Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror

Mahmood Mamdani

Three Rivers Press (2010, North America, Philippines, and British Commonwealth English language rights)

Paper • ISBN-13: 9780385525961 • US $17 • 5.2 x 8 in. • 416 pgs.


From the author of Good Muslim, Bad Muslim comes an important book, unlike any other, that looks at the crisis in Darfur within the context of the history of Sudan and examines the world’s response to that crisis.

In Saviors and Survivors, Mahmood Mamdani explains how the conflict in Darfur began as a civil war (1987—89) between nomadic and peasant tribes over fertile land in the south, triggered by a severe drought that had expanded the Sahara Desert by more than sixty miles in forty years; how British colonial officials had artificially tribalized Darfur, dividing its population into “native” and “settler” tribes and creating homelands for the former at the expense of the latter; how the war intensified in the 1990s when the Sudanese government tried unsuccessfully to address the problem by creating homelands for tribes without any. The involvement of opposition parties gave rise in 2003 to two rebel movements, leading to a brutal insurgency and a horrific counterinsurgency—but not to genocide, as the West has declared.

Mamdani also explains how the Cold War exacerbated the twenty-year civil war in neighboring Chad, creating a confrontation between Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi (with Soviet support) and the Reagan administration (allied with France and Israel) that spilled over into Darfur and militarized the fighting. By 2003, the war involved national, regional, and global forces, including the powerful Western lobby, who now saw it as part of the War on Terror and called for a military invasion dressed up as “humanitarian intervention.”

Incisive and authoritative, Saviors and Survivors will radically alter our understanding of the crisis in Darfur.


“Mahmood Mamdani . . . is one of the most penetrating analysts of African affairs. In Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror, he has written a learned book that reintroduces history into the discussion of the Darfur crisis and questions the logic and even the good faith of those who seek to place it at the pinnacle of Africa’s recent troubles . . . [An] important book . . .”

Howard W. French, The New York Times

“Say ‘Darfur’ and horrific images leap to mind: Janjaweed, rape, genocide. But most of us would be hard-pressed to explain the violence there, beyond the popular notion that it’s ethnic cleansing of Africans by Arabs. Columbia University scholar Mahmood Mamdani’s brilliant new book, Saviors and Survivors, explains why this assumption is faulty, and why it’s foiling peace efforts.”

Katie Baker, Newsweek

“Mahmood Mamdani . . . demonstrates just how politically charged the word ‘genocide’ has become, and how many shady agendas it can serve, even among those purporting to act in the name of universal values . . . His extensively documented study of the political and media circus that came to surround the hitherto uncelebrated province of Darfur is a vivid demonstration of the predictably calamitous results of outsiders meddling in places whose history, politics, and culture they can hardly be bothered to read up on.”

Benjamin Moser, Harper’s Magazine

“Very few books on the Darfur crisis have provided such a good analysis of what is happening in the region and very few voices have attempted to understand the crisis in its local, regional, and international context. Very few books have attempted to discuss the crisis in its historical and geopolitical context. In reality discovering such an insightful book is like finding a needle in the sea.”

Al-Quds al-Arabi (London)

“[A] sweeping history of Darfur . . . Mamdani argues that calling the events in Darfur genocide is inaccurate and irresponsible . . . He believes that the West’s concern with Darfur is a preferred distraction from the failed U.S. occupation in Iraq, offering Western citizens a means to reclaim the moral high ground . . . [P]rovide[s] valuable historical and cultural background to recent events in Darfur and the sure-to-continue scholarly debate on genocide.”

Veronica Arellano, Library Journal

“A brilliantly argued and profoundly challenging critique of liberal support for humanitarian intervention in Darfur. Beyond this, Mamdani sets forth an alternative approach to such catastrophic situations. This book should be required reading for the Obama foreign policy team.”

Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur and Professor Emeritus, Princeton University

“An incisive and challenging analysis. Framing both Darfur’s war and the ‘Save Darfur’ movement within the paradigm of the West’s historic colonial encounter with Africa, Mahmood Mamdani challenges the reader to reconsider whether Darfur’s crisis is ‘genocide’ warranting foreign military intervention.”

Alex de Waal, Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and author of War in Darfur

“Mahmood Mamdani has turned his fearless independence of mind on Darfur, Sudan, and the so-called ‘War on Terror,’ producing a book that is as passionate and well-informed as it is intelligent and (for those used only to surface orthodoxies) challenging.”

Conor Gearty, Director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at the London School of Economics

“Mamdani (Good Muslim, Bad Muslim) continues to challenge political and intellectual orthodoxies in his latest book, a bold, near brilliant re-examination of the conflict in Darfur…. The book’s introductory and closing chapters are essential reading for those interested in the topic.”

Publishers Weekly


Mahmood Mamdani was born in Kampala, Uganda. A political scientist and anthropologist, he is the Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at Columbia University. Mamdani received his Ph.D. from Harvard University, and previously taught at the University of Dar es Salaam, Makarere University, and the University of Cape Town.

From 1998 to 2002, Mamdani served as President of CODESRIA (Council for the Development of Social Research in Africa). In 2001 he presented one of the nine papers at the Nobel Peace Prize Centennial Symposium, and was listed as one of the Top 20 Public Intellections by Foreign Policy (US) and Prospect (UK) magazines in 2008. His previous books include Good Muslim, Bad Muslim, Saviors and Survivors, and When Victims Become Killers, and his writing has appeared in New Left Review and the London Review of Books, among other publications. He lives in New York City and Kampala with his wife and son.


Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism

Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror

English/North America and British CommonwealthPantheon
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