A perfect storm of violence is breaking upon Africa’s Sahel. Since late 2018, communal conflicts—many over access to food, water or productive land—have produced thousands of deadly attacks. Across the region, nearly 4,800 people died in conflicts from November to March, according to the violence-monitoring group ACLED. The greatest surge in bloodshed is in Burkina Faso, where communal militias or religious extremists killed 500 people over five months. But amid the dire headlines, governments and civic groups in Burkina Faso and other Sahel countries cite progress in stabilizing communities with a basic step that simply has seldom been undertaken: broad, local dialogues among community groups, police forces and officials. Community leaders and government officials say they are now expanding those dialogues to improve national security policies to help counter the tide of violence.
The peace accord that halted a half-century of violent conflict in Colombia has reached a critical juncture. With the population almost evenly split over the terms of the 2016 agreement and a new government led by the party that opposed it, analysts and political figures see sustainable peace as increasingly endangered.
As leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s new panel on oversight and investigations, Representatives Ami Bera (D-CA) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY) agreed that examining the nuts and bolts of diplomacy and development work is a critical—and often unfulfilled—job for Congress.
Afghanistan is on uncertain terrain this year. Along with scheduled presidential and other elections and a nascent peace process, the possibility of withdrawal of international troops, worsening security, and an economic downturn loom heavily over the country. In this critical moment, government failure would make peace and political stability even harder to achieve let alone sustain. How can basic government functioning be maintained during this challenging period?
After losing its last territory in Syria on March 23, 2019, the Islamic State quickly reclaimed global attention with the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka on April 21 and a video tape of its reclusive leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, on April 29. The jihadi movement is now shifting focus to its ISIS branches, or “provinces,” in Africa, Asia and Europe. Baghdadi signaled ISIS’s expansion by formally embracing two Sunni extremist groups in Mali and Burkina Faso. But the Islamic State’s human core—more than 100,000 fighters and their families, including children—remains clustered in the rubble of its former “caliphate” in both Syria and Iraq. In Syria, they are detained in makeshift prisons, a hospital and refugee-style camps in the desert of northeastern Syria. USIP Senior Fellow Robin Wright made a rare tour of northeastern Syria to interview men and women who were part of the ISIS caliphate and to assess the risks posed by the post-caliphate crisis.
From Algeria to Libya to Sudan, North Africa has been roiled by protests and fighting in recent months not seen since the 2011 Arab uprisings. Those uprisings were sparked in Tunisia, which has continued a steady, if uneven, democratic transition in the years since. Despite the challenges posed by this regional turmoil, the small Mediterranean nation must continue to focus on domestic problems, said Tunisia’s defense minister, Abdelkarim Zbidi, this week at the U.S. Institute of Peace. What happens in Tunisia in the years to come will be important for the entire region.
The politics of the Central African nation of Chad are closely connected with those of Sudan, most prominently because of Darfur, the vast and troubled Sudanese region which borders Chad to the east. The recent fall of Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir—in power since 1989—raises questions about the future of Chad’s president and U.S. ally, Idriss Déby, beset by similar governance challenges and in power since 1990. Jérôme Tubiana, co-author of a 2017 USIP report on Chad, and USIP’s Aly Verjee discuss the implications of political change in Sudan for Chad.
On April 21, suicide bombers in Sri Lanka reminded the world that the end of the Islamic State’s “caliphate” by no means marked the defeat of violent extremism. Indeed, despite trillions of dollars spent and tens of thousands of lives lost, terrorism is spreading. The urgency of checking the ideology behind terrorism, particularly where the ground for it is most fertile, has never been greater, said members of the Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States this week at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
Few projects illustrate the risks of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) better than the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka. In 2017, unsustainable debt loads drove Colombo to give China a 99-year lease and controlling equity stake in the Hambantota port, while local communities protested the loss of sovereignty and international observers worried about China’s strategic intentions. The Hambantota case may be an outlier, but it has become a “canary in the coalmine,” and a warning sign to other BRI participants about what their future may hold. Increasingly, countries around the world are taking steps to reassert their influence over BRI projects—and Beijing has taken note.
Longtime Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir was ousted last Thursday, 30 years after he took power in the same fashion he was overthrown: by a military coup. The military takeover was spurred by months of popular protests over rising food prices, economic mismanagement and demands for a...