Clan Cleansing in Somalia
The Ruinous Legacy of 1991
320 pages | 6 x 9 | 1 map
Cloth 2012 | ISBN 978-0-8122-4467-0 | $69.95s | £45.50 | Add to cart
Ebook 2012 | ISBN 978-0-8122-0758-3 | $69.95s | £45.50 | About | Add to cart
A volume in the Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights series
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"A brilliant book that reopens some of the central questions of Somali history and politics in a compelling manner."—Journal of African History
"Kapteijn's use of Somali-language sources—contemporary poetry, oral interviews, news reports, and radio recordings—is very effective in providing a ground-level view of the violence both at the time of the 'cleansing' and in the survivors' subsequent reflections upon it. This is a most welcome contribution to a literature on the civil war, which has until now been dominated by the analyses of foreign experts and Somali diaspora scholars."—Lee Cassanelli, University of Pennsylvania
In 1991, certain political and military leaders in Somalia, wishing to gain exclusive control over the state, mobilized their followers to use terror—wounding, raping, and killing—to expel a vast number of Somalis from the capital city of Mogadishu and south-central and southern Somalia. Manipulating clan sentiment, they succeeded in turning ordinary civilians against neighbors, friends, and coworkers. Although this episode of organized communal violence is common knowledge among Somalis, its real nature has not been publicly acknowledged and has been ignored, concealed, or misrepresented in scholarly works and political memoirs—until now. Marshaling a vast amount of source material, including Somali poetry and survivor accounts, Clan Cleansing in Somalia analyzes this campaign of clan cleansing against the historical background of a violent and divisive military dictatorship, in the contemporary context of regime collapse, and in relationship to the rampant militia warfare that followed in its wake.
Clan Cleansing in Somalia also reflects on the relationship between history, truth, and postconflict reconstruction in Somalia. Documenting the organization and intent behind the campaign of clan cleansing, Lidwien Kapteijns traces the emergence of the hate narratives and code words that came to serve as rationales and triggers for the violence. However, it was not clans that killed, she insists, but people who killed in the name of clan. Kapteijns argues that the mutual forgiveness for which politicians often so lightly call is not a feasible proposition as long as the violent acts for which Somalis should forgive each other remain suppressed and undiscussed. Clan Cleansing in Somalia establishes that public acknowledgment of the ruinous turn to communal violence is indispensable to social and moral repair, and can provide a gateway for the critical memory work required from Somalis on all sides of this multifaceted conflict.
Lidwien Kapteijns is Professor of History at Wellesley College.