Richard Dowden

A regular blog from RAS Director, Nicholas Westcott.


Friday, 29 July 2011
Written by Richard Dowden
By Richard Dowden, Director of the Royal African Society On my first visit to Sudan – more than 25 years ago – I took a bus from Khartoum down the Nile to Renk, a trip from the Islamic, Arabic-speaking north to the culturally African south which is more diverse in its variety of religious faith. Two striking things have stayed with me from the trip. Firstly there was no road between north and south. Somewhere south of Kosti the road disappeared and the driver had a choice of... more
Sunday, 20 February 2011
Written by Richard Dowden
  The last time I was in Hargeisa, in 2001, the Maansour Hotel was surrounded by open space on a hillside overlooking the town. When I went back a couple of weeks ago it was completely surrounded by new buildings. Hargeisa is a boom town, fuelled by remittances by Somalis living outside the country but pouring money back to their families. Having rebuilt the city, they are now investing in property.     From dawn till dusk the town is on the move, “Stuck in traffic... more
Thursday, 23 December 2010
Written by Richard Dowden
  What an extraordinary series of events in Kenya this month. First on December 10th the American Ambassador’s brutally frank analysis of Kenyan was revealed by Wikileaks: every single member of the 41-strong cabinet is corrupt, said Michael Ranneberger. And he pledged US support for a new generation to replace the ruling elite.   Next the Kenya parliament produced a report on the 1990 murder of Robert Ouku, Kenya’s foreign minister, which stated that he had been... more
Tuesday, 14 December 2010
Written by Richard Dowden
  Here we go again. After Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe in 2008 and Mwai Kibaki in Kenya in the same year, now Laurent Gbagbo inCote d’Ivoire is trying to defy an election result. It’s becoming a pattern: sitting president reluctantly holds an election. Deludes himself into thinking he will win. No one would dare tell him he might lose. He loses. There must be some mistake. Someone must have cheated. The truth is that the ruling party has cheated, but clearly not enough.... more
Wednesday, 27 October 2010
Written by Richard Dowden
  Maybe we should all go and live on Robben Island for 15 years. The experience produces remarkable human beings. Ahmed “Kathy” Kathrada, the man who shared a cell with Nelson Mandela on Robben Island, came to the South Africa High Commission in London last week for the launch of Conversations with Myself, the new collection of Mandela’s writings. Some of the funniest parts of the book are the recorded recollections of Kathrada, now 81, and Mandela in conversation. On... more