The Somali civil war



Once considered the “Switzerland of Africa”, it has now become a wartorn country. After years and years of continuous wars, Somalia is now nothing but a mere shadow of the thriving country it once was. Moreover, these years of ongoing armed conflicts proved that a peaceful solution is still out of reach.

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Brief history

After gaining independence from Britain and Italy in 1960, Somalia thrived as a democratic country for almost a decade. However, in 1969, the elected president, Sharmarke, was assassinated by one of his bodyguards. Thus, the Speaker of the Somali Parliament Mukhtar, Mohamed Hussein, took over.

Then General Siad Barre took advantage of the instability and led a military coup. Thus, seething power and ending Mukhtar Mohamed Hussein’s six-day tenure. This marked the end of the democratic government rule in Somalia.

Barre then ruled the country with an iron grip. During his 22-year rule, Barre managed to build one of Africa’s strongest armies and massively improve the literacy of the population. On the other hand, Barre dissolved parliament, suspended the constitution, banned political parties, arrested politicians, and curbed press freedom. 

However, only when Barre launched the Ogaden war in 1977 to take the Somali majority region from Ethiopia, did Somalia start to face international opposition. Hence, Burre was forced to withdraw his forces.

In May 1988, armed Somali forces, encouraged by Ethiopia, started a rebellion against the government. Military forces struck back and thousands of northern Somalis lost their life.

In 1991, due to many factors, rebels succeeded in overthrowing Burre’s government. However, with no government, the country and its citizens ended up being more divided, lost, and confused than ever. 

The northern region proclaimed itself as Somaliland, an independent country.  On the other hand, the south was left in chaos. With myriad competing factions and the frequent intervention of foreign powers and neighboring countries, a civil war erupted. 

In 2006, the Islamic Courts Union split into several factions. Al Shabab is one of those factions which controls large parts of the south of the country today. Thus, the conflicts between the transitional government and insurgents increased.

Causes of the civil war

Political, Economic, and Social problems are some of the roots of the Somali civil war. Factions are fighting over the countries’ limited resources and land. Moreover, each one of them wants to seize power with no concern about the casualties.  

War casualties

According to Necrometrics, almost 500,000 lives were lost since the start of the war in 1991.  Moreover, about 1.1 million Somali citizens were forced to flee their homeland. Furthermore, the war wreaked havoc on the already poor country. The Somali civil war destroyed the infrastructure and the citizen’s faith in a just government. 

Moreover, the Recurrent civil conflict has blocked previous progress toward improving the health system. Hence, the mortality rate is decreasing not only because of armed conflict but also due to the server lacking in the overall health system. 



With no stable government, Somalia is especially vulnerable to climate disasters. Thus, when the drought took place in  Somalia for two years, the government and international donors failed in providing an adequate response. Thousands of people died as an indirect consequence of the ongoing conflict.  


Once again the country is facing the consequence of a dry season that started in 2018. Combined with the unstable government, the UN expects that around 1.3 million people are going to suffer severe food insecurity.

Abuses by Government and Allied Forces

Despite claiming to want peace, the Security forces are unlawfully killing and wounding civilians during the infighting over land, control of roadblocks, and disarmament operations, particularly in Mogadishu and Lower Shabelle. Moreover, Intelligence agencies are arresting and detaining many individuals for prolonged periods without charge while denying their access to legal counsel or family members.

Many reports also proved that the government is failing in providing fair trials for convicted prisoners.

Abuses by Al-Shabab

Al – Shabab is committing serious offenses against civilians throughout the war. The insurgent group forcibly recruits both children and adults alike. It also carries out arbitrary executions and attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), suicide bombings, and shellings.

In brief, the instability in Somalia along with famine and poverty is bleeding the country dry. Thousands are suffering and dying as a direct and indirect result of the ongoing Somali civil war. With the UN estimating another hunger crisis, immediate action should be taken in order to avert this crisis.   

Read More: Predictable, Unpredicted – The Looming Threat of Famine in Somalia


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