Magazine article Foreign Affairs
Recent Books: Africa: The World's Most Dangerous Place: Inside the Outlaw State of Somalia/Al Shabaab in Somalia: The History and Ideology of a Militant Islamist Group, 2005-2012
The World's Most Dangerous Place: Inside the Outlaw State of Somalia BY JAMES FERGUSSON. Da Capo Press, 2013, 432 pp. $27.50.
Al Shabaab in Somalia: The History and Ideology of a Militant Islamist Group, 2005-2012 BY STIG JARLE HANSEN. Oxford University Press, 2013, 208 pp. $37.50.
When Somalia won its independence in 1960, experts hailed it as one of the few countries in sub-Saharan Africa with a bright future because it lacked ethnic divisions and thus constituted one of the region's few genuine nation-states. But several decades of corrupt and inept rule led to economic collapse and growing divisions within the complex mosaic of clans that form Somali society. State collapse in the early 1990s led to civil war, piracy offthe Somali coast, international interventions of varying degrees of success, and eventually the emergence of militant Islamism. By 2010, al Shabab, the most militant of several Islamist groups that claim loyalty to al Qaeda, had gained control of the southern half of the country. It was soon routed by an international force assembled by the African Union. But for a couple of years, al Shabab represented the only al Qaeda affiliate in control of a sizable territory.
This story has not yet been adequately told, so these two exceptional books deserve a broad readership. …