As the Obama administration grapples with what to do next in Egypt, it may be instructive to review the U.S. efforts of the past decade to bring about fundamental political and economic change in Egypt and the other countries of the greater Middle East. The events of 9/11 were a deadly wake-up call to Washington that the status quo in the region—the perpetuation of sclerotic autocracies that provided no meaningful outlet for the economic and political aspirations of the populace—was not sustainable. Indeed, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was later to note—in June 2005, speaking in Cairo, no less—that “For […]

The most remarkable trait of Washington’s policy toward Egypt has been its lack of clarity. That’s part of the reason why each side in the battle over Egypt’s future blames America for supporting the other. Now President Barack Obama has to decide whether or not to continue providing more than $1.5 billion in aid annually. He will be tempted to make another hazy, ambiguous decision, one that allows him to stand on all sides of the issue. Instead, he should take the opportunity to clarify America’s position. According to some reports, the Obama administration has secretly suspended aid, which manages […]

A year after Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn came to power following the death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi in August 2012, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) remains firmly in control. It has continued to govern through a collective leadership that includes three deputy prime ministers from the Amhara, Tigray and Oromo wings of the coalition; Hailemariam hails from the Southern People’s Party. Party discipline and coherence has held, although the lead-up to elections in 2015 may reveal destabilizing fissures. But while older opposition parties and armed movements have been marginalized, a social movement of Ethiopian Muslims […]

Since the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and the brutal military crackdown on the Islamic movement that has led to more than 1,000 deaths, regional actors in the Middle East have been positioning themselves behind the opposing sides. There has been a divide among U.S. allies, with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait coming out in strong support of the military rule in Egypt, and Qatar remaining a strong supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Morsi government. “Saudi Arabia has emerged very publicly,” Phyllis Bennis, a Middle East analyst who directs the New Internationalism Project at […]

Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has won the presidential election against Soumaila Cisse in Mali, the West African country that made headlines in the past year and a half for its military coup and an international intervention to oust Islamist rebels. But while Cisse conceded Monday night in a peaceful conclusion to an election that some feared was coming too soon, many barriers remain in the way of the fulfillment of Keita’s campaign promise of unifying the country. Andrew Lebovich, Sahel consultant with the Open Society Initiative for West Africa and an expert on Mali, said Keita, who was prime minister from […]

Characterized by false dawns, blind alleys and abrupt turnarounds, the tortuous mediation of Madagascar’s constitutional crisis has once more stalled. The Special Electoral Court’s ruling to allow the current unelected transition president, Andry Rajoelina, to stand in the presidential election, along with Lalao Ravalomanana—the wife of ousted President Marc Ravalomanana—and another former president, Didier Ratsiraka, remains a sticking point for most of the international community, which currently refuses to recognize a presidential poll should any of these three win. Logistically, the election cannot now take place on Aug. 23 as planned, and only the most optimistic stakeholders envision completing two […]

High-value natural resources have historically been associated with dozens of armed conflicts, millions of deaths and the collapse of several peace processes, and both case studies and statistical evidence confirm that such resources play a role in sparking and fueling armed civil conflict. According to recent research, between 1970 and 2008 the portion of armed civil conflicts that were in some way related to high-value natural resources ranged from 30-60 percent each year. Why is peace so difficult to achieve and sustain in the presence of these resources? High-value natural resources can directly increase the risk of conflict in a […]

The small island-state of Timor-Leste exemplifies the challenge of resource-based development for a poor country well-endowed with a valuable natural resource. Timor-Leste, which gained its independence in 2002, has accumulated $13 billion in its petroleum fund in less than a decade. Some of the largest multinational oil companies are operating in the country, and the revenues continue to flow. And yet, while Timor-Leste has seen very notable improvements in its development indicators in the past few years, it continues to face a massive challenge of converting financial wealth into economic development. There are also heated debates about how to spend […]

For mineral-rich countries, large-scale extractive industry projects are a double-edged sword. On one hand, mining royalties and taxes provide funds that can be invested in infrastructure and social services. Mining projects can also create local jobs and spur demand for locally produced goods and services, supporting livelihoods and spurring economic growth. On the other hand, mining revenues can be—and there is plenty of evidence that they routinely are—spirited or frittered away, leaving little to show by way of long-term productive investment or better living standards. Moreover, mining booms undermine growth in other industries by skewing labor demand and swelling the […]

This is the second in a two-part series on the U.S.-South Africa bilateral relationship. Part I examined the state of economic ties. Part II examines the state of political ties. U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent visit to South Africa was positive in tone and strong in symbolism, but there was a tangible sense that both sides were going through the motions. If the trip was a rather subdued affair in terms of policy outcomes, it is in part because the U.S.-South Africa political relationship is actually quite fractious, and even the traditional trappings of summitry could not conceal a range […]

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Experts on post-conflict reconstruction don’t talk much about the idea of honor. They emphasize worthy but bloodless concepts like good governance instead. Yet appealing to national pride can do wonders for a politician aiming to inspire the citizens of a war-damaged country. In Mali, for instance, it has worked for Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, a veteran politician who is on course to be the country’s next president. He has promised to restore “the honor of Mali” after its collapse into civil war in 2012, during which Tuareg separatists and Islamists seized the north of the country, necessitating an intervention by France […]

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe will serve a seventh term in office, having reportedly won 61 percent of the vote in Zimbabwe’s general elections last week, compared to 34 percent of the vote for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, despite charges of electoral fraud. South African President Jacob Zuma extended his congratulations to Mugabe, while the United States and the United Kingdom expressed concerns about the integrity of the vote, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry saying the outcome failed to “represent a credible expression of the people.” In an email interview with Trend Lines, James Hamill, a lecturer in the […]

This is the first in a two-part series on the U.S.-South Africa bilateral relationship. Part I examines the state of economic ties. Part II will examine the state of political ties. Although it was inevitably overshadowed by the serious decline in Nelson Mandela’s health, U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to South Africa at the end of June provided the opportunity for a comprehensive re-evaluation of the bilateral relationship. Though both sides talked about expanding cooperation and strengthening ties, the backdrop to the visit was a checkered and uneven relationship since the birth of the new South Africa in 1994. By […]