During Ambassador Don Petterson’s thirty-five years with the U. S. Foreign Service, he had nine posts in Africa. He has published two books on countries in the region that may be of interest to our readers. Both are available at major bookstores and through his publisher.
Inside Sudan: Political Islam, Conflict, and Catastrophe was published by Westview Press in 1999. In it, Petterson provides background to the coming to power of Sudan’s Islamist dictatorship and the steady downward spiral of U.S.-Sudanese relations after 1989. He chronicles his difficult interactions with the government of Omar al-Bashir during his three years (1992-1995) as ambassador to Sudan. During that time, the Sudanese government continued to harbor international terrorists, commit gross violations of human rights, and prosecute a war in southern Sudan with no regard for the lives of southern civilians. Petterson describes what he saw on his many trips into the war-devastated south and the effort that he and others made to improve the international humanitarian relief program there.
Commenting on the book, President Jimmy Carter said: “In this lucid and detailed memoir, Don Petterson writes about his experience in dealing with oppression, terrorism, famine, drought, civil war, and human rights abuses. This authoritative account of U.S. foreign policy toward Sudan offers the insights of an experienced diplomat for greater understanding of both past and future events in Sudan.”
Revolution in Zanzibar
Westview Press is also the publisher of Petterson’s second book, Revolution in Zanzibar, which Westview is scheduled to release in April 2002. In January 1964 an armed uprising in the newly independent island nation toppled the one-month-old government and in the space of a few days took thousands of lives. Capitalizing on the turmoil and the hesitancy of Western governments to recognize the new, apparently Marxist, revolutionary government that had come to power, communist countries quickly established an influential presence in Zanzibar. The British, American, and some African governments saw Zanzibar as a communist cancer that could spread to mainland Africa. All the Americans in Zanzibar except the embassy’s chargé d’affaires and a junior officer, the author, Petterson, were evacuated. Four days later the two were arrested at gunpoint and the chargé d’affaires was expelled from Zanzibar. Petterson was expelled five weeks later, only to return soon afterward with the new chargé’ d’affaires, Frank Carlucci. The two worked closely together in the Cold War trenches until Carlucci’s expulsion a year later
Thomas R. Pickering, undersecretary of state for political affairs, 1997–2000, had this to say about Petterson’s book:
An intriguing account of action in one of the Cold War’s remotest cen-ters of contention played out by some of the most unusual characters in or out of fiction! Revolution, diplomatic expulsions, disinformation, misunderstandings, heroism, and genocide are recounted by an eyewitness to history and fast-paced, unpredictable change, Don Petterson, our man in Zanzibar in a time of trouble, turmoil, and torment.
“Much more than a valuable contribution to the history of modern East Africa,” commented Anthony Lake, former national security advisor, “this is a fascinating, highly readable, first-hand account of dramatic events and the professional life of a young diplomat.”