The Institute is governed by a board of trustees in the UK and a board of directors in the US; both are drawn from the body of RVI Fellows, as indicated in the list below. Fellows of the RVI are specialists in the Eastern and Central African region, drawn from Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas. They include practitioners, activists and academic experts in the fields of human rights, history, anthropology, political science, economics, aid and development, conservation, media, diplomacy and law. Fellows are elected by the body of existing Fellows, proposed and seconded by two existing Fellows.
The Rift Valley Institute was co-founded in 2001 by John Ryle, who was Executive Director of the Institute until 2017. John is Legrand Ramsey Professor of Anthropology at Bard College, NY. He has worked as a long-term social researcher in Sudan and in Brazil, as a regional analyst for aid and human rights organizations in Africa and the Middle East, and as a writer, editor and broadcaster worldwide. He is author of Warriors of the White Nile (1984), an account of the Dinka of Southern Sudan, coeditor of The Sudan Handbook (2011) and a contributor to publications including the New York Review of Books and The Guardian, where he was a weekly columnist from 1995 to 1999. He is a Research Associate of the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, and a board member of the Human Rights Watch Africa Division. John is lead researcher on RVI's South Sudan Customary Authorities project.