Harrowing but hopeful account of the genocide in Sudan, as told by one of the courageous locals who make it possible for a stubborn cadre of journalists to bring word of the atrocities to the outside world.
Hari belongs to the Zaghawa tribe, which when he was a boy came into increasing conflict with Arab nomads grazing their animals without permission on Zaghawa lands. The government in Khartoum encouraged the nomads, just as it encouraged the Arab militias called Janjaweed to kill non-Arab Africans and burn their homes. After a brutal assault by the Sudanese army and the Janjaweed on his village, Hari narrowly escaped to a refugee camp in Chad. There, he put his limited English and affable manner to work, hiring himself out as a translator and all-around fixer to many foreign journalists, who soon couldn’t do without his impressive Rolodex and his ability to make friends nearly everywhere. Crossing back into the conflict zone exposed Hari and his employers to indescribable tragedies. Following one particularly senseless massacre of 81 villagers by the Janjaweed, the BBC reporters he was with entered a medical clinic for three days “to recover from what they saw, and smelled, and learned about the nature of what simply must be called evil.” Yet Hari refuses merely to recite a litany of woe; he takes time to recount, in more vivid detail than that of any Westerner’s Darfur memoir, the history of Darfur’s ancient kingdoms, their hereditary system of sheiks and sultans and the complex interconnections among all Sudanese, who until recently mingled freely across racial and religious lines. The narrative displays a light touch befitting the author’s friendly disposition; even near the end, when he describes a frightening period of torture and imprisonment, he remains the kind of man who wants to look for the good in everybody.
A book of unusually humane power and astounding moral clarity: evenhanded but pointing a reproachful finger at all the right targets.