Abdel Salam Sidahmed and Alsir Sidahmed. Sudan: The Contemporary Middle East.

AuthorLobban, Richard A., Jr.
PositionBook review

Abdel Salam Sidahmed and Alsir Sidahmed. Sudan: The Contemporary Middle East. London, U.K.: Routledge, 2005, 180 pages. Hardcover $105.

Sudan is in the popular news these days and for those who have lamented its long-time obscurity one might be happy about this. But, typically, such modern Western coverage is often for sad and troubling reasons. Moreover, too much written about Sudan is simplistic, uninformed, and terribly partisan. So when I picked up this book, I was already worried, but very quickly found that this work was very accessible and clear. It should be widely read by those who want to understand the evolution of Sudan in the colonial and post-colonial periods. This work is seriously informative and a smooth read.

I was glad to see that the chronology, drawn from one of my own works, helped to give some historical foundation. Although the book was published in 2005 it clearly was written before the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), before the present extent of the Darfur crisis, before the death of John Garang and before the Black Book. However, I did read this work with these rear view glasses and the strength of this work is that one can clearly find the roots of what problematically unfolded in the subsequent years. There was considerable material on Darfur that presaged the current catastrophe. The introductory chapter on state formation was excellent in terms of being comprehensive while surveying the main recent epochs of Sudanese history. It was especially strong on the early modern period of Mahdism and on the important White Flag League that continued the struggle against imperialism in a new way even into the British colonial era.

The book gained more strength in chapter two that covered the postcolonial era which is the main focus of the authors. It gave a knowledgeable understanding of the oscillation between military and democratic rule and it sorted out the complexities and contradictions of the Nimieri regime. In fact, this is a potentially very confusing and difficult episode in Sudanese history but the authors sliced through it with important masterstrokes, especially on the thorny topic of the relation of Islam and the state then and now. Some of what the authors included is from their personal knowledge that some foreign scholars of Sudan miss, so it is a fresh and deeper reference of this period. The military and political rise of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) is carefully explored and in...

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