Soldiers attempt to stop a group of demonstrators running toward a cordon of police in the Musaga neighborhood of Bujumbura, Burundi, May 20, 2015 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

Two years after a political crisis erupted in Burundi when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term, the country remains stuck at an impasse, facing low-intensity violence, political oppression and an increasingly desperate economic situation. As the trouble began in 2015, local, regional and international actors tried to facilitate negotiations and a peaceful solution to a crisis that threatened to transform into a new civil war and spill over Burundi’s borders. But then Burundi left the spotlight after Nkurunziza managed to nip regional and international interventions in the bud, and events such as Brexit and Donald Trump’s […]

Fishermen stand on the Indian Ocean beach in the former pirate village of Eyl, Somalia, March 6, 2017 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

After a steep reduction, piracy seems to be on the rise again off the coast of Somalia, with “five or six” incidents occurring in the past two months, according to U.S. military officials. These have included the hijacking of a Comoros-flagged tanker that was later released, as well as the seizing of a fishing trawler and the brief boarding of a cargo ship. In an email interview, John Steed, regional manager for the Horn of Africa at Oceans Beyond Piracy, explains the recent surge and the factors giving rise to it. WPR: Why has piracy declined off the coast of […]

Congo soldiers and civilians cast their ballots at a polling station, Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, March 20, 2016 (AP photo by John Bompengo).

In 2015 and 2016, Denis Sassou Nguesso—who has served as president of the Republic of Congo for two stints totaling more than 30 years—orchestrated a constitutional referendum and election that allowed him to stay in office. However, his latest term has been marred by more than a year of instability in the southeastern Pool region and elsewhere. The International Federation for Human Rights released a report this month denouncing “massive human rights violations” in the region, including arbitrary arrests and torture. In an email interview, Brett Carter, a Central Africa expert at the University of Southern California, explains what’s fueling […]

Burkinabe protest against longtime President Blaise Compaore, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Oct. 30, 2014 (AP photo by Theo Renault).

On Thursday, more than two dozen ministers from the government of former President Blaise Compaore appeared in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, for the opening of a trial over the events that precipitated their ouster two and a half years ago. Though Compaore’s legal team successfully obtained a one-week postponement, Burkinabe got to see their once-untouchable leadership answering to a court that could potentially hold them accountable for at least some of the crimes committed by the old regime. The case is no doubt symbolically important for a country that endured nearly three decades of Compaore’s inefficient and corrupt rule, followed […]

Protesters chant slogans against the government during a march in Bishoftu, in the region of Oromia, Ethiopia, Oct. 2, 2016 (AP photo).

Ostensibly intended to quell unrest perpetrated by “anti-peace” forces, Ethiopia’s extension of a state of emergency in March signals a continued crackdown on the country’s restive and aggrieved population. This repression disproportionately affects 65 million Ethiopian youth, who make up more than two-thirds of the country’s total population. Such brutality has increasingly left these young people—Ethiopia’s greatest asset or, conversely, a massive liability—a choice between two dangerous options: escape or rebel. As is the case elsewhere in Africa, Ethiopia’s youth bulge is a double-edged sword. It strains scant natural resources and limited infrastructure, but, if harnessed, could be a boon […]

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari during a panel discussion at the Anti-Corruption Summit in London, England, May 12, 2016 (AP photo by Frank Augstein).

In early February, Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency discovered a cache of $9.8 million stashed in the house of Andrew Yakubu, the former managing director of Nigeria’s state-run oil firm, NNPC. Nigerians on Twitter and Facebook quickly expressed their amazement at the magnitude of the amount and speculated over how Yakubu had gotten the money. Before the cash discovery, Nigerians had been preoccupied with the news of President Muhammadu Buhari’s extended medical vacation, which lasted through March. But their attention was swiftly diverted by the news of Yakubu’s cash stockpile, which was hidden in a fireproof safe inside his home in northern […]

Talibe students walk in a field littered with garbage, Dakar, Senegal, April 20, 2015 (AP photo by Jane Hahn).

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series about education policy in various countries around the world. Senegal’s system of Islamic schools, known as daaras, has been a frequent target of criticism by human rights groups, who condemn the practice of having students—known as talibé, or disciples—beg in the streets. Last year, President Macky Sall drew praise for ordering that talibé be taken off the streets and returned to their parents. However, the process of modernizing Senegal’s daara system has been slow. In an email interview, Sarah Mathewson, Africa program manager for Anti-Slavery International, describes the history […]

Supporters of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen during a campaign meeting, Paris, France, April 17, 2017 (AP photo by Kamil Zihnioglu).

On Sunday, France will vote in the first round of a heated presidential election that has domestic and international observers biting their nails. More than ever, the outcome of the French vote will resonate beyond its borders, with implications for the fate of the European Union, the plight of migrants and refugees, and security in the Middle East and Africa. Terrorism, immigration and the economy have dominated the contentious campaign period. That’s not surprising: Just yesterday, a gunman killed a police officer in Paris; migrant camps have popped up across the country; and unemployment, especially among youth, is soaring. But […]

Supporters of Zambia’s ruling party celebrate the outcome of the most recent presidential election, Lusaka, Zambia, Aug. 15, 2016 (AP photo by Moses Mwape).

The latest flare-up in Zambia’s ongoing political drama began with a high-profile case of road rage. On April 8, the motorcades of President Edgar Lungu and opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema happened to be moving along the same potholed, two-lane stretch of road in the west of the country. Footage from the encounter shows police cars swerving perilously close to Hichilema’s motorcade in an attempt to clear a path for Lungu. Hichilema’s entourage, however, continues driving forward, forcing the president to pass on the right amid blaring sirens, honking and shouting. A few days later, the gravity of the incident—at least […]

Rwandan students in a classroom, Kigali, Rwanda, Nov. 2, 2006 (AP photo by Jens Kalaene).

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series about education policy in various countries around the world. In 2008, Rwanda announced that it was switching the language of scholastic instruction from French to English. The move was implemented rapidly, and with decidedly mixed success—at least at first. In an email interview, Maria Ambrozy, a researcher with the Department of Politics and International Studies at SOAS University of London, explains the reason for the change and its effects. WPR: What is the current state of Rwanda’s education system, and what are some of the biggest barriers to improving […]

Opposition demonstrators gather on the lawns of the Union Buildings, Pretoria, South Africa, April 12, 2017 (AP photo by Denis Farrell).

Have the events of the past few weeks in South Africa provided the long-awaited tipping point for President Jacob Zuma’s dysfunctional presidency? His reckless sacking late last month of respected Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was driven not by any economic logic, but by narrow political and financial ambition. It has helped unite previously disparate forces against Zuma and brought closer the prospect—though not the guarantee—of his removal. This emerging opposition goes well beyond the official opposition parties and now embraces a large section of the ruling African National Congress itself. Last year over 100 ANC veterans called for Zuma’s resignation, […]

Security agents stand next to a large photograph of Senegalese President Macky Sall at the start of a campaign rally, Dakar, Senegal, March 23, 2012 (AP photo by Rebecca Blackwell).

Last Friday, thousands of Senegalese turned out for a protest at Dakar’s central Obelisk Square to vent their anger with President Macky Sall, who is widely hailed abroad as an effective democratic reformer. The protesters, many of them dressed in black, were responding to a call from a collective of rappers and journalists known as “Y’en a marre”—meaning “Fed Up” in French—that in 2011 orchestrated massive demonstrations against the bid by then-President Abdoulaye Wade to run for a third term. The group’s ability to mobilize Senegalese youth helped Sall defeat Wade in an election the following year, but on Friday […]

Ethiopian soldiers face protesters, Bishoftu, Ethiopia, Oct. 2, 2016 (AP photo).

In late March, lawmakers in Ethiopia voted unanimously to extend the country’s state of emergency for four more months. The emergency was first imposed last October as violence escalated following more than a year of anti-government protests. The protests have largely occurred in the Oromia and Amhara regions, the homelands of the country’s two biggest ethnic groups who complain of being marginalized by the central government. In an email interview, William Davison, an Addis Ababa-based freelance journalist and WPR contributor, gives an update on the crisis and the government’s response. WPR: How has the crisis in Ethiopia evolved since last […]

The headquarters of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Jan. 12, 2016 (AP photo by Mike Corder).

International justice has taken a reputational nosedive since the late 1990s, when the creation of the International Criminal Court signaled a new age of global accountability. Some of this has involved predictable pushback from political leaders who would rather not be called to account. But other complaints resonate more widely. Some say that the ICC’s focus on Africa and its inability to address atrocities from North Korea to Syria reflect the double standards of global power, not the impartiality of law. The worldwide resurgence of populism and nationalism, capped by the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president, appears to […]

President Donald Trump arrives to speak at Mar-a-Lago after the U.S. fired a barrage of cruise missiles into Syria, Palm Beach, Fla., April 6, 2017 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

Throughout the Cold War, the United States wrestled with the “friendly dictator” dilemma. Americans had long believed that democracy was not only the most just political system, but also the only one that could remain stable over time. Dictators might impose order for a while, but eventually the natural urge for freedom led to their downfall. Under the right conditions, a dictator’s demise could be relatively peaceful. At other times, though, it sparked a dangerous paroxysm of violence. Even so, Cold War-era American policymakers accepted and even embraced friendly dictators. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the problem was […]

A Senegalese soldier passes local children near Gambia's border with Senegal, Jan. 20, 2017 (AP photo by Sylvain Cherkaoui).

Last February, in his address at Gambia’s 52nd Independence Day celebration, the country’s newly elected president, Adama Barrow, referred to Senegal, Gambia’s closest neighbor, as a “friend in times of need.” Just a month earlier, following unsuccessful diplomatic efforts to unseat longtime Gambian strongman Yahya Jammeh, Senegal led a military intervention into Gambia to push Jammeh out. Jammeh had ruled Gambia with an iron fist for 22 years and refused to relinquish power after losing presidential elections in December. Senegal then became a safe haven for Barrow, who was sworn in as Gambia’s president in the Gambian embassy in Dakar […]

Benin President Patrice Talon addresses the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, Sept. 22, 2016 (AP photo by Richard Drew).

When he was sworn in as Benin’s president a year ago today, Patrice Talon, a business mogul known as the “king of cotton,” vowed to serve only one term and said he would try to enshrine that limit into law. On a continent where multiple presidents, from Burundi to Burkina Faso and beyond, have attempted with varying success to circumvent constitutionally imposed term limits in recent years, Talon’s promise—and his warnings about the complacency of long-serving leaders—set him apart as someone with potentially stronger democratic credentials. This week, however, Talon’s ability to make good on that promise was dealt a […]

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