Countdown to calamity

Somalia has had no functioning government since January 1991, when former President Siyad Barre was ousted.

Since then, fighting between warlords, government forces and various alliances of Islamist insurgents has resulted in the deaths of thousands of Somalis and displaced hundreds of thousands more.

In the north, the former British protectorate of Somaliland declared its independence from the rest of Somalia in May 1991, and in 1998 the northeastern region of Puntland declared itself an autonomous state. Both regions have remained largely peaceful, although Puntland has in recent years suffered from heightened insecurity.

One of the boldest attempts to turn a new page in Somalia was the US Restore Hope intervention in 1992, which was mandated by the UN to protect the delivery of humanitarian assistance amid a major food crisis.

The following is a chronology of events leading up to the current conflict and subsequent famine in parts of southern-central Somalia.

26 June 1960: The former British Somaliland Protectorate gains independence;

1 July 1960: The former Italian colony of Somalia becomes independent. The former British (northwest) and Italian (south) colonies unite;

15 October 1969: Democratically elected President Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke is assassinated by one of his bodyguards;

21 October 1969: The army under Major-General Muhammad Siyad Barre overthrows the civilian government after parliament hits deadlock trying to choose a new president. The army suspends the constitution, bans all 86 political parties, and promises to end corruption. Barre heads the 25-member Supreme Revolutionary Council, comprising army and police officers;

21 October 1970: The army junta declares Somalia a socialist country and adopts "Scientific Socialism". This signals a shift towards Soviet backing, and security organs and intelligence networks are given greater powers;

21 October 1972: A written script for the Somali language is established. A modified Roman alphabet is adopted as the official orthography for the Somali language;

1974: One of the worst famines, known as Dabadeer (long tailed), hits northern and central Somalia, with thousands dying. The Barre government relocates tens of thousands of pastoralists to southern Somalia. The country joins the Arab League;

July 1977: A low-level war of attrition between Somali-backed insurgents and the Ethiopian army becomes an all-out battle when Somalia declares war on Ethiopia. It goes down in history as the fiercest Cold War battle on the continent, played out in the Ethiopian Somali region;

13 November 1977: Somalia expels about 6,000 Russian, Cuban and other Soviet allies after the Soviet Union switched sides and allied itself with Ethiopia;

March 1978: The Somali government announces the withdrawal of its forces;

8 April 1978: After the defeat of the Somali army, a group of army officers tries to topple the Barre regime. The attempted coup is crushed and Barre tightens his grip. He begins a process of putting power into the hands of his relatives and sub-clan, the Darod Marehan. He also empowers the related Dulbahante and Ogadeni sub-clans;

May 1988: The Somali National Movement (SNM) mounts an offensive in the north, as a result of the regime's brutal post-Ethiopian war policies. Barre responds by bombing the area. Hundreds of thousands of civilians are displaced and many killed. It is the first real challenge to Barre's rule, and the beginning of the proliferation of armed opposition to the regime;

May 1990: A manifesto is published in Mogadishu, the capital, calling for an all-inclusive national reconciliation convention to avert protracted civil war. It is signed by 144 people, including politicians, religious leaders, professionals and business people, representing all Somali clans;

December 1990: Armed uprising erupts in Mogadishu;

27 January 1991: Barre flees Mogadishu. Forces loyal to the Hawiye-based United Somali Congress (USC) capture the city;

28 January 1991: The Manifesto Group of USC appoints an hotelier, Ali Mahdi Mohamed, as president. The military wing of USC, led by General Mohamed Farah Aydid, rejects the appointment;

18 May 1991: The former British Protectorate of Somaliland declares unilateral independence from the rest of Somalia in the town of Birao;

July 1991: A conference is held in Djibouti at which Ali Mahdi is chosen as interim president but Aydid and his wing of the USC reject the appointment;

17 November 1991: Full-scale fighting starts between two factions of the USC;

3 March 1992: A ceasefire comes into effect between the warring factions in Mogadishu;

Photo: Abdisamad Abdulakdir/IRIN Radio
The numbers of dead and injured are in their thousands (file photo)

1992: Fighting erupts in the northeast between the Islamist Al-Ittihad group and militia loyal to the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF), led by Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmad;

April 1992: The UN Operation in Somalia, UNOSOM I, begins;

December 1992: The Unified International Task Force (UNITAF) forces under American leadership land in Mogadishu, in Operation Restore Hope;

February 1993: A three-month conference in Borama seeks a new leader for the self-declared state of Somaliland. Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal, a former prime minister of Somalia, is elected in May 1993;

March 1993: The next serious attempt at peace talks. An Ethiopian initiative evolves into a joint UN-Ethiopian-sponsored reconciliation conference in Addis Ababa;

4 May 1993: UNITAF hands over to UNOSOM II;

5 June 1993: 23 Pakistani peacekeepers are killed by Aydid loyalists;

12 July 1993: American helicopter gunships kill more than 50 unarmed Somalis in a private house in Mogadishu, increasing local hostility to the international intervention forces;

3 October 1993: American-led forces looking for Aydid's senior aides are involved in a shoot-out, which leaves 18 Americans and hundreds of Somalis dead. The body of a dead American is dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, and caught on camera, sparking an international outcry;

August 1996: Aydid dies of gunshot wounds sustained in operations against his former lieutenant, Osman Ali Atto. His son, a former American marine, Hussein Mohamed Aydid, is chosen by the clan to replace his father;

November 1996: Ethiopian government-sponsored reconciliation conference brings most of the factions together but is boycotted by Aydid's son;

November 1997: Faction leaders meet in Cairo, with limited success, leaving Somalia without a national leader and Mogadishu still divided and insecure;

2 May 2000: On the initiative of the President of Djibouti, the Somali National Peace Conference brings together more than 2,000 participants in Arta, Djibouti. It is the first conference where the warlords do not have control of the agenda;

26 August 2000: A 245-strong Transitional National Assembly (TNA), based on clan representation, elects Abdiqasim Salad Hassan as the new president of Somalia. He forms the Transitional National Government (TNG);

27 August 2000: Hassan is sworn in during an inauguration ceremony attended by the heads of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Yemen, and the host country Djibouti, along with representatives from the UN, EU, Arab League, African Union, France, Italy, Kuwait and Libya;

April 2001: The Somali Restoration and Reconciliation Council (SRRC), a group of southern factions opposed to the interim government, is formed in Ethiopia and announces its intention to form a rival national government within six months;

November-December 2001: Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi brings together the TNG and some members of the SRRC and other faction leaders who sign the Nakuru agreement to end conflict;

November 2001: In the aftermath of 9/11, the US freezes the funds of the main remittance bank - and the largest employer – Barakat, for suspected links with Al-Qaeda;

May 2002: Mohamed Ibrahim Egal, president of the self-declared republic of Somaliland, dies in a South African hospital and is replaced by his vice-president, Dahir Riyale Kahin;

October 2002: Another reconciliation meeting, sponsored by the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), opens in the Kenyan town of Eldoret;

22 August 2004: Almost two years later, a 275-member transitional parliament is inaugurated;

15 September 2004: Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, a businessman, is elected Assembly speaker;

10 October 2004: Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, 71, is elected interim president of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) by the interim parliament;

14 October 2004: Ahmed is sworn in at a ceremony attended by several African heads of state in Nairobi;

3 November 2004: Ahmed appoints Ali Mohamed Gedi as prime minister;

13 January 2005: Parliament approves Gedi's reconstituted, 90-member cabinet;

6 February 2005: The speaker, leading some 60 legislators, returns to Mogadishu and is welcomed by cheering crowds;

9 February 2005: Gedi announces plans to start relocating from Nairobi to Mogadishu on 21 February;

24 February 2005: Ahmed and Gedi begin a week-long tour of Somalia - the first time they have stepped on Somali soil since Ahmed’s election in October 2004;

29 April 2005: Gedi flies to Mogadishu to meet MPs and ministers who insist the transitional government should be based in Mogadishu, and not Baidoa or Jowhar as proposed by the TFG;

18 February 2006: A group of Mogadishu-based warlords, led by Mohamed Qanyare, form the Alliance for Peace and the Fight Against International Terrorism and confront the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), a coalition of armed judicial units formed by various Hawiye sub-clans; several days of bloody clashes ensue;

19-22 February 2006: Thousands flee Mogadishu, particularly the northern and southern suburbs;

February 2006: TFG parliament meets on Somali soil for the first time - in the northwestern town of Baidoa;

March-May 2006: Hundreds killed and many more injured in Mogadishu during fierce fighting between the UIC and warlords. It is the worst violence in almost a decade;

June 2006: Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed is named UIC chairman;

July 2006: The UIC defeats warlords, who flee from Mogadishu, and quickly moves to other parts of south-central Somalia and assumes de facto control of state administration;

August 2006: Mogadishu airport re-opens for the first time since 1995. UIC also re-opens Mogadishu port;

July-December 2006: A semblance of peace and stability returns to Mogadishu for the first time in over 15 years;

December 2006: Ethiopian troops oust the UIC from Mogadishu and much of the south, capturing Mogadishu on 28 December. The TFG president, Ahmed, and his government enter Mogadishu for the first time since 2004;

March 2007: The UIC and others opposed to the Ethiopian presence regroup and launch attacks on Ethiopian and government positions. First African Union (AMISOM) peacekeeping troops (Ugandans and Burundians) arrive in Mogadishu;

April 2007: The fighting intensifies, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee Mogadishu - the biggest exodus the city has seen in 15 years. Hundreds are reported killed after several days of fierce clashes;

September 2007: UIC remnants and other opposition groups meet in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, to form a new alliance to fight the Ethiopians. The Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia (ARS), led by Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, is formed;

October 2007: Gedi resigns, after falling out with the president;

November 2007: Ahmed appoints Nur Hassan Hussein, also known as Nur Adde, as the new prime minister and immediately embarks on a process of reconciliation with the opposition. The number of Somali refugees hits one million, with nearly 200,000 fleeing Mogadishu in two weeks, according to the UN, while hundreds of thousands flee the fighting between insurgents and government forces backed by Ethiopian troops. Aid agencies warn of a humanitarian crisis;

April 2008: US air strike kills Aden Hashi Ayro, a leader of the Islamist Al-Shabab insurgent group, in its fight against Al-Qaeda;

June 2008: Government signs a three-month ceasefire with opposition ARS to halt fighting in Mogadishu. Part of the deal envisages Ethiopian troops leaving Somalia within 120 days, but the ceasefire is rejected by the ARS faction led by Aweys, who vows to continue fighting until all foreign forces, including AMISOM, leave Somalia;

September 2008: As piracy off the Somalia coast increases, Somali pirates hijack a Ukrainian ship carrying large amounts of weapons, including 33 tanks, which creates concern and forces the international community to deploy naval ships in Somali waters;

Photo: OCHA Somalia
The extent of food insecurity as of early August

October 2008: A wave of what appears to be coordinated suicide bombings across Somaliland and Puntland kills at least 27 people. Al-Shabab claims responsibility;

December 2008: President Yusuf tries to sack the prime minister over his attempts to draw the opposition into the government. Parliament declares the dismissal unconstitutional and passes a vote of confidence in him. Yusuf resigns and Speaker Sheikh Aden Madobe becomes acting president;

January 2009: Last Ethiopian troops complete their withdrawal. Al-Shabab militias take control of the southwestern town of Baidoa, the former seat of the TFG, and capture senior government officials but later release them unharmed. ARS faction led by Sheikh Ahmed reaches power-sharing deal with TFG in Djibouti. However, the deal is rejected by another faction led by Aweys. A new expanded parliament of 550, including 275 MPs from the opposition ARS, is inaugurated in Djibouti. Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed is elected by parliament to replace Yusuf and the transitional period is extended for two more years;

13 February 2009: Ahmed appoints Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, son of a former president, as prime minister;

February 2009: Ahmed returns to Mogadishu to a warm welcome;

May 2009: Al-Shabab and Hisbul-Islam launch a major attack on the government and quickly gain the upper hand as they attempt to overthrow the government;

June 2009: Nearly 170,000 displaced from Mogadishu and, according to local human rights groups, hundreds of civilians killed and injured since the clashes began on 7 May;

3 December 2009: A suspected suicide bomber kills 23 people, including three ministers in the TFG, parents, students, professors and journalists at a graduation ceremony. Al-Shabab denies responsibility;

January 2010: The UN World Food Programme (WFP) withdraws from areas under the control of Al-Shabab, most of southern and central Somalia, after threats from the group;

September 2010: Sharmarke resigns after coming under pressure to quit. Ahmed appoints Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed "Farmajo" to replace him, the fourth PM of the TFG;

April 2011: Aid agencies sound alarm about serious humanitarian situation amid reports of rising levels of malnutrition in parts of southern and central Somalia;

June 2011: Farmajo resigns as part of a deal, signed on 9 June in Kampala, Uganda, between Ahmed and the speaker Sharif Hassan, extending the mandates of the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFI) for a year until August 2012. He is replaced by Abdiwali Mohamed Ali;

July 2011: The UN declares famine in some parts of southern Somalia, with agencies warning that millions face starvation;

August 2011: The UN warns famine has spread to more areas in southern Somalia and that it is likely to continue into 2012. Thousands of cases of cholera/acute watery diarrhoea reported in Mogadishu amid warnings that the caseload may increase to 100,000 countrywide.