Regarding Shukri Abdi


The travesty of Shukri Abdi’s death is a tragedy of globalization; racialized, exploitative, inimical and finally untenable. It does not ‘provide the goods’ either for the Southern refugees who stream into cities seeking shelter from poverty, famine, fratricide and war; nor for the Northern citizens who bear the daily brunt of austerity which serves as a subsidy to the stockbrokers and sycophants populating the palatial glades of high-street, wall street, the city and Rome. The structural racism that killed this eblem of innocence is articulated on a world scale on which we must operate; we must seek justice; we must move as one, united, global force for progress and civilization; cognizant and coherent in both action and analysis; it is time to revive the internationalism which is the living heart of our tradition!

Now, the facts of her final moments are mired in controversy, but only the most myopic eyes would fail to see that the bullying this twelve year old girl experienced in the leadup to her drowning was at the root of the tragic sequence of events. Child One, as he or she is known by the inquest, goaded Shukri into wading in the water with the complicit silence, if not the active support, of the other five children, saying, “If you don’t get into the water, I’m going to kill you”. Child Two was holding her hand, but the water began to flow and finally the grip was broken. Sinking down below the depths of the tide twice, Shukri never resurfaced and met her end, scared and alone at the bottom of a river; a victim of the vicissitudes of a racism rooted in the incoherent, imperialist globalization that recrudesced after the progressive postwar period of multipolar global integration.

It was in that period that, Somalia emerged from joint Italo-English colonization; and after the failures of the procedurally democratic, but substantively neocolonial regime that reigned from 1960 to 1969 – a mirror image of the Ivory Coast without the short-term economic ‘miracle’ (completely unsustainable as it deepened the disarticulated economic structures that generated growth at the expense of and very much though; growing pauperization of the vast majority) – Said Barre launched a coup d’etat that ushered in a thoroughly repressive, yet ‘nationally popular’ regime, that was forced, by the strength of autonomous popular organizations, to lay out concessionary amenities to the masses; not just health and education, but education in the national language, which de-emphasized the hitherto divisive clan identities, exploited to the hilt by Somalia’s five colonial aspirants – Engalnd, France, Ethiopia, and Egypt.

The armed conflict from which Shukri Abdi and her parents fled, was clan-based. And it was only after Said Barre, opportunist that he was, welcomed in copious amounts of Saudi capital and witnessed neoliberal economic reforms in the 80s, which, while generating the short-term growth necessary for him to keep his cronies in line, produced that wealth precisely by pauperizing the vast majority and reducing the overall wage rate of the country, and with it the value of it’s natural resource commodities, making it amenable to profit-seeking (and not politically mediated, as is sometimes the case with contemporary Chinese) foreign direct investment, that he felt it necessary to give his clan the monopoly of power in order to protect himself from the rising tide of popular disenfranchisement in the slums and sweatshops that were cropping up throughout the country.

The clan-wars that ensued, rolled back the progress made in the postwar period; siphoning surpluses into destructive rather than productive activities, levying unto the state apparatus a fiscal burden it could not bear in the form of corruption, opening the way for local warlordism and foreign meddling from Saudi, Soviet, American, and Ethiopian forces alike, who more and more became the sole beneficiaries and backers of the local warlords struggling for power; piracy, the emblematic essence of a once proud country, with a rich and verigated cultural history; criss-crossing the borders of the Arab and African regional centres, became the only option for papuperized fisherfolk and desperate artisans.

Fidel Castro, once proposed a ‘grand confederation’ of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, and Yemen; whose ethno-religious parameters would have equalized each other, reducing the space for divide and conquer tactics from imperial aspirants, while uniting the four countries in common anti-imperialist and progressive-developmentalist struggles. The lumpen development – growth through pauperization and austerity to attract short term hot-money flows – at the heart of the clan wars that ravaged Somalia and sent streams of refugees like Shukri Abdi seeking shelter in the metropolitan centres of the world-system, would very likely have been replaced by a Chinese or Cuban style growth model, that placed autocentric construction and the servicing of people’s everyday needs at the heart of the economic motor.
If we want justice for Shukri Abdi; if we want justice for the millions of refugees who continue to be caught in the pincers of east and west; north and south; we must construct a multipolar world order, in which the silent sentinels of structural racism – dollar hegemony, technology monopolies, arms hoarding, media cartelization, and concentration in the control of natural resource exploitation – are structurally delimited across the Global South, and not simply confined to the jurisdiction of transnationals in the Global North. Castro’s call for a ‘grand confederation’ seems apposite, even today; and the Cuban and Chinese models, insofar as they can be called such; insofar as they strive towards a polycentric and progressive world order, provide ingredients of a solution to the systemic crises of our times. The left in North and South must unite in a coordinated strategy to oppose the transnational hegemony of oligopoly-finance capital; and that begins with recognizing the global dimension of structural racism and other endemic injustices that plague our lives.


Amin, S. (2019). The Long Revolution of the Global South: Towards a New Anti-Imperialist International. Monthly Review Press.
Adam, H.M. (1992). Somalia: militarism, warlordism or democracy? Review of African Political Economy. 15(4), 11-26.
Morning Star (2020, June 12). Black Lives Matter Unveils Billboard of Victims Near Parliament.
Taylor, D. (2020, June 10). Shukri Abdi: Burnham calls for answers over drowning of 12-year-old refugee. The Guardian.

Justin Theodra, MSc Student, Development Studies, SOAS, London, UK




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