Somalia has lacked a functioning central
government since the dictator Siad Barre was overthrown
in 1991. The militant Islamist group al-Shabaab has lost
ground since 2011, but continues to fight the government
in Mogadishu by force. In Northern Somaliland and to
some extent Puntland, which more or less functions as
independent units, is relatively calm. In the fall of
2016, parliamentary elections were held, where 14,000
clan elders and others appointed a new parliament. This,
after many delays, elected a new president, Mohamed
Abdullahi Mohamed "Farmaajo", in February 2017.
2012: Sheikh Mohamud takes over as president
When Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected President in
2012, there were high hopes that it would mean a fresh
start for Somalia. The new president did not belong to
the traditional elite in the country. In the
presidential election, he not only succeeded in
capturing the protest votes against Representative
Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, but also built alliances across the
sound borders. Not least, optimism was great among the
most important donors.
Country facts and history of Somalia, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
At first it seemed to be going well. The new
president followed an action plan that would lay the
foundations for sustainable development, where security
issues, economic reconstruction and work to create
reconciliation were given much room.
In addition, since al-Shabaab left Mogadishu in 2011,
security in the capital had improved and, step by step,
Amisom and the government forces began to take control
of an increasing number of cities. In 2012, Amisom,
under Kenyan command, Kismayo, who for many years was
one of al-Shabaab's strongest holdings (see also
Finance). At the same time, the Islamist group was
weakened by internal contradictions.
But government work soon stopped. Like its
representatives on the transition boards, the president
ended up in crippling power struggles with his head of
government. At the end of 2014, Omar Abdirashid Ali
Sharmarke became Somalia's third prime minister in just
over two years.
The process of merging old regions into new states
also created friction. In the south, clashes broke out
between rival clan militia in 2013, when both Adan Barre
Hiiraale and Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed Islam (Madobe)
declared themselves Presidents of Jubbaland (sometimes
spelled Jubaland). The conflict was resolved after a few
months through an interim agreement between the
government and the "Land". Madobe could remain, but
could not retain the title of president. The election of
Madobe, whose Ras Kamboni militia was accused of
assaulting civilians, triggered demonstrations in
The more pressured the president became, the more
influence he gave to people from his own clan hawiye.
And like the previous transition boards, the government
was accused of corruption.
New wave of violence
From 2013, violence rose again. Almost daily attacks
occurred, not least in Mogadishu, and although some of
the killings were committed by others, al-Shabaab often
took on the blame for them. The Islamist group was also
better armed than before and the death demanded more and
more human lives. A series of assaults were carried out
near the presidential palace and the hotel where both
government ministries and foreign diplomats resided.
In addition, al-Shabaab carried out several terrorist
attacks in Kenya. One of the most spectacular was
targeted in September 2013 at a shopping mall in a
prosperous area in Nairobi, demanding 67 deaths. Another
attack was carried out in 2015 against a university in
Kenyan Garissa in northeastern Kenya, when 148 Christian
Kenyans were killed.
Amisom and the government forces continued to take
over cities and villages previously controlled by al-Shabaab
in 2014 and 2015. But it was unclear if they could
really guarantee the safety of the people in these
areas. It seemed as though al-Shabaab often just left
without a fight as the troops advanced, and then
returned and committed new acts of violence.
A cloud of concern was that the EU from 2015 reduced
its funding for the AU force. In the spring of 2016,
Kenya threatened to leave Amisom unless another actor
pushed for more money, and to close two large camps for
Somali refugees (see also Foreign Policy and Defense).
In 2016, the military attacks against people in high
positions within al-Shabaab increased. According to the
American analysis company Stratfor, this was partly due
to the fact that some Somali defense units had been
professionalized and could offer better intelligence
material than before. Among other things, three of the
Islamist group's leaders were killed in a Somali / US
raid in early September 2016. However, this had not led
to any significant reduction in al-Shabaab's attacks,
which often target the civilian population.
Parliamentary elections 2016
The lack of democratic progress led from 2014 to an
increasingly harsh domestic criticism of President
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. In July 2015, however, the
government and Parliament agreed that the general
elections that would have been held in 2016 were not
possible because of the poor security situation. Hard
discussions were held on how to choose a new political
leadership. The Darod clan advocated a solution in which
district representatives would appoint MPs and
presidents. However, the district subdivision that was
made under Siad Barre's rule is considered to benefit
therefrom in a way that other clans cannot accept.
Hawiye and several smaller clans pleaded instead to do
so through a large meeting with clan elders, which would
be better organized than what was held in 2012. Finally,
it was agreed that 14,000 clan elders and regional
leaders would appoint a parliament with 275 members.
This, in turn, would elect the president.
According to the schedule, parliamentary elections
would be held in August 2016 and presidential elections
a month later. However, the parliamentary elections were
postponed twice, partly because of conflicts over which
candidates would be allowed to stand. At the end of
September, it was decided that it would be held between
October 23 and November 10. Most observers, however,
seemed to agree that the election would not change much,
and that it would not be the important step towards
increased democracy that had been promised. But the hope
is that the new upper house to be appointed by
representatives from the regions will be better at
linking the government of Mogadishu with the various
regional governments abroad.
However, the entire process was delayed and laced
with accusations of vote buying, harassment and threats
(money should also have been invested so that a
candidate could not be elected). According to the
magazine Africa Confidential, the group around the
president had tried to get rid of candidates from the
former parliament who were not bribed by supporting
By November 29, only about half of the lower house's
275 members had been appointed, and 43 of the 54 in the
higher chamber. One reason why members are missing is
that Somaliland has chosen not to participate, so the 45
seats reserved for Somali nationals have not been added.
However, it looked as if it would meet the goal that 30
percent of MPs would be women. This was largely done by
more influential clans paying sub-clans or others with
less power to elect women as their representatives.
Change of presidential post
The new parliament would elect the president on
November 30, but the election was postponed several
times. The UN and various international donors tried to
speed up the process. Most judges believed that
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud would be re-elected, but
when the election was last held in February, he was
defeated with clear numbers by former Prime Minister
Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed "Farmaajo". Farmaajo is both
Somali and American citizen and was Somalia's Prime
Minister in 2010–2011.
During his tenure as prime minister, Farmaajo
created, among other things, a commission to combat
corruption and banned all unnecessary trips abroad for
ministers. After leaving the government, Farmaajo and
several other former ministers formed a political party
Quality (Tayo). After his victory in the
presidential election, he now promised to try to
persuade Somalis abroad to return to their home country
to assist in the reconstruction of the country.
He is considered to be more free from foreign
interests than his representative, Hassan Sheikh
Mohamud, who probably lost votes because of the support
he received from Ethiopia. Farmaajo is popular with many
Somalis and is considered to have military support.
During his time as prime minister, he made sharp
statements against the corruption in the country. He was
forced to leave the government after a power struggle.
His departure then triggered protests in Mogadishu.
But even though Farmaajo is believed to have been
less corrupt than many other Somali ministers during his
time in government, he was accused, according to the
magazine Africa Confidential, of bringing over $ 9,000 a
week to a US account.
The choice of Farmaajo is considered to be the result
of nationalist movements in Somalia and a hope that one
can solve their problems without foreign intervention.
At the same time, the government continues to depend on
foreign aid, both military and economic.
At the same time, warnings that Somalia again
appeared to suffer severe famine due to the lack of
rain. The situation was exacerbated, just like 2011, by
the threat from al-Shabaab. The new president said after
taking office that he would place great priority on
measures to prevent famine. The conflict means that
Somalia lacks the social protection network that, after
all, exists in other drought-stricken countries in the
region. According to the UN, nearly 3 million people are
at risk of starvation.
At a conference in London, May 2017, the government
signed a security agreement, the New Partnership
Pact, with several of the countries supporting the
reconstruction of the country. According to the
government, until October of that year, the government
pledged to merge the country's various defense and
police forces into a uniform army of 18,000 men
(however, there are no official figures on the size of
the army today), to build up national and local police
forces in total 32,000 men and a coastguard force. The
president also urged the outside world to lift arms
embargo on Somalia in order for the government forces to
defeat al-Shabaab. He promised that they would be able
to defeat the Islamist militia within two years, but did
not appear to be hearing their demands. A roadmap was
also made to allow elections to be held in 2021. Then
the own defense forces should also be able to take over
As it is now, several of the regional and local
forces that have been reluctant to submit to a national
army. Somaliland has made it clear that you do not
intend to participate. And just days after the
president's return from London, SNA soldiers occupied
the Department of Defense buildings in Mogadishu to
demand payment (they claimed they had received no pay
for several months). Few progresses had been made until
the fall of 2017, when al-Shabaab had quickly managed to
advance its positions, including taking control of the
strategically located city of Barire, three, four miles
from the capital since it was abandoned by government
soldiers in what appears to be a protest that some of
them had not received any salary for several months.
However, after two attacks in Mogadishu in October,
which claimed more than 350 lives, people in the
capital, dressed in red headbands and shawls, gathered
to protest the terrorist group in a way that had not
occurred before. However, al-Shabaab had not taken up
the deed. The first bomb exploded near the Ministry of
Education and Foreign Affairs, but it was also
speculated that a new military base, built by Turkey, a
little further afield, or several large hotels could
have been the main target.
According to a report by the International Crisis
Group in October 2017, it was not primarily that al-Shabaab
was strong but that the government side was weak, not
least because of tensions between clans, between the new
states and the central government, and a great
dissatisfaction with the widespread corruption that
could be exploited by the Islamists. The situation was
exacerbated by the conflict between Qatar on the one
hand and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on
the other, which among other things resulted in the
latter suspending its budget support to the Somali
government (see also Foreign Policy and Defense).
In December 2017, the United States also withdrew
wage and fuel support for 10,000 Somali army soldiers to
persuade the government to intervene in widespread
corruption in the military. It is likely to further
undermine the President's control over the SNA. Farmaajo,
who belongs to a subclan to darod, needs the money to
make sure that the SNA soldiers continue to be loyal to
him despite the fact that most of them belong to the
Read more about the ongoing development in the
FACTS - POLITICS
Head of State
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (2017–)
Head of government
Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire (2017–)
Most important parties with mandates in the
a new parliament, appointed by a group of elders,
took office in August 2012
Main parties with mandates in the second most
no general elections have been held since 1969
no general elections are held
no general elections are planned
Pirates hijacking vessels off the Somali coast
became a major problem from 2005. The first Somali
pirates were often fishermen who armed themselves and
demanded some kind of tax from foreign fishing fleets
illegally fishing in the area. In retrospect, the
pirates acquired increasingly heavy weapons and hijacked
vessels of all kinds to demand the owners for ransom.
Since 2012, the number of acts of piracy has decreased
significantly, thanks in large part to the fact that
foreign warships have begun to patrol the vulnerable
It was after four vessels were hijacked in 2005 that
the piracy business took off. Although ransom was not
paid for all four, the pirates received a total of $ 1
million for two of them. The problems were most severe
in 2010–2011, when several hundred incidents (and 47 and
25 vessel creations, respectively) were reported from
the waters outside the Horn of Africa, according to
figures from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
Often the whole crew was taken hostage and for a period
the pirates held a total of 750 people. Most of them
have been released later.
The World Bank has estimated that the pirates earned
more than $ 400 million in ransom payments between 2005
Initially, the pirates started from bases in Puntland
or the Mudug region in the northeast, but gradually more
and more people were also involved from other parts of
the coast, with the exception of Somaliland. Many of the
pirates were young and uneducated and had few other
opportunities to earn a few large sums. According to
some sources, for a period of time, there were about
1,500 pirates who worked primarily for seven to ten
About 12 percent of all freight traffic at sea and 30
percent of all oil transports pass the waters outside
the Horn of Africa. This has made ship shipments a
costly history. According to a report from the
organization Oceans Beyond Piracy, efforts against the
piracy cost $ 6 billion in 2012 and just over $ 3
billion in 2013.
How much has been paid out in ransom is unclear, but
according to a study from consulting firm Geopolicy, it
was between $ 75 million and $ 238 million in 2010. The
revenue allowed the pirates to invest in new equipment.
In retrospect, they acquired more and more weapons, and
at the same time became more violent.
One reason for the decline in piracy is that the EU,
NATO, the US, India, Russia, China, Japan and the
Persian Gulf countries have sent warships to patrol the
waters off the Somali coast. It has also become more
common for shipping companies to use private security
companies to protect their vessels. The shipping
companies have also changed their routes to avoid being
In 2012, the EU force for the first time scared the
pirates' bases inside Somalia and destroyed a number of
The presence of the warships in the region initially
seemed to lead the Somali pirates to attack ships in the
Red Sea or further out into the Indian Ocean. They also
used "motherships" which served as a platform for the
smaller boats that are often used in hijacking attempts.
The military operations also meant that more
suspected pirates were arrested and brought to trial,
both in various African countries, but also in Europe
and the United States. Among other things, the
Seychelles and Kenya have an agreement with Somalia
which means that suspected pirates can be deported to
their home country.
At the same time, efforts were made to find
alternative employment for the groups where the pirates
recruit their crew.
In 2012, the number of hijackings and attempts had
been reduced to 75 and to 15 in 2013 (two vessels were
hijacked that year, but the pirates left them after
military intervention). In 2018, not a single vessel was
hijacked according to IMB, but several tankers were
fired that year.