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Clan Cleansing in Somalia

The Ruinous Legacy of 1991

By Lidwien Kapteijns

Publication Year: 2012

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.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights


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pp. 1-3


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pp. 4-4


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pp. 5-7


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pp. vii-viii

Note on Transliteration

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pp. ix-x

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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. ...

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1. Speaking the Unspeakable: Somali Poets and Novelists on Civil War Violence

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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 ...

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2. Historical Background to the Violence of State Collapse

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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 ...

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3. Clan Cleansing in Mogadishu and Beyond

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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 ...

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4. The Why and How of Clan Cleansing: Political Objectives and Discursive Means

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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. ...

Time-Line of Major Events

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pp. 241-242


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pp. 243-278


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pp. 279-282


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pp. 283-296

Name Index

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pp. 297-301

Subject Index

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pp. 302-304

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pp. 305-308

A multiyear project like this accumulates many debts of gratitude. In Addis Ababa, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Wafa Neguede (with Mounay and Ato Sbhat) not only for opening her home to me but also for her friendship, wisdom, inspiration, and encouragement. Thank you Amira and Akram for your friendship, hospitality, and encouragement. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812207583
E-ISBN-10: 0812207580
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812244670
Print-ISBN-10: 0812244672

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights
Series Editor Byline: Bert B. Lockwood, Jr., Series Editor See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 859160782
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Clan Cleansing in Somalia

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Somalia -- Politics and government -- 1960-1991.
  • Somalia -- Politics and government -- 1991-.
  • Clans -- Somalia -- History -- 20th century.
  • Clans -- Somalia -- History -- 21st century.
  • Politics and literature -- Somalia -- History -- 20th century.
  • Politics and literature -- Somalia -- History -- 21st century.
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