Posts by: Alex DeWaal

Playing the Genocide Card

On December 18, 2013 By

This piece was originally published by The New York Times on December 18, 2013.

When France decided to send soldiers to the Central African Republic on Nov. 26, it did the right thing for the wrong reason.

France, the United Nations and the African Union dispatched some 4,000 troops soon after the French foreign [...]

Continue Reading

Recognizing Nelson Mandela

On December 10, 2013 By

For more than twenty years, following his conviction and sentence to life imprisonment in 1964, the Apartheid government in South Africa banned pictures of Nelson Mandela and his fellow prisoners. This ban was so effective that in 1982, following a medical checkup in Cape Town, Mandela’s warders allowed him a stroll on a public beach, [...]

Continue Reading

A Farewell to Madiba

On December 6, 2013 By

From “A Farewell to Madiba”, a praise poem by Thabo Mbeki, delivered by him to the National Assembly, Cape Town, on 26 March 1999

You have walked along the road of the heroes and the heroines. 

You have borne the pain of those who have known fear and learnt to conquer it.

You have marched [...]

Continue Reading

James Stavridis, Dean of the Fletcher School, interviews WPF executive Director, Alex de Waal. This is Dean Stavridis’ first year with The Fletcher School. He is a retired Admiral in the U.S. Navy, who preivously led the NATO Alliance in global operations from 2009 to 2013 as Supreme Allied Commander. The interview is [...]

Continue Reading

My main argument is that the Somali state, along with a number of other countries in Africa and the greater Middle East, underwent a profound structural transformation in the 1980s, and that we have been living with the under-recognized consequences ever since. At the time, this change had two particularly striking features. One was economic crisis, which meant that—in the words of Bob Bates—meant that “things fell apart.” The levels of finance available to governments meant that they simply could not sustain the basic functions of government, let alone build institutional states. The second was the beginning of the end of the Cold War, which meant that—as David Laitin observed—that the coup maker could not count on automatic security backing from one or other superpower. Common to both of these changes was a sharp reduction in the discretionary budgets that rulers used to pay their armies and security services and to pay off intermediate elites. I suggest that this (unmeasured) collapse in the “political budget” (the term is Sudanese political vernacular) was the cause of state crisis in many African countries, of which Somalia was an extreme and illuminating case.

Continue Reading

In the ten days following September 23, Sudanese cities witnessed the largest anti-government protests in many years. Many of the protesters aimed to bring down the government; others sought a reversal of its recent decision to reduce fuel subsidies. The police and security services responded with lethal force, and according to Amnesty International, killed more [...]

Continue Reading