- Series: African Arguments
- Paperback: 176 pages
- Publisher: Zed Books (March 3, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1842776975
- ISBN-13: 978-1842776971
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,924,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Darfur: A Short History of a Long War (African Arguments)
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There is plenty of stuff in this book about the barbaric atrocities of the Sudanese government and the Janjiweed, the paramilitary force which acts as a proxy for the Sudanese military in Darfur.. In Darfur, the driving Arab supremacist ideology was rooted in the "Arab Gathering" group which emerged under the backing of Colonel Qadaffi of Libya in the 70's and 80's. Many in Sudan's government have been influenced by this ideology. The authors provide much quotation from these brethren who stress the need to make Darfur a purely Arab homeland and to cleanse it of non-Arab elements. Qadaffi funded the Sudanese Islamist/Arab nationalist groups Ansar and Muslim Brothers against his enemy, Sudan's then dictator Jafarr Nimieri in the 70's and early 80's. Many in these groups ended up in positions of power after the Islamist regime took power in June 1989. Qadaffi also funded Arab supremacists in Chad during the 80's, many of whom found refuge in Darfur and have since made not insignificant contributions to the violence there.
It also appears from the authors' discourse that the conflict is driven by the struggle for land and water in an area which has seen much drought, and a dwindling supply of water and arable land.....
The authors point out that Arabs of the Bagarra Rizeigat--to which the majority of Arabs in Darfur belong--have kept out of the conflict.... A not insignificant number of the janjiweed are violent criminals released from Sudan's prisons to serve in that body......
Bagarra Rizeigat have protected refugees from Janjiweed terror. The Bagarra Rizeigat chief, Saeed Madibu has resisted efforts by the Khartoum government to bribe him and terrorize him into submission. The authors seem to imply that most of the Arab tribal elites in Darfur would greatly prefer peaceful social, political and commercial interaction between Arabs and African tribes instead of the apopaclyptic ideology of a Darfur cleansed of all black people that Janjiweed leaders profess. Saeed Madibu, in a contumacious act to the Khartoum government, has resurrected meetings of Darfurian tribal elders to negotiate in an equitable fashion, land and resource issues.
One of the two Darfurian opposition groups, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) is divided between two tribal based factions, the Fur, led by Abdel Wahid and the Zaghawa, led by Minnie Minawi. These two groups spend alot of time making war upon each other, rather than upon the Sudanese army and Janjaweed. They mention that the SLA, perhaps a joint action of the two factions, attacked Bagarra Rizeigat territory in the Summer of 2004 and burned villages, stole livestock and engaged in other such activities at which the Janjiweed are such experts but Said Madibu's forces drove them out of their land.
The JEM is much more sophisticated. Islamists disillusioned with the extreme corruption and violence of the Khartoum regime seem to make up a significant part of the JEM's leadership. In interviews with one or another of the authors, the JEM leaders disavow any association with Hassan Al-Turabi, the Islamist scholar who was Sudan's de facto ruler throughout the 90's until he lost a power struggle with the country's president General Omar Hassan Al-Bashir in 2000 and was thrown into prison. Turabi had attracted many to his cause in the 70's and 80's because he spoke of a brotherhood of Muslims regardless of race and spoke out against the extreme corruption and inequality in Sudan's society. JEM leaders, according to the authors' interview of them, think that Turabi is a disgusting fraud and don't want anything to do with him. However many of them are specifically committed to setting up an Islamic state in the Sudan, which they say will grant freedom of worship to other faiths and will fullfill the ideals of honesty and equality in government that Turabi's variety of Islamists promised back in the 80's but have made such a mockery of in practice. The leaders of the JEM are often former national and regional officials under the current regime and provide the authors with stories probably containing at least some truth, illustrating their own virtue when they were in the service of the current regime, in the midst of grotesque brutality and corruption.
The authors mention the US and UK backed Naivasha accords that ended the civil war in Southern Sudan in 2005. In that accord the oil revenues are to be evenly divided between North and South, the SPLA has become the autonomous ruler of the South and army units in the capital are divided 50/50 in membership between the SPLA and the Sudanese army. SPLA leader John Garang was made first vice president of Sudan but he died in a mysterious plane crash shortly after the Naivasha accords. However the war criminals in both the Sudan government and the SPLA were granted amnesty from prosecution.....The authors note the desire for stability in south Sudan with its strategically important oil wealth by the US and UK, the Naivasha accord backers. Darfur in contrast has no important resources.
In the case of the Rwandan genocide, it has been argued that the international community did nothing, allowing the genocide to unfold unchecked, which basically is true. However, it must be remembered that of those who did make a feeble attempt to do something about the genocide, it was the U.S. that authored and sponsored the first UN Security Council resolution condemning the genocide and calling for collective action by the international community to stop it. However feeble subsequent actions that followed may have been, it still was the U.S. that got the ball rolling. As I recall, it was the French that stymied more robust efforts to make headway in stopping the genocide in Rwanda. And rather oddly too, the Secretary General also quickly caved in to French pressure, and thus was not anxious to exert his leadership in overcoming French attempts to prevent robust international action. I was unhappy to see that Samatha Powell, in her otherwise fine book on America's reaction to genocide in general (called "A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide"), did not get these facts correct and in particular did not underscore the important role the U.S. played in trying to galvanize a collective international response. As well, rather egregiously, she failed to mention, except in passing, the genocide against Native Americans committed by our colonial forefathers. (See my review of this book on Amazon.com)
Regarding the present book, the authors tell us about the background and history of the events in Darfur. And as usual, the genesis of the conflict that led to genocide had social, economic and especially ethnic and tribal roots that can best be laid at the foot of British colonial policies. The cause is not, as is usually mistakenly assumed, due to religious persecution, for both sides of this (basically racial, tribal and ethnic conflict), are Muslims. The pattern of neglect of this vast southern region of Sudan (which also included black Christian and Amist factions) began during British rule, where because it suited colonial needs, the British deliberately restricted education in the whole region to one school. Its only purpose was to educate the sons of chiefs being groomed to become colonial surrogate leaders.
In 1956, when independence was declared and the Arabs took over, this pattern of neglect previously established by the British was simply continued and morphed into national policy by the new Arab rulers. Over time, and after a number of border skirmishes with its neighbor, Chad, ethnic cleansing by the Arab rulers in Khartoum became national policy. Famine, and especially competition for water were used as a political tools to push three key African tribes (the Zaghawa, Fur, and Masalit) out of Sudan altogether. Those that did not leave willingly, or would not leave under duress, were simply raped, tortured and otherwise massacred with their land and crops scorched and destroyed. Following a pattern also established by Westerners during slavery, the Arabs of Sudan eventually adopted an ideology of racial supremacy as a way of justifying the ethnic cleansing of what they considered their often less educated black African Muslim brothers.
The Janjeweed, made up mostly of the Masalit tribe of nomads, served as the vanguard of this racial ideology and continues to be used by Khartoum like a vigilante group that raids and strikes terror in the hearts and minds of the black tribes that settle along the edges of the Sahara desert. Predictably, the black tribes responded by establishing their own army of resistance, which attempts to defend its people and occasionally engages in uprisings and even counter raids and attacks. Khartoum continues to support and hide behind the Janjeweed because the international community allows them to get away with it.
The book also recounts efforts made by American evangelical groups to draw attention to the plight of the small number of Christian in the same region of Sudan. These Christians have also been persecuted and subjected to raids involving rape and murders. However, given the much larger problem of Muslim-on-Muslim genocide, little attention is being paid to the Christians concern. There is much more here, but for my purposes, this book answers my basic concerns about the history and causes of the genocide. Three stars.
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This book is very detailed giving all the background on Sudan the country, its...Read more