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Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror [Hardcover]

Mahmood Mamdani

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Book Description

17 Mar 2009
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.

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One of the most penetrating analysts of African affairs... a learned book that reintroduces history into the discussion on Darfur and questions the logic and even the good faith of those who seek to place it at the pinnacle of Africa's recent troubles. --New York Times

An erudite, exhaustive, and thoroughly unsettling examination of the conflict in Darfur. --Ethics and International Affairs

Saviors and Survivors is an incisive and challenging analysis. Framing both Darfur's war and the Save Darfur movement within the paradigm of the west's historic colonial encounter with Africa, Mahmood Mamdani challenges the reader to reconsider Darfur's crisis as genocide warranting military intervention. --Alex de Waal, Social Science Research Council --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Mahmood Mamdani is the Herbert Lehman Professor of Government, and a member of the Departments of Anthropology and Political Science and the School of Public and International Affairs at Columbia University. His previous books include Good Muslim, Bad Muslim, Citizens and Subject, and When Victims Become Killers. From Kampala, Uganda, he now divides his time between New York and Kampala. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most insighful analysis of the Darfur conflict yet. 25 April 2009
By Armando-Malwani - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book follows Prof. Mamdani's landmark article "The Politics of Naming: Genocide, Civil War, Insurgency" which appeared in the london review of books of March 2007. The author is an expert on african post colonial political history and international relations. The media and political elites of all sides of the political spectrum in the west have focused keenly on Darfur and continues to present an oversimplified narrative that seems to characterize its complex dynamics within rather narrow parameters defined by such diverse realities or perceptions such as the west's guilt over Rwanada, 19th century slavery in america, 20th century race relations in the US, cosmic battles between good and evil and missionary zeal, genuine concern for human rights, excuse to engage in exploiting sudanese resources etc. The reaction in america to Darfur has spurned the strangest bedfellows. The congressional black caucus and the republican party see eye to eye on Darfur. Despite the very real suffering of people in Darfur, the concerns expressed in the west which range from genuine to thinly veiled hypocracy and many are truly left without the proper context to the dynamics of the conflict and the accuracy and geopolitical implications of naming such a conflict as genocide. This book fills that urgent need and provides the historic and contemporary geopolitical perspective on the conflict and analyzes the international reaction to the Darfur crisis. Again kudos to Prof. Mamdani for this eye opener. This book should be a must read for anyone seriously needing to understand not only the conflict in Darfur, but also the politics of humanitarian intervention, post colonial african politics, consequences of climate change etc.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is it genocide? 9 May 2009
By S. J. D. Schwartzstein - Published on Amazon.com
For anyone interested in the situation in Darfur (or, indeed, Sudan) Saviors and Survivors is must reading. Mahmood Mamdani's extensive research and fine scholarship are impressive. His work is particularly valuable in addressing the question of whether what is taking place in Darfur is, indeed, as claimed by many, genocide - and he shows, convincingly, that it is not. Moreover, he shows that the highly-emotional claims by organizations such as "Save Darfur" have misrepresented both the nature and magnitude of the conflict; nor is not simply a matter of "Arabs" killing "Africans." That is not to say that Mamdani treats lightly the conflict or dismisses reports of atrocities. But he makes the important point that the conflict (or, more properly, conflicts) cannot be understood - and hence addressed - without understanding their nature and the various contexts, including historical and regional in which they take place.

Mamdani shows clearly that the conflict is, fundamentally, civil war, but not one in which the various factions are easily categorized - most certainly not easily grouped as "Arab" or "African." In this mix there are groups rebelling against the authority of the government in Khartoum, just as there are government-supporting factions and government involvement. (In contrasting the civil war in Sudan with what he terms a "liberation war against a foreign occupation" in Iraq, however, Mamdani surprisingly errs, as the conflict in Iraq, too, is complex, with most of the casualties due to conflict between Iraqis, not the American occupation.)

The question of when (or if) foreign interventions - military and/or humanitarian -are appropriate (as well as feasible) is a difficult one. But Mamdani's cynicism about Western powers' motivations goes too far - too far even in considering those of the Bush administration. Invoking the term "genocide" in certain instances, particularly Darfur, has not been a matter of its use as an instrument "by big powers so as to target those newly independent states that they find unruly and want to discipline" and however wrong it may be to talk of genocide in Darfur it can hardly be said that it is a matter of "use of legal concepts to serve the expedience of great powers." Indeed, there is little to be gained for the US or other Western nations in calling the deaths in Darfur a matter of genocide.

There is most certainly a need for serious debate as to when and where other nations should intervene in a conflict or humanitarian crisis. Should other countries simply watch without any action when thousands or millions die in civil conflict or starve as a result of conflict? There are, most certainly, no easy answers and no one formula which is appropriate for all situations. (Nor do all legal justifications pass the "straight-face test" - such as the invocation in 1992-93 of the UN's Chapter 7 for Somalia.) And while it is true that countries can make use of interventions to advance some of their own purposes, it is also true that there are times when there is a high degree of altruism. This writer is also convinced that the excesses, arrogance and incompetence of the Bush administration will have made the US (and, perhaps other countries) considerably more circumspect and careful about any intervention in another country, as well as considerably more willing to act on a multilateral basis.

But whether agrees with Professor Mamdani or not, Saviors and Survivors makes an important and scholarly contribution both to debates about Darfur and about where foreign interventions are appropriate.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bleeding hearts do not compassion make! 21 Dec 2009
By Charles S. Fisher - Published on Amazon.com
The last two sentences of the book summarize what is a very radical thesis for good liberals and their desire to stop genocide in the world. "More than anything else, `the responsibility to protect' is a right to punish but without being held accountable--a clarion call for the recolonization of `failed' states in Africa. In its present form, the call for justice is really a slogan that masks a big power agenda in Africa." Mamdani distinguishes between the justice of the victor and that of the victim. The former punishes losers, for possibly real crimes. It is a victor's vengeance. The latter seeks an avenue of reconciliation: being able to abide unpunished crimes with the goal of living together in the future.

Even though I follow the news rather closely the Sudan and Darfur are nothing like what I imagined them to be. To the extent they were in my consciousness I saw the government and its Janjaweed henchmen as perpetrators and Dafurees and Southern Christians as victims, the former of camel riding killers supported by radical Arab or Islamic fundamentalist villains. It is so much more complicated, that I find it hard to tease out all the various actors and their roles in the ongoing drama. It is as complicated as medieval East Indian history, the ethnic groups, their flavors of religion, multitudes of kinds of rulers and social organizations, on top of which are a series of outside political influences which waxed and waned. From Darfur being the source of slaves into the 20th century, to British and Egyptian imperialism retribalizing the country after it was somewhat united by the Mahdi. Gordon's martyrdom was that of a fool imperialist and its redemption at Obdurman by Kitchener was certainly a war crime though the Madhi's rule was not so innocent---things that the author did not go into very deeply because it was not essential for his argument. So the conflict is not bad Arab Muslims and their camel riding surrogates against good Africans simply trying to defend their homes.

Rulers after independence kept the colonial arrangement of ruling through tribal leaders going. This undermined rather flexible arrangements where land was shared according to needs of different pastoralists and farmers. Arab versus African had not been a living distinction. The British/Egyptian rulers hardened divisions that were much more fluid with camel herders, pastoralists, and farmers sharing different parts of the land in complex ways. Sudanese governments adhered to the idea that the locals were entitled to dars of land and that migrant settlers were somehow second class.

Mamdani does an excellent job of laying out the intricate ethnic differences that underlay Sudanese society---difference that often make the notion of people all belonging to one country irrelevant. Speaking with a First Nation Bear Laker in British Columbia, the idea that even Bear Lakers were one is kind of absurd. He related in detail how those living adjacent to Nisga'a, Gitksan, Kaska, Talhtan, Sekanni, and Witsuwiten intermarried and had different identification, so that recitation of lineage on meeting was an important part of figuring out how to relate, and divisions, even within bands (subunits of tribes), could not be understood without knowing these lineages. The history of the complex interrelationships between groups over time and the influence of outsiders undermines the "Save Darfur" or UN attempts to assign criminals and victims. That the Janjaweed have engaged in excessive brutality which are indeed crimes against humanity is true. But condemning them alone does not take into account desertification which has forced camel herders southward, the arming of different parties by Libyans, Americans French and Israelis, the wars in Chad, the artificiality of its border with Darfur, the role of cattle herders, the changing governments in Khartoum and their respective drives towards modernizations (both by communists and Islamists) along with the war against the south, and the rebellion of landed Darfurees against the central government. The crimes of the latter may not amount to those of the Janjaweed but they are not inconsiderable and may be just as much crimes against humanity. The deadliness of the struggle may be attributed to a fight over land, the losers of which face starvation. The image of Arab settlers driving southward is not accurate. There were "Arabs" among the Sultanates of Dar Fur and Funj. Skin color, religion and language are not adequate distinctions. "Save Darfur," but for whom? "Arab was the identity of power in riverine Sudan but not in Dar Fur. There is no single history of `Arabization'..... migration has at best played a marginal role." Into this mix has waded the International Criminal Court. From Mamdani's view this is a court which accuses according to the interests of various members of the Security Counsel by dictating what cases may or may not be heard. Certainly the war crimes of the United Sates in Iraq far exceed any killing in Sudan in terms of both death and population displacements, Yet Africa is the main target of the ICC.

What is the solution. For Mamdani it is to come about by internal reconciliation not international imposition. This has succeeded in the Ivory Coast and South Africa It was undermined in Uganda where the US client government was exempted from accusations while its rebelling opposition was accused. In Darfur the preference of displaced people might be stay in camps supported by UN humanitarian aid rather than seek reconciliation which is the goal of African Union Forces. The UN's role is ultimately undermining of a solution and ends up serving US or European recolonization of Africa. As painful as it might be at first, Mamdani feels that the peoples of Africa must settle things among themselves--seeking the justice of the survivor, and be wary of how the industrial world would keep them subjugated in order to extract their wealth.

As inadequately as I have characterized it, this is a "must read" book for liberals and radicals. And for those who stand on the sidelines it is a warning not to let the well-intentioned pull on your heart strings blind you to the complexities of the world and the not so honorable acts of your representatives.

Charlie Fisher author of Dismantling Discontent: Buddha's Way Through Darwin's World
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courageous, powerful, truthful . . . a must-read! 9 Aug 2009
By Asantewaa Nkrumah-Ture - Published on Amazon.com
Dr. Mahmood Mamdani's book, "Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics and the War on Terror" is an excellent and courageous book; a most profound, well-researched, easy to read book on all the historical and political circumstances that have brought us to the current situation in Sudan.

He provides excellent counter-arguments, BASED ON ACTUAL HISTORY, TRUTHFUL RESEARCH AND TRAVEL TO SUDAN, to all the comments by the Save Darfur Coaltion; after reading his book, you may feel compelled to start organizing the "Save Darfur from the Save Darfur Industrial Complex". For example, page 63, "But that did not explain the relative silence on Congo . . . Could the reason be that in the case of Congo, Hema and Lendu militias -- many of them no more that child soldiers -- were trained by America's allies in the region, Rwanda and Uganda? Is that why the violence in Darfur -- but not the violence in Kivu -- is called genocide?"

Read this and be informed . . . then take action based on what is really happening in Sudan.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice to see a different view for a change. 13 July 2009
By Amie J. Woeber - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'm about half way through this book, and it's nice to be reading a different argument on Darfur. I'm actually living and working in Southern Sudan, and I've found the world is a little naive when it comes to Darfur and genocide. This is a violent country, has been for centuries; Darfur is just one blip on that map. It's nice to see someone writing about that. However, I think the author is going a little overboard trying to tie Darfur and the ICC indictment so closely to the War on Terror. I also think it's a little insensitive of him to have the attitude that because this isn't genocide (in his opinion), the Save Darfur movement is not important. Regardless of whether Darfur is genocide, there are still millions dead and even more displaced, starving, in need of medical services, etc. and Darfur IS a crisis. His writing however is blunt, short and to the point, and offers a very candid view of an over-politicized situation. It's worth the read, even if you don't agree with what he says.
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