Lessons from Somaliland for Kurds and Catalans

The Kurds and the Catalans are voting for self-determination. It seems nothing can stop a people who have decided to vote for self-determination, although it seems not a single state is ready to accept it. The lesson from Somaliland, an unrecognised country since 1991, is: there is no need to worry about not achieving international recognition: you can live very well without.

Certainly these elections will be held, one way or another, and the outcome is predictable: overwhelming support for independence.

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Clan Cleansing in Somalia by Lidwien Kapteijns

Published in 2013, Kapteijn’s book (available online here) about the period of intense clan conflict in Somalia (1980s to 1993) refreshingly first approaches these bloody events through the lens of poetry and popular culture. She finds a few examples of incitements to violence based on the ‘other’ whose identity is solely defined by clan, but mainly hears voices of Somalis rejecting this mentality, wondering how it suddenly gangrened their culture and destroyed their country.

She then goes on to explore that question through accounts of the clan cleansing, either published or collected by her. Her book has become one of the main English-language documents trying to understand this dark period of Somalia’s history; from the civil war that erupted in the final years of Barre’s reign (1980s), through the collapse of his government in January 1991, until the international intervention in 1993. This subject has received much less coverage than, for example, piracy or Al Shabaab and its international links. The victims could mostly not made themselves heard in this era, before the mobile phone and internet, and most contemporary chroniclers prefer not to dwell on the savage killing, looting and forced displacements.

Somalis I met who read this book (or know about it) seem generally uncomfortable that a foreigner has poked her nose into this painful period. They don’t believe she can grasp what they themselves still struggle to understand. Since all clans and many of today’s political leaders participated in this period of clan cleansing, no-one is scot-free, and any foreign investigation may feel like an ICC-like invasion of Somali sociopolitical space, with potentially negative effects (‘opening a can of worms’). Shame about this period is also still very strong. Continue reading

Homo Deus Part 2: counterproposal

Yes, I agree with Prof. Harari that the human race must seek to become divine (see my previous post, a review of his book). Like him, I also think that the key lies in developing our power. But unlike him, I do not see that happen in this world, with its dangerous imbalances, and I don’t think technology (like increasing the life span of humans) is going to play such an important role.

If the evolution of the human race may be compared to that of an individual, we would now be in the teenager phase. We are in the process of becoming conscious of our individuality, in the process knocking our parents (imaginary: God, Gods or Mother Nature) from their pedestal. As acne-scarred teenagers we care little about the environment and engage in violent schoolyard fights. At times we’re suicidal, at others we’re conceited and over-confident.

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We must now transition to the adulthood phase, before we utterly destroy our environment and ourselves in the process. We need a new pact to regulate human society, based on the consciousness of being all together on this planet with its finite resources.  Continue reading

Review of Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari

Yuval Noah Harari: Homo Deus, 2016

Harari asks important questions about the future of humankind and, for this alone, I’d recommend this book. But he brushes away some important issues that may force today’s world to change – notably, injustice, spirituality and environmental crisis – and bases his vision of the future on an ‘End of History’-like smug belief in liberalism where the only factor of change is technology. Therefore his analysis is flawed and, I believe, his predictions far off the mark. Continue reading

The insufficiency of academic sources for my research

I find that much of the literature on international relations is surprisingly stale and unhelpful, even now that I am doing my PhD research. As a casual reader interested in topics addressed in academic publications, I quickly learnt to avoid such books, dry, overtly theoretical and often uninformative (besides being expensive). Continue reading

Article about Jonas Staal in Syria


Closing ceremony of the New World Summit in Derik, Syria

I published this article in the December 2015 edition of The Art Newspaper – with first a ‘news’ story on page 3, and then a feature on pages 58-59.  Continue reading

The Rojava Revolution

Syrian Village

A unique experiment in ‘stateless democracy’ and effective armed resistance against ISIS in Northern Syria is led by Kurdish women. Could their innovative model for social organization, which has brought peace, stability and progress to their region over the past three years, provide a way out for the crisis in Syria and other minorities in the Middle East? A personal account of a ‘political tourism’ visit to Rojava.

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