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Getting Somalia Wrong?: Faith, War and Hope in a Shattered State [Paperback]

Mary Jane Harper

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Book Description

March 27 2012 1842779338 978-1842779330
<DIV>Somalia is a comprehensively failed state, representing a threat to itself, its neighbors, and the wider world. In recent years, it has become notorious for the piracy off its coast and the rise of Islamic extremism, opening it up as a new "southern front" in the war on terror. At least that is how it is inevitably presented by politicians and in the media. In <EM>Getting Somalia Wrong?,</EM> Mary Harper presents the first comprehensive account of the chaos into which the country has descended and the United States' renewed involvement there. In doing so, Harper argues that viewing Somalia through the prism of al-Qaeda risks further destabilizing the country and the entire Horn of Africa, while also showing that though the country may be a failed state, it is far from being a failed society. In reality, alternative forms of business, justice, education, and local politics have survived and even flourished. Provactive and eye-opening, <EM>Getting Somalia Wrong?</EM> shows that until the international community starts to "get it right," the consequences will be devastating, not just for Somalia, but for the world.</DIV>

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<DIV>"The most accessible and accurate account available of the contemporary Somali world - pirates and all." - Iaon Lewis, author of Understanding Somalia and Somaliland

"For the past two decades, books on Somalia have tended to mirror some of the attitudes about the country itself. They have been either analyses by a small and highly specialised field of policy analysts and academics, or written from and for the perspective that caters to the most common cliches and impressions about this most failed of failed states; a nation of warlords, pirates, jihadists and refugees fleeing in unseaworthy boats often only to drown. All of these are of course part of the narrative of Somalia's inability to break from its repeated cycles of the failure of domestic politics and outside intervention over the past 25 years, but what Mary Harper has done is to explain this narrative as a whole - rather than a series of snapshots. This is a book which is clear, accessible and thorough. It has done what books on Somalia rarely do, which is to examine the multitude of failures, misunderstandings, and wilful acts of destruction that have caused Somalia's downfall, but it has also gone much further, by outlining the huge part of the hidden Somalia that have survived the decades of turmoil and which are the only foundations upon which anything approaching a post conflict and stable Somalia can be built. There are significant parts of Somalia where civil society is functioning with fragile but functioning institutions of business and commerce, security and representation. She has written and explained this detailed yet vital aspect of the Somali crisis in a way that is accessible and enlightening not just to the international reader but also to those shaping global policy on Somalia. This is an important book for both." - Rageh Omaar, host of <EM>The Rageh Omaar Report</EM> and author of <EM>Only Half of Me</EM></DIV>

About the Author

<DIV>Mary Harper is a BBC journalist specializing in Africa. She has reported from Somalia since the outbreak of civil war in 1991 and from other war zones across Africa, including Sudan, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. She has written for several publications including The Economist and The Washington Post.</DIV>

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.8 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE TRUE STORY...JUST THE FACTS! July 15 2013
By Jaelene Morris - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Truth about Somalia. March 30 2012
By Kate Barber - Published on
Mary Harper shows readers the real Somalia that has survived years of turmoil and war. She is an empathetic, informed and perceptive author. The book shows how good journalism really makes a difference to how we perceive situations and countries, particularly apt with Somalia and the press it has been receiving over the last year. Harper shows how the portrayal of a country can differ from the people within it and that impartial journalism can lead a new kind of understanding.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Hidden Somalia April 19 2012
By Ben Dover - Published on
Mary Harper shows readers the Somalia that she has seen through her years reporting from the country. As a result it is a Somalia that varies widely from what you see in the press. She shows how Somalia is only a failed state in the eyes of the Western press, but that actually human ingenuity means that people will find ways to survive and flourish. Harper shows that it is the international world that has to get it right and until they do they the country will continue to be misunderstood.
5.0 out of 5 stars Hope for Somalia or more Westgate Shopping Center disasters? Nov. 5 2013
By C. Raditz - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having worked in Africa for over half my adult life--most recently, five years in Nairobi--where we perceived neighboring Somalia to the north as a two dimensional failed state of armed nomads, cruel Sharia law, opportunistic piracy and tribal danger, I find Mary Harper's book informative, challenging, and quite readable, which is a real forte considering the vast complexity of the clans and the history. The themes are straightforward: that Somilia has been misunderstood and mismanaged in the arena of international politics for the last century, and that despite the popular image of Somalia as a failed state, technological, banking, and governmental solutions have arisen remarkably out of the chaos. Can Somaliland and Puntland provide an functional model for the evolution of the country as a whole, or, as we recently witnessed in the Westgate Shopping Center disaster in Nairobi, will the momentum of terrorism--domestic and exported--overwhelm the grassroots, problem solving processes that Ms. Harper identifies?
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Book Overall July 1 2012
By maskirovka - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For the most part, I found "Getting Somalia Wrong" to be a well-written and informative book. I felt its presentation of Somali history (recent and not-so-recent) to be enlightening. The sections that deal with "greater Somalia" and piracy were particularly interesting and pertinent.

One thing that bothered me was that I think the author spent a little too much time and effort blaming everyone and anyone for Somalia's troubles, except for the Somalis. I find myself wondering whether her seemingly contention that the Islamic Courts Union would have brought lasting and permanent peace to Somalia would have proved correct or not if Ethiopia had not intervened in 2006. Maybe it would have and maybe the factions of the ICU that evolved into al-Shabaab would have seized control from the relative moderates in the ICU. I also feel that she sometimes goes overboard arguing that Somalia isn't terribly broken in total. Yes, Puntland and Somaliland are doing relatively well but the overall condition of the entity known as Somalia is a mess that is full of terrorists.

I also can't help but wonder about the endorsement of the book (which appears on the back) by Adam Curtis, the individual who made the documentary "the Power of Nightmares" which argues against all evidence that "neocons" manufactured al-Qa'ida. This is a contention that Peter Bergen, who is an internationally known expert on al-Qa'ida has rubbished (and Bergen is hardly a "neocon.") The fact that the author uses an endorsement from a conspiracy theorist like Curtis makes me kind of wonder about her overall judgment.

But even with that, it's a good book.

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