Somalia was known as the Land of Punt by ancient Egyptians, who came to Somalia's northern shores for incense and aromatic herbs. From the 7th to the 10th century, Arab and Persian trading posts were established along the coast. In the 16th century, Turkish rule extended to the northern coast, and the sultans of Zanzibar gained control in the south.

After British occupation of Aden in 1839, the Somali coast became its source of food. The French established a coal-mining station in 1862 at the site of Djibouti, and the Italians planted a settlement in Eritrea. By 1920, a British and Italian protectorate occupied the territory. The British ruled the entire area after 1941, with Italy returning in 1950 to serve as United Nations trustee.

By 1960, Britain and Italy granted independence to their sectors, enabling the two to join as the Republic of Somalia on July 1, 1960. Somalia broke diplomatic relations with Britain in 1963 when the British granted the Somali-populated Northern Frontier District of Kenya to the Republic of Kenya.

On October 15, 1969, President Abdi Rashid Ali Shermarke was assassinated and the army seized power. Maj. Gen. Mohamed Siad Barre, as president of a renamed Somali Democratic Republic, leaned heavily toward the USSR. In 1970, President Siad Barre proclaimed "scientific socialism" as the republic's guiding ideology. The Marxist ideology stressed hard work and public service and was regarded by the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) as fully compatible with Islam. A number of industries were nationalized.

In 1977, Somalia attacked Ethiopia with the aim of uniting the Somali lands that had been partitioned by the former colonial powers. Somalia soon overran Ethiopian forces and were nearing Addis Ababa when Cuban and Soviet forces came to the aid of Ethiopia. Somali forces were beaten back, sending hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees flooding into Somalia.

President Siad Barre fled in late January 1991. His departure left Somalia in the hands of a number of clan-based guerrilla groups.

Africa's worst drought of the century occurred in 1992, and coupled with the devastation of civil war, Somalia was plunged into a severe famine that killed 300,000 people. U.S. troops were sent in to protect the delivery of food in December 1992, and in May 1993 the UN took control of the relief efforts. The warlord Mohamed Farah Aidid ambushed UN troops and dragged American bodies through the streets, causing a reversal in U.S. willingness to involve itself in the fate of Somalia.

In August 2000, a parliament convened in Djibouti and elected Somalia's first government in nearly a decade. After its first year in office, the government still controlled only 10% of the country. In October 2002, talks to establish a government began.

In August 2004, a 275-member transitional parliament was inaugurated. Parliament selected Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed as national president in September. The new government spent its first year operating out of Kenya because Somalia remained too violent and unstable to enter.

In May 2006, an outbreak of violence began with Islamist militias, called the Somali Islamic Courts Council (SICC), battling rival warlords. On June 6, the Islamist militia seized control of the capital. Somalia's transitional government, led by President Abdullahi Yusuf and situated in Baidoa, engaged in unsuccessful peace negotiations with the Islamic Courts Council.

Ethiopia began amassing troops on the border. In mid-December, Ethiopia launched air strikes against the Islamists, and in a matter of days Ethiopian ground troops and Somali soldiers loyal to the transitional government regained control of Mogadishu.

In January 2007, the U.S. launched airstrikes on retreating Islamists, who they believed included three members of al-Qaeda suspected of involvement in the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. Battles between the insurgents and Somali and Ethiopian troops intensified in March, leaving over 300 civilians dead. The fighting created a humanitarian crisis, with more than 320,000 Somalis fleeing the fighting in Mogadishu. A national reconciliation conference opened in July, but was postponed when leading opposition figures failed to appear. The fighting intensified again in October. The Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS), a coalition of Islamist leaders, and the transitional government agreed to a cease-fire in June 2008 that called on Ethiopian troops to be replaced by UN troops.

Al-Shabab, the militant wing of SICC, began gaining strength in 2007. It allied itself with al-Qaeda and won the support of many local warlords. The group seeks to return Somalia to an Islamist state and intimidated civilians with stonings, by chopping off hands, and by banning many forms of technology, while waging war against the transitional government.

Prime Minister Ali Muhammad Ghedi resigned in October 2007 after a feud with President Yusuf. He was succeeded by Nur Hassan Hussein.

In October 2008, violence rocked what had been a peaceful region when at least 28 people were killed in five suicide-bombings in northern Somalia. The highest death toll was in Hargeisa.

In December 2008, President Yusuf dismissed Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein, saying Hussein had "failed to accomplish his duties." The following day, Parliament passed a confidence vote in the government of Hussein. Despite the vote, President Yusuf appointed Muhammad Mahmud Guled Gamadhere as prime minister. Guled resigned saying he did not want to be "seen as a stumbling block to the peace process which is going well now." President Yusuf also resigned in the power struggle.

Ethiopia began withdrawing troops from Somalia in January 2009.

Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed became president on January 31, 2009. President Sharif appointed Omar Abdirashid ali Sharmarke, son of a former president of Somalia, as prime minister on February 13, 2009.

Al-Shabab formally declared allegiance to al-Qaeda in February 2010, sparking further concern that the group posed a global threat. It claimed responsibility for the July bombing at a restaurant in Kampala, Uganda, that killed about 75 people who were watching the final game of the World Cup.

Prime Minister Omar Sharmarke, who has been criticized for failing to defeat the Shabab resigned in September 2010. He was succeeded in November by Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed.

The summer of 2011 brought drought, resulting in an UN-declared famine in southern Somalia. With tens of thousands of Somalis dead of malnutrition and ten million more at risk, those who could, fled, trying to reach neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia for help.

The Somali parliament held its inaugural session on August 20, 2012 watched over by African Union troops. Mohamed Osman Jawa was elected as speaker on August 28th.

In September, parliament elected Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as president. Two days after becoming president, he survived an assassination attempt by a member of Al-Shabab.

Also in September 2012, several hundred Kenyan troops took over Somalia's port city of Kismayu. The incursion followed several weeks of air and naval assaults by Kenya on key Al-Shabab positions in Kismayu.

In October 2012, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud appointed Abdi Farah Shirdon as prime minister. Parliament approved the appointment.

Al-Shabab militants attacked the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, beginning on September 21, 2013. The siege lasted four days and was meticulously planned. Al-Shabab claimed the attack was in retaliation for the Kenyan military's presence in Somalia.

In December 2013, Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon lost a confidence vote in parliament, after a falling out with the president.

© 2013 World Ministries International