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Somalia Table of Contents

Somalia

FOREIGN RELATIONS

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One of numerous foreign relief grain shipments being unloaded in Berbera port for distribution, 1991
Courtesy Hiram A. Ruiz

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An elderly woman from Burao, a town in northern Somalia severely damaged in the civil war, 1991
Courtesy Hiram A. Ruiz

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Village children near their hut
Courtesy Hiram A. Ruiz

The provisional government established in February 1991 inherited a legacy of problematic relations with neighboring states and economic dependence on aid from Arab and Western nations. Relations between Somalia and its three neighbors-- Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya--had been poisoned for more than two decades by Somalia's irredentist claims to areas inhabited by ethnic Somalis in each of these three states. The 1977-78 Ogaden War with Ethiopia, although a humiliating defeat for Somalia, had created deep suspicions in the Horn of Africa concerning the intentions of the Siad Barre regime. The continuing strain in Somali-Ethiopian relations tended to reinforce these suspicions.

Civil strife in Ethiopia and repressive measures in the Ogaden caused more than 650,000 ethnic Somalis and Oromo residing in Ethiopia to flee to Somalia by early 1978. The integration of so many refugees into an essentially agrarian society afflicted by persistent drought was beyond Somalia's economic capacity. In the absence of a peace agreement, prospects for repatriation continued to be virtually nonexistent. The Siad Barre government's solution to this major political, social, and economic problem was to make the search for generous financial assistance a focal point of its foreign policy.