Globalizing Darfur

Mahmood Mamdani – Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror

Copyright Pantheon Books
This striking passage is from the first chapter of Mamdani’s forthcoming book.
War may be serious business, but you never know it from the casual manner in which African wars tend to be reported in the Western media. Africa is usually the entry point for a novice reporter on the international desk, a learning laboratory where he or she is expected to gain experience. Reporting from Africa is a low-risk job: Not only are mistakes expected and tolerated, but often they are not even noticed. When it comes to mainstream media, there are no Africa specialists.
As a rule African tragedies happen in isolation and silence, under the cover of night. This was true of the Angolan war, which ended in 2002, and it remains true of the continuing wars in eastern Congo. When corporate media does focus on Africa, it seeks the dramatic, which is why media silence on Africa is often punctuated by high drama and why the reportage on African wars is more superficial than in-depth. The same media that downplays the specificity of each African war is often interested in covering only war, thereby continually misrepresenting the African continent. Without regard to context, war is presented as the camera sees it, as a contest between brutes. No wonder those who rely on the media for their knowledge of Africa come to think of Africans as particularly given to fighting over no discernible issue and why the standard remedy for internal conflicts in Africa is not to focus on issues but to get adversaries to “reconcile,” regardless of the issues involved.

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