A daughter of Christian Medves kisses her father’s coffin during a ceremony for three victims of last week’s extremist gun rampage in Trebes, southern France, March 29, 2018 (AP photo by Fred Lancelot).

PARIS—Last Friday, a gunman hijacked a car near the city of Carcassonne, in southwestern France, before shooting at national police officers finishing up a morning run. He then headed to the nearby town of Trebes, where he opened fire in a supermarket and held shoppers and employees hostage for several hours. By the time police arrived at the scene, three had died: two supermarket hostages and a passenger in the hijacked car. The following day, Arnaud Beltrame, a 44-year-old lieutenant colonel in the French police who used his body as a shield to protect one of the hostages, died of […]

Supporters of Zambian President Edgar Lungu react while supporters of opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema picket outside the High Commission of Zambia, Pretoria, South Africa, May 26, 2017 (AP photo).

When Hakainde Hichilema, Zambia’s opposition leader, was let out of prison last August, some analysts speculated that the news would herald a cooling of tensions in a country that had struggled to move on from its disputed presidential election in 2016. Hichilema, the head of the United Party for National Development, or UPND, finished second in that race to President Edgar Lungu, who took office in 2015 after the death of his predecessor, Michael Sata. But Hichilema challenged the result, just as he challenged the 2015 by-election that had permitted Lungu to serve out the remainder of Sata’s term. The […]

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, arrive at the commission’s offices in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 9, 2018 (AP photo by Mulugeta Ayene).

In early March, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov embarked on a five-country tour of sub-Saharan Africa. During his trip, Lavrov signed new trade agreements with Russia’s two long-standing partners in southern Africa, Angola and Mozambique. He also strengthened Moscow’s diplomatic ties to Zimbabwe’s new government and highlighted the role Russia could play providing security to several countries facing political unrest at home. Even though Russia’s power projection capabilities on the continent remain limited, the broad range of deals signed by Lavrov suggests that Russia is actively seeking to expand its economic and security influence in Africa, and perhaps reassert some […]

Dust envelops the skyscrapers in the central business district in Beijing, China, March 28, 2018 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

As part of the same 13th National People’s Congress that abolished his term limits, Chinese President Xi Jinping oversaw a significant Cabinet reshuffle earlier this month. The State Council, the chief executive body of the Chinese government, now includes a Ministry of Ecology and Environment, which early press reports, from both the Chinese and international media, rendered as the Ministry of Ecological Environment. The ministry will be led by Li Ganjie, who has since June 2017 served as the minister for environmental protection. Its broad portfolio includes what had been under the purview of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, as […]

Recently freed schoolgirls from the Nigerian town of Dapchi attend a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, Abuja, Nigeria, March 23, 2018 (AP photo by Azeez Akunleyan).

On March 23, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari declared that his government “is ever ready to accept the unconditional laying down of arms by any member of the Boko Haram group who shows strong commitment in that regard.” Two days later, his information minister, Lai Mohammed, revealed that “unknown to many, we have been in wider cessation-of-hostility talks with the insurgents for some time now.” The immediate context for Buhari’s offer and Mohammed’s revelation was Boko Haram’s recent kidnapping of 111 schoolgirls in Dapchi, in northeastern Nigeria. The girls were kidnapped in February; the extremist group released most of the girls […]

A man flanked by two large representations of vultures holds a sign that reads, in Spanish, “Let them all go” during a protest against Peru’s political class, Lima, March 22, 2018 (AP photo by Rodrigo Abd).

LIMA, Peru—Most Peruvians were relieved to see Vice President Martin Vizcarra sworn in as the country’s new leader last Friday, after a series of revelations and accusations of corruption forced beleaguered President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski to resign. But the installation of the relatively unknown Vizcarra as Peru’s 61st president marked the beginning of a period of uncertainty, as his ability to govern effectively in a political environment tainted by corruption and chicanery remains to be seen. Vizcarra is a 55-year-old civil engineer whose only political experience prior to becoming Kuczynski’s first vice president was a four-year term as governor of […]

Cyril Ramaphosa, then serving as South Africa’s deputy president, delivers a speech marking the 28th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, Cape Town, South Africa, Feb. 11, 2018 (AP photo).

Amid the drama last month of Jacob Zuma’s resignation as South African president and Cyril Ramaphosa’s subsequent inauguration, it was easy to overlook the resiliency of South Africa’s democracy during Zuma’s nine years in power, which were marked by poor governance, corruption and his authoritarian style. By the end, the political opposition, the judiciary, the media and the electorate all successfully exerted pressure on the ruling African National Congress to remove him. Zuma’s departure was a crisis for the ANC, but not for South Africa’s democratic institutions and the rule of law. When it decided that he had to go, […]

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a meeting at the Pentagon, Washington, March 22, 2018 (AP photo by Cliff Owen).

On Monday, Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, arrived in the United States for a three-week marathon visit that follows stops in London and Cairo, where red carpets were rolled out and a number of big-ticket deals signed. But the United States was always the centerpiece of this roadshow. The crown prince will crisscross America on his way from a pro forma appearance in Washington to potentially more meaningful stops in Boston, New York, Seattle, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and Houston, where he will court influential investors and partners for his far-reaching reform agenda back home. Prince Mohammed […]

Kuwait’s emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, center, oversees the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Kuwait City, Dec. 5, 2017 (AP photo by Jon Gambrell).

Kuwait has had a strong start to its two-year term as one of the 10 rotating members of the United Nations Security Council. In February, it organized and hosted an international conference for the reconstruction of Iraq that raised a promised $30 billion in loans and investments. It has also partnered with Sweden to advance several draft resolutions for cease-fires in Syria and to coordinate the Security Council’s humanitarian work there. Long an active player in regional diplomacy, Kuwait is well-placed to act as a bridge connecting Arab and international efforts to find mediated solutions to conflicts and flashpoints in […]

People fill the courtroom as the High Court in Kenya begins hearing arguments in a case challenging parts of the penal code seen as targeting LGBT communities, Nairobi, Kenya, Feb. 22, 2018 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

In dozens of African countries, laws criminalizing same-sex sexual acts are among the more pernicious holdovers from the colonial era. Even as LGBT rights activists have made considerable gains in securing access to health services and combating specific human rights abuses, decriminalization has remained largely out of reach. Yet in the coming months, judges in two African capitals thousands of miles apart are expected to rule on legal challenges that would help break this deadlock and, in the process, go a long way toward transforming the judiciary from a source of repression into an ally. The cases, in Kenya and […]

Outgoing Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico, left, hands over his resignation to Slovakian President Andrej Kiska at the presidential palace, Bratislava, March 15, 2018 (TASR photo by Martin Baumann via AP).

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico stepped down from the post he has held for 10 of the past 12 years on March 15, amid the biggest protests to have rocked Slovakia since the Velvet Revolution that toppled the Czechoslovak communist regime in 1989. A political deal has been thrashed out to keep the three-party governing coalition, led by Fico’s center-left Smer party, in power. But few expect it to survive long, leaving nationalist and populist parties in prime position to take advantage of a potential early election. The threat to Fico’s long domination of Slovak politics is a direct consequence […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives for the 2018 Winter Olympics at Yangyang International Airport, Yangyang, South Korea, Feb. 9, 2018 (AP photo by Lee Jin-man).

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has defied the usual short-term trajectory of Japanese administrations. Indeed, if Abe is able to serve out a third term as leader of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party, with leadership elections slated for September, and maintain power in Japan’s parliament, the Diet, he would become Japan’s longest-serving modern-day leader. But before he has a chance to get there, he’ll have to weather the kind of unexpected political instability that he has largely avoided in Tokyo. The largest point of contention right now for Abe is a re-emergent scandal over potential graft in the sale of […]

A demonstrator checks his smart phone in front of pictures of U.S. President Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Manila, Philippines, Nov. 14, 2017 (AP photo by Aaron Favila).

More than a year into the Trump administration, it is obvious that the White House has little interest in using the bully pulpit or U.S. economic clout to promote democracy and human rights around the world. With a few exceptions, such as Venezuela, Iran, Cambodia and Cuba, the administration rarely speaks about human rights abuses in other countries. As president, Donald Trump has held meetings with autocratic leaders whom the Obama administration refused to invite to the White House, like Thai junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi. Trump has also praised some foreign leaders’ abuses of the […]

Holding a banner with a Turkish and a Palestinian flag, protesters chant anti-U.S. slogans during a demonstration near the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, Dec. 6, 2017 (AP photo).

Jordan announced this week that it was suspending its free trade agreement with Turkey, in order to protect Jordanian companies from what it called “unequal competition” from industries supported by the Turkish government. It looks like a setback in ties between Amman and Ankara, yet the geopolitical picture is more complicated. Two weeks ago, over consecutive days in late February, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, and its highest-ranking military officer, Gen. Hulusi Akar, visited Jordan for meetings meant to signal both countries’ desire to upgrade their bilateral relationship in light of regional developments. A major impetus is undoubtedly the Trump […]

Recently fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani before a meeting at the State Department, Washington, Nov. 20, 2017 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

For the past nine months, the tiny but very wealthy Arab state of Qatar has been subjected to a blockade by its three immediate neighbors—Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain—as well as Egypt, which accuse it of supporting terrorism and aligning itself with their regional rival, Iran. But the blockade has hardly achieved its aim of isolating Qatar and forcing it to abandon its independent foreign policy. Instead, Qatar’s economy remains mostly unaffected and its external relations are largely intact. On Tuesday, however, Qatar lost an important partner when President Donald Trump abruptly sacked his secretary of state, […]

Workers at a project site that forms part of China’s “Belt and Road Initiative,” Haripur, Pakistan, Dec. 22, 2017 (AP photo by Aqeel Ahmed).

It is revealing of current American political obsessions that a recent book about the Marshall Plan’s relationship to the Cold War might be seen first and foremost as having lessons for today’s troubled ties between the United States and Russia. In that book, Benn Steil, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, argues that with the Marshall Plan’s launch in 1947, the U.S. and the Soviet Union “became irrevocably committed to securing their respective spheres of influence.” Yet despite widespread concern about Russia, the most consequential great power struggle today is the one between the U.S. and China. […]

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta shakes hands with opposition leader Raila Odinga outside Harambee House, Nairobi, Kenya, March 9, 2018 (AP photo by Brian Inganga).

Throughout Kenya’s latest election crisis, there was little love lost between the country’s two political archrivals. Raila Odinga, the opposition standard-bearer who lost last year’s bitter presidential race, accused the incumbent, Uhuru Kenyatta, of presiding over an “electoral dictatorship.” Kenyatta, meanwhile, implied that Odinga, in calling for a boycott of their runoff contest in October, was trying to deprive Kenyans of their right to vote. Last week, however, the tenor of the exchanges between the two men, whose rivalry extends a family feud that can be traced back to the early days of Kenya’s independence, changed completely. After meeting for […]

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