Saving Darfur: Everyone's Favourite African War Paperback – Mar 2010
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Crilly went there as a freelancer in 2005, trying to not only make some money stringing for respected publications but also to find out what was really happening and cut through the fog of disaster relief. He takes us with him on his often harrowing journeys.
He gives us a fly-on-the-wall insights into his struggles with government bureaucrats in Khartoum, his sharing camp sites with the various rebel groups in their far-from-safe sanctuaries, and the far-from-pleasant or secure refugee camps overflowing with folks forced from their homes and subsidence farms by predatory rebels, government surrogates, as well as government troops. At times, I felt as if I were reading Richard Burton's journals (at least what he would have written if he were a contemporary, rather than a 19th Century explorer); Crilly writes that well! Indeed, at times I harkened back to what I believe was Winston Churchill's best book, The River War, also about the Sudan, albeit more than one-hundred years ago.
One brief example: After destruction by government-owned Russian-built planes dropping drums of rudimentarily packed explosives: "Boulders, rocks and pebbles that were once organised into walls had given up any purpose and sunk back down to the earth; the mango trees that would have once been prodded by children trying to reach their fruit stood unpicked, their crop rotting on the ground."
It got so that the misery and suffering (the slaughter, the rapes, the pillaging, the displacements) was so "common" that editors were no longer interested in the litany. He had to keep asking himself whether what he was going to send them was "still shocking enough to make it on to the pages?" Because if it was not, he would not be published and he would not be paid. Yet, Crilly wanted to tell the stories that "were too rarely told. They were complex and fell outside the accepted narrative of popular understanding. Pitching these kinds of stories to editors was not easy." Selling Darfur is that book and Crilly's telling the stories that are too rarely told and his analyses are its great strength.
Horrifically, the various peace initiatives and the International Criminal Court's arrest warrant for Sudan's military dictator made things worse for the millions of ravaged and displaced souls. In essence, as Crilly tells it, the saving-Darfur folks' well-orchestrated campaigns to vilify and bring the Khartoum government to "justice" not only ignored the reality that none of the power players--rebels, government, or surrounding countries--were blameless, but also slit the meager lifelines of aid. As he puts it in describing a woman whose plight mirrored that of millions: "Previously a victim of war, now she was a victim of peace."
Please read Crilly's book because it is a mirror of all that has gone wrong with the human race for millennia. Perhaps it will help us find a better, more nuanced way.
So much is beautiful about Africa, so much is terrible. It is a continent that is growing up and the growing pains are intense and prolonged.
The magnificence of the vistas, the brilliance of the smiles, the laughter of the children, all are starkly contrasted by the desolation of burned villages and vast refugee camps, the tears of the raped and widowed and the wailing of the orphans.
In a land blessed by great riches but wracked by wars, hatred, greed and corruption Rob Crilly - one of a new breed of journalist prepared to get behind the black-and-white headlines - dissects just one of those wars or, as he calls it, "Everyone's Favourite African War" - Darfur.
Crilly says he did not set out on a mission to upset the popular view of the conflict - the tales of genocide by hordes of mounted Arabs sweeping under cover of darkness into peaceful Black African villages.
Such raids are happening, but this simple picture of light-skinned North versus dark-skinned South, Evil versus Good, presented, often in good faith, by some celebrities, organisations and much of the western press - far from helping the suffering people of Darfur - could, argues Crilly, be hindering a solution.
The failure of the international organisations big enough to stop the horror, to understand and accept the complexities behind what is going on, appears to be yet another black mark in their African exercise book.
Whatever your viewpoint, don't claim that you understand the Darfur tragedy without reading this book.
You don't have to buy it; you can borrow it or steal it, but read it.