Sudan: Darfur and the Failure of an African State
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Over the past two decades, the situation in Africa’s largest country, Sudan, has progressively deteriorated: the country is in second position on the Failed States Index, a war in Darfur has claimed hundreds of thousands of deaths, President Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court, a forthcoming referendum on independence for Southern Sudan threatens to split the country violently apart.
In this fascinating and immensely readable book, the Africa editor of the Economist gives an absorbing account of Sudan’s descent into failure and what some have called genocide. Drawing on interviews with many of the main players, Richard Cockett explains how and why Sudan has disintegrated, looking in particular at the country’s complex relationship with the wider world. He shows how the United States and Britain were initially complicit in Darfur—but also how a broad coalition of human-rights activists, right-wing Christians, and opponents of slavery succeeded in bringing the issues to prominence in the United States and creating an impetus for change at the highest level.
several years before taking charge of fixing the 2010 elections for the NCP. He often led delegations abroad as well. Vice-president Ali Osman Taha, who had been at school with President Bashir, was never far away from the centre of power either. Together with Bashir, this inner circle often acted independently of the rest of the government, not to mention their supposed partners in the SPLM. A good example of this came in 2009 when thirteen international aid agencies were expelled from Sudan in
enough, when President Bashir was issued with his arrest warrant in March 2009, the first people to bear the brunt of the president’s vengeance were aid workers. Within hours of the announcement, thirteen international aid agencies, including Oxfam, Médecins Sans Frontières and Care, were unceremoniously expelled from Sudan. The threat of legal proceedings hanging over the Darfur crisis thus came to complicate further the chances of finding a political solution. The ICC, so one argument ran,
again. But the newly elected government would be unable to command any authority in parliament and be overthrown by the military in league with one or other of the parties – and so it went on. No parliament in independent Sudan has ever served its full term, except the first (which anyway started before independence). Meanwhile, the ability of both democratic and military governments to govern from Khartoum was constantly undermined by the draining civil war with the south. Thus from 1954 to
spell as a special adviser in the government from 2002 to 2004. Urbane and well connected, a fluent English speaker after nearly a decade of political exile in Britain, he was being used as a go-between with foreign countries at that time. Soon after the Darfur crisis started spiralling out of control, a senior US diplomat, whom he would not name for me, told him: ‘We warned them [the Sudanese government] … and they messed it up. We said deal with it quietly and neatly. But they messed it up …’
signing the CPA Sudan had made a ‘strategic decision’ to be more engaged with the West, yet the Sudanese government was now making a series of tactical errors that worked against this, mainly over Darfur. In other words, they had to stop the assault in Darfur before they could be truly ‘engaged’ with the West. For their part, Bashir and Taha responded that they had done exactly what the USA had asked of them – signing the CPA – and so they now expected the existing sanctions against Sudan to be