Clan Cleansing in Somalia

Clan Cleansing in Somalia: The Ruinous Legacy of 1991

Lidwien Kapteijns
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Clan Cleansing in Somalia
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0758-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Note on Transliteration
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    This book deals with the changing use of clan- based violence against civilians as a technology of power in the Somali civil war (1978–present). At its center is what I consider the violence of the “key shift,”¹ activated by politico-military leaders in the course of the armed uprising that culminated in the expulsion of President Maxamed Siyaad Barre on January 26, 1991. This study argues that the violence that accompanied and followed the moment of regime and state collapse was analytically, politically, and discursively something new, a transformative turning point and key shift that has remained largely unaddressed (and...

  6. Chapter 1 Speaking the Unspeakable: Somali Poets and Novelists on Civil War Violence
    (pp. 21-70)

    The research on which this book is based began as a study of Somali popular songs and poetry as mediations of civil war violence. This is a continuation of my earlier work on Somali popular songs of the nationalist era, a genre that, as I have argued elsewhere, proved to be iconic for this era’s will to modernity—its hopes for national unity and economic development as well as for a “modern,” autonomous, and desiring selfhood. In the era after state collapse, some of the most popular and widely known poetic mediations of civil war violence have indeed continued to...

  7. Chapter 2 Historical Background to the Violence of State Collapse
    (pp. 71-130)

    Scholarly analyses of violence, including this study, also constitute a type of mediation and a genre with its own rules, expectations, and pitfalls. Many scholars who have taken violence as their subject of study have been keenly aware that violence is an especially challenging, perhaps even distinctive subject matter (see Nordstrom and Robben 1995; Donham 2006; Lubkemann 2008). Thus Donald Donham argues in his essay “Staring at Suffering”: “violence is a different kind of representational object than market systems or kinship. . . . Violence is red. There is a kind of excess, an ambivalence of both attraction and repulsion...

  8. Chapter 3 Clan Cleansing in Mogadishu and Beyond
    (pp. 131-191)

    From mid-December 1990 on, the number of foreigners who remained in Mogadishu dwindled.¹ The U.S. embassy, where foreign nationals of many backgrounds toward the end had taken refuge, was evacuated on January 5, 1991, the Italian embassy on January 12. Both evacuations involved dramatic rescue actions by land, sea, and air.² Groups of stragglers, especially Italians who worked in the city or the agricultural areas of Jubba and Jannaale, also managed to arrange for escape but had to leave all their possessions behind.³ By January 10 even most humanitarian workers had left the country to escape the violence. A rare...

  9. Chapter 4 The Why and How of Clan Cleansing: Political Objectives and Discursive Means
    (pp. 192-240)

    The chapters above have traced the changing use of large- scale clan- based violence against civilians as a political tool in the hands of politico- military leaders at three historical moments, namely during the Barre regime, at the moment of its collapse, and during the factional militia warfare in its wake. They have outlined the historical background and contemporary circumstances of what I have called the violence of the key shift, that is to say, a campaign of clan cleansing that turned ordinary civilians, outside any mediating state institutions, into both perpetrators and victims of communal violence. Since this key...

  10. Time-Line of the Major Events Examined in This Book
    (pp. 241-242)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 243-278)
  12. Glossary
    (pp. 279-282)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 283-296)
  14. Name Index
    (pp. 297-301)
  15. Subject Index
    (pp. 302-304)
  16. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 305-308)