Somalia: A timeline of change in a troubled country

Since the end of the cold war in 1991, Somalia has gone from US client state, balancing the power of the Soviet-backed Ethiopia, to a civil war torn country dependent on foreign aid for survival.

Despite a number of foreign interventions to secure the passage of food aid to civilians in the past two decades, none have managed to diminish the power of religious and clan militias, or create a strong central government capable of rebuilding a peaceful country. 

Here is a timeline of changes, intervention, and mediation in 5 bite-sized bits:


Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid pictured in this June 1993 file photo. (Alexander Joe/AFP/File)

January 1991: Somali President Siad Barre's government is forced from power. By November, a struggle among clan warlords pushes Somalia into civil war. In the meantime, thousands of civilians die of starvation in a region-wide drought.

February 1992: Rival commanders sign a UN-sponsored cease-fire. And the UN deploys peacekeepers under a newly created United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) to observe the cease-fire. 

But fighting continues to escalate. In December, US Marines join UNOSOM.

1993: US forces target Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid, who along with his rival warlord Ali Mahdi Mohamed are using food aid as a lever for power. About 2,000 people are killed in clashes between the US marines and Aidid's forces.

June 1993: 24 Pakistani peacekeepers with UNOSOM are killed by forces loyal to Somali warlord Aidid. This prompts nothing. The UN continues to operate as before.

October 1993: 17 US army rangers are killed in the famous “Black Hawk Down” incident, when US helicopters are shot down in Mogadishu, and the Rangers mount a rescue mission.

March 1994: The US ends its mission in Somalia. A year later, the UNOSOM mission ends in failure.

2005 - 2006

A militia from Somalia's Islamic Union Courts (ICU) holds up a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) during training on the outskirts of Mogadishu in this December 2008 file photo. (Mowlid Abdi/Reuters/File)

June 2005: Fighters loyal to the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) defeat US and Ethiopian-backed leaders and take control of Mogadishu.

December 2006: A joint Ethiopian-Somali government offensive pushes Islamic Courts fighters from Mogadishu. The joint force captures the city. 


A civilian (c.) walks past two Ethiopian soldiers (l.) and Somali government forces on a truck with a mounted gun outside Villa Somalia housing President Abdullahi Yusuf, in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, in this January 2007 file photo. (Mohamed Sheikh Nor/AP/File)

January: Government forces take Islamist stronghold of Kismayo.

April: More than 320,000 Somalis leave their homes in Mogadishu because of fighting. Many end up in the Kenyan refugee camp at Dadaab, making it the world’s largest refugee camp. Others remain in displacement camps outside Mogadishu, living off foreign food aid.

Aug. 22: Al Shabab – an offshoot of the Union of Islamic Courts – seizes Kismayo. By November President Abdullahi Yusuf admits he has lost control over most of the country to insurgents.

Dec. 29: Yusuf resigns. By the end of January 2008, Ethiopian troops have withdrawn from Somalia. Al Shabab fighters take over the former transitional capital of Baidoa.


Somali Islamist militants hold their weapons as they ride on a pick-up truck on the outskirts of the Somali capital Mogadishu, in this February 2009 file photo. (Mowlid Abdi/Reuters/File)

Jan. 30, 2009: Somali parliamentarians in neighboring Djibouti elect Sharif Ahmed as the new president of Somalia. He imposes sharia law, or Islamic law, in a bid to weaken support for Al Shabab. Shabab takes the majority of Mogadishu, and retains control over most of southern Somalia.


African Union peacekeepers from Uganda, wearing their campaign medals, prepare to leave Mogadishu, Somalia, July 2011. (Mohamed Sheikh Nor/AP)

August 2011: African Union troops push Al Shabab out of Mogadishu in a coordinated offensive with Somali government troops.

Oct. 16, 2011: Kenyan troops enter Somalia, after a spate of Somali attacks against Western tourists and aid workers on Kenyan soil.

Dec. 31, 2011: Ethiopian troops enter Somalia, and take the town of Beledweyne from Al Shabab.