Diplomats at the United Nations experienced something approaching euphoria at the end of last week. The annual gathering of world leaders for the U.N. General Assembly, in most years an exhausting and tedious exercise, had turned into a nail-biting drama. International and official commentators were gripped by two questions. Would the Security Council make a deal on the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons? Could the U.S. and Iran move toward rapprochement over Tehran’s nuclear goals? Neither outcome was guaranteed, but the week culminated with a pair of diplomatic coups. On Friday afternoon, President Barack Obama reported that he had made […]

Al-Shabab, the Islamic extremist group behind the recent siege on an upscale mall in Nairobi, Kenya, has since carried out attacks on Kenyan towns near the Somalia border. The group has threatened to continue the violence until Kenyan troops withdraw from Somalia, and even as forensic experts work to put the pieces together and determine the death toll after the devastating terrorist attack on Nairobi’s Westgate mall, analysts are beginning to ask what is next for al-Shabab. “The concern is that because al-Shabab is not really a conventional threat anymore, and yet they clearly want to retain their credibility and […]

A group of Tuareg rebels in northern Mali, whose rebellion against the central government sparked a coup and eventually a French intervention, announced yesterday that they were backing out of a June 2013 peace agreement with the Malian government. The move is a step backward for the efforts to stitch Mali back together again. But as Kamissa Camara wrote in WPR earlier this month, the agreement put on hold yesterday was problematic to begin with: Mali’s central government has signed a series of peace agreements with Tuareg rebels over the years, but they have only served short-term purposes. The latest […]

Addressing the U.N. General Assembly yesterday, Madagascar’s unelected transitional president, Andry Rajoelina, told world leaders that he had decided not to run in his country’s upcoming presidential election, slated for Oct. 25. The decision, Rajoelina said, would “unblock the political crisis.” Rajoelina came to office on the back of a military coup in 2009 that ousted elected President Marc Ravalomanana, who is currently living in exile in South Africa. As Simon Massey wrote in a WPR briefing last month, Madagascar has suffered from the ensuing protracted crisis: The intervening period has seen deterioration in the rule of law, declining standards […]

A state of emergency in place, curfews that begin at 7 p.m. on Fridays, army tanks in the streets, Islamists either dead or in prison, Egypt’s aging former dictator Hosni Mubarak out of jail, a rise in Islamist militant attacks against security targets and the intimidation of journalists and human rights workers: These are some of the developments since June 30 that have left some wondering whether, two and a half years after the uprising that brought Mubarak down, Egypt is in fact going through a counterrevolution. On July 3, three days after millions took to the streets calling for […]

The terrorist assault on Nairobi’s Westgate mall comes amid a lengthy military campaign by Kenyan forces to root out the militant group al-Shabab from southeastern Somalia. That intervention has proved more difficult than Kenyan officials initially predicted and sparked fears—now apparently realized—of terrorist blowback within Kenya. This background note reviews WPR’s extensive coverage of the Kenyan intervention and Somalia’s state of governance and security. Al-Shabab’s Looming Threat in Kenya After Somalia Intervention, Kenya Faces War Within, by Charles Wachira, Dec. 12, 2012: In the wake of its intervention into Somalia, Kenya has feared a backlash at home. Kenya Gets Pro-Active […]

An exchange of gunfire and rockets over the Central African Republic’s northwestern border with Cameroon has heightened fears that the troubled African nation could fall back into full-blown conflict. In recent days, fighting between the Seleka rebel alliance and militias loyal to ousted President Francois Bozize have put towns and rural settlements in northwestern Ouham prefecture under siege. More than 100 civilians have been killed in the clashes; whole villages have been burned to the ground; and thousands have been displaced from their homes by the fighting. At the epicenter of the violence are the river towns of Bossangoa and […]

In 2011, Algeria had serious misgivings about international intervention in Libya, which Algiers feared would result in many unintended consequences, few of them good for Algeria or the region. Those misgivings have since proven correct. Libya itself has collapsed into violent chaos, while weapons flows out of Libya in 2011 and 2012 fueled a Salafi jihadi insurgency in northern Mali that eventually resulted in Bamako losing control of the entire northern half of the country. And in Tunisia, a new Salafi jihadi threat has emerged on Algeria’s borders. Although Algeria initially stuck fast to its long-standing principle of noninterference, its […]

Global attention has been focused on Syria in the past few weeks, but the most influential country in the Arab world—and historically the one whose political developments tend to be echoed in neighboring countries—remains Egypt. And Egypt is, essentially, being redesigned. The new Egypt could end up looking a lot like the one that existed before the 2011 uprisings. It could also still become something closer to what the pro-democracy revolutionaries aspired to. But it could turn into something entirely different. How Egypt’s story turns out will be greatly influenced by this, the third chapter of the tumultuous era that […]

New U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power is living up to her reputation as a staunch defender of human rights, and in the process is testing the limits of U.S. diplomacy within the bounds of international law. Power came out swinging Monday in a statement about Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s decision to seek a visa to attend the U.N. General Assembly, which opened yesterday in New York. “Such a trip would be deplorable, cynical and hugely inappropriate,” she said, adding that Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court, ought to turn himself over to the ICC […]

In late-August, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda decided to accelerate their integration under the regional body the East African Community (EAC) without involving EAC member state Tanzania, potentially signalling the emergence of a two-speed East African integration process. In an email interview, Stefan Reith, head of the Tanzania office of the German political foundation Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, explained the progress to date of East African integration and the obstacles to its implementation. WPR: What steps has the East African Community taken so far toward greater political integration? Stefan Reith: Unlike other African regional integration mechanisms like the Southern African Development Community, the Common […]

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party are in a buoyant mood. Their resounding victory in July’s presidential and parliamentary elections, by means both fair and foul, releases them from an inconvenient four-year power-sharing arrangement with their rivals, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). They can now resume sole responsibility for mismanaging the country. The election outcome was a foregone conclusion. The pre-election manipulation was so thorough, and the electorate so cowed by the painful memories of 2008, that ZANU-PF did not even have to resort to large-scale violence in order to deliver the result it desired. Early signs […]

This month, the March 23 (M23) rebel movement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) announced it would agree to a cease-fire only if the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), another armed group active in the DRC, were “neutralized.” In an email interview, Christoph Vogel, a Mercator Fellow in International Affairs researching armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, explained the FDLR’s current strength and the regional cooperation necessary to disarm it. WPR: What is the current profile of the FDLR in terms of its rough location, size and ability to pose a military threat? […]

Since the Arab uprisings erupted two and a half years ago, the global jihadi movement has metastasized to a variety of new locales across the Arab world, most recently in Syria, Libya, Sinai and Tunisia. While these upheavals surprised many in the region, al-Qaida had predicted such events unfolding in a 20-year strategic plan (2000-2020) that came to light in 2005. That blueprint has gone according to plan so far, albeit more because of outside and structural forces than the efforts of jihadis themselves. As a result, the movement was well-positioned to take advantage of the new developments. In his […]

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part investigative series on U.S. and French counterterrorism efforts in Niger. Part I examined Niger’s emergence as a target of terrorist groups active in the Sahel region. Part II examines the growing U.S. security presence in Niger, and the nascent tensions with France over how best to counter terror and bolster Niger’s security. Though much has been made of Niger’s recent ascendance as a key U.S. ally in the Sahel region, the country had already begun to distinguish itself as a useful counterterrorism ally in Department of Defense circles as early as […]

In the decades after its independence in October 1960, Nigeria periodically found itself at a series of crossroads. The 1960s were characterized by a devastating civil war and internal tensions that nearly drove the country apart; the 1970s saw a burgeoning oil and gas industry as well as governance achievements—notably efforts to develop a national identity and the adoption of a new constitutional framework that ushered in a government with an executive president at its center and, ultimately, a handover to civilian rule, albeit a short-lived one, in 1979. Indeed, in a large and complex country with a population consisting […]

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part investigative series on U.S. and French counterterrorism efforts in Niger. Part I examines Niger’s emergence as a target of terrorist groups active in the Sahel region. Part II will examine the growing U.S. security presence in Niger, and the nascent tensions with France over how best to counter terror and bolster Niger’s security. Until May 23, Niger, a desperately poor, landlocked country of 17 million that shares long borders with volatile states including Mali, Algeria, Libya and Nigeria, had been spared from the violence that has plagued its neighbors over the […]

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