On October 16, when it took the stunning and sweeping decision to cancel most of the vote in Rakhine State on November 8, the Union Election Commission (UEC) disenfranchised an estimated 73% of Rakhine voters, in addition to the Rohingya who had been stripped of voting rights in 2015. The UEC justified its decision on the grounds that the election could be neither free nor fair because of ongoing armed conflict in the state. When critics asked why the elections had not been cancelled in war-stricken Paletwa, where security concerns are most acute, the UEC called off elections in parts of that Chin State town and restored them in a few village tracts in Rakhine.
Over the past decade, the United States, France, and the European Union (EU) have drastically increased security assistance to countries in the Sahel region. They have done so to address two perceived transnational threats—violent extremism and mass migration to Europe—but have often neglected Sahel countries’ own interests and long-term stability. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Niger, the world’s poorest country. Although in 2018 the country received $1.2 billion in external aid—representing 13 percent of its GDP—it has not made the country safer for Nigeriens. If long-term peace and stability is the end goal of foreign security assistance, donor countries need to center Nigeriens’ priorities in their aid.
Morocco notched a diplomatic win this week as the United Arab Emirates opened a consulate in the Western Sahara, where Rabat has long sought international recognition of its claim over the disputed territory. It also signaled a troubling regional shift. The hostility between Turkey and the Saudi-aligned Arab states risks embroiling the Maghreb region, much as it already complicates conflicts and politics from Libya to the Red Sea region. In North Africa, as across the greater Middle East, a widening of the Turkish-Saudi confrontation is heightening the risks of destabilization and threats to U.S. regional and counterterrorism interests.
Algerians took to the streets in February 2019 to protest the re-election bid of longtime authoritarian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Those protests—which came to be known as the Hirak movement and resulted in Bouteflika’s resignation in April of that year—evolved quickly to calls for a fundamental overhaul of the country’s political system. Few real changes have been made since. This Sunday, Algeria will hold a referendum on constitutional amendments to ostensibly bolster the country’s democracy. But, the Hirak says the constitutional changes do not go far enough. USIP’S Tom Hill looks at why the constitutional amendments have stirred tension with the opposition, the movement’s struggles to coalesce behind specific demands, and the role of Algeria’s military and floundering economy in the transition.
As China’s leading foreign policy project, its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) should be easy to understand. Yet since its inception in 2013, the BRI has remained remarkably opaque. The government publishes no criteria for approving BRI projects or comprehensive lists of authorized ones. Consequently, a range of Chinese investors—including some linked to organized crime—claim an association with the signature program of China’s leader, Xi Jinping. In host countries, this free-riding identification can threaten governance and stability, while further damaging the international community’s ability to check the spread of related criminal activity.
More than a month after Afghan peace talks formally began, the effort to end the war in Afghanistan is stalled, and no one faces higher stakes than Afghan women. The attempt at negotiations has snagged on preliminary issues, the Taliban have escalated their attacks, and all sides are watching the evolution of the U.S. military role in the country. Afghan women’s rights advocates say the moment, and the need for international support, is critical. U.S. officials have noted how U.S assistance can be vital in supporting women’s rights, a principle that can be advanced at a global donors’ conference next month.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in lockdowns that have led to a global surge in incidents of gender-based violence, has underscored the need for a much broader understanding of what defines security, according to Jacqueline O’Neill, Canada’s first ambassador for Women, Peace and Security (WPS).
Bolivians took part on Sunday in one of the country’s most decisive and historic general elections, in which the former governing party Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) and its candidate Luis Arce garnered a resounding victory. The vote culminated nearly 12 months of instability since elections in October 2019 led to allegations of fraud, followed by massive street protests and the departure of former President Evo Morales after nearly 14 years in power. Bolivia has not experienced a peaceful transition of power since 2002, but a window of opportunity has opened for the ethnically diverse Andean nation to emerge from the paralyzing polarization that has plagued it over the past years.
Nigeria’s protests against police brutality already were the largest in the country’s history before security forces opened fire on a crowd in Lagos on October 20. The protest and bloodshed have only heightened the need for the government in Africa’s most populous country to end the pattern of violence by security forces against civilians. Leaders must finally acknowledge that this brutality has fueled violent extremism. How the Nigerian government will respond to citizens’ insistent demand for accountable governance will influence similar struggles—for democracy, accountability, nonviolence and stability—across much of Africa.
In a COVID-altered landscape of global security threats, economic opportunities and strategic change, Africa is seizing center stage. Africans form the world’s fastest-growing population and national economies. Violent crises, democracy movements, extremist threats, international investments, human displacement and strategic opportunities all are rising. The coronavirus pandemic underscores both Africa’s risks to global stability from fragile states—and the overlooked potential of a continent now outperforming wealthier regions in containing the public health crisis. COVID is the latest reminder that “Africa’s deepening vulnerabilities and its rising capacities will shape global realities whether we prepare for that or not,” according to scholar Joseph Sany.