Obama’s Middle East Mission

Less than 24 hours after the U.S. Embassy in Egypt told the New York Times that nothing had been decided about where President Barack Obama would deliver his “Islam speech” in Cairo next Thursday, National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones surprised nobody by confirming to a group of E.U. diplomats in Washington that the venue would be Cairo University. Two diplomats who were present said that, according to Jones, the president’s much-anticipated address reaching out to the Islamic world would call on Islam and the West to form a new partnership to confront the world’s major problems — including global […]

Uranium-Rich Niger Heats Up

Aside from being confused with its much larger neighbor, Nigeria, to the west, Niger rarely commands the attention of the global spotlight. That’s probably why yesterday’s report that its president, Mamadou Tandja, has suspended Parliament in retaliation for its refusal to grant him permission to run for a constitutionally prohibited third term has barely caused a media ripple. In recent years Niger has been known for two things. It’s the place where Saddam Hussein was alleged to have bought “yellowcake” uranium, a claim later debunked by Joseph Wilson. It’s also the site of one of Africa’s longest-running, low-level civil wars. […]

The Global Downturn and Reverse Brain Drain

This really is a brilliant article, and although a few anecdotes don’t make a trend, it does jibe with the puzzling statistics on Polish laborers leaving Britain that I flagged last week. I’d expected the global economic downturn to trigger waves of job-seeking immigrants both regionally and inter-continentally, with all the social tensions that historically result. Instead, this seems to be a new kind of downturn, where the urge is to return to a simpler life that, in its own way, provides a dependable social safety net. I imagine, too, this has to do with the significantly lower costs of […]

Celebrities, Lawmakers Promote ‘Conflict Minerals’ Campaign

Hollywood stars and U.S. lawmakers are lending support to a growing movement to end the use of “conflict minerals” in electronics products. The goal is to raise the issue’s profile so that consumers, many of whom remain uninformed about the subject, will throw their buying power behind it. By putting pressure on corporations to rid their supply chains of these minerals, organizers hope to cut off funding that helps prolong fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) — one of the world’s worst conflicts resulting in ongoing rights abuses. Mary Louise Parker, Saffron Burrows, Sandra Oh and Ryan Gosling […]

The International Monetary Fund has been reinvigorated by the global economic crisis. While the added resources it has been given has attracted attention, the IMF has also responded to the challenge of the crisis by overhauling conditionality. So far, reforms have been announced to meet the needs of middle-income developing countries, with those designed for lower-income countries slated to be adopted this summer. But a review of the reforms to date suggests that low-income countries can expect to enjoy unprecedented bargaining leverage over the fund in coming years. At the London G-20 summit in April, the leaders of the world’s […]

South Sudan Fuels the Aid Debate

Big-time international aid researchers like Bill Easterly, Jeffrey Sachs and Paul Collier expend a lot of effort looking for case-studies to bolster their respective opinions about the efficacy of foreign aid. I recently came across this study (.pdf) from the York University Centre for Refugee Studies, which raises some questions about the international community’s effect on one of its clients — in this case the capital of the autonomous region of South Sudan, Juba: There is an enormous presence of the UN officials and NGO staff in Juba. Since the signing of the CPA, the Juba area has experienced an […]

NAIROBI, Kenya — A power struggle pitting President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga has raised tensions within Kenya’s national unity government, formed in April 2008 following the previous year’s violently disputed presidential election between the two. In a sign of worsening relations, Odinga has called for fresh national elections, with Kibaki holding firm to polling in 2012, as constitutionally mandated. Adding to the tensions is the infighting surrounding Kibaki’s anticipated retirement in 2012, following his second five-year term in office, the maximum permitted. Already, eight people have shown interest in leading the country, with Uhuru Kenyatta, scion of […]

Kenya’s Complex Legal Heritage

While it doesn’t quite live up to State of California v. O.J. Simpson, Kenya has just witnessed a remarkable bit of judicial theatre with the conviction and sentencing of a scion of one of the country’s most controversial white families. Thomas Cholmondeley (pronounced Chumley) has just been given an eight-month sentence, on top of three years already served, for the killing of a poacher on his family’s estate in the Rift Valley. The 12,000 square miles of the Rift Valley highlands were systematically appropriated by a group of white farmers in the post-WWII era, and have remained to some extent […]

Fortress Europe

There are a few items to flag on restrictions to immigration and internal movement in Europe, something I’ve been keeping a pretty close eye on: – Soeren Kern’s WPR Briefing from yesterday on how Spain’s problems with unemployment have led to a rethink of its immigration policy. – Risto Karajkov’s WPR Briefing on EU enlargement and the Balkans also includes mention of the EU’s eagerly anticipated visa-waiver program for the region, which might be another casualty of the financial crisis. – This EU Observer item describes how Switzerland is considering invoking an emergency clause in its bilateral immigration accords with […]

A fresh round of fighting near the town of Abeche, in eastern Chad, has claimed the lives of 225 rebels and 22 government troops, according to the Chadian government. The violence is a fixture of life in this dusty desert outpost just 50 miles from Sudan’s embattled Darfur province, and has complicated delicate efforts by regional and world bodies to build a framework for a lasting peace, as well as to care for hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons. “A column of mercenaries in the pay of the regime in Khartoum, comprising more than 400 heavily armed […]

BARCELONA, Spain — As the once-vibrant Spanish economy plunges deeper into recession, the government of Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero is struggling to staunch the country’s skyrocketing jobless rate. And among the first casualties is Spain’s famously lenient immigration policy. With employers shedding jobs at a record pace, Spain’s unemployment rate has nearly doubled over the past year to 17.4 percent, the highest in the European Union. More than 4 million Spanish workers are now unemployed, and that number is expected to reach 5 million by 2010 (.pdf). One million Spanish families now have no source of income, […]

Pirate Intelligence Agency

Last week, in his regular WPR column, David Axe drew the distinction between the often-incompetent foot soldiers conducting pirate hijackings off the Somalian coast, and the more sophisticated criminal networks that finance and direct them. Today, Nicolas Gros-Verheyde flags an article in the Spanish press. The article cites an EU NAVFOR military report to the effect that the Somalian pirates are being fed precise data on commercial shipping in the region by “well-placed persons” in London, and that the pirates avoid certain (read: British) vessels. Gros-Verheyde adds the caveat that the document just happened to make its way into the […]

The Millenium Development Goals Have Left the Building

What many suspected has just been confirmed by a new report, African Economic Outlook 2008/2009, issued by the African Development Bank, the OECD Development Center and the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa. According to the report, the continent will be “gravely” affected by the global economic downturn: Following half a decade of above 5 percent economic growth, the continent can expect only 2.8 percent in 2009, less than half of the 5.7 per cent expected before the crisis. The authors anticipate growth rebounding to 4.5 per cent in 2010. Growth in oil-exporting countries is expected to fall to 2.4 per […]

Africa Tunes In Johnnie Carson

President Barack Obama’s selection of career diplomat Johnnie Carson as assistant secretary of state for Africa seems an obvious, if somewhat unexciting, choice. Reaching once again into the Clinton-era dugout, Obama perhaps got the idea from current U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who was Carson’s boss during the Clinton years. Unfortunately this particular era of U.S.-African relations was a disaster for millions in places like Rwanda, Somalia and Liberia. Ironically, the Africans liked President Bush because they thought he was generous. President Obama will have to demonstrate the same level of generosity, while at the same time entering diplomatically into some […]

EU Tidbits: Lisbon and Immigration Policy

Good news for the Lisbon Treaty. With the passage by the Czech Republic’s Senate, the only non-formality standing in the way of adoption is the do-over of the Irish referendum. Assuming it does ultimately pass, it will be fascinating to see how the first permanent EU president shapes the Union’s global profile. The treaty will provide the institutional structure, but a lot will depend on the personalities that end up incarnating the functions and the precedents they set. Less good news is this item about Italy returning a boatful of illegal immigrants directly to Libya, pursuant to a bilateral agreement […]

Better Aid, not ‘Dead Aid,’ for Africa

Dambisa Moyo’s new book, “Dead Aid,” is a prime example of an old idea wrapped up in new packaging. As a Harvard-educated child of Africa (Zambia), with stints at Goldman Sachs and the World Bank, Moyo makes for an appealing messenger. However, the idea on which her book is based — that foreign assistance for Africa hasn’t worked — is hardly an original one to most aid practitioners. But instead of offering ideas to improve aid Moyo takes the opposite approach, asserting that aid is altogether bad for Africa and should be gradually replaced with foreign investment. Moyo’s solutions may […]

Hundreds of Somali pirates have transformed the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean into the world’s most dangerous waters. But this Sunday, on the Indian Ocean, a group of Somali pirates didn’t know what they were getting into. The 11 young men — armed with rockets, guns and explosives and riding in three small boats — spotted a vessel on the horizon and moved to attack. The “victim” vessel maneuvered into the sun, partially blinding the attackers. When their vision cleared, the pirates probably realized they’d made a huge mistake: rather than the defenseless merchant vessel they apparently thought […]

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