A funny thing happened on the way to the apotheosis of Egypt’s next president: The adoring crowds stayed home. The former military leader, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, was supposed to win a landslide victory with strong support from a public that had given every indication of burning with passion for the strongman. El-Sisi urged them to come out en masse to give him a strong mandate, and in the past they had always responded. There was never any doubt that el-Sisi would win. The only other candidate, Hamdeen Sabahi, served the useful purpose of giving a patina of legitimacy to the process. […]

If the past century’s dominant image of Ethiopia was that of an impoverished, war-torn state, epitomized by the horrendous 1984-1985 famine in Tigray and Wollo provinces, the early 21st-century picture of the country is surely exemplified by the construction of the biggest infrastructure project anywhere in Africa: Mere miles from Ethiopia’s border with Sudan, nearly 8,000 workers and engineers are laboring seven days a week, 24 hours a day as part of a round-the-clock construction schedule to erect the nearly 560-foot-tall Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Africa’s second-most populous nation is betting that the multibillion-dollar GERD will dramatically modernize Ethiopia’s […]

The confirmation process last week for David Barron, a former Obama administration lawyer nominated to the federal judiciary, reopened a debate about the justification for what has come to be known as the U.S. “targeted killing” program. But as the politics of the issue heat up, the administration and its critics seem to be relying on different interpretations of the terminology at the heart of the debate, and their underlying disagreement speaks to broader questions about the future of the American war on terror. For many critics of the administration’s approach to counterterrorism, the term “targeted killing” has come to […]

The mass kidnapping of schoolgirls by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram put an unwelcome spotlight on Nigeria. Though the attention is new, Nigeria’s security and governance deficits are not, with implications for the country’s domestic politics and regional influence. The United States and international partners have a role to play in assisting Nigeria, particularly in terms of improving security, but ultimately it is how Nigeria rises to the challenges it faces that will determine the course of its future. This special report reviews those challenges, and the responses to them, through recently published articles. Domestic Politics Nigeria’s Fault Lines […]

South Africa’s fifth national and provincial elections were held on May 7, just after the 20th anniversary of the country’s first democratic elections and six months after Nelson Mandela’s death. The outcome bore a strong resemblance to that of the 2009 election: The African National Congress (ANC) secured more than 60 percent of the vote; the main opposition grew nationally and retained its provincial stronghold; and a newcomer on the political scene finished third with almost 7 percent of the vote. It might be tempting to conclude that in South Africa the more things change, the more they stay the […]

A year ago, as Boko Haram, the violent jihadist group from Nigeria’s north, expanded its operations, I argued that even though the Nigerian government had launched what seemed to be a serious military offensive, it continued to reject the sort of deep and serious reform needed to undercut support for extremism. Hence the United States should avoid offering anything other than modest, indirect help. Since then, Nigeria’s security situation has eroded further. In the words of Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Boko Haram has become “increasingly monstrous.” Approximately 500,000 Nigerians have fled the fighting between government […]

France’s announcement that it will reorganize its deployment of thousands of troops across the Sahel region of Africa came as a blow to early hopes that security could be swiftly restored in northern Mali after last year’s Operation Serval. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves le Drian said on May 8 that despite assurances in 2013 that his country’s military intervention in Mali would be over in a matter of months, 1,000 French troops will now remain in the country, down from what are thought to be about 1,600 French troops at present. A further 3,000 will be based in three other […]

Over the course of the past year, there has been a cascade of African-led initiatives to increase security cooperation in the Sahel and Maghreb regions. While such initiatives are a function of the enduring imperative for states there to develop a more robust regional response to counter nonstate transnational threats, such as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and other violent extremist organizations, Sahel and Maghreb states may yet struggle to let go of some of the baggage that had impeded previous regional cooperation efforts. Prior to the 2012-2013 Mali crisis, mistrust among regional partners had hampered efforts to convince […]

As the U.S. considers how to help Nigeria rescue some 276 schoolgirls kidnapped by the militant group Boko Haram a month ago, domestic political attention is turning to the question of what the U.S. could have done ahead of time. In particular, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has come under fire for declining to add Boko Haram to the State Department’s list of designated foreign terrorist organizations, or FTO list. The implication is that the U.S. had an opportunity to prevent the kidnapping, and that the FTO list would have helped. Secretary of State John Kerry did eventually add […]

Now that we’ve all taken our #BringBackOurGirls pictures, we can spend some time examining what the appalling tragedy in Nigeria, and the attention paid to it, explains about some 21st century realities. Doing so just might help other young women and communities, as well as our security. But first we might have to relinquish some tightly held ideas about who these girls are and what we can do for them. Who are these girls of “ours”? They are Muslims who live in an area so poor, so neglected by Nigeria’s government and so bypassed by its oil wealth, that high […]

Last month, amid nonstop coverage of the Ukrainian crisis and an onslaught of domestic U.S. issues, the New York Times published an editorial urging the U.S. Congress to pass legislation to comply with international obligations on illegal fishing. Why did the editorial board think this issue warranted ink? Part of the answer is that the illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) trade in fish is no longer just a conservation and biodiversity challenge. Environmental crimes across the board today have significant consequences for countries’ development aspirations, in addition to global security implications. In this light, governments around the world need to […]

More than three weeks have passed since members of the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram burst into a girls’ school in the northeast of the country and kidnapped hundreds of girls. It took at least two of those weeks before international attention turned to the crisis, and even longer for the Nigerian government to sharpen its response and accept help rescuing the girls. Among the many questions surrounding the attack, one of the most puzzling is why Nigeria failed to react effectively for so long. By the time Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan at last spoke publicly about the kidnapping, the […]

For the first time since a military coup in 2012, Guinea-Bissau held presidential and parliamentary elections on April 13, setting the stage for the country’s return to civilian rule. With over 700,000 registered voters, 13 presidential candidates, 15 parties running for parliament and a history of chronic political instability, the elections could have been a recipe for more turmoil. But these fears proved unfounded, as on April 23 Guinea-Bissau’s National Elections Commission announced the final results of the parliamentary poll and the first-round results of the presidential election; more importantly, none of the country’s political forces disputed the results. The […]