Saturday, March 25, 2006

Darfur, The Ambiguous Genocide, by Gerard Prunier

I was hoping this book would be more of a contemporary look at what is happening in the Sudanese region of Darfur, with reports of what is actually happening to the people of the region. You would probably be better served by searching out some of the Amnesty reports on Darfur.

Gerard Prunier’s book is more a history of Darfur, going back many hundreds of years. If, like me, you know zilch of African politics and history, you may find this book hard to follow. The sections on the more contemporary political shenanigans of the last twenty years were mind boggling – so many acronyms, changed alliances and entirely unfamiliar names. I confess to frequently getting confused.

I don’t know much of Gerard Prunier, and I don’t want to bag him, but I felt he could have made his book a bit easier to follow. It’s written in a racy, vigorous style that assumes you are keeping up with him. I frequently ran out of puff.

Prunier was also inordinately fond of using inverted commas, which I found irritating. Look at this sentence:

‘Another reason was that Islam acted as a kind of ‘false consciousness’ (falsches Bewustsein, if one wants to use the Freudian-Marxist vocabulary of the 1960s…..’

Um, this seems like pretentiousness to me. Besides that, the book is absolutely littered with typos, suggesting maybe this book was rushed out a little too quickly.

This is a shame, because a simple, accessible book on what is happening in Darfur would be of great service to those befuddled minds like mine.

The reasons behind the killings and rapes in Darfur are complex and difficult to understand. The region is predominantly of African ethnicity. The Africans are sedentary farmers, whilst the Arabs of the region are wandering herdsmen. Both groups are black, and the differences between Arab and African are told by facial features.

In 2003 the Africans of Darfur rose up against the Arab dominated Sudanese government. To put down this rebellion the Sudanese government militarily backed the Janjaweed to bring the Africans to heel. This has resulted in an estimated 300,000 deaths – an absolutely shocking crime.

Ironically enough, just as all of this was happening, the US invaded Iraq, whereas the real human rights disaster was happening in Darfur.

If you have a decent background knowledge of Darfur, you’ll no doubt find this book very useful. For others I’d probably suggest you start at Wikipedia’s entry for Darfur.

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