The lawless Horn of Africa country has had no effective government since warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other.
Here are some details about the strife.
AN ELUSIVE PEACE:
- An agreement was signed at the weekend between the government and the more moderate but exiled Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) to ensure the exit of Ethiopian troops, which helped Somali government forces push Islamists out of Mogadishu. However, the hardline Islamist al Shabaab faction, which launches attacks on government positions almost every day, said it would not respect the deal until all Ethiopian troops had left the country.
- Violence in Somalia has killed about 10,000 people since the beginning of 2007 and uprooted 1 million. Nearly half the population, or 3.25 million people, now need emergency aid, which is a 77 percent increase since the beginning of 2008.
- The African Union has said it is incapable of stabilising Somalia through its mission in Somalia, AMISOM, and urged the United Nations to take over the force. The AU wanted an 8,000 strong force, but only has about 3,000 from Uganda and Burundi.
ROAD TO CHAOS:
- In June 2006, Islamist militia from the Somalia Islamic Courts Council seized Mogadishu after defeating U.S.-backed warlords. Washington accused the Islamists of al Qaeda links.
-With tacit U.S. approval, Somalia's neighbour Ethiopia sent troops to defend the government against an Islamist attack on Baidoa in December 2006. The force advanced rapidly, taking Mogadishu and driving the Islamists to Somalia's southern tip.
- Lawmakers had elected warlord Abdullahi Yusuf president and Ali Mohamed Gedi prime minister to run the 14th attempt at government since the fall of Barre. They entered the capital after the fall of the Islamists.
- Gedi resigned in October 2007 and was succeeded by Nur Hassan Hussein as prime minister, but a rift has also opened between Yusuf and Hussein.
- Hardline opponents of the Western-backed government have vowed never to countenance a deal until Addis Ababa withdraws its soldiers.
- Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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