Alex de Waal

Alexander William Lowndes de Waal (born 22 February 1963), a British researcher on African elite politics, is the executive director of the World Peace Foundation at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.[1] Previously, he was a fellow of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative at Harvard University, as well as program director at the Social Science Research Council on AIDS in New York City.[2]

De Waal lists his areas of expertise as Sudan and the Horn of Africa, humanitarian crisis humanitarian aid, human rights, HIV/AIDS governance in Africa, and conflict resolution.[3]

Childhood and education

He is the son of Esther Aline (née Lowndes-Moir), a writer on religion, and Rev. Dr Victor de Waal, Dean of Canterbury from 1976 to 1986. His siblings include barrister John de Waal, ceramic artist and writer Edmund de Waal, and Caucasus expert Thomas de Waal.

In 1988, de Waal received a D.Phil in social anthropology at Nuffield College, Oxford for his thesis on the 1984-5 Darfur famine in Sudan. This research formed the basis of his book, Famine That Kills: Darfur, Sudan (1989). The following year he joined the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, only to resign in December 1992 in protest against HRW's support for the United States' military involvement in Somalia.

Human rights activism

De Waal was the chairman of the Mines Advisory Group between 1993 and 1998.[4] In 1997, the Mines Advisory Group was co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize as a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.[5]

De Waal set up two human rights organisations, African Rights (1993) and Justice Africa (1999), focusing respectively on documenting human rights abuses and developing policies to respond to human rights crises, notably in Rwanda, Somalia and Sudan. His book, Famine Crimes: Politics and the Disaster Relief Industry was published in 1997. Foreign Affairs described the book as "A powerful critique of the international humanitarian agencies dominating famine relief in Africa." African Rights, which mainly dealt with the situation in Rwanda, has later come under criticism. Luc Reydams argued in 2016 that "African Rights was instrumental in shaping and spreading an easily consumable one-sided narrative of the Rwandan conflict".[6]

From 1997 to 2001, he focused on avenues to peaceful resolution of the Second Sudanese Civil War. In 2001, he returned to his work on health in Africa, writing on the intersection of HIV/AIDS, poverty and drought. As the conflict worsened in 2004, he returned to his doctoral thesis topic of Darfur. During 2005 and 2006, de Waal was seconded to the African Union mediation team for Darfur.[2] In 2008 he became well known as a critic of the International Criminal Court's decision to seek an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar al Bashir, arguing that while Bashir was guilty of heinous crimes the 14 July 2008 Public Application charging him was poorly written and too weak to achieve a conviction. Additionally, he believed that the "ICC arrest warrant will lead to pre-emptive military action in Darfur, a reversal of the recent gains for civil and political rights, further restrictions on the UN and humanitarian operations, and an end to the [Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2004]".[7]

During 2005–06, de Waal was seconded to the African Union mediation team for Darfur, and from 2009–12 served as senior adviser to the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel for Sudan. He was on the list of Foreign Policy's 100 most influential public intellectuals in 2008 and Atlantic Monthly's 27 "brave thinkers" in 2009.[citation needed]

He is an editor of the African Arguments book series published by Zed Books with Richard Dowden, Director of the Royal African Society. de Waal also writes and published regular commentary on contemporary Sudan through his World Peace Foundation blog Reinventing Peace.[8]

In November 2020 he wrote an article on the Tigray War involving Ethiopian federal powers and the TPLF, in which he quoted prime minister Abiy Ahmed calling the TPLF a criminal junta. He suggested the conflict would cause prospects for peace, democracy, and protection from famine to be set back a generation.[9]

Interviews with former Tigray People's Liberation Front members

In the outset of the Tigray War, de Waal and Mulugeta Gebrehiwot published reports surrounding the situation in Tigray with regards to Eritrea's involvement.[10]

Published works


  • Famine that Kills : Darfur, Sudan, Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1989, ISBN 0-19-827749-0 (Revised edition, 2005, ISBN 0-19-518163-8)
  • War in Sudan: An Analysis of Conflict, London : Peace in Sudan Group, 1990
  • Evil days : thirty years of war and famine in Ethiopia, New York: Human Rights Watch, 1991, ISBN 1-56432-038-3
  • Facing Genocide: The Nuba of Sudan, London: African Rights, July 1995, ISBN 1-899477-04-7
  • Famine crimes : politics & the disaster relief industry in Africa, London : African Rights & the International African Institute, 1997, ISBN 0-253-21158-1
  • Who fights? who cares?: war and humanitarian action in Africa, editor, Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2000, ISBN 0-86543-864-1
  • The Phoenix State: Civil Society and the Future of Sudan, Editor with A.H. Abdel Salam, 2001, ISBN 1-56902-143-0
  • Demilitarizing the mind: African agendas for peace and security, Editor, Trenton, NJ & Asmara, Eritrea : Africa World Press, 2002, ISBN 0-86543-988-5
  • Young Africa: realising the rights of children and youth, Editor with Nicolas Argenti, Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2002, ISBN 0-86543-842-0
  • When peace comes: civil society and development in Sudan, Editor with Yoanes Ajawin, Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2002, ISBN 1-56902-164-3
  • Islamism and its enemies in the Horn of Africa, Editor, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-253-21679-6
  • Darfur : a short history of a long war, With Julie Flint, New York : Zed Books, 2005, ISBN 1-84277-697-5
  • AIDS and power : Why there is no political crisis—yet, New York : Zed Books, 2006, ISBN 1-84277-707-6
  • War in Darfur and the search for peace (edited), Cambridge : Harvard University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-674-02367-3
  • The real politics of the Horn of Africa: Money, war and the business of power, Polity Press, 2015, ISBN 978-0-7456-9557-0
  • Advocacy in Conflict: Critical Perspectives on Transnational Activism (edited), Zed Books.
  • Mass Starvation: The History and Future of Famine, Polity Press, 2017 [11]

New Pandemics, Old Politics: Two Hundred Years of War on Disease and its Alternatives - Polity Books (2021)



  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 July 2012. Retrieved 28 October 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ a b old Alexander De Waal bio at Harvard University from 28 January 2008, courtesy of the Internet Wayback Machine (accessed 13 June 2009)
  3. ^ "Alex de Waal's Biography". Colby College. Retrieved 13 August 2021.
  4. ^ "Alex de Waal | the Fletcher School".
  5. ^ "The Nobel Peace Prize 1997".
  6. ^ Reydams, Luc (2016). "NGO Justice: African Rights as Pseudo-Prosecutor of the Rwandan Genocide". Human Rights Quarterly. 38 (3): 547–588. doi:10.1353/hrq.2016.0041. S2CID 151351680.
  7. ^ de Waal, Alex, and Gregory H. Stanton. "Should President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan Be Charged and Arrested by the International Criminal Court?: An Exchange of Views." Genocide Studies and Prevention 4, no. 3 (2009): 329-353. doi:10.1353/gsp.0.0030.
  8. ^ "Reinventing Peace". Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  9. ^ de Waal, Alex (24 November 2020). "As Ethiopia's army declares daily victories, its people are being plunged into violence". The Guardian.
  10. ^ ""They Have Destroyed Tigray, Literally": Mulugeta Gebrehiwot speaks from the mountains of Tigray". 29 January 2021.
  11. ^ "Mass Starvation: The History and Future of Famine – World Peace Foundation". 29 November 2017. Retrieved 26 August 2019.

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