A starving African child lulled into complacency by famine. That is my image regarding Darfur and its humanitarian crises together with a salute to my high school geography teacher, who placed a blank sheet of paper over the entire continent of Africa on the world map and told us, that this was how most Westerners perceived the world. How right she was, and that is the reason, there is a need for a book such as “Darfur” by Flint & de Waal with the catchphrase: a new history of a long war.
Reading “Darfur” does not require any further knowledge that the sparing news coverage on the crises as the book includes introductory chapters regarding Sudan, the region Darfur and the people of Darfur, before focusing on the Sudanese government, the Janjawiid, the various rebel movements, the international reaction and the Abuja peace talks. My critic of “Darfur” is that it focuses almost completely on the political tug-of-war and not on the real life devastation of the conflict. The authors also make a side regard that the death toll in Darfur is not as high as international organizations make it out to be, but without substantiating this interesting notion.
It is clear that there are numerous, autonomous groups with interests in Darfur fighting against each other, leaving Darfur in “endless chaos” as the authors conclude. There are distinctions regarding Africans and Arabs, tribes, water and migration routes, the power struggle between the region and the government in Khartoum, the stability of Sudan and the surrounding countries, and the reaction from the African Union and the United Nations – all causes for fighting and leaving the population wounded, displaced, or dead.
I would have appreciated if “Darfur” included the point-of-view of non-combatants than the intricate to-and-fro of for example the peace talks. At times, “Darfur” resembles the minutiae from the meetings more than a history of a long war.
I recommend “Darfur” to readers interested in international affairs and Africa. In addition, “Darfur” includes heavy criticism of the international community’s interference, which in some cases clearly were counterproductive. So readers interested in diplomatic affairs and humanitarian aid will not be disappointed.