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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 2 .


Inside Sudan: Political Islam, Conflict and Catastrophe
Donald Petterson

Oxford: Westview Press, 1999
209pp. Index. Hb.: 19.50; ISBN 0-8133-3657-0



A brief and readable book, Donald Petterson's volume is an example of the diplomatic memoirs genre. Written in a very personal fashion, it is a reconstruction of his three years (1992-1995) in the Sudan as an American ambassador. While rich with personal anecdotes, the volume does not delve much into the political development of the Sudan or its experiences with political Islam, nor does it attempt to address the genesis and development of this movement intellectually or politically. While references to the war in southern Sudan are numerous, the book aims to offer a first hand look into the real experiences of an American diplomat in a dangerous location at the end of the century. The volume's most significant contribution to the ethnic conflict literature seems to be in the assessment of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter's successful attempt to mediate a cease-fire in 1995. Considering the very tense relations between U.S. and the Sudan, Petterson is correct in emphasizing the relevance of Carter's skill in securing the agreement. This is, in fact, one of the most interesting cases in which successful third party intervention was carried out by a prominent former political leader who was able to simultaneously benefit from his previous leadership experience and the freedom of no longer being a representative of any government. Other significant points, such as the tension between religion and politics, so significant in the Sudanese experience, or the issues of humanitarian assistance in times of war, are not covered from a conflict resolution perspective. All such accounts maintain a descriptive quality more useful to those who are interested only in the experiences of a Foreign Service Office (FSO).


Ulf Hansson, University of Ulster



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