African Journal of
History and Culture

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Hist. Cult.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6672
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJHC
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 166

Full Length Research Paper

Methodological misjudgements: The myth of ‘clan cleansing’ in Somalia

Mohamed Haji Ingiriis
  • Mohamed Haji Ingiriis
  • University of Oxford, England.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 17 August 2015
  •  Accepted: 07 October 2015
  •  Published: 31 January 2016


This article explores recent controversial and flawed book, Clan cleansing in Somalia: The ruinous legacy of 1991 by Kapteijns (2013) and, by closely assessing through critical and content analysis, reveals how and why the book is a new myth in the making (Malkki, 1995). Using fictional works (novels) as a basis to construct a non-fiction work, Kapteijns uses violence as a tool to arrest the political opponents of the clan with which she affiliates herself by turning to literature on the anthropology of violence. The article argues that Kapteijns’s book fails to offer a backdrop on how the ‘cleansing’ was evolved in the first place. The article contributes to the knowledge of African conflicts in general and of Somali conflicts in particular. Its purpose is threefold; first, it critiques the methodology used to analyse the 1991 clan convulsions by interrogating the aims and objectives of the author. Second, it examines and clearly articulates the ‘where’ and ‘why’ of the 1991, with its different players and protagonists. Third, it questions the claims purportedly made in the book and offers different critical perspectives of each side of the conflict.

Key words: Myth, cleansing, clan, violence, conflict.


“Of what have you told me’, one would wonder, ‘the thing you have seen or the thing through which you have seen it?” Socrates

The continuation of the armed conflicts in Somalia has produced a new academic discourse through categories and catalogues that helped the competing armed clan-groups dehumanise each other. Somali Studies, in and of itself, as a subject and as a sub-field in African Studies has become a spatial arena very prone to this guinea pig war tests where spins masquerading as ‘scholars’ exercise their spins here and there. Short of the culture of violence of the armed groups, many a Somalist failing to present a long durée historical context of the 1990s Somali clan cataclysms other than one – strewn with exaggeration, advocacy, overestimation, overemphasis and overstatements – that derived from histoire événementielle (Ingiriis, 2013b). The most prominent case in point is Lidwien Kapteijns who has recently published a mythical book, Clan Cleansing in Somalia:

The ruinous legacy of 1991 (Kapteijns, 2013) about what she reiterated from the beginning to the conclusion as ‘clan cleansing’ in 1991. This book fails to offer a backdrop on how the ‘cleansing’ was evolved in the first place. Kapteijns alleges and indicts – without reliable reference – that a “campaign of clan cleansing” occurred in Mogadishu not just in January 1991, but the whole 1991 and 1992, and, to her reckoning, it was the first time this occurred. This is the naïve thesis that informs her book from the perspective of particular clan-group.

Using fictional works (novels) as a basis to construct a non-fiction work, Kapteijns uses violence as a tool to arrest the political opponents of the clan with which she affiliates herself by turning to literature on the anthropology of violence.

Though defining her study as “a work of historical analysis and interpretation” (Kapteijns, 2013; Ingiriis, 2014b, 2012b), the lack of proper use of historical methodology further contributes to weakening her arguments. In other words, the lack of these mechanistic methods renders her work to purport – and, to larger extent, mythologise – rumour as history. Without using proper professional “historian’s craft,” a term used by Kapteijns (2013) without attributing to Marc Bloch (1992), one confronts with a myth-making in a mythico-historical history.[i] Kapteijns’s methodology acquires a new composition, interspersed by narration and information that are “irrespective of fact and fiction” (Kapteijns, 2013).[ii] While it is not uncommon for historians to consider what happened through the voices of the third person (Bloch, 1992: 45), the heavy reliance on politicians as informants evidently restricted Kapteijns (2013) to go beyond the perspective of clan narration.[iii]As such, it seems that Kapteijns represents those researchers whom Mamdani (2007) would critically characterise ‘scholars in the marketplace’ – writers on shield in standing up for a certain cause. This article explores recent controversial and flawed book, Clan Cleansing in Somalia: The ruinous legacy of 1991 by Kapteijns (2013) and, by closely assessing through critical and content analysis, reveals how and why the book is a new myth in the making (Malkki, 1995).

[i]Malkki shows that the mythico-history tends to appear ‘in the guise of narratives about the past’ (1994: 105). For a similar mythico-historical analysis on Burundi, see Lemarchand (1994: 19). However, White notes that every historian emplots his or her own stories (1973: 8).

[ii] This author recalls that, at the end of 1994, the BBC Somali through its 5pm radio programme apologised to its audience after one of its news stringers falsely reported that three worshippers were killed in a mosque in “Bermuda,” a notorious neighbourhood in downtown Mogadishu reduced by competing Hawiye clan militias to ruins in the mid-1990s. On a personal reflection, one of my aunties, after going out there, has still not returned home.

[iii] Elsewhere, Kapteijns employed polemic against several renowned scholars – e.g. Mohamed DiriyeAbdullahi, Hussein M. Adam, Ali Jimale Ahmed, Abdi Mohamed Kusowand Mohamed Haji Mukhtar, who hailed from other Somali clan-groups other than the clan-group to which she affiliated herself. Compare her agreeably frequent reference to her relatives (cf.Kapteijns 1995b: 175-180; 1994: 518-520).


The appraisal of each historical work begins with methodological approach. Scanning the research methodology of Kapteijns’s book (2013) reveals the pitfalls of how information was gathered and the type of informants selected to succeed with the political aim behind the clan cleansing claim. Given her inaccurate understanding of the conflict, Kapteijns’s story begins with a fact – that popular uprising against the Siad Barr regime had begun in December 1990 – but contaminating realities and distorting known facts makes it fiction beset with imaginary tales that were comparable to what Donham calls “only another narrative in the world of narratives” (2006). For example, it is not clear where her fact begins and fiction ends, as her views are indistinguishable from the clanistic narratives of her informants. This is so because she interacts with them in ways that the narrator comes to the position of the commentator, eventually falling down into the category for those whom she had previously charged for “unquestioningly read clanist motivations and violence back into the past and thus fail to problematize, periodize and document [...] important historical processes” (Kapteijns, 2001a). [i]Thus no wonder that almost all her informants and narrators came from the clan-group who directed and dictated her conclusions by fuelling her with false accusations of particular rival clan personalities. How she trusts the sources of partial narrators is quite surprising. Ignoring to accommodate the views of opposing scholars to feature in her analysis, she dismisses – even discards – the arguments of solid Somali scholars, such as Ahmed (2001; 1995a, b; 1996), Bulhan (2008), Dualeh (1994), Ghalib (2013; 1995), Gassem (1994), Ingiriis (2012a); Kusow (1994), Mukhtar (2003) and many others.

With a conjectural history from an armchair author, the propagators of the clan cleansing claim presume reincarnation of the regime. Collecting information from informants bent of avenging their clan rivals means giving the assassin the tools to commit the crime. To paraphrase the Dutch sociologist A. V. Den Hollander (Geshekter, 1993), the image and imagination of clan character and characteristics held by rival members of another clan tend to reveal more about informants than those informed. Equally, White’s observation in Kenya that ‘what one group of prostitutes says about another is not generally considered significant historical data’ (1983) is more apt to Somali politics. If Ferguson and Mansbach’s Remapping of Global Politics: History’s Revenge and Future Shock (2004) is connected to conflicting and contested history, as in Somalia, the outcome would dictate that the revenge of history ends with a shock after shock for the future.

In this context, if historians are to create history, their work is pertinent to contribute to the analysis on choose and paste clan myth-making in the sense revealed by Fischer (1970). To be sure, it is entirely responsibility of the historian – using various concepts and methods – to choose and apply on which angle s/he prefers to draw in explaining and examining the topic at hand. To borrow a better metaphor from Carr, ‘the historian was a fisherman, choosing which pond in which to fish, and what tackle to use’ (Green and Troup, 1999). As such, all history could not escape to be the sole product of the historian. To avert it, any work on Somali conflicts would be reliable if backed by thick ethnographic research. This method enables the researcher to differentiate what might resemble facts from what is fictional. However, using ethnography could also be meaningless ‘without specific attention to place and time’ is more or less ‘tantamount to cutting away the ground on which the fieldwork took place’ (Fardon, 1990).

Using an anthropological – rather than historical – method of referencing without the proper training entailed, Kapteijn’s book comes across – to an anthropologist – more or less literary history than anthropological fiction, considering the lack of essential ethnographic empirical research necessary to conduct in the field, as the proper conventional historical research methodology must be pursued in the archives.[ii] Though a historian by training, she shows an immense interest to assume the role of a social/cultural anthropologist, given the stark contrast between a historical anthropologist and an anthropological historian. Being not an anthropologist does not avert her to have her own opinion of what anthropology is all about. One may come across anthropologists among historians, but not mostly historians among anthropologists (Cohn, 1987; Harvey, 2010; Kitromilides, 2010). This does not mean to disregard the nexus between history and anthropology (or social sciences for that matter). But her approach at selective references overlooks the principle pillar and base of the social sciences research. Anthropologist Besteman has illuminated that “anthropology listens to individual voices but also focuses on how those voices talk to one another and how people create and consolidate collectively held truths, offer challenges to such truths, express uncertainties about common understandings, and suggest alternative visions for the future” (2008). Such careful and cautious ethnographic approach has a unique method of demystifying the mythico-histories and allows social scientists to compare the fact from the fiction by using a set of standard skills for coming up with professional anthropology work. Hymes explains that:

Ethnography is a research process in which the anthropologist closely observes, records, and engages in the daily life of another culture – an experience labelled as the fieldwork method – and then writes accounts of this vulture, emphasizing descriptive detail. These accounts are the primary form in which fieldwork procedures, the other culture, and the ethnographer’s personal and rhetorical reflections are acceptable to professionals and other readership (1981).

This method of ethnography is also dissimilar to Lewis’s classic approach of ethnographic approach of “I was told”

Lewis, 1998) without going beyond the telling and look at the telling. Writing from the perspective of a particular clan-group, especially of a clan, Kapteijns could have taken certain precautious academic measures to avoid falling into a clanistic trap by deploying the modern ethnographic research method, that is record what your informants told you, but write what you have observed and compared to others.[iii] This method is sync with the Malinowskian anthropological approach of recording whatever individuals tell you about their clan, culture, customs and tradition, but of writing about what matches with their deeds. The first-hand testimony by Abu-Lughod, who – reflecting on returning to her earlier fieldwork subjects of Awlad Ali Bedouins in Egypt – observed a massive change in their lives and their narratives, offers an empirical example of a careful ethnography. “What happened then”, Abu-Lughod would remarkably recognise and record, “I will never know, since I was not there and heard only my host’s version” (1991). How Kapteijns would know what actually happened in 1991 Somalia remains a mystery.

[i]Kapteijns (2001a: 16) had previously cautioned scholars to affiliate themselves with “those who masterminded or committed the violence by accepting the identity constructs the latter intended to impose (and often succeeded in imposing) by force.” And here you go again, with her coming up what she had warned. It is such contradictory statements that have become a tendency in the work. As her book is the first novel masquerading as a work of academic, this may be the reason why novelist NuruddinFarah sees the work his most favourite book in Somali Studies. On the other hand, the most innovative new approach in the book using partners and in-laws as an informants and interviewees (e.g., 2013: 278n38). One wonders to what qualification her partner MursalAfdhuub was selected to act as an informant and interviewee in the book, despite the fact that he left Somalia probably more than four decades ago (e.g., Kapteijns2013: 278n38; for the familial affiliation, compare 2001c: 719-722; 2001d: 10-18; 2000: 25-34; 1999: 27-47; 1995b: 175-180). Here, the ethical duty of research was sidestepped.

[ii] Whereas Geyl may describe such a work as an ‘abuse of history, Goody would perhaps call it a ‘theft of history’ (cf. Geyl1995; and Goody2007). For a critical reviews on the claim of clan cleansing, see Eno (2013) and Ingiriis(2013b: 112-114).

[ii]Denouncing other clans, Kapteijns (2013: 113) uses even Majeerteen

 (sub)cultural terms like isma-dhaxal, literally meaning one who inherits no one. It is strange that Kapteijns opposes to federal States based on clans

 (Kapteijns2001a: 16, 33 & 46n106) yet rehearses federalism views as expressed by Ahmed AshkirBootaan, a former Minister in the SiadBarre regime. However, Kapteijns (2013) recognises Puntland as autonomous federal State. By contrast, she avoids to regard Somaliland as such. For supporting Puntland remarks, see Kapteijns (2013: 176 & 230; 2001b: 682-684). Numerous other contradictory statements are constant feature in the book. It is worth noting that the claim of clan cleansing is again and again (re)surfacing the clan hatred to the political forums in and outside Somalia, but not in Somaliland.



More often than not, Kapteijns recapitulates the assassination of former civilian president Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke (1967-69). On the other, the claim that Sharmarke’s offspring felt unsafe in Mogadishu during the 1990s clan conflicts equates to ringing a bell in her work.[i] It is not surprising considering that they shared clanship ties with her informants just as were Abdirizak Haji Hussein, a former Prime Minister (1964-1967) and General Mohamed Abshir Muuse, the former Police Commissioner, both frequently featuring in the clan cleansing project. Oddly elided is any positive remark about the other former civilian leaders – household names such as President Aden Abdulle Osman “Aden Adde”; AbdullahiIise Mohamoud, the first Prime Minister during the Trusteeship Administration; Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egaal, the former Prime Minister; and Abdulkadir Mohamed Aden “Zoppo,” a prominent politician. If their names come to mind, they were blamed for not viewing (and voicing against) what happened in 1991 as clan cleansing; this was specially the case of President Aden Adde, peculiarly accused by Kapteijns of euphemistically concealing the clan cleansing and of not speaking about it (2013). It was ludicrous for how she blemished him for complicity of the clan cleansing. After all, according to her verdict, Aden Adde was ‘guilty of complicity’ (ibid.: 153). One wonders with what tools Kapteijns used to judge and charge to someone the Somalis putatively considered as the father and founder of the former Somali Republic.

Kapteijns (2013) assigns unrivalled importance to her (interview four) protagonist – apparently Abdullahi] Farah Hoolif – who makes serious allegations against Hassan Dhimbil Warsame, a Somali lawyer. Since there was no love lost between the two, Kapteijns acts as a mouth piece for Hoolif to dehumanise his opponent through her. Her earlier description on how clanism – the embodiment of nepotism and favouritism – intersected with colonialism seems more apt to this particular incident between the two politicians. She had suggested elsewhere that clanism originated “from specific struggles for power not only between colonial state and local Somali leaders but also among Somali leaders themselves as they operated within (and manipulated) colonial realities” (Kapteijns, 1995a). Dhimbil and Hoolif, in this context, formed the latter group, a small élite class that emerged out from the colonial gouvernementalité (governmentality) and interplayed with clan politics, a crucial point she seems to contradict here. One can also question her political use of clan and kinship at this particular conjunction, while evading to mention any class formation in her reading of the political conflict, especially the one between Dhimbil and Hoolif.

One of the serious allegations made is levelled at the former governor of Bay region, Haji Mohamoud Barbaar (Kapteijns, 2013).[ii] Here, Kapteijns’s bias becomes more apparent when her allegation turns out to be propagandistic for a character assassination to eliminate a living politician. Possessing no document or evidence at her disposal to disclose that Barbaar encouraged clan cleansing, she acts as the vehicle for destroying rival clan politicians in writing. Inconceivable as it seems, coupled with her lack of reliable evidence, she also accuses military men – namely General Mohamed NuurGalaal and General Mohamed Abdi Mohamed – of the mysterious killing in January 1991 of Ibrahim Abyan (2013), a teacher, who once revealed to the then US Ambassador to Somalia, Peter Bridges, that he wanted to see Somalia being ruled by his clansmen and that, to achieve such a goal, he along with ‘small group of fellow Darods were planning secretly for a better and democratic future once Mohamed Siad Barre left the scene’ (Bridges, 2000; Africa Confidential, 1984b). More notable Somali intellectuals and elders killed in the mass unorganised communal clan cataclysms in 1991, such as Haji Bashiir NuurIleey, a well-known business man; AbdiBashiir Indha-buur, a popular nationalist poet; and Mohamoud Geeddi Mohamud “Fuje,” a well-respected senior police officer, were not conferred on similar mention, let alone inquiry into their murderers. Indeed, this further exposes on how Kapteijns acts as a partial and partisan judge, jury, police and prosecutor in self-selected killing spree.

[i]Kapteijns also writes twice that Sharmarke’s “relatives” – to whom she alludes to his kinsmen – were “hunted down in the streets of Mogadishu by USC fighters” (2013: 136 & 260n141). She does not use the notion of “clan cleansing” when describing the clan defeats of the Dhulbahante and Warsangeli (Daarood clans) by the Majeerteen in the early nineteenth-century, quite well before European colonialism. For detailed study, see Durrill (1986: 287-306; also Baldacci1909: 59-72; and Cruttenden 1844-46: 111-126).

[ii] Furthermore, another serious allegation is levelled against AbshirKaahiye Farah, a former Somali freedom fighter and military official (e.g., Kapteijns2013:112-113). For another assault against a recent Presidential hopeful, see (Kapteijns2013: 105).



The deliberate maximisation and minimisation of some events over the other is shaped by the attempt to rationalize the brutality of the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) while at the same time normalising Siad Barre’s butchery, accusing the other opposition movements – the United Somali Congress (USC), the Somali National Movement (SNM) and the Somali Democratic Movement (SDM) – of uniting to cleanse a particular clan, a sheer rhetoric than reality (Kapteijns, 2013; Besteman, 1999). While noting the human rights violations committed by Koofiyacasta (the Red Berets) under the name of Somali National Army during the military regime of General Mohamed Siad Barre instructing, Kapteijns omits the SSDF’s mass killings against the communities of Balanbale, Gaalka’yo and Goldogob in 1980 to 1982 and the massacre of TuuloEelaay, one of the villages on the border between Somalia and Ethiopia in Galgaduud region, where unaccounted number of civilians were massacred in the mid-1980s (Faarax, 1990). This – the closed eyes to the SSDF’s correlation with Siad Barre is a barefaced attempt at bolstering the political and poetic narratives of the adherents for the Siad Barre regime. Not only does Kapteijns justify the crimes against humanity committed by the SSDF, but she refutes such crimes in addition extolling on the other hand that the SSDF played an important role in stopping the reach of the clan cleansing campaign beyond their clan territories in 1991 (2013). The evident fact that the SSDF fighters conducted such massacres does not come to her mind.

Kapteijns (2013) comes stuck with speculation of the clan conflict that intermingles with reality and rhetoric, an assortment of cast-iron close familial affiliation articulated through a genealogical clan construct. This affiliation dictates to unleash more myth into the market. Reporting a rape case in Mudug, she writes that a young lady, who was among women being put onto trucks to be raped by Siad Barre’s forces, jumped from “the moving truck and was, as a result, still disabled” (ibid.: 250n17). Even if she does not refer to any source, it seems more than just coincidence that this particular clan-held account had already been reported – matching with the same– by Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, the SSDF clan commander, in his memoir (Ahmed, 2012).[i] Quite the reverse, when Colonel Yusuf captured Gaalka’yo in 1992, his militias used rape as a weapon to dishonour their clan rivals. No wonder that Kapteijns – without direct ethnographic experience of the Somali world – does not explore the empirical meaning(s) of everyday life of Mudugrape victims.[ii] Equally, another similarity between Kapteijns’s and Yusuf’s accounts is the incongruous concealment of the mysterious deaths of two senior SSDF on the order of Colonel Yusuf himself, who were eliminated due to “their unyielding commitment to authentic democratic practice and progressive ideology” (Samatar, 1988: 162; Kulmiye, 2014; Nuur, 2014; Africa Confidential, 1984b; The Indian Ocean Newsletter, 1984b; The Indian Ocean Newsletter, 1984c; The Indian Ocean Newsletter, 1985). These assassinations followed by the high profile killing of Mohamed Shandille, a high-ranking SSDF senior member, perceived as a potential rival by Yusuf (Kulmiye, 2014) led to the fragmentation of the front (The Indian Ocean Newsletter, 1984a; Compagnon, 1995; Lewis, 1998: 217).

Relying on a memoir written by an SSDF war veteran (Deyr and Cali, 1997), Kapteijns refuses to say something on the transformation of the uprising in 1990/1991 into a clanised war.[iii] In his Qaran DumayiyoQoonTalo-Waayey (A Collapsed State and A People without Advice), Deyr describes the SSDF version of the conflict from the perspective of someone who was part of the war from the SSDF side. He remarks that what was happening was “clan conflicts,” intrinsically waged as clan on clan. Even when he recognises the war as such, Deyr calls other Somali clans in opposition to his clan as “enemy,” this more often than not. This was in line with the Bedouin Arab proverb ‘I and my clan against the world’, until it comes down to ‘I against my brother’. However, he notes his participant-observation that the ‘conflict’ between the Hawiye and the Daarood was orchestrated by Siad Barre (164). Even if Kapteijns does not reveal his agency, apart from the fact that he was in southern Somalia during the clan wars, Deyr himself tells us that he was with the SSDF militias, which he calls them “dhafoor, ”literally meaning the upper face, which was the Somali equivalent of Inter ahamwe in 1994 Rwandan genocide (Deyr concedes that he was part of mobilising militia against the USC (e.g., 183-184).It is this kind of intermingling not just with clan informants, but with actual combatants of the war that renders her work one overshadowed by irresponsibility.

A further re-reading of Deyr’s work shows that he had some expertise in actual war combat experience, especially the way he describes and details his observations and proposals for war strategy and defences. Envisaging that the war was “just” and “defensive” war on their side, he gives detailed description on how he had advised General Mohamed Said Hersi ‘Morgan’, one of the most notorious warmongers, to defend the gates of Kismaayo on the eve of the USC attack in April 1991. Extremely apologetic to his clan militia, Deyr calls Morgan and his militias as “saviours” (Deyr and Cali, 1997: 238), while brutally attacking Morgan’s arch-rival Colonel Ahmed Omar Jees (ibid.:242). Oddly enough, Deyr dares to justify atrocities committed by Morgan (e.g., 176-177) while labelling the USC militias as “cowards” (258). Deyr also accuses the SNM of helping the USC for the capture of Kismaayo (ibid.: 181), a point Kapteijns picks up and gives much emphasis (2013: 182-186). One crucial theme – to which alluded by Deyr, but evaded by Kapteijns– is the agency of women in the 1991 clan cataclysms. He notes that women of his clan represented the central part of Morgan’s militias, as they were – in his own words – “lafdhabartadagaalka” (the backbone of the war). Their role, as he witnessed, was not restricted to collecting money in continuing war, but also exhorting militia for an attempt to build up their morale (for example, Ingiriis 2015; Ingiriis and Hoehne, 2013a).

[i] Using terms like ‘relatives’ to describe fellow clansmen indicates that Kapteijns (2013: 260n141) follows Abdullahi Yusuf who perceived all his clansmen as part of his family (Ahmed2012).

[ii]On how women suffered (and at times acted as an agency) in the clan conflicts, see Ingiriis (2014a: 225-240). For an overview on Somali women and war, see Ingiriis and Hoehne (2013a: 314-333). On the opportunities the war itself offered, see Ingiriis (2011: 200-229). For detailed study on Somali women’s interplay of politics and power in pre- and post-colonial Somalia is Ingiriis 2015: 376-394.

[iii]The evidentiary base of the book heavily relied on an account by Daher Ali Omar “Deyr,” one of the military advisers of General Mohamed Said Hersi (Morgan), SiadBarre’s son-in-law, who fought tooth and nail in fending off his father-in-law from falling down and who also maintained partial attempts at reinstating him to power after the fall. Deyr (1997) notes how he was part of the military and elders committees that oversaw the war economy and mobilisation. Out of Kapteijns’s discussion is also how SiadBarre had made two attempts to regain Mogadishu, first in April 1991 and April 1992, both rendered much defeat for the dictator and his forces.


One of the most contentious and controversial issues of the contemporary Somalia – and one with painful resonance – is the contested histories and conflicting disputes over what had exactly happened in Somalia during the uncivil war that started with Siad Barre’s military regime. Offering no cure for the war, Kapteijns has purported to understand “the clannist mindset of the Somali people” (Kapteijns, 2013), suggesting in the end of her book that the treatment for clanism is to prescribe the Somalis “more of the same” of “such undiluted doses that it will either cure or kill the patient” (ibid.: 212), which, in this case, would mean producing more clanistic narratives as her work. This kind of simplistic and superficial misinterpretation has the potentiality to reignite hatred among Somali clans and add fuel to unresolved perpetual and persistent conflicts. It can never be a way of dealing with past experiences and memories, unless one intends to rectify feud with more feuding. Goldblatt and Meintjes warned that “[w]hether an authoritative history of violence prevents the past from being rewritten or deters violence from recurring are open questions” (1998). While insisting that hers was to record on what had happened, Kapteijns has inflamed the clanised wars between the bellicose and belligerent Somali pastoralist clans, such as the Hawiye and the Daarood. In a nutshell, she has created more division and disintegration among the conflict-prone Somalis who have suffered from more than three decades of continual conflicts.

The new neologism of clan cleansing first surfaced in the early 1990s. If informants who acted as agents in the conflicts succeeded to portray themselves as victims, the selective usage of sources warrants scrutiny. The selective sources are not a matter limited to here and there. More awkward is the authenticity of the sources cited as contemporary documents, such as “Concerned Somalis,” “Mogadishu Massacre,” and “Kismaayo Massacre” (Kapteijns, 2013). These are cited without a small grain of salt; the material as well as inconsistent information given by clan-conscious informants is accepted credulously, while their allegations are treated as reliable evidence, as it bolsters the object of the work, which is to present the case of a particular clan discourse as a valid. It is indeed not surprising why Kapteijns does not incorporate these documents into the infamous “Letter of Death” memo drafted by General Morgan, who committed crimes against the humanity as the ‘big man’ in the then Northwest (present-day Somaliland).[i] The memo sent and suggested to Siad Barre to wipe out the Isaaq clan-group – since they constituted the bulk of the SNM, which caused a serious military challenge to the regime – was one of the rare documents exposing how the Siad Barre regime conducted the campaign of eradication in the then Northwest (present-day Somalila).

The close connection between Kapteijns and Wardheer website vis-à-vis the nostalgic days of the clano-dictatorial dominance cannot create a history that never was.[ii]It goes without saying that Anita Adam, who lived Somalia for the two decades prior to 1991, has been better placed to write a book about the 1991 clan cataclysms than Kapteijns, who based her sources on gossip and hearsay. To rephrase Abraham Lincoln’s words, Kapteijns can fool some Somalis all of the time, but cannot fool all Somalis even some of the time. To put it another way, the verity that the era of what one could call the containment in Somali Studies is over – the era of purporting freewheeling myths as a clan history (when she used to equate MuuseBoqor family with the Kennedy family). This was the epoch she labelled one notable Somali scholar ‘irresponsible’ because she erroneously assumed that he had omitted Sayid Mohamed Abdulle Hassan (better known as “the Mad Mullah”) in one of his books (Mukhtar, 2003). Indeed, Kapteijns labelled Mukhtar an “irresponsible” author for “not giving the Sayid an entry in this dictionary” (Kapteijns, 2005). On the contrary, Mukhtar had the Mullah on board, providing an entry on the Sayid, the man Siad Barre had much admiration. On the Sayid’s entry in the said volume, see Mukhtar 2003: 196-197). This fact later forced Kapteijns to apologise to the next issue of Africa Today.[iii] Last, but not least, the irresponsibility is now rests on her.

[i] The complete letter is available at: (accessed on 17 April 2013). The authenticity of the document was verified by Dr Mohamoud Sheikh Ahmed Musa, a former Chief of Somali Supreme Court on 27 April 1987. For details, see Dunn (1987), 1-4. Indeed, Kapteijns could not hide her familial affiliation of General Morgan, when praises him for how “against all odds he had regrouped, raised new funds, recruited fighters from the refugee camps [in Kenya], and re[-]entered the war” (2013: 187). Rejecting to refer to first-hand war accounts provided by other Somalis, Kapteijns offers no systematic contextual analysis except copy and paste references of selective new reports from Kismaayo, General Morgan’s then military base. Meanwhile, to make her case more appealing, she makes sweeping accusations on several criminals only to be able defending others.

[ii] The poet Abdi Farah, quoted in Kapteijns (2013: 55), encapsulates the clan-hatred narratives of Wardheernews webpage when he incorporates this verse into his poem: “You will always be speaking of this.” By “of this,” the poet implies that the fall of the military dictatorship, which its beneficiaries have

tended to look back nostalgically, will always be hunted to those who saw themselves as the owners of the regime.

[iii]The Journal editor wrote: “LidwienKapteijns, in her review of Mohamed H. Mukhtar’s Historical Dictionary of Somalia (Africa Today, 51. 3, 2005: 136-136), made an error when she criticized this book somewhat sharply for not having an entry for Sayyid Mohamed Abdille Hassan. Such an entry does indeed exist and she apologizes for her oversight” (Africa Today 52, 4 2005: 155).



The author has not declared any conflict of interests.


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