Saviors and Survivors

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2009-03-17
  • Publisher: Pantheon

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From the author of the highly praised "Good Muslim, Bad Muslim" comes the first analysis of the crisis in Darfur that considers the events of the last few years within the broad context of the history of Sudan. Mamdani also offers an examination of the efficacy of the world's response to the crisis.

Author Biography

Mahmood Mamdani is Herbert Lehman Professor of Government, and a member of the Anthropology and Political Science departments and the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. His previous books include Citizen and Subject and When Victims Become Killers. Originally from Kampala, Uganda, he now divides his time between New York and Kampala.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Mapp. xii
Introductionp. 3
The Save Darfur Movement and the Global War on Terror
Globalizing Darfurp. 19
The Politics of the Movement to Save Darfurp. 48
Darfur in Context
Writing Race into Historyp. 75
Sudan and the Sultanate of Dar Furp. 109
A Colonial Map of Race and Tribe: Making Settlers and Nativesp. 145
Building Nation and State in Independent Sudanp. 171
The Cold War and Its Aftermathp. 206
Rethinking the Darfur Crisis
Civil War, Rebellion, and Repressionp. 231
Conclusion: Responsibility to Protect or Right to Punish?p. 271
Notesp. 301
Select Bibliographyp. 357
Indexp. 375
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.



The Save Darfur movement claims to have learned from Rwanda. But what is the lesson of Rwanda? For many of those mobilized to save Darfur, the lesson is to rescue before it is too late, to act before seeking to understand. Though it is never explicitly stated, Rwanda is recalled as a time when we thought we needed to know more; we waited to find out, to learn the difference between Tutsi and Hutu, and why one was killing the other, but it was too late. Needing to know turned into an excuse for doing nothing. What is new about Darfur, human rights interventionists will tell you, is the realization that sometimes we must respond ethically and not wait. That time is when genocide is occurring.

But how do we know it is genocide? Because we are told it is. This is why the battle for naming turns out to be all- important: Once Darfur is named as the site of genocide, people recognize something they have already seen elsewhere and conclude that what they know is enough to call for action. They need to know no more in order to act. But killing is not what defines genocide. Killing happens in war, in insurgency and counterinsurgency. It is killing with intent to eliminate an entire group—a race, for example—that is genocide.

Those who prioritize knowing over doing assume that genocide is the name of a consequence, and not its context or cause. But how do we decipher “intent” except by focusing on both context and consequence? The connection between the two is the only clue to naming an action. We shall see that the violence in Darfur was driven by two issues: one local, the other national. The local grievance focused on land and had a double background; its deep background was a colonial legacy of parceling Darfur between tribes, with some given homelands and others not; its immediate background was a four-decades-long process of drought and desertification that exacerbated the conflict between tribes with land and thosewithout.The national contextwas a rebellion that brought the state into an ongoing civil (tribal) war.

The conflict in Darfur began as a localized civil war (1987–89) and turned into a rebellion (beginning in 2003). That Darfur was the site of genocide was the view of one side in the civil war—the tribes with land whosought to keep out landless or land-poor tribes fleeing the advancing drought and desert. As early as the 1989 reconciliation conference in Darfur, that side was already using the language of “genocide”—and indeed “holocaust.” But that charge was made against the coalition of tribes they fought, and not against the government of Sudan. In spite of this important difference, that language has come to inform the view of those who blew the whistle—genocide—at theU.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2004 and was translated into a unanimous resolution of both houses of theU.S.Congress that year.

Observers noted the exceptional brutality with which both sides fought the civil war. This derived in part from the zero-sum nature of the conflict: the land conflict was about group survival. If the stakes were already high, the lethal means to wage this bitter conflict were provided by external powers. In the opening phase, these deadly weapons came from adversaries in the Cold War over Chad: Colonel Muammar al-Quaddafi of Libya and the anti-Libyan triad (Reaganite America, France, and Israel); with the onset of rebellion, the government of Sudan stepped in to wage a brutal counterinsurgency, just as the managers of the War on Terror set about framing the government as genocidaire while shielding the insurgents in the name of justice.

There have been two international reports on the post-2003 violence in Darfur. The first was by the U.N. Commission on Darfur (2005) and the second from the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (2008). Neither paid attention to the land question that

Excerpted from Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror by Mahmood Mamdani
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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