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Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and…

Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror

by Mahmood Mamdani

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0307377237, Hardcover)

Book Description
From the author of Good Muslim, Bad Muslim comes an important book, unlike any other, that looks at the crisis in Darfur within the context of the history of Sudan and examines the world’s response to that crisis.

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

Saviors and Survivors invites the reader to rethink the lesson of Rwanda in light of Darfur. It is a warning to those who would act first and understand later.

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)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:45 -0400)

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