamed Farah Aideed and Ali Mahdi Mohamad, leaders of two rival clans, fight to declare themselves president.

The Somalia National Movement (SNM) declares the northwestern area of Somalia independent, creating the autonomous territory, Somaliland

Ali Mahdi Mohamad declares himself president.

The US leads the UN in the United Task Force (UNITAF), a peacekeeping mission to restore a government in Somalia. The goal is to create security in the region.United States President George H.W. Bush orders emergency airlifts of supplies to Somalia.

The United Nations launches “Operation Restore Hope” to protect supplies from warlords.

UNITAF is declared ineffective and transitions into United Nations Operation in Somalia I (UNOSOM I).

The UN transitions into United Nations Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOM II), with the goal of rebuilding Somalia.

The Battle of Mogadishu leaves several civilians and eighteen United States park rangers dead. This is commonly known as “Black Hawk Down.” The dead soldiers were dragged through the streets and filmed. The footage was later shown on CNN causing public backlash to the US’s involvement in Somalia. The United States later pulls out of Somalia.

Mohamed Farah Aideed declares himself president and is soon after assassinated. Former ally, Osman Ali Atto, was thought to be the mastermind of his assassination. Atto was also shot and later died of complications during surgery. During this time, warlords increase their fighting.

Cholera outbreak due to unsanitary water kills thousands citizens

United Nations pulls international staff and aide workers from Somalia due to dangerous fighting conditions

Post 9-11, the United States suspects terrorist activity in Somalia and increases presence in the region.

Transitional government returns to Somalia but interim Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Ghedi is almost assassinated after a suicide bomber kills seven people near his home.Rebel groups, including pirates, start hijacking boats carrying supplies.

Somalia grants permission to the US Navy to patrol the shores for pirates

The United Nations approves a six-month peacekeeping mission called African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). This mission is still active today and brings outside African troops to restore peace in Somalia. A state of emergency is declared.

US airstrikes kill Aden Hashi Ayro, leader of Al-Shabaab insurgent group

The UN Security Council unanimously approves countries sending ships to Somalia to fight pirates.

Somali pirates capture US cargo ship, Maersk Alabama. Captain Richard Phillips is taken hostage in exchange for the safety of his crew. Philips is rescued a few days later.

Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo resigns and is replaced by interim Prime Minister, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali

The UN declares a famine in Somalia.

al-Shabaab is forced out of the capital Mogadishu, following an offensive spearheaded by about 22,000 African Union troops.

Transparency International declares Somalia the most corrupt country in the world.

Somalia has its first presidential election since 1991. Mohamed Abdullabi Farmajo, a dual citizen of Somalia and the United States is elected and brings hope to the Somali citizens of a less corrupt government. Despite threats of corruption and terrorism during the election, the Somali people celebrate the hope of a new democracy.

Terrorist group al-Shabaab, is suspected of being behind a truck bomb that killed over 300 people. The attack was the deadliest terror attack in Somalia history.

This is followed by two bombings in Mogadishu two weeks later, killing 14 people.

Two car bombings and subsequent gunfire kill 45 people and injure 36 more in Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab claims responsibility.

A double suicide bombing in Baidoa kills 16 people and wounds at least 50 more. Shortly after, a third bomber kills 6 more at a nearby hotel owned by Mohamed Aden Fargeti, a candidate in this year’s presidential election. Al-Shabaab claims responsibility over Andalus, the pro-al-Shabaab radio station.

How can you help?

  • Support refugee communities from Somalia; protest Trumps travel ban.
  • UNICEF works to help children in Somalia –
  • For more information and to help expose other crimes in Somalia visit Amnesty International –

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