The AU’s Plans for an African Passport a Pie in the Sky?

Stamps in an African Passport. Image: Jon Rawlinson/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by ISS Africa on 15 July, 2015.

Amid the furore over Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s attendance, along with celebrities like Angelina Jolie, some of the discussions at last month’s African Union (AU) summit in Johannesburg went largely unnoticed.

One of these is a renewed call for African countries to open their borders and for regional economic communities (RECs) to do this by no later than 2018.

Is the AU way ahead of its time? Or is this just a desperate measure to find alternatives for Africans who are so eager to leave their own countries that they risk life and limb to settle elsewhere? » More

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Has Egypt’s Judiciary Become the New Theatre of the Absurd?

Young Egyptians protestig Morsi and the military. Image: Hamada Elrasam for VOA/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 7 July 2015.

The recent death sentence passed down on former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, along with 106 others, is far from being the only politically motivated conviction made by the Egyptian courts. Mass trials have become common since the July 2013 coup, which ousted Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president.

Collectively, these court decisions have raised serious questions about the independence of the judiciary, and suggest that the courts are merely an extension of the military regime, rather than an independent arm of the state.

Characteristic of these trials is the lack of due process throughout investigation and trial proceedings, the absence of objective evidence presented during trials and increasing numbers of defendants held incommunicado without access to legal representation. Lack of transparency is also evident, with courts refusing to make judgements public, proof that the judicial functions in the country are fast becoming politicised. » More

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The International Dimension of Tunisia’s Success Story

US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter with Tunisian President Caid Essebsi at the Pentagon, 21 May 2015.

Tunisia’s transition process remains one of the few bright spots of the Arab Spring. While the transitions initiated in Egypt, Libya and Yemen have experienced numerous setbacks and repeated outbursts of violence, if not outright civil war, Tunisia appears to be well on its way to securing a genuine democratic space for itself. This view is shared, for example, by the latest Freedom in the World Report, which ranks Tunisia as the first ‘free’ country in North Africa since Freedom House began its worldwide assessments of political rights and civil liberties in 1972.

Although there is a fast-growing body of research that attempts to explain Tunisia’s comparatively smooth democratic transition, the Western media has not been as upbeat. Most analysts have focused on the challenges Tunisia faces, including the instability being generated by neighboring Libya and the broader Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. As a result, other important aspects of Tunisia’s external relations, particularly those that have had positive implications for its transition, have gone unnoticed.

Most importantly, Tunisia’s new political order appears to have benefitted substantially from the staunch support of those external actors who have the most leverage over the country. In contrast, those with a more critical attitude towards the transition have largely lacked the ability to influence the trajectory of the transition in less positive ways. These circumstances are far from accidental, by the way. They’re the consequence of the country’s history. » More

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A Good Year (So Far) for Europe’s Separatists

The flags of Scotland and the United Kingdom. Image: The Laird of Oldham /Flickr

The European Union’s (EU) separatist movements have never had it so good. Faltering economic conditions, unpopular austerity measures and ‘out of touch’ governments have combined to reignite secessionism like never before. As a result, separatist fervour has never been so vocal – both in public and the national corridors of power. And there’s more to come. » More

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Will Tunisia’s Democracy Survive? A View from Political Demography

A Tunisian voter prepares to cast his ballot. Image: Freedomhouse/Flickr

This article was originally published by New Security Beat, a blog run by the Environmental Change and Security Program of the Wilson Center, on 12 May 2015.

Among the few bright spots in the 2015 Freedom in the World Report, the brightest may be Tunisia, which for the first time was assessed as “free” – Freedom House’s highest “freedom status” and for many political scientists the definitive indication of a liberal democracy. Tunisia is the only North African state to have been assessed as free since Freedom House began its worldwide assessment of political rights and civil liberties in 1972, and only the second Arab-majority state since Lebanon was rated free from 1974 to 1976.

Tunisians have had little time to celebrate. A deadly raid by jihadists on Tunis’ Bardo Museum on March 18 left 20 foreign tourists and 3 Tunisians dead and has led several analysts to warn that Tunisia’s fledgling democracy is at serious risk. » More

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