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Foreign relations of Somalia are handled primarily by the President as the head of state, the Prime Minister as the head of government, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Transitional Federal Government.


Transitional Federal Government representatives for foreign affairs

  • Aden Hashi Abdulle (Howle) is the current Permanent secretary of Foreign Affairs.
  • Ismail Qasim Naji - Ambassador to Qatar, appointed February 10, 2007[1]
  • Mohammed Ali America - Ambassador to Kenya, appointed February 10, 2007[1]
  • Hassan Mohammed Siad Barre - Ambassador to Yemen, appointed February 10, 2007[1]
  • Muse Hirsi Fahiye - Ambassador to Djibouti, appointed February 10, 2007[1]


Somalia's only major international dispute is with Ethiopia over the Ogaden. Most of the southern half of the boundary is a Provisional Administrative Line.

A goal of Somali nationalism (Pan-Somalism) is to unite the predominantly Somali-inhabited territories in the Horn of Africa into a pan-Somali Greater Somalia (Soomaaliweyn). Historically, this issue has been a major cause of conflict between Somalia and some of its neighbors. Like the Siad Barre regime and every Somali administration before it, the Islamic Courts Union and its successor Islamist groups are also proponents of Greater Somalia.

Current relations

The current Transitional Federal Government is approved by the Arab League (AL), Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the African Union (AU) and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

The IGAD and AU member states are presently involved in a UN-sanctioned peacekeeping mission, IGASOM, to help stabilize Somalia.

In 2006, the United States took the lead in establishing the International Somalia Contact Group.[2]


After independence in 1960, Somalia followed a foreign policy of nonalignment. It received major economic assistance from the United States, Italy, and the Federal Republic of Germany, as well as from the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China.

In 1963, Somalia severed diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom for a period following a dispute over the Northern Frontier District (NFD), an area traditionally inhabited almost exclusively by Somalis. In accordance with an informal plebiscite demonstrating the overwhelming desire of the region's population to join the newly-formed Somali Republic,[3] Led by the Northern Province People's Progressive Party (NPPPP), Somalis in the NFD vigorously sought union with the Somali Republic to the north,[4] and Somalia similarly urged self-determination for the Cushitic peoples of the area. In response, the Kenyan government enacted a number of repressive measures designed to frustrate their efforts, including the creation of concentration camps.[5]

A similar dispute involves the Ogaden, another territory in the Horn of Africa that has traditionally and predominantly been inhabited by ethnic Somalis. In 1948, under pressure from their World War II allies and to the dismay of the Somalis,[6] the British "returned" the Hawd (an important Somali grazing area that was presumably 'protected' by British treaties with the Somalis in 1884 and 1886) and the Ogaden to Ethiopia, based on a treaty they signed in 1897 in which the British ceded Somali territory to the Ethiopian Emperor Menelik in exchange for his help against plundering by Somali clans.[7] Britain included the proviso that the Somali nomads would retain their autonomy, but Ethiopia immediately claimed sovereignty over them.[8] This prompted an unsuccessful bid by Britain in 1956 to buy back the Somali lands it had turned over.[8]

During the socialist administration of Siad Barre, Somalia was at first closely aligned with the Soviet Union, a relationship which enabled it to amass among the largest armored and mechanized forces on the continent.[9] With this robust security force, the military of Somalia managed to invade and subdue the much sought after Ogaden in a matter of days. However, this changed when the Soviet Union, Somalia's former ally and one of the world's two superpowers, along with Cuba opted to throw their support behind the newly-Communist Derg of Ethiopia in the Ogaden War of 1977–78. With this increased presence of foreign troops, the Somali army was successfully driven out of the region. Barre subsequently tore up his friendship treaty with the Soviets, and expelled their representatives to Somalia. His administration subsequently began a working relationship with the United States, the Soviet Union's cold war rival.

In the aftermath of the Ogaden war, although Barre stated at the March 1983 Nonaligned Movement summit in New Delhi that Somalia had no designs on the Ogaden and was willing to negotiate with Ethiopia, the government of Somalia continued to call for self-determination for the ethnic Somali majority living in the Ogaden.

Since the fall of the Barre regime in 1991 and the breakout of the Somali civil war, the foreign policy of the various entities in Somalia centered on gaining international recognition, winning international support for national reconciliation, and obtaining international economic assistance. Many of those goals were upset by the failure and ultimate withdrawal of the UN missions to Somalia 1992–1995. No power in Somalia was seen as holding the sovereign authority over the state, and thus, foreign relations on a formal basis were untenable. However, this changed with the establishment in 2004 of the Transitional Federal Government, an entity which currently enjoys international recognition and support.

The autonomous Somaliland and Puntland macro-regions have also sought to develop international relationships of their own. Somaliland, which has operated independently since 1991, specifically seeks recognition in the UN, AU, and other international organizations, as well as the ability to develop formal bilateral diplomatic and economic relations.[10]


Arab states

Somalia generally enjoys good relations with the Gulf States, and has a long history of cultural, religious, and trade ties with the Arabian Peninsula. Long considered a part of the Arab World,[11] the nation joined the League of Arab States (Arab League) in 1974 under the aegis of Mohamed Siad Barre. Initially, Somalia tended to support those Arab countries such as Algeria, Iraq, and Libya that opposed United States policies in the Middle East. After its defeat in the Ogaden War, the Barre regime aligned its policies more closely with those of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Subsequently, both of these countries began to provide military aid to Somalia. Other Arab states, in particular Libya, angered Siad Barre by supporting Ethiopia. In 1981, Somalia broke diplomatic relations with Libya, claiming that Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi was supporting the SSDF and the nascent SNM, but relations were restored a few years later in 1985 and have since been good.

Throughout the 1980s, Somalia received economic aid from conservative, wealthy oil-exporting states of Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. This dependence was a crucial factor in the Barre administration's decision to side with the United States-led coalition of Arab states that opposed Iraq following that country's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Support for the coalition brought economic dividends: Qatar canceled further repayment of all principal and interest on outstanding loans, and Saudi Arabia offered Somalia a US$70 million grant and promised to sell it oil at below prevailing international market prices.[12]

Bilateral relations

People's Republic of China

Despite the departure of most Chinese nationals from Somalia in 1991, the two countries maintained a small trading relationship; total trade volume in 2002 was US$3.39 million, with Somalia exporting US$1.56 million of goods to China and importing $1.83 million. In July 2007, the China state-owned oil company CNOOC signed an agreement with the Somali government to search for oil in the Mudug region of the semi-autonomous state of Puntland; a competing oil company estimated the total reserves in Puntland could amount to five to ten billion barrels of oil. However, an unnamed diplomat from a Western country stated that the Somali government had signed similar deals with other countries, which could bring CNOOC into conflict with foreign competitors over exploration and drilling rights.[13]

United States

Although the U.S. never formally severed diplomatic relations with Somalia, the U.S. embassy in Somalia closed down following the breakout of the Somali civil war in 1991. In addition, the Somalia embassy in the United States until recently had as its ambassador-designate Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, the current Prime Minister of Somalia.[14][15]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c d "Somalia’s army commander sacked as new ambassadors are appointed". Shabelle Media Network. 2007-02-10. Retrieved 2007-02-10. 
  2. ^ UN group backs Somalia government, BBC, 2006-06-15
  3. ^ David D. Laitin, Politics, Language, and Thought: The Somali Experience, (University Of Chicago Press: 1977), p.75
  4. ^ Bruce Baker, Escape from Domination in Africa: Political Disengagement & Its Consequences, (Africa World Press: 2003), p.83
  5. ^ Rhoda E. Howard, Human Rights in Commonwealth Africa, (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.: 1986), p.95
  6. ^ Federal Research Division, Somalia: A Country Study, (Kessinger Publishing, LLC: 2004), p.38
  7. ^ David D. Laitin, Politics, Language, and Thought: The Somali Experience, (University Of Chicago Press: 1977), p.73
  8. ^ a b Aristide R. Zolberg et al., Escape from Violence: Conflict and the Refugee Crisis in the Developing World, (Oxford University Press: 1992), p.106
  9. ^
  10. ^ Somaliland: Recognition & Development - Convention in Washingto
  11. ^ Mohamed Haji Mukhtar, Arabic Sources on Somalia, History in Africa, Vol. 14 (1987), (African Studies Association), p.141-172
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ Jopson, Barney (2007-07-13). "Somalia oil deal for China". Financial Times.,dwp_uuid=9c33700c-4c86-11da-89df-0000779e2340.html. Retrieved 2007-11-06. 
  14. ^ "Somali president names Sharmarke as new PM". Agence France-Presse. 2009-02-13. Retrieved 2009-02-14. 
  15. ^ "Sharmarke Chosen as PM in Somalia's National Unity Government". Voice of America. 2009-02-13. Retrieved 2009-02-14. 


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