Ethiopia is at a very critical moment. There is the potential for it to go in a highly marketized and monetized political direction. There is also the potential, if the EPRDF leadership responds to the current situation with what I see as the appropriate measures to consolidate, to turn the developmental successes into a politically solid democratization project.

What is interesting about Sudan, particularly with the squeeze from the oil revenue, is that the Sudanese business class is beginning to assert itself, and that has the potential for stabilizing politics in northern Sudan. There are some very immediate dangers of democracy, to do with Sudan’s engagement with the wider politics of the Middle East and the growth of the defense and security establishments.

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In a WPF policy briefing of March 24, 2016, Alex de Waal warns that South Sudan is entering a dangerous new phase. Below is from the introduction to briefing.

Access pdf of the full briefing.

Introduction

This policy briefing provides an analysis of the risks that South Sudan faces given the current convergent economic, […]

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Today, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) sentenced Radovan Karadzić, the political leader of the Bosnian Serbs through the war (1992 – 1995), when he led them into disgrace by trading legitimate concerns about the character of political life in Bosnia’s post-Yugoslav existence for the pursuit of systematic, group targeted violence against their neighbors.

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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.

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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.

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The engagement of the AU Presidential delegation belies the negative reading of the AU’s decision at its January summit not to authorize military intervention against Burundi’s wishes. Decried as a crass example of allowing ‘sovereignty’ to trump human rights concerns, the decision warrants revisiting in light of the AUs continued efforts to support political engagement. This is precisely the goal of our new occasional paper by Solomon Derrso, “To Intervene or Not to Intervene: An inside view of the AU’s decision-making on Article 4(h) and Burundi.” The insights apply not only to Burundi today, but also to how the AU may interpret its Article 4(h), allowing for non-consensual armed interventions in certain circumstances, in future cases.

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