The best book on contemporary Africa and the legacy of late colonialism

Mohamed Haji Ingiriis Author Of The Suicidal State in Somalia: The Rise and Fall of the Siad Barre Regime, 1969-1991
By Mohamed Haji Ingiriis

Who am I?

I am a Somali scholar in the field of Somali Studies and African Studies, specialising in anthropology, history, and the politics of Somali society and state(s). I am recognised as an authority and expert on the historical and contemporary Somali conflicts in the Diaspora and back home. I am a Research Fellow at the Conflict Research Programme at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where I am tasked to study the political economy of Mogadishu. I am also a visiting professor at the African Leadership Centre, King’s College London, where I deliver lectures about the genesis of the Cold War in the Horn of Africa and the Civil War in Somalia. 


I wrote...

The Suicidal State in Somalia: The Rise and Fall of the Siad Barre Regime, 1969-1991

By Mohamed Haji Ingiriis,

Book cover of The Suicidal State in Somalia: The Rise and Fall of the Siad Barre Regime, 1969-1991

What is my book about?

My book is a critical reposition of the study of military regimes in Africa. It documents and delves deeper into the reign and rule of General Mohamed Siad Barre regime in Somalia which ruled between 1969 and 1991. The book puts emphasis on African agencies evidently shaped by external beneficiaries and patrons over what went wrong with Africa after the much-awaited post-colonial momentum. It does so by critically engaging with the wider theoretical and conceptual frameworks in African Studies which more often than not tend to attribute the post-colonial African State raptures to colonialism and ‘late colonialism’.

Unparalleled in-depth and analysis, this book is the first full-length scholarly study of the Siad Barre regime systematically explaining the politics and process of the dictatorial rule. The historicity of exploring Somali State trajectory entails employing a Braudelian longue duree approach.

The books I picked & why

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The Invention of Somalia

By Ali Jimale Ahmed (editor),

Book cover of The Invention of Somalia

Why this book?

This groundbreaking and pioneering book was the best book ever written on Somalia. It was indeed an eye-opener for me during my early years of academia. It dramatically changed how I would think of Somali studies. I still recall vividly to this day how I became enchanted with how authors, most of whom were Somalis, had critically challenged previous anthropological and historical scholarship on Somalia, pompously written at the time by Eurocentrists. As soon as I finished reading the book, I began to follow in the footsteps of scholars like Professor Ali Jimale Ahmed.

The Invention of Somalia

By Ali Jimale Ahmed (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Invention of Somalia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book by


Struggle for Land in Southern Somalia: The War Behind the War

By Catherine Besteman (editor), Lee V. Cassanelli (editor),

Book cover of Struggle for Land in Southern Somalia: The War Behind the War

Why this book?

I read this original and outstanding book long before I decided to join academia. It was almost a year before I embarked on my undergrad years. It was a memorable time of my life, as an exile in a small town, a suburban of Brussels, Belgium, to grasp the real causes of the state failure in Somalia. The authors brilliantly presented painful empirical research findings on land grabbing they had collected a few years before the collapse of the military regime in Somalia in 1991 which navigated a new route in research findings on the post-state collapse in Somalia that allowed me to look differently at the Somali conflict.

Struggle for Land in Southern Somalia: The War Behind the War

By Catherine Besteman (editor), Lee V. Cassanelli (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Struggle for Land in Southern Somalia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Despite massive international intervention, Somalia remains a land violently divided by class and cultural conflicts. Explanations for the civil war have generally focused on personalities, clan affiliations or Cold War competition, but this study examines issues of land and resources as important ingredients in Somali politics, and in the events that precipitated the civil war. Drawing on evidence of disputes over land rights and natural resources over several decades, the book aims to add a new dimension to the understanding of factional politics and ethnic/regional rivalries in Somalia.


Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism

By Mahmood Mamdani,

Book cover of Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism

Why this book?

This is one of the most compelling books written on Africa. The author insightfully and thoughtfully reassesses the predicament and plight of the African continent with regards to socio-cultural development, institution-building, nation-building, and state-building. The book – both challenging and stimulating as it is – proves to be a somewhat difficult read as the author alternately targets scholars of African studies more than students of Africa as his main audience and recipients.

Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism

By Mahmood Mamdani,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Citizen and Subject as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In analyzing the obstacles to democratization in post- independence Africa, Mahmood Mamdani offers a bold, insightful account of colonialism's legacy--a bifurcated power that mediated racial domination through tribally organized local authorities, reproducing racial identity in citizens and ethnic identity in subjects. Many writers have understood colonial rule as either "direct" (French) or "indirect" (British), with a third variant--apartheid--as exceptional. This benign terminology, Mamdani shows, masks the fact that these were actually variants of a despotism. While direct rule denied rights to subjects on racial grounds, indirect rule incorporated them into a "customary" mode of rule, with state-appointed Native Authorities defining…


The Black Man’s Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation-State

By Basil Davidson,

Book cover of The Black Man’s Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation-State

Why this book?

Whenever I see suddenly this remarkable book on my bookshelves, I wonder how the author, writing in later years of his life, was able of combining his practical experience in Africa with his theoretical engagement of Africa. The author narrates sympathetically how African political elites who embraced Western alien institutions and state ideals failed to reconsider the reconfiguration of the nation-state on their continent.

The Black Man’s Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation-State

By Basil Davidson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Black Man’s Burden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Basil Davidson on the nation-state in Africa and its huge disappointments, its relationship to the colonial years and the parallels with events in Eastern Europe.

North America: Times/Random House


The State in Africa: The Politics of the Belly

By Jean-Francois Bayart,

Book cover of The State in Africa: The Politics of the Belly

Why this book?

This extraordinary book forces anyone who attempts at studying African politics during the post-colonial period (‘on the postcolony’ in Achile Mbembe’s term) as well as in the late Cold War to (re)consider the role of Africans in the shaping of post-colonial Africa. The author uses various examples to nuance the dilemma of the African state-building process. The notion of ‘the politics of the belly’ derived from a Cameroonian saying, not a Bayart’s creation, as many in the West would think of it.

The State in Africa: The Politics of the Belly

By Jean-Francois Bayart,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The State in Africa as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The State in Africa is one of the important and compelling texts of comparative politics and historical sociology of the last twenty years. Bayart rejects the assumption of African 'otherness' based on stereotyped images of famine, corruption and civil war. Instead he invites the reader to see that African politics is like politics anywhere else in the world, not an exotic aberration. Africans themselves speak of a 'politics of the belly' - an expression that refers not only to the necessities of survival but also to a complex array of cultural representations, notably those of the 'invisible' world of sorcery.…


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Interested in Africa, Somalia, and colonialism?

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