Several good books have already been written on the genocide in Darfur. Generally, they fall into one of two categories - either they provide rich historical, cultural, and political background (e.g., Gerard Prunier's The Ambiguous Genocide) or they provide first-hand accounts of the authors' experiences witnessing the tragedy of Darfur (e.g., Brian Steidle's The Devil Came on Horseback). What makes Cheadle and Prendergast's book particularly rich is that it provides useful background on the Darfur genocide, enriches it with the authors' experiences on the front lines, and also gives concrete tips for how average citizens can make a real contribution to efforts to stop crimes against humanity in Darfur and elsewhere (e.g., northern Uganda and Congo).
The "actor-vist" Cheadle and his activist friend Prendergast strike the perfect tone, not understating the horrors that the Government of Sudan and the Janjaweed allies have unleashed on "African" populations of Darfur, while managing somehow to present their complex message in a user-friendly, occasionally lighthearted, and ultimately optimistic manner. The reader closes the book after the last page feeling empowered to participate in a broad social movement with the potential to effect real change. In short, we are not alone in wanting to help the people of Darfur, and we have a real opportunity to make a difference, through emphasizing the "three Ps for preventing atrocities" (protection, punishment, and peacemaking), and applying the authors' "six strategies for change". The strategies are particularly focused on constituency building and advocacy aimed at the U.S. Government. Consequently, while the authors certainly note the complicity of the Chinese and Russian governments and firms in fueling the all-too-literal fires of the Darfur genocide, much more attention is paid to the role of the War on Terror in providing cover for the Khartoum regime, and the consequent need for citizens to pressure the U.S. Government to push the Government of Sudan to stop its abuses, disarm the janjaweed, and permit United Nations peacekeepers.
One thing that I particularly liked about Not on Our Watch is that Cheadle and Prendergast are eager to accord recognition and visibility to the many people and organizations that are already doing great work on the Darfur issue. This has the effect of buttressing the authors' message of empowerment and optimism while also providing richly deserved acknowledgment for people who are doing good work, often at some personal sacrifice. It also implicitly strengthens Cheadle and Prendergast's credibility - in spite of being a Hollywood actor and a high-profile activist, clearly not self-effacing types, they are more than willing to give credit to others and are eager to promote and further enhance the strong social fabric that has emerged through the "Save Darfur" movement. I enthusiastically recommend this important, multi-faceted book, particularly for those wishing to learn effective ways to make a difference in stopping atrocities in Sudan and elsewhere.