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Ed Webb

A Year of Change in Ethiopia | United States Institute of Peace - 0 views

  • there are also many inconvenient facts in Ethiopia’s political transition. First, Prime Minister Abiy has been able to rapidly introduce reforms because he can still rule by fiat. In some ways, his management practices resemble those of a freewheeling CEO, rather than those of a consultative, deliberative politician. Such reforms, though far reaching, may not be irreversible nor sustainable. Second, progress has not been linear. There have been serious setbacks because of intercommunal conflicts: 620,000 Ethiopians are now displaced due to fighting in Gedeo, in the Southern region, and West Guji, in neighboring Oromia region. Nationally, more than two-million Ethiopians are internally displaced.
  • The Horn of Africa is at an inflection point that will define the region’s future for a generation. The political transition in Ethiopia is a pivotal part of this, as is the developing situation in Sudan, the increasingly assertive engagement of the Gulf states in the Horn, and other developments. One thing is certain: Ethiopia is too big for its political transition to fail, and how its transition proceeds will be one of the main factors determining the stability and security of the Horn of Africa in both the near and long term.
  • worrying reports of an increase in illicit arms flows to ethnic militias in various parts of the country
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  • Economic inequality and the frustration of youth, particularly in the Oromia and Amhara regions, was one of the main drivers of the protests that began in 2016 and ultimately precipitated Abiy’s ascension to power. Ethiopia must add two-million jobs per year to keep pace with population growth, a tremendous challenge under the best of circumstances.
  • Ethnic identities matter to many Ethiopians, even if the idea of ethnic fluidity—through intermarriage, for example—is well established for many people. At the same time, Abiy is tremendously popular as an individual, which offers him an historic opportunity to address these inter-regional grievances.
Ed Webb

Foreign Secretary statement to Parliament on Syria - Oral statements to Parliament - In... - 1 views

  • The conflict is therefore creating opportunities for extremist groups. Syria is now the number one destination for jihadists anywhere in the world today, including approximately 70 to 100 individuals connected with the United Kingdom
  • The UN assesses that by the end of this year, on these trends, over 3.5 million, or 15 per cent of Syria’s total population, will have become refugees in other countries. And the Foreign Minister of Jordan has warned that Syrian refugees are likely to make up 40 per cent of his country’s population by the middle of next year, with similar numbers predicted for Lebanon
  • We have supported human rights investigation teams to collect documentary, photographic and interview evidence of abuses, and trained medical staff to gather forensic evidence of torture and sexual violence. This material is being made available to the UN Commission of Inquiry and other international investigative bodies so that those involved in human rights violations can be held to account.
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  • the conference, which should be held as soon as possible, should be focussed on agreeing a transitional governing body, with full executive powers and formed by mutual consent
  • we are stepping up our efforts to support the opposition and increase pressure on the regime, in order to create the conditions for a political transition
  • We are increasing the support we are providing to Syria’s neighbours, including providing equipment to the Jordanian Armed Forces to help them deal with the immediate needs of Syrian refugees at the border and transport them safely to international humanitarian organisations. We have provided funding to the Lebanese Armed Forces for four border observation towers, to help reduce cross-border violence in key areas and to protect and reassure local communities. And we are also working with the Syrian National Coalition and key international supporters to develop plans for transition and Syria’s post-conflict needs, building on the conference we held at Wilton Park in January
  • There is no purely military victory available to either side without even greater loss of life, the growth of international terrorism and grave threats to neighbouring countries
  • We have not sent arms to any side during the conflicts of the Arab Spring. No decision has been made to go down this route, and if we were to pursue this, it would be under the following conditions: in coordination with other nations, in carefully controlled circumstances, and in accordance with our obligations under national and international law. The United Kingdom and France are both strongly of the view that changes to the embargo are not separate from the diplomatic work, but essential to it. We must make clear that if the regime does not negotiate seriously at the Geneva conference, no option is off the table
  • Our assessment is that chemical weapons use in Syria is very likely to have been by the regime. We have no evidence to date of opposition use. We welcome the UN investigation, which in our view must cover all credible allegations and have access to all relevant sites in Syria
  • The United Kingdom holds the Presidency of the UN Security Council next month, and we remain in favour of the Security Council putting its full weight behind a transition plan if it can be agreed
Ed Webb

Syrian opposition group tells U.S. to stay out of internal politics | McClatchy - 0 views

  • “The politics of the United States are very, very bad, very stupid,” said Mohammed Sarmini, spokesman for the Syrian National Council, whose 310 members represent most of the major parties and organizations in exile. “This may be an American project, but it is very offensive to the Syrian people. You should support us on the ground, not get into our politics.”
  • signs that the Obama administration may be out of touch with Syrian exile politics
  • accord in four major areas, the most important of which is probably the plan for a transitional government. The accord calls for an assembly of 300 Syrians, to be held inside the country if possible, to elect the government. Most of the participants would be from the inside, intended to give the legitimacy that many transitional governments do not have.One-quarter of the participants would represent the municipal councils set up to run liberated areas, one-quarter from the armed resistance groups, one-quarter of state bureaucrats who have defected to the opposition and one-quarter from the Syrian National Council.
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  • a new constitution, based on the 1950 constitution, which put heavy stress on civil rights; to institute an election law that provides for multiple parties and a parliamentary system; to institute a new national security administration and to make it a constitutional requirement that the military stays out of politics
  • American officials have been elusive and avoided media inquiries
  • Ziadeh said he was not sure whether the United States had actually drafted the plan for the opposition or had bought into a new plan drafted by Riad Seif, a prominent dissident who left Syria earlier this summer after a decade of house arrest and jail
  • The humanitarian situation in Syria is now one of if not the worst crisis on Earth. Officially the death toll is stated at 30,000 to 35,000. But a European diplomat in Istanbul who closely monitors the war and humanitarian aid efforts estimates the actual death toll at more than 100,000, a number with which reputable Syrian opposition figures agree
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    The US should not be bungling stuff like this. If Washington and its allies want more say in the Syrian transitional process (and why should they?) then they need to be more actively engaged and supportive. But in general they should not be in the game of trying to pick winners among the opposition, even if they are worried about radicals. The latter will only ever be a minority.
Ed Webb

Saudi Arabia and the UAE Could Spoil Oman's Smooth Transition by Fomenting Regional Ins... - 0 views

  • Oman remains vulnerable to both foreign and domestic sources of instability as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates seek to expand their regional influence. Potential causes of domestic unrest—including high unemployment, budget deficits, and dwindling oil reserves—lack clear-cut solutions. Sultan Haitham faces multiple challenges even without the threat of foreign meddling, yet Oman’s neighbors may view the death of Qaboos as a unique opportunity to advance their own expansionist agendas.
  • Oman resisted Saudi Arabia’s attempts to use the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as a tool to serve the Saudis’ foreign-policy agenda, most visibly when Oman’s minister of state for foreign affairs publicly rejected King Abdullah’s plan to deepen the GCC into a Gulf Union in 2013, and was the only GCC state to not participate in the Saudi-led military incursion against Yemen that began in 2015.
  • Sultan Haitham comes to power at a time when the Trump administration has repeatedly signaled its support for Saudi Arabia and antipathy toward Iran. The belated naming of low-ranking U.S. officials to attend the official ceremony honoring Sultan Qaboos was widely interpreted as a slight against the Omanis; the U.K., in contrast, sent both Prince Charles and Prime Minister Boris Johnson to pay their respects.
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  • Saudi leaders likely hope that Sultan Haitham will be more amenable to a Saudi-led Gulf, and without U.S. support, Oman may feel pressure to acquiesce or face potential repercussions. Omani officials have privately expressed concerns that Oman could be the next target of a Saudi- and Emirati-led blockade
  • Despite precipitating the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has used its military presence there to declare its intention to build a pipeline through the Mahra region and construct an oil port on the Yemeni coast. Saudi Arabia currently ships oil through the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el-Mandeb strait, whereas the proposed pipeline would allow direct access to the Indian Ocean.
  • Mahra has close links to the adjacent Dhofar region of Oman, which has long viewed the province as an informal buffer from the instability in other parts of Yemen. Sultan Qaboos offered aid as well as dual citizenship to residents of Mahra as a means of eliminating the potential for another conflict resembling the Dhofar War of 1963-1976, which drew cross-border support from the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen operating from Mahra into Dhofar
  • Inhabitants of Mahra have expressed frustration with the presence of both the Saudis and Emiratis, given that these kingdoms’ alleged foes—the Houthis as well as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula—are not present in Mahra
  • The UAE has taken control of the Yemeni island of Socotra, building a military base in a unique ecosystem nominally protected by UNESCO. The UAE is also building bases in Eritrea and Somaliland as part of a plan to develop a “string of ports” that will allow it to project power and escape possible pressure from Iran in the Persian Gulf.
  • Other Emirati ambitions include the Musandam Peninsula, an Omani enclave that forms the narrowest point in the Strait of Hormuz. The inhabitants of the peninsula have close ties to the UAE, as Musandam connects geographically to the emirates of Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah, rather than Oman. Oman’s control of the strategic chokepoint reflects the sultanate’s history as an empire whose territory once stretched from southern Pakistan to Zanzibar. 
  • The border between Oman and the UAE was only formally demarcated in 2008, but Omanis see a circle of potential threats arising from Emirati activity in or possible designs on Musandam, Mahra, and Socotra.
  • the UAE may feel that Oman’s new sultan may be more receptive to alignment with Emirati objectives than his predecessor
  • Oman has failed to significantly diversify its economy
  • As in many oil-dependent economies, unemployment is high, especially among young people
  • During the popular uprising of 2011, which brought thousands of Omanis to the street for the first time, the government used its nest egg to pay for a massive expansion of the government payroll.
  • there are no available resources to try to finance a transition away from oil, and the low price of oil has further impeded the government’s efforts to meet its obligations
Ed Webb

Cash and contradictions: On the limits of Middle Eastern influence in Sudan - African A... - 1 views

  • In Sudan, the revolutionaries who overthrew President Omar al-Bashir and who continue to organise are well aware of the threat posed by neighbouring Arab countries. Protesters’ murals show the people rejecting the interfering hands of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). One of the most popular chants is “Victory or Egypt”, voicing activists’ determination not to succumb to a military counter-revolution as happened in their northern neighbour.
  • many Sudanese believe that the 3 June crackdown in which scores of protesters were killed only came after the green light from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt
  • In this struggle between the “Pax Africana” and Arab authoritarians, there’s no doubt that the democrats have the weaker hand. But not everything is going the Arab troika’s way.
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  • Sudan wasn’t following the script of Bahrain, where the demonstrators dispersed after a single crackdown, or Egypt, where the army took control through co-option and repression.
  • A major split between Saudi Arabia and the UAE was on show in July when the latter abruptly withdrew most of its forces from Yemen. No official explanation was given, but the decision was evidently not coordinated with Saudi Arabia, which remains bogged down in an intractable war. The UAE’s decision also shows it can be mercurial and that its policies towards the Horn of Africa may be less strategic and more opportunistic than commentators have assumed.
  • Egypt prides itself on understanding Sudan and sees Saudi Arabia and UAE as newcomers seeking influence solely by dispensing money. Egypt limited its demands on Sudan to handing over Egyptian Islamists in exile, suspending the deal for Turkey to develop a naval base, and ceding its territorial claim to the Halaib Triangle.
  • As Arab countries find themselves pulled in to the internal negotiations among the Sudanese, they will face another potential point of contention. Sudan doesn’t just need democracy, but peace. This means a role for the Islamists both in Khartoum and the provinces. For a decade, the custodian of the Darfur peace process has been Qatar, the troika’s arch rival, and it will be impossible to ignore Qatar’s role or that of Sudan’s diverse constituency of Islamists. Some of these dynamics are already playing out and reveal the lack of a common strategy among the Arab troika
  • After the secession of South Sudan in 2011, Sudan lost 75% of its oilfields and an even greater proportion of its hard currency earnings. The following year, it literally struck gold and within a few years, gold was providing 40% of Sudan’s exports. As much as a third of it, however, came to be smuggled to Libya, Chad or directly by plane to the region’s biggest gold market in Dubai. The government in Khartoum, desperate to control the commodity, responded by using the Central Bank of Sudan as its sole buying agent, paying above the market price to gold traders and printing money to cover this outlay. Buying gold to convert to hard currency became the engine of Sudan’s inflation, which skyrocketed. By 2018, the price of essential commodities such as bread and fuel was so high relative to stagnant wages that the people across the country took to the streets to protest.
  • Hemedti. His RSF militia controls the gold mines and he personally owns a number of concessions. Through Sudan’s monetary policy, vast resources were transferred from wage earners in the centre of the country to militiamen and gold traders in the peripheries
  • Hemedti has also benefited massively from providing mercenaries, which may be Sudan’s second biggest source of foreign exchange today. A few months after the Saudis launched their war in Yemen in March 2015, Sudan volunteered to send troops. The first contingent was a battalion of the regular army, but then Hemedti struck a parallel deal to dispatch several brigades of RSF fighters. Within a year, the RSF comprised by far the biggest foreign contingent fighting in Yemen with at least 7,000 militiamen. Hemedti was paid directly by Saudi Arabia and the UAE for this service. He says he deposited $350 million in the Central Bank, but has not said how much he kept to himself for his own enrichment or political spending.
  • the Central Bank of Sudan has become an instrument for Hemedti’s political finance. And since becoming the central actor in Sudan’s ruling cabal in April, he has exerted an even tighter grip on gold production and exports while moving aggressively into other commercial areas. He has increased the RSF’s deployment in Yemen and sent a brigade to fight in Libya alongside General Khalifa Haftar, who is backed by Egypt and the UAE, almost certainly in return for Emirati financial rewards. Hemedti is also expanding his family business conglomerate, the Al-Junaid companies, and running his political business on the basis of personally handing out cash to key constituents such as tribal chiefs, the police, and electricity workers.
  • none of this addresses Sudan’s macroeconomic crisis: its rampant inflation, rapidly increasing arrears on international debt, and ostracism from the dollar-based international financial system
  • Sudan’s Gulf patrons are bailing out the country with a $200 million monthly subsidy in cash and commodities, but the bailout amounts needed will quickly become too big even for the oil-rich Gulf States’ deep pockets
  • a clash between Hemedti’s political market logic and Sudan’s macroeconomy is looming.  The Sudanese technocrats associated with the FFC are well aware of this, which is why the economists called upon to put themselves forward for cabinet positions have been reluctant to agree. There is a race between Hemedti’s consolidation of power and a re-run of the economic crisis and protests that led to al-Bashir’s downfall.
  • as Sudan’s economic crisis deepens, they will have to turn to the IMF and western creditors for assistance
Ed Webb

Libya talks pause without naming transitional government | Middle East | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • Talks on Libya’s future have adjourned without naming a new government to oversee a transition to possible elections next year.
  • “This is not an acceptable alternative. It is not sustainable; everybody recognises that. The hard summer that many Libyans passed through – with no electricity, and very little water and all the other hardships and the [coronavirus] pandemic – was really a wake-up call.” The UN envoy said there was still a lot of work to do and that delegates will resume talks online next week to discuss a reformed structure and role for the executive authority. They will also discuss the question of a constitutional basis for the election. “We have agreed to reconvene in about a week in a virtual meeting [to] agree on the selection mechanism for the coming authority,”
  • The talks come as part of a wider peacemaking process along with a military ceasefire agreed between the two main sides in the war: the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) and Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA).
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  • Observers have criticised the way the delegates were chosen for the Tunis talks and cast doubts over their clout in a country where two administrations, as well as an array of armed groups and foreign powers, are already vying for power.
  • The GNA emerged from a UN-backed political agreement in 2015, but was spurned by eastern factions. Last year, Haftar launched an LNA offensive on Tripoli that the GNA turned back in June with support from Turkey. The LNA is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Egypt.
  • “The UN’s biggest difficulty is that there are permanent Turkish and Russian military bases and Emirati officers on the ground,”
Ed Webb

The impact of the global energy transition on MENA oil and gas producers - ScienceDirect - 0 views

  • MENA hydrocarbon producers' socio-economic structures continue to heavily rely on oil rent.•The low-carbon transition may imply sustained pressure on their development models.•Since the 2014 oil price drop, they adopted new, ambitious, economic diversification plans.•Such diversification plans never worked in the past, due to a lack of real incentives.•Job creation needs and low-carbon transition could foster diversification plans' implementation.
Ed Webb

Press Release | Embassy of the United States - 1 views

  • Secretary Clinton’s visit to Egypt later this month, which will highlight U.S. support for Egypt’s democratic transition and economic revival
  • For all the very real problems that remain, not all nations who rose up alongside you last year have been so fortunate.  Not all nations carry Egypt’s strategic and historic weight.  And not all nations can have such an important impact on the entire region through the success of their democratic transition, and through their continued role as a strong pillar of peace, security, and prosperity
  • We are fully committed to tangible initiatives to help Egypt deal with its economic challenges, including meeting immediate financial concerns, providing debt relief, helping to create jobs and educational opportunities, and encouraging U.S. investment and tourism
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  • It will be critical to see a democratically elected parliament in place, and an inclusive process to draft a new constitution that upholds universal rights.  The challenge remains of building institutions which will ensure that no matter who wins an election in any particular year, the rights of all Egyptians will always be protected.  This challenge belongs not just to Egypt's leaders but to its citizens as well
  • tens of millions of Egyptians will be looking to President Morsy and the Cabinet he forms to take needed steps to advance national unity and build an inclusive government that embraces all of Egypt's faiths and respects the rights of women and secular members of society
Ed Webb

Liberal peace transitions: a rethink is urgent | openDemocracy - 1 views

  • It is widely accepted among those working in, or on, international organisations, from the UN to the EU, UNDP, NATO or the World Bank, that statebuilding offers a way out of contemporary conflicts around the world: local, civil, regional and international conflicts, as well as complex emergencies, and for developmental issues. Most policymakers, officials, scholars and commentators involved think that they are applying proven knowledge unbiased by cultural or historical proclivities to the conflicts of others. This is not the case.
  • The broader idea has been that liberal democratic and market reform will provide for regional stability, leading to state stability and individual prosperity. Underlying all of this is the idea that individuals should be enabled to develop a social contract with their state and with international peacebuilders. Instead - in an effort to make local elites reform quickly, particularly in the process of marketisation and economic structural adjustment - those very international peacebuilders have often ended up removing or postponing the democratic and human rights that citizens so desired, and which legitimated international intervention in the first place. A peace dividend has only emerged for political and economic elites: the vast bulk of populations in these many countries have failed to see much benefit from trickle-down economics, or indeed from democracy so far.
  • this liberal peace is itself in crisis now
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  • What began as a humanitarian project has turned into an insidious form of conversion and riot control which has had many casualties. It has been profoundly anti-democratic in many cases, including in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. From the ground, for many of its recipients, the various iterations of this liberal peace project have taken on a colonial appearance. It has become illiberal
  • local actors are reframing what they require from a viable, just, and durable peace, often quietly and in the margins, drawing on the liberal peace as well as their own customs and interests.
  • Talk of ‘human security’, ‘responsibility to protect’, ‘do no harm doctrines’ and ‘local ownership’ seems very empty from the perspective of most of the peoples these concepts have been visited upon. This in turn has often elicited from subject communities a 'post-colonial response', criticising peace interventions as self-interested, imperialistic, orientalist, and focusing on the interveners' interests rather than local interests. A local (transnational and transversal) attempt is under way to reclaim political agency and autonomy from the new post-Cold War 'civilising mission', which has over the last twenty years, shown itself unable to provide for basic needs, rights, security (state or human) at levels local actors expect, or to respect or understand local differences and non-liberal, and even non-state patterns of politics. Non-liberal and non-western forms of politics, economics, society, and custom, are clamouring for discursive and material space in many post-conflict zones, with mixed implications for sustainability and for the purpose of achieving a normatively (to liberals at least) and contextually acceptable, locally sustainable peace.
  • In some cases, as in Kosovo and Timor Leste this has led to a modified form of state emerging, heavily influenced by both liberal norms and local customs, practices, identities, and national agendas. Very difficult issues arise here for 'international planners' of peace and world order, not least in how they respond to such confrontations between very different political systems, customs, and agendas. But, it is also the case that synergies may arise, where these are sensitively handled and properly understood.
  • peace requires well-being via human needs stemming from rights defined by their contexts, (where context may mean local, customary, state, market, regional or international, not merely the 'local' it is often taken to mean). These contexts are of course connected to the ambit of liberal state and international institutions, but they are not defined by them. As a result, millions of people around the world do not have adequate rights or needs provision, nor proper access to representation, despite the best intentions of liberal peacebuilders.
  • To achieve this the ethically and methodologically dubious privatisation of security and peacebuilding and its connection to neoliberal marketisation strategies in the context of a classically sovereign state should be abandoned. The privatisation of peacebuilding means that no accountability is possible until after a specific development project has failed, and only then by refusing funding often to those who need it most. Such strategies have attracted to this sector a dangerous fringe of arrogant bureaucrats, 'ambulance chasers' and 'cowboys' rather than imbuing peacebuilding with the dynamics of grounded reconciliation.
  • democracy is rarely resisted other than by the most extreme of actors, but it is often criticized for being distant in outcome to local communities.
  • At the moment the impulse appears to be to illiberalise, to postpone democracy, to open markets further, and to depoliticise because a lack of local agency is seen to be the cause of these failures, rather than faulty international analytic and policy approaches and mistaken idealism.
Ed Webb

Syria Comment » Archives » "Bush White House Wanted to Destroy the Syrian Sta... - 0 views

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Ed Webb

The demise of the dollar - Business News, Business - The Independent - 0 views

  • The plans, confirmed to The Independent by both Gulf Arab and Chinese banking sources in Hong Kong, may help to explain the sudden rise in gold prices, but it also augurs an extraordinary transition from dollar markets within nine years.
  • a risk of deepening divisions between China and the US over influence and oil in the Middle East. "Bilateral quarrels and clashes are unavoidable," he told the Asia and Africa Review. "We cannot lower vigilance against hostility in the Middle East over energy interests and security."
  • World Bank president Robert Zoellick. "One of the legacies of this crisis may be a recognition of changed economic power relations,"
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  • In a clear sign of China's growing financial muscle, the president of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, yesterday pleaded with Beijing to let the yuan appreciate against a sliding dollar and, by extension, loosen China's reliance on US monetary policy, to help rebalance the world economy and ease upward pressure on the euro.
  • The current deadline for the currency transition is 2018.
  • Iran announced late last month that its foreign currency reserves would henceforth be held in euros rather than dollars. Bankers remember, of course, what happened to the last Middle East oil producer to sell its oil in euros rather than dollars. A few months after Saddam Hussein trumpeted his decision, the Americans and British invaded Iraq.
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      Fisky always has been prone to alarmism. Iran is a much tougher target than Iraq. But if even some of what he reports here is true, economic power relations are indeed about to shift. And the move away from dollars for oil trading has been predictable for some time.
Sherry Lowrance

Amid transition, more Egyptians cling to safety of long-hated emergency law - The Washi... - 1 views

  • A broad swath of society — from glassworkers to accountants, Christians to Islamists — say the emergency law is one of the few things keeping them safe.
  • “We’ve taken the emergency law for 30 years. One more year won’t make a difference.”
  • symptom of a deeper problem
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  • Many police officers have withdrawn from the streets; tales of theft and violence sweep neighborhoods, and in Imbaba, an impoverished area of Cairo on the west bank of the Nile, some residents say they don’t dare walk the streets unarmed.
  • Now, many residents say, the few police who are on the streets are polite, even cautious. And the military has taken over the security functions of the country — something its soldiers aren’t trained to do.
  • military justice
  • rights groups here estimate that at least 5,000 people have been detained since the military took over the criminal justice system at the end of January.
  • In a sign of how much tables have turned, one human rights group recently went to the police to initiate a complaint against a military officer.
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    The protests that toppled President Hosni Mubarak were driven in large part by hatred of the 30-year-old emergency law that gives the government broad powers to censor and detain citizens. But in a sign of the topsy-turvy world that Egyptians now live in, many here say they want the law to stay for the time being.
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    This seems more comparative politics than international politics, which is why there isn't much in this group about similar topics. I have another group that you might find useful if you are interested in such topics: http://groups.diigo.com/group/authoritarianism-in-mena
Ed Webb

Where and why food prices lead to social upheaval - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • Unlike other commodities, global food prices have followed a different trajectory. Although down from near-historic highs in 2007-2008 and 2011, they are still higher than at any point in the previous three decades.
  • The economic effects of higher food prices are clear: Since 2007, higher prices have put a brake on two decades of steady process in reducing world hunger. But the spikes in food prices over the past decade have also thrust food issues back onto the security agenda, particularly after the events of the Arab Spring. High food prices were one of the factors pushing people into the streets during the regionwide political turmoil that began in late 2010. Similar dynamics were at play in 2007-2008, when near-record prices led to food-related protests and riots in 48 countries.
  • Unlike energy and electronics, demand for basic foodstuffs is income-inelastic: Whether I have adequate income has no effect on my need for sustenance. Not surprisingly, 97 percent of the post-2007 ‘food riots’ identified by a team at the New England Complex Systems Institute occurred in Africa and Asia, which are home to more than 92 percent of the world’s poor and chronically food-insecure. Careful empirical work bears out this conventional wisdom: High global food prices are more destabilizing in low-income countries, where per capita incomes are lower.
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  • Politics might affect the relationship between food prices and protest through two channels. The first is the extent to which governments shield urban consumers from high global prices. Governments in developing countries often subsidize food purchases, especially those of urban dwellers, shifting welfare from rural producers to urban consumers. But this observation raises the second-order question of the conditions under which governments will subsidize urban consumers. We hypothesized that autocratic governments were more likely to shield urban consumers. While urban dwellers can riot in the absence of elections, rural dwellers have fewer channels through which they can voice grievances.
  • democracies and anocracies did enact more pro-rural food policy. In particular, democracies in Africa and Asia enact policies that favor urban areas less and rural areas more. These take the form of enhancing farmer incomes and raising consumer prices, which often causes protests and rioting. Lessening urban bias in food policy may be good pro-poor policy, given the continued concentration of poverty in rural areas, but it carries political risks.
  • the Arab Spring reflects some of the risks autocratic leaders face when attempting to insulate urban consumers from global market prices. Consumer subsidies have long been part of the “authoritarian bargain” between the state and citizens in the Middle East and North Africa, and attempts to withdraw them have been met with protest before: Egypt’s bread intifada, which erupted over an attempt to reform food subsidies, killed 800 in 1977. These subsidies explicitly encouraged citizens across the region to evaluate their governments’ effectiveness in terms of their ability to maintain low consumer prices — prices that, given these countries’ dependence on food imports, those governments ultimately could not control
  • Our findings point to the difficult tradeoffs facing governments in developing countries as they attempt to pursue two different definitions of food security simultaneously: food security as an element of human security, and food security as a means of ensuring government survival and quelling urban unrest. These tradeoffs appear to be particularly acute for developing democracies.
Ed Webb

Canal (Kanal) Istanbul May Displace Thousands, Impact Ocean and Water Quality - 0 views

  • “Whoever cuts a branch from my forest, I will cut his head,” Sultan Mehmed II, who led the Ottomans into Istanbul, is said to have ordered in the 1400s. Today, thousands of trucks carrying soil and construction materials kick up dust along the roads north of Istanbul, depleting those forests that had been protected by sultans for five centuries.
  • Canal Istanbul (also called Istanbul Kanal), a massive shipping canal meant to route traffic from the Bosporus some 18 miles (30 kilometers) to the east. The homes alongside the new seaway will be replaced with upscale residential and commercial areas. With construction set to start there any day now, real estate speculators descend on the area, clamoring for locals to sell them their land
  • When completed, the canal will turn the densest part of the city, including its historic center, into an island. The area also straddles one of the world’s most active fault lines.
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  • The Bosporus is currently one of the most crowded waterways in the world. Thousands of oil tankers make up part of the 53,000 civilian and military vessels that transited through the Bosporus in 2017, compared to around 12,000 ships that transited the Panama Canal, and 17,000 the Suez Canal.
  • At the Black Sea, the canal will link with a new, 10 billion euro airport set to open this year that will feature the largest indoor terminal in the world. It will handle 200 million passengers annually, along with an air cargo hub that Turkey hopes will draw traffic from current European airports. A new highway cutting through forest on the Black Sea coast will feed the airport and canal, bringing cargo from Europe to the west and Asia to the east.
  • many of the region’s environmental experts say the government has not consulted them. Some of these experts have grown critical of the massive projects, saying they could have serious ecological consequences and imperil an already tenuous water supply
  • A square meter of land around Şamlar that went for $6.5 three years ago now sells for up to $184
  • “We are going to have new hospitals, parks, marinas, luxury apartments, and a city on both sides of the beautiful canal that will look like New York or Paris,”
  • Around 2 million people are employed in construction in Turkey, which accounts for about 19 percent of the country’s annual economic growth. Turkish construction firms rank as the second most active in terms of overseas operations, after Chinese firms. To reach its economic goals for 2023, the government has said it will need to invest about $700 billion in new infrastructure, plus $400 billion in urban renewal projects
  • Turkish officials have said the new canal will be able to handle all the traffic currently in the Bosporus, hinting that although they would like all current traffic to use the new route, the internationally protected Bosporus could also remain open, so the 1936 treaty is not technically violated. “The Montreux Convention regulates access to the Bosporus. However, the regulations for the Bosporus and the canal our country plans to build to offer an alternative route are different,” Minister Arslan said in January.
  • Residents in the area challenged the projects in 2013, filing lawsuits claiming the expropriation of their land was too hasty, and the government was paying them a fraction of the true value of the land. Based on the government’s own environmental impact report, nearly 100 other villagers then filed additional cases challenging the projects. Although a court ordered construction to be halted, the government issued a revised report in 2014. At that time they resumed construction.
  • The canal, airport, and highway projects directly contravene the city’s master plan, opponents charge.
  • many of the city planners and environmental experts Turkey once asked for advice on such mega projects now say they are being ignored. Many of these professionals say they are no longer seen as advisors, but political opposition to the ruling Justice and Development Party
  • “The 2009 plan was trying to at least set an aim for the population of Istanbul, capping it at 16 million,” says Atlar. “The conclusion was that there should be no more settlements in the northern forest, and that water and culturally important land must be protected. Further development would be east and west, not north.”
  • In 2012, Turkey’s federal government passed new legislation that would make it easier to reclassify any reserved land. Areas can be expropriated if they are deemed an earthquake risk, if they are needed to house people in the case of an earthquake, or if their development is considered in the national interest.
  • Of the 7,650-hectare land for the airport, which will include residential and commercial developments, 80 percent is now composed of forests and 9 percent lakes and ponds. Canal Istanbul will result in the leveling of 350 hectares of forest and run through districts that are home to more than one million people.
  • there is an open question of whether or not such a canal would violate the Montreux Convention, a 1936 treaty that ensures the free passage of commercial vessels and naval ships of countries along the Black Sea, including Russia, through the Bosporus, except in times of war
  • With Istanbul’s population growing at a breakneck pace—from 3 million in 1980 to 15 million today—the city plan was meant to ensure resources like water and housing would be able to meet demand
  • city’s water supply in danger.
  • In the 17th century, Mimar Sinan, the same Ottoman architect famed for the Blue Mosque, oversaw the construction of hundreds of miles of new aqueducts, several dams, and water basins that fed into hundreds of fountains in the city. Most of that ancient water system relied on streams and rivers in catchment areas in the forests north of the city—the same forests where the new airport is currently being built.
  • around 40 percent of Istanbul’s water comes from the European side of the city, which, even according to the government’s own environmental assessments, will be severely impacted by the canal and airport. The Sazlıdere Dam will be entirely uprooted, and smaller streams and underground water tables that feed at least three other lakes in the area could end up being disrupted. A drought in 2008 depleted the capacity of the city’s water reservoirs to 25 percent, and another in 2014 to 29 percent. Even in more wet years, Istanbul residents deal with water cuts that can last days
  • The Marmara Sea, part of the Mediterranean, is far more salty than the Black Sea, which leads to a powerful flow of water as the two bodies naturally try to reach a state of equilibrium. That flow was put to use by engineers in the 1990s, part of a $600 million World Bank project to provide a sustainable water system for Istanbul.
  • a series of 67 waste treatment plants were built. The city estimates 97 percent of its waste is now treated. The effluent, including any waste that still remains, is dumped into a point where the Bosporus meets the Marmara Sea. There, it is carried by an undercurrent north to the Black Sea.
  • with the Canal Istanbul project, Saydam and other experts warn that system could be turned on its head, upending the delicate balance of life in the water. If the canal is built, Saydam says, it will provide an alternate route connecting the Black and Marmara Seas. Years of modeling and scientific studies suggest that could undo the unique waste water system in Istanbul, he says. The change in the salinity could also spark an anoxic state in the waters, one that would end up leaving the city smelling of hydrogen sulfide
  • once you do this there will be no way to turn back
Ed Webb

Who are Chad's FACT rebels and what are their goals? | Conflict News | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • the spectre of a new and potentially violent power struggle in Chad, which has endured successive rebellions since independence from France in 1960. Deby himself took power spearheading a 1990 rebellion that overthrew authoritarian leader Hissene Habre, and later faced the same threat of being overthrown – rebel forces reached the capital in 2006 and 2008, before they were forced to withdraw, and came close again in 2019.
  • In 2015, Nouri, who was also in exile in France but prevented to travel by his uncertain status and old age, sent Mahadi to Libya to retake control over the UFDD fighters there, at the demands of the Misratis. At that time, Libya was engulfed in the civil war between the Misrati-backed “Libya Dawn” coalition in the west and the “Dignity” operation under Khalifa Haftar in the east – a situation that saw Chadians become mercenaries for both sides.
  • In 2017, as Haftar’s eastern-based forces took over Jufra – where the FACT was based – from Misratan forces, the FACT did not withdraw from the area. Instead, it made a tacit non-aggression pact with Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA). The FACT at the time appeared stuck, since Haftar was known as a close ally of both Chad and France. However, it seems that it has gradually managed to get important military support from Haftar.
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  • Like other Chadian rebels, the FACT’s goal has been to topple Deby. It derives most of its support from members of Mahadi’s tribe, the Goran – but not from all of them, since there are internal conflicts. Mahadi had also been fighting in Chad’s Tibesti region alongside Tubu rebels, and this has earned him support among the Tubu.
  • With Haftar also being backed by Russia, there have been rumours that the rebels were trained by Russian military contractor Wagner. There has been, however, no evidence that either Wagner or Haftar equipped the rebels to fight outside Libya. Still, questions are raised.
  • They reportedly deployed 400-450 cars with heavy military equipment, which surprised the Chadian army, even though the Chadian army has until now been able to repel the attack.
  • the fact the rebels were able to cross from Libya into Chad with all the equipment given over the years by Haftar, raises questions about Haftar’s loyalties, or at least his ability to control the foreign forces he has been hosting and backing.
  • Since Deby’s death, the FACT is likely to get more popular support among other rebel groups as well as in the wider Chadian population, but this will also depend on how much the movement succeeds in appearing to fight for more than one tribe, or ends up getting involved in tribal feuds.
  • Mahamat Deby, also known as Mahamat “Kaka”, is a general in his thirties. In recent years, he was commanding the General Direction of the Security Services of State Institutions (DGSSIE), or the elite guard under the presidency. Prior to this, he mostly earned his military reputation as deputy commander of the Chadian forces in Mali. This gave him, in spite of his young age, some legitimacy within the army. However, this does not mean that his new role at the transitional military council is unanimously backed by the Zaghawa tribe. But it does seem to have the support of France, in a missed opportunity to support a more inclusive, civilian-led transition.
Ed Webb

What UAE's growing presence in Somaliland means for its Horn of Africa strategy - Al Mo... - 1 views

  • the UAE is locked in a struggle with Turkey and Qatar for geopolitical influence. The expansion of Emirati investments in Berbera strengthens the UAE’s ability to compete with Qatar’s Hobyo seaport project and the Turkish Albayrak Group’s 14-year contract to manage the Port of Mogadishu.
  • A Somali political analyst told Al-Monitor that Qatar would be happy if the federal government “scolds the UAE” and stated that “Turkey won’t lose a lot of sleep on the UAE move, as there is widespread support for Turkey in Somalia.”
  • even if the UAE uses its expanded presence in Somaliland as a launchpad for deeper relations with the Somali opposition, Turkey will be able to maintain positive relations with any authority that takes power in Mogadishu
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  • could reflect a sea change in the UAE’s power projection tactics on the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa. On the surface, it appears as if the UAE is retrenching from the region. In October 2019, the UAE officially withdrew its military presence from Aden, and on Feb. 18, the UAE dismantled its base in Assab, Eritrea, which assisted its military intervention in southern Yemen.
  • UAE is reorienting its Red Sea strategy away from direct military intervention and toward a synthesis of economic investment and remote power projection. The UAE’s transition from a security-premised to economy-focused strategy in Somaliland, which was illustrated by Abu Dhabi’s September 2019 conversion of its proposed military base in Berbera into a civilian airport, was a critical dimension of its strategic reorientation. The UAE’s expanded economic footprint in Somaliland, which will result from Naqbi’s appointment, is complemented by its prospective construction of an Ethiopia-Eritrea oil pipeline and provisions over $200 million to Sudan’s agriculture sector.
  • UAE is also quietly consolidating a sphere of influence around the Bab el-Mandeb Strait
  • If the UAE’s closer economic cooperation with Somaliland extends to the security sphere, as Gabobe postulates, Abu Dhabi will be able to expand its maritime security role in this region, even though it is not part of the formal Red Sea coalition established in January 2020.
  • The UAE’s expanded influence in Somaliland will sharpen its rivalries with Turkey and Qatar in the Horn of Africa and complement its residual network of Southern Transitional Council-aligned militias in southern Yemen.
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