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Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide Hardcover – 6 Jul 2005


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 212 pages
  • Publisher: C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd; 1st edition (6 July 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 185065770X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1850657705
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.5 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 345,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

This is a sheep's head of a book -- brutal, fascinating and full of meat.' -- Focus, October 2006

'a timely analysis of the history and present condition of Darfur' -- The Daily Telegraph, 13 August 2005

About the Author

A renowned analyst of East Africa, the Horn, Sudan and the Great Lakes, Gerard Prunier is a research professor at the University of Paris and author of The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide (Hurst, 1992) and of From Genocide to Continental War: The Congolese Conflict and the Crisis of Contemporary Africa (Hurst, 2005, see p. 26).

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By SSP on 11 Feb. 2010
Format: Hardcover
Short, but intensely packed full of interesting facts. A brilliant book if one wishes to know more about Darfur and the background to the first 21st century genocide.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 15 reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Puts the conflict in it's political and historical context 21 Sept. 2005
By Frank - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Prunier wrote "The Rwanda Crisis", which I think is the best analysis of the genocide in Rwanda. When I heard that he had a book on Darfur coming out, I was very eager to read it. I ordered a copy from London because it was published by Hurst & Co. two months before being released in the USA.

This book on Darfur is excellent. It is a thorough and scholarly examination of the crisis in Darfur, and he also analyzes the international community's response to it. The writing is dense and difficult, but it's worth it.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Comprehensive and Eye-Opening work 27 Jan. 2007
By Jazz It Up Baby - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
As Yehudit Ronen stated, Prunier rightly labels the response of the international community to the atrocities in Darfur, a "regression of civilization," a description he convincingly argues for in this comprehensive and eye-opening work. In it, he analyzes the historical roots of the conflict in Sudan's western region and discusses why international efforts to halt the tragedy in Darfur have been so impotent.

Prunier takes the reader to the early history of Darfur as an independent sultanate and relates the human movement into the region of people who now constitute Darfur's diverse ethnic makeup. He details the subsequent annexation of Darfur to Sudan and shows how British benign neglect toward the region began an important trend that endured in the era of independence. Prunier surveys the frustration of democratic politics in Darfur and the devastating famine of the mid-1980s in which about 100,000 people died. He addresses the Libyan interference in Darfur to promote Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi's war in Chad. This, he explains, was a critical cause in pitting the Darfurian "Arab" ethnic groups ("tribes" in Prunier's parlance) against their "African," Muslim co-religionists. It was during the chaotic circumstances in the region between 1985 and 1988, Prunier explains, that the pattern of Arab militia attacks on African villages was first established, and atrocities similar in manner, although not in scale, were perpetrated by the dreaded Janjaweed, the "evil horsemen."

Prunier describes how the cynical opportunism of Hasan Abdallah al-Turabi, the Arab Islamist who had led Sudan jointly with Omar al-Bashir after 1989, further fuelled the combustible components of the Darfurian reality. Turabi's political machinations aimed at removing Bashir from power and gaining sole leadership of the country. The catastrophic results of this power struggle, won by Bashir, would be played out on the backs of the Darfurians and Sudanese society as a whole.

At times bitter, at times scornful, Prunier illustrates the neglect of the international media in bringing the crisis to world attention, largely because of the lack of a catchy angle for another African horror story. Prunier states that the international community also paid little attention to the Darfurian violence due to a combination of reasons, among them the overwhelming desire to finally solve the preexisting Sudanese civil war in the south, the U.S. preoccupation with the insurgency in Iraq, and Khartoum's cooperation in Washington's war on terror. Darfur was thus given a backseat in international priorities as the Janjaweed murdered, pillaged, burned, and raped their way through the region.

While not discussing in depth the socioeconomic problems of Sudan--problems crucial in the ignition of the Darfur fire--Prunier contends that it was notions of race in Darfur that led to the horrors there. Despite the ethnic mixing in the region and the blurred racial lines between Africans and Arabs, this distinction was superimposed on the varied ethnic groups of the region, then exploited by the ruling Arab elite in Khartoum. The possibility of a racial alliance between the Darfurian rebels and their southern "brothers" terrified these rulers. Prunier claims that the killing in Darfur should not be seen as genocide, since the aims of the Sudanese government were not to eradicate a people but rather to carry out the brutal suppression of what was seen as an existential threat. Whatever term one uses, however, the carnage and misery unleashed by Khartoum and its Janjaweed cohorts remains just as horrific.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The Devastation in Darfur Brought to Life in Prunier's Enlightening and Disheartening Account 4 Jan. 2007
By Ed Uyeshima - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
For those familiar with Darfur only through George Clooney's media-savvy pleading to raise awareness of the genocide occurring there, Gérard Prunier's incisive, often scathing examination of the volatile political situation in this western Sudanese province provides quite a bracing, fascinating education. A French ethnographer and respected expert on East Africa, he brings together surprising facts about the war-torn area and the evasive actions taken by the National Islamic Front (NIF) government in Sudan's capital, Khartoum. The scope of the conflict is shocking - an estimated 400,000 deaths and 2.5 million displaced since it started in February 2003. But Prunier gets beyond the figures to paint a community so burdened by its own intertribal complexities that it maintains an unfortunate separateness from the rest of the country. He points out not only the passive actions emanating from Khartoum, but also how Darfur has fed into its own sovereignty by looking west toward the Sahel for its resources rather than the rest of Sudan.

The author does not hold back on his harsh criticisms of the NIF government which he sees as intentionally encouraging Darfur's ethic polarization between the Janjaweed and the non-Baggara people in order to maintain control over the area. Intriguingly, he sees the burgeoning racial politics as the result of increasing Arab influences in Khartoum since the official administrative perspective is blatantly insensitive to the traditional tribal cleavages in Darfur. These divisions are what lie at the heart of the atrocities in Darfur since they have ramifications on the economic and military situation, which began when the Sudan Liberation Army took up arms in 2002. The NIF unleashed militias to deal with the problem, but political infighting in Khartoum vetoed any acts of outright repression. This ongoing stand-off has caused up to one-half of Darfur's population to be driven into camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs). In this isolated state, Prunier points out that they are beyond the reach of international food aid, and malnutrition has festered to the point of casualties amounting to an 8% depletion of the population each year.

Humanism issues aside, the NIF has no incentive to address the devastation since their top priority is to maintain political supremacy, and from an outsider's perspective, they have managed to convince the rest of the world that they are supporting the Naivasha peace process. Prunier shows that it is ironically this peace process that assures the continued genocide. The UN Security Council has passed resolutions attempting to force the Sudanese government's hand in controlling the spiraling morass in Darfur. However, the UN is hamstrung by its inability to deploy peacekeeping forces in the area, and neither none of the major Western powers have troops available to send in their place. The author effectively shows how the UN has placed a greater priority in bringing a conflict-ridden Sudan back into the international community than deal with what they perceive as a civil war among insurgents. Because it is not a concentrated effort like the Nazis in WWII, genocide is not even an accepted term for what is going on there. Prunier does an excellent job of breaking though the semantic confusion to get to the day-to-day reality of the regional devastation. This is essential reading for anyone wanting to know what Darfur really means.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Poor Editing Harms Presentation 27 July 2007
By Mark A. Wolfgram - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I'm not an expert on Darfur nor do I spend much time reading about African politics. I came to this book in the hopes of understanding the Darfur crisis better. Parts of this book are excellent, but the poor editing and confused chronology for the updated section at the end nearly make the book useless for the uninformed reader. The first section on historical background is fascinating and for the most part clearly written, although it would have been useful to offer a clearer chronology of events in Chad, which have an important impact on Darfur.

Unfortunately, the editors did not take the time to correct numerous spelling, syntax and grammatical errors that existed in the 2005 version. I'm not a good copy editor with my own work, but these errors were so numerous and obvious as to be a bit disheartening.

But this is a mere annoyance compared to the confusing additional text added in this "revised" edition. (1) The glossary of Arabic terms is useful, but incomplete. (2) The list of abbreviations is incomplete, and quite often the abbreviations are not even spelled out with their first use. Try to figure out what AMIS stands for. (3) There are numerous mistakes and inconsistencies in the use of abbreviations. On page 161 the Common Peace Agreement (CPA), which one does not find in the list of abbreviations, is misspelled as DPA! Or does the author mean the DPA, another unlisted acronym?! Try sorting this out as a non-specialist. The author switches randomly between the use of the abbreviation SLA and SLM for a key rebel group - it's the same group, but again very confusing. I was only able to understand this based upon other outside reading. No explanation is given in the text.

Finally, the constant temporal shifts that occur in the "new and revised text," which should take the reader through 2005 and 2006 is almost on the edge of being useless, unless the reader is so familiar with the material that the reader can sort out the confusion. Read the final pages and tell me, if you can, when the DPA, another abbreviation not listed at the front, was signed, in 2005 or 2006? You'll have to look elsewhere for the answer to this important and basic question.

The editors of the Cornell University Press series Crises in World Politics, have done much better elsewhere with "Peace at Any Price - How the World Failed Kosovo," a far superior work on a similar topic. This book does not live up to that standard. - Mark A. Wolfgram
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Clarity Triumphs Over Cliche 4 Aug. 2007
By Scott L. Williams - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
If you will read just one book about Darfur, I can't imagine a better choice. Nothing else I've read so deftly sorts through Darfur's complex history, making clear how geographic, economic, social and political strands of the region's past made it vulnerable to the crimes perpetrated there. Prunier takes a seemingly incomprehensible story and makes it almost perfectly comprehensible. Prunier shatters all the myths and cliches that pervade media accounts of the conflict and so vex critical thinkers, who know that it can't be that simple- that there is more and at the same time, less to the story. His analysis of the Sudan's history is concise, compelling and dead on. Moreover, though the North-South war which raged for over 40 years is not the book's focus, he brilliantly analyzes how that struggle relates directly to Darfur. Chillingly, he explains how, for the Khartoum government, its actions ( and inactions ) in Darfur are perfectly logical and, from their perspective, quite effective. As one reads Prunier, he can imagine how readers years ago must have been sickened and yet, oddly "reassured "( I can't find the right word ) when they realized that the Holocaust was explainable. I say this not to compare Darfur to the Holocaust. Prunier doesn't do that either. What I refer to is the provision of explanation for events so mind-bogglingly horrible that one wants to grasp the causes, yet fears that this can't be done. If you are compelled to understand the historical roots of this horror, order Prunier now.
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