Key Terms


Aden, Sharif Hassan Sheikh: Speaker of the Transitional Federal Government until he was removed by President Abdullahi Yusuf. He is the head of the moderate wing of the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, or ARS. 

Ahmed, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh: Founder and chairman of the Islamic Courts Union, he now leads the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia with Sheikh Aden. 

Aweys, Hassan Dahir: Islamist and former leader of the Islamic Courts Union. He is linked with the Shabaab jihadist group, and designated a terrorist by the United States government.

Ayron, Aden Hashi (deceased): Leader of the Shabaab, he was designated a terrorist by the United States. He was killed by U.S. missile strike in May 2008.

Barre, Mohamed Siad (deceased): President of Somalia, 1969-1991.

Hussein, Hassan “Nur Adde”: Prime Minister of the Transitional Federal Government. Appointed in November 2007, he leads a moderate wing and has reached out to the opposition. 

Ould-Abdallah, Ahmedou: The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Somalia. He is the highest-ranking UN official in the country.

Yusuf, Abdullahi: President of the Transitional Federal Government since 2004. Yusuf is the former president of Puntland, and he represents the hard-line elements of the Transitional Federal Government.


Ogaden: A region in Ethiopia that borders Somalia and is populated by ethnic Somalis. In 2007, the Ethiopian military launched an operation against the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), who is fighting the government over what they perceive as Ethiopian occupation. Human rights organizations have accused the Ethiopian government of committing serious abuses against the Ogadeni population.

Horn of Africa: A peninsula in east Africa that juts into the Arabian Sea and lies along the southern side of the Gulf of Aden. The term also refers to the greater region containing the countries of Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Somalia.


Armed Groups

Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF): Rebel movement of ethnic Somalis waging an insurgency against Ethiopia for control of the Ogaden region. They were supported by the Islamic Courts Union during 2006.

Shabaab: Hardline Islamist militia, which continues to leas an insurgency against the Transitional Federal Government.

Political Parties

Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS): Umbrella group for moderate Somali opposition. It is comprised of former leaders of the Islamic Courts Union and non-Islamist opposition groups.

Islamic Courts Union (ICU): Broad umbrella group of Islamic courts and affiliated militias who took control of most of south-central Somalia during 2006. They were ousted by the Ethiopian military during an intervention in support of the Transitional Federal Government in December 2006.

Transitional Federal Government (TFG): The Somali government created in 2004 as a government of national unity tasked with administering a five-year political transition. Supported by Ethiopia’s military intervention, the TFG has lacked popular support, been perceived as a tool of foreign interests, and has been incapable and unwilling to effectively govern the vast majority of Somalia.

International Actors

Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT): Loose collection of secular militias who were funded by the United States to apprehend suspected al-Qeada operatives based in Somalia. They were defeated by the militias of the Islamic Courts Union in early 2006.

International Involvement

African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM): The African Union peacekeeping force currently deployed in Somalia, consisting of approximately 3,000 Ugandan and Burundian troops with a narrow mandate to protect the TFG, not the Somali people. The force has been increasingly targeted by insurgent attacks.

Peace Agreements and Processes

Djibouti Agreement: Agreement signed in August 2008 between moderates in the Transitional Federal Government and the moderate Somali opposition alliance calling for cessation of hostilities, deployment of a UN peacekeeping force, and withdrawal of Ethiopian forces. Due to the exclusion of hardliner elements from both sides, it has yet to be implemented.

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