Timeline: Somalia, 1991-2008

From troubled to dire

The dictator Mohammed Siad Barre, who ruled the Somali Democratic Republic since 1969, is forced to flee when the capital of Mogadishu is captured by rival clan militias.

A power struggle ensues between two warring clan lords, Mohamed Farah Aideed and Ali Mahdi Mohamed. As a result of this struggle, thousands of Somali civilians are killed or wounded. Ali Mahdi Mohamed declares himself President of the Republic.

An estimated 350,000 Somalis die of disease, starvation, or civil war. Images of famine and war are shown on American news networks. Feeling public pressure, U.S. President
George H.W. Bush orders emergency airlifts of food and supplies to Somalia.

The UN Security Council approves a military mission, “Operation Restore Hope,” led by the United States to try to help the starving country by protecting food shipments from the warlords.

The Noolays relief camp in Bardera, Somalia, 1993
(Manoocher Deghati/AFP/Getty Images)

Somali rebels shoot down two U.S. helicopters, resulting in the death of 18 U.S. Army Rangers and one Malaysian man. A heated battle ensues and hundreds of Somali civilians are killed.

The U.S. formally ends the mission to Somalia, which has cost $1.7 billion dollars and left 43 U.S. soldiers dead and another 153 wounded.

Somalis suffer heavily under Mohamed Farah Aideed’s reign and from subsequent fighting among warlords. Hussein Farah Aideed takes over after his father’s assassination.

Ethiopian forces invade and capture the regional capital of Garba Harre, which lies 250 miles northwest of Mogadishu, in order to try to suppress fighting among rebel groups.

A cholera outbreak due to unsanitary water kills hundreds of Somalis.

The United Nations declares that it will be pulling its international staff and aide workers from Somalia because of the dangerous fighting conditions and attempts at kidnapping.

The U.S. government suspects that Al-Qaeda fighters may be seeking refuge in Somalia, and announces increased military operations in region.

An interim government is inaugurated in Kenya, in hopes of putting together a central government. This is the 14th attempt since the 1991 coup. Col. Abdullahi Yusuf is elected interim president by the new governing body. The government functions in exile in neighboring Kenya.

Tsunami waves from Indonesia’s earthquake kill 300 and displace tens of thousands along the Somali coast.

The transitional government begins to return to Somalia, but there are still bitter divisions among members. Violence ensues upon their return. An assassination attempt is made on interim Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Ghedi.

Food shipments begin being hijacked off the coast of Somalia by rebel forces. Food aide programs, including the UN’s World Food Program (WFP), are suspended.

The transitional government meets for the first time since 2004 in the town of Baidoa. Deadly fighting breaks out in Mogadishu between warring militias, killing and wounding hundreds of civilians.

A militia-backed rival government to the Transitional Federal Government, called the Islamic Courts Union, seizes control of most of southern Somalia and captures Mogadishu from the U.S.-backed warlords.

Ethiopian troops reenter Somalia.

Hard-liners within the Islamic Government declare holy war against Ethiopia. Fighting begins.

Thousands of Somalis flee to Kenya to escape drought, famine, and fighting. Many flock to the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya which has since become the largest refugee camp in the world.

April, 2007: Bodies of those killed in street fighting in Mogadishu wait to be buried at a local cemetary.
(AFP/Getty Images)

The transitional government regains control. President Abdullahi enters Mogadishu for the first time since 2004.

A U.S. air strike kills Aden Hashi Ayro, the leader of the Al-Shabaab insurgent group.

After negotiations with the Somali government, the U.S. begins strikes in southern Somalia where Al-Qaeda suspects are allegedly hiding.

A state of emergency is declared.

The UN Security Council approves a six-month African Union peacekeeping mission that will include 8,000 troops from neighboring countries.

The number of Somali refugees hits one million.


The UN Security Council approves the sending of other countries' warships to Somalia’s territorial waters in order to combat the threat of Somali pirates, who have begun hijacking ships regularly.

The head of the UN Development Program in Somalia is killed by gunmen in Mogadishu.

Fighting continues, including coordinated suicide bomb attempts in the semiautonomous peaceful regions of the country.

3.5 million Somalis suffer from war and famine.

“Timeline: Somalia,” BBC News.

“Time-Chaos in Somalia,” Reuters UK

“Timeline: Somalia,” TimelinesDB.