Gripping tale of Ireland’s most polite bank robber: I’m Not Here To Hurt You reviewed

There should really be a special word for it: that vicarious fragility you feel when hearing of a minor decision with catastrophically heavy consequences, as if a falling acorn had tipped a boulder. In the case of John O’Hegarty, the subject of the engrossing podcast I’m Not Here To Hurt You, the catalyst for disaster was a quick short cut the wrong way down a one-way Dublin street while working as a bicycle courier. It would ultimately lead him – an academic with a master’s degree in psychology – into heroin and crack cocaine addiction, followed by a stint as a bank robber and eight years in prison. With a

Putin is copying the propaganda playbook of Serbian war criminals

A year ago, Ukrainian soldiers discovered evidence of the Bucha massacre in which Russian forces slaughtered hundreds of Ukrainians in cold blood. Far from owning up to its crimes, Russia has spent the past 12 months trying to spin the massacre as a Western-inspired conspiracy.  The Kremlin said the allegations are a ‘monstrous forgery’ aimed at denigrating the Russian army. This attempt to whitewash the truth has disturbing parallels with the cover up of atrocities that occurred in my home country, Bosnia, during the 1990s. There are chilling links between today’s war crimes denialism by Russia and the genocide denialism that continues in Bosnia to this day, over the murder of  more than

Pre-crime has arrived in China

The idea of ‘pre-crime’ was popularised by Philip K. Dick’s story ‘The Minority Report’ and the 2002 Steven Spielberg film based on it. Here was a vision of a shudderingly paranoiac technological dystopia in which you could be arrested for something you haven’t even done yet. Not so science-fictional as all that. ‘Pre-criminal’ is the phrase — apparently one in official currency — that’s used of the protagonist of the story with which Darren Byler begins his chilling short book. Vera Zhou was a student of Byler’s at the University of Washington. A member of the Chinese Muslim Hui population, she was walking through a crowded street in her home

When it comes to Africa, the media look away

Kenya We were flown around the country, hovering low over mobs using machetes to hack each other up Each time I sit in St Bride’s on Fleet Street during the memorial of another friend, I look around at the crowds they’ve been able to pull in and feel terribly envious. Riffling through the order of service and then the church’s book of correspondents to find the faces of old comrades, I’m like a man wondering if any guests will bother turning up to one’s own hastily arranged bring-a-bottle party. Our 1990s generation of Nairobi hacks has been severely depleted. While we survivors are not a distillation of complete bastards, it’s

Truss fails her first big test

Can anything stop the irresistible rise of Liz Truss? The power-dressing insta lover reinvented herself at International Trade, becoming the darling of the Tory faithful and rising to the top of the ConservativeHome ministerial rankings, where she sits 15 points ahead of her nearest rival. Having served at the top table of Tory politics since 2014, the longest serving Cabinet minister was finally given a Great Office of State eight weeks ago when Boris Johnson entrusted her with the Foreign Office. Since taking up the role, Truss and her allies have been keen to project a more Sinosceptic image than her defenestrated predecessor Dominic Raab. Just this weekend, the Mail on Sunday

Interpreting for a dictator: Intimacies, by Katie Kitamura, reviewed

If this is a cautious and circumspect novel, it’s because it involves a cautious and circumspect job: that of interpreter. The young woman at the centre of the story speaks fluent English, Japanese and French, with some German and Spanish. She grew up in Paris, then lived in New York, but death and disruption in the family mean that city no longer feels like home. On a sudden impulse, she applies for a temporary job at The Hague, working at ‘the Court’. What she doesn’t speak is Dutch, though linguistically she’s a quick study. The instability felt when negotiating a new city without fully understanding the language is echoed by

The dictator of the dorm: Our Lady of the Nile, by Scholastique Mukasonga, reviewed

In the cloud-capped highlands of Rwanda, even the rain-makers sound like crashing snobs. When two teenage pupils from Our Lady of the Nile lycée slope off to consult the sorceress Nyamirongi about some boyfriend trouble, she sizes up their genealogies and comes over all Mitford duchess: ‘You’re not from very good families. But nowadays they say it no longer matters.’ Like so much in Scholastique Mukasonga’s novel, it’s a comic scene with a rumble of menace in the background — akin to the rainy season’s distant thunder in these lush, green hills. Where you belong — your people, your connections, your identity — has been a matter of life and

The making of a monster: Paul Kagame’s bloodstained past

In June, Commonwealth heads of government will meet in the Rwandan capital Kigali, a city advertised by their Tutsi host, the 63-year-old Paul Kagame, as ‘the Davos of Africa’. Kagame, Rwanda’s de facto leader since 1994 — and boasting more honorary degrees than Barack Obama, although he never finished high school — has become the ‘donor darling’ of the international community. He is why the World Bank has donated in excess of $4 billion, and why, until recently, the biggest bilateral donor has been the UK. ‘As far as I’m concerned,’ says the Tory MP Andrew Mitchell, ‘he is a hero for ending the violence.’ Michela Wrong is a British

The truth about China’s genocide against the Uyghurs

Last night, the BBC showed witnesses giving stomach-turning testimony about organised rape and torture inflicted upon Uyghurs in China’s far west region of Xinjiang. Victims and former guards, now abroad and willing to talk, spoke of electric batons inserted into women’s genitalia, gang rape by police, an organised rape in front of 100 other women forced to watch with those who looked away punished, and the forcible sterilisation of a 20-year-old. As one witness said: ‘Everyone who leaves the camps is finished.’ In January, both the outgoing and incoming American Secretaries of State confirmed their view that the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) treatment of Uyghurs constituted genocide. Not some analogous

Africa’s invisible epidemics

Africa   ‘Ah, Africa,’ the French scientist sighed contentedly. This was 1995 and all around us was an Ebola epidemic ravaging Kikwit, a village in what they now call the Democratic Republic of Congo. ‘No lawyers to sue us!’ I had just asked him why doctors in the local hospital ward had shown me Ebola victims, lying in beds next to patients suffering milder diseases. In the Kikwit outbreak, the hemorrhagic fever killed eight out of ten people infected — 245 in all. People became sick after kissing and hugging the bodies of their loved ones at their funerals. Local doctors told me that dysentery routinely claimed more Kikwit children’s