The Somali Question
More than half a century ago, Frantz Fanon made two pivotal observations about cataclysmic convulsions that would engulf Central and Eastern Africa. The first referred to his prescient observation that the African continent resembles a revolver, and Zaire is the trigger (Fanon, 1966 ). His clairvoyant statement eerily prefigures what political commentators have, since the 1990s, characterized as the potential starting point of Africa’s First World War (Williams, 2013). After the overthrow of Mobutu Sese Seko, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly known as Zaire) became the site where warring armies from more than four neighboring countries came to battle one another, presumably to defend the legitimate existence of a proxy group in the country. Zimbabwean and Angolan forces were aligned with the regime of Laurent Kabila, while Rwanda and Uganda—the original patrons of Laurent Kabila and his putsch-were now his sworn enemies. Fanon’s second observation warned against the ramifications and implications of a Somali-Ethiopian war whose foundation was nationalistic (Fanon, 1969). This warning came with devastating consequences. The resulting political, social, and economic landscape of Somalia compels us to examine the contours of both the centripetal and centrifugal forces that still animate social upheavals. This requires a bold reexamination of analytic categories, and the ability to envision new ones to cope with the new reality. In this essay, I confine myself to the new reality in the Horn of Africa. I will engage in a comparative analysis by telescoping a panoramic view of regional history. This new telescoping and reality must be understood, not from the vantage point of national disintegration by way of political conflict, but through the perspective that social transformation and migration work as the ultimate engine of social change (Richerson and Boyd, 2008).
This article is from Journal of Somali Studies 1 (2014): 91–101.