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 Xamar ; Arabic: مقديشوSomali: Mogadishu, meaning "Sight Killer" 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.


It's believed Somalis homeland is northern Somalia and they have always inhabited that territory until the Somali pastoral clans migrated to southern Somalia in the 1st century AD to populate the Horn of Africa. The Somalis then established farmlands in Jubba and Shebelle valleys and wealthy ports in southern Somali coastline and by then Mogadishu was founded.[1]

During the antiquity times. Mogadishu was part of the Somali city-states that in engaged in a lucrative trade network connecting Somali merchants with Phoenicia, Ptolemic Egypt, Greece, Parthian Persia, Saba, Nabataea and the Roman Empire. Somali sailors used the ancient Somali maritime vessel known as the beden to transport their cargo.

According to the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, maritime trade connected Somalis in the Mogadishu area (known to the Romans and Greeks as Sarapion) with other communities along the Indian Ocean coast as early as the 1st century CE. The ancient trading power of Sarapion has been postulated to be the predecessor of Mogadishu. Probably Sarapion was located south of actual Mogadishu, in an area where have been found Roman coins.

Medieval Period[edit]

Mogadishu Sultanate[edit]

The origins of the name Mogadishu (Muqdisho) has many theories but it is most likely derived from a morphology of the Somali words "muuq" and "Disho" which literally means "Sight Killer" or "Blinder" possibly referring to the city's blinding beauty.[2]

For many years Mogadishu functioned as the pre-eminent city in the بلد البربر (Bilad al Barbar - "Land of the Berbers"), as medieval Arabic-speakers named the Somali coast.[3][4][5][6] Following his visit to the city, the 12th-century Syrian historian Yaqut al-Hamawi (a former slave of Greek origin) wrote a global history of many places he visited and of those he didn't. He completed his account one year before his death in 1229.[7][8]

The Sultanate of Mogadishu was established by a local Somali man called Fakr ad-Din who hails from the Ajuran (clan) and was the first Sultan of Mogadishu Sultanate and founder of Garen Dynasty.[9][10]

Entrance of a coral stone house in Mogadishu.

By the time the Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta visited the Somali coast in 1331, the city had reached the zenith of its prosperity.[citation needed] Battuta described Mogadishu as "an exceedingly large city" with many rich merchants and famous for the high-quality fabric that it exported to Egypt, among other places.[11][12] Battuta 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.[13][14] The Sultan had a retinue of wazirs (ministers), legal experts, commanders, royal eunuchs, and other officials at his service.[13]

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 (960-1279), although Ming (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) pieces have also been found.[15]

In 1416 Mogadishu sent ambassadors to pay tribute to the Ming dynasty. The Yongle Emperor (reigned 1402-1424) dispatched Admiral Zheng He to return ambassadors to the Somali city, and Zheng He revisited the city in 1430.[16][17]

Ajuran Empire[edit]

Almnara Tower, Mogadishu.

In the 13th century, Mogadishu along with other coastal and interior Somali cities in southern Somalia came under the Ajuran Sultanate control 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.[18] 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.[19] Mogadishu, the center of a thriving weaving industry known as toob benadir (specialized for the markets in Egypt and Syria)[20] 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."[21] 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.[10]

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.[22][23]

Early Modern Period[edit]

Geledi Sultanate[edit]

In the late 1800s, the Omani Sultan of Zanzibar also briefly claimed to control Mogadishu in the Horn and southern Somalia. However, power on the ground remained in the hands of the powerful Somali kingdom called Geledi Sultanate (which, also holding sway over the Jubba River and Shebelle region in Somalia's interior, was at its zenith).[24] In 1892, Geledi ruler: Osman Ahmed leased the city to Italy. The Italians eventually purchased the executive rights in 1905, and made Mogadishu the capital of the newly established Italian Somaliland.[25]

Italian Somalia[edit]

In 1892, Osman Ahmed leased the city to Italy. Italy purchased the city in 1905 and made Mogadishu the capital of the newly established Italian Somaliland.

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).[26]

Mogadishu underwent a period of infrastructural expansion in the late 1930s, with new buildings and avenues such as the "Arch of Triumph" erected in 1934. In 1936, the city had a population of 50,000 inhabitants of which 20,000 were Italian Somalis.[27] The Italian settlers also connected the city to Jowhar via 114 km railway and a newly asphalted Imperial Road leading toward to Addis Ababa and in the late 1930s created the international airport with a huge enlargement of the port of Mogadishu.

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]

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; Mohammed 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.[28]

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.[29] 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.[30][31]

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.[32]

This period was marked by significant urban and economic development.[32] 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.[33] On July 1, 1960, the two territories united to form the Somali Republic, with Mogadishu as the nation's capital.[34][35]


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.[36] 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.[37]

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.[38] The SRC subsequently renamed the country the Somali Democratic Republic,[39][40] dissolved the parliament and the Supreme Court, and suspended the constitution.[41]

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.[42]

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.[43][44] Most of the people who had allegedly helped plot the putsch were summarily executed.[45] 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.[46]

Somali Civil War[edit]

Collapse of government and UN intervention[edit]

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.[47]

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.[48]

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.[49] 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]

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.[50] The fighting between the Ethiopian-backed TFG and the ICU became stretched to over 400 km (250 mi) of land.[51]

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.[52] On December 27, reports stated that the ICU was abandoning the city.[citation needed] On December 28, 2006, pro-government militias claimed to have taken control of key locations, including the former presidential palace.[53]

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.[54]

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.[55]

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.[56] 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.[57]

Urban renewal[edit]

In November 2010, a new technocratic government was elected to office, which enacted numerous reforms, especially in the security sector.[58] By August 2011, the new administration and its AMISOM allies had managed to capture all of Mogadishu from the Al-Shabaab militants.[59] 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.[60][61]


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