Somalia has been without an effective central government since the 1991 overthrow of President Siad Barre. After the clan-based militias overthrew Barre, they descended into infighting and lawlessness, sparking famine and massive refugee flows into neighboring countries. In the absence of a central government, warlords and armed factions have violently vied for political and economic dominance. Somalia has also frequently served as a proxy battleground for international actors and ideologies, stretching from Cold War American and Soviet realpolitik to current concerns about Islamic extremism.

Northwest Somalia, which declared itself the independent Republic of Somaliland in 1991, has remained largely stable since the early 1990s but has never been recognized internationally.

Somalia has been the scene of persistent conflict and instability since the central government collapsed in 1991. Beginning in 2007, the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has fought a number of insurgent groups, including the Al-Shabaab and Hisbul Islam, for control over the country.

During the last several years of fighting, Somali civilians remain the targets of atrocities committed by insurgent militias, Somali government forces and criminal gangs. Fighting in the cities of Mogadishu and Kismayo often catches civilians in the crossfire and features the indiscriminate shelling of residential areas. Al-Shabaab militiamen have summarily executed civilians for perceived collaboration with the government.

Somali government forces have repeatedly looted civilian property and assaulted members of the population during counter-insurgent opportunities. They have also indiscriminately shelled civilian areas of Mogadishu, as well as assaults on civilians across the country.

It is estimated that 1.55 million people are internally displaced within Somalia, a number that continues to grow due to daily fighting between armed militant groups and the transitional government. At least 675,000 Somalis are refugees in neighboring countries. As the conflict continues, those displaced by violence are increasingly dependent on humanitarian aid, the delivery of which is affected by continued targeting of aid workers.

In 2011, a drought and subsequent famine raged in Somalia, killing tens of thousands of civilians and sending many others to flooded refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, while the al-Shabaab jihadist group refused to allow food and humanitarian aid to starving Somalis.

This information is provided by our partners at the Enough Project.

Reports on Somalia