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Getting Somalia Wrong?

Getting Somalia Wrong?

Mary Harper


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Somalia is a failed state, representing a threat to itself, its neighbours and the wider world. In recent years, it has become notorious for the piracy off its coast and the rise of Islamic extremism, opening it up as a new 'southern front' in the war on terror. At least that is how it is inevitably portrayed by politicians and in the media.   Mary Harper presents the first comprehensive account of the chaos into which the country has descended and the United States' renewed involvement there. In doing so, Harper argues that viewing Somalia through the prism of al-Qaeda risks further destabilizing the country and the entire Horn of Africa, while also showing that though the country may be a failed state, it is far from being a failed society. In reality, alternative forms of business, justice, education and local politics have survived and even flourished.   Provocative in its analysis, Harper shows that until the international community starts to 'get it right' the consequences will be devastating, not just for Somalia, but for the world.
Mary Harper is a BBC journalist specializing in Africa. She has reported from Somalia since the outbreak of civil war in 1991 and from other war zones across Africa, including Sudan, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. She has written for a number of publications including The Economist and The Washington Post.
'This has done what books on Somalia rarely do -- it outlines the hidden Somalia that has survived the decades of turmoil. Accessible and enlightening, this is an important book not just for the international reader but also those shaping global policy.' Rageh Omaar, journalist and broadcaster 'The most accessible and accurate account available of the contemporary Somali world - pirates and all.' Ioan Lewis, author of Understanding Somalia and Somaliland 'Somalia is one of the most neglected and misunderstood casualties of the war on terror. If you want to understand more, this is your book: succinct, perceptive, judicious, it traces a compelling narrative which brings vividly to life an extraordinary country and its turbulent history. Its scope is wide, ensuring that there are many questions here relevant to places far beyond Somalia: issues of how a people and culture adapt to the challenges of globalisation with ingenuity, as well as how they suffer from its impact; of how Western interventions pursue their own agenda. This was a book which urgently needed writing.' Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian 'Mary Harper's informed, perceptive and empathetic book on Somalia could not be coming out at a more apt time. A work that demonstrates the importance of engaged but impartial journalism and clear, uncluttered thought and writing, it should make a big impact on the understanding of what is happening in Somalia and why.' Keith Somerville, lecturer in journalism at Brunel University 'Mary Harper has written a brilliant book that will completely change the way you look at not just modern Somalia but also much contemporary journalism. So much reporting today divides the world beyond Britain into goodies and baddies. Mary Harper's book cuts through that simplistic naivety in a fantastic way. She vividly shows how the cartoon nightmare vision of Somalia as a failed state is wrong. It's like being lifted up in a helicopter and looking at something you thought you knew in a completely new way.' Adam Curtis, maker of The Power of Nightmares 'The best contemporary introduction to Somali politics and humanitarian issues on the market.' African Affairs 'Mary Harper has done a great service to students and the general public who really want to know what has gone so tragically wrong with Somalia. There now is a readable, well-argued book that one can refer to students and colleagues when peppered with the common question: "why is contemporary Somalia such a troubled nation?"' Peter D. Little in Journal of Modern African Studies

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
About the author iv
Maps viii
1.1 Somalia 15
1.2 ‘Greater Somalia’ and geographical distribution of major clans 32
1.3 Main sub-divisions of Somali territory 35
4.1 Reach of Somali pirate attacks, 2005–10 144
Figure viii
1.1 Somali clan families 37
Photographs viii
1 Displaced woman and child in Mogadishu famine zone, August 2011 2
2 Women soldiers in the transitional government army 25
3 Displaced boy in Mogadishu plays with a gun madefrom a stick 68
4 Al-Shabaab fighters in Mogadishu 75
5 Mogadishu after the withdrawal of al-Shabaab, September 2011 87
6 ‘Pavement banker’ in Hargeisa 122
7 Women police officers in Somaliland 138
8 Somali pirate, Ismail Elixh 151
9 An al-Shabaab fighter distributes food parcels in Lower Shabelle famine zone, September 2011 182
10 Displaced people queue for food rations in Mogadishu 185
11 Somali trader in an Eastleigh shopping mall 195
Acknowledgements ix
Author's Note x
Chronology xi
Glossary\r xiv
Introduction 1
1 | Clan and Country 14
Map 1.1 Somalia 15
Resources 16
Nomads 21
Poetry 26
Qat 29
Greater Somalia 30
Map 1.2 ‘Greater Somalia’ and geographical distribution of major clans 32
Map 1.3 Main sub-divisions of Somali territory 35
The clan 35
Figure 1.1 Somali clan families 37
2 | History 44
Pre-colonial 45
Colonial 46
Independence 51
Dictatorship 54
State collapse 56
Intervention 60
‘Virtual’ government 64
Alternative authority 66
3 | Islamism 71
Origins 74
Al-Itihaad 77
Union of Islamic Courts 79
Al-Shabaab 85
Importing and exporting jihad 96
4 | A Failed State? 105
Mini-states 109
The economy 111
Livestock 117
Money transfer and telecommunications 119
Somaliland 125
5 | Piracy 142
Map 4.1 Reach of Somali pirate attacks, 2005–10 144
The Sirius Star 146
Myths and misconceptions 148
Pirate economy 152
Lifestyle 155
Structure 156
Links with radical Islamists 157
The best option? 158
What do you do with a pirate when you catch one? 159
The longer it goes on … 162
6 | Somalia and the Outside World 166
Somalia and the ‘War on Terror’ 168
The Ethiopian invasion 171
The mission backfires 174
The Islamists take hold 180
The challenge of aid 181
Regional implications 184
Ethiopia and Eritrea 185
Yemen 187
Kenya 188
Conclusion 197
Notes 202
Introduction 202
1 Clan and country 202
2 History 203
3 Islamism 204
4 A failed state? 204
5 Piracy 205
6 Somalia and the outsideworld 206
Conclusion 207
Bibliography 208
Index 210
About Zed Books 218