Managing Paul Kagame, Africa’s Enfant Terrible

Image: Flickr

Editor’s note: This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 30 March 2014.

South Africa is conducting a fairly delicate struggle with Rwanda, trying to choreograph and coordinate complex moves to manage the difficult and dangerous President Paul Kagame – on the hard streets of Johannesburg, in the polite halls of diplomacy, in the courts of law, and, by proxy, on the field of battle.

On Tuesday this week the terrain of this struggle moved to multilateral diplomacy in Luanda, where President Jacob Zuma once again attended a summit of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). South Africa is not a member of this body, but Zuma has become a sort of country member, having been invited to the last few summits as a special guest. » More

Searching for an Exit: Latin America and Venezuela

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, courtesy of Valter Campanato/wikimedia commons

This is a shortened version of the original article, published on 11 March 2014 on the International Crisis Group’s Latin America Crime & Politics blog.

The crisis in Venezuela has escalated beyond the capacity of domestic actors to find a space for dialogue. Each party rejects the legitimacy of its rival. Human rights violations – and protester violence – are leaving deep wounds in Venezuelan society that will take years to heal. Not long ago, such an impasse would have prompted the immediate response of the international community and particularly of regional organisations such as the Organization of American States (OAS). But Latin America is dividing against itself, and Venezuelans are paying the price.

During and after democratic transitions in the hemisphere’s southern cone and the negotiated peace of armed conflicts in Central America (1983-1996), the region built a credible system to protect human rights. The Inter-American Commission and Court on Human Rights, whose competence and jurisdiction were recognised by almost all American nations (with the notable exceptions of Canada, Cuba, and the U.S.), established standards to sanction past and present human rights violations. In 2001, the OAS, at the culmination of this expansive process, adopted the Inter-American Democratic Charter to protect and promote democracy and the rule of law, understanding that these were vital components of free societies. » More

Duties Without Borders

Young girl protesting outside US Embassy in Amman, courtesy of Freedom House/flickr

CAMBRIDGE – More than 130,000 people are said to have died in Syria’s civil war. United Nations reports of atrocities, Internet images of attacks on civilians, and accounts of suffering refugees rend our hearts. But what is to be done – and by whom?

Recently, the Canadian scholar-politician Michael Ignatieff urged US President Barack Obama to impose a no-fly zone over Syria, despite the near-certainty that Russia would veto the United Nations Security Council resolution needed to legalize such a move. In Ignatieff’s view, if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is allowed to prevail, his forces will obliterate the remaining Sunni insurgents – at least for now; with hatreds inflamed, blood eventually will flow again. » More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Alarms Central Asian Strongmen

Euromaidan Kiev 2014-02-18. Image: Wikipedia.

The Russia-Ukraine crisis is having a profoundly unsettling effect on authoritarian-minded governments in Central Asia. On the one hand, they are keen to keep the forces unleashed by the Euromaidan movement at bay; on the other, they appear unnerved by the Kremlin’s power play.

State-controlled media outlets in Central Asian states are reticent when it comes to covering developments in Kyiv, Crimea and elsewhere in Ukraine. The parallels between the ousted and allegedly corrupt president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, and leading members of Central Asian elites are obvious to many in the region, so it’s not surprising that the Euromaidan Revolution has received little play in Central Asia’s press. » More

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Credibility Will Survive Washington’s Recent Strategic Retreats

Obama

Photo: Joe Crimmings/flickr.

To its critics, the Obama administration’s foreign policy has become one of retreat. The decision not to engage militarily in Syria undermined the United States’ credibility around the world, and now there is the crisis in Ukraine. With Russia in partial control of Crimea, the critics feel further aggrieved. Surely the administration’s passivity and weakness helped provoke the incursion, they now argue.

The critics’ argument rests on the ‘demonstration principle’, i.e. the notion that how a state responds to one event establishes a reputation that others will react to in the future. It’s a principle with a rich history. For instance, historians generally believe that Britain’s willingness to accept Nazi Germany’s occupation of Czechoslovakia 1938 encouraged Hitler to think that there would be few consequences for moving against Poland a year later. In contrast, there is evidence to suggest that the US’ overthrow of Saddam Hussein had positive secondary effects throughout the broader Middle East, with Iran suspending its nuclear weapons program, and Libya abandoning its nuclear activities altogether. » More

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