This thesis explores the intricate long historical trajectory of the foundation and formation of the contemporary failed state of Somalia. Focusing on the multiple challenges from which the Somali independence evolved in the late colonial and early post-colonial period, it offers an inclusive history of the making of the modern nation-state from a fresh perspective. Drawing upon previously inaccessible archival records, oral data and unique confidential data, the thesis develops an original argument from these new sources to show that the current political crisis in Somalia was rooted in the institutionalisation of élite power competition in Somali politics long before many have presumed. In analysing élite power competition and the discursive debates over the fate and form of the nation-state, the thesis approaches the nation-state project from a new angle to examine the activities of the nationalist movements and the almost identical methods they employed to engage with and overwhelm each other. This details the history of the Somali Youth League (SYL) and non-SYL nationalist movements which competed for power as well as the manoeuvres of the colonial powers in complicating this competition. As elsewhere in Africa, there is a predominant narrative in the Somali historiography, which created an ontological binary between anti-colonialists and pro-colonialists (the so-called patriots and non-patriots). Existing historiographies have focused almost entirely on the external dimensions on the history of the modern nation-state-building, particularly the socio-political aspects of the colonial legacies upon this process. By bringing the periods of the late colonial and post-colonial into a single framework, the thesis blends local and global (geo)political strategies to trace the political utilisation of the discourse of nationalist movements through the prism and paradigm of nation-state-building processes. Both the foundation in the 1950s and the formation in the 1960s of the new Somali nation-state were crucial periods that connected Somali studies to African Studies and global histories. This was, as elsewhere in Africa, when the state structures that formed the basis of the Somali Republic was formulated. The disillusionment of the nation-state shortly after independence was not only a revelation but a reflection of the élite power competition that began in the post-World War II period.
The central objective of this thesis is to historicise two crucial yet critical themes that have long been at the centre of the academic literature on Somalia: (1) nationalism (as an ideological instrument), and (2) clannism (as a mobilisation tool through genealogy). By challenging the predominant concepts of Somali studies such as nationalism and clannism, the thesis provides a new conceptual framework for Somali nationalism based on macro- and micro-nationalism to examine nationalism as played and practised under colonialism and clannism. Macro-nationalism and micro-nationalism are utilised to highlight the competition between nationalist movements that campaigned for trans-bordered nationalism and those that lobbied for localised borderline nationalism, respectively. Macro-nationalism refers to a buffet-like pan-Somali nationalism that challenged colonial borders, whereas micro-nationalism represents a buffer-like domesticated nationalism restricted to the colonially-constructed boundaries of ex-Italian Somaliland (Somalia). Investigating the interplay between macro-nationalism and micro-nationalism allows us to probe the politics of élite power competition played out with macro- and micro-nationalisms. Anthropologists, historians and political scientists have not taken into account of the macro- and micro-nationalisms of Somali politics. The early generation of scholars tended to assume instead that Somali nationalism constitutes as an essentially one-dimensional, insular, unilinear and unequivocal phenomenon. This widely-propagated portrayal of Somali nationalism as one unitary form and format overlooks its polarity and plurality expressed in the various visions of the competing nationalist narratives, discourses and debates. In order to distinguish the plurality from the singularity, the thesis makes the case that Somali nationalism, despite being long recognised as singular, was perforce plural phenomenon right from the beginning. After revealing that Somali nationalism was not a one-way but a two-way street, the thesis foregrounds the bond that tied the nationalist movements. By presenting a new perspective of the making of the modern nation-state through conceptually innovative approach, the thesis sheds a new light on how clannism was not invariably a determinant factor in Somali politics, demonstrating how the divergent dual political positions of the nationalist movements hardly displaced or discarded clannism, even when considered by many within both sides of the nationalist movements to be the antithesis to nationalism. A comprehensive historical study of these subjects contributes to historiographies concerned with the complexities that shrouded the emergence of the independent modern Somali nation-states. The purpose of the thesis is to further our understanding of the histories of the nation-state-building projects in Africa.