Somali Civil War

Somali Civil War
Somalia Civil War
Part of the Horn of Africa conflicts and War On Terror
Black Hawk Down Super64 over Mogadishu coast.jpg
A Black Hawk helicopter, callsign Super 6-4, over the Mogadishu coast.
Date 1991–present
Location Somalia
Status Conflict ongoing
  • Large displacement of Somalian Civilians
  • Unknown stance between Transitional Federal Government and unrecognised breakaway states (Somaliland and Puntland)
  • Elements of radical Islam imposed primarily in southern Somalia
Casualties and losses
300,000[1]–400,000[2] dead

The Somali Civil War is an ongoing civil war taking place in Somalia. The conflict, which began in 1991, has caused destabilisation throughout the country, with the current phase of the conflict seeing the Somali government losing substantial control of the state to rebel forces. The unrest initially consisted of a series of clashes between various tribalist factions, but since the mid-2000s took a militant Islamist tone.[3][4]

From 2006–2009, the National Defense Force of Ethiopia was involved in the conflict. Somalia's government declared a state of emergency in June 2009,[5] requesting immediate international support, and the military intervention of neighbouring East African states.[6]


Downfall of Siad Barre (1986–1991)

The Somali Revolution started in 1986 when Siad Barre began attacking clan-based dissident groups opposed to his rule with his special forces, the "Red Berets" (Duub Cas).[7] The first phase of the civil war stemmed from the insurrections against the repressive regime of Siad Barre. After his ousting from power on January 26, 1991, a counter-revolution took place to attempt to reinstate him as leader of the country.

The increasingly violent and chaotic situation evolved to a humanitarian crisis and to a state of anarchy.

Later in 1991, to insulate it from the more violent fighting in the south, the Somaliland region of Somalia declared itself independent, though its sovereignty is not recognized by any nation or international organization. It comprises the northwestern section of the country, between Djibouti and the northeastern area known as Puntland.

United Nations intervention (1992–1995)

UN Security Council Resolution 733 and UN Security Council Resolution 746 led to the creation of UNOSOM I, the first mission to provide humanitarian relief and help restore order in Somalia after the dissolution of its central government.

UN Security Council Resolution 794 was unanimously passed on December 3, 1992, which approved a coalition of United Nations peacekeepers led by the United States to form UNITAF, tasked with ensuring humanitarian aid be distributed and peace be established in Somalia. The UN humanitarian troops landed in 1993 and started a two-year effort (primarily in the south) to alleviate famine conditions.[8]

An American soldier at the main entrance to the Port of Mogadishu points to identify a sniper's possible firing position (January 1994).

Critics of US involvement argued that the US government was stepping in to gain control of oil concessions for American companies. While Somalia has no proven reserves of oil, there might be oil in Puntland. They pointed out that just before pro-U.S. President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991, nearly two-thirds of the country's territory had been granted as oil concessions to Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips. Conoco even lent its Mogadishu corporate compound to the U.S. embassy a few days before the Marines landed, with the first Bush administration's special envoy using it as his temporary headquarters."[9][10][11] Oil exploration remains controversial and the Transitional Federal Government has warned investors to not make deals until stability is once again brought to the country.[12]

Between June and October 1993, several gun battles in Mogadishu between local gunmen and peacekeepers resulted in the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers and 19 US soldiers (total US deaths were 31), most of whom were killed in the Battle of Mogadishu. 1,000 Somali militia were killed in that battle.[citation needed] The Security Council in Resolution 837 condemned the attacks. The incident later became the basis for the book and movie, Black Hawk Down. The UN withdrew on March 3, 1995, having suffered more significant casualties.

Rise and fall of the ICU, Ethiopian intervention, and the TFG (2006–2009)

Flag of Al-Shabaab, a faction that supports the ICU.

In 2004, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was founded in Nairobi, Kenya. Matters were still too chaotic inside Somalia to convene in Mogadishu. In early 2006, the TFG moved to establish a temporary seat of government in Baidoa.

During the early part of 2006, the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT) was formed as an alliance of mostly secular Mogadishu-based warlords. The warlords were backed by funding from the US CIA.[13] They were opposed to the rise of the Sharia law oriented Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which had been rapidly consolidating power. This led to increasing conflict in the capital.

Height of ICU power

By June 2006, the ICU succeeded in capturing the capital, Mogadishu, in the Second Battle of Mogadishu. They drove the ARPCT out of Mogadishu, and succeeded in persuading or forcing other warlords to join their faction. Their power base grew as they expanded to the borders of Puntland and took over southern and middle Jubaland.

The Islamic movement's growing power base and militancy led to increasingly open warfare between the Islamists and the other factions of Somalia, including the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Puntland and Galmudug, the latter of which formed as an autonomous state specifically to resist the Islamists. It also caused the intervention of Ethiopia, who supported the secular forces of Somalia. The ICU allegedly obtained the support of Ethiopia's rival, Eritrea and foreign mujahideen, and declared Jihad against Ethiopia in response to its occupation of Gedo and deployment around Baidoa.

Ethiopian intervention and collapse of the ICU

In December 2006, the ICU and TFG began the Battle of Baidoa. Fighting also broke out around the Somali town of Bandiradley in Mudug and Beledweyn in the Hiran region. The ICU aimed to force the Ethiopians off Somali soil. However, they were defeated in all major battles and forced to withdraw to Mogadishu. After the brief final action at the Battle of Jowhar on December 27, the leaders of the ICU resigned.

Following the Battle of Jilib, fought on December 31, 2006, Kismayo fell to the TFG and Ethiopian forces, on January 1, 2007. Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Ghedi called for the country to begin disarming.

US intervention

In January 2007, the United States officially militarily interceded in the country for the first time since the UN deployment of the 1990s by conducting airstrikes using AC-130 gunships against Islamist positions in Ras Kamboni, as part of efforts to catch or kill Al Qaeda operatives supposedly embedded within the ICU forces. Unconfirmed reports also stated that US advisors had been on the ground with Somali and Ethiopian forces since the beginning of the war. Naval forces were also deployed offshore to prevent escape by sea, and the border to Kenya was closed.

Islamist insurgency and reappearance of inter-clan fighting

No sooner had the ICU been routed from the battlefield than their troops dispersed to begin a guerrilla warfare against Ethiopian and Somali government forces. Simultaneously, the end of the war was followed by a continuation of existing tribal conflicts.

To help establish security, a proposed African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) was authorized to deploy as many as 8,000 peacekeepers to the country. This mission widened the scope of countries that could participate over the earlier proposed mission led by the Horn of Africa-based nations of IGAD. The Islamist group leading the insurgency, known as the Popular Resistance Movement in the Land of the Two Migrations (PRM), vowed to oppose the presence of foreign troops.

War in Somalia (2009–present)

In December 2008, Ethiopian soldiers withdrew from Somalia, leaving behind an African Union contingent of several thousand troops to help the fragile coalition government and its troops enforce their authority. Following Ethiopia's withdrawal from Somalia, the southern half of the country rapidly fell into the hands of radical Islamist rebels. The rebels quickly routed the government and AU troops in several key provinces, establishing sharia law in areas under their control. On May 7, 2009, the rebels attacked the capital city of Mogadishu, capturing most of the city but failing to overthrow the government, which maintained control over a few square kilometers of the city.

Former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali[14] and Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, UN special envoy to Somalia[15] have referred to the killing of civilians in the Somalian Civil War as a "genocide", and the Genocide Intervention Network lists Somalia as an area of concern.[16]

In October 2011, in a coordinated military operation with the Somalian military, troops from Kenya crossed the border into southern Somalia in pursuit of Al-Shabaab militants that are alleged to have kidnapped several foreign tourists and workers inside Kenya.[17][18] The incursion was reportedly spearheaded by Kenya's Minister of Defence, Mohamed Yusuf Haji, an ethnic Somali.[17] Although the Kenyan Army's role in the operation is active, a spokesman for the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG) indicated that Kenyan troops were only supplying "logistical and moral support" and that Somalian military officers were actually combating the Islamist militants.[19]

See also


  1. ^ John Pike (2004-11-05). "Hundreds of thousands killed inmany years of war, says new president". Retrieved 2011-04-20. 
  2. ^ "Twentieth Century Atlas - Death Tolls and Casualty Statistics for Wars, Dictatorships and Genocides". Retrieved 2011-04-20. 
  3. ^ "Ethiopia's proxy war". 2008-02-27. Retrieved 2011-04-20. 
  4. ^ "Radical islam and Tribal politics" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-04-20. 
  5. ^ The Associated Press. "Somali Cabinet OKs state of emergency". Google. Retrieved June 21, 2009. 
  6. ^ "Ethiopia rejects Somali request". BBC News. June 21, 2009. Retrieved June 21, 2009. 
  7. ^ The Fall of Siad Barre and the Descent into Civil War Nations Encyclopedia
  8. ^ * Ken Rutherford, Humanitarianism Under Fire: The US and UN Intervention in Somalia, Kumarian Press, July 2008, ISBN 1565492609
  9. ^ Kretzman, Steve (Jan/Feb 2003). "Oil, Security, War The geopolitics of U.S. energy planning". Multinational Monitor magazine. 
  10. ^ Fineman, Mark (January 18 1993). "Column One; The Oil Factor In Somalia;Four American Petroleum Giants Had Agreements With The African Nation Before Its Civil War Began. They Could Reap Big Rewards If Peace Is Restored.". Los Angeles Times: 1. 
  11. ^ George, Dev (1995). "Will the majors return to Somalia?". Offshore: 8. 
  12. ^ "Abdillahi Yusuf’s Transitional Government And Puntland Oil Deals". Somaliland Times. Retrieved January 10, 2007. 
  13. ^ UN trying to clarify problems in Somalia - The Final Call - Jun 29, 2006
  14. ^ Boutros Boutros Ghali, Unvanquished: A U.S.-U.N. Saga (London: I.B. Tauris & Co. 1999) p. 140 ISBN 186064497X
  15. ^ "Troubled Somalia Mission Extended", BBC News, December 22, 2008 Accessed January 25, 2011
  16. ^ Genocide Intervention Network "Somalia"
  17. ^ a b Security&Itemid=115 Kenyan ramps up security at Somali border, eyes al Shabaab
  18. ^ "Kenyan troops pursue al-Shabab into Somalia in Operation Linda Nchi". Al Jazeera English. 16 October 2011. Retrieved 16 October 2011. 
  19. ^ "Kenya: Army Hit Somali Terror Base". 17 October 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 

External links

News coverage of conflict

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