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Somalia, or Somali Democratic Republic, republic occupying the horn, or northeastern tip, of Africa. The capital is Mogadishu.

Land and climate

Covering 246,091 sq mi (637,541 sq km), Somalia is bounded on the north by the Gulf of Aden, on the west and southwest by Ethiopia and Kenya, on the east by the Indian Ocean, and on the northwest by Djibouti. In the north, a narrow, barren coastal plain is hemmed in by mountains rising to more than 8,000 ft (2,438 m) with high plateaus and dry savannas extending inland. Plateaus, plains, and valleys extend westward from a wider coastal plain bordering the Indian Ocean. Flowing southeastward from the Ethiopian highlands are Somalia's only two permanent rivers, the Wabe Shebele and the Juba. The prevailing climate is hot.


The population consists mainly of Somalis belonging to northern nomadic or southern farming clans. Somali, the national language, lacks a written form; Arabic, Italian, and English are the chief written languages. Sunni Islam is the country's official religion.


Most Somalis are nomadic pastoralists moving from place to place with their herds and portable wood-frame huts. Agriculture accounts for the economy's major revenues, with bananas and sugar-cane the cash crops. There is a small mining and oil-producing sector of the economy.


The British, French, and Italians colonized Somalia in the late 1800s, with the British establishing a protectorate in the region in 1887 and the Italians in 1889. Independent since 1960, Somalia was heavily dependent upon foreign aid. In 1969 Pres. Shermarke was assassinated, and a revolutionary council headed by Maj. Gen. Muhammad Siyad Barre took control, declaring the Somali Democratic Republic a Socialist state. Armed conflict erupted with Ethiopia in 1963–64 and again in 1977–78 over the disputed territory of the Ogaden. As a result, hundreds of thousands of refugees streamed into Somalia, straining the country's meager resources. After Siyad Barre was disposed in 1991 a power struggle between rivaling factions developed. In 1992 US troops launched a military operation, which was set up to improve the food situation, but proved to be inadequate. The operation was taken over by the UN, but was terminated in 1995 without a political agreement having been reached.


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