I bought this book because, having worked as a U.S. delegate to the UN during the Rwandan genocide, I wanted to better understand the background to the genocide in Darfur.
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.