A conflict that began in 1991, the Somali civil war has ravaged the Horn of Africa ever since. The civil war began as an armed resistance to the Siad Barre regime, which grew into a much larger conflict between various competing factions after the overthrow of Barre.
10 Facts about the Somali Civil War
- Over the nearly 30 years of conflict, the war has claimed upwards of 500,000 lives, according to estimates from the Associated Press and Africa News in 2007. Since then, the Armed Conflict Location and Event Dataset reports falling numbers of fatalities in Somalia, although more than 3,000 people continue to die in the conflict each year.
- The lasting effects have helped trigger continuous famines and food shortages over the years, with the most recent beginning last year and continuing to today. Not only is food in short supply, the price of a jug of water has shot up more than tenfold and can cost nearly half a day’s wages for some families.
- The militant organization al-Shabaab is in control of large tracts of land in southern Somalia that comprise much of the nation’s most fertile lands. This has aided al-Shabaab’s recruitment during famines, as they can promise to feed the poor in exchange for joining the group.
- The United Nations Security Council will soon have to vote on whether to extend or end the weapons embargo on Somalia, as the current embargo is set to expire on November 15, 2017. The embargo is a measure, supported by most members of the UNSC, that seeks to take away al-Shabaab’s funding and ways of arming themselves.
- Though foreign aid workers are working to help alleviate famine in the areas controlled by Somalia’s African Union-backed government, aid workers are banned from helping within territory controlled by al-Shabaab. This has led to people dying of hunger and thirst mere miles from people able to assist them.
- Though there have been a variety of different factions vying for control over the three decades of the civil war, al-Shabaab is currently the leading opposition to peace in the region. The terrorist group numbers between 7,000 and 9,000 members, and seeks to seize control of Somalia and bring it under extremist Islamic control.
- One of the major players opposing al-Shabaab are the forces of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). AMISOM is comprised of some 22,000 soldiers from the armies of surrounding African nations that seek to support the legitimate government of Somalia. Since the mission began in 2007, AMISOM has lost upwards of 1,000 soldiers in combat with al-Shabaab, the most recent coming in a late July ambush on an AMISOM patrol, which cost the lives of at least 12 Ugandan soldiers.
- According to data from the United Nations Development Programme, 73 percent of Somalians live in poverty and the average life expectancy in the nation is only 52 years. Though the government of Somalia is beginning to make progress, the instability from years of war is making progress hard and keeping the nation in flux.
- As a result of the war, over one million Somalians have been displaced from their homes and livelihoods. Those displaced are in serious trouble, as the government still lacks the capabilities to adequately aid them and their situation is only exacerbated by the rising famine and drought.
- United States aid to Somalia has been falling in recent years, from its highest at $461 million in 2012 to a mere $212 million in 2016. For a fledgling nation that faces the dual plights of internal conflict and severe famine, such aid is extremely important to ensuring the well-being of their citizens.
The above 10 facts about the Somali civil war are just a brief overview of the long and complex conflict. Though things appear to be improving in Somalia, with the government finally gaining a more secure foothold, the famine and attacks by groups like al-Shabaab still leave the nation in a precarious situation.
– Erik Halberg