After three days of voting that began over the weekend, participants in a one-sided referendum held in the disputed Abyei region on the border between Sudan and South Sudan voted overwhelmingly to join the South. The vote is not binding, but depending on the reaction, the outcome could have the potential to pull these countries even further apart. With only one of two ethnic groups in the region participating, the lopsided outcome was widely expected. What remains to be seen is how people will react to the vote both in the region and in the two national capitals. “There could […]

Following its “defeat” in the July 31 presidential and parliamentary elections at the hands of ZANU-PF, the fortunes of Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have reached their lowest point in the party’s 14-year existence. Any optimism the MDC may have harbored about removing ZANU-PF seems to have been extinguished, and, after five years in a government of national unity, the MDC is back where it has been for most of its lifespan: on the outside looking in, subject to persistent state harassment and seemingly powerless to halt the ZANU juggernaut. Crucially, this time the MDC also lacks the […]

Reports today that two U.S. citizens were seized by pirates off the coast of Nigeria are drawing international attention to the simmering problem of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. In July, maritime security expert James Bridger wrote in a WPR briefing that the situation was getting out of control. “West Africa has now reached a tipping point,” he wrote, “where the geographic expansion of pirate activity demands a coordinated response.” He continued: Operating out of western Nigeria, criminal syndicates with high-level political and economic patrons are targeting specific tankers for hijacking, offloading their cargo to secondary vessels and then […]

A historic change is underway in the global security system. As Harvard political scientist Stephen Walt wrote, the world is witnessing “a sharp decline in America’s ability to shape the global order.” In the future, Walt and others believe, “the United States simply won’t have the resources to devote to international affairs that it had in the past.” Christopher Layne of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University is even more blunt: “The epoch of American dominance is drawing to a close, and international politics is entering a period of transition: no longer unipolar […]

Nearly 1,000 people died in military detention in Nigeria in the first half of 2013, Amnesty International reported Tuesday, citing a senior officer in the Nigerian army. The detainees’ deaths occurred in the context of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s offensive against the Islamist movement Boko Haram, which is waging a violent insurgency in the country’s north. In May, Jonathan declared a state of emergency in several northeastern provinces, authorizing security forces to round up hundreds of prisoners, many of whom were shot or suffocated in detention, according to Amnesty. Nigeria has employed similarly heavy-handed tactics against Boko Haram since the […]

Two men died in an explosion in Addis Ababa yesterday in what the Ethiopian government described as a failed attempt to build a suicide bomb. The government’s claim that the two men were Somali nationals raises the specter of attacks by the militant group al-Shabab within Ethiopia. According to Catherine Cheney’s report for Trend Lines in the wake of last month’s al-Shabab attack on a Kenyan mall, Ethiopia’s military intervention into Somalia has made it a potential target for terrorism. Ethiopia . . . has kept troops in Somalia near the Ethiopian border since 2006. “It’s not clear how many […]

If you had to make a reckoning of the United Nations’ failures in recent years, the Central African Republic (CAR) and Syria would both rank high on the list. The U.N.’s setbacks over Syria have been extensively chronicled. The trouble in CAR is less well-known, but equally depressing. In March this year, U.N. political officers in the persistently unstable country were caught off-guard as rebels advanced on its capital, Bangui. Their reports to New York were delayed and got no serious response—U.N. personnel were evacuated just in time, as the rebels triumphed and launched a reign of chaos that still […]

On Sept. 16, 2013, European and African nations reached an agreement called the New Deal Compact, pledging $2.7 billion to help Somalia build peace and consolidate its government. In an email interview, Aisha Ahmad, an assistant professor of international relations and comparative politics at the University of Toronto who also serves as chief operating officer of the Hawa Abdi Foundation, a nongovernmental relief organization in Somalia, explained the New Deal and the requirements for its success. WPR: What is new in the New Deal for Somalia? Aisha Ahmad: Representatives from across the European Union and Africa signed the New Deal […]

Over the weekend, members of special mission units under the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command carried out raids in Somalia and Libya, capturing a senior al-Qaida operative in the latter country. While these attacks often come across as lightning strikes in the media, no detail is spared in terms of coordination and preparation. Trend Lines spoke with three experts about the disconnect between how these operations appear versus how they operate. “The events this weekend were both significant and insignificant,” David Maxwell, associate director of the Center for Security Studies and the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University, told Trend […]

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In the aftermath of the late-September attack on Nairobi’s Westgate mall by Islamist militants linked to the Somali terrorist group al-Shabab, Kenyan authorities reportedly stepped up arrests of Somalis living in Kenya. In an email interview, Anna Lindley, a lecturer in migration, mobility and development at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, explained where Somali refugees live and the likelihood of their return. WPR: What are the main concentrations of Somali refugees outside the country, and how long have they been there? Anna Lindley: Nearly 1 million Somalis are registered as refugees in the region of […]

The past decade has seen an explosion of creative institutional design in new democracies. From Indonesia to Iraq, scholars and policymakers interested in the management of ethnic conflict have engaged in overt “political engineering” with the aim of promoting stable democracies in deeply divided societies. Among advocates, several contrasting approaches to political engineering for the management of social cleavages have been evident. One is the scholarly orthodoxy of consociationalism, which relies on elite cooperation between leaders of different communities, as in Switzerland. Under this model, specific democratic institutions—grand coalition cabinets, proportional representation elections, minority veto powers and communal autonomy—collectively maximize […]

Over the weekend, Tunisia’s Islamist governing party, Ennahda, formally agreed to relinquish power in favor of a caretaker government that will supervise new elections. According to Sherelle Jacobs, Tunisia has managed to avoid the chaos of Egypt’s anti-Islamist collapse in large part because Ennahda has been willing to compromise: Ennahda has avoided alienating secularists and liberals on the same scale as the Muslim Brotherhood during precarious political moments. For example, tensions between Tunisian secularists and Islamists soared overnight following the assassination of Tunisia’s secular opposition leader, Chokri Belaid, in February. The then-prime minister, Hamadi Jebali, immediately responded with political concessions. […]

CONAKRY, Guinea — Guineans at home and abroad finally went to the polls on Sept. 28 to elect 114 members of parliament. Despite multiple delays and a series of demands from the opposition for fair political competition, preliminiary results suggest that President Alpha Conde’s ruling Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) party won a relative majority, thus solidifying the gains made during Conde’s first three years in power and further intensifying the rivalry between the country’s different political factions. However, the opposition Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG) coalition has disputed the early results and withdrawn from the vote-counting […]

In 1897, Mark Twain famously advised the New York Journal that its report of his death was an exaggeration. Recent years have seen a number of reports of al-Qaida’s death. These too have been exaggerations but, unfortunately, dangerous rather than witty ones. Claims of al-Qaida’s demise began in July 2011 when then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said the defeat of al-Qaida is “within reach.” In a May 2013 speech at the National Defense University in Washington, President Barack Obama said, “The core of al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the path to defeat.” In an August address at Camp […]

When the M23, a Rwanda-backed militia, launched a rebellion last year in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), few could have guessed the fallout it would cause in Kigali. For years, credible reports had documented a host of Rwanda-sponsored abuses in the region, from civilian massacres to the plundering of minerals. Yet Rwanda’s Western backers, wary of undermining a country considered a major development success, generally looked the other way. But when a series of U.N. Group of Experts reports found evidence of systematic Rwandan support for the rebels, including the provision of weapons and troops, and direct Rwandan command […]