So it’s finally happened, after 16 months.  The major world powers have agreed a transition plan for Syria.  The Russians agreed to let go of Bashar and the Americans agreed to allow parts of his government to remain for the transition.  The opposition will join the government, Bashar will step down and be replaced by a moderate figure (if anyone can find one), and a process of national reconciliation will begin. Or it would have done, had this been June 2011, or September 2011, or even probably January 2012.  But the global powers have taken such a lot of persuasion to … Continue reading War

Khartoum’s slow march to oblivion

It must be difficult to be Omar al-Bashir.  He is suspected of having orchestrated the murder of about half a million people, famously in Darfur and also in what was until recently the South of his country.  Since 2008 the ICC has had a warrant out for his arrest.  His Arab Sudanese compatriots are under strict political oppression; there is virtually no area of the country outside Khartoum which does not feel neglected.  Yet despite having taken his country and himself to new limits of international isolation, things for Bashir are usually ticking over all right.  But not this time. … Continue reading Khartoum’s slow march to oblivion

The Lit-Bel Trip, part 2: Trakai

The weather on our trip ended up being more or less the opposite of what had been forecast by the usually painfully accurate Norwegian State Weather Service.  So it was that on a day promised to be bright and warm – the ideal weather for a quick day trip before taking the train to Minsk in the evening – the three of us found ourselves trudging back and forth along the main street of Trakai in what could best be described a freak Lithuanian monsoon.  I didn’t mind, though, because I had an umbrella. That makes Trakai sound like a … Continue reading The Lit-Bel Trip, part 2: Trakai

The Lit-Bel Trip, part 1: Vilnius

I hadn’t really thought much about Lithuania before going there – Belarus was the main draw of the trip and Vilnius was simply a cheap place to fly into and spend a day and a half before leaving for Minsk.  Out of the three Baltic nations, it was the one which interested me the least, or so I thought.  Then I arrived. About the closest reference I have for Lithuania is Hungary, although Budapest is larger and far more bustling than Vilnius.  This is probably connected with the placement of the older parts of both cities.  In Vilnius, the Old Town lies between the new town … Continue reading The Lit-Bel Trip, part 1: Vilnius