Heart of Darkness to the hearts of people

The Times of London
Review of ‘Radio Congo’ by Ben Rawlence

Riding pillion on a motorbike piloted by a beer-loving priest through a rain sodden town lost in Congo’s endless jungle, Ben Rawlence arrives at an art deco villa built by a Belgian mining company half a century ago.

Like the town, Manono, in which it sits the villa was abandoned after independence, devoured by corruption and the voracious undergrowth, pillaged by war and eventually reclaimed by more foreigners, this time from the United Nations. Continue reading Heart of Darkness to the hearts of people

Hidden war that threatens Africa with spectre of another Darfur

The Times of London
Nuba Mountains, Sudan

Nuba woman and child
A woman holds a child in a cave in the mountains of Tess (Times photographer, Marc Hofer)

The two bombs exploded in quick succession, sending large chunks of shrapnel whirring across the rocky hillside. Inside a grass-walled restaurant at a nearby market, people dived to the floor, sending plates of food and scalding cups of tea on to the dirt. “Stay inside! Stay down!” someone shouted as the attacking jet roared overhead. Continue reading Hidden war that threatens Africa with spectre of another Darfur

Wrecked city picks up the pieces as tide of war turns

The Times of London
Baidoa, Somalia

Beneath a shady tree in the courtyard of a shattered government villa, dozens of old men have gathered to talk about the liberation of their city.

“For three years al-Shabaab colonised us,” said Maalim Ali Barre, a clan elder. “Now we’re free.” Continue reading Wrecked city picks up the pieces as tide of war turns

Kenya’s incursion into Somalia ‘not going to plan’

The Times of London
Tabda, Somalia

Tabda soldiers
Kenyan soldiers dig in against al-Shabaab (Times photographer, Tristan McConnell)

Crouched with their machineguns and mortar tubes in shallow trenches that snake across the desiccated ground, dozens of Kenyan soldiers blink the sweat from their eyes and peer over the parapet of their defensive line. This is the first time the country has gone to war — and things have not gone entirely to plan. Continue reading Kenya’s incursion into Somalia ‘not going to plan’

Memories of the man who carried the new Queen’s baggage

The Times of London
Nyeri, Kenya

There’s nothing left of the Treetops Hotel in which the young Princess Elizabeth stayed on the night her father died and she became Queen.

The original two-bedroom tree-house, built in the splayed branches of an enormous fig tree and reached by a series of ladders and platforms, was the brainchild of an eccentric Englishman, Major Eric Sherbrooke Walker: vicar’s son, Oxford graduate, war hero, bootlegger, hunter and hotelier. Continue reading Memories of the man who carried the new Queen’s baggage

UN troops ‘left us to be killed’ say Sudan massacre survivors

The Times of London
Nairobi, Kenya

Survivors of a tribal massacre in South Sudan have accused the United Nations of failing to protect them against thousands of armed warriors who left hundreds of people dead.

The attack on a small town in a remote corner of the vast country has raised questions at UN headquarters in New York about whether the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is adequately equipped to carry out its job. Continue reading UN troops ‘left us to be killed’ say Sudan massacre survivors

African force brings an armed peace to the Black Hawk city

The Times of London
Mogadishu, Somalia

Amisom soldier

A Ugandan Amisom soldier keeps watch on the northeastern edge of Mogadishu (Times photographer, Nichole Sobecki)

Shoppers in the Somali capital stroll in a market past stalls selling mangos and melons and camel-milk tea.

But just a few blocks away from this tranquil scene near Bakara market, hidden among thorn trees and cactuses, lie the shattered remains of a Black Hawk helicopter shot down in October 1993 by militia fighters.

Continue reading African force brings an armed peace to the Black Hawk city

‘We have no problems with the Ethiopians, they bring peace’

The Times of London
Doolow, Somalia

Ethiopian troops are not supposed to be in this broiling Somali border town, but they are.

The official message from Addis Ababa and Mogadishu is that there are no Ethiopian troops in Somalia, but Doolow tells a different story. Continue reading ‘We have no problems with the Ethiopians, they bring peace’

Binyavanga Wainaina: “If you donate to Oxfam, don’t buy my book”

The Times of London
Iconoclastic and bitingly funny, Binyavanga Wainaina turns clichés about Africa on their head. Tristan McConnell meets him in Nairobi

Binyavanga

Into the groove: Binyavanga Wainaina at home in Nairobi (Times photographer, Tugela Ridley)

The door is open. Inside the apartment eviscerated suitcases lie on the floor. Mugs and glasses, books and an iPad clutter the dining table. Yesterday’s socks and shoes are dumped by the sofa. In the open-plan kitchen among half-unpacked shopping bags and a stack of unwashed plates stands a stocky, barrel-bellied man with orange and blue-striped hair wearing a towel.

“Sorry!” Binyavanga Wainaina calls out cheerfully. Continue reading Binyavanga Wainaina: “If you donate to Oxfam, don’t buy my book”

Gaddafi runs out of friends in his billion-dollar bolthole

The Times of London
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Ouaga man
Eric Zabsonre holds the Green Book in Ouagadougou (Times photographer, Tristan McConnell)

Clutching a leather-bound edition of Colonel Gaddafi’s Green Book, Eric Zabsonré sits on a metal-framed chair.

“Gaddafi is not a dictator, he is like the father of a family; if you want something he gives it to you,” said Mr Zabsonré, the self-appointed president of Burkina Faso’s Movement for the Support of Gaddafi. “Gaddafi is Africa’s patron,” he said. “He gives from the heart and lives in the hearts of all Africans.” Continue reading Gaddafi runs out of friends in his billion-dollar bolthole