You just have to look at a map of the world to see the wonderful geo-location of Somalia making it an idea centre for trade between Africa and the far east. Indeed between the seventh and tenth centuries immigrant Muslim and Persians established trading posts in what is now Somalia and the capital, Mogadishu, began its status as a trading station. Mogadishu developed as a town then city and many of its citizens became very wealthy. During the Middle Ages, several powerful Somali empires dominated the regional trade, including the Warsangali Sultanate, the Ajuuraan State, the Sultanate of Adal and the Gobroon Dynasty.
Somalia (believed to come from the Somali words of Soo and Maal ~ 'Go and milk it', a reference to the herding lifestyle of its inhabitants) also has a rich sea faring history and is home of the ancient Kingdom of Punt. It first came to the attention of Europeans when the Portuguese discovered its coastal cities whilst developing trade routes to India although they failed to impose any sovereignty in the area. Somalia came to real modern day prominence after the British established a coaling station at Aden in Yemen and required sources of food which were best found off the Somalia coast and inland. Indeed the area became known as 'Aden's butcher's shop' as securing food supplies appeared to be the sole interest of the British.
Around that time, in 1862, the French had started purchasing land in the area to support its coaling station at Obock after signing a deal with Afar leaders and the Italians, under the auspices of the Rubattino Shipping Company, purchased land in modern day Eritrea from the local Sultan and established a base at Assab. Another player in the area was Egypt who, by 1875, held towns on the Somalia coastline and was moving into the interior of the country but this was of limited success and duration. The history of European engagement in Somalia and its environs was further bolstered by the opening of the Highway to India (Suez Canal) in November 1869. Following the Berlin Conference the British signed a number of "protectorate" treaties with Somali chiefs of the northern area in return for British protection and the area was effectively divided up by European powers with Britain retaining most of north Somalia, the French consolidated modern day Djibouti and Italy colonised Puntland and the south of Somalia from land ceded by the Sultan of Zanzibar with the Ogaden Desert annexed by Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia in 1891. In 1897 the border between British Somaliland and Ethiopia was formally defined by treaty with Melelik.
Despite this, on the ground, the British and other European powers faced fierce opposition to their colonialist expansion led by Mohammed Abdullah Hassan who rallied fighters from across Somali and founded the Dervish State carved out from lands lost in battle by the European powers, Ethiopia and Somali Sultans pushing those powers to coastal areas and other strongholds (above left, Dervish soldiers fighting the British.) At the time the Dervish state was the only independent Muslim territory in Africa. The first two decades of the twentieth century saw ongoing conflict between Hassan, deemed the Mad Mullah by the British, however the Dervish State aligned itself with the Ottoman and German empire during the first World War and was defeated by the British in 1920 after which Hassan and his followers fled to the to Ogaden desert area in the hope of regrouping however Hassan died later that year of influenza at the age of 64.
Following the war, Italy, which had aligned itself with Britain, France and Russia from 1915, increased its military presence in the area and in 1925, following an agreement made during the war as a reward for Italy having joined the Allies, an area south of the Jubba River known as Jubaland ~ a 33,000 square mile area flanking north-east Kenya ~ was ceded by the British into Italian control becoming part of the Italian protectorate. From there the Italians launched the Second Italo-Abyssinian War in 1935 in part in retaliation by Mussolini for Italy's earlier heavy defeat at the hands of Ethiopia in 1896. The League of Nations watched on helplessly as Ethiopia was swiftly crushed, occupied and annexed into the newly created Italian East Africa comprised of Ethiopia, Italian Somaliland and Italian Eritrea with King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy taking the title of "Emperor of Abyssinia".
After the outbreak of World War II, the Italians conquered British Somaliland also absorbing it into Italian East Africa, however a year later the British recaptured thew territory and, following the war, Italian Somaliland came under British administration until 1949 after which it became the Trust Territory of Somalia administered by Italy but on a United Nations understanding and condition that it would become independent within ten years. In 1960 the Trust Territory of Somalia duly became independent of Italy and, together with British Somaliland, united to become the Somali Democratic Republic with Mogadishu as its capital and Aden Abdullah Osman Daar, a well known nationalist, as its first president. Daar lost the subsequent 1967 presidential election to his former prime minister Abdirashid Ali Shermarke however two years later Shermarke was assassinated and the coup installed military commander Mohamed Siad Barre as president and, although a harsh socialist regime then ruled the country until it's collapse in 1991, many improvements to the new country were made, particularly in the field of literacy. However in that year, armed and supported by Ethiopia, clans from across Somalia brought down the governing regime and since that time the country has been in almost perpetual conflict with no real rule of any government. Even the United Nations withdrew, considering the area too unsafe to operate in.
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