In Darfur: A New History of A Long War (published in 2008 by Zed Books), Julie Flint and Alex De Waal provide a surprisingly accessible account of how the Sudan government, Islamists, the British colonial enterprise, Arab Supremacists and Cold War politics fanned the occasional flares of local conflicts already made worse by climate change.
The revised and updated edition starts with a description of Sudan and its people. More than six million people continue to live in a seemingly vast expanse of land with only one rainy season, a land that became the stage of one of recent history’s most graphically violent conflicts.
Darfur reads like long form journalism written by a researcher; it is immediate prose, taking the reader into recent history with firsthand accounts and engaging descriptions of the various characters and incidents leading up to the war from 2003 to 2006 and to the peace talks beyond. Julie Flint (Journalist and film maker) and Alex De Waal (researcher) put together a sometimes disturbing read. The raping and pillaging is not the only tragedy on display, the systematic under development of Darfur, revenge attacks and the dragged into resistance victims of Janjawiid violence have their stories vividly told.
Darfur is an important addition to recent African history. Here is an account of the complicated patchwork that is modern conflict in Africa. A narrative that considers how the past lives on in a present that tries to ignore it. The unseen hands that guide events and the loud attempts to control the narrative are unmistakably clear from claim to counter claim. This is also the account that details the sometimes difficult choices that the victims of violence have to make to protect themselves. A police officer who joins a rebel movement after enduring discrimination, farmers who sell camels to buy guns are amongst those who take up arms against Arab militia that are targeting them, and a government trying to keep their (Arab militia’s) abuses out of the international spotlight with “red lines” for journalists. Darfur will continue to be important to any attempt to understand conflict on the continent for years to come. It is a reminder that conflicts have contexts, causes, consequences, victims, and intertwining threads of acts that drag the boulder of destruction over lives. Threads pulled by many; in the past, and the present, friend and foe alike.