By Hassan Mudane
Somalia is currently experiencing its longest spell of civilian rule. This milestone suggests democracy is becoming dyed-in-the-wool. But going by recent developments in the country, Somalia is a state in transition and the integrity of its democracy is open to debate.
Democratisation has not advanced public trust in state institutions, the rule of law or led to a significant improvement in the quality of life for many citizens. Worse still, the security of the average Somali had become dramatically worse over the past years.
At present, the country appears to be under a siege and yet those who are supposed to be solving the country’s problems stand accused of stoking some of its most toxic dynamics through controversial statements in some cases, and apparent indifference in others. From this standpoint, Somalia’s democratic prospects – and even survival – are uncertain, especially as insecurity and fear fuel clan tensions, leading to greater threats to the stability of the state.
A return to civilian rule in 2000, after three decades of failed democratisation programmes, suggested a rebalancing of power relations in the country. Yet more than two decades after that significant political shift, deeply entrenched cleavages and unresolved fault-lines continue to pommel the Somali state. An understanding of the underlying causes of this tension calls for a level of introspection that goes right back to the beginning: the emergence of Somalia as a “Criminalised State”.
Suicidal State in Somalia (University Press of America, 2016), does this by examining the impact of the Said Barre regime on Somali politics and governmentality. It argues that the military leaders trained and taught by colonial authorities were harsher than their tutors and teachers, as plunder, pillage and patronage were institutionalised. Put it another way, colonialism left Somalia on its own. In particular, the book discusses how the military rule constrained and at times serrated both the society and the narratives of the geographical space known as Somalia, leaving a profound legacy for the state by shaping the political, social and economic structures that uphold and sustain it.
There have been few attempts to study the rise and fall of the Siad Barre regime, and none has succeeded so well as this one. Mohamed Haji Ingiriis’s analysis provides a solid foundation for future studies of the military regime. Even more important, his answers point a way out of crisis: a direction for reforming political institutions and governmentality in Somalia and preventing future tragedies.
Suicidal State in Somalia is one of the most important books on military regimes in Africa written in a generation. Documenting and delving deep into the reign and rule of General Mohamed Siad Barre regime in Somalia from 1969 up to 1991, Mohamed Haji Ingiriis puts emphasis on African agencies—ostensibly shaped by external beneficiaries and patrons—over what went wrong with Africa after the much-awaited post-colonial period. It does so by critically engaging with the wider theoretical and conceptual frameworks in African Studies which more often than not tend to attribute the post-colonial African State raptures to colonialism.
Amidst rising democratic backsliding in Africa, Suicidal State in Somalia widens the historical lens on the growth of authoritarian regimes and offers surprising lessons for all who care about governance.
Hassan Mudane is a Part-Time Lecturer in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Somalia and City University of Mogadishu. He is the Executive Director of the Baraarug Library (A digital library for e-books and scholarly articles), where he engages youth civic responsibility education for the construction of subsequent Somalia.