Alex de Waal

Alex de Waal is the executive director of the World Peace Foundation. New Pandemics, Old Politics: Two Hundred Years of War on Disease and Its Alternatives is out now.

Monuments to Famine

Alex de Waal, 7 March 2019

Almost all​ the stone monuments across the hills of the west of Ireland, where a million people died between 1845 and 1851, were erected in the last 25 years: the Great Famine is now part of Ireland’s official record of British misrule. In purely demographic terms the famine was a calamity without modern parallel: Ireland is one of the small number of places on earth where there are...

In its primary use, the verb ‘to starve’ is transitive: it’s something people do to one another, like torture or murder. Mass starvation as a consequence of the weather has very nearly disappeared: today’s famines are all caused by political decisions, yet journalists still use the phrase ‘man-made famine’ as if such events were unusual. This year, it’s possible that four or five famines will occur simultaneously.

The Big Man: The Rwandan Genocide

Alex de Waal, 3 November 2016

Did​ the Rwanda genocide happen because a few army officers and politicians, squabbling over whom they should appoint as leader, casually used mass murder as a means of obtaining a temporary consensus? The idea that the largest mass murder of the last 25 years came about through banal politicking is perhaps even more disturbing than the notion that it was the enactment of a grand...

Remember Alem Bekagn: Addis Ababa

Alex de Waal, 26 January 2012

The new headquarters of the African Union have been built on the site of Addis Ababa’s former central prison, officially called Akaki, but known in Ethiopia as Alem Bekagn, or ‘farewell to the world’, and the site of detentions and massacres, from the Italian occupation of 1936 to the Red Terror of 1977-78. More people may have been tortured and executed in other Ethiopian...

Dollarised: How Not to Nation-Build

Alex de Waal, 24 June 2010

State-building isn’t working, and it isn’t for lack of trying. The European and American countries that go by the name ‘the international community’ have poured expertise, money and troops into Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan, to name only the biggest and most challenging countries. But the more effort that is expended, the more troublesome...

Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people in North Korea are succumbing to starvation, perishing ‘silently and painfully’ in the words of an aid agency official. Eighty-five...

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