SOMALIA: PROSPECTS FOR PEACE AND U.S. INVOLVEMENT
Somalia: Background and U.S. Involvement
Through the 1990s
February 17, 1999
Specialist in International Relations
With the assistance of Amanda Smith
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Somalia: Background and
U.S. Involvement Through the 1990s
Since the withdrawal of the U.S. and U.N. missions in Somalia, violence
between militias loyal to different warlords has continued, mostly in Mogadishu. In
other regions of the country, however, particularly in the northwest and northeast,
institutions are beginning to function at the local level. Several peace initiatives have
been undertaken, most notably by the governments of Ethiopia and Egypt, which
have given rise to optimism in spite of repeated delays in negotiations. Recently,
however, humanitarian conditions in Somalia have deteriorated. The United Nations
warns that food shortages and drought could once again lead to widespread famine,
particularly in light of the difficulty in distributing food to the entire population
because of security concerns and continued factional fighting.
Recent Political Conditions..........................................3
Egyptian and Ethiopian Peace Initiatives................................4
The Emergence of Local Administration................................6
Economic and Humanitarian Conditions................................9
Issues for the United States.........................................11
Congress and Somalia.............................................12
List of Figures
Figure 1. Map of Somalia..........................................13
Somalia: Background and
U.S. Involvement Through the 1990s
Somalia, one of the poor nations of over 7 million people in the Horn of Africa,
gained its independence on June 1, 1960, in a merger of the former British and Italian
Somalilands. Despite a relatively homogenous population that is over 90%Somali,
and the Sunni Islam faith shared by most citizens, post-independence Somalia has
been characterized by successive conflicts. Internal conflict has resulted largely from
warfare among and within the five major clan groups in Somalia: the Dir, the Isaq,
the Hawiye, the Darod, and the Rahanweyn. External conflicts were partly
attributable to a nationalist desire for a greater pan-Somalia encouraged by former
dictator Mohammed Siad Barre. Somalis make up not only the bulk of the population
in Somalia itself, but are also a key group in Djibouti and are found in the
neighboring countries of Kenya and Ethiopia.
The dominant figure in post-independence Somali politics was President
Mohammed Siad Barre, who held power for twenty-two years. Barre led Somalia on
a socialist path and allied Somalia with the Soviet Union. The relationship
disintegrated in 1977 when Somalia went to war with Ethiopia, and the Soviet Union
supported the Marxist regime in Addis Ababa. After winning the early battles,
Somalia lost the war when its army was overpowered by Ethiopian forces supported
by Yemeni and Cuban troops. After Somalia split with the Soviet Union, the U.S.
began providing military and economic assistance in exchange for American access
to naval and air facilities. U.S. support continued throughout the 1980s until
congressional pressure forced the suspension and eventual complete withdrawal of
aid because of massive human rights violations by the Barre regime in 1988.
Civil war intensified in the northwest region in the late 1980s. Although the
Barre regime won most of the fighting, it also carried out reprisals against civilians,
massacring some 50,000 people, largely of the main northwestern Isaq clan, and
forcing another 500,000 into exile. International condemnation followed the attacks,
including U.S. congressional pressure to suspend economic and military aid to the
Barre regime. Full civil war erupted shortly after, as opposition to the government
spread southward, and Barre was ousted in January 1991 by the forces of the United
Somali Congress (USC), which later split into factions led by General Mohamed
Farah Aideed and Ali Mahdi Mohammed. Four months after the ouster of Barre, the
dominant group in the five northwest provinces, the Somali National Movement
(SNM), announced the independence of the separate “Republic of Somaliland.”
Barre died in exile in Nigeria.
Following the collapse of the central government, Somalia descended into
fighting among at least sixteen rival warlords and their factions for control of
Mogadishu and other areas of the country. Famine and lawlessness ensued, and an
estimated 300,000 Somalis died of starvation during the year of civil war that
followed Barre’s ouster.1 After lengthy delays due to security concerns, the U.N.
Security Council launched Operation Provide Relief, the United Nations Operation
in Somalia (UNOSOM I), in mid-August 1992 to provide humanitarian relief. The
deteriorating security situation eventually left the U.N. mission unable to deliver food
and supplies to those in need and led to a U.N. appeal for military support for the
humanitarian operation. President George Bush subsequently ordered 25,000 U.S.
troops into Somalia on December 9, 1992, as the U.S. United Task Force (UNITAF),
or Operation Restore Hope.2
When President Bill Clinton took office in January 1993, he was eager to reduce
American involvement and turn the mission over to U.N. forces. A U.N.-organized
conference resulted in a March 1993 resolution among the major faction leaders to
end the violence, and the U.N. then expanded UNOSOM into UNOSOM II,
scheduled to take over UNITAF and have greater enforcement power for a mandate
of disarmament and “nation-building.”3 The U.S. officially handed over command
of the operation to the U.N. on May 4, 1993, and by June, only 1,200 U.S. combat
soldiers and 3,000 support troops remained as part of U.N. forces comprised of
contingents from 28 nations.
Following the take over of operational responsibility from UNITAF to
UNOSOM II, the security situation once again rapidly deteriorated, particularly in
Mogadishu, where a seventeen-hour battle on October 3, 1993, culminated in the
deaths of 18 U.S. soldiers.4 Almost immediately after the attack, President Clinton
ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops, who left on March 25, 1994.5 The remaining
U.N. forces left Somalia the following spring.
1 See CRS Issue Brief IB92112, Somalia: War and Famine. By Theodros S. Dagne.
Updated November 6, 1992 (Archived).
2 For information on the U.S. and U.N. operations in Somalia, see Learning from Somalia:
The Lessons of Armed Intervention. Edited by Walter Clarke and Jeffrey Herbst. Boulder,
CO: Westview Press, 1997. Also see CRS Report for Congress 92-916, Somalia
Intervention: Broader Implications for U.S. Policy. By Mark Lowenthal. December 8,
3 See CRS Issue Brief IB92131, Somalia: Operation Restore Hope and UNOSOM II. By
Raymond W. Copson. Updated March 21, 1994 (Archived).
4 For an in-depth description and analysis of the attack, see the PBS Frontline program
“Ambush in Mogadishu,” at [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/ambush/].
See also Mark Bowden’s series, “Blackhawk Down: An American War Story,” in the
Philadelphia Inquirer, daily from November 16, 1997 - December 14, 1997.
5 For more on the decision to withdraw, see CRS Report for Congress 94-817, Somalia:
Current Developments, Drawdowns, and Implications. By Alfred B. Prados. October 21,
Recent Political Conditions
Since the U.S. and the U.N. ended their involvement in peacekeeping in
Somalia, some observers have claimed that the world has given up on the country,
although various diplomatic efforts are currently underway to end the violence and
establish a central governing authority. Outside entities have attempted to mediate,
including the governments of Ethiopia and Egypt, the Arab League, the Organization
of Islamic Conference, the United Nations, the Organization of African Unity (OAU),
and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Some fourteen cease-
fires and resolutions for a national reconciliation in Somalia have been signed and
broken since the fall of the central government in 1991, but certain regions has
successfully established regional authority structures, and the last two agreements,
brokered respectively by the Egyptian government and Ethiopia under the IGAD,
have given rise to guarded optimism for the future in Somalia.
After the last U.N. forces left Somalia in March 1995, with support from a small
contingent of U.S. Marines, violence continued, centered in Mogadishu. Militiamen
loyal to rival warlords fought regularly for control of territory and resources, yet most
battles did little to shift the regional balances of power. Aideed, leader of a United
Somali Congress (USC) faction comprised of members of the Habr Gadr sub-clan of
the Hawiye family, maintained control of south Mogadishu and declared himself
president of Somalia, while Ali Mahdi Mohammed, leader of another USC faction
with members from the Abgal sub-clan of the Hawiye family, held power in north
Mogadishu. Ali Mahdi was allied with another Mogadishu faction leader, Osman
Hassan Ali Atto, in fighting to prevent Aideed from gaining control of more of
Mogadishu, where a “Green Line” differentiated areas of the city held by different
warlords. Meanwhile, the rest of the country also suffered from violence among
warring factions, with rival warlords struggling for control in the northwest
“Republic of Somaliland”; the south-central, with significant fighting in Baidoa; the
southwest, where violence centered around the port city of Kismayo; and the
northeast, where fighting revolved around the chairmanship of the Somali Salvation6
Democratic Front (SSDF).
On August 1, 1996, General Mohammed Farah Aideed died of injuries sustained
in a gun battle a week earlier with forces loyal to rival warlord Ali Atto. Ali Mahdi
and Ali Atto immediately called for a cease-fire, and some observers expressed new
optimism for peace in light of the death of Aideed, who had repeatedly refused to
engage in peace negotiations. Less than a week after Aideed’s death, however, the
leadership of his Hawiye clan alliance announced that his son, Hussein Mohammed
Aideed, would be responsible for “carrying on the battle” as the new leader of the
faction, and he pledged to carry on his father’s policies.7 Hussein Aideed, in his mid-
thirties, is a naturalized American citizen who landed with the U.S. troops in
December 1992, for two weeks of active duty as a translator and corporal in the
6 For more information on the clan rivalries and strongholds in post-independence Somalia,
see CRS Report for Congress 94-817.
7 Buckley, Stephen. “Son of Aideed Chosen to Head Somali Faction.” Washington Post.
August 5, 1996.
Marine reserves. He was elected president for a two-year period by the 80-member
cabinet and leadership council of the United Somali Congress-Somali National
After the election of Hussein Aideed, heavy fighting resumed in Mogadishu, and
the U.N. Security Council issued a resolution on August 13, 1996, calling for a
conference between the factions. Aideed rejected the proposition as outside
interference, while other leaders welcomed the recommendation. Violence subsided
somewhat in the ensuing months, and President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya mediated
peace talks in October, resulting in a resolution to end hostilities, remove roadblocks,
and allow the free movement of people. None of these conditions was met. The
government of Ethiopia attempted its own mediation, convening most factions to
attend talks at Sodere, a resort town outside the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.
Both efforts stalled, and severe violence broke out once again in December as
Aideed’s forces battled those of Ali Mahdi, Ali Atto, and Musa Sudi Yalahow, a
relative of Ali Mahdi who controlled the southern Mogadishu suburb of Medina.
Fighting persisted throughout 1997, particularly in Mogadishu; the region
outside Baidoa in south-central Somalia; and the area around Kismayo, in
southeastern Somalia; the violence still had minimal effect on the balance of power
between the various factions. Prominent Somalis launched several serious efforts to
advance the reconciliation process, such as the formation of the National Salvation
Council in January as part of the Sodere peace initiative by the leaders of over two
dozen groups, including Ali Mahdi, although Aideed was excluded from this attempt
to establish a national government. Various third-party intermediaries, such as the
Arab League, the IGAD, the OAU, and the UN, sought to assist in mediation efforts
but met with little success.
Egyptian and Ethiopian Peace Initiatives
Many organizations and governments have attempted to mediate among the
warlords, but with little long-term success. Two initiatives, however, have recently
seemed more promising; one, led by the government of Ethiopia, convened in the
resort town of Sodere in November 1996; the other, initiated by the Egyptian
government, sponsored meetings in Cairo in December 1997. Although the Sodere
initiative in particular appeared initially to have a good chance of success,
negotiations in that process have since stalled. The Ethiopian government accused
Egypt of undermining its efforts at reconciliation by convening the Cairo talks in
December 1997, and Ethiopian ministers have repeatedly maintained that the Cairo
Declaration was detrimental to peace in Somalia.8
The Sodere initiative, sponsored by Ethiopia with the support of both the IGAD
and the OAU, convened on November 29, 1996 and aimed at forming a new central
government. After three months of talks, twenty-six factions and their leaders
ultimately created the National Salvation Council, agreeing to hold a national
8 “Ethiopia Says Somali Cairo Agreement A Threat to Peace.” Panafrican News Agency.
December 24, 1997.
reconciliation conference for all Somali factions in Bosasso early in 1998. The
elected “president” of the “Republic of Somaliland,” Mohammed Egal, refused to
attend the meeting but did leave open the possibility of participating in a loose
federation with the government formed by the National Salvation Council. Aideed
and his faction boycotted the talks, calling themselves the only legitimate government
and refusing to negotiate until the other warlords acknowledged Aideed as president.
Aideed has accused the Ethiopian government of supporting Ali Mahdi in the clan
struggles for Mogadishu.
Under the Ethiopian-sponsored talks, the national reconciliation conference in
Bosasso, a stable port city in the northeast held by the Darod clan, was designed to
balance power among the five clans and emphasize the inclusion and input of all
factions, not only the Hawiye sub-clans fighting for control of Mogadishu. In spite
of continued statements of support and commitment by the warlords and the IGAD
governments, the national reconciliation conference was postponed several times
during 1998. Ali Mahdi stated at one point that the delay was to allow Aideed to join
the process; he had begun making conciliatory overtures toward the Ethiopian
government and the other Mogadishu warlords. At the end of the IGAD summit in
March 1998, the member governments issued a statement noting that “the
proliferation of parallel initiatives can only undermine the central objective of
accelerating the peace process in Somalia” and urging “all concerned parties to
bolster the IGAD peace process on Somalia and ensure that all assistance provided
to Somalia be geared to enhance the peace process and that it be channeled through
the IGAD mechanism.”
The “parallel initiatives” mentioned in the IGAD statement referred specifically
to meetings in Cairo sponsored jointly by the government of Egypt and the Arab
League in December 1997. The IGAD governments, particularly Ethiopia, accused
Egypt of deliberately undermining the Sodere initiative in order to strengthen
Egyptian power in the region and weaken the Ethiopian position.9 Tensions between
the Ethiopian and Egyptian governments have been ongoing for decades, largely
because of a power struggle over control of the headwaters of the Nile River. The
Nile is the lifeline of Egypt and since the main source of the Nile is Ethiopia, Egypt
has for many years maintained a strong presence in the region. Egypt assumes that
a successful mediation effort by Ethiopia will place the Horn of Africa country in a
stronger position in a country Egypt long considered its sphere of influence.
Therefore mediation in Somalia has come to symbolize increased influence in
regional matters. Egypt denied the charges, asserting that its talks were more
inclusive because of the participation of Hussein Aideed.
After more than a month of talks, and just five days after faction leaders agreed
on how many delegates each group would send to a 465-member reconciliation
conference scheduled for February 1998 in Baidoa, all but two of the major factions
signed the “Somali Declaration of Principles,” providing for a 13-person presidential
council, a prime minister, and a national assembly. The declaration stated that the
warring factions agreed “unanimously on a cease-fire and the disengagement of
opposing forces” for “lasting peace, stability and an end to the conflict and civil war
in Somalia,” and the leaders vowed to take immediate steps to rebuild confidence in
Somalia, including reopening the seaport and airport in Mogadishu.10
Under the Egyptian-sponsored agreement, Aideed and Ali Mahdi would each
get 80 seats at the meeting, with the remainder divided among the other four clans.
The conference was also slated to occur in Baidoa, a traditionally Hawiye stronghold
inland from Mogadishu. The agreement clearly favored the Hawiye clan of Aideed
and Ali Mahdi, both in the number of seats and the location, making Mogadishu
disproportionately important to successful peace talks. Mohammed Haji Ibrahim
Egal, the “President” of the “Republic of Somaliland,” boycotted the talks, asserting
the independence of the northwestern region and his refusal to allow its reintegration;
Colonel Abdallah Youssef and General Aden Abdallah Nur, faction leaders in the
northeast, also refused to sign in opposition to the accord. Critics of the agreement
asserted that Aideed participated only because he was allowed to dictate many of the
terms, such as an extremely high number of seats for his relatively small clan, and the
location of Baidoa, since he refused to set foot in Bosasso. The conference,
originally scheduled for February 1998, was postponed several times over the course
of the past year because of fighting between Aideed’s militias and other factions, and
is now scheduled to take place in early 1999.
Meanwhile, a 20-member delegation established by an international conference
held in October 1998 in Addis Ababa traveled to different regions of Somalia at the
beginning of December in a new effort at reconciliation. The group, with
representatives from Ethiopia, Egypt, Eritrea, Italy, Norway, Uganda, and Yemen,
first visited Somaliland to evaluate the involvement of local communities, such as
religious and women’s groups and village elders, in the peace process. After arriving
in Mogadishu, the group was expelled on December 5 by Hussein Aideed and Ali
Mahdi, who accused the delegates of trying to divide the Somali people. One
representative reported that “more and more ordinary Somalis were saying they
wanted peace...there was a feeling that the rival warlords are losing influence and that
in a number of areas, locally-based authorities had exerted control and kept some
The Emergence of Local Administration
The inability and unwillingness of Somali faction leaders to end their power
struggle and cooperate for lasting peace remain the greatest obstacles to the
establishment of a working government in Somalia. Observers note that a key step
in restoring stability is to convince rival factions that they are in a “mutually hurting
stalemate,” a situation in which each faction can successfully stand up to the other
and defend its own territory, but no one can extend control or make gains. Certainly
no arrangement can be successful without the transparent and good-faith cooperation
of each warlord in each region; as former U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Robert
10 “Somali Factions Sign Power-Sharing Pact: Move May End 7 Years of War.” Miami
Herald. December 23, 1997.
11 “Diplomats Expelled from Somalia.” BBC News. December 5, 1998.
Oakley stated early last year, “It is up to the Somalis themselves to decide whether
they want a unitary state or whether they want to continue with individual clans
controlling chunks of territory.”12
Although the intractability of the faction leaders themselves constitutes the most
obvious barrier to a negotiated settlement, many observers now argue that perhaps
the peace process itself is flawed in that it seeks the wrong outcome. They maintain
that the peace process must recognize that a centralized government is currently
unrealistic, and efforts should instead capitalize on the strengths of Somali culture,
such as a spirit of local autonomy, historic arrangements for power-sharing and
decentralization, and a strong desire for peace. Somali analysts suggest that a
negotiated agreement in Somalia has the greatest hope of success if built from the
ground up; diplomatic efforts should first focus on establishing local arrangements
for administration and security, then move to regional structures, and finally, a
central government which could perhaps be a simple, loose federation of polities.
This emergence of local administration should be fostered and encouraged with the
long-term goal of a central government in mind. Somalia may well represent a failed
nation-state in the traditional sense of the term, but these observers assert that
government structures are indeed functioning in some areas.13
The northwest region of Somalia is considered by many such analysts to be a
model for successful regional authority and administration. The “Republic of
Somaliland” seceded from the rest of Somalia in 1991 and now has its own flag and
national anthem, army and police, and currency. Its government collects revenues
from taxes levied at ports and roadblocks and vehicle licenses. The region has
established a constitution and parliament and conducted democratic elections.
Despite its government structures and apparatus, the “Republic of Somaliland”
remains unrecognized by the international community. The “President,” Mohammed
Haji Ibrahim Egal, and his government administer only three of the five provinces
that comprise the self-proclaimed state; the eastern area of Sanaag is home to a
different powerful clan, which, while not hostile, refuses central administrative
The port city of Bosasso in northeastern Somalia has also been termed a success
story for clan and local rule.14 This Red Sea port grew from fewer than 10,000
residents to more than 80,000 over the past seven years, largely because of a stable
government and growing economy. In Bosasso, the local military and political
leaders have established a regional government controlled by clan elders and held by
General Mohammed Abshir Musa, leader of the Somalia Salvation Democratic Front,
the political wing of the Darod clan’s Majertayn sub-clan. The 13-member council
of Majertayn elders appoints members of parliament to administer each of three
12 Constantine, Gus. “Egpyt, Ethiopia Nudge Somalia to Unity Rule: Former Ambassador
Believes Decision Should Be Up to Somalis.” Washington Times. January 22, 1998.
13 Adam, Hussein, and Richard Ford, with Ali Jimale Ahmed, Abdinasir Osman Isse, Nur
Weheliye, and David Smock. “Removing Barricades: Options for Peace and Rehabilitation
in Somalia.” United States Institute of Peace, 1998.
14 McKinley, James C. Jr. “In One Somali Town, Clan Rule Has Brought Peace.” New York
Times. June 22, 1997.
provinces in the northeast region, drawing the appointees from the leadership of
various sub-clans and minorities. Unresolved disputes in the parliaments are settled
by the council of elders. The clan-based government has been able to provide an
environment with very little violence, supply basic utilities and running water, fund
a police force, and foster thriving trade in its port.
In July, after a two-month conference of several hundred delegates, leaders in
the northeastern region known as Puntland announced that they planned to create an
autonomous region, with Colonel Abdullah Youssef as president. Two other major
faction leaders in the region, including General Mohammed Abshir Musa, opposed
the decision, however, posing a serious threat to its successful implementation.
Mohammed Siad Hersi Morgan, chief of the Somali National Front, a Darod faction
of the Marehan sub-clan in southwest Somalia, declared in September that he
planned to set up a “Jubaland” state, with the southern port of Kismayo as its capital,
as part of a new Somali approach to find a “bottom up” solution to the situation in
Members of the international community have also come to recognize the
presence and benefits of local, decentralized authority. The head of the Nairobi-
based U.N. Political Office for Somalia announced in June that it would begin
supporting regional leaders to form administrative structures and build institutions
of civil society, and would look to a new, bottom-up approach to peace in Somalia
in order to form the building blocks for a successful federation. Kenyan President
Moi also pushed for local administration in talks with Aideed, Ali Mahdi, and Ali
Atto in April 1998. The three major clan leaders in Mogadishu agreed to establish
a joint administration structure for the capital city. They attempted to take a first step
in that direction with the reopening of the Mogadishu seaport in September, but the
ceremony was marred by militiamen for two other faction leaders who opened fire
on the gathering. Libya has donated $800,000 to help pay for the administration of
Mogadishu, including its police force, which graduated from professional training in
late December 1998.15 Colonel Moammar Gaddafi of Libya has become increasingly
involved in the reconciliation process in Somalia; in addition to contributing funding
for several mediation efforts, he hosted a meeting in Tripoli of a delegation from the
Mogadishu administration in December 1998.16 His apparent interest in seeing
reconciliation in Somalia coincides with his new interest in African affairs.
Religious leaders have also become a stabilizing force in Somalia. Observers
report many signs that Islamic religious leaders have succeeded in stepping into the
power vacuum created by a lack of central government.17 These include the
proliferation of Muslim charities, the growing influence of Islamic religious leaders,
and particularly the prevalence and power in northern Mogadishu and northern
Somalia of Sharia courts, which use a legal system based on the Koran. These Sharia
courts have issued severe punishments, which have served as an effective, though
15 “New Somali Police Force in Mogadishu.” Reuters. December 29, 1998.
16 “Somali Faction Leaders Leave for Libya.” Xinhua News Agency. December 17, 1998.
17 McKinley, James C. Jr. “Islamic Movement’s Niche: Bringing Order to Somalia’s Clans.”
New York Times. August 23, 1996.
harsh, deterrent to crime in various parts of Somalia. Islamic charities have built
health clinics and opened Koranic schools, contributing to reconstruction and new
Although some observers assert that the fiercely independent nature of the
Somalis, as well as their strong allegiance to clan elders and leaders, preclude the
evolution of Somalia into a fundamentalist Islamic state, others point to the growing
number of fundamentalist groups as a danger sign. Particularly noteworthy are
accounts that Al-Itahad, an Islamic fundamentalist group with support from Sudan,
and operating within Somalia, is engaged in cross-border raids on Ethiopia in an
attempt to destabilize the region.18 Over the past year, Ethiopian forces have
reportedly crossed the border with Somalia on several occasions in pursuit of Al-
Economic and Humanitarian Conditions
Relative peace in much of the country in 1997 and 1998 led to a rise in
commercial activity and contributed to some economic recovery. Livestock and fruit
exports continued to revive, although exports are still hurt by the closure of the
Mogadishu seaport. Other positive indications include regular airline flights carrying
freight and passengers; generally available consumer goods and food; financial
transfers and banking activity; and, operating telephone and communications
systems, as well as computers, although the provision of such services remains highly
uneven.19 Somalia remains a chronic food deficit country, however, and some of the
most fertile agricultural regions have recently suffered from a drought, serious
flooding, or both. In November 1997, over 2,000 people were killed and as many as
250,000 left homeless in the south after torrential rains caused major flooding and
devastated crops. 20
The World Food Program estimated on December 9, 1998, that 700,000 Somalis
face imminent food shortages, and also announced that Somalis have the lowest
average daily intake of food, less than half that of people in developed countries. Theth
country ranks 175 out of 175 nations in human development, and life expectancy
is only 43 years, with one in four children expected to die before reaching age 5.
United Nations agencies had previously announced at the end of November that a
third consecutive crop failure in southern and central Somalia has left 300,000 people
“in an extremely precarious condition,” and launched a donor appeal for $8 million
18 "Army Acts Against Fundamentalist Group." Foreign Broadcast Information Service
Transcribed Text. August 11, 1996.
19 Adam, Hussein, and Richard Ford, with Ali Jimale Ahmed, Abdinasir Osman Isse, Nur
Weheliye, and David Smock. “Removing Barricades: Options for Peace and Rehabilitation
in Somalia.” United States Institute of Peace Report (Draft). March 1998.
20 "Refugee Repatriation Threatens Stability in Somaliland." Refugees International,
November 12, 1998.
to provide emergency assistance in food, nutrition, and health.21 The European
Union has pledged $10 million for sorghum, corn, and split peas. Many aid workers
fear that Somalia has become dependent on aid and is now unable to feed itself.
Remaining land mines constitute another major impediment to agriculture and
livestock, particularly in the northwest and along the border with Ethiopia.22
Recent reports indicate that conditions in Somalia closely parallel those which
precipitated Operation Restore Hope in 1992. One U.N. worker recently explained
that, “The problem in ‘92 was you had drought, bad harvests and no pay for the
militias, which raided the crops. The militia was eating. No one else was. You’ve
got the same problem now, on a smaller scale.”23 Combined with the recent crop
failures in once-fertile southern Somalia is the increased violence throughout the
country. Major clashes have been reported in Mogadishu, where the new municipal
authority recently established a night curfew; in the south-central port of Merca; in
Baidoa, where over a dozen people were killed in a rocket attack on January 3, 1999;
in Kismayo, where over 30 people were reported killed in early January 1999; and
in southwestern Somalia. The Red Cross no longer operates in Somalia because of
security concerns following the kidnapping of eight employees and two pilots in
April 1998. Other agencies are having increasing difficulty distributing the much-
needed food and supplies provided by the United Nations and cannot ship food in
large convoys because of the threat of ambush.24
Although the “Republic of Somaliland” has enjoyed relative stability for the past
several years, and has been able to establish some functioning government
institutions, humanitarian conditions there remain dire. Receiving assistance is
complicated by the fact that the government is not recognized by the international
community and refusal to treat the region separately in terms of disbursement.
Refugees International also warned recently that the northwestern transition to
democracy could disintegrate without greater aid to offset the impact of a large
number of refugees, equivalent to some ten percent of the population, set to be
repatriated soon from Ethiopia by the U.N to Somaliland.25 At the end of 1997, more
than 465,000 Somalis were refugees, with an estimated 240,000 in Ethiopia, 150,000
in Kenya, 53,000 in Yemen, 20,000 in Djibouti, and 3,000 in Eritrea. A further
200,000 Somalis were internally displaced.26 In 1999, the U.N. High Commissioner
for Refugees hopes to repatriate 80,000 refugees from Ethiopia into northern
Somalia; 10,000 from Kenya to southern Somalia; 5,000 from Yemen; and 1,000
from Djibouti. The agency is requesting close to $25 million to fund the repatriation
21 "Crop Failure in Somalia Triggers Famine." All Africa News Agency, November 30, 1998.
22 For more details, see “Hidden Killers: The Global Landmine Crisis.” United States
Department of State report. September 1998.
23 Vick, Karl. “An Anarchic Somalia Lurches Toward Another Famine.” Washington Post.
December 27, 1998.
25 Refugees International. “Refugee Repatriation Threatens Stability in Somaliland.”
November 10, 1998.
26 U.S. Committee for Refugees. “Country Report: Somalia.”
efforts, which will include special programs for resettlement and reintegration into
safe areas.27 The refugee problem has recently intensified because of the renewed
threat of famine, and 10,000 Somalis crossed into Ethiopia in late 1998 to escape the
drought and food shortage.28
The U.S. remains a major donor of humanitarian aid and sponsor of
development projects in Somalia through non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
The U.S. is the second-largest donor after the European Union, with all donor
assistance totaling $73 million in 1997. In post-UNOSOM Somalia, a donor
coalition called the Somalia Aid Coordination Body (SACB), comprised of over 150
organizations, functions to address specific issues such as health and food security.
Most U.S. assistance is channeled through USAID and non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) in programs to help minimize future food crises and to help
keep the country stable. The program in Somalia complements the Greater Horn of
Africa Initiative (GHAI), “whose food security and conflict prevention strategies
support sustainable economic growth and prevent or mitigate conflict.”29
Issues for the United States
After Somalia ended its relationship with the Soviet Union in 1977 and turned
to the United States for support, Somalia became an important and strategic
American ally in the Cold War. Even after congressional pressure led to the
suspension of aid to the Barre regime in 1988, the United States government was
eager to restore stability in Somalia and resume close ties, mainly because of an
interest in regional security.
According to one observer mention of Somalia in U.S. diplomatic circles now
“provokes embarrassment and avoidance behavior.”30 The policy failures of
Operation Restore Hope and UNOSOM II contributed to increased reluctance to get
militarily engaged in Africa. The “mission creep” and lack of clarity in the mandate
for UNOSOM II contributed to the deadliest firefight involving U.S. troops since
Vietnam. Analysts argue that this made the Clinton Administration and Congress
reluctant to involve U.S. forces in other peace-building missions, particularly in
Rwanda, where genocide broke out, just six months after the Mogadishu firefight.
With respect to Somalia itself, no long-term political strategy for reconstruction has
been formulated or publicly articulated. However, the U.S. continues to finance
humanitarian assistance through USAID programs, and its Greater Horn of Africa
Initiative (GHAI) to prevent famine and promote development in the region.
27 UNHCR Global Appeal - Somalia. See [http://www.unhcr.ch/fdrs/ga99/som.htm].
28 “Somalis Flee Drought to Ethiopia.” Associated Press. December 29, 1998.
29 For details on U.S. assistance to Somalia, see the USAID Congressional Presentations on
Somalia and the Greater Horn of Africa Initiative at [http://www.info.usaid.gov/pubs/
30 United States Institute of Peace Report (Draft).
Many observers see Somalia as remote from U.S. security interests and argue
that there is little reason for involvement there. Moreover, some maintain, with other
mediators involved the U.S. “need not assume the role of peacemaker or
peacekeeper. Too many states have been playing this role...”31 However, some
Somalis argue that American encouragement of the peace and reconciliation
processes now underway could make an important contribution, particularly in light
of perceived U.S. credibility in Somalia. Hussein Aideed claims that, “We blame the
U.N. for what went wrong, not the U.S.,” and many Somali citizens lament the
current lack of U.S. interest and involvement.32 By re-engaging in Somalia through
longer-term commitments to reconciliation and reconstruction efforts, some analysts
note that the United States can protect its regional interests in the Horn of Africa and
also address broader concerns regarding the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.
Congress and Somalia
At the height of the Somali humanitarian crisis and civil war in the early 1990s,
the U.S. Congress was actively engaged in efforts to get the international community
to intervene to halt deteriorating social and economic conditions and end the civil
war. Since the withdrawal of U.S. and U.N. forces, however, Congress has shown
diminished interest in events or prospects for peace in Somalia. The one notable
exception is House Concurrent Resolution 339 first introduced on October 8, 1998,
by Congressmen Tom Campbell (R-CA) and Donald Payne (D-NJ). The resolution,th
which has been reintroduced in the 106 Congress in early February 1999, notes the
“significant level of economic and social stability” achieved in the “Republic of
Somaliland,” and urges both President Clinton and the international community not
to “delay, diminish, or cancel the amounts and kinds of assistance” to Somalia. It
further states that aid to northwestern Somalia “does not constitute recognition of any
particular claim to sovereignty by any de facto government of the region,” and calls
on the President to increase involvement in the reconciliation and reconstruction
processes underway in Somalia. The resolution was referred to the House Committee
on International Relations and no further action was taken.
32 Reiss, Bob. “‘I Am a Product of the U.S.’” Washington Post Magazine. August 31, 1997.
Figure 1. Map of Somalia
Source: Adapted by CRS. Cartographic Section, United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Map
No. 3690 Rev. 7, January 2007.