John Ryle is Chair of the Rift Valley Institute, a network of regional specialists working in East and Northeast Africa. (August 2004)


Disaster in Darfur

Darfur is a 150,000-square-mile expanse of desert and savannah, with five or six million inhabitants, spreading out from the fertile slopes of Jebel Marra, the mountainous zone in Sudan’s far west. Remote from the country’s political heartland on the Nile, it is linked to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, by seven …

Children in Arms

In the Firing Line: War and Children's Rights

by Amnesty International UK
In the 1980s the standard image to emerge from the world’s disaster zones was a skeletal child with despairing eyes, clutching the hand of an aid worker. This was subsequently displaced by another stereotype, a bearded guerrilla fighter brandishing an AK-47, its forward-curving magazine silhouetted above his head. Today these …

Disneyland for Dictators

We live in the twilight of the dictators. The military strong men of South America are long gone. The big men of Africa are dying off, or repining in exile. Their replacements are constrained by the hegemony of global capitalism—which finds less use for autocrats now that the cold war …

The Landmines Ban & Its Discontents

The History of Landmines

by Mike Croll
In the furor over the publication of the US government manual on the Joys of Oral Sex it’s possible that the following event in the diplomatic calendar escaped your attention: in September Burkina Faso became the fortieth country to ratify the Ottawa Convention, the international agreement that forbids the manufacture, …

Sudan: The Perils of Aid

In the course of Sudan’s long civil war it has become easy to create famine, easy both for the government and for factions in the south of the country once in rebellion against the government, but now allied with it against the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the surviving core …


With Chatwin: Portrait of a Writer

by Susannah Clapp

Anatomy of Restlessness

by Bruce Chatwin
“If Bruce Chatwin had been portly, myopic and mouse-haired,” writes Susannah Clapp, “his life and reputation would have been quite different.” Chatwin’s death might have been different too. When he died in January 1989, his fatal illness, not yet acknowledged to be AIDS, was still a matter of speculation; his …