Last  July at Hargeisa International Book Festival (HIBF), it was launched a book with the title ‘Getting Somalia Wrong; Faith,war and hope in a shattered state .Although this book was written for the international readers and has an important messages in it,  admittedly ,  Somalilanders seemed  it immaterial and irrelevant as we are striving to prove that we no longer have nothing to do with Somalia.  But we were wrong! We got  ‘’ Getting Somalia Wrong’’ wrong. This book is a rare and valuable account of admirable intellect that gives a concise picture of the contemporary Somalia which contains historically many administrations  and our break away Somaliland. It also gives  the clearest picture of all time to the  outside interested groups  willing  to get  a  proper diagnosis for the perplexed situation of Somalia.  Often Somalis which naturally includes Somaliland are remembered about  with  the worst connotations like Piracy, Extremism and Violence. This book tries to demystify the reality on the ground and rectify those misconceptions sensentionalized by the media.

The author of the book Mary Harper who is a journalist and writer, specialising in Africa and currently working as Africa Editor at the BBC World Service  has written a resourceful and contemplated account collected over the decade’s long experience of hers on Somali people , culture and problems. I’m not writing to  talk about the weaknesses or the strengths of the book but the point that I have pondered during reading this book is how the author put the situation of Somaliland and my review conveys this opinion supporting  it with evidences from the book.

The contents of the book goes back for clearer understanding to the ancient history of Somali people through early civilizations established at the coasts to the colonial rule and the followed dream of the great Somalia that could be considered as the root cause of the failure of the central government of the Somali Republic. Those carefully selected six chapters  are concisely and artfully put with clear and convincing language and are also organised in chronological manner. More importantly, the author devotes considerable space for lengthy direct quotes from Somali actors, allowing them to speak with their own voices, unfiltered by the author. After the last chapter ‘’ Somalia and the outside World’’ , she concludes with logical arguments and why many attempts on Somali reconciliation failed because of misguided policies and repeating the  same mistakes, that is, giving the highest priority to form a central government based in Mogadishu. Mary Harper suggests the world should seek the solution from a different perspectives and takes the case of Somaliland  reconciliation as a possible role model process.

Besides, convincing the world that Somalis has managed to do so well without a central government  because the clan-based lineage system of  Somalis is an effective way of governing society and the truth that Somalis were able to keep similar standard of living compared to their African counter parts, the author clarifies that western powers were very late to adopt the new ‘dual track’ Policy. Although Somaliland benefits the most from this approach as the international aid which was previously monopolised by the TFG will be distributed more fairly and effectively, it must be recommended for the world to give more attention to that new policy as certain things need to be  more correctly and suitably tweaked. Urging the TFG to give a recognition to Somaliland could be an appropriate suggestion for improving the ‘dual track’ policy to actually make a difference on the ground.

Mary Harper dedicates more than 14 pages for Somaliland noting down the successful popular peacemaking processes which unlike those political conferences of Somalia were neither foreign-funded nor held abroad but remained to  be an example of hope and potential to those parts of Somalia that always fail to extract themselves from an almost endless cycle of conflict and instability. The author also adds that designing hybrid system of government, whereby western-style institutions were fused with more traditional forms of social and political organisation, has gradually directed to the transformation of the Multi-party system. She also mentions how our late president Egal(May Allah rest his soul) has given our population the confidence that they could go it alone.  Qouting  the great African thinker,Ali Mizrui, as saying the Horn of Africa experiences a‘Tale of Two Somalias’ namely as the  Somalia of Mogadishu which continues to be the case of anarchy without order and the Somalia of Hargeisa which gathered a momentum as a case of ‘bottom-up nation building’ rooted in culture and energised from within, the author  agrees with him when she visited Somaliland.  She makes a short comparison between  Somaliland and Somalia writing that she had witnessed the existence of the‘Two Somalias’ and how they are world apart. Investigating further, because the territory is not internationally recognised and can not access big foreign loans for infrastructural and other developments , she proves that it’s something that frustrates president Ahmed Silanyo telling in his interview with her that Somaliland has been very patient about that and  hopes  their  patience  to be rewarded very soon.

In Conclusion, the book says that the outside observers have generally not realized that Somalis in general devised fascinating alternative ways of organising society and the fact that they could be considered stateless in many ways does not mean they are wrong, bad or threatening. One key example mentioned is the case of Union of Islamic Court which has emerged from the grass roots of the society rather than being imposed from the outside but soon the world saw them ‘threatening’ and we all know that the consequences got more worse. Somaliland which is now considered by the world as ‘ state-within-state’  also remains to be the author’s second successful example. But that is never enough. Bringing about lasting positive change in the territory needs more creative and adventurous approaches , as the author says. So , to this end,  giving Somaliland a recognition could inevitably complete what  Mary Harper  had to say to the outside world.

By Eng. Khadar Jeep


  1. it none starter to consider the great self-reliant nation of the Republic of Somaliland as mere part of the most failed state on the whole planet. That is demeaning, insulting, and reveals total ignorance on the part of the author of that back. The difference between Somaliland, and the none-existent Somalia is similar to the differnce between light and darkness. We the poeple of Somaliland will continue the struggle for the re-recognition of our country even if that will take a thousand year more. make no mistake about that.

    • Worry not the May2013 scheduled 2-STATE dialogue process will set everyone straight on the Future relation of the 2-Somali states that joined to form the Somali-republic in 1960.

      2013 will see a total political change in the horn of Africa for the Somali people.

      Insha'allah Khair.

  2. I find it disrespectful when White people or other foreigners deem themselves "experts" of other people. This is the usual dominant discourse we have seen since colonization and it really doesnt surprise me. What we need to do as Somalilanders is to develop a competing discourse that will tell the real stories about our country and people. But then, we are an oral society that love to talk with little action and when others hijack our agenda, we get upset and start to insult them.

  3. This is upsetting so many ways the people who had leg up 21 years are complaining a nation that just coming out turmoil and chaos and had no ability to effect them or anyone else and who couldn't make decision for their own citizen one way or another whether it was good or bad so let's get one thing straight the road block you hit had nothing to do with Somalia and if the doors are hit you in the face that you've been knocking last twenty one years maybe you should look deep in yourself another word reevaluation instead calling none-existent and fail state Somalia at this moment we Somalis get use it your dirt filthy mouth it has no effect on us you just become nuisance and this moment I could care less if you want to wait one million years or more as long as our citizens who don't want nothing to do with this little project of yours are protected for you so their rights come first to all Somalis and it should not make any different to as what clan they to belong their concern is the only thing that must supersede everything else and must become number one priorities for our government and the onces to come.

    • crasy shara u should know Eritrea wait more than 30 y for recognition South Sudan more than 40 y so if u believe on what u struggle, u are ready to wait even 100y and Somalilander are fully ready for this goal. Excepted crying ur hate on this web site, u cannot do anything more to stop way for Somaliland recognition which is just issue of time. Sorry loser!

      • I'm the sorry loser really are you sure of that. let remind you one tiny detail you fool the flag of the nation that's flying all over the world it's mine the one that's not there is yours as I said early comment I could care less at the present time it something you all have to worry about and if anybody is crying is you on the other I have a nation it may not be in the best shape and it will require a lot of fix to be done but i do know one thing for sure that I don't need no other nation permission to existence I"am already in the book. this why is amazing and mind-boggling some of the people who regularly visit this website before hand he made his mind and decided we would throw a punch at me but it landing no where

        • Okay Sahra, we might not be in the "book" but we have PEACE and that is something to be happy and proud of alhamdulilah. Our women and children walk freely in peace and the only thing they carry is pens and books and not bullets so we don't need to be crying. That's the most important thing for us first to have peace that we cherish and inshAllah we will reach the next step of providing better development and opportunity for our youths.

          • That's a lie, three letters SSC and now five letters AWDAL.

            Your fantasy is falling apart.

          • No that's not a lie mate. We have kept our peace for the last 21 years and will continue to do so with an iron fist ka naxo nafta waa, tell Africans troops to leave your southern part before you open your mouth at us, worry about your affairs reer xamar boy. Awdal is peace like any other regions in Somaliland and let them speak for themselves (not your concern) and ssc militia have no real directions (they are one minute with Somaliland the next minute with puntland or want their own state) but hopefully will reach some sort of peace with them.


    • Buuxiye

      let me start from the beginning. This is a compliment I'm going give you for the first time your comments are detail and well writing. having said that where you always fall on short is the facts.we're are going little further back to the past.European interest in Somalia develops after 1839, when the British begin to use Aden, on the South coast of Arabia so they can establish coaling station for their ship on route to India. the British garrison require meat. so the easiest source was Somali coast line. then the french follow sued' but Italy was little behind. and it little more time to put their act together. this is why your dates are meaningless.on top of that you were never a colonized as you claim' but the British did colonized six clans so that alone your argument falls apart.

    • buuxiye
      Sorry about that before I could finish i touched by mistake submit. so let's continues another contentions point is. Somalia as a sovereign nation is a thing of past.not so fast buuxiya' we're still going back to Afghanistan and Mozambican two nations that went through and is going through similar circumstances than the one Somalia is in now go see the map of those nations if they lost inch of their territory. just because foreign troops are in my nation does not me it's no longer exits or can regains their previous status.

    • Buuxiye
      I’m going ask you three question.
      First if we both don’t exist anymore and we both are traveling the same boat why do you need our Government to sing for you port Barbera to do business with the Dubai?
      The second question is. Why is your former protector Britain is currently opening the largest embassy in our capital and not in hergasa?
      Third why did you need it our former Prime Minister Dr Abdiwali to release a tune of six million dollars to you guys if both of us are not recognize nations and one doesn’t possess more power than other?
      I ask you those questions for a reason. Even thou I do not need the answers this is way to figure out your line of thinking so it’s clear to all reasonable individuals that’s reviewing all our comments. Can decide for them self Who has the facts and who doesn’t. This will clear the air for all of us who had it right all alone.

  4. There are three types of Somali:

    Somalis of Hargaisa
    Somalis of mogadisho
    Somalis of garowe

    Which one is the most civilized, cultured, possesses class, is keeping the somali name above the dirt.

    • Kaboon, the fact is Somalia in mugdisho is the most uncivilized one. Somalia in Hargeisa are not bad, but sold out to axmaaro and not helping poor muqdishos. Somalia in Garowe placed gov’t in muqdishos and trying to make a peace with Hargeisa in the yr of 2013 so they are the most civilized. Do you agree?

      • wadanni

        You forget that somalis of garowe bought bantu army to kill and rape somalis of mogadisho, somalis of garowe kill hawiye refugees, somalis of garowe have stole everything including bricks and mortar from somalis of mogadisho. Meanwhile the best somali people known outside the horn are from hargaisa like mo farah, the richest women in uganda . also hargaisa somalis accommodate 100000 refugees from mogadish and 2 years ago where sending aid to the people of mogadisho.

        mogadisho is in a bad state but lets not forget you daroods made it like that.,

        for that reason, i would say somalis from hargaisa are the best

  5. What A BUNCH of brainless baboons. Would you guys ever stop insulting each other on tribal basis. are you not muslims who are brought about in decency. The so-called South Smalia doen't have the power to deny the North from becoming republic. The South have been busy killing each other for the last 20 odd years and have no economic and political clout to deny the North its destiny. So, the real question is-who is preventing the North from becoming independent? i really want to know. The International community? on what basis. African Union? on what basis. Arabs? on what basis. I, as a Somali, would rather have independenyt, friendly and sisterly independent country called Somaliland rather than have another Ethiopia on my North. I think the problem with all Somalis is that they are busy with themselves rather than being busy with the welfare of their nation and people. God save SOMALIS WHOEVER and wherever they are on this planet.

    • One hand you're using the Muslim faith another hand you're using the word busy sir those two thing do not go together and you also said who's preventing them well have you ever look deep where our nation is located.

      • Salaax

        your are one lost person. how is the council in hargeisa not as tribalist if not more than the ones in garowe or mogadishu?

  6. If Engr. Khadar Jeep is correct in his evaluation of the book. his closing statement beginning with
    …"in conculsion, (ie last paragragph) then the book is quite authentically useful in the different
    characteristics of the Somalians. However, I might as well just mention the since 1991 todate
    two important aspects remain more outstanding positive…the UIC and the Somaliland quest.
    Anything else were absolute failures and continue to remain so uptill this time and space, so to speak.

    • @sahra
      I got to stop you there your comments are too painful for the supporters of the council in hargeisa to swallow and most of all "Buxiye" who i highly doubt is even somali. Wallahi i have met people who know more about somalia and its history than me and my Mother,who studied History at the somali national university. Wallahi if you can understand somali watch videos about former Somali spies for americans/english etc and how they got through and tryed to infiltrate Former Somali goverment Aswell as the Alshabab.

  7. what a load of crap, you are delusional. The only country that is not recognized is SomaliLand. Despite your denial you are part and a parcel of The Federal Republic of Somalia.


  8. One of the major stumbling blocks of reconstituting Somalia as a state is regional war-lords declaring clan enclaves as an independent states. Somaliland (sic.) is a perfect example of such anomaly as separation of northern Somalia is driven by some sectors of one clan. Other clans who live in large swaths of northern Somalia such as Sool, eastern Sanag and Awdal region want to stay in the fold of greater Somalia.

    Mrs Harper stayed in Almansoor Hotel for couple of days and talked to a sleep-walking octogenarian who fed her all the misinformation she needed to complete her book. Did Mrs. Harper visit Las Anod, Taleex, Cainabo, Xudon or eastern Sanag to discover the reality of the region? The answer is no.

    The British Protectorate of Somaliland was one of 24 territories that could not become viable countries. The British granted an independence to Somaliland for the sole purpose that it will reuntie with Italian Somaliland. Can we realistically expect for the triangle between Burao, Hargeisa and Berbera to become a viable country now that its tribal adminstration does control less than half of what constituted the former British Protectorate of Somaliland? Let us only harp about facts.

    • Alle Magan,

      What you are writing is totally rubbish…. You are no where close to the facts… clan minded and tribalism way of analysis!!

  9. To: Allemagan

    FYI – Djibouti is a country and has less population than the second city in SOMALILAND (burao) and has a size smaller than Awdal region in the west of Somaliland.

    • 🙂 nice one Nuur

      Rwanda is Smaller then MarodiJeex!
      Burundi is Smaller then Sanaag

      Yet they are sovereign and powerful enough to Occupy the Former Italia colony of Somalia-Italia!

      Sovereignty and Statehood are TOTALLY independent of International RECOGNITION.

      1. Somaliland Republic is a Sovereign STATE and able to enter into Binding agreements with any other Sovereignty in the world.
      2. Somaliland Republic is operating within it's Sovereign Territorial borders along the borders with which independence was gained from the Era of the British Protectorate.
      3. Somaliland is in total control of it's territorial integrity without foreign troops.
      4. Somaliland has a population where a Majority vote determines political discourse in a fledgling democratic fashion.
      5. The two states that united to form the Somali-Republic are in the process of a 2-STATE dialogue process to Recognize each other and in the process Unrecognize the former Somali-Republic that ended 18-May-1991.
      6. International community only Recognizes the Former Somali-Republic and Neither of the 2-STATES that formerly united as an independent country. I.e Somaliland Republic & Somalia-Italia-federation are both Sovereign States within their Territorial borders gained during independence however are not yet recognized.
      7. Somaliland Republic was Recognized in 26-Jun-1960 by 35 UN Members.
      8. Somalia-Italia-Federation was only recognized by Italy on 1-Jul-1960.
      9. Somalia-Italia or Somali-Federal-Republic concluded 21years of Transition 21-Aug-2012 it is a semi-Sovereignty considering the Government's inability to exert control on any given territory, Have no Fixed population as a result of population dispersion across East Africa and Considering that the Federal Constitution does not make it clear where the State territorial borders lie. The only reason the Transition was ended was due to International interest in the oil deposits offshore for which a Sovereign government is required to enter into a permanent CONTRACT to allow Kenya to claim the oil offshore.

      2-Sovereign-STATE solution only requires both STATE to recognize each other as independent!


  10. The reality is that westerners consider native solutions as backward, hence they force their solutions on to us whether they spend their tax payers money on Kenyan hotels and planes or not. That is why SL is ignored and isolated because they did not comply, while the baddies who fail to lift a finger are all accustomed to 5 star Kenyan hotels with western funding.

    When the Americans were in Mogadisho, they wanted SL leaders to comply or face a war. They were really serious, even going to the Dhulbahantes promising them with arms and other military support to wage war with the majority tribe.

    • Sahra,

      Kayse and other unionists are sometimes blocked to comment or write long text while staun h separatists like Buuxiye are given full access. In situation like this your strategy to debate effectively should be:
      1) Do post one effective comment that negates the lies of the separatists.
      2) You choose who to reply and ignore that hatefu insuults from those losers. They want sounding board therefore do not engage them.
      3) know many of thse divisive comments are from foreigners such as Ethiopians and Kenyans. Do not give them the pleassure to see the destruction of Somalia. Ignore them too.

  11. this is a wonderful article, though i believe this book was only about somalia at moment we see difference between Somalia and Somaliland; they are like right and wrong as Mary Harber witnessed although they are as one country. so could we say this may lead Somaliland to be considered with sovereign state before the recognition.