In This Review

War of Visions: Conflict of Identities in the Sudan
War of Visions: Conflict of Identities in the Sudan
By Francis M. Deng
Brookings, 1995, 577 pp

Sudan used to be thought of as a country of great potential. Today it is more often referred to in the context of unending internal conflict, gross abuses of human rights, the ideological pretense of an Islamic state in a society far from entirely Muslim--in short, a failed state. At the core of this failure, according to the author, originally from the southern Sudan, is the conflict over identity. Is Sudan Arabic, Islamic, African, multiethnic, or what? The problem is not so much that Sudanese society is divided. Rather, it comes from the state trying to impose a single identity on the entire population, something that the disadvantaged south has resisted since the mid-1950s. The possible solutions for Sudan's crisis would involve a remolding of identities--a long-term process--and could involve a more tolerant unitary state, some form of federalism, or separation. These policy options are not developed at length, so it is hard to judge which might be most realistic. Still, this is an important book about a country that is too often ignored in the West.