Back in 2002, Meles Zenawi, then prime minister of Ethiopia, drafted a foreign policy and national security white paper for his country. Before finalizing it, he confided to me a “nightmare scenario” — not included in the published version — that could upend the balance of power in the Horn of Africa region.
The scenario went like this: Sudan is partitioned into a volatile south and an embittered north. The south becomes a sinkhole of instability, while the north is drawn into the Arab orbit. Meanwhile, Egypt awakens from its decades-long torpor on African issues and resumes its historical stance of attempting to undermine Ethiopia, with which it has a long-standing dispute over control of the Nile River. It does so by trying to bring Eritrea and Somalia into its sphere of influence, thereby isolating the government in Addis Ababa from its direct neighbors. Finally, Saudi Arabia begins directing its vast financial resources to support Ethiopia’s rivals and sponsor Wahhabi groups that challenge the traditionally dominant Sufis in the region, generating conflict and breeding militancy within the Muslim communities.Continue Reading →
Winning the peace in the Horn of Africa — and its neighbors across the huge arc of turbulence from the Maghreb to Central Asia — means studying the warlord’s playbook, updated for the 21st century. Countries beset by factionalism, corruption and violence can’t be fixed with the 20th century tool kit of peace talks leading to new constitutions, plus using aid to build institutions, backed by U.N. peacekeepers. Worse, the U.S. strategy of outsourcing counter-terrorism programs to regional proxies just funnels ready cash into precisely the most skilled and ruthless operators in the political marketplace, as well as giving them the means for repression.Continue Reading →
In this presentation I will argue that African scholarship on Africa is operating at only a fraction of its true potential, and that it is hampered by the preferences, policies and politics of the western academy.Continue Reading →
One monstrous zombie concept is the claim that climate change will spark new atrocities and conflicts over food scarcity. It’s clear that climate change is a scientific fact. But I am a skeptic about any direct links between environmental crisis, climate change and conflict and famine in the modern world. This skepticism arises partly as a reflex against the poor arguments marshaled in favor of those who predict such crises. Not to mention the trend lines: as the globe has warmed over recent decades, mass atrocities (including both large scale violent killing and famines) have declined.Continue Reading →
Begin with recognizing that all political systems need money, and that political finance should be regulated. This in turn requires drawing a distinction between political spending and corruption. This is a simple distinction to assert but a remarkably difficult one to delineate in practice.
The difference between legitimate funding of political institutions and patronage systems, and theft, needs to be drawn differently for each political system. So the next step is to initiate a process that allows countries to draw this line themselves. In institutionalized political systems, there can be an open debate on political financing, leading to legislation and enforcement. In political markets, it is the political financiers—the domestic businesses, foreign investors and patrons who provide the political money—who must take the lead. Let them collectively determine what counts as corruption and what is legitimate political spending.Continue Reading →
This essay briefly examines the possible components of a ‘human security approach’ to African peace missions and security sector governance/reform.
There are three overlapping general frameworks for human security (MacFarlane and Khong 2006). The first (‘Canadian’) focuses primarily on protection from organized violence; the second (‘Japanese’) on protecting and promoting a broad range of human capabilities; […]Continue Reading →
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