4 February 2012

African Truth - 'Getting Somalia Wrong?'

In this new book, respected BBC journalist Mary Harper looks at the misconceptions the world has about Somalia, and at the reality of this remarkable African country.

     Me and my clan against the world,
     Me and my family against my clan,
     Me and my brother against my family,
     Me against my brother.
                                      Somali proverb

Somalia has one of the worst reputations in the world.  It is frequently referred to as the epitome of a 'failed state', aid agencies meanwhile report that Somalia suffers from 'the world's worst humanitarian crisis'. 

Reports talk of a country surrounded by 'pirate-infested waters', of Mogadishu as 'the most dangerous place in the world.'. The word 'Mogadishu' has even entered some people's vocabulary as a way of describing a place or situation that is truly terrible.  The al-Shabab movement is a byword for the rise of Islamic extremism, opening up a new 'southern front' in the war on terror.  At least that is how Somalia is inevitably portrayed by politicians and in the media.
In 'Getting Somalia Wrong?' veteran BBC Africa correspondent Mary Harper presents the first comprehensive account of the chaos into which the country has descended.  Yet at the same time alternative forms of business, justice, education and local politics have survived and even flourished.  

Drawing on first hand experience and encounters during her many years working in and reporting from Somalia, Harper vividly portrays a country that may be a 'failed state' but is far from being a failed society.

... more than two decades have forced Somalis to invent alternative political and economic systems.  They have enthusiastically seized modern technology, fusing it with pre-colonial traditions to create some of the most advanced and effective money transfer systems on the continent and one of the cheapest, most developed mobile phone networks in East Africa.

This book argues that there is a lot to be learned from the Somali way of doing things, and that there is more to the country than violence, hunger, piracy, and Islamist extremism.

From 'Booktime' Magazine (info@booktimemag.co.uk).

See also: http://allafrica.com/stories/201201301453.html

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