Somalia: Timeline

From a strategic trading zone on ancient Arab trading routes through the turbulence of colonialism and Cold War rivalries and post-colonial political collapse, Somalia has had an eventful, if troubled, history. Here is a chronology of key events in Somali history.

1500 - 1600: Portuguese traders land on the east coast of Africa and start intermittent power struggles with the Sultanate of Zanzibar for control of port cities and surrounding towns.

1840: The British East India Company signs treaties with the Sultan of Tajura for unrestricted trading rights.

1887: Britain reaches a final agreement with the local King Menelik and various tribal chiefs and draws a boundary with neighboring Ethiopia to form British Somaliland. Besides trading interests, the British protectorate serves as a counterweight to the growing Italian influence in the key port city of neighboring Zanzibar.

1897 - 1907: Italy makes several agreements with tribal chiefs and the British to finally mark out the boundaries of a separate Italian protectorate of Somaliland.

1908: The Italian Government assumes direct administration of Italian Somaliland, giving the territory a colonial status.

1936: Following decades of expansionism, Italy captures Addis Ababa and Ethiopia to form the province of Italian East Africa.

1940, June: Italian troops drive out the British garrison and capture British Somaliland.

1941: British recapture British Somaliland and most of Italian Somaliland.

1947: Following Italy's defeat in World War II, Italy renounces all rights and titles to Italian Somaliland.

1950: The U.N. General Assembly adopts a resolution making Italian Somaliland a U.N. trust territory under Italian administrative control.

1941- 1959: Meanwhile, British Somaliland sees a period of colonial development as the territory moves towards a gradual development of local institutions and self-government.

1960: British and Italian Somaliland gain independence and merge to form the United Republic of Somalia.

1960 - 1969: Two successive democratically elected governments attempt to balance the expansionist interests of pro-Arab, pan-Somali factions with interests in Somali-inhabited areas of Ethiopia and Kenya, and "modernist" factions whose priorities include economic and social development.

1969, October: Maj. Gen. Mohamed Siad Barre seizes power in a coup. Democratically elected President Abdi Rashid Ali Shermarke is assassinated.

1970: Siad declares Somalia a socialist nation and undertakes literacy programs and planned economic development under the principles of "scientific socialism."

1972 - 1977: A period of persistent border clashes with Ethiopia for control of Ethiopia's Ogaden region, which also sees a severe drought in the region that leads to widespread starvation.

1974: Somalia and the Soviet Union sign a treaty of friendship. Somalia also joins the Arab League.

1977: Somalia invades the Ogaden region of Ethiopia.

1978: Following a gradual shifting of Soviet favor from Somalia to Ethiopia and the infusions of Soviet arms and Cuban troops to Ethiopia, Somali troops are pushed out of Ethiopian territory.

1978 - 1990: A period of growing cooperation and strategic alliance between Somalia and the West begins. The United States becomes Somalia's chief partner in defense and several Somali military officers are trained in U.S. military schools.

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