Somalia-- Geography --
Official name: Republic of Somalia
Capital City: Mogadishu
Languages: Somali, Af-Maay (South-Central Somalia ), Swahili (Barawe), Arabic, English, Italian
Official Currency: Somali shilling (SOS)
Religions: Sunni Muslims
Population: 10.7 million
Land Area: 637,540 square kilometers
Landforms: Somalia occupies the tip of a region commonly referred to as the Horn of Africa (because of its resemblance on the map to a rhinoceros' horn). The country has the longest coastline on the continent. Its terrain consists mainly of plateaus, plains, and highlands.
Administrated divisions: 18 regions (gobollada, singular gobol), which were in turn subdivided into districts (Under the de facto arrangements there are now 27 regions)
Geographical location: Somalia occupies the tip of a region commonly referred to as the Horn of Africa (because of its resemblance on the map to a rhinoceros' horn). The country has the longest coastline on the continent. It is bordered by Djibouti to the northwest, Kenya to the southwest, the Gulf of Aden with Yemen to the north, the Indian Ocean to the east, and Ethiopia to the west.
Ethnical structure: 85% ethnic Somalis.
Health: Somalia has one of the lowest HIV infection rates in all of Africa. This is attributed to the Muslim nature of Somali society and adherence of Somalis to Islamic morals. While the estimated HIV prevalence rate in Somalia in 1987 (the first case report year) was 1% of adults, a more recent estimate from 2007 now places it at only 0.5% of the nation's adult population despite the ongoing civil strife.
Somalia -- History --
Somalia has been inhabited by man since the Paleolithic period. Cave paintings dating back as far as 9000 BC have been found in northern Somalia. The oldest evidence of burial customs in the Horn of Africa comes from cemeteries in Somalia dating back to the 4th millennium BC.
Ancient pyramidal structures, tombs, ruined cities and stone walls are evidence of an ancient sophisticated civilization that once thrived in the Somali peninsula. The findings of archaeological excavations and research in Somalia show that this civilization had an ancient writing system that remains undeciphered and enjoyed a lucrative trading relationship with Ancient Somalia and Mycenaean Greece since at least the second millennium BC, which supports the view of Somalia being the ancient Kingdom of Punt.
In the classical period, the city states of Mossylon, Opone, Malao, Mundus and Tabae in Somalia developed a lucrative trade network connecting with merchants from Phoenicia, Ptolemaic Somalia, Greece, Parthian Persia, Saba, Nabataea and the Roman Empire.
The Indian merchants for centuries brought large quantities of cinnamon from Ceylon and the Far East to Somalia and Arabia. This is said to have been the best kept secret of the Arab and Somali merchants in their trade with the Roman and Greek world. The Romans and Greeks believed the source of cinnamon to have been the Somali peninsula but in reality, the highly valued product was brought to Somalia by way of Indian ships.
Birth of Islam & the Middle Ages
The history of Islam in the Horn of Africa is as old as the religion itself. The early persecuted Muslims fled to the Axumite port city of Zeila to seek protection from the Quraish. Some of the Muslims that were granted protection are said to have settled in several parts of the Horn of Africa to promote the religion.
The victory of the Muslims over the Quraish in the 7th century had a significant impact on Somalia's merchants and sailors, as their Arab trading partners had then all adopted Islam, and the major trading routes in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea came under the sway of the Muslim Caliphs. Mogadishu became the center of Islam on the East African coast.
The century between 1150 and 1250 marked a decisive turn in the role of Islam in Somali history. Yaqut Al-Hamawi and later ibn Said noted that the Berbers (Somalis) were a prosperous Muslim nation during that period. The Adal Sultanate was then the center of a commercial empire stretching from Cape Guardafui to Hadiya. The Adalites then came under the influence of the expanding Horn African Kingdom of Ifat, and prospered under its patronage.
The capital of the Ifat was Zeila, situated in northern present-day Somalia, from where the Ifat army marched to conquer the ancient Kingdom of Shoa in 1270. This conquest ignited a rivalry for supremacy between the Christian Solomonids and the Muslim Ifatites that resulted in several devastating wars and ultimately ended in a Solomonic victory over the Kingdom of Ifat.
During the Age of the Ajuuraans, the sultanates and republics of Merca, Mogadishu, Barawa, Hobyo and their respective ports flourished and had a lucrative foreign commerce with ships sailing to and coming from Arabia, India, Venetia, Persia, Somalia, Portugal and as far away as China. 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 in addition to many mosques with cylindrical minarets.
European interest in Somalia develops after 1839, when the British begin to use Aden, on the south coast of Arabia, as a coaling station for ships on the route to India. The British garrison requires meat. The easiest local source is the Somali coast.
France and Italy, requiring similar coaling facilities for their own ships, establish stations in the northern Somali regions. The French develop Djibouti. The Italians are a little further up the coast at Aseb, in Eritrea. When the European scramble for Africa begins, in the 1880s, these are the three powers competing for Somali territory. Soon they are joined by a fourth rival, Ethiopia, where Menelik II becomes emperor in 1889.
France and Britain, after a brief risk of armed confrontation, agree in 1888 on a demarcation line between their relatively minor shares of the coast. The French region around Djibouti becomes formally known as the Cote Franccaise des Somalis (French Coast of the Somalis, commonly referred to in English as French Somaliland). This remains a French colony until becoming independent as the republic of Djibouti in 1977.
British influence in the coastal area around Zeila and Berbera is formalized during the 1880s in a series of treaties promising protection to the chieftains of various local Somali clans. The region becomes a protectorate under the title of British Somaliland.
Although France and Britain have thus acquired control over two valuable stretches of coastline (of increased commercial importance now that the Suez Canal has opened), by far the largest part of Somalia is disputed between Italy and Ethiopia.
Italy establishes protectorates along the coast eastwards beyond British Somaliland, and Italian companies acquire leases on parts of the east-facing Somali coast (where the landlord is the sultan of Zanzibar). Italy agrees spheres of influence amicably with Britain in 1884, placing the border between British Somaliland and Italian Somalia just west of Bender Cassim. At first Italy is also on congenial terms with Ethiopia - notably in the 1889 treaty of Uccialli concerning Eritrea.
But disagreement over the actual meaning of the Eritrean treaty rapidly sours relations between Italy and Ethiopia. By 1896 this results in outright war and in the crushing defeat of the Italians at Aduwa.
Although these events concern only Eritrea, the weakened Italian position has immediate repercussions in Somalia. There is a large Somali region, the Ogaden, which lies between Ethiopia and the coastal part of Somalia where the Italians are active. As yet neither imperial power controls this region, but after Aduwa the Italians are in no position to resist Ethiopian claims to it. The result is a new settlement agreed between the powers in 1896-7.
A new era of conflict begins in Somalia in 1923 with the arrival in the Italian colony of the first governor appointed by Mussolini, newly in power as Italy's fascist dictator. A vigorous policy is adopted to develop and extend Italian imperial interests, culminating in the defeat and annexation of Ethiopia in 1936.
The local situation is therefore tense when World War II begins, though there is little immediate chance for the two relatively small colonies of the allies. French and British Somaliland are entirely surrounded by Italian Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia - now jointly known as Italian East Africa.
By 1940 the British have withdrawn from their colony, while French Somaliland claims neutrality in keeping with the policy of the Vichy government. However in 1941 British forces recover the whole area (except French Somaliland) from the Italians, thus uniting almost the entire territory of the Somali people under British rule.
Meanwhile French Somaliland is being blockaded by the allies. In 1942 the local administration changes allegiance and throws in its lot with the Free French.
Between 1948 and 1950 the situation reverts to the colonial boundaries agreed in 1897. Ethiopia retains the Ogaden and the Haud. French and British Somaliland continue as before. And in 1950 the Italians return to Somalia under a UN trusteeship, with the commitment to bring the colony to independence within ten years.
In the event the year 1960 brings independence to both the British and Italian colonies, in June and July respectively. They decide to merge as the Somali Republic, more usually known as Somalia. The French colony has to wait until 1977 before becoming independent as Djibouti.
From the start a major political theme in independent Somalia is the need to reunite with three large Somali groups trapped in other states - in French Somaliland, in Ethiopia (the annexed Ogaden and Haud regions) and in northern Kenya.
Failure to make any progress on this issue is largely due to western support for Ethiopia and Kenya, which causes Somalia to look to the Soviet Union for military aid. Nevertheless the Somali government manages to maintain a fairly neutral stance in international affairs during the 1960s - a position which changes dramatically after 1969.
The winning party in the first elections of the new republic is the SYL or Somali Youth League, formed originally to campaign for independence within British Somaliland. Elections in March 1969 bring the party a larger majority. It is becoming increasingly authoritarian in its rule until - in October of this same year - a policeman assassinates the president, Muhammad Egal.
A few days later, in a mounting political crisis, the commander of the army, Mohamed Siad Barre, seizes power. President Siad has no doubt on which side of the Cold War he intends to align himself. Comrade Marx, Comrade Lenin and Comrade Siad are soon appearing together on banners and posters at government rallies.
Siad introduces a brutal Marxist dictatorship, insisting upon the supremacy of party and nation as opposed to the local clan loyalties which are a strong feature of Somali culture. But it is the clans of Somalia which finally demolish his totalitarian state. The collapse results from Somalia's running sore, the question of the Ogaden.
In 1977, with Ethiopia in chaos after the fall of Haile Selassie, Somalia attacks Ethiopian garrisons in the Ogaden. Soon a Somali army is even besieging the city of Harar. But President Siad is betrayed by his chosen superpower. The Soviet Union sees a more important potential client in the new Ethiopia.
Early in 1978 the Ethiopian army, using Soviet equipment and reinforced by troops from Cuba, recaptures the Ogaden. The result is the mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees over the borders into Somalia.
In the aftermath of this disaster guerrilla groups, clan-based and regional, are formed in and around Somalia with the intention of toppling Siad's repressive and centralizing regime. By 1988 the result is full-scale civil war, resulting in the overthrow of Siad in 1991. He withdraws to the safety of his own clan, becoming one warlord among many in this increasingly chaotic nation. In 1991 the faction controlling the former British Somaliland confuses matters by declaring its independence as the republic of Somaliland.
The conflict destroys Somalia's crops during 1992 and brings widespread famine. Food flown in by international agencies is looted by the warring militias. By December 1992 the situation is such that the UN actively intervenes, sending a force of 35,000 troops in Operation Restore Hope.
The UN briefly calms the situation, persuading fifteen warring groups to convene in Addis Ababa in January 1993 for peace and disarmament talks. These seem at first to make progress, but the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate. In March 1994 American and European units in the UN force withdraw, finding the level of casualties unacceptable. Troops from African countries and the Indian subcontinent remain in situ.
During the rest of the decade the situation gets worse rather than better. From late 1994 the capital, Mogadishu, is divided between the two most powerful of the warring factions. In each a leader declares himself the president of the nation and organizes a supposedly national government. In March 1995 the remaining UN forces are evacuated from the coast under the protection of an international flotilla.
At the end of the decade the only remotely stable region is the breakaway republic of Somaliland, in the northwest. An interim constitution is introduced here in 1997 and a president is elected. But the would-be republic fails, as yet, to win any international recognition.
Somalia -- Economy --
Agriculture is the most important sector, with livestock accounting for about 40% of GDP and about 65% of export earnings. Nomads and semi-nomads, who are dependent upon livestock for their livelihood, make up a large portion of the population.
After livestock, bananas are the principal export; sugar, sorghum, maize, and fish are products for the domestic market.
The small industrial sector, based on the processing of agricultural products, accounts for 10% of GDP.
American and Chinese oil companies are also excited about the prospect of oil and other natural resources in Somalia. An oil group listed in Sydney, Range Resources, anticipates that the Puntland province in the north has the potential to produce 5 billion to 10 billion barrels of oil.
Somalia -- Culture --
The cuisine of Somalia varies from region to region and encompasses different styles of cooking. One thing that unites the Somali food is its being Halal. Therefore, there are no pork dishes, alcohol is not served, nothing that died on its own is eaten, and no blood is incorporated. Somali people serve dinner as late as 9 pm. During Ramadan, dinner is often served after Tarawih prayers – sometimes as late as 11 pm. Cambuulo is one of Somalia's most popular dishes and is enjoyed throughout the country as a dinner meal. The dish is made out of well-cooked azuki beans, mixed with butter and sugar. The beans, which by themselves are referred to as digir, are often left on the stove for as many as five hours, on low heat, to achieve an optimal taste. Barriss (rice) and basto (pasta) are common foods, but have a unique flavor due to the seasoning and many spices added.
Somalia produced a large amount of literature through Islamic poetry and Hadith from Somali scholars of the last centuries. With the adoption of the Latin alphabet in 1973 numerous Somali authors have released books over the years which received widespread success, Nuruddin Farah being one of them. Novels like From a Crooked Rib and Links are considered important literary achievements which earned him the 1998 Neustadt International Prize for Literature.
Somalia has the distinction of being one of only a handful of African countries that are composed almost entirely of one ethnic group, the Somalis. Traditional bands like Waaberi and Horseed have gained a small following outside the country. Others, like Maryam Mursal, have fused Somali traditional music with rock, bossa nova, hip hop, and jazz influences. Most Somali music is love oriented.
Somalia -- Political system, law and government --
Following the civil war the Harti and Tanade clans declared a self-governing state in the northeast, which took the name Puntland, but maintained that it would participate in any Somali reconciliation to form a new central government. Then in 2002, Southwestern Somalia, comprising Bay, Bakool, Jubbada Dhexe (Middle Juba), Gedo, Shabeellaha Hoose (Lower Shabele) and Jubbada Hoose (Lower Juba) regions of Somalia declared itself autonomous. Although initially the instigators of this, the Rahanweyn Resistance Army, which had been established in 1995, was only in full control of Bay, Bakool and parts of Gedo and Jubbada Dhexe, they quickly established the de facto autonomy of Southwestern Somalia.
Although conflict between Hasan Muhammad Nur Shatigadud and his two deputies weakened the Rahanweyn militarily from February 2006, the Southwest became central to the TFG (The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of the Republic of Somalia is the present internationally recognized government of Somalia ) based in the city of Baidoa. Shatigadud became Finance Minister, his first deputy Adan Mohamed Nuur Madobe became Parliamentary Speaker and his second deputy Mohamed Ibrahim Habsade became Minister of Transport. Shatigadud also held the Chairmanship of the Rahanwein Traditional Elders' Court.
In 2004, the TFG met in Nairobi, Kenya and published a charter for the government of the nation. The TFG capital is presently in Baidoa. Meanwhile Somalia was one of the many countries affected by the tsunami which struck the Indian Ocean coast following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, destroying entire villages and killing an estimated 300 people. In 2006, Somalia was deluged by torrential rains and flooding that struck the entire Horn of Africa affecting 350,000 people. The inter-clan rivalry continued in 2006 with the declaration of regional autonomy by the state of Jubaland, consisting of parts of Gedo, Jubbada Dhexe, and the whole of Jubbada Hoose. Barre Adan Shire Hiiraale, chairman of the Juba Valley Alliance, who comes from Galguduud in central Somalia is the most powerful leader there. Like Puntland this regional government did not want full statehood, but some sort of federal autonomy.
Conflict broke out again in early 2006 between an alliance of Mogadishu warlords known as the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (or "ARPCT") and a militia loyal to the Islamic Courts Union (or "I.C.U."), seeking to institute Sharia law in Somalia. Social law changes, such as the forbidding of chewing khat, were part of moves by the ICU to change behaviours and impose strict social morals. It was widely reported that soccer playing was being banned, as well as viewing of broadcasts of soccer games, but there were also reports of the ICU itself denying any such bans. The Islamic Courts Union was led by Sheikh Sharif Ahmed. When asked if the ICU plans to extend its control to the rest of Somalia, Sheikh Ahmed responded in an interview: "Land is not our priority. Our priority is the people's peace, dignity and that they could live in liberty, that they could decide their own fate. That is our priority. Our priority is not land; the people are important to us."
Several hundred people, mostly civilians caught in the crossfire, died during this conflict. Mogadishu residents described it as the worst fighting in more than a decade. The Islamic Courts Union accused the U.S. of funding the warlords through the Central Intelligence Agency and supplying them with arms in an effort to prevent the Islamic Courts Union from gaining power.
By early June 2006 the Islamic Militia had control of Mogadishu, following the Second Battle of Mogadishu, and the last A.R.P.C.T. stronghold in southern Somalia, the town of Jowhar, then fell with little resistance. The remaining A.R.P.C.T. forces fled to the east or across the border into Ethiopia and the alliance effectively collapsed.
The Ethiopian-supported Transitional Government then called for intervention by a regional East African peacekeeping force. The I.C.U. meanwhile were fiercely opposed to foreign troops—particularly Ethiopians—in Somalia. Meanwhile the I.C.U. and their militia took control of much of the southern half of Somalia, normally through negotiation with local clan chiefs rather than by the use of force.
However, the Islamic militia stayed clear of areas close to the Ethiopian border, which had become a place of refuge for many Somalis including the Transitional Government itself, headquartered in the town of Baidoa. Ethiopia said it would protect Baidoa if threatened. On September 25, 2006, the I.C.U. moved into the southern port of Kismayo, the last remaining port held by the transitional government. Ethiopian troops entered Somalia and seized the town of Buur Hakaba on October 9, and later that day the I.C.U. issued a declaration of war against Ethiopia.
On 1 November 2006, peace talks between the Transitional Government and the ICU broke down. The international community feared an all-out civil war, with Ethiopian and rival Eritrean forces backing opposing sides in the power-struggle. Fighting erupted once again on 21 December 2006 when the leader of ICU, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys said: "Somalia is in a state of war, and all Somalis should take part in this struggle against Ethiopia", and heavy fighting broke out between the Islamic militia on one side and the Somali Transitional Government allied with Ethiopian forces on the other.
In late December 2006, Ethiopia launched airstrikes against Islamic troops and strong points across Somalia. Ethiopian Information Minister Berhan Hailu stated that targets included the town of Buurhakaba, near the Transitional Government base in Baidoa. An Ethiopian jet fighter strafed Mogadishu International Airport (now Aden Adde International Airport), without apparently causing serious damage but prompting the airport to be shut down. Other Ethiopian jet fighters attacked a military airport west of Mogadishu. Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi then announced that his country was waging war against the ICU to protect his country's sovereignty. "Ethiopian defence forces were forced to enter into war to the protect the sovereignty of the nation and to blunt repeated attacks by Islamic courts terrorists and anti-Ethiopian elements they are supporting," he said.
Days of heavy fighting followed as Ethiopian and government troops backed by tanks and jets pushed against Islamic forces between Baidoa and Mogadishu. Both sides claimed to have inflicted hundreds of casualties, but the Islamic infantry and vehicle artillery were badly beaten and forced to retreat toward Mogadishu. On 28 December 2006, the allies entered Mogadishu after Islamic fighters fled the city. Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Ghedi declared that Mogadishu had been secured, after meeting with local clan leaders to discuss the peaceful hand-over of the city. Yet as of April 2008, the Transitional Federal Government and its Ethiopian allies still face frequent attacks from an Islamic insurgency.
The Islamists retreated south, towards their stronghold in Kismayo, fighting rearguard actions in several towns. They abandoned Kismayo, too, without a fight, claiming that their flight was a strategic withdrawal to avoid civilian casualties, and entrenched around the small town of Ras Kamboni, at the southernmost tip of Somalia and on the border with Kenya. In early January, the Ethiopians and the Somali government attacked, resulting in the Battle of Ras Kamboni, and capturing the Islamic positions and driving the surviving fighters into the hills and forests after several days of combat. On January 9, 2007, the United States openly intervened in Somalia by sending Lockheed AC-130 gunships to attack ICU positions in Ras Kamboni. Dozens were killed and by then the ICU were largely defeated. During 2007 and 2008, new Islamic militant groups organized, and continued to fight against transitional government Somali and Ethiopian official troops. They recovered effective control of large portions of the country. Ethiopian forces retreated in 2009. The ICU no longer exists as an organized political group.
On December 29, 2008, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed announced before a united parliament in Baidoa his resignation as President of Somalia. In his speech, which was broadcast on national radio, Yusuf expressed regret at failing to end the country's seventeen year conflict as his government had mandated to do. He also blamed the international community for its failure to support the government, and said that the speaker of parliament, Aden "Madobe" Mohamed, would succeed him in office per the charter of the Transitional Federal Government. On January 31, 2009, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was elected as president at the Kempinski hotel in Djibouti.
Former Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein of the Transitional Federal Government and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed signed a power sharing deal in Djibouti that was brokered by the United Nations. According to the deal, Ethiopian troops were to withdraw from Somalia, giving their bases to the transitional government, African Union (AU) peacekeepers and moderate Islamist groups led by the ARS. Following the Ethiopian withdrawal, the transitional government expanded its parliament to include the opposition and elected Sheikh Ahmed as its new president on January 31, 2009. Sheikh Ahmed then appointed Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, the son of slain former President Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, as the nation's new Prime Minister.
The legal structure in Somalia is divided along three lines: civil law, religious law, and traditional clan law.
While Somalia's formal judicial system was largely destroyed after the fall of the Siad Barre regime, it has been rebuilt and is now administered under different regional governments such as the autonomous Puntland and Somaliland macro-regions. In the case of the Transitional Federal Government, a new judicial structure was formed through various international conferences.
Despite some significant political differences between them, all of these administrations share similar legal structures, much of which are predicated on the judicial systems of previous Somali administrations. These similarities in civil law include:
A charter which affirms the primacy of Muslim shari'a or religious law, although in practice shari'a is applied mainly to matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and civil issues.
The charter guarantees respect for universal standards of human rights to all subjects of the law. It also assures the independence of the judiciary, which in turn is protected by a judicial committee.
A three-tier judicial system including a supreme court, a court of appeals, and courts of first instance (either divided between district and regional courts, or a single court per region).
The laws of the civilian government which were in effect prior to the military coup d'etat that saw the Barre regime into power remain in force until the laws are amended.
Islamic shari'a has traditionally played a significant part in Somali society. In theory, it has served as the basis for all national legislation in every Somali constitution. In practice, however, it only applied to common civil cases such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and family matters. This changed after the start of the civil war when a number of new shari'a courts began to spring up in many different cities and towns across the country.
These new shari'a courts serve three functions:
To pass rulings in both criminal and civil cases.
To organize a militia capable of arresting criminals.
To keep convicted prisoners incarcerated.
The shari'a courts, though structured along simple lines, feature a conventional hierarchy of a chairman, vice-chairman and four judges. A police force that reports to the court enforces the judges' rulings, but also helps settle community disputes and apprehend suspected criminals. In addition, the courts manage detention centers where criminals are kept. An independent finance committee is also assigned the task of collecting and managing tax revenue levied on regional merchants by the local authorities.
In March 2009, Somalia's newly established coalition government announced that it would implement shari'a as the nation's official judicial system.
Somalis for centuries have practiced a form of customary law which they call Xeer. Xeer is a polycentric legal system where there is no monopolistic agent that determines what the law should be or how it should be interpreted.
The Xeer legal system is assumed to have developed exclusively in the Horn of Africa since approximately the 7th century. There is no evidence that it developed elsewhere or was greatly influenced by any foreign legal system. The fact that Somali legal terminology is practically devoid of loan words from foreign languages suggests that Xeer is truly indigenous.
The Xeer legal system also requires a certain amount of specialization of different functions within the legal framework. Thus, one can find odayal (judges), xeer boggeyaal (jurists), guurtiyaal (detectives), garxajiyaal (attorneys), murkhaatiyal (witnesses) and waranle (police officers) to enforce the law.
Xeer is defined by a few fundamental tenets that are immutable and which closely approximate the principle of jus cogens in international law:
Payment of blood money (locally referred to as diya) for libel, theft, physical harm, rape and death, as well as supplying assistance to relatives.
Assuring good inter - clan relations by treating women justly, negotiating with "peace emissaries" in good faith, and sparing the lives of socially protected groups (e. g. children, women, the pious, poets and guests).
Family obligations such as the payment of dowry, and sanctions for eloping.
Rules pertaining to the management of resources such as the use of pasture land, water, and other natural resources.
Providing financial support to married female relatives and newlyweds.
Donating livestock and other assets to the poor.