Rob Crilly


July 26, 2009

Things I’ll Miss

As I pack up ready to leave Nairobi, these are the things I’ll remember fondly "How are you?" – it only takes a few seconds, but how much nicer to preface each encounter with a friend or stranger with a short enquiry into their wellbeing or news Monkeys – they may have nicked bananas and […]


July 24, 2009

Endorsements

So the second draft is done. There is more editing ahead, and the afterword will probably be redone to take account of ongoing developments in Darfur. But the back is broken, the end is in sight etc. My publisher has read the manuscript. But she knows what to expect. There are typos, occasional bouts of […]


July 21, 2009

Getting It Wrong in Somalia Over and Over Again

Al Shabaab is a nasty, thuggish organisation that started as a protection unit for visiting al Qaeda operatives and has today morphed into a network of clan-based Islamist militias, which controls a good chunk of southern, central Somalia. It has imposed its own brand of brutal Sharia law on its enemies – and its supporters. […]


July 20, 2009

Arses for Africa

    Can’t believe no-one brought this little fundraising gimmick to my attention earlier. The manufacturers have the following helpful tip for getting your message across with this tasteful thong Panty-minimalists love our casual thong that covers sweet spots without covering your assets; putting an end to panty-lines. This under-goodie is "outta sight" in low-rise […]


July 19, 2009

The Moleskine and Me

I have a Moleskine notebook. I know this because I found it in my notebook drawer as I cleared it out the other day. It was lying next to all my other notebooks. Unlike my other notebooks – filled with untidy shorthand, illegible phone numbers and doodles – my Moleskine is completely empty. I bought […]


July 18, 2009

The Tanks That Won’t Go Away

Well this is awkward, isn’t it? You may remember that last year Somali pirates captured a ship loaded with 33 T-72 tanks, which the Kenyan government went to great lengths to deny were destined for its friends in south Sudan (arming one side or the other being in breach of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, unless […]


July 16, 2009

Don’t Send Me Home, says Refugee

Been busy with other things so have missed a few gems over the past few weeks, so I’ll be catching up on a few oldies starting with this in the Sudan Tribune…   The chairman of Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) Abdel-Wahid Al-Nur dismissed reports by the African Union – United Nations mission in Darfur (UNAMID) on […]


July 14, 2009

The Future of Darfur Advocacy

Over at The Promise of Engagement my good friend Bec Hamilton, who is researching a book on Darfur, kicks off a debate on the future of advocacy… Alex de Waal and Nick Kristof come from relatively different ends of the Darfur advocacy spectrum. Yet last week de Waal’s Making Sense of Darfur piece asked “Can […]


July 13, 2009

Shoddy Deals for Darfur

So you may remember that a few weeks ago I wondered what had prompted three NGOs – smeared, criminalised, intimidated  – expelled from Darfur to consider returning. With no guarantees that the same thing wouldn’t happen all over again once they had poured millions of dollars more into the region, they decided to return with […]


July 11, 2009

Gambling for Sudan

I’m generally in favour of celebrities getting involved in awareness raising campaigns for Africa’s miserable assortment of wars. And, while destroying children’s toys for Darfur appeared to show a slight misunderstanding of the nature of kids’ playthings in this part of the world, I wasn’t going to get too pedantic about cultural disconnects and so […]


July 2, 2009

Time for a Change

  It’s almost five years since I arrived to live and work in Kenya. Gradually the feelings of excitement and adventure have given way to a sense of deja vu as the same stories come around again and again. Every year there are warnings of famine in Ethiopia. Every two years there is drought in […]


June 26, 2009

Roll With It

Aid workers in Dadaab – the world’s largest refugee camp, set up in 1991 to cater for Somalis fleeing civil war – tell me that families always ask for cylindrical jerry cans rather than ones with square edges. The reason is simple. Five-year-old daughters cannot carry a can filled with 20l of water. But they […]


June 23, 2009

Who’s Got Your Back?

Newspapers are going to the wall and freelancers in all industries are struggling as the ranks of the self-employed are swollen by the newly de-salaried. Not a good time to be a freelance journalist. There seems to be more and more competition at a time when newsdesks have less and less money to spend on […]


June 17, 2009

Microwaving the Frog in Darfur

Here’s how one of my aid worker friends put it: "It’s like the boiling frog. If you had said to us at the start of the Darfur emergency that this is where we would end up, then no-one would have accepted it. But Khartoum made things worse bit by bit, almost imperceptibly until we ended […]


June 16, 2009

The Queen’s Birthday

So, once a year Nairobi society gets together to celebrate the Queen’s birthday. As far as I know no-one bothers to do this sort of thing in Britain but as Kenya aspires to be Britain of the 1950s this is quite a big deal. The only reason for attending is to see which innappropriate speaker […]


June 14, 2009

What’s the Point of Advocacy?

Signs of weariness among some of the campaigners who first brought Darfur to the world’s attention. After six years of advocacy, of campaigning for an end to the conflict, there’s a moment of soul-searching. Nick Kristof, columnist for the New York Times, wrote the first article that catapulted the crisis into public consciousness. Now he […]


June 10, 2009

Save to Rename Itself Dave and Return to Darfur

Three expelled charities are still in talks to go back into Darfur, according to Reuters. I find this whole thing ridiculous, as I’ve posted before. The three agencies are Mercy Corps, Care and Save the Children (US). There are good reasons for returning of course: the agencies can gain much-needed publicity and funding. With 10 […]


June 7, 2009

Jem’s Mobile Media Centre

The war in Darfur is being fought with pickups loaded with Dushka anti-aircraft guns, rocket propelled grenades and a Toyota LandCruiser kitted out as a mobile media centre. Deep in North Darfur, along the border with Chad, Khalid Mohamed Ahmed produces a newsletter for the troops, updates sudanjem.com and even sends videos to YouTube. "Our […]


June 6, 2009

Those White Arab Horsemen At It Again…

Here’s how one UN official apparently summed up the Darfur conflict to an unnamed celebrity passing through N’Djamena recently… Un-named UN figure: (enthusiastically) “Yes, basically the janjaweed are the Arabs, you know the ‘white’ Arab horsemen who carried out the killings against black African tribes in Darfur” The full, rather comical exchange is posted on Celeste  Hicks’ blog. […]


June 2, 2009

Dodging Antonovs in Darfur

It wasn’t much more than a speck. A tiny, white fleck in the wide blue sky above us. Our 4×4 lurched to a halt as Yahia, the driver, peered through the 10 inches of windscreen scraped clean of the mud that camouflaged the rest of the vehicle. Then we were off again, lurching over the […]


May 29, 2009

Dodging Antonovs in Darfur

It wasn’t much more than a speck. A tiny, white fleck in the wide blue sky above us. Our 4×4 lurched to a halt as Yahia, the driver, peered through the 10 inches of windscreen scraped clean of the mud that camouflaged the rest of the vehicle. Then we were off again, lurching over the […]


May 27, 2009

Food on the Frontline

Assida is a thick porridge made from ground millet and is one of the main staples of Darfur. It’s eaten by plunging your fingers into the stodgy mound, scooping out a scalding-hot lump and mopping up some of the sauce. For most of my five days with rebels of the Justice and Equality Movement it […]


May 25, 2009

Coffee on the Frontline

  Just returning from five days with rebels of the Justice and Equality Movement in Darfur. The trip was a chance to get under their skin and explore their programme for a chapter of my book (Saving Darfur: Everyone’s Favourite African War). I’ll be posting more about the trip in the days to come but […]


May 16, 2009

The Shanghai Car Park

  It’s good to know that when I stop off for lunch at my favourite Chadian Chinese restaurant, the Shanghai in Abeche, our armed friends are asked to leave their rocket propelled grenades in the car park. Tension is being racheted up between Chad and Sudan. First Chadian rebels, backed by Sudan, launched an attack […]


May 12, 2009

Back on the road

I’m back on the road after a couple of months stuck in Nairobi – the result of both the financial crash and the fact that I was locked in a room trying to write a book. Travelling would have been enough in itself but this is also my first trip to Chad. Arriving in Francophone […]


May 9, 2009

Cholmondeley and Me

It was one o’clock in the morning and my beeping phone woke me. One of my papers had been calling, late, very late. I called them back. "Tom Cholmondeley has just been arrested. He shot someone on his land," said the night news editor in London. "Where’s that coming from?" My fuzzy mind knew it […]


May 7, 2009

Aiding and Abetting Khartoum

So you are an NGO recently expelled from Darfur. Over the years the government in Khartoum restricted your operations in the field, kicked out your country director and a security officer, whom the regime accused of being a Mossad agent. Then, just when you are wondering how you can ever actually help the millions of […]


May 3, 2009

Save Darfur, Eat de Waal

Me, I love a good feud. The best ones are not between people with wildly opposing views (I’m thinking Creationists against Darwinists) but between people who should basically be on the same side (say Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins).  Generally these are motivated not by intellectual differences but by pure loathing. So too on […]


May 1, 2009

A Confession

OK, I’ve been found out. I don’t know how many people have died in Darfur. This was helpfully pointed out by Guy Gabriel on the Making Sense of Darfur blog… The use of these figures in the media is inconsistent; both individual journalists and newspapers themselves vary in the numbers they use. For example, a […]


April 25, 2009

A Confession

OK, I’ve been found out. I don’t know how many people have died in Darfur. This was helpfully pointed out by Guy Gabriel on the Making Sense of Darfur blog… The use of these figures in the media is inconsistent; both individual journalists and newspapers themselves vary in the numbers they use. For example, a […]