Somalia Population and Language

The chaos that has been going on in Somalia since the early 1990s makes it difficult to state how large the population is and all statistical data is extremely uncertain. Population growth is high and in 2018, just over four in ten Somalis were estimated to be under 15 years. Most Somalis live in the countryside and next to Mogadishu there are only a few larger cities.

Somalia Population Forecast

The majority of the population belong to Somali clans, have Somali as their mother tongue and are Sunni Muslims. The Somali settlement area extends beyond the country’s borders into southern Djibouti, Ethiopian Ogaden and northeastern Kenya.

  • COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Somalia, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.

According to the Somalis’ own tradition, they all come from the brothers Sab and Samaale, who were descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. The southern southern Somalis are believed to be descended from Sab and the Samaale cattle-rearing northern Somalis.

The Somali clans are gathered in six large families. One of the largest clan families is Darod, which is located in the northwest, in Ogaden and on both sides of the border with Kenya. Issaq dominates in the northwest, in what is today Somaliland. Farthest to the northwest you live. Hawiye, the largest clan, is found in the south, around a stretch of the Shabelle River and in Mogadishu. All of these clan families are then old livestock nomads, although mainly farmers are also resident hawaii. Agriculture, on the other hand, is the main occupation of the clan families rahawein (also known as digil / mirifle) and digil, who live in the river country. In addition, there are a large number of subclans within the clans (see Clan Being).

There are also a number of minority people. This includes several Bantu people (also called jarirs) who live in the south, mainly in the river country, and are descended from slaves who were brought to the country in the 19th century. They have traditionally been responsible for most of the irrigated agriculture in the country. However, many of them have been deprived of their land and are now agricultural workers. In the towns along the coast, there are old Swahili-speaking groups, including Benadiri, which partly originate from the Persians and Arabs who settled in the coastal area in the 7th century. Benadiri played an important role in spreading Islam in Somalia.

Bantu people and other minority groups are often subjected to violence and various forms of discrimination because they lack the safety net that many Somalis receive through the clan system. The situation is particularly difficult in the areas controlled by the Islamist al-Shabaab.


The fighting and assaults of recent years have demanded many thousands of lives and driven a large number of Somalis on the run. According to the UNHCR, in July 2018, there were just over 2.6 million Somali refugees in the country, who have escaped conflicts, drought and floods. Several hundred thousand Somali refugees were in neighboring countries, mainly in Kenya, Ethiopia and Yemen (reliable figures are missing, however). A large number of Somalis have also moved to Europe, North America and Saudi Arabia.

Thousands of people have died while trying to reach Europe or the Arabian Peninsula via the Mediterranean or the Gulf of Aden. Since 2014, wars and other unrest in Yemen have resulted in the return of thousands of Somalis who have moved there.

The Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, which was built to accommodate 90,000 refugees, contained about 210,000 Somali refugees in 2018, according to figures from the UNHCR, but a few years earlier they were even more. More than 188,000 were in the same year in other camps (Kakuma & Kalobeye) and about 77,000 in different cities. Both in the camps and during the flight to Kenya, people are subjected to abuse by police and other government officials. Following terrorist attacks carried out by al-Shabaab in Kenya (see Modern History and Foreign Policy and Defense), the number of attacks against Somali refugees has increased.

In the spring of 2016, the Kenyan government announced that it intended to close the Dadaab refugee camp. According to the plan, Dadaab was to be phased out until November 2016. Prior to that, the Kenyan requirements had been mitigated, and it was instead said that the number of Dadaab residents would be reduced by 150,000 by the end of the year and that it would primarily take place on a voluntary basis, that non-Somali refugees would be relocated and Kenyans who registered as refugees would be deregistered.

People who have been displaced within Somalia are also subject to harassment and abuse, especially women and children, and rape in the refugee camps is a growing problem.

In 2013 and 2014, Saudi Arabia expelled over 40,000 who had worked there without valid papers.

In 2018, there were just over 30,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Somalia, the vast majority from Ethiopia, but also from Yemen, Syria, Tanzania and Eritrea.

According to UNHCR figures, almost 123,000 refugees had returned to Somalia from primarily Kenya but also Yemen Djibouti, Libya, Tunisia and Eritrea between 2014 and 2018. Since the security situation in Mogadishu has improved from 2011, some, often well-educated, Somalis have returned to Somalia. to help build the country.


Somali is available in a northern variant, maxatire, and a southern, may. However, northern and southern Somalis usually understand each other, albeit with some effort. Prior to 1972, there was no universally accepted alphabet for Somali. Then a modified form of the Latin alphabet was introduced to write maxatire. The various bantu people often have their own languages.

For political reasons, Arabic was named as the official language of Somalia’s independent, although few Somalis could then speak Arabic. Well-educated Somalis often speak English or Italian, and in the South, they also speak Swahili.



a majority of Somalis, as well as Bantu people and other minority groups

Number of residents

14 742 523 (2017)

Number of residents per square kilometer

24 (2017)

Percentage of residents in the cities

44.4 percent (2017)

Nativity / birth

43.4 per 1000 residents (2016)

Mortality / mortality

11.4 per 1000 residents (2016)


2.9 percent (2017)

fertility rate

6.3 number of births per woman (2016)

Percentage of women

50.2 percent (2017)

Life expectancy

56 years (2016)

Life expectancy for women

58 years (2016)

Life expectancy for men

55 years (2016)


Somali and Arabic are official languages 1

  1. two largest dialects of Somali are maxatire in the north, may in southsources

clan Guard

The Somali clans are divided into subclans and even smaller groups down to the family level. The members of a clan consider themselves all descended from a common ancestor, and most Somalis can enumerate real and mythical ancestors 20 to 30 generations back. Within each family-based group, the members are expected to stick together to the outside world, but that does not mean that they hold the same.

While a clan holds together outward, two of its subclans can fight with each other. If one falls into sub-position, it can associate with another sub-clan within the larger clan, without this canceling outward cohesion. Such alliances are concluded and dissolved as the balance of power between different groups changes.

Today, the six major clan families have become increasingly important. In the traditional society, it was only at the level below which a kind of political entity was identified, “large clans” with a common right to pasture land. Within the groups, the men held major meetings under the leadership of the elderly. The social order was based on an oral tradition that reproduced legal cases, rules for family formation, business, etc.

The colonial system and later the independent unity state undermined this particular form of democracy, in part by taking over the functions of the central administration that were previously managed locally. The clans came to act as associations of associations where it was important to ensure that they get the largest possible share of the resources. The clan system was banned in both 1961 and 1969, but the prohibitions could not be enforced.

Many concepts of honor and conflict resolution instruments that were previously embedded in the clan system appear to have weathered away. But still, the clan system and the traditional reluctance towards central government guarantee that no group can take over all power. Clan elders still play an important role in mediating peace in local conflicts, and some of them have gained political influence in recent years (see Political system).



The president resigns after a power struggle

December 14

President Yussuf dismisses Prime Minister Hussein and accuses him of incompetence. The Transitional Parliament, however, goes against the president and votes to reinstate him. At the end of the month, President Yussuf resigns instead. The hope is that his departure will facilitate a peace settlement.


al-Shabaab has taken control of most of Somalia

The contradictions within the transitional government are increasing. President Yussuf and Prime Minister Hussein cannot agree on a new ministerial list. People around the president accuse the prime minister of secretly helping the Islamists. Yussuf admits that al-Shabaab now controls most of the country. From Mogadishu come reports of fighting between al-Shabaab and government forces. In the same month, al-Shabaab conquers the port city of Merka, which the UN uses to bring food into the country, and the city of Barawe without firing a single shot. It appears that al-Qaeda’s influence over militant Islamist groups has increased, and that the number of foreign Islamists fighting in Somalia has increased.


Many killed in suicide attacks in Somaliland and Puntland

October 29th

Somaliland and Puntland are shaken by several coordinated suicide attacks. In Hargeisa, Somaliland, the deed is being carried out against the UN Development Agency’s UNDP premises, the Presidential Palace and the Ethiopian Embassy. Two attacks in Bossasso in Puntland are directed at the Ministry of the Interior. At least 28 people are killed.

New ceasefire between the transitional government and the ARS

October 26th

The Transitional Government and the ARS agree on a new ceasefire. The Ethiopian troops will leave certain areas and be replaced by AU soldiers. The parties also say that they should form a unity government with ministers from both sides.


al-Shabaab conquers Kismayo

At least 70 people are killed when al-Shabaab takes control of the port city of Kismayo in the south. The Islamist rebels are reported to have increased their attacks on the AU force (which now consists of just over 3,000 men).


Arms rest agreement

June 9

The transitional government and a faction of the ARS conclude a three-month ceasefire agreement at a peace talks in Djibouti. According to it, a UN force will be sent to Somalia and the Ethiopian troops will leave the country within 120 days after the UN troops arrive. Both Hassan Dahir Aweys, leader of a faction of the ARS, and the militant group al-Shabaab reject the settlement.

New UN resolution to fight pirates

June 2

The UN Security Council adopts a resolution granting countries the right to send warships to the region to fight pirates raging off the coast of Somalia.


Ugandan military is accused of arms embargo violation

The UN Expert Group for Somalia reports that Ugandan officers in the AU force have sold weapons to rebels. Ethiopia, Eritrea, Yemen and individual arms dealers are also breaking according to their report against the embargo.

The US bombs a rebel bracket

The US is launching a new bomb attack, this time against the city of Dusamareb in the central part of the country. Two leaders in al-Shabaab are killed.


Rebels attack Jowhar

The rebels attack the city of Jowhar which they control for a short time. Similar attacks have previously been targeted at four smaller cities. At the same time, aid organizations are warning of a disaster in Somalia, when perhaps as many as one million people have fled their homes due to unrest and famine.


Dhoble is occupied by Islamists

At the beginning of the year, there are almost daily battles in Mogadishu. The Islamist rebels extend the uprising to the Juba area. Dhoble in the Southwest is taken in by militant Islamic rebels in February, the week after the US plan targets the city.

Somalia Population and Language

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