What is the legacy of colonialism in Africa?

Human Rights Activist
Hirsi Ali recalls the promise of African liberation and the disappointment of backsliding.
  • Transcript


I was born at a time, say, about a decade after the independence of Somalia. What I have always carried with me around that time is the impression of my parents and their generation, which was, "Finally we’re free from the colonial yoke. We can determine our own destiny. We’re going to have our own nation, our own flag, our own parliament, our own army. There will be no pressure from outside." There was that. And I was born in 1969 on the 13th of November, and just the month before that on the 21st of October there was a military coup; which means for that generation in Somalia that looked so much forward to independence, in less than 10 years that dream of freedom was thwarted and disappointed. And that’s one part that I carry with me. The second part that I carry is I grew up with the vocabulary of freedom, and shape your own destiny and that kind of thing. That was on a national basis, but it affected me individually as well. And also my father was thrown into jail, which made my future and that of my brother, and sister, and other half sisters different from children whose fathers were killed, or whose parents were killed, or who went into exile immediately. My father escaped from jail and became a part of the opposition – Somali opposition – in Ethiopia. And finally when he escaped jail, he went to Saudi Arabia, my mother went to Saudi Arabia and we ended up there. And I’ve always had the pull on the one had towards the west representing my father. He was educated in Italy and here in the United States, and he was all about individual freedoms and democracy and that kind of thing . . . sort of modernity. And my mother, who after she had left her nomadic life at the age of 19, had gone to . . . was very much influenced by the Arab-Islamic way of life. And going to Saudi Arabia, for her, was getting as close as possible to Allah, and the prophet, and the holy house and so on. And she was very happy that one year that we were there in Saudi Arabia. So that is as far as surroundings shape. Recorded on: 8/15/07