Somalia, situated in the Horn of Africa, lies along the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. It is bounded by Djibouti in the northwest, Ethiopia in the west, and Kenya in the southwest. In area it is slightly smaller than Texas. Generally arid and barren, Somalia has two chief rivers, the Shebelle and the Juba.
Somalia is a semiarid land in the Horn of Africa, and it is flat in the south, with mountains in the north reaching more than 2,000 meters (6,500 feet). In 1960 northern British Somaliland voted to join southern Italian Somaliland to create Somalia. The Somalis are one of the most homogeneous peoples in Africa, but unity is thwarted by clan-based rivalries. Civil war ended a 21-year dictatorship in 1991, and Somalia has been without a national government since that time. UN efforts from 1992 to 1995 to stop clan fighting failed, and UN and U.S. forces left after suffering high casualties. In southern Somalia the absence of a government means declining health and increasing poverty.
More prosperous is the “Republic of Somaliland,” which seceded from the rest of Somalia in 1991—within the old borders of British Somaliland. Somaliland’s capital is Hargeysa, and its port, Berbera, provides goods to landlocked Ethiopia. The independence of Somaliland, while widely acknowledged, is not officially recognized by the international community—as efforts continue to reunify Somalia. Somaliland’s peace, stability, and democracy have been recently threatened by drought and by regional warlords.