History of Mogadishu

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Prior to the civil war, Mogadishu was known as the White pearl of the Indian Ocean.

Mogadishu (/ˌmɒɡəˈdɪʃ/; Somali: Muqdisho, popularly حَمَر Xamar ; Arabic: مقديشوMaqadīshū; literally "The Seat of the Shah") is the largest city in Somalia and the nation's capital. Located in the coastal Benadir region on the Indian Ocean, the city has served as an important port for centuries.

Antiquity[edit]

According to the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, maritime trade connected Somalis in the Mogadishu area (known to the Greeks as Sarapion) with other communities along the Indian Ocean coast as early as the 1st century CE, and the ancient trading power of Sarapion has been postulated to be the predecessor of Mogadishu. With Muslim traders from the Arabian Peninsula arriving c. 900 CE, Mogadishu was well-suited to become a regional center for commerce.

Middle Ages[edit]

Mogadishu Sultanate[edit]

The name "Mogadishu" is held to be derived from the Arabic مقعد شاه Maq'ad Shah ("The seat of the Shah"), a reflection of the city's early Persian influence.[1]

For many years, Mogadishu stood as the pre-eminent city in the بلد البربر Bilad al Barbar ("Land of the Berbers"), which was the medieval Arabic term for the Horn of Africa.[2][3][4] Following his visit to the city, the 12th century Syrian historian Yaqut al-Hamawi wrote that it was inhabited by dark-skinned Berbers, the ancestors of the modern Somalis.[5][6]

The Sultanate of Mogadishu developed with the immigration of Emozeidi Arabs, a community whose earliest presence dates back to the 9th or 10th century.[7] This evolved into the Muzaffar dynasty, a joint Somali-Arab federation of rulers, and Mogadishu became closely linked with the powerful Somali Ajuran Sultanate.[8]

Entrance of a coral stone house in Mogadishu.

By the time of the Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta's appearance on the Somali coast in 1331, the city was at the zenith of its prosperity. Battuta described Mogadishu as "an exceedingly large city" with many rich merchants, which was famous for its high quality fabric that it exported to Egypt, among other places.[9][10] He added that the city was ruled by a Somali Sultan originally from the northern Barbara region, who spoke both Somali (referred to by Battuta as Mogadishan, the Benadir dialect of Somali) and Arabic with equal fluency.[11][12] The Sultan also had a retinue of wazirs (ministers), legal experts, commanders, royal eunuchs, and other officials at his beck and call.[11]

Archaeological excavations have recovered many coins from China, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. According to Richard Pankhurst, the majority of the Chinese coins date to the Song Dynasty, although Ming and Qing Dynasty pieces have also been found.[13]

In 1416, Mogadishu sent ambassadors to pay tribute to the Ming dynasty. The Yongle Emperor dispatched Admiral Zheng He to return ambassadors to the Somali city, with Zheng He revisiting the city in 1430.[14][15]

Ajuran period[edit]

Main article: Ajuran Sultanate
Almnara Tower, Mogadishu.

During the Middle Ages, Mogadishu along with other coastal Somali cities came under the Ajuran Sultanate's sphere of influence and experienced another Golden Age. Vasco Da Gama, who passed by Mogadishu in the 15th century, noted that it was a large city with houses of four or five storeys high and big palaces in its centre and many mosques with cylindrical minarets.[16] In the 16th century, Duarte Barbosa later wrote that many ships from the Kingdom of Cambaya sailed to Mogadishu with cloths and spices for which they in return received gold, wax and ivory. Barbaso also highlighted the abundance of meat, wheat, barley, horses, and fruit on the coastal markets, which generated enormous wealth for the merchants.[17] Mogadishu, the center of a thriving weaving industry known as toob benadir (specialized for the markets in Egypt and Syria)[18] Trading across the Arabian Sea enabled major ports like Mogadishu to prosper during the later Middle Ages. Ross E. Dunn describes Mogadishu and other Muslim settlements in the Horn region as "a kind of medieval America, a fertile, well-watered land of economic opportunity and a place of salvation from drought, famine, overpopulation, and war at home."[19] The Portuguese would later attempt to occupy the city, but never managed to take it. The Hawiye Somali, however, were successful in defeating the Ajuran Sultanate and bringing about the end of Muzaffar rule.[8]

Flag of the Ajuran Sultanate, a Somali empire of which medieval Mogadishu was an important vassal.

After entering Mogadishu, the Darandoolle quarrelled with the Ajuran, over watering rights. The Ajuran had decreed: ‘At the wells in our territory, the people known as Darandoolle and the other Hiraab cannot water their herds by day, but only at night’’…Then all the Darandoolle gathered in one place. The leaders decided to make war on the Ajuran. They found the imam of the Ajuran seated on a rock near a well called Ceel Cawl. They killed him with a sword. As they struck him with the sword, they split his body together with the rock on which he was seated. He died immediately and the Ajuran migrated out of the country.’

The Darandoolle became as such the first group to rebel against the tyranny of Ajuran in the interior, and ever since this Ajuran defeat other groups would follow in the rebellion which would eventually bring down Ajuran rule of the inter-riverine region.

After the defeat of the Ajuran in the interior, the Darandoolle Mudulood established themselves around Mogadishu and Shabelle river valley, in which Wacdaan inhabited the environs of Afgoye, Hilibi in Lower Shabelle, Moobleen went part of the region now known as Middle Shabelle, while the Mataan established themselves in and around Mogadishu city, where 1720 Mataan collected tax and port tariffs of the city, and emerged as the authority of Mogadishu city.[20][21]

Italian Somaliland[edit]

By 1892, Mogadishu was under the joint control of the Somali Geledi Sultanate (which, also holding sway over the Shebelle Valley region in the interior, was at the height of its power) and the Omani Sultan of Zanzibar.[22] In 1892, Ali bin Said leased the city to Italy. Italy purchased the city in 1905 and made Mogadishu the capital of the newly established Italian Somaliland. The Italians subsequently referred to the city as Mogadiscio.

Downtown Mogadishu in 1936. Arba Rucun mosque to the center right.

In 1926, after a bloody repression by governor Cesare Maria De Vecchi, southern Somalia was fully pacified and started to enjoy a period of economic development. The Somali colonial troops called Dubats and the gendarmerie Zaptié were extensively used by De Vecchi in this military Campaign of the Sultanates.

In the early 1930s, the new Italian governors, Guido Corni and Maurizio Rava, started a policy of non-coercive assimilation of locals. Many Mogadishu residents were subsequently enlisted into the Italian colonial troops, and thousands of Italian settlers moved to live in the city. Mogadishu also re-assumed its historic position as an important commercial centre, with some small manufacturing companies established within the city limits and in some agricultural areas around the capital, such as Genale and Jowhar (Villaggio duca degli Abruzzi).[23]

Mogadishu underwent a period of infrastructural expansion in the late 1930s, with new buildings and avenues such as the Arch of Triumph erected. In 1936, the city had a population of 50,000 inhabitants of which 20,000 were Italian Somalians.[24] The Italian settlers also connected the city to Jowhar via 114 km railway and a newly asphalted Imperial Road leading toward to Addis Ababa.

In 1941, British forces invaded and occupied Mogadishu and Italian Somaliland at large as part of the East African Campaign of World War II.

Somali Youth League[edit]

Main article: Somali Youth League
Flag of the Somali Youth League (SYL), the nation's first political party.

The Somali Youth League formed in 1943 succeeded in uniting all Somali clans under its flag and led the country on the road to independence by drawing inspiration from the early 20th century Somali nationalist; Muhammad Abdullah Hassan and his Dervish Dream, as well as invoking the history of the medieval Somali empires and Kingdoms. SYL called for national unity and rejected clan divisions. Faced with growing Italian political pressure inimical to continued British tenure and to Somali aspirations for independence, the Somalis and the British came to see each other as allies. The situation prompted British officials to encourage the Somalis to form political parties. In 1945, the Potsdam conference was held, where it was decided not to return Italian Somaliland to Italy.[25]

Somali nationalist agitation against the possibility of Italian rule reached the level of violent confrontation in 1948, when on 11 January, large riots broke out that left fifty-two Italians dead in the streets of Mogadishu and other coastal cities in which many more were injured. In Mogadishu a two-hour battle "with bullets, arrows, broken bottles and knives" ensued during an SYL parade. During those clashes Hawo Tako participated, following the visit of the Four-Power Commission, where she eventually was killed.[26] She later became a symbol for Pan-Somalism, and the nationalist Somali Youth League (SYL), who proclaimed her a martyr. When in 1949 news reached Mogadishu that the UN General Assembly was discussing the possibility of the return of Italian administration, more violent riots broke out in the city. In November 1949, the United Nations opted to grant Italy trusteeship of Italian Somaliland, but only under close supervision and on the condition — first proposed by the SYL and other nascent Somali political organizations that were then agitating for independence — that Somalia should achieve independence within ten years.[27][28]

Trust Territory of Somalia (1950-1960)[edit]

Following the dissolution of the former Italian Somaliland, the new Trust Territory of Somalia was established as a transitional step toward eventual independence. Italy would administer the polity from 1949 to 1960 under a UN mandate.[29]

This period was marked by significant urban and economic development.[29] New post-secondary institutions of law, economics and social studies were also founded. These academies were affiliated with the University of Rome and included the Somali National University.

On 13 April 1956, administration of the territory was transferred in full to the Somali politicians, and a seventy member legislative assembly was formed. The first general elections in Somalia under universal suffrage were won by the SYL, whose then leader, Abdullahi Issa, became prime minister, and Aden Abdulle Osman Daar became speaker of parliament. The new government would go on to implement various economic and social reforms.

British Somaliland became independent on June 26, 1960 as the State of Somaliland, and the Trust Territory of Somalia (the former Italian Somaliland) followed suit five days later.[30] On July 1, 1960, the two territories united to form the Somali Republic, with Mogadishu as the nation's capital.[31][32]

Independence[edit]

An avenue in Mogadishu, 1963

A government was formed by Abdullahi Issa and other members of the trusteeship and protectorate governments, with Haji Bashir Ismail Yusuf as President of the Somali National Assembly, Aden Abdullah Osman Daar as President of the Somali Republic and Abdirashid Ali Shermarke as Prime Minister (later to become President from 1967–1969). On 20 July 1961 and through a popular referendum, the people of Somalia ratified a new constitution, which was first drafted in 1960.[33] In 1967, Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal became Prime Minister, a position to which he was appointed by Shermarke.

In the first national elections after independence, held in Mogadishu on 30 March 1964, the SYL won an absolute majority of 69 of the 123 parliamentary seats. The remaining seats were divided among 11 parties. Five years from then, in general elections held in March 1969, the ruling SYL returned to power. However, on 15 October 1969, while paying a visit to the northern town of Las Anod, Somalia's then President Abdirashid Ali Shermarke was shot dead by one of his own bodyguards. His assassination was quickly followed by a military coup d'état on 21 October 1969 (the day after his funeral), in which the Somali Army seized power without encountering armed opposition — essentially a bloodless takeover. The putsch was spearheaded by Major General Mohamed Siad Barre, who at the time commanded the army.[34]

Alongside Barre, the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) that assumed power after President Sharmarke's assassination was led by Lieutenant Colonel Salaad Gabeyre Kediye and Chief of Police Jama Korshel. Kediye officially held the title of "Father of the Revolution," and Barre shortly afterwards became the head of the SRC.[35] The SRC subsequently renamed the country the Somali Democratic Republic,[36][37] dissolved the parliament and the Supreme Court, and suspended the constitution.[38]

The revolutionary army established various large-scale public works programs, including the Mogadishu Stadium. In addition to a nationalization program of industry and land, the Mogadishu-based new regime's foreign policy placed an emphasis on Somalia's traditional and religious links with the Arab world, eventually joining the Arab League (AL) in 1974.[39]

After fallout from the unsuccessful Ogaden campaign of the late 1970s, the Barre administration began arresting government and military officials under suspicion of participation in the abortive 1978 coup d'état.[40][41] Most of the people who had allegedly helped plot the putsch were summarily executed.[42] However, several officials managed to escape abroad and started to form the first of various dissident groups dedicated to ousting Barre's regime by force.[43]

Somali Civil War[edit]

Main article: Somali Civil War

Collapse of government and UN intervention[edit]

Main article: Unified Task Force

By the late 1980s, the moral authority of Barre's regime had collapsed. The authorities became increasingly totalitarian, and resistance movements, encouraged by Ethiopia's communist Derg administration, sprang up across the country. This eventually led in 1991 to the outbreak of the civil war, the toppling of Barre's government, and the disbandment of the Somali National Army (SNA). Many of the opposition groups subsequently began competing for influence in the power vacuum that followed the ouster of Barre's regime. Armed factions led by USC commanders General Mohamed Farah Aidid and Ali Mahdi Mohamed, in particular, clashed as each sought to exert authority over the capital.[44]

A residential area of Mogadishu, with a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter in the foreground (1992).

UN Security Council Resolution 733 and UN Security Council Resolution 746 led to the creation of UNOSOM I, the first stabilization mission in Somalia after the dissolution of the central government. United Nations Security Council Resolution 794 was unanimously passed on December 3, 1992, which approved a coalition of United Nations peacekeepers led by the United States. Forming the Unified Task Force (UNITAF), the alliance was tasked with assuring security until humanitarian efforts were transferred to the UN. Landing in 1993, the UN peacekeeping coalition started the two-year United Nations Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOM II) primarily in the south.[45]

Some of the militias that were then competing for power interpreted the UN troops' presence as a threat to their hegemony. Consequently, several gun battles took place in Mogadishu between local gunmen and peacekeepers. Among these was the Battle of Mogadishu of 1993, an unsuccessful attempt by US troops to apprehend faction leader Aidid.

With these casualties, United States President Bill Clinton withdrew American forces in 1994. Two factions in Mogadishu reached a peace accord the same year, on January 16. However, fighting continued for control over the city, prompting the eventual withdrawal of the last international peacekeepers by March 3, 1995.

General Aidid later declared himself president in June 1995. By 1996, his forces had captured strategic neighborhoods in Mogadishu and some outlying territory. Following renewed fighting in the city and Hoddur, Aidid ultimately died in July 1996 from gunshot wounds suffered in a street battle.

Second Battle of Mogadishu[edit]

On 7 May 2006, fighting broke out between Islamist militias and an alliance of Somali faction leaders over control of Mogadishu. The opposing forces were the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT), and militia loyal to the Islamic Court Union (ICU). The conflict began in mid-February 2006, when various warlords formed the ARPCT to challenge the emerging influence of the ICU. It was alleged that the United States had been provided funding for the ARPCT due to concerns that the ICU had ties to al-Qaeda.[46] Most of the combat was concentrated in the Sii-Sii (often written "CC" in English) district in northern Mogadishu with both the Islamist militias and the secular factions leaders fighting for control of Mogadishu. On 5 June 2006, the ICU militia seized the city.

Fall of Mogadishu[edit]

Main article: Fall of Mogadishu
Mogadishu in 2006.

While the ICU consolidated control over Mogadishu, a UN-supported Transitional Government remained undefeated in Baidoa, despite a series of military setbacks. An attempt by the ICU to capture Baidoa prompted a military intervention by Ethiopia in support of the Transitional Government starting December 21, 2006. On December 25 Ethiopian jets bombed Mogadishu's main airport held by the ICU since June. Witnesses reported MiG fighter jets fired missiles into the airport twice. One person was killed and a number injured. Further north, Beledweyne was also bombed, according to witnesses.[47] The fighting between the Ethiopian-backed TFG and the ICU became stretched to over 400 km (250 mi) of land.[48]

Following a rapid advance, Ethiopian and pro-government militias surrounded Mogadishu. A spokesman stated that the troops would besiege the city but not attack it in order to avoid civilian casualties.[49] On December 27, reports stated that the ICU was abandoning the city.[50] On December 28, 2006, pro-government militias claimed to have taken control of key locations, including the former presidential palace.[51]

Battle of Mogadishu (2007)[edit]

In January 2007, an Islamic insurgency erupted in Mogadishu, targeting government and Ethiopian forces. A helicopter was shot down as battles engulf in the city on March 30, 2007. Two Ethiopian helicopters fired on a rebel stronghold before one was hit by a missile. In addition, Ethiopia told its forces had killed 200 insurgents in a two-day joint offensive with Somali troops against the Islamic Courts Union.[52]

Al-Shabaab insurgency[edit]

Following its defeat in the Battle of Ras Kamboni, the Islamic Courts Union splintered into several different factions. Some of the more radical elements, including Al-Shabaab, regrouped to continue their insurgency against the TFG and oppose the Ethiopian military's presence in Somalia. Throughout 2007 and 2008, Al-Shabaab scored military victories, seizing control of key towns and ports in both central and southern Somalia. At the end of 2008, the group had captured Baidoa but not Mogadishu. By January 2009, Al-Shabaab and other militias had managed to force the Ethiopian troops to retreat, leaving behind an under-equipped African Union peacekeeping force to assist the Transitional Federal Government's troops.[53]

Between May 31 and June 9, 2008, representatives of Somalia's federal government and the moderate Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) group of Islamist rebels participated in peace talks in Djibouti brokered by the UN. The conference ended with a signed agreement calling for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops in exchange for the cessation of armed confrontation. Parliament was subsequently expanded to 550 seats to accommodate ARS members, which then elected a new president.[54] With the help of a small team of African Union troops, the coalition government also began a counteroffensive in February 2009 to retake control of the southern half of the country. To solidify its control of southern Somalia, the TFG formed an alliance with the Islamic Courts Union, other members of the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia, and Ahlu Sunna Waljama'a, a moderate Sufi militia.[55]

Urban renewal[edit]

In November 2010, a new technocratic government was elected to office, which enacted numerous reforms, especially in the security sector.[56] By August 2011, the new administration and its AMISOM allies had managed to capture all of Mogadishu from the Al-Shabaab militants.[57] Mogadishu has subsequently experienced a period of intense reconstruction and urban renewal spearheaded by the Somali diaspora, the municipal authorities and Turkey, a historic ally of Somalia.[58][59]

References[edit]

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