Big Pictures and Small Details

Fantastic meeting set up by Arab Media Watch last night to promote my book. Good discussion with Julie Flint, whose grasp of detail in Darfur is frankly terrifying, and Sam Barratt, head of media at Oxfam, who gave a neat overview of some of the challenges facing aid agencies working in awkward places.

A lot of questions came up that get rather short shrift in my book: The role of oil in Darfur (none); The role of China (not always completely negative); and whether Darfur was used as a distraction from the real suffering in Gaza (nope).

It is always tempting to try to view Darfur through the prism of these global forces. To portray Darfur in terms of one of these global narratives. But I don’t see it.

Sudan is a country at constant risk of rupture. It is too big and unwieldy. When rebels from a peripheral area rose against Khartoum, the government unleashed awesome force. Today, the tribes that once tolerated each other view one another with suspicion at best and loathing at worst. Grazing, water and land rights are all issues. Resolving those tensions is the only way to find peace.

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