Friday, September 10, 2004

Once again, Sudan: The Passion of the Present reports superbly on what is happening in Darfur. My friend Gary Farber also has links to a very interesting article by Alex de Wall in the London Review of Books for August 5, 2004: Counter-Insurgency on the Cheap. One of the interesting points that the author makes is that the distinction between "Arabs" and "Africans" that often comes across as a "racial" distinction is relatively new in Sudan itself (new meaning in the last 20 years), as a result of political and ideological changes. He says, "Despite talk of 'Arabs' and 'Africans', it is rarely possible to tell on the basis of skin colour which group an individual Darfurian belongs to. All have lived there for centuries and all are Muslims." I am reminded of the "racial" distinctions between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda and Burundi, created in large measure through Belgian colonial policy in the early 20th century. Or of what happened when Yugoslavia was falling apart - people who under the Communist regime had married people of other religions or ethnic groups who now had to choose which one they belonged to, because they had to know which side of a war to fight on.

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