Africa’s First Democrats

Africa’s First Democrats

Somalia’s Aden A. Osman and Abdirazak H. Hussen
Abdi Ismail Samatar
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 09/26/2016
Format: Hardback 16 b&w illus., 3 maps, 11 tables
ISBN: 978-0-253-02222-6
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Abdi Ismail Samatar provides a clear and foundational history of Somalia at the dawn of the country’s independence when Africa’s first democrats appeared. While many African countries were dominated by authoritarian rulers when they entered the postcolonial era—and scholars have assumed this as a standard feature of political leadership on the continent—Somalia had an authentic democratic leadership. Samatar’s political biography of Aden A. Osman and Abdirazak H. Hussen breaks the stereotype of brutal African tyranny. Samatar discusses the framing of democracy in Somalia following the years of control by fascist Italy, the formation of democratic organizations during the political struggle, and the establishment of democratic foundations in the new nation. Even though this early state of affairs did not last, these leaders left behind a strong democratic legacy that may provide a model of good governance for the rest of the continent.

Author Bio

Abdi Ismail Samatar is Professor and Chair of the Department of Geography, Environment, and Society at the University of Minnesota and a research fellow at the University of Pretoria. He is an elected member of the African Academy of Sciences, a former president of the African Studies Association, and a trustee of Mogadishu University. He is the author of four books, including An African Miracle, and more than seventy articles and essays on African development and politics, including "The Dialectics of Piracy in Somalia: The Rich versus the Poor."


“Abdi Ismail Samatar, in this political biography and history of Somalia's early years of independence, makes the point that democracy cannot be consolidated without democrats or leaders who cherish democratic values and principles, and who are determined to govern accordingly.”
 — Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“A masterpiece on the short-lived democratic period in Somali history supported by Abdi Ismail Samatar's rigorous scholarship and superb analytical skills.”
 — Mohammed Hassen Ali, Georgia State University

“Africa’s First Democrats challenges several stereotypes about the workings and growth of democracy on the African continent. …More than that, Africa’s First Democrats opens up space for a broader rereading of African history and holds the possibility for a more extensive anti-racist and anti-colonial project that has long animated pan-African politics across the globe.”
 — Joshua Inwood, Pennsylvania State University, Politcal Geography

“Abdi Samatar’s book Africa’s First Democrats is of significance to geographical studies of Africa for three main reasons: (i) its decolonial approach; (ii) its dissection of democratic political leadership and political parties; (iii) its documentation of a historical period in Somalia, when political leaders advocated a vision of  a united Somalia that transcended contemporary representation of the country as a ‘failed state’ wracked by atavistic tribalism.”
 — Patricia Daley, Oxford University, Political Geography

“This study is important because it draws attention to the gamut of stereotypes and wisdoms espoused by critics of African leaders. . . . We all must salute Samatar for his courage to exonerate a couple of African leaders from the court of academic vilification.”
 — American Historical Review

“Going beyond postcolonial analysis, decolonization encourages re-thinking the world from Africa, from Latin America, from indigenous places, and from marginalized academia. Samatar’s book does precisely this, rethinking our concepts of statehood, democracy and leadership from Africa, and from Somalia particularly.”
 — Sarah Radcliffe, Cambridge University, Political Geography

“Excellent.13 2014”
 — African and Asian Studies

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Table of Contents

Preface & Acknowledgments
List of Selected Dates
1. Leadership in Africa
2. Aden: From an Orphan to a Nationalist Leader
3. Abdirazak: From Camel Boy to Freedom Fighter
4. The Somali Youth League and the Nationalist Project: 1943–1960
5. The First Republic: Institutional Foundations of Democracy 1960–1964
6. The Second Republic: Democratic Trailblazing
7. The March toward Dictatorship: 1967–1974
8. Conclusion