19 November 2017

Books | Review: “Darfur: A New History of a Long War”

JEM Rebels in Darfur (Image: crisispictures.blogspot.com)

With humility and wit, the authors paint a sombre picture of a land torn asunder. Determined to deliver an articulate account of a layered and at times incomprehensible conflict, they take us on a journey through the region’s near-history, its inter-tribal arrangements and relationship with the centre. Against the backdrop of an Islamist project gone awry, they skilfully bring out the sinister role played by a fragmented, yet resilient, regime in Khartoum set on a quest for political survival no matter the cost.

While exonerating

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the government from the serious charge of spreading sentiments of Arab Supremacy in the region, the book clearly attributes the eruption of violence in Darfur to the divide-and-rule politics of the Sudanese Government. As to the make-up of the rebellion itself, Flint and De Waal deliver a lucid and succinct history of the different movements involved and manage to demystify the changing nature of what started out as a triptych rebellion by Abdel Wahid, the JEM and Minni Minawi.

Revolutionary sentiments abound, one is constantly reminded of the insidious hand of tribalism behind much of the rhetoric. This together with a constant graphic portrayal of the worst violence that took place robs one of any sense of false security. The authors leave us with no doubt as to the complex realities on the ground, not to mention the naiveté and clumsiness with which the international community dealt with the tragic unfolding of this crisis.

Despite its grounding in factual occurrences, it felt at times as a woeful tale about the unfulfilled promise of a just rebellion emasculated by the mere randomness of its protagonists’ characters. This book reads like a novel of intrigue; complete with an insecure government, regional power games, political manipulation and a plenitude of villains. And despite the underlying indisputable grievances, there are no heroes here. Thus, while hoping against hope for a peaceful resolution, one cannot help but feel the rancid taste of dejection at the realization that perhaps this is just the beginning.

Whatever you do, be prepared to leave your preconceptions at the door, this book will challenge every thing you know, or think you know, about Sudan. More importantly, for us Sudanese, it challenges the very idea of our nationhood. Even if you do not find the answers you want, I am sure this book will make you ask the right questions.

 

Darfur: A New History of a Long War
Julie Flint and Alex De Waal

Hardcover
African Arguments (April 2008)

2 Comments on this post.

Leave a Reply to Reem Gaafar Cancel reply

  • Reem Gaafar
    5 June 2012 at 11:22 am - Reply

    Sounds/looks interesting. Any idea if this book is available in Sudan? Speaking of which: we need a proper bookstore in this country. One with books actually written during this century.

    • Nada Ali
      15 June 2012 at 11:53 am - Reply

      Thank you for your comment Reem. I am not actually sure about the availability of the book in Khartoum. It probably isn’t available. I got it in London from Al Saqi bookshop. However, my understanding is that if you are in Sudan and have a kindle, you will be able to get from amazon if it is available.

      Having said that, I think we need to look into this issue for a future piece for 500wordsmag. Publishing and the status of it in Sudan is a ripe field for enquiry.

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