Readings on Somalia

This isn’t exactly on topic, but I can’t help but be interested in the neighborhood in which I’m working, and furthermore I recently visited the Somali region of Ethiopia, upriver from Mogadishu (fascinating). So in that vein, here are a series of interesting recent reads on Somalia, al-Shabaab and piracy.
  • Chilling NY Times profile of "The Jihadist Next Door", a good ol' Alabama kid cum al-Shabaab guerrilla leader and recruiting rock star.
    Despite the name he acquired from his father, an immigrant from Syria, Hammami was every bit as Alabaman as his mother, a warm, plain-spoken woman who sprinkles her conversation with blandishments like “sugar” and “darlin’.” Brought up a Southern Baptist, Omar went to Bible camp as a boy and sang “Away in a Manger” on Christmas Eve. As a teenager, his passions veered between Shakespeare and Kurt Cobain, soccer and Nintendo. In the thick of his adolescence, he was fearless, raucously funny, rebellious, contrarian. “It felt cool just to be with him,” his best friend at the time, Trey Gunter, said recently. “You knew he was going to be a leader.”
  • The hypothesized link between al-Shabaab and Somali pirates is confirmed - the Islamic militants are training pirates in exchange for a share of the booty.

  • In "capital markets everywhere" news, pirate capital Haradheere now has a thriving stock exchange.
    Piracy investor Sahra Ibrahim, a 22-year-old divorcee, was lined up with others waiting for her cut of a ransom pay-out after one of the gangs freed a Spanish tuna fishing vessel.

    "I am waiting for my share after I contributed a rocket-propelled grenade for the operation," she said, adding that she got the weapon from her ex-husband in alimony.

    "I am really happy and lucky. I have made $75,000 in only 38 days since I joined the 'company'."
  • Somali pirates are driving up Kenyan real estate prices.

  • In breaking news, Al-Shabaab has declared war on Kenya.

  • I was also surprised and interested to learn from National Geographic that Somaliland is its own unrecognized but largely functioning state.

  • Finally, on the fiction side, I will leave the reams of Ethiopia books I’ve been plowing through for another post, but I have to mention The Zanzibar Chest here. A non-fiction novel/memoir by war correspondent Aidan Hartley, it is harrowing and compelling. The man was truly in the middle of some historical happenings in Africa. My favorite line from his account of seeing the overthrow of Somali dictator Siad Barre in Mogadishu in 1991:
    As a correspondent, I suppose my job was to excite the sympathy of the world for this forgotten and reviled people [the Somalis], but all I can say now is that I have felt it a privilege to observe a people who shot themselves in the foot with such accuracy and tumbled into the abyss in such style.

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