The Famine This Time

by Gayle Smith
published in MER166

Gayle Smith coordinates the Africa program at the Washington-based Development Group for Alternative Policies. In the past ten years she has worked extensively in the Horn of Africa on relief and development issues. Her most recent trip to Ethiopia and Sudan was in June 1990. She spoke with Joe Stork in Washington.

Compared to the famine of 1984-1985, what is the scope of the problem in the Horn today?

In terms of numbers, the famine is somewhat less severe than it was five years ago. There are an estimated 5 million in need as opposed to 7-9 million in 1984-1985. Just over 1 million of these people are in Eritrea; another 2.2 million live in Tigray. The rest live elsewhere in the north of Ethiopia, areas now also affected by the war.

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Against All Odds

by Basil Davidson
published in MER189

Dan Connell, Against All Odds: A Chronicle of the Eritrean Revolution (Red Sea, 1994).

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A Modern-Day Pirate's Port of Call

by Jatin Dua
published in MER256

Not far from Fort Jesus, the sixteenth-century fort erected by the Portuguese to mark their violent entry into the world of Indian Ocean commerce, is a small office near the old port of Mombasa. Scattered inside are copies of Seatrade and other maritime trade magazines. An old desktop computer displays the Baltic Dry Index, which tracks international shipping prices for dry bulk cargo, as well as the shipping movements list from Lloyd’s of London highlighting the movement of commodities on ships registered with the insurance company.

On Piracy and the Afterlives of Failed States

by George R. Trumbull IV
published in MER256

Until the resurgence of naval predation in the late 2000s, pirates were confined to the realm of the fantastic -- novels, films and stage productions. Since Western states last worried about pirates in the eighteenth century, the intrinsic, man-bites-dog interest of contemporary pirates for the popular press is easy to understand. The reemergence of piracy as a political problem, however, has in no way banished the fantastic from current understandings of the phenomenon, nor of Somalia, whence the most famous of today’s maritime bandits come. The fantasy is evident in media coverage, but in policy discourse as well. Once upon a time, begins the tale, there was a state called Somalia and now there is not. Pirates flourish where the writ of government has entirely lost its sway.

From the Editor

by The Editors
published in MER256

On July 6, the impish economic historian Niall Ferguson took the podium at the Aspen Ideas Festival, an annual seminar series for the rich and powerful on how to remain rich and powerful. Ferguson, as is his wont, began by tweaking the perpetual American reluctance to admit that the United States is an empire. “You’re the redcoats now,” the Oxford-trained Scot said in a stage whisper.

He Didn't Do It For Them

by Dan Connell
published in MER238

Michela Wrong, I Didn’t Do It for You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation (New York: Harper­ Collins, 2005).

When I first encountered Eritrea in 1976, I was deeply impressed with the movement heading up the former Italian colony’s 30-year war for independence from Ethiopia. During those years, most foreign visitors to Eritrea were.