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Editorial Critique: Making Sense of Somali History, Volume II Dr. Abdurahman Abdullahi Baadiyow

Editorial Critique:
Book: Making Sense of Somali History, Volume II
 222 pages
Publisher: Adonis & Abbey Publishers Ltd (May 12, 2017)
Author:Dr. Abdurahman Abdullahi Baadiyow

The collapse of the postcolonial Somali state in 1991 and the consequent outbreak of civil war drastically transformed the socio-political landscape in Somalia. Somalis reverted to the pre-colonial state of affairs and sought refuge in their clan attachments. Local authorities were contested by the warlords, traditional elders, Islamist organizations and modern civil society. Indeed, it was non-state actors that played incredible role in sustaining the livelihood of the stateless people.  During this period, the role of women in socio-political affairs grew exponentially and Somalis’ national identity became reconfigured profoundly.

This Volume 2 of a two-volume thematic history of Somalia focuses on four themes: the history of Somali civil society, the history of Somali traditional authorities, the history of the political ascendancy of Somali women and the historical evolution of Somali national identity. Volume 1 had explored the history of the people of Somali peninsula since ancient times, the advent of Islam and colonialism, the rise and fall of Somali nationalism and the various perspectives on the collapse of the Somali state. These eight chapters constitute comprehensive perspectives on Somali history designed as a history course for Somali university students as well as for general readers elsewhere.

In this book, we look at the numerous attempts and failures to rebuild the shattered nation in the aftermath of the 1991 civil war. As the author states, “my objective is to capture the Somali perspective through an emphasis on human agency and its interaction with incurred ideas, institutions, and material production.” Hence, Abdullahi assesses the state of Somalia in the fallout of the 1991 civil war and details the development of a civil society in the face of repressive warlords and a destructive and corrupt regime. Additionally, the introductory section includes an examination of the definitions, constructs, and notable figures in Somalian civil society.

Through Abdullahi’s research, we gain significant insight into the role of Somali women in civil society. With many women left the breadwinners of their families in the aftermath of the civil war, we look at their increased societal responsibilities and ascendancy into the political spectrum by focusing on a number of noteworthy figures. In addition, the author explores the differences between the roles present in traditional society, such as the relationships between clans, the position of clan-elders, and the fundamental differences between traditional tribal governance and state governance in a post-colonial Somalia. Lastly, we look at the contemporary Somali identity, the rules regarding single and multi citizenship, and the role mixed-nationality Somalis (e.g., Somali-Canadians, Somali-Norwegians, etc.) play in developing a bright future for their country. In so doing, we look at the relationship between the Somali people and their local geography and ecology, the periods of colonialism and decolonization, regional and colonial politics, and the influence of the USA and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

In terms of structure and organization, each chapter is broken down into sub-sections. The continuation of each chapter helps the reader to compartmentalize the information contained in each section/sub-section. We are also supplied with a number of images that serve to illustrate many of the prominent individuals mentioned in the author’s work, while further explanations of key terms and quotes are given in a stream of footnotes throughout the book. Based on the thorough and accurate presentation of the research, it is clear that Abdurahman Abdullahi is an expert in his field when it comes to regional politics and the construction of a new Somalia. Through this book, we become aware of his interactions with a range of prominent Somalian members of society and across the political spectrum in the quest for peace and a prosperous nation.

In his writing, Abdullah makes it clear that a number of factors pose challenges to the rebuilding process of the Somali state, including the rise of Islamist factions such as Al-Shabaab, the prevalence of warlords, corruption among government officials, clannism, and the contrasts between traditional and state governance. However, Abdullah does much more than focus on the negative aspects that afflict Somalia and its people by focusing on what can be done to make a positive change. Thus, the book explores the importance of gender equality in parliament, education for all citizens, and using traditional Islamic practices to bring about positive change in civil society.

In summary, I found “Making Sense of Somali History” a joy to read. The author has a considerable knowledge of the history of Somalia and a clear objective in terms of building toward a progressive and positive future. Readers of this book will gain insight into the Somali culture through developing a knowledge of the nation’s history, its colonial past, and the faiths, values, and traditions of a people belonging to a range of tribes and clans. Though readers need not be experts on Somalian history, it is valuable to have an understanding, at least, of the nation’s geography and political history. That being said, I was not an expert when embarking on this project, though I quickly found myself immersed in the rich history of the land and the tribulations of the Somali people throughout history. Editing the past two volumes of “Making Sense of Somali History” has been a real pleasure, and I hope that this work will reach those who can contribute to making a positive impact on the future development of Somalia.

Note: This book will be available from all international book sellers like Amazon, Waterstones, Alibris, ebay, Dymocks, Ibs, Bol, Adlibris and others

For Somalis, you can find and order from Looh press in UK,

And from Zaila bookshop in Mogadishu,

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