Prunier, Gérard 1942-

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Prunier, Gérard 1942-


Born October 14, 1942. Education: University of Paris, Ph.D., 1981.


Office—Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 3, rue Michel-Ange, 75794 Paris cedex 16, France. E-mail—[email protected]


Historian, educator, writer, and editor. Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Paris, France, researcher, 1984—; also formerly director of French Centre for Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


(Editor, with Jean-Pierre Chrétien) Les Ethnies ont une histoire, Karthala (Paris, France), 1989.

L'Ouganda et la question Indienne: 1896-1972, Éditions Recherche sur les civilizations (Paris, France), 1990.

(Editor, with J.P. Chétien, C.H. Perrot, and F. Raison) L'Invention religieuse en Afrique: Histoire et religion en Afrique Noire, Karthala (Paris, France), 1993.

(With Bernard Calas) L'Ouganda contemporain, Karthala (Paris, France), 1994.

The Rwanda Crisis, 1959-1994: History of a Genocide, Fountain Publishers (Kampala, Uganda), 1995, published as The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1995, 2nd edition, Fountain Publishers (Kampala, Uganda), 1999.

(Editor, with François Grignon) Le Kenya contemporain, Karthala (Paris, France), 1998.

(Author of preface) Mers'e Hazen Wolde Qirqos, Of What I Saw and Heard: The Last Years of Emperor Menelik II and the Brief Rule of Iyassu, Centre Français des Études Éthiopiennes/Zamra Publishers (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), 2004.

Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 2005, revised and updated edition, 2007.

(Editor) L'Éthiopie contemporaine, Karthala (Paris, France), 2007.

From Genocide to Continental War, Hurst (London, England), 2008.

Contributor to books, including Le Soudan contemporain, edited by Marc Lavergne, Karthala (Paris, France), 1989; Sudan: History, Ideology, Identity, edited by Hervé Bleuchot, Christian Delmet, and Derek Hopwood, Ithaca Press (Ithaca, NY), 1991; Histoire sociale de l'Afrique de l'Est (XIXème-XXème siècle), Karthala (Paris, France), 1991; L'Etat du Monde, Editions de la Découverte (Paris, France), 1991; The Human Commodity: Perspectives on the Trans-Saharan Slave-Trade, Karthala (Paris, France), 1991; Dictionnaire Encyclopédique Larousse, 1992; Enjeux nationaux et dynamiques régionales dans l'Afrique des Grands Lacs, 1992; L'Afrique en transition vers le pluralisme démocratique, Economica (Paris, France), 1993; Civil War in the Sudan, edited by Martin Daly and Ahmed Sikainga, British Academic Press (London, England), 1993; Nouvelle géographie universelle elisée reclus, 1994; L'Ère des décolonisations, edited by Robert Ageron et Marc Michel, Karthala (Paris, France), 1995; L'Économie des guerres civiles, edited by J.C. Rufin and François Jean, Hachette (Paris, France), 1996; Learning from Somalia: The Lessons of Armed Humanitarian Intervention, Westview Press (Boulder, CO), 1997; African Guerrillas, 1998; Zanzibar Contemporain, edited by Colette Le Cour-Grandmaison and Ariel Crozon, Karthala (Paris, France), 1998; The Path of a Genocide, 1999; Histoire d'Afrique: Les Enjeux de mémoire, Karthala (Paris, France), 1999; Ethnopolitical Warfare, edited by Daniel Chirot and Martin Seligman, American Psychological Association (Washington, DC), 2001; Rois et chefs traditionnels dans l'Afrique Noire contemporaine, Karthala (Paris, France), 2003; State Failure and State Weakness in a Time of Terror, edited by Robert Rotberg, Brookings Institution (Washington, DC), 2003; Encyclopedia Universalis, 2005; Security Dynamics in Africa's Great Lakes Region, edited by Gilbert M. Khadiagala, International Peace Academy (Boulder, CO), 2006; The Recurring Great Lakes Crisis, Hurst (London, England), 2007.

Also contributor to numerous periodicals and professional journals, including Esprit, Le Mois en Afrique, Cultures et Développement, Politique Africaine, Afrique Contemporaine, Tiers Monde, Journal de l'Economie Africaine, Islam et Société au Sud du Sahara, Nigrizia, Hérodote, Faim et Développement, Le Monde Diplomatique, Vivant Univers, Le Nouveau Quotidien, Refugee Survey Quarterly, Limes, Times Literary Supplement, Les Cahiers du Silo, Les Cahiers de l'Orient, Autrement, Iranian Journal of International Affairs, Revue Française d'Outre-Mer, Nord Sud Export, Arabies, Slavery and Abolition, Notre Histoire, News from the Nordic Africa Institute, Géopolitique Africaine, Current History, Harper's, and Horn of Africa.


Gérard Prunier is a scholar who has extensively researched Eastern Africa and the Horn of Africa, publishing numerous articles and books about his studies over nearly two decades. He was also a key figure in the French Ministry of Defense's crisis unit in Rwanda, which oversaw France's intervention in Rwanda in Operation Turquoise, which was a plan to protect displaced persons, refugees, and civilians in danger in Rwanda by establishing humanitarian safe zones in the country.

In The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide, also published in Uganda as The Rwanda Crisis, 1959-1994: History of a Genocide, the author presents his view that an extended history of Belgian, German, and French colonialism that played on ethnic tensions within Rwanda led to the catastrophic civil war, which, in turn, resulted in the Hutu slaughter of the Tutsi. In approximately one hundred days over April and May of 1994, as many as a million people were murdered while another two million ended up displaced from their homes and country. "In his study, The Rwanda Crisis, political scientist Gérard Prunier puts it in perspective: the daily killing rate was five times that of the Nazi death camps," wrote a contributor to the Queen's Quarterly. "Still too abstract? Try this then: had you had the misfortune to be a Tutsi living in Rwanda, chances are you'd be dead now."

Prunier provides a complex historical overview of the problems that led up to the massacre. He also analyses how such a mass genocide could take place with the existence of the United Nations and in the era of international peacekeeping. "This book endeavours to show the complexity of pre-colonial history and pre-colonial ethnicity in Rwanda, the impact of colonial rule, the development of extremism in the colonial and postcolonial period, [and] examines the regional dynamics which affected the civil war and the genocide," commented Villia Jefremovas in the journal Africa. Noting that the author "has produced the most thorough treatment of the background to the massacres," Foreign Affairs contributor Gail M. Gerhart, went on to note in the same review: "He presents his balanced and painstaking research with clarity and skill, and he shows how the ideological, political, and economic components of Rwanda's human time bomb slowly assembled."

Prunier received laudatory reviews from many other critics for his efforts to place the genocide in perspective. "Prunier is at his best when discussing the politics and strategy of the RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front]," noted Rene Lemarchand in the Journal of African History. "His excellent grasp of the issues and choices confronting its leadership before and after the October 1990 invasion is a commentary on his close personal ties with some of the principal personalities associated with the RPF." Some reviewers also noted that the author's emotional intensity also comes through in his account. "This is primarily a political history—a compelling narrative of events, its controlled anger often near the surface," wrote Population and Development Review contributor Geoffrey McNicoll.

In Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide, the author explores what lies behind a once obscure tribal conflict in Darfur that, by mid-2004, had become international news as Arab militias conducted a violent campaign against the residents of the Western Sudan. The campaign resulted in what many believe was the first genocide of the twenty-first century. Writing a review of the book Darfur on the Social Science Research Council Web site, Alex de Waal wrote: "Darfur's is an ambiguous genocide indeed. The crudity of its violence belies fine-grained particularities of motive that only make sense within the unique history of Darfur and its neighbours. Theirs is no centralized blueprint for racial annihilation, but rather a shading of different agendas and opportunistic alliances."

Prunier sets out to correct the misperception by worldwide media that the crisis resulted soley from an ethnic conflic resulting in Arabs, in Janjaweed militias, who were under strict government control, trying to wipe out Africans. According to the author, this perception is an oversimplification of the problem. To set the record straight, the author provides an ethnopolitical view of the problem that delves into the seminal causes of the conflict, how it occurred, and its relevance to Africa's future. He explains why the Darfu rebellion is seen as a major threat to Arab power in the country and the Janjaweed militia is actually, in his view, trying to intimidate other African Muslims into subservience.

In his historical overview of the Darfur situation, the author discusses such issues as its marginalization from the early twentieth century on, first under the Ottoman Empire and next via colonial dominance by a combined English-Egyptian administration. Even after Sudan gained its independence in 1956, the Arab-elitist central government in Khartoum continued to be oppressive. The author takes the reader through the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the region and on into the modern-day genocide. Writing on the Connecticut Coalition to Save Darfur Web site, David Morse noted that "in his last two chapters Prunier addresses some profound questions—what constitutes a genocide, the impact of the word itself, and the disparity between the ‘raw African reality and the international community dreamworld.’"

In addition, Prunier reflects on why international efforts have failed to resolve the problem. "At times bitter, at times scornful, Prunier illustrates the neglect of the international media in bringing the crisis to world attention," noted Yehudit Ronen in the Middle East Quarterly. Ronen went on to write in the same review that the author also points out some reasons why international efforts may have not only failed but been lacking in intensity, including "the overwhelming desire to finally solve the preexisting Sudanese civil war in the south, the U.S. preoccupation with the insurgency in Iraq, and Khartoum's cooperation in Washington's war on terror."

Many reviewers noted the academic nature of Prunier's book, which is filled with statistics and numerous other data. Nevertheless, many gave the book high praise. James Thorsen, writing in the Library Journal, called the book "essential for anyone wanting to learn about this complex conflict." Ousmane Kane wrote in the Political Science Quarterly: "Prunier's book is unique in offering a comprehensive analysis of the historical, internal, and external factors that have led to the current crisis. He presents a sophisticated analysis of the Sudanese conflict in general and breaks down the stereotypes that present it as a conflict pitting northern Arab Muslims against southern African Christians."



Africa, spring, 2000, Villia Jefremovas, review of The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide, p. 298.

American Historical Review, June, 2006, Stephanie Beswick, review of Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide, p. 933.

Booklist, November 15, 1995, Kathleen Hughes, review of The Rwanda Crisis, p. 534.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, March 2006, C.E. Welch, review of Darfur, p. 1299.

Current History, May, 1996, Michael Brus, review of The Rwanda Crisis, p. 234.

Economist, November 11, 1995, review of The Rwanda Crisis, p. 11.

Ethnic and Racial Studies, January, 1999, Rose Lindsey, review of The Rwanda Crisis, p. 190.

Foreign Affairs, May 1, 1996, Gail M. Gerhart, review of The Rwanda Crisis, p. 156.

International Affairs, January, 2006, Paul D. Williams, review of Darfur, p. 233.

International Journal of African Historical Studies, January, 1998, Marc Sommers, review of The Rwanda Crisis, p. 212.

Journal of African History, July, 1997, Rene Lemarchand, review of The Rwanda Crisis, p. 348.

Journal of Modern African Studies, December, 1996, Tony Waters, review of The Rwanda Crisis, p. 717.

Journal of Peace Research, March, 2006, Oystein H. Rolandsen, review of Darfur, p. 234.

Journal of Third World Studies, spring, 1996, Paul J. Magnarella, review of The Rwanda Crisis, p. 325.

Library Journal, November 1, 1995, Paul H. Thomas, review of The Rwanda Crisis, p. 91; August 1, 2005, James Thorsen, review of Darfur, p. 104.

London Times, August 12, 2005, Alex De Waal, "Deep down in Darfur," review of Darfur.

Middle East Quarterly, summer, 2006, Yehudit Ronen, review of Darfur, p. 86.

New Republic, January 29, 1996, David Rieff, review of The Rwanda Crisis, p. 27; May 15, 2006, Richard Just, "An Imperialist Indifference," review of Darfur, p. 27.

New Statesman, December 20, 1996, review of The Rwanda Crisis, p. 116.

New York Review of Books, February 15, 1996, James Fenton, review of The Rwanda Crisis, p. 7; February 15, 1996, James Fenton, "A Short History of Anti-Hamitism," p. 7.

Political Science Quarterly, summer, 2006, Ousmane Kane, review of Darfur, p. 322.

Population and Development Review, June, 1996, Geoffrey McNicoll, review of The Rwanda Crisis, p. 381.

Queen's Quarterly, spring, 1999, review of Rwanda Crisis, p. 92.

Reference & Research Book News, May 1996, review of The Rwanda Crisis, p. 9.

Times Higher Education Supplement, December 29, 1995, Paul Mitchell, review of The Rwanda Crisis, p. 19.


Bucknell University Web site, (December 5, 2007), "Gérard Prunier to Speak about Darfur."

Connecticut Coalition to Save Darfur Web site, David Morse, "What Can We Learn from Darfur?," review of Darfur.

Le Monde Diplomatique, (December 5, 2007), brief profile of author.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Web site, (December 5, 2007), brief profile of author.

Social Science Research Council Web site, (September 1, 2005), Alex de Waal, review of Darfur.

Sudan Tribune, (April 24, 2007), Lago Gatjal Riaka, "Darfur Conflict's Connection to the North-South Peace Process."

Urban Ministry Web site, (May 23, 2007), Christine Tan, review of Darfur.