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Inside the Outlaw State of Somalia

by James Fergusson

Pub Date: June 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-306-82117-2
Publisher: Da Capo

An intrepid journalist investigates the civil war, foreign interventions and mass starvation of Somalia.

Before focusing on Somalia, Edinburgh-based journalist Fergusson (Taliban: The Unknown Enemy, 2011, etc.) spent 16 years writing about Afghanistan, a similarly ungovernable nation that has resisted conquerors for centuries. The author is a worthy guide to the seemingly endless deaths in Somalia, often ranked by international observers as the most poorly governed, risky nation in the world. The vast majority of Somalians is illiterate, desperately poor and so committed to genetic ties within their particular geographic clan that pulling together as a nation seems hopeless. Many of the peacekeeping soldiers are from Uganda, ironic given that nation's recent bouts of sectarian violence. Since the Taliban had become one of Fergusson's specialties as a journalist, he found it intriguing that a similar group was gaining ground in Somalia: al-Shabaab. The movement considered itself populist and pure in its devotion to the Islamic faith—much like the Taliban. In the United States, perceptions of Somalia have been shaped in many ways by Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down and its film adaptation. As a result, American views on the Somalian people are negative and based on fear. Fergusson agrees that fear is justified in such a dangerous place, but he shows the shades of gray along with the black and white. An especially fascinating portion of Fergusson's investigation took him to Minneapolis, which has become home to a huge number of Somalian refugees, surely the largest diaspora of them outside the Horn of Africa. Some of the Somalians there, writes the author, are linked to violent groups overseas and thus might end up as terrorist threats.

A compelling example of investigative reporting that suggests continuing mass death for an African population that cannot or will not help itself find peace.