Rob Crilly

April 9, 2009

Inside the Pirate Lair

After a quiet start to the year, the Somali pirates are back in a big way hijacking six ships in five days. An American destroyer is currently alongside the Maersk Alabama trying to help secure the release of the ship’s captain, who is still being held by pirates in a lifeboat. Some 15 warships (sometimes […]

April 5, 2009

Help Save Bonobos

  THERE is something distinctly human about Masisi, a baby bonobo. She could almost be a wide-eyed toddler as she reaches thirstily for a cuppa. But this is no cute advertisement for a brand of tea. Conservationists in the Democratic Republic of Congo have turned to the fortifying brew, laced with honey and lemon, to […]

March 31, 2009

All Eyes on Africa

  The Foreign Correspondents Association of East Africa is holding a photo exhibition of the best snaps from the past year. My pic from Kibera, during last year’s election violence, has made it in. Kids there invented a new game after watching Nairobi’s press corps descend on their small patch of mud every morning in […]

March 27, 2009

Something I Should Have Read a Long Time Ago

I bought The Root Causes of Sudan’s Civil Wars more than four years ago when I was newly arrived in East Africa. I skimmed through it before a trip I did to Rumbek, but its dense text put me off using it as anything other than a reference book. It was kept on the shelf […]

March 25, 2009

Credit Crunch Journalism

Africa is a big continent. The road network is not good. The rail network is non-existent. Getting from A to B can be very expensive. Last week one of my newspapers asked me to go to Tanzania. They gave me the name of the village, but no, they had no other idea where it was. […]

March 16, 2009

Leaving Khartoum

This trip was a bit of a punt. We knew the ICC decision was coming, but no-one knew when. George Clooney and Nick Kristof took a gamble and were a week or so too early. Others in Nairobi left it too late and couldn’t get a visa in time. My advantage was that I came […]

March 14, 2009

Doctors Without Boundaries

So you’re a paediatrician who volunteers for MSF. You go to Darfur and … Beyond his work as a healer, Erlich was able to help document the genocide by providing children in the camps with paper and crayons they used to make drawings and smuggling them out of the camps. Over 150 of these children’s […]

March 12, 2009

Escalation is Never the Best Policy

Back into another wait and see phase here in Khartoum. We had the ICC, followed by the expulsions of 13 international NGOs and action against three local agencies. President Bashir made speech after speech, and was rarely off the TV. Things were building day by day. More expulsions expected. Then nothing. A planned trip to […]

March 10, 2009

Diplomatic Games in Khartoum

So we’ve already had one round of punch and counter punch with the ICC’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir followed by his (and I’m told it came directly from the president) expulsion of 13 international charities. Now we are into round two. Even as wiser heads counselled against further action, the […]

March 8, 2009

If You Bend Over Far Enough…

    The fallout from Sudan’s decision to expel 13 international charities and shut down four local ones continues. Millions of people will be without water, food and medicine unless or until the agencies who remain in Darfur can step in. That is a big negative when the only entry in the plus column is […]

March 6, 2009

Camp Services Shut Down

  Aid officials in Sudan used to tell me their humanitarian operation was suffering death by a thousand cuts. They struggled to get personnel and equipment into the country, local staff were expected to inform on their employers, and NGOs were routinely smeared in the media. But still they managed to get aid to more […]

March 5, 2009

Bashir Reacts

Only about one par made it into The Times story today so the whole thing is posted below. There may be more NGOs on way out. Diplomats also braced for expulsions today – they take longer to arrange. And what about the peace v justice debate? I’ll post on that later, but it seems for now that […]

March 4, 2009

Aid Workers Forced From Camps

Foreign aid workers have been ordered out of key locations across Darfur as the Sudanese Government flexes its muscles before a decision today by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on whether to charge President al-Bashir with war crimes. The six NGOs are: Oxfam, CHF, Solidarites, MSF-France, MSF-Holland, Care International. The locations are: Abu Shouk, Gereida, […]

March 3, 2009

The View From The Camps

We’re all set. My email inbox is filling up with contact details of Darfur activists available for interview, NGOs are being booted out of camps and I have stocked up on provisions (Maryland cookies, Laughing Cow cheese triangles, and water, since you asked). All we need now is tomorrow’s decision from the International Criminal Court […]

February 26, 2009

Lockdown in Darfur

  It’s business as usual, according to pretty much anyone you ask in Khartoum when the issue of next week’s International Criminal Court indictment of Omar al-Bashir comes up. No-one wants to give the Sudanese government an excuse to accuse diplomats or the international community of acting as judge and jury and finding Bashir. So […]

February 23, 2009

The Waiting is Over – Apart from the next 8 days that is…

Proving once again that mindless press speculation can serve a purpose, the International Criminal Court has been forced to put out a notice saying that it will issue a warrant for the arrest of annouce its decision on President Omar al-Bashir next Wednesday. It rather snootily notes… CONSIDERING that there have been numerous rumors over the […]

February 22, 2009

Who Are Darfur’s Arabs?

Powerful piece by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times about two sisters affected by violence in Darfur. Kristof was in Chad (or the Darfur area as he calls it) for a few days with George Clooney, raising awareness of the conflict and the looming ICC indictment of President Bashir. Which is great. And makes for eyeopening […]

February 20, 2009

Who’s Who of Darfuri Rebels

View large image Keeping track of Darfur’s armed movements is an impossible task. Allegiances shift, factions break away and then re-merge often before anyone has even noticed. It creates difficulties for mediators and humanitarian workers. Who from all the different groups gets a seat at the negotiating table? Who really represents anyone? If I want […]

February 18, 2009

Waiting for the ICC

  Life in Khartoum is settling into a bit of a routine. Batter out a thousand words for my book first thing, then it’s a day of meetings, planning and checks as I prepare to head to Darfur. It’s always a tricky business. No-one ever knows when the travel permit will come through. Maybe four […]

February 17, 2009

Progress in Darfur Peace Talks

Good news emerging from Doha where members of the Justice and Equality Movement are poised to sign an agreement with the Sudanese government that could pave the way to peace talks on Darfur. The deal includes an agreement to end attacks on people living in aid camps and an exchange of prisoners. It is designed […]

February 16, 2009

Breakfast in Khartoum IV (Although I’m frankly not sure of the number)

Ozone is a quiet place these days. Ever since the US embassy in Khartoum warned its citizens to avoid places where expats tended to gather there have been fewer white faces here at the world’s best coffeeshop on a roundabout. Ozone is a particular target apparently. People are on tenterhooks waiting for the International Criminal […]

February 11, 2009

New in My Kitbag

Africa may grow some of the world’s finest coffee beans but getting a decent brew on the road can be problematic. In most places Nescafe is the only thing on offer – just about passable if drunk strong and black. But – and I know this is desperately old hat for readers in places where […]

February 10, 2009

Inside Sudan

Have been catching up on my Sudan reading recently for a big Darfur project. Found quite a few books I bought when I first arrived in Nairobi and abandoned after a couple of chapters. Some of them are much more interesting once you recognise the names and already have a bit of a handle on […]

February 9, 2009

Saving Darfur: The International Criminal Court and the Language of Righting Wrongs

Police wait for President Bashir to arrive in El Fasher last year Fighters of the Lord’s Resistance Army, Uganda’s shadowy rebel cult, have forced more than 130,000 people from their homes in the Democratic Republic of Congo since Congolese soldiers joined Ugandan and Southern Sudanese forces in launching an all-out assault on guerilla hide-outs before […]

February 5, 2009

A Good Day for the Pirates

Pirates with the MV Faina (US Navy pic)   It looks like The Faina, hijacked by Somali pirates in September with 33 Russian tanks destined for South Sudan, is finally being freed for a record $3.2-3.5m ransom. No definitive confirmation from the Yanks who have been keeping a close eye on the ship. Lt Nathan […]

February 4, 2009

Redemption Pong

Films set in Africa have come a long way recently. Stereotyped natives and mzungu heroes have given way to more complex takes on the continent. The Last King of Scotland and Blood Diamond both captured something about the feel of the place while offering a serious look at Africa and its problems. Blood Diamond, in […]

February 3, 2009


So first up, well done Unamid. Khartoum has asked the hybrid AU-UN peacekeeping force to pull out of Muhajiriya so its armed forces can bomb and burn the town at will. And Unamid has said no, we’re staying. But to do what? So far the hybrid force has done precisely nothing to prevent attacks by […]

January 31, 2009

Somalia’s Best Chance of Peace

Funny how things work out. Two years ago Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was on the run from an Ethiopian assault that had snatched Mogadishu from the Islamists who ran the city peacefully for six months. America had given its tacit support to the strike, fearing that Somalia was about to become a haven for al […]

January 29, 2009

They’re Under Starter’s Orders

William Hill is sadly not running a book on tomorrow’s Somali presidential election. So for what it’s worth, here are tomorrow’s runners 3/1jf Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed – went down heavily a couple of years back but is out to prove he knows the course better than anyone 3/1jf Nur Adde – runs in the […]

January 26, 2009

Things in Sudan Could Go Either Way, Experts

Sudan is gearing up for judges at the International Criminal Court to decide whether to indict President Omar al Bashir on the three charges being pursued by Luis Moreno-Ocampo. Speculation is rife that a decision will come in February, although no-one knows for sure. Journalist and aid worker friends are already getting out – or […]