Somalia Government and Politics

State and politics

Somalia Country Flag

In 1991, no other country has suffered such a collapse as Somalia since 1991, when President Mohammad Siyad Barre was deposed and fled the country. The 1979 Constitution was put into play and in practice Somalia ceased to exist as a state. Only in 2007 was an internationally recognized government again able to take up its seat in the capital Mogadishu. However, the government does not have control over the entire country. The biggest threat is the Islamist movement al-Shabab, which regularly carries out terrorist attacks even inside Mogadishu.

In addition, Somaliland, an area in the northwest that roughly corresponds to colonial British British Somaliland, declared itself independent in May 1991. Somaliland, which lacks diplomatic recognition, has refused to participate in attempts to recreate Somalia.


A provisional constitution was adopted in August 2012. It states that Sharia, Islamic law, should form the basis of all legislation. The limits that applied in 1960, according to the constitution, continue to apply; Somaliland’s unilateral declaration of independence is thus not accepted. Somalia will be transformed into a federation where the 18 regions that existed before 1991 will form the same number of states.

The legislative power lies with Parliament, which has two chambers: the People’s House and the Upper House. The former must have 275 members (of which at least 30 percent are women), who in the future will be elected in general elections for a term of four years. The parliamentarians appointed in 2016 were indirectly elected by more than 14,000 delegates. In the future, the upper house of 54 members will be appointed by the state parliaments; the term of office is four years. The constitution stipulates that parliamentarians should have at least upper secondary education or equivalent knowledge. Women should be represented in all institutions at national level.

The president, who must be at least 40 years old, is the head of state and commander-in-chief and is elected by both parliamentary chambers of four years. The government, called the Council of Ministers, is appointed and led by the Prime Minister, who in turn is appointed by the President.


Somalia is a distinctive clan society, where individual citizens have always felt closer ties with the clan than with the state. This clan structure has made it more difficult to manage the crisis in Somalia. Political parties in the real sense are scarce, but by October 2018, all MPs should have joined a party.

A large number of attempts have been made with the help of the outside world to recreate a Somali central power. A conference in Kenya in 2004 resulted in the formation of a clan-based parliament and a transitional government dominated by militia leaders. President was appointed Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmad, leader of the semi-autonomous region of Puntland. However, this administration was characterized from the outset by such strong internal contradictions that the provisional government could not establish itself after only one year in Somalia, and then not in the capital Mogadishu, where the support was weak, but in a rural town. Only in 2007 was the government able to take its seat in Mogadishu.

In response to many years of power vacuum and insecurity for the civilian population, Islamic groups set up sharia courts in parts of the country, mainly in the capital Mogadishu, to reestablish the regime with the help of Islamic law. In support of this, the courts formed their own militias, which in 2006 expelled the warlords from Mogadishu and took control of most of southern and central Somalia. The lawless militia in the capital collapsed in a few months, despite the warlords joining forces and, according to unofficially confirmed data, receiving financial support from the United States. The rapid change of power and the attempt by the judiciary to transform society according to ascetic Islamic principles brought strong associations to the Taliban movement’s advance in Afghanistan from 1994. In June 2006, the new militia adopted the name Islamic Supreme Council (SICC).

However, a UN-approved African Union (AU) force, AMISOM, with decisive military support from Ethiopia, was deployed to Somalia in December 2006. In early 2007, the SICC was forced to hand over Mogadishu to the transitional government. When the Ethiopian forces withdrew in January 2009, the Islamist militia al-Shabab took control of most of the country, including parts of the capital. In the same year, moderate Islamist Sharif Sheikh Ahmed took over the presidential post. Since 2010, al-Shabab has been pushed back somewhat by AMISOM. The Islamist group has also been fought by Kenyan troops entering Somalia, but has continued to carry out terrorist attacks in both Somalia and Kenya.

In September 2012, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected by Parliament as new president. The parliamentary elections held in the fall of 2016 were marked by a report by the Auditor General of Corruption. The election to the presidential post was postponed several times and was not carried out until February 2017. In the first vote, the incumbent president received the most votes, but not the necessary 2/3 of the votes. After the second round, in which former Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed received more than half the vote, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud acknowledged being defeated.


The legal system in Somalia consists of traditional domestic customary law, Islamic law (within the family and inheritance law) and more modern legislation designed according to Western role models. The death penalty is punished for some serious crimes.

Human Rights

Many years of conflicts, severe drought and famine have left Somalia in a very difficult state and human rights are low. The country has been characterized by anarchy since the early 1990s, where various clan-based political coalitions and warlords tried to establish control in the country through violence (see History). In September 2012 Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected president and a new constitution was adopted, but the state apparatus is still very weak.

The country is considered to be the most corrupt in the world and respect for freedom of expression is almost non-existent. Somalia is considered the most dangerous country in Africa to work for journalists, and in Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index for 2015, the country is ranked 172 out of 180 countries.

The humanitarian situation is also serious. More than 1 million Somalis have sought shelter in neighboring countries since the start of the civil war and hundreds of thousands are fleeing the country. Chronic food shortages have led to a high frequency of malnutrition and a large part of Somalia lacks access to water and sanitation facilities. However, regional differences do exist. Conditions in the autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland are somewhat more stable than in the rest of the country, and a relatively well-functioning healthcare system has been built up there. This has not been possible in the southern parts of the country, which for many years have been heavily employed by fighting between armed opposition, peacekeeping forces, government forces and various militia groups.

The militant organization al-Shabab is reported to be responsible for several extra-judicial executions and suicide attacks. The organization, as well as several other parties to the conflict, is also accused of recruiting child soldiers and serious abuse of the civilian population. In the areas controlled by al-Shabab, a strict interpretation of Sharia is applied.

Crimes and abuses against minorities, women and children, insofar as they are taken up by clan councils or sharia courts, often lead to impunity for the perpetrator. Homosexuality is prohibited by law and there are reports of people executed because of allegations of same-sex relationships.

Gender-related violence, early marriage for young girls and female genital mutilation occur. Somalia, together with the United States and South Sudan, is one of the UN Member States that has not yet ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Heads of State


1961-67 Aden Abdullah Osman
1967-69 Abdi Rashid Shermarke
1969-91 Mohammad Siyad Barre
1991-97 Ali Mahdi Muhammad (Transitional Government)
1997-2000 National Rescue Council *
2000-2004 Abdiqassim Salad Hassan
2004-2008 Abdullahi Yussuf Ahmed
2009-12 Sharif Sheikh Ahmed
2012-17 Hassan Sheikh Mohamud
2017- Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed

* comprising 41 members and with collective leadership (Ali Mahdi Muhammad, Osman Hassan Ali Atto, Abdulkadir Muhammad Aden, Abdullahi Yussuf Ahmad and Aden Abdullahi Nur)

Somalia Head of Government

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