One of the casualties of the gruesome nightmare that is gripping Somalia has been the capacity to think historically and systematically about the nature of the malady, and to find practical ways of controlling the present in order to build a more sustainable future. As explained by Ahmed Samatar: ‘the fullness of understanding a given situation is [not] coterminous with the immediate and experiential.Rather, any visible elements of a particular reality are usually signals that other more discrete factors could be at work’. For far too long, those opposed to Siyad Barre's régime refused to go beyond the General and his constellation of clients to identify ‘the enemy’. Their unwillingness to engage in any hard-headed analysis and their hostility to critical scholarship has undoubtedly helped to condemn the very people they ‘wanted’ to liberate.
* Assistant Professor of Geography, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and Associate Professor, University of Iowa, Iowa City.