Genocide by Attrition
The Nuba Mountains of Sudan
Few people know much about the government of Sudan’s genocidal attack against the people of the Nuba Mountains in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This volume documents this atrocity, focusing on crimes that even human rights activists and genocide scholars do not fully understand. Its detailed examination of the forced starvation of the Nuba Mountains people provides a powerful statement, and will be a resource for professionals who teach the subject.
Genocide by Attrition provides a solid sense of antecedents to the genocidal actions in the Nuba Mountains. It introduces the main actors, describes how the Nuba were forced into starvation by their government, and tells how those who managed to survive did so. Totten provides a valuable resource for those who understand genocide as a state crime.
The interviews provide in-depth stories and revelatory information about what Totten characterizes as genocide by attrition. Among the themes that link most of the interviews are: the discrimination against and disenfranchisement of the Nuba by the government; the destruction of villages and farms; and the impact of the forced starvation. The book also documents the anger and frustration of the Nuba Mountains people at being left out of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between the South and the North, and their ongoing fear that the government might once again carry out a genocidal assault against them.
“It is impressive how Totten went out of his way to consult locals over years, and used Africa-based research and hands-on reports of international organisations, rather than to affirm politics-sponsored rhetoric and universal acclamations. With the interviews being at the centre of the presentation, it is an authentic report of the events, people, ethnic agendas, local interests and religious tensions, from the onset of the persecution to the effects of an ill-advised CPA in post-2011 Sudan. . . . . the glossary provided at the end offers a very helpful reference to terms, people and events in detail and in the Sudanese context. . . . The case of the Nuba, as presented by Totten, is an excellent account of genocide by attrition. It provides precise examples of a continued persecution with the aim to cleanse an area of its people, for reason of their race, religion and culture in a state that is not at war with another country. The absence of theorising decorum and political rhetoric makes it a fascinating read. Totten gives voice to the targeted people without any guidance as to what he wants to hear and let them talk in their language. . . . The main points of Totten’s critique are the international failure of response, the failure to acknowledge the genocidal persecution of the Nuba people and a critique of sporadic political exploit of atrocious events in world politics. . . . Totten argues for the importance of grass roots investigations and empirical, case-based research in ways that provide evidence for an overdue rethinking of genocide concepts for conflicts in the 21st century.”
—Christiane Grieb, Dialogues on Historical Justice and Memory
"This very moving book provides gripping first-hand stories about the persecution and extermination of the Otoro, Kwalib, and Tira peoples (sometimes known collectively as the 'Nuba People') in Sudan, with indispensable analytic essays that expose the international community's manifest lack of political will to enforce the Genocide Convention, or to make the International Criminal Court an effective institution."
—Hannibal Travis, associate professor of law, Florida International University College of Law
"As was the case with the victims of the Darfur and Rwanda genocides, now the victims in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan have found in Samuel Totten their listener, the analyst of their experience, and their advocate. His study makes important advances in our understanding of the genocidal phenomenon. The destructive power of forced starvation and the way follow-up attacks give momentum to a people's attrition have never been so clearly portrayed. Nor has such a compact study ever served up such fruitful generalizations about perpetrator and bystander behavior, combined with promising recommendations for action."
—John Hubbel Weiss, associate professor of history, Cornell University