In This Review

Sudan in Crisis: The Failure of Democracy
Sudan in Crisis: The Failure of Democracy
By G. Norman Anderson
University Press of Florida, 1999, 272 pp

The U.S. ambassador to Khartoum from 1986 to 1989, Anderson concentrates on Sudanese politics during the regime of Sadiq al-Mahdi. Although he faults U.S. policy for some of Sudan's woes -- America lavished aid on the preceding dictator, Ja'far Numayri, then squeezed Sadiq's democratically elected but deeply indebted government until there was a net flow of money from Khartoum to Washington -- he holds Sadiq personally responsible for Sudan's "failure of democracy." The author's opportunities to observe and interact with Sadiq were extensive and give the book a valuable insider's perspective. We see a leader with stellar credentials who turned out to be indecisive, impractical, overconfident, and impervious to advice, and who learned nothing from past mistakes. Voters would have dealt with such ineptitude in a stable democracy, but in Sudan's fragile political environment they never got a chance. In 1989 military "saviors," fronting for a disaffected minority party of Muslim extremists, beat them to the draw. A failure of Sadiq, not of democracy, most would say.