Seventeen years of chaos

Since the fall of President Siad Barre in January 1991, Somalia has been plagued by endless violence and chaos. Here is a recap of the main events that have punctuated the last 17 years of this war-stricken country.



January-November 1991


President Mohamed Siad Barre, in power since 1969, is overthrown in January by rebels of the United Somali Congress (USC), led by General Mohamad Farrah Aidid. On January 29, Ali Mahdi Muhammad becomes head of state.


In May, the Somaliland region, in the northwest, breaks away from the rest of the country.


In November, a civil war breaks out in Mogadishu between partisans of Aidid and those of Ali Mahdi Muhammad, whose legitimacy is contested.



December 1992


The multinational “Restore Hope” operation attempts to combat famine and restore peace to the country. Five months later, the UN takes over control of the operation, which is rechristened UNOSOM (United Nations Operation in Somalia). At its strongest, the mission counted 38,000 members.



October 1993


Some 18 US soldiers perish during an armed confrontation in Mogadishu. Washington decides to withdraw its forces.



March 1995


The UN fails to re-establish order. After the death of 151 UN peacekeepers, the UNOSOM mission comes to an end.



August 1998


Puntland, in Somalia’s northeast, declares itself an autonomous republic.



August 2004


After two years of peace talks, a transitional parliament recognised by the main warlords is established in Nairobi, Kenya.


In October, the transitional parliament elects Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed head of state. Due to the growing instability in Mogadishu, the government moves inland to Baidoa.  



June-July 2006


After four months of combat against warlords supported by Washington, the forces of the Islamic Courts, which already controlled the country's central and southern regions, seize the capital Mogadishu.



December 2006-January 2007


The Ethiopian army intervenes on behalf of Somali government forces to retake the capital and other regions controlled by the Islamist militia. The US military intervenes for the first time since 1994 and carries out an air raid against suspected al Qaeda operatives.



March 2007


An African Union force, known as AMISOM, is deployed to Mogadishu. It comprises 1,500 Ugandian soldiers and as many soldiers from Burundi. The mission is expected to eventually reach 8,000 troops.


A new offensive by the Ethiopian army chases the main insurgent bastions out of Mogadishu. For the first time since it was set up in 1994, the government is able to move to Mogadishu.



June 2008


The Somali government signs a peace deal with moderate Islamist factions in Djibouti. Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, head of the Islamic Courts, rejects the accord.



October 2008


A series of attacks rock the provinces of Puntland and Somaliland. Washington evokes al Qaeda's involvement.



November 2008


The "Shebab" - young Islamists who refused to sign the Djibouti accord - take over the port of Merka, 90 km south of the capital. Never since their 2006 expulsion have the Islamists been so close to Mogadishu. Since the start of the year, the insurgents have also been in control of the port city of Kismayo.



December 2008

Transitional President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, who had been in power since 2004, resigns after acknowledging his “failure to bring peace to the region”.

January 2009

Ethiopia’s troops announce they have completed their retreat on Jan. 25.

Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, head of the moderate Islamists, is elected president by the exiled transitional parliament in Djibouti.

February 2009

President Sharif Cheikh Ahmed returns to Mogadishu on Feb. 23.

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