LEIGH FORBES: Books of all Sorts

The Translator: a tribesman’s memoir of Darfur

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by Daoud Hari.

A chilling first-hand account of the Darfur genocide wreaked by the Sudanese government in 2003. But coincidence, Sudan’s President, Omar al-Bashir, was finally ousted as I was reading this book in 2019, news which did much to keep the situation in perspective for me.

With an increasing scarcity of water, the age-old peace in the region becomes strained then shattered by the combined forces of the government’s gun-toting helicopters, and a local militia on horseback. Villages are torched, tribesmen and their families murdered, and crops destroyed.

With refugees pouring into the neighbouring Chad, Daoud Hari uses his local connections and multilingual skills to smuggle journalists into the battlezone, in a desperate hope that news will get out to the wider world, and help will follow. Journalists are banned, of course, and those who help them are at huge risk of capture, imprisonment, and death, particularly those with false papers.

Whatever you saw on the news or read in the newspaper at the time, is unlikely to prepare you for Hari’s account of his experiences. He pulls few punches in the telling of this tale, meaning some passages are as stomach-turning as they are tragic. But the book also contains beautiful descriptions of life before the war, and accounts of the enduring kindness that continues in such desperate times.

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