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.
Note on Transliteration
Chapter 1. Speaking the Unspeakable: Somali Poets and Novelists on Civil War Violence
Chapter 2. Historical Background to the Violence of State Collapse
Chapter 3. Clan Cleansing in Mogadishu and Beyond
Chapter 4. The Why and How of Clan Cleansing: Political Objectives and Discursive Means
Timeline of Major Events
"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
"A brilliant book that reopens some of the central questions of Somali history and politics in a compelling manner."—Journal of African History
"The best book about recent events in Somalia is undoubtedly Clan Cleansing in Somalia, by Lidwien Kapteijns, a must-read for anyone wanting to unravel the complicated nature of our civil war."—Nuruddin Farah, New York Times
"This book is not only an authoritative research project in Somali studies, but a serious source to be consulted on Somalia's future social repair and reconciliation."—World Peace Foundation