Finally! A Peace Policy for Kenya

“Keep Peace”, carved in a tree in Kibera, Kenya during the post election violence in 2008. Image: The Advocacy Project/Flickr

This article was originally published by Saferworld on 4 November, 2015.

The need for a national framework to guide efforts to prevent conflict and build peace in Kenya cannot be overstated. For a long time Northern Kenya was seen as the most problematic region of the country, with frequent incidents of cattle rustling fuelled by the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. The rest of Kenya remained ‘peaceful’, except for the cycles of political violence that have erupted during every election since the introduction of a multi-party democracy in 1992. The worst political violence was experienced in 2007–08, raising concern about the country’s capacity to deal with such high levels of violence and the effectiveness of its early warning and response, mediation, and security deployment. » More

Why North Korea is So Corrupt, and Why that May Be Good

North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un. Image: Surian Soosay/Flickr

This article was originally published by NK News on 16 October, 2015.

North Korea is probably the most corrupt country in Asia. Measuring corruption levels is difficult, and existing ratings (like the well-known index published annually by Transparency International) should be taken with a pinch of salt. Nevertheless, anecdotal evidence appears persuasive enough: Official corruption in North Korea has been exceptional over the last 20 years.

In my frequent discussions with North Koreans, I have discovered the fact that most of them take a high level of corruption for granted. They assume that any official who is in a position to ask for bribes will. In fact, they are surprised if officials refuse bribes. Simply put, corruption is part of the fabric of daily life in North Korea today. » More

Does Surveillance Mean the Death of Democracy?

NSA Grafitti in Stockholm, Sweden. Image: beppek/Pixabay

This article was originally published by openDemocracy on 29 October, 2015.

In computing, a “segmentation fault” occurs when a program tries to access information that it has no business accessing.

Emotion vs. reason. Instinct vs. analysis. Heart vs. brain. Perhaps there is no other dichotomy in our intellectual history that still holds similar sway. From an early age, we are taught to dissect what goes on in our minds and neatly compartimentalise it into these two boxes. When, in 2015, we survey the challenges facing our democracies, it is easy to slide back into this old habit. » More

The Rise of Diyanet: the Politicization of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs

Official logo of Diyanet, the Turkish Directorate for Religious Affairs. Image: Mark Morgan/Flickr

This article was originally published in the Turkey Analyst, a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Program Center on 9 October, 2015.

BACKGROUND: Whether in Ottoman times or in the Republican era, the Turkish state has made control of religious affairs a priority. In Ottoman times, this function was fulfilled by the Ulema under the leadership of the Sheikh ul-Islam, himself appointed by the Sultan. Following the creation of the Republic, the Diyanet Işleri Başkanlığı, or Directorate for Religious Affairs, fulfilled this role. Diyanet was created in order to maintain control over the religious sphere of Islam. All imams in every mosque across Turkey were appointed by Diyanet, which wrote their Friday sermons. Diyanet was a key institution of the Republic: it helped legitimize the modernization and westernization of Turkey from a religious perspective, and prevented the mosque from becoming a central focus point for reactionary activity. In this, it largely succeeded; and it is no coincidence that it is considered among the three key institutions of the republican era, together with the Army and the Ministry of Education. » More

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Has Liberalism Gone Missing in East Central Europe, or Has It Always Been Absent?

Members of the Hungarian Defence Force install barbed wire on the Hungarian-Serbian border. Image: Freedom House/Flickr

This article was originally published by OpenDemocracy on 5 October, 2015.

The government of Victor Orbán has systematically exploited the refugee crisis to ramp up a long-standing rhetoric of nationalist intolerance and consolidate its grip on power by passing a raft of emergency powers, further eroding Hungary’s once robust legal checks and balances. Such actions have drawn a storm of international opprobrium – including harsh criticism from the governments of Austria, Croatia and Serbia, all of which have taken a more humane and pragmatic approach to managing the influx of refugees.

Few criticisms of Hungary’s actions have come from neighbouring EU states in East Central Europe, still widely seen as front runners in liberal political and economic reform. Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic initially opted instead to close ranks with Orbán to head off the European Commission’s proposals for compulsory quotas. » More

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