Richard Dowden

A regular blog from RAS Director, Nicholas Westcott.


Tuesday, 30 January 2018
Written by Nicholas Westcott
So, where is Africa going in 2018?    The Royal African Society began its year, as always, with a look at the Prospects and Forecasts for the year ahead.  The panel (hosted by the University of London's Centre for African Studies at SOAS) brought together voices from London and the continent - Nanjala Nyabola, a political analyst from Kenya, Sethembile Msezane, an artist from South Africa, Natznet Tesfay, an Eritrean economist based here in London, and the peripatetic... more
Monday, 27 November 2017
Written by Nicholas Westcott
I arrived at the Royal African Society on 1 November from seven years working on Africa and the Middle East in Brussels. It is invigorating to make a fresh start working with the continent I know better than any except my own, and the RAS is the place to do it. My first few weeks in the job have already illustrated the strength and breadth of the RAS’s work. Film Africa was in full swing during my first week, with some remarkable productions from the continent that really deserve... more
Thursday, 21 September 2017
Written by Richard Dowden
Kgalema Motlanthe should be basking in the glow of a well-lived life. Born in 1949 his youth was dominated by the steady advance of apartheid in South Africa. He talks slowly, describing the 1950s carefully without exaggeration or anger. His father was a social activist in Alexandra Township, the small black slum in the rich white northern suburbs of Johannesburg. In his youth, he says the African National Congress (ANC) was a talking shop, an aspiration, but as the apartheid barriers... more
Friday, 1 September 2017
Written by Richard Dowden
The cancellation of Kenya’s recent election shows that – so far – Kenya’s new constitution has held. The legitimacy of the election was called into question and the result was annulled by a panel of seven senior judges. What happens next is a test of the politicians. Will they accept the court ruling or resort to violence?  It is significant that one of the two judges who did not vote for a rerun is Luo – ethnic allegiances cannot be taken for granted even in... more
Thursday, 24 August 2017
Written by Richard Dowden
Angola is different. The clues are in the names. Check the names of the Central Committee of the ruling party, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). Out of its 47 members, only 10 have African-sounding names. The rest, including President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, have what derive from originally Portuguese names. Several of them do not speak an African language but use Portuguese.   These families have lived in Africa long before European imperialists took over Angola... more