Somalia (pronounced /soʊˈmɑːliə/ soh-MAH-lee-ə; Somali: Soomaaliya; Arabic: الصومال aṣ-Ṣūmāl), officially the Republic of Somalia (Somali: Jamhuuriyadda Soomaaliya, Arabic: جمهورية الصومال Jumhūriyyat aṣ-Ṣūmāl) and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic under communist rule, is a country located in the Horn of Africa.
It is bordered by Djibouti to the northwest, Kenya to the southwest, the Gulf of Aden with Yemen to the north, the Indian Ocean to the east, and Ethiopia to the west. With the longest coastline on the continent, its terrain consists mainly of plateaus, plains and highlands.
In antiquity, Somalia was an important center for commerce with the rest of the ancient world. Its sailors and merchants were the main suppliers of frankincense, myrrh and spices, items which were considered valuable luxuries by the Ancient Egyptians, Phoenicians, Mycenaeans and Babylonians with whom the Somali people traded.
According to most scholars, Somalia is also where the ancient Kingdom of Punt was situated. The ancient Puntites were a nation of people that had close relations with Pharaonic Egypt during the times of Pharaoh Sahure and Queen Hatshepsut. The pyramidal structures, temples and ancient houses of dressed stone littered around the country are said to date from this period. During the Middle Ages, several powerful Somali empires dominated the regional trade, including the Ajuuraan State, the Sultanate of Adal, the Warsangali Sultanate and the Gobroon Dynasty.
Somalia was never formally colonized. Muhammad Abdullah Hassan’s Dervish State successfully repulsed the British Empire four times and forced it to retreat to the coastal region. Due to these successful expeditions, the Dervish State was recognized as an ally by the Ottoman and German Empires. The Turks also named Hassan Emir of the Somali nation, and the Germans promised to officially recognize any territories the Dervishes were to acquire.
After a quarter of a century of holding the British at bay, the Dervishes were finally defeated in 1920 as a direct consequence of Britain’s new policy of aerial bombardment. As a result of this bombardment, former Dervish territories were turned into a protectorate of Britain.
Italy faced similar opposition from Somali Sultans and armies, and did not acquire full control of parts of modern Somalia until the Fascist era in late 1927. This occupation lasted until 1941, and was replaced by a British military administration. Northern Somalia would remain a protectorate, while southern Somalia became a trusteeship. The Union of the two regions in 1960 formed the Somali Republic. A civilian government was formed, and on July 20, 1961, through a popular referendum, a new constitution that had first been drafted the year before was ratified.
Due to its longstanding ties with the Arab world, Somalia was accepted in 1974 as a member of the Arab League. During the same year, the nation’s former socialist administration also chaired the Organization of African Unity, the predecessor of the African Union.
In 1991, the Somali Civil War broke out, which saw the collapse of the federal government. Somalia’s inhabitants subsequently reverted to local forms of conflict resolution, either secular, Islamic or customary law, with a provision for appeal of all sentences. As with other previously nationalized sectors, informal providers stepped in to fill the void and replaced the former government monopoly over healthcare, with access to facilities witnessing a significant increase and general living conditions improving.
Through similar grass-roots initiatives, many educational institutions were restored and newer ones were developed; several are now ranked among the 100 best universities in Africa.
Additionally, a Transitional Federal Government was created in 2004, which saw the restoration of numerous national institutions, including the Military of Somalia. While it still has room for improvement, the interim government continues to reach out to both Somali and international stakeholders to help grow the administrative capacity of the Transitional Federal Institutions and to work toward eventual national elections in 2011.
According to the CIA, the Ludwig von Mises Institute, the Independent Institute and the Foundation for Economic Education, despite experiencing civil unrest, Somalia has also maintained a healthy informal economy, based mainly on livestock, remittance/money transfer companies, and telecommunications. This increased economic activity is attributed to the Somali traditional law (referred to as Xeer), which provides a stable environment to conduct business in.
Notes from Wikipedia