Somalia, or Somali Democratic Republic, a country in eastern Africa. It occupies part of the Somali Peninsula, or the Horn of Africa, and fronts on the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. Bordering the country are Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Somalia has an area of 246,200 square miles (637,657 km 2 ).
Most of Somalia consists of plains and low plateaus, averaging less than 600 feet (180 m) above sea level. Highlands occur only in the north where a narrow coastal plain, called the Guban, gives way to a steep escarpment, forming the edge of a high plateau. Elevations here reach 7,900 feet (2,408 m) at Shimbir Berris, the country's highest point. The only significant rivers are the Scebeli and the Juba, which flow across southern Somalia from Ethiopia. Sand dunes along the Benadir coast prevent the Scebeli from reaching the sea, and the river dries up after paralleling the coast for some 200 miles (320 km). Except for thin forests in the far south and the northern highlands, vegetation consists mainly of sparse grasses and thorny bushes.
The climate of Somalia is marked by monsoon winds, high temperatures, and scant, unreliable rainfall with recurring droughts. Maximum daytime temperatures in coastal areas range from about 85° F. (29° C.) to near 100° F. (38° C.) the year round. Inland and along the Gulf of Aden, readings of well over 100° F. are common. Annual rainfall varies from less than 5 inches (130 mm) throughout much of the north to more than 20 inches (510 mm) in the south.
The people of Somalia are largely of Caucasian ancestry with some admixture of Negroid ancestry. They include the Somalis, Gallas, and Afars (Danakils).
Mogadishu is the capital and largest city of Somalia. Because so many of the people of Somalia are nomadic or seminomadic, the populations of some cities fluctuate seasonally.
Most of the people speak the official language, Somali, a Cushitic tongue. Arabic, Italian, and English are also spoken. The population is mostly Muslim. Elementary and secondary schooling is free, but attendance is not compulsory and is low. About 60 per cent of the population is illiterate. The Somali National University is in Mogadishu.
|Facts in brief about Somalia|
|Official language: Somali.|
|Area: 246,201 mi2 (637,657 km2). Greatest distances—north-south, 950 mi (1,529 km); east-west, 730 mi (1,175 km). Coastline—1,800 mi (2,408 km).|
|Elevation: Highest—Mount Surud Ad, 7,900 ft (2,408 m) above sea level. Lowest—sea level along the coast.|
|Population: Current estimate—9,007,000; density, 37 per mi2 (14 per km2); distribution, 65 percent rural, 35 percent urban.|
|Chief products: Agriculture—bananas, grains, hides and skins, livestock, sugar cane. Manufacturing—processed foods, sugar.|
|Flag: Somalia's flag has a white star in the center on a light blue background. The colors come from the United Nations flag.|
|Money: Basic unit—Somali shilling. One hundred cents equal one shilling. In Somaliland, the basic unit is the Somaliland shilling.|
Economically, Somalia is one of the poorest countries in Africa. Most of the people are nomadic or seminomadic herders, who raise sheep, camels, goats, and a few cattle and live at a bare subsistence level. Hides, skins, and other animal products have long been a main export. Farming is done only along or near the rivers, where sufficient water is available for growing crops, mainly sorghum, corn, and sugarcane. Bananas, one of the chief cash and export crops, are grown primarily on large plantations developed in colonial times.
Under the terms of a transitional government established in 2000, Somalia had a president (head of state) and a prime minister (head of government). This government could not gain control of the country as it was strongly opposed by various faction leaders. A new transitional government was agreed upon in 2004. The president is elected by the new national assembly, which is made up of 275 members. The prime minister is appointed by the president. Located in the northern region of Somalia—Somaliland has declared itself independent of Somalia.