Created in 1960 from a former British protectorate and an Italian colony, Somalia collapsed into anarchy following the overthrow of the military regime of President Siad Barre in 1991.
As rival warlords tore the country apart into clan-based fiefdoms, an internationally-backed unity government formed in 2000 struggled to establish control, and the two relatively peaceful northern regions of Somaliland and Puntland effectively broke away.
The seizure of the capital Mogadishu and much of the country’s south by a coalition of Islamic courts in 2006 prompted an intervention by Ethiopian, and later, African Union, forces.
Since 2012, when a new internationally-backed government was installed, Somalia has been inching towards stability, but the new authorities still face a challenge from Al-Qaeda-aligned Al-Shabab group.
ld’s most troubled countries. Chaos and violence have reigned since civil war broke out in 1991, and several famines in the past decade have caused hundreds of thousands to flee.
On August 20, a new Somali parliament was sworn in. Legislators are set elect a president on September 10, marking the end of eight years of rule by the UN-backed Transitional Federal Government(TFG), widely criticised as weak and corrupt.
Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, also known as Farmajo, was elected by MPs gathered under tight security in a hangar at the airport of the capital Mogadishu in February 2017.
The dual US-Somali citizen served as prime minister for eight months between 2010 and 2011 when he gained popularity by ensuring regular payment of army salaries and implementing a biometric register for security personnel.
He has expressed readiness to talk to al-Shabab.
Somalia’s disintegration is reflected in its fragmented and partisan media, which operates in a hostile environment.
Journalists and media outlets complain about intimidation at the hands of state security agencies. Nevertheless, professionally-run media outlets have emerged – in particular, FM radios with no explicit factional links.
The TV and press sectors are weak and radio is the dominant medium. Domestic web access is held back by poor infrastructure, but social media use is on the rise.
Somaliland, in the north, declared independence from Somalia shortly after the civil war broke out in 1991, although it has not been recognised by any foreign governments. Puntland, in Somalia’s northeast, declared itself an autonomous state in 1998. Unlike Somaliland, Puntland does not seek independence.
Somalia’s economy relies largely on agriculture; staples include bananas, rice, sorghum, and livestock. With its 3,000 km of coastline, longer than any other African country, fishing is a major source of livelihood. Remittances sent from Somalis living abroad also comprise a substantial portion of Somalia’s GDP.
Somalia is reported to have large, untapped reserves of many natural resources, including iron ore, uranium, and tin. Many also suspect Somalia is sitting on top of oil and natural gas reserves.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera, BBC and news agency