The second India-Africa Forum summit, held in Ethiopia last week and attended by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh along with the leaders of 16 African states, set out a fresh roadmap for further consolidation of the strategic partnership between India and the African Union (AU). Addressing the summit, Singh emphasized clearly, “Africa possesses all the prerequisites to become a major growth pole in the world. India-Africa partnership is unique and owes its origins to history and our common struggles against colonialism, apartheid, poverty [and] disease.” With globalization increasingly shifting the international distribution of economic power in Asia’s favor, India has […]

JUBA, Sudan — It’s not every day that a new nation is born, even if the prospect is not unheard of in sub-Saharan Africa’s recent history. For south Sudan, the long and bitter struggle for autonomy and freedom from a series of oppressive Khartoum governments has made the looming reality of the Republic of South Sudan — as the state will be known after it becomes independent on July 9 — all the more meaningful for its diverse population. As was evident in the immediate, jubilant aftermath of the January referendum that decided south Sudan’s fate, this historic moment is […]

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Egypt’s foreign minister recently traveled to Saudi Arabia, amid signs of tensions between the two countries following the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. In an e-mail interview, Michael Wahid Hanna, a fellow and program officer at the Century Foundation, discussed Egyptian-Saudi relations. WPR: What has the relationship between Egypt and Saudi Arabia been historically? Michael Wahid Hanna: Following the Egyptian Free Officer’s Revolution in 1952 and the subsequent emergence of President Gamal Abdel Nasser as a champion of Arab nationalism, Egyptian-Saudi relations were marked by considerable strife. Indeed, for the most part, Egypt and Saudi Arabia remained rivals and […]

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News coverage of the fighting that erupted this week in Abyei, capital city of the province of the same name that lies on the border between Sudan and South Sudan, has largely blamed the violence on North-South friction over oil fields and undying tensions between ethnic tribes in the area. But Eric Reeves, a leading Sudan researcher at Smith College in Massachusetts, called the Sudanese army’s seizure of Abyei “extortion,” and says it is part of a growing strategy by the government in Khartoum to wring financial concessions out of South Sudan ahead of its official independence slated for July […]

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The members of the East African Community recently agreed to fast-track the economic measures necessary to meet their goal of creating a monetary union in 2012. In an email interview Steven Buigut, an expert in African monetary unions at the American University in Dubai, discussed the proposed EAC monetary union. WPR: What are the driving forces behind the creation of the East African Community Monetary Union? Steven Buigut: The East African Community (EAC) is a regional organization comprised of five countries: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. The first three countries previously operated a currency board arrangement backed by the […]

When President Barack Obama addressed the world’s Muslims from Cairo in 2009, his message, to put it bluntly, added up to, “Please love America — or at least stop hating it.” Two years later, when Obama took the podium once again to address the restive Middle East, his message was much different, but just as stark. This time he seemed to be saying, “Please believe that America still matters.” Obama’s May 19 speech from the State Department in Washington represented a desperate attempt at relevance. The president was essentially trying to demonstrate that during this transformative phase in the region, […]

Much of the reaction to President Barack Obama’s speech on U.S. Middle East policy last Thursday focused on his reference to Israel’s pre-1967 borders as the basis for a future two-state solution with Palestine. But Obama’s speech was far more focused on long-term realities, suggesting that he is not really willing to push for some historic Israeli-Palestinian peace plan against the background of the Arab Spring. In fact, it’s fair to wonder why he chose to expend any of his political capital on this deadlocked issue, especially since he had to know that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would reject […]

CAIRO — When the 9-year-old students at a private British school here skip down the hall for religion class, the children head in one of two directions. Muslim students shuffle into one classroom with their books on Islam, and Christian students to another with their texts on Jesus and the disciples. National policy in Egypt dictates that Muslim children study Islam and Christian students learn about Christianity. And while Christian students do acquire some knowledge of Islam through Quranic readings in standard Arabic classes, the exposure is limited. Though it might seem anecdotal, the education policy is in fact revealing: […]

The future of women’s rights in the Arab Spring countries has been an open worry in recent months. Observers have noted there are no women in the transitional government in Egypt. Fundamentalist elements in Yemen that had opposed raising the marriage age for girls, currently at 8 years old, are among the chief opposition forces trying to bring down the Saleh government. Paraphrasing T.S. Eliot, spring might well be the cruelest season for women in the Arab world. It is in this context that recent reports in the Egyptian media are so troubling. According to the Egyptian Center for Women’s […]

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Apparently President Barack Obama’s speech on U.S. Middle East policy has created quite the uproar among those who are shocked to learn that there is gambling going on in Rick’s place. So be it. For me, I’ll limit my textual analysis to the speech’s few sentences that might end up having a real-world impact. First place goes to this one, which represents the kind of contractual language against which future U.S. policy should be held accountable: Our support for these principles is not a secondary interest — today I am making it clear that it is a top priority that […]

When the Arab Spring began erupting late last year, most world leaders responded with a mixture of bewilderment and incoherence. Whether in Tunis or Cairo, Washington or Paris, heads of government seemed confused about how to react to the mass popular demands for democratic change. That, however, was not the case inside the palaces that house the reigning monarchs of the Middle East. There, the swelling political seas were met with a steady hand on the rudder. As they watched besieged presidents plead or do battle with their people, and as they observed Western leaders nudge and later withdraw their […]

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There are reports that the once-banned Tunisian Islamist party, Hizb Ennahda, has emerged as the country’s most powerful political force ahead of July elections for the transitional national assembly that will be tasked with reforming the Tunisian constitution. Close observers of Tunisia, however, say the country’s post-authoritarian political space is still in its early stages. So while an Ennahda victory may be likely, it would not necessarily signal a full-blown Islamic takeover of the government. “I think fears about Ennahda have been ramped up substantially more than they need to be,” says Christopher Alexander, a political scientist at Davidson College […]

The air campaign against Libya is now well into its third month, and there is as of yet little sign of progress on either side. What does this mean for the future of airpower? With the exception of small special forces teams and several warships, the military aspect of the Libyan intervention has been conducted from the skies. Gen. Sir David Richards has now called for an expansion of the air campaign to include leadership targets, with the goal being the removal of Moammar Gadhafi’s government. This brings a strategic element to a campaign that has thus far lacked coherence […]

When Ban Ki-moon was chosen as secretary-general of the United Nations, his predecessor Kofi Annan welcomed him as “a man with a truly global mind.” Nearly five years on, such a mindset is indeed an asset, as Ban must find his attention constantly roaming from one to another of the planet’s trouble spots. In the past six months, the U.N. has played a central role in major crises in both Côte d’Ivoire and Libya. The Ivorian standoff threatened to shame both the secretary-general and the Security Council, as Laurent Gbagbo ignored their efforts to make him leave office after losing […]

Following the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and the developments still unfolding in the region, several questions arise: Is the Arab Spring over? Have we reached a turning point where no new revolutions are likely and where the remaining autocratic leaders will reaffirm their power monopolies? And what do post-revolutionary developments in Tunisia and Egypt suggest about the pace and prospects of their political opening and possible democratization? In trying to answer these questions, the two waves of democratization in Eastern Europe and Eurasia provide useful analytical comparisons. The 1989 revolutions in the former communist bloc, as well as its […]

CAIRO — Following the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt seems poised to pursue a more independent foreign policy in the Middle East. But as Cairo prepares to change course from Mubarak’s unblinking adherence to the region’s pro-U.S. bloc, Saudi Arabia can be expected to do its best to prevent both the current military leadership and any future civilian government from disrupting the status quo. Riyadh, whose first concern is blocking the expansion of Iranian influence, has an arsenal of political, economic and social tools to keep Egypt in check. Saudi Arabia’s rulers, long accustomed to dealing with Mubarak’s […]

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