Comfort Ero

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Chinese President Xi Jinping at a summit in Johannesburg, August 2023. Alet Pretorius / Reuters

Not so long ago, policymakers in Washington and other Western capitals gave little apparent thought to the possibility that the rest of the world might hold opinions distinct from their own. There were some exceptions: governments that the West deemed “good partners”—in other words, those willing to advance U.S. and Western security or economic interests—continued to benefit from Western support even if they did not govern themselves in accordance with Western values. But after the Cold War ended, most Western policymakers seemed to expect that developing countries would, over time, embrace the Western approach to democracy and globalization. Few Western leaders seemed to worry that non-Western states might bridle at their norms or perceive the international distribution of power as an unjust remnant of the colonial past.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Crisis of African Democracy

These days, a question crops up when African officials gather to discuss governance: Which president will be ousted by his military next? In the first two decades of this century, 13 successful coups took place in Africa. But from August 2020 to November 2023, seven African leaders were toppled by their own militaries. While these military takeovers have so far primarily occurred in a belt of instability that stretches from Niger to Sudan, the risk of broader contagion is real. In already fragile states, coups tend to reverse economic and political progress, and so stemming their rise may be the most urgent task for Africa in the coming decade.…  Seguir leyendo »

In this Big Question, Project Syndicate asks Comfort Ero, Negar Mortazavi, Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, and Sinan Ülgen to weigh in on the incentives and constraints shaping regional dynamics since October 7.

To read the other contributions to this opinion piece, please see the original article in Project Syndicate.

COMFORT ERO (excerpt)

There is a grave risk that the war could spread beyond Gaza. Three potential flash points deserve particular attention.

First, the Lebanese Shia militia and political party Hezbollah, which is closely aligned with Iran, could end up facing off with Israel. Hezbollah is most powerful political and military force in Lebanon, and it is already clashing with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) along the countries’ shared border.…  Seguir leyendo »

New-Model Proxy Wars

On April 15, a standoff between the Sudanese armed forces and a rival paramilitary outfit erupted into what now looks like all-out civil war. As we write, in mid-May,  fighting is tearing apart the capital, Khartoum, and millions are caught in the crossfire, trapped in their homes, and struggling to secure food, drinking water, and other essentials. Those who can are leaving the country. Neither the army nor its paramilitary foe looks likely to prevail – at least not without a protracted struggle and tremendous death and destruction.

The fighting is rooted in Sudan’s struggles to shake off decades of authoritarian rule.…  Seguir leyendo »

Holding bullet cartridges in Khartoum, Sudan, May 2023. Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah / Reuters

For the past year, much of the world’s attention has been focused on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and rising tensions between the United States and China over Taiwan—flashpoints that could trigger direct or even nuclear confrontation between the major powers. But the outbreak of fighting in Sudan should also give world leaders pause: it threatens to be the latest in a wave of devastating wars in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia that over the past decade have ushered in a new era of instability and strife. Mostly because of conflicts, more people are displaced (100 million) or in need of humanitarian aid (339 million) than at any point since World War II.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives to deliver his annual state of the nation address in Moscow on Feb. 21. SERGEI KARPUKHIN/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine last February, commentators in Europe and the United States have lamented that few countries outside the West have offered Kyiv real backing. A common question posed to me in the last year is why so many countries have sat this one out. Indeed, politicians and diplomats in Africa, Asia, and Latin America have offered Ukraine limited support and suggested the West is in part to blame for Russia’s war.

At first glance, it may seem that a large part of the world is slipping away from the West—at best adopting a neutral position and at worst tilting toward Russia and China.…  Seguir leyendo »

Chinook helicopters carrying Taiwan flags fly near the Taipei 101 skyscraper during the country’s National Day celebration in Taipei, Taiwan. October 10, 2022. REUTERS / Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The biggest flash point between the U.S. and China looks increasingly unstable, as Washington seeks to maintain primacy in the region and Beijing pursues unification with the island.

Unification has long been China’s objective. Beijing says it hopes this happens peacefully, but it will not rule out force. Washington’s assessment is that Xi Jinping has set 2027 as the date by which China’s military should be capable of seizing Taiwan. For its part, the U.S. maintains a “One China” policy – aiming for a peaceful resolution of Taiwan’s status without prejudging the outcome – and a posture of “strategic ambiguity” about whether it would come to Taiwan’s defence.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pakistan is entering an election year with a deeply divided body politic, as former Prime Minister Imran Khan whips up populist support against the government and the all-powerful military.

Khan’s exit from office last spring came alongside his fall from the Pakistan Army’s grace. Having won office backed by the top brass, relations deteriorated due to Khan’s inept rule, fiery anti-U.S. rhetoric, and attempts to plant loyalists in top army positions. As support for a no-confidence vote grew, Khan claimed that Washington was behind a plot to oust him. Army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa rejected the conspiracy, concerned about the impact it might have on relations with the U.S.,…  Seguir leyendo »

Men react in front of a burning barricade during a protest against the high cost of living and for an end to gang violence, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. November 18, 2022. REUTERS / Ralph Tedy Erol

Since the murder of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, Haiti has been paralysed by political gridlock and rampant gang violence. Public services have collapsed and cholera is spreading. Things are so bad that some Haitians now pin their hopes on foreign troops, despite the dismal legacy of earlier interventions in Haiti.

Ariel Henry, Haiti’s interim prime minister who took over from Moïse, enjoys support from influential foreign powers but faces stiff Haitian resistance. Since he assumed power, Henry’s rule has been opposed by the Montana Accord, a group of opposition politicians and civil society representatives. Henry was supposed to steer a transition to elections, but rampant insecurity has prevented a vote, and Henry also disbanded the election commission.…  Seguir leyendo »

Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger show no signs of beating back stubborn Islamist insurgencies. Western leaders, whose military involvement over the past decade has done little to stem violence, seem at a loss at how to respond to coups in Burkina Faso and Mali.

Burkina Faso is in the direst straits. Jihadi groups control an estimated 40 percent of its territory, including vast rural areas in the north and east. Militants have laid siege to a major northern town, Djibo, for months. Fighting has killed thousands of people and driven nearly 2 million from their homes. As the losses mount, so does finger-pointing within the army.…  Seguir leyendo »

In a street of Beni, DRC, a woman walks past a wall on which a graffiti reads “Monusco Dégage”, calling for the UN mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) to “go away”. December 2021. CRISIS GROUP / Nicolas Delaunay

M23, a previously dormant rebel group, which UN reports suggest is backed by Rwanda, is wreaking havoc in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Fighting has driven tens of thousands of people from their homes and could spiral into a wider regional proxy war.

M23 holds several towns and surrounds the provincial capital of Goma. In 2013, the group was beaten back by a ramped-up UN force but now appears well-armed and organised. It includes ex-Congolese soldiers, many of whom are Tutsis, an ethnic group spread across Africa’s Great Lakes, and profess to champion communal interests.

M23’s sudden re-emergence owes as much to tensions among Great Lakes states as it does to local dynamics.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ethiopian refugees who fled Tigray region, queue to receive food aid within the Um-Rakoba camp in Al-Qadarif state, on the border, in Sudan. December 11, 2020. REUTERS / Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

One of 2022’s deadliest wars, in and around Ethiopia’s Tigray region, has for now ground to a halt. Two of the main belligerents – Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which dominated Ethiopian politics for decades before Abiy assumed power in 2018 and then fell out with him – signed a deal on 2 November in Pretoria, South Africa, and, 10 days later, a follow-up agreement in Nairobi. But the calm is fragile. Key questions remain unsettled, notably whether Tigray’s forces will disarm and whether Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, whose army has been fighting alongside Ethiopian troops, will withdraw his troops to the internationally recognised border.…  Seguir leyendo »

Two young boys hitch a ride on a passing truck as it stops at a checkpoint between Marib, al-Jawf and Sanaa, in Al Jawf governorate, Yemen. January 2020. CRISIS GROUP / Peter Salisbury

Yemen is in limbo. A truce in April between Houthi rebels and the country’s internationally recognised government, backed primarily by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), lapsed in October. Major fighting has not resumed, but both sides are preparing to go back to war.

The UN-brokered truce was an unexpected bright spot in a brutal eight-year conflict. In November 2021, Houthis, who control much of Yemen’s north west, seemed to be nearing victory. Had they taken the city of Marib and nearby oil and gas facilities, that would have won them the war for the north, bought their quasi-state badly needed funds, and spelled the end for then-President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government.…  Seguir leyendo »

Massive anti-regime protests, Iran’s merciless crackdown and its supply of weapons to Russia have left the Islamic Republic more isolated than at any point in decades just as a crisis over its nuclear program is brewing.

The protests rocking the country have posed the most durable and determined threat to the Islamic Republic’s authority since the 2009 Green Movement. Tens of thousands of mostly young people, fronted by women and schoolgirls who reject the compulsory hijab as a symbol of misogyny and broader oppression, have taken to the streets in acts of raw defiance against the regime.

The Iranian government has killed hundreds of people in response, including dozens of children.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Azerbaijani soldier stands on the road to Shusha, a town in Nagorno-Karabakh controlled by Azerbaijani forces. On the other side of the fence, a Russian checkpoint looks over the parallel road used by Armenians. CRISIS GROUP

An Azerbaijani soldier stands on the road to Shusha, a town in Nagorno-Karabakh controlled by Azerbaijani forces. On the other side of the fence, a Russian checkpoint looks over the parallel road used by Armenians. CRISIS GROUP

If the war in Ukraine has reverberated across crises worldwide, its impact has been especially acute in the South Caucasus. Two years after their latest war over Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia and Azerbaijan appear headed toward another confrontation. Russia’s travails in Ukraine have upset calculations in the region.

A new war would be shorter but no less dramatic than the six-week conflict in 2020. That war, which killed more than 7,000 soldiers, saw Azerbaijani forces rout Armenians from parts of the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave and nearby areas, all of which had been held by Armenian forces since the early 1990s.…  Seguir leyendo »

A civilian trains to throw Molotov cocktails to defend the city, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in Zhytomyr, Ukraine March 1, 2022. REUTERS / Viacheslav Ratynskyi

    1. UKRAINE
    3. IRAN
    4. YEMEN
    7. THE SAHEL
    8. HAITI
    10. TAIWAN

Will he or won’t he? This time last year, that was the question. Russian President Vladimir Putin had massed almost two hundred thousand troops on Ukraine’s borders. U.S. intelligence warned that Russia was preparing for all-out war. All the signs pointed to an assault, bar one: it seemed unthinkable.

True, Russia had attacked Ukraine in 2014, and in the spring of 2021 had staged a dress rehearsal for an invasion, building up forces on the frontier before sending them home.…  Seguir leyendo »

Crisis Group’s Alissa de Carbonnel talks to Maxim, a volunteer in Lviv Technical University shelter for internally displaced persons in Ukraine. June 2022. CRISIS GROUP / Jorge Gutierrez Lucena

Thus far, Ukraine has resisted Russia’s assault, thanks to Ukrainians’ valour and Western aid. But after nearly a year of fighting, there’s no end in sight.

When the Kremlin launched its all-out invasion in February, it seemingly expected to rout Ukraine’s government and install a more pliant regime. It miscalculated. Ukraine’s resistance was as fierce as Russia’s planning was inept. Driven back from around Kyiv in the spring, Moscow concentrated forces in the east and south. Then, in late summer, Ukrainian troops, now armed with more powerful Western-supplied weapons, advanced there, too.

Yet Moscow has upped the ante. It mobilised perhaps 300,000 additional men, although data is unreliable.…  Seguir leyendo »

Each year Crisis Group publishes two Updates to complement its EU Watch List. The Updates identify crises and conflicts where the European Union and its member states can help enhance prospects for peace. This Update includes entries on Libya, Mali, Nagorno-Karabakh, Pakistan and Ukraine.

Europeans have entered a new world since January, when Crisis Group published its 2022 EU Watch List. Back then, Russian troops were massing near Ukraine’s border. Western intelligence reports warned that an invasion could be on the cards, causing considerable disquiet in European capitals, but Moscow still insisted that its soldiers were merely conducting exercises. Then, on 24 February, Russia launched a full-scale invasion, turning what had been a grinding standoff in Ukraine’s east into a quest to conquer the whole country.…  Seguir leyendo »

Kofi Annan’s Lessons in Global Leadership

The world is facing a set of acute crises without recent parallel: a war in Europe that could escalate into a nuclear conflict, skyrocketing food prices that are hitting the poor the hardest, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the climate emergency. We need principled statesmen and women to forge bold, morally consistent responses to these and other global problems. Sadly, such leaders are in short supply.

Many politicians prefer to advocate polarizing policies, avoid hard choices, and deny the scale of the threats at hand. Others have tried to address these issues honestly. But those who favor cooperation and solidarity in dealing with global threats are on the defensive, as last year’s underwhelming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow and grossly unequal global access to COVID-19 vaccines clearly illustrate.…  Seguir leyendo »

Portrait of a young woman caught up in the conflict in Cameroon. ‘Although there is no peace process at present, women will need to be included in negotiations when the sides are ready to talk.’ Photograph: Giles Clarke/UNOCHA/Getty

Young girls should never be forced to have sex to get through a security checkpoint. Female activists or rebels should not be relegated to side discussions because of their gender. And women should be able to advocate for peace without fear of reprisals. Yet in Cameroon’s conflict between English-speaking separatists and the government, this is the reality for many women and girls.

Coming to grips with this reality is critical to move beyond the simplistic view that it’s only men who play an active role in the conflict. Women are involved as peace or political activists. Others have joined separatist militias or are key community influencers.…  Seguir leyendo »