Devastating epidemics of human African trypanosomiasis are currently re-emerging in many sub-Saharan countries. In the past three decades, clinical research into this important disease has been neglected, as have urgently needed initiatives on drug development, disease surveillance and vector control. Recent impetus has aimed to provide a free supply of antitrypanosomal drugs, to develop a new orally active trypanocidal agent and to attack the tsetse vector with modern technology. In addition, pan-African initiatives to co-ordinate control efforts have begun. These all provide some hope for the future, but they might not be enough to reverse the resurgence of this deadly disease in the heart of Africa.