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Situated in the outer Horn of Africa, Somalia is in East Africa, with a long shoreline on the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. Neighboring countries include Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Yemen is north, across the Gulf of Aden. Two regional administrations are considered part of Somalia.

One of them is the self-declared Republic of Somaliland is in the northwest, along the southern coast of the Gulf of Aden, bordered by Djibouti, Ethiopia, and the rest of Somalia. Currently, Somaliland is not recognized as an independent state, but as an autonomous region of Somalia.

The other is the Regional Puntland State of Somalia, are region in northwestern Somalia, bounded by Somaliland to the west, and by the Gulf of Aden, the Indian Ocean, and Ethiopia. Puntland declared itself an autonomous state, but not independent, in 1998.

The current boundaries of Somalia is made up of the former Italian Trust Territory of Somalia and the British Protectorate of Somaliland, the latter of which is currently seeking independence as Somaliland.

The northern part of Somalia is hilly, reaching heights between 3,000 and 7,000 feet above sea level. Central and southern Somalia is flat, with an average height of about 600 feet. The Juba River and the Shabelle River begin in Ethiopia, flowing south across the country toward the Indian Ocean. The Juba empties into the Ocean, while the Shabelle deteriorates into marshland in southern Somalia.

The area of Somalia has been inhabited since the Paleolithic era, and it is believed by many that Somalia was the Land of Punt spoken of by the ancient Egyptians as its trading partner, while Bible scholars have identified it as the biblical Land of Put.

Islam was introduced to the region by the 7th century, and perhaps as early as 100 AD. Interactions between the indigenous Cushitic people and Arab and Persian traders, who settled along the coast, led to a Somali culture that is characterized by a single language and the Islamic faith. Today, nearly the entire population is Muslim, with Christianity represented by less than one-tenth of the population, approximately the same number who practice African folk religions.

In the late 1800s, when European powers were dividing Africa up amongst themselves, Somalia began one of the longest wars of resistance ever, rallying support throughout the Horn of Africa. Today, this sense of nationalism, along with the Islamic faith, has been the strongest unifying factors in what has otherwise been a troubled land. This issue has also been the cause of past struggles between Somalia and its neighbors, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya.

Britain and Italy had an incomplete control over their respective portions of the region from the 1920s through World War II. During the war, Somalia became a battlefield, pitting American and British troops against the Italian forces, in which some Somali troops took the side of Italy. Following the, the number of Italian Somalis declined, as the immigrated to Italy and elsewhere.

After the war, Italy, on the losing side, was granted trusteeship of its former territory, but on the condition of independence within ten years, while British Somaliland remained a protectorate until 1960. The result was that, in preparation for independence, Somalis under Italian control received experience in politics and self-government that was not afforded to those under British rule, which would later result in difficulties united the two regions.

By 1960, when both regions were granted independence as one state, the concentration of power was in the former Italian capital of Mogadishu, and its government was dominated by the south.

Almost immediately, the new government began a campaign to unite the Somali-populated regions of Djibouti, Kenya, and Ethiopia into a Greater Somalia. In the late 1960s, Somalia renounced its claims to portions of Ethiopia and Kenya, which angered many Somalis and led to a coup in 1969, and an end to constitutional democracy in Somalia.

During the 1970s, Somalia invaded Ethiopia but was defeated when the Soviet Union backed Ethiopia. Guerrilla operations continued, however. In 1982, the United States helped Somalia fend off an invasion by Ethiopia.

Shortly afterward, Somalia was involved in a civil war involving several interests. The government collapsed in 1991. American efforts to restore order resulted in the infamous "Black Hawk Down" incident, in which eighteen US soldiers were killed and US forces withdrew in 1994.

After interventions by several countries, and several transitional governments, Somalia inaugurated a Federal Parliament in 2012, which continues to operate despite the nation's status as a fragile state, although the civil war continues as of this writing, in December of 2017. Piracy remains a problem along its coast.

 

 

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