June 19, 2008

Abeche: Chad’s Dusty Outpost

The French troops at the N’Djamena airport were wearing short shorts (pictured) – the kind you usually associate with cheesy beach movies starring Elvis, only these were in camo pattern. We trudged aboard a Greek C-130 for the quick flight to Abeche, the fortified eastern outpost occupied by the Chadian army, EUFOR and the U.N. […]

June 18, 2008

Afghanistan: Medieval Warfare?

The savagery of medieval warfare is widely acknowledged and understood; yet the idea of chivalry as an important and influential force in the conflicts of the Middle Ages somehow lives on in seemingly comfortable juxtaposition with this awareness. In By Sword and Fire I show that such notions of incongruent compatibility do not reflect the […]

June 18, 2008

Blinding Sandstorm of War

Contradictory reports. Evidence that doesn’t make sense. Rumor getting repeated until it seems true. Military historians call this the “fog of war.” What do you call it in a place that’s way too dry for fog? The blinding sandstorm of war? A week ago rebels in eastern Chad announced that they were launching their third […]

June 17, 2008

Which One is the Chief`s Hut?

The chief`s house in Dungu, Democratic Republic of Congo It`s the one with the satellite dish

June 17, 2008


I hit the ground in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, late on Monday night, sans my photographer, who was due in a day or two. Twelve hours later I was staring down the barrel of a well-used AK-47 near N’Djamena city center. I’d been carjacked. Since I’m sitting here, wired to one of the city’s […]

June 15, 2008

Returning to Afghanistan

Flying back to Kabul tomorrow and then on to Kandahar later in the week. Photo above is of the kit I’m taking with me (minus clothes and my aging Sony Vaio FS750P/W). Am looking forward to seeing how my new mini Asus copes in Kandahar (dust, heat, speed etc). Finally replaced my old Ipod mini […]

June 15, 2008

What’s in my Kit Bag

Back on the road tomorrow, heading for the Democratic Republic of Congo. If all goes according to plan, we’ll be disappearing deep into the jungle. Here’s the gear I’ll be taking: Sony Vaio S Series – at 13.3in it’s a smallish size notebook but still big enough to feel comfortable. Performance has been slower ever […]

June 13, 2008

Chad Rebels on the Attack?

First the news came to me from two different sources. One of my fixers in eastern Chad called yesterday to say that an airplane had been shot down and “my country is dangerous right now.” Around the same time, a source told me there were big things going on in Chad that weren’t getting reported […]

June 10, 2008

U.S. Warship Rescues Somalis

“USS Russell (DDG 59) responded to a vessel in distress between Bossasso, Somalia and the Yemeni coast in the Gulf of Aden June 8,” the Navy reports. Russell hosts the kickass The Destroyermen blog: A Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 air asset notified Russell of the small boat’s distress call. Russell, operating nearby, proceeded at […]

June 10, 2008

How to be a Journalist

I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some extremely talented journalists over the years. Many of them have delivered sage words of advice. Some are still ringing in my ears. For anyone aspiring to be a penniless freelancer who can only afford to live in Africa, here are some of the nuggets that helped […]

June 9, 2008

“Sweet Jesus! Apple has just revolutionized citizen journalism with their AP app for iPhone”

Well, that’s according to @tacomasha on Twitter. @tonysteward is more restrained – Okay, the AP iPhone app is legit, it will take citizen journalism to a whole new level. Exciting! As is @miguelmanalo – Dude AP on-the-go citizen journalism? Kickass. And @benkerney – AP’s new iPhone app will win citizen journalism And others. So, what […]

June 6, 2008

Who Are Somalia’s Al Shabab?

Two years ago an alliance of moderate Islamic Courts ruled Mogadishu and much of Somalia. Then Ethiopia, fearing a stable and prosperous Somalia — and hungry for access to Somalia’s ports — destroyed the Islamic Courts and propped up the unpopular Transitional Federal Government. Islamic insurgents rose up to challenge Ethiopian and TFG troops. But […]

June 5, 2008

Africa Reading Challenge – 3. A Bend in the River by VS Naipaul

When Salim leaves his home on Africa’s ocean coast to take over a small trading shop deep in the continent’s interior he embarks on an adventure that marks his coming of age – in stark contrast to the progress of his adopted country, which is stuck in an endless cycle of upheaval. The town at […]

June 5, 2008

Chad Rebels’ Last Chance

Chad’s rainy season is coming. With the exception of U.N. and E.U. aircraft, transportation in the barren country will most grind to a halt. That means the U.N. must rush to get newly arrived refugees — from Darfur and the Central African Republic — settled into their camps. It also means that Chad’s rebel groups, […]

June 2, 2008

Hostile environment training for student journalists

[video:youtube:FxinugZalOA] Student Steve Lestrange reports from a Hostile Environment training course undertaken by University College Falmouth MA International Journalism students. Doesn’t sound quite as hair-raising as the Reuters equivalent, but the weather looks worse.

June 2, 2008

Jeremy Bowen to speak on reporting suffering

World Have Your Say, a BBC World Service radio programme, is going to be discussing when and whether a reporter should help the suffering subjects of their news stories. Though not exactly a new topic, the idea for the debate, entitled ‘To report – or to help?’ was sparked by a blog post written by […]

June 2, 2008

Somalia’s Pirates = Robin Hood?

“Brutal” and “savage” is how The Guardian describes Somali pirates who have been seizing and ransoming ships at an increasing rate in recent months. On April 5 pirates from the Somali Marines group seized the French luxury yacht Le Ponant, leading to a daring French commando raid that nabbed several pirate suspects. In the wake […]

May 31, 2008

31 very interesting things: 5. Madeleine Peyroux

I’ve never signed up to the theory that cover versions are rubbish. They’re rubbish if they’re just a cheap attempt to fill an album slot or add five minutes to your live set. But taking a song from one genre into another has provided unexpected delights. Until now, my favourite was The Ramones’ version of […]

May 28, 2008

Chad Refugees Race the Rain

On its own, Chad is one of the poorest and most desperate countries in the world. Now, to make matters worse, Chad finds itself sandwiched between conflicts in Sudan and Central African Republic. Hundreds of thousands of refugees (pictured) from those countries have flooded into Chad in recent years. The U.N. is struggling to keep […]

May 27, 2008

BBC Radio 5 Interview

This link will take you to an MP3 of my interview yesterday with Chris Vallance on my way home from the airport. Light listening.

May 21, 2008

Brain Drain Dooms Somalia?

With peace talks in Djibouti underpinned by growing momentum for another round of U.N. peacekeeping, is Somalia on the verge of a turn-around following 17 years of conflict? Mark Bowden asked this question in a piece for The Philadelphia Enquirer. His answer is pessimistic: One of the things Somalia lacks is a capable, homegrown movement […]

May 20, 2008

The gorilla wades in

YouTube is launching Citizen News (from RWW) The CitizenNews channel is where we’ll be highlighting some of the best news content on YouTube. If you see examples of great journalism and reporting being done by your fellow YouTubers, let me know! So that’s that, then. Well, maybe. Until now, anybody with a newsworthy video could […]

May 20, 2008

U.N. Blue Berets Bump Ethiopians in Somalia?

Last week the U.N. Security Council approved a peacekeeping operation for Somalia. It’s the first step to actually deploying troops to the region. There are huge hurdles, of course. The last time the U.N. tried to intervene in the mostly ungoverned country, 18 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of Somalis died in the Battle of Mogadishu. […]

May 19, 2008

The need for a niche

There’s something genuinely touching about Michael Rosemblum’s testimony to Ken Krushel. Together they devised CitizeNews, and launched it last summer: Then we went out to try and raise money for it. It was not easy. We were late. After Youtube and just as newspapers were starting to migrate into video. We talked to everyone in […]

May 19, 2008

31 very interesting things. 4: Cardiff’s Somali Community

The Guardian put together a great interactive map of Britain a couple of years ago showing the location of different ethnic minorities. I’d love to know why Greeks were attracted to Guildford. The Irish in Cheltenham is pretty obvious. And then there’s the Somalis in Cardiff. They first arrived there to work on the docks […]

May 18, 2008

31 very interesting things: 3. Still or Sparkling

[video:youtube:] Funniest moment in a recent British sitcom, surely. Right up there with Del Boy falling through the bar. And look closely and you might spot a miserable bird who bears a familial resemblance to me.

May 18, 2008

It’s not all Glamour You Know

It’s difficult to know exactly what my interviewee thought as I broke off from a question about Prince William’s attire with a quick “Uh I’m going to be sick” before vomiting into a wastepaper bin. But it would have taken a glass-half-full type of chap to conclude she hadn’t noticed anything amiss. The only saving […]

May 16, 2008

U.N. to Somalia?

It’s about time: The Security Council unanimously approved a resolution on Thursday calling for a U.N. political presence in conflict-wracked Somalia for the first time in years and setting conditions for the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers. The resolution urged the United Nations to move its Somalia political office from Kenya to the Horn of Africa […]

May 15, 2008

31 very interesting things: 2. Warchild

[video:youtube:ekigsvTDJXo] Emmanuel Jal was eight when he was handed an AK-47 and told to fight for the southern Sudanese rebels of the SPLA. He escaped Sudan in a bag, smuggled out by Emma McCune, a British aid worker, on a UN flight. Now he is one of Africa’s hottest rappers. His new album is due […]

May 14, 2008

31 very interesting things: 1. Deutscher Girls

[video:youtube:9fmg3JKHAcM] So Graham Holliday in his noodlepie guise has invited me to join him in his 31 very interesting things challenge. This is of course right up my street, as the sort of very tedious person who might ask you over the starter to name your top 3 records of all time. It’ll be a […]