Just four months after the world’s navies all but declared victory in their war on Somali pirates, hijackings have spiked. In the span of just one week in early January, sea bandits seized four large commercial vessels off the Somali coast. Captured vessels can be ransomed for several million dollars apiece. Piracy’s dramatic resurgence has accelerated a profound change of heart among the shipping companies whose vessels ply East African waters. No longer content to entrust their safety to naval forces, shippers are mulling the wide adoption of seaborne private soldiers — in a word, mercenaries, either sailing aboard targeted […]

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Here are a few of this week’s highlights from WPR’s video section: – Minister Mizuho Fukushima, leader of Japan’s small Social Democratic Party, has rejected plansto build a new U.S. Marine base on the island of Okinawa. This video explains what ramifications this could have for Hatoyama’s coalition government. – Youth in Southern Sudan are taking up arms to protect their villages from cross-border attacks. This video shows how the young soldiers are fighting the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army. – A New America Foundation conversation with author Steven Hill discusses how Europe’s innovation has led to a more supportive, ecologically […]

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Youth in southern Sudan are taking up arms against the Lord’sResistance Army, a Ugandan militant group. This particular localmilitia, the Arrow Boys, is using all available weapons to protecttheir village from cross-border attacks. Though the Sudanese governmentis pushing for disarmament, groups like the Arrow Boys are reluctant togive up arms when they feel they can protect themselves moreeffectively than the central government. Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel Hamidreports.

A coalition government formed early last year is seen by many Zimbabweans as the last hope for a country that has long teetered on the edge of open conflict. In February 2009, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party agreed to form a fragile unity government with the Zimbabwe African National Union — Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF), the party of long-time autocrat, President Robert Mugabe. The two parties’ power-sharing deal, brokered by the Southern African Development Corporation, was meant to head off potential widespread violence following disputed presidential and parliamentary elections in March 2008. The election, in which Mugabe finished […]

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By all indications, Guinea has pulled back from the edge of what some warned could have been a bloody internal power struggle among various factions in the military junta now ruling the country. Interestingly, the exit strategy, at least in its first steps, resembles a game of “hot potato” — devolving power to the civilian opposition, rather than contesting it, at the risk of civil war, within the military. That reflects a certain degree of wisdom, but also the effective international response to the crisis so far — a combination of pressure from regional and global multinational groupings as well […]

In the aftermath of Copenhagen, many observers are lamenting the apparent unwillingness of governments to confront climate change. However, this unwillingness simply reflects an essential truth about public policy: The immediate always trumps the distant. For most policymakers, the threat of climate change remains a distant one. Governments prioritize immediate threats, even if doing so hastens the melting of glaciers and the rising of sea levels that may eventually destroy habitats and nations. Another vivid illustration of this mindset is the acquisition by foreign governments of vast tracts of farmland across the developing world. These land deals leave immense carbon […]

“I have . . . decided to open a new page in the ongoing reforms I am spearheading. Indeed, we shall soon be launching a gradual, sophisticated process of regionalization which will cover all parts of the kingdom, especially the Moroccan Sahara region.” — King Mohammed VI of Morocco, Nov. 6, 2008, 33rd anniversary of the Green March Introduction In a speech on Nov. 6, 2008, King Mohammed VI of Morocco announced his plan to decentralize the kingdom, including the Western Sahara. The date marked the 33rd anniversary of the Green March, when 350,000 unarmed Moroccans crossed into Spain’s former […]

On Jan. 9, North and South Sudan marked the fifth anniversary of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that brought an end to Africa’s longest civil war, but the mood has been anything but celebratory as the two sides proceed toward a referendum over Southern secession. Long-simmering ethnic tensions in the South are boiling into unrest — stoked, according to many in the Southern capital of Juba, by a Khartoum government unwilling to contemplate the oil-rich South’s seemingly inevitable secession. A massacre in Warrap state on Jan. 7, that left at least 139 dead and nearly 100 injured, was the latest clash […]

In this new weekly series, “From the WPR Archives,” published on Fridays, we aim to highlight articles published in World Politics Review in the past that shed light on issues currently in the headlines. The articles cited in “From the WPR Archives” require a World Politics Review subscription to read in full. To try a subscription free for 30 days, with no further obligation, sign up here. Last week, Yemen was all over the news as it came to light that the Nigerian man who attempted to detonate an explosive aboard a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Dec. 25 […]

Officials from Chad and Sudan are weighing a proposed treaty that would create a framework for joint patrols of their shared border, along and around Sudan’s Darfur province. If fully implemented, the security pact proposed in late-December could help lay the groundwork for peace talks with rebel groups, aimed at reducing cross-border violence that has claimed thousands of lives in Chad and Sudan since 2005. Central Africa’s arid deserts and lush forests are the scene of complex, overlapping conflicts over land, resources, ethnicity, religion and political power. Chad accuses Sudan of sponsoring rebel groups, based in Sudan, that threaten farmers […]

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Over the New Year’s holiday, the Chinese government launched yet another trial balloon to test international reaction to its expanding military reach. The move came in the form of an interview reproduced by the Defense Ministry’s Web site, in which a retired admiral called for China to acquire its first permanent overseas naval base. Although the ministry quickly distanced itself from the proposal, we can expect to see further expressions of Chinese interest in acquiring naval bases in coming years. On Dec. 30, the Defense Ministry’s Web site posted the interview with Adm. Yin Zhuo, who often comments on China’s […]

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In “The United States of Africa,” the Djibouti-born novelist Abdourahman Waberi imagines a topsy-turvy world where a sorry stream of refugees flows from the squalor of Europe and America to escape poverty in the prosperous United States of Africa. Like an African Voltaire, Waberi uses the weapon of satire to raze a Western myth that has come to imprison Africans: that of the eternal African victim. Ironically, this myth of African victimhood emerged in Western political thought at the same moment that Africa achieved political liberation. As the French writer Pascal Bruckner trenchantly described in “The Tears of the White […]

In 1980, the controversial U.S. diplomat for Africa, Chester Crocker, memorably described South Africa as a “magnet for one-dimensional minds.” The accuracy of that assertion has been confirmed over the course of the post-1994 democratic era, during which mood swings among both the commentariat and the wider populace have caused South Africa to be viewed from several, radically contrasting, but ultimately one-dimensional perspectives. Between 1994 and 1999, under the presidency of Nelson Mandela, South Africa was routinely described as a “miracle,” a country that had somehow managed to navigate the treacherous waters of the transition from apartheid, while putting in […]

Introduction In recent years, Ghana has made impressive progress with regards to socio-economic and political development. This has lead to contemporary Western media and international donors portraying the country not merely as a success story, but as a model for Africa. While some elections in Africa have been followed by violent conflicts and other political struggles, Ghana has held five relatively peaceful and successful national elections between 1992 and 2008, including two that resulted in an alternation of power between parties. In particular, to the extent that the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) lost the December 2008 presidential election by […]

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The Sahara no-man’s land of Northern Africa has proven to be a breedingground for an offshoot of Al Qaida. The group operates in the borderareas between Algeria, Mauritania, Mali and Morocco and may beresponsible for several disappearances in Mauritania. Al Jazeera hasexclusive footage of the fighters in their dessert camps. Mohammed Vallreports from Mauritania.