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One shorthand form to understand the global expansion of the drug trade and its routes is as an imperium of transnational traffickers taking over small, poor and defenceless countries: “across the globe,” wrote Moisés Naim in Foreign Affairs last year, “criminals have penetrated governments to an unprecedented degree.”[i] The slim and illuminating volume [...]

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In Africa and the War on Drugs, Carrier and Klantschnig provide an insightful overview of the history of African drug production, trade, consumption and policy, with a particular focus on khat and cannabis. While less informative on the history of the trade and use of heroin and cocaine, the book provides important insights into recent [...]

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Today we will launch a series of reviews of the new African Arguments publication, Africa and the War on Drugs by Neil Carrier and Gernot Klantschnig. And if you “like us” on Facebook, you can receive a discount on purchases of any books in the African Arguments series.

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It was both a luxury and a challenge for me to write the book. I am a BBC news journalist responsible for covering all fifty-four countries in Africa, although I have a special interest in Somalia, and have reported from and about the country for the past twenty years. I work in seconds, not numbers of words or pages; most of the pieces I write for broadcast are thirty seconds long. If I am lucky, I will get to go on for about a minute. So writing a book of 60,000 words was for me a new and at times intimidating adventure.

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Why have two signature international approaches to Somalia—installing a central government and military intervention—failed repeatedly? What explains the persistence of the international community in efforts that have so little hope of success?

Perhaps the root of the problem is a simple intellectual failure.

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Instead of emphasizing misery, crisis, and violent chaos, she stresses local governance, resilience, and adaptation, including accounts of Somalia’s vibrant private sector that at times are so enthusiastic she could almost pass for a libertarian celebrating the virtues of life without a state. That is not her intent, of course – instead, she is pressing home the point that Somali communities are not passive victims in the face of state collapse and war, but are instead actively forging coping mechanisms and systems of trade and security despite the deep challenges of living beyond a functional state.

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