Somalia (c-eniconsoʊˈmɑːliə ; ; ), officially the Republic of Somalia ( , ) and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic under communist rule, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 there has been no central government control over most of the country's territory. The internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government controls only a small part of the country. Somalia has been characterized as a failed state and is one of the poorest and most violent states in the world.
Somalia covers the eastern most portion of Africa. It is bordered by Djibouti to the northwest, Kenya to the southwest, the Gulf of Aden with Yemen to the north, the Indian Ocean to the east, and Ethiopia to the west. With the longest coastline on the continent, its terrain consists mainly of plateaus, plains and highlands. Hot conditions prevail year-round along with periodic monsoon winds and irregular rainfall.
In antiquity, Somalia was an important centre for commerce with the rest of the ancient world, and according to most scholars, Somalia is where the ancient Land of Punt was situated. During the Middle Ages, several powerful Somali empires dominated the regional trade, including the Ajuuraan State, the Sultanate of Adal, the Warsangali Sultanate and the Gobroon Dynasty. In the late nineteenth century the British and Italians gained control of parts of the coast, and established British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland In the interior Muhammad Abdullah Hassan's Dervish State successfully repulsed the British Empire four times and forced it to retreat to the coastal region, but the Dervishes were finally defeated in 1920 by British airpower. Italy acquired full control of their parts of the region in 1927. This occupation lasted until 1941, when it was replaced by a British military administration. Northern Somalia would remain a protectorate, while southern Somalia became a trusteeship. 1960 saw the union of the two regions into the independent Somali Republic under a civilian government. Mohamed Siad Barre seized power in 1969 and established the Somali Democratic Republic. In 1991, Barre's government collapsed as the Somali Civil War broke out.
Since 1991 no central government has controlled the entirety of the country, despite several attempts to establish a unified central government. The north western part of the country has been relatively stable under the self declared, but unrecognized, sovereign state of Somaliland. The self-governing region of Puntland covers the northeast of the country. It declares itself to be autonomous, but not independent from Somalia. The Islamist Al-Shabaab controls a large part of the south of the country. Without a central government, Somalia's inhabitants subsequently reverted to local forms of conflict resolution, either civil, Islamic or customary law. The internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government controls only parts of the capital and some territory in the centre of the nation, but has reestablished national institutions such as the Military of Somalia, and is working towards eventual national elections in 2011, when the interim government's mandate expires. During the two decades of war and lack of government, Somalia has maintained an informal economy, based mainly on livestock, remittance/money transfer companies, and telecommunications.