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History, Civil War

Puntland, president of Somalia, Mogadishu, Somali government, street battle

While the clans had been successful in coordinating their efforts to depose Barre, forming a coalition to govern the country proved more difficult. During the 23 months following Barre’s overthrow about 50,000 people were killed in factional fighting, and an estimated 300,000 died of starvation as it became impossible to distribute food in the war-ravaged nation. On December 9, 1992, a contingent of U.S. Marines landed near Mogadishu, the vanguard of a UN peacekeeping force sent to restore order. International agencies soon resumed food distribution and other humanitarian aid, interrupted in 1993 by sporadic outbreaks of violence. The UN mission became mired as it evolved from one of relief to that of rebuilding a Somali government. The UN force targeted powerful clan leader Mohamed Farah Aidid, viewing him as the biggest threat to the establishment of a transitional government, but repeatedly failed to capture him. Clashes between Somali factions and UN troops became frequent, and an estimated 1,000 Somali were killed. Troops from the United States, which had withdrawn in March 1994 after 30 of its members were killed and 175 wounded, returned in February 1995 to cover the departure of the remaining UN peacekeeping force in March. Despite failing to restore peace, an estimated 300,000 lives had been saved from famine by the international relief effort.

As Somalia descended into chaos in 1991 the northern region of Somaliland (former British Somaliland) declared itself an independent republic. While independent Somaliland is not recognized by the UN, it has its own president, legislature, currency, and constitution. Southern Somali warlords have attacked Somaliland, and the breakaway republic also suffers from internal fighting and economic stagnation.

Aidid declared himself president of Somalia in June 1995, though this position was not recognized by rival clans. In late 1995 and early 1996 battles, Aidid’s forces captured strategic territory in the south and parts of Mogadishu. Aidid died in July 1996 from gunshot wounds received in a street battle and was succeeded as nominal president by his son Hussein Mohammad Aidid.

In the second half of the 1990s a number of cease-fires between factions were declared in hopes of holding a clan leader summit to work out a national government. Renewed fighting disrupted each of these agreements. The main clan leaders met in Cairo, Egypt, in December 1997 and agreed to a plan to convene a conference of hundreds of rival clan members to elect a new national government. However, clan fighting continued throughout 1998 and 1999, and the planned conference was repeatedly postponed.

The conference was finally held in mid-2000 in Djibouti. Over several months, hundreds of Somalia’s clan leaders, warlords, and politicians debated the establishment of a new central government. In August the conference elected a transitional legislative body and a president, Abdiqasim Salad Hassan. The new government faced numerous challenges as it attempted to establish control over Somalia, including sporadic clan warfare, a devastated infrastructure, and the question of how to reintegrate Somaliland and another northern breakaway republic called Puntland.

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