Nation in East Africa, bordered on the N and E by the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, and on its land ward side by Djibouti (formerly French Somaliland to the NW, Ethiopia to the W and N, and Kenya to the W and S. The capital and largest city is Mogadishu.
The region was part of what the ancient Egyptians called Punt, "the land of aromatics and incense." They sent expeditions here to obtain slaves, gold, and incense. Arabs and Persians set up trading posts on the coast between the seventh and 10th centuries a.d., while Somali warriors fought for Muslim sultans in the 15th and 16th centuries in battles with Ethiopia, which was Christian. In the 19th century Great Britain, France, and Italy brought their imperialistic ambitions to the region. Egypt had occupied much of the area in the 1870s. When its troops withdrew in 1884 the British moved in. They entered into agreements with local chiefs and established a protectorate in 1887. Meanwhile, the French had acquired some territory here in the 1860s. Italy came on the scene in 1889 by establishing a small protectorate in the central zone. Jubaland , an area east of the Juba River, became part of the Italian colony in 1925 by cession from Great Britain.
After Italy conquered Ethiopia in 1936, Italian Somaliland became a province of Italian East Africa.
In World War II the Italians invaded British Somaliland in August 1940, but the British took it back in 1941 and seized Italian Somaliland as well. The region was ruled by Great Britain until 1950, when Italian Somaliland became a United Nations Trust Territory controlled by the Italians. The two Somaliland s became an independent state in mid-1960 as the United Republic of Somalia. The Ogaden region, now in southeastern Ethiopia, had been returned to that country in 1954 by Great Britain, much to the displeasure of the Somalis, who claimed it on ethnic grounds.
War between Somalia and Ethiopia broke out in 1964 over the Ogaden; ended temporarily in 1967; broke out again in 1977; and guerrilla warfare continues.
Somalia's close relationship with the USSR was threatened by Somali support of the Ogaden rebels.
In 1977 Somalia finally expelled all Soviet military and diplomatic personnel. In November 1981 the United States began using a naval base granted it at Berbera. Guerrilla warfare in the Ogaden continued until 1988, when Ethiopia and Somalia signed a peace treaty. Ethnic warfare between tribes resulted in the ousting of President Barre in 1991, and then a famine in 1992 where over 300,000 died. In 1992 through 1994 UN and U.S. peacekeepers tried to restore order, deliver humanitarian aid, and capture the warlord leaders. After a number of ambushes and casualties, the peacekeepers left without restoring central government to the nation. In the late 1990s, the country disintegrated with independent local governments taking control in Somaliland , Puntland , and Jubaland . In 2004, a new parliament was convened in Kenya with a new president. The coast of Somalia was damaged by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.