Currently viewing the tag: "Somalia"

David Laitin’s reflections on Clan Cleansing in Somalia: The Ruinous Turn of 1991 (2013) open up welcome space for further debate about Somali civil war violence in 1991-1992. The strengths Laitin highlights are considerable and include “the historical truth about responsibility” and the “cynical denial” of this responsibility” on the part of the political leaders [...]

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These reflections were written for a seminar on “Patterns of Mass Violence in Somalia”, sponsored by the World Peace Foundation, and held at Tufts University, Medford Massachusetts, September 27-28, 2013

I cannot over-emphasize the importance of this book for its three major accomplishments: (1) Bringing to a broad audience (with her own beautiful translations) the [...]

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By Matt Herbert and David Knoll
The MT Smyrni, a Liberian flagged Tanker, was sailing 250 nautical miles off the Omani coast when pirates were sighted. The pirates closed fast, attacking with automatic weapons. The crew was able to drive the pirates off once, but a second attack overwhelmed the Smyrni. Within moments the [...]

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Orienting question: How can we understand the violence in the Jubba Valley in relation to questions of political authority and violence more broadly in Somalia’s recent history? Was the violence in the valley during and since 1991 a new form, distinct from pre-1991 experience, or is it a continuation of the type of violence imposed [...]

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My main argument is that the Somali state, along with a number of other countries in Africa and the greater Middle East, underwent a profound structural transformation in the 1980s, and that we have been living with the under-recognized consequences ever since. At the time, this change had two particularly striking features. One was economic crisis, which meant that—in the words of Bob Bates—meant that “things fell apart.” The levels of finance available to governments meant that they simply could not sustain the basic functions of government, let alone build institutional states. The second was the beginning of the end of the Cold War, which meant that—as David Laitin observed—that the coup maker could not count on automatic security backing from one or other superpower. Common to both of these changes was a sharp reduction in the discretionary budgets that rulers used to pay their armies and security services and to pay off intermediate elites. I suggest that this (unmeasured) collapse in the “political budget” (the term is Sudanese political vernacular) was the cause of state crisis in many African countries, of which Somalia was an extreme and illuminating case.

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Before looking in more detail at the patterns of state-sponsored violence during the period in which Siyad Barre’s held power (October 1969 to January 1991), I would like to make some general comments about political violence an other useful concepts in the Somali context.

A) Some Preliminary Notes on Violence, Clan and Politics in Somalia
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