In Saviors and Survivors, Mahmood Mamdani explains how the conflict in Darfur began as a civil war (1987—89) between nomadic and peasant tribes over fertile land in the south, triggered by a severe drought that had expanded the Sahara Desert by more than sixty miles in forty years; how British colonial officials had artificially tribalized Darfur, dividing its population into “native” and “settler” tribes and creating homelands for the former at the expense of the latter; how the war intensified in the 1990s when the Sudanese government tried unsuccessfully to address the problem by creating homelands for tribes without any. The involvement of opposition parties gave rise in 2003 to two rebel movements, leading to a brutal insurgency and a horrific counterinsurgency–but not to genocide, as the West has declared.
Mamdani also explains how the Cold War exacerbated the twenty-year civil war in neighboring Chad, creating a confrontation between Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi (with Soviet support) and the Reagan administration (allied with France and Israel) that spilled over into Darfur and militarized the fighting. By 2003, the war involved national, regional, and global forces, including the powerful Western lobby, who now saw it as part of the War on Terror and called for a military invasion dressed up as “humanitarian intervention.”
Incisive and authoritative, Saviors and Survivors will radically alter our understanding of the crisis in Darfur.Amazon Exclusive: Mahmood Mamdani on Saviors and Survivors
Part One discusses the nature of Save Darfur advocacy. Like the War on Terror from which it has borrowed its assumptions and coordinates, Save Darfur has turned into a lavishly funded and massive ad campaign spreading and sustaining a lethal illusion, consistently exaggerating the level of mortality and racializing the reasons for it. Why has Save Darfur not lost credibility even though its information is increasingly divorced from reality? A part of the answer lies in its ability to turn activism around Darfur into a domestic "feel good" issue while obscuring the context of the violence in Darfur.
Part Two of the book explains this context, starting with correcting the widely-held assumption that Arab tribes of Sudan are settlers from the Middle East, when they actually comprise local tribes that adopted the Arabic language and identity in the course of forming local states. The book locates the roots of the current conflict in colonialism, ecology, and the Cold War: colonialism introduced into Darfur a system of local discrimination based on tribal identity; an ongoing ecological crisis has led to the expansion of the Sahara by a hundred kilometers in four decades, igniting a conflict between nomadic and peasant tribes over fertile land in the mountains of the south; and, finally, the Cold War confrontation in Chad between Gaddafi (with Soviet support) and the Reagan administration (allied with France and Israel) spilled over into Darfur and militarized the conflict.
Part Three explains the Darfur crisis. Rather than a willful attempt by the government to eliminate particular groups--genocide--the present phase of the conflict stems from a land-based ecological confrontation at the local level and a struggle for power at the central level, exacerbated by the ongoing War on Terror. The urgent need today is not to punish those responsible for the mass killings of 2003-04 but to arrive at a political solution that will reform the land system in Darfur and political power in Sudan.
(Photo © Elena Seibert)
I read the book in 2009, being interested in the history of colonialism and the discourses of humanitarian interventions. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Olga Baysha
I began reading the introduction to this book and thought it would be very informative. Up to chapter 3 it had been. Chapter 3 is titled 'Writing Race into History. Read morePublished on March 14, 2012 by Darrell Turner
While studying Darfur in my master's thesis, I was tired of reading biased books and essays. Mr.Mamdani's book made me relief. Read morePublished on November 25, 2010 by M. BAYRAM
Dr. Mahmood Mamdani's book, "Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics and the War on Terror" is an excellent and courageous book; a most profound, well-researched, easy to read book... Read morePublished on August 9, 2009 by Asantewaa Nkrumah-Ture
I'm about half way through this book, and it's nice to be reading a different argument on Darfur. I'm actually living and working in Southern Sudan, and I've found the world is a... Read morePublished on July 13, 2009 by Amie J. Woeber
I appreciated the perspective of the author's view of what is going on in Darfur, but I also sensed that he was equally as biased in his opinion as he identified bias in the... Read morePublished on June 12, 2009 by Steven Huntington
Substituting the colonialism of the past with the Islamic colonialism of the present and future will not bring peace or improvement in the lives of the people in this region. Read morePublished on April 22, 2009 by S. D. Hayes