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Armin Rosen argues that Somalia is doing far better than the al-Shabab attack in Kenya suggests. Declan Galvin explains why Kenya's government should be careful about overreacting to the attacks. (The photo above shows Kenyans observing the funeral of a victim of the Westgate mall attack.)
Anna Nemtsova looks at the impact of the letter from prison written by Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.
Christian Caryl ruminates on the challenge nationalism poses to the Russian nationalist movement.
Juan Nagel dissects Venezuela's unhealthy dependence on China.
Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez surveys the possibilities of Google's new worldwide constitution database.
And Peter Tinti looks at the challenges facing Mali as it tries to rebuild its democracy.
And now for this week's recommended reads...
Sudan's grassroots movement, Girifna, documents the popular protests that erupted after President Omar al-Bashir cut fuel subsidies.
On Politico, Dennis Blair and Daniel Calingaert remind democratic leaders that they must take a stand against oppressive dictators.
Pranab Bardhan, writing for the Boston Review, compares two brands of development economics: the little and the big.
The Carnegie Endowment's Ashraf El-Sherif outlines how Egypt's besieged Muslim Brotherhood might fight to maintain its power.
The International Crisis Group examines policy toward Yemen's restive South as the country's transition misses deadlines.
The Burma Partnership blames the Burmese army for the continued violence in ethnic states.
The Atlantic Council's Frederic C. Hof picks apart the United States' reason for snubbing the Syrian interim government. The Council also criticizes U.S. and European inaction toward the struggling countries of the Arab Spring in a report by Danya Greenfield, Amy Hawthorne, and Rosa Balfour.
In the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof argues that we may see the end of extreme poverty in less than twenty years.
Uriel Sinai/Getty Images
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The leader of Venezuela´s opposition, Henrique Capriles, visited Chile last week. His goal was to meet politicians of all stripes and to call their attention to Venezuela's unresolved political crisis. But while many politicians and the media warmly received Capriles, he was given the cold shoulder by the two people that matter most: the country's current president Sebastián Piñera, and former-President Michelle Bachelet.
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Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro publicly offered U.S. leaker Edward Snowden political asylum last week. This came after a slew of Latin American governments -- chiefly, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Bolivia -- hinted they would consider the request if it was formally petitioned. Of all the left-leaning governments in the region, however, none have been as enthusiastic about the possibility of offering Snowden asylum as Venezuela.
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Last week, Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles made his first trip abroad following last April's disputed election. If his objective was to stir the pot back home, he achieved it: The enraged response from the Venezuelan government suggests we should expect to see him travelling more often.
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Earlier this month, Libya's Supreme Military Court reviewed an appeal by 19 Ukrainians, three Belarusians, and two Russians who stand accused of aiding the regime of Muammar Qaddafi by helping his forces to maintain military equipment during the revolution. The defendants maintain that they are engineers who were working for an oil company and were not politically motivated to assist the Qaddafi regime.
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"Bloodsuckers," "monkeys," and pigs" -- that's how Egyptian President Mohammed Morsy refers to Jews. Just two weeks ago, Morsy offended a group of U.S. Senators by claiming that Jews control the international media. Morsy also belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, the group whose leader Mohammed Badie was ranked by The Simon Weisenthal Center as the "biggest anti-Semite" on the planet.
Photo by ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images
Cristina Odone profiles Carne Ross, the crusader who's trying to save diplomacy from itself. And Willam Lloyd-George offers a portrait of Shwe Mann, the Burmese politician who's now being wooed by the White House despite his checkered past.
James Kirchick accuses Georgia's recently elected prime minister of threatening to derail the country's fledgling democracy.
Christian Caryl addresses the question of what makes a hero, and argues that Thein Sein, Burma's ex-general president, has what it takes.
Peter Murrell and Chuluunbat Narantuya explain how Mongolia's nomadic culture is helping the country evade the resource curse.
Ellen Bork warns the United States government against rushing prematurely into close cooperation with the Burmese military.
Alex Thurston analyzes the latest violent twist in the saga of Mauritania's troubled transition to democracy.
Endy Bayuni casts a skeptical eye on the human rights declaration recently passed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Jackee Batanda explains Uganda's involvement in the rising rebel movement in Congo -- and what Kampala can do to help end the crisis.
Juan Nagel takes a look at the latest mysterious disappearance of Venezuela's ailing president.
And here are this week's recommended reads:
The Atlantic Council's Egypt Source offers an excellent background on Egypt's constitutional crisis. Particularly useful are Nancy Messieh's close reading of the draft Egyptian constitution and Yussuf Auf's in-depth examination of the role of the Egyptian judiciary. Mohsin Khan provides much-needed coverage of a vital issue that has gone lost amid the political turmoil: The government's new economic plan.
Writing for NowLebanon, Hussein Ibish gives a scathing take on Egyptian President Morsi's efforts to accumulate power.
Thomas Carothers of the Carnegie Endowment makes a plea for reform of the U.S. democracy promotion establishment.
In a remarkable report for National Geographic, Jeff Bartholet tells the personal story behind a Tibetan's decision to set himself on fire as a protest against Chinese rule.
Tunisia Live offers excellent reporting on the continuing clashes between protestors and security forces at Siliana.
The International Crisis Group presents a must-read report on why Sudan desperately needs reforms if it is to avoid a new round of warfare with its own citizens and its neighbors.
Writing for CogitASIA (at the Center for Strategic and International Studies), Phuong Nguyen explains why Burma's important new laws on public assembly remain a work in progress.
Harvard's Calestous Juma shows how tribalism hampers the building of democratic institutions in Africa.
Photo by PHIL MOORE/AFP/Getty Images
Last week the UN finally released a controversial report that accuses Uganda and Rwanda of supporting rebels in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). When a leaked version of the report first appeared in October, Uganda's Army spokesperson, Felix Kulayigye dismissed it: "It's hogwash, it's a mere rumor that's being taken as a report," he told Radio France Internationale. "It's undermining the credibility of the mediator which is Uganda, and when you undermine the credibility of the mediator you are actually undermining the entire process."
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The sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims that started in western Burma last June has now taken 200 lives and caused some 100,000 refugees. This issue should take a prominent place in President Barack Obama's agenda as he stops off in Burma this week. It will be the first time that any U.S. president has visited the country.
Soe Than WIN/AFP/Getty Images
James A. Robinson explains why Colombia's remarkable degree of political stability is not all that it's cracked up to be.
Malik Al-Abdeh wonders whether the creation of a new umbrella group for the Syrian opposition group will actually help to bring down the Assad regime.
Mohamed El Dahshan argues that the current government ban on pornography in Egypt threatens freedom of expression.
Larry Jagan analyzes the dynamics within the Burmese leadership and explains why fragmentation of the ruling party would be a disaster for the country.
Christian Caryl explores the comparison between two civil war presidents, Bashar al-Assad and Abraham Lincoln.
Besar Likmeta profiles Ina Rama, Albania's first female general prosecutor and valiant hero in the fight against sleaze.
Jackee Batanda reports on the increasing demoralization of a Ugandan public battered by new revelations of corruption in high places.
And here are this week's recommended reads:
Thomas Carothers and and Nathan J. Brown explain the real danger for democracy in Egypt.
Katrin Verclas and Lina Srivastava wonder why a new list of democracy promotion heavyweights is bereft of women.
In a Guardian interview with Colin Poulton, the SOAS research fellow makes the case that the establishment of democratic institutions in developing countries can be detrimental to the rural poor.
A new RAND report assesses the nation-building challenges in post-Qaddafi Libya.
A new report on Burma from the International Crisis Group, Storm Clouds on the Horizon, shows how continuing sectarian conflict is casting a shadow over the reform process. Writing in The Independent, Emanuel Stoakes stresses the need for President Obama to acknowledge the issue during his upcoming trip to Burma.
In an analysis for the Middle East Research and Information Project, Pete Moore explains why -- despite the recent turmoil there -- Jordan is unlikely to experience its own version of the Arab Spring.
Sarah Kendzior argues that there are good reasons for holding policy forums in authoritarian countries.
Alina Rocha Menocal takes issue with the notion that "building institutions" is the best formula for promoting development.And finally, Evelyn Lamb, writing in Scientific American, explains the background of the Gini coefficient -- and why it's not like the Kardashians
Photo by Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images
I don't think there are any reliable opinion polls, but judging by anecdotal evidence, most Burmese are pretty happy to hear that President Obama has been re-elected. I spoke with a number of people who attended the U.S. embassy's election night party in Rangoon, and all of them were optimistic that the extension of his term in office will boost U.S.-Burmese relations across the board, in areas ranging from economics to security. They're particularly excited by the news that he's planning to visit Burma later this month as part of the planned Southeast Asia tour that has just been confirmed by the White House. (The tour will also include stops in Thailand and Cambodia.) This will be the first presidential visit to Burma in more than half a century.
Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Recently Ugandans had one small cause to celebrate. The World Bank announced that their country had moved up in the rankings in its annual ease of doing business survey. And not only did Uganda move up -- it also overtook regional rival Kenya, which had long enjoyed a much better rating in this area. The ratings are important, of course, because foreign investors quite understandably prefer to put their money into places where there are fewer obstacles to business.
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Reporting from Caracas, Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez explores scenarios after this Sunday’s presidential vote in Venezuela. The main question: Will Hugo Chávez give up power if he loses?
Christian Caryl tells the story of an elementary school teacher in Sudan who faces execution because she had the courage to stand up to the regime. And Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch presents a gallery of similarly courageous but little-known activists from around the world.
On the scene in Tbilisi, James Kirchick reports on the surprising aftermath of Georgia's parliamentary election -- especially President Mikheil Saakashvili's remarkable acceptance of his own defeat. And Kirchick's dispatch from election day provides a vivid account of the tensions and hopes leading up to the vote.
In an excerpt from his new book, economist Justin Yifu Lin compares the experiences of transition economies and offers a few useful rules of thumb for reformers.
Christopher Stephen, on the scene in Benghazi, describes a local backlash against the militants who killed a popular U.S. ambassador.
In the run-up to Venezuela's epochal election, Juan Nagel reports on the shifting balance of forces, while Francisco Toro takes a closer look at whether Hugo Chávez has improved the life of the country's poor.
Reflecting on Aung San Suu Kyi's visit to the United States, Min Zin takes her to task for neglecting to mention the country's continuing civil war.
Endy Bayuni reports on the Indonesian Anti-Corruption Commission's effort to take on one of the country's most graft-ridden institutions: the police.
Mohamed El Dahshan investigates the absurdities of Egypt's campaign against blasphemy.
And Jackee Batanda recounts the curious tale of a run-in between U.S. diplomats and a Ugandan general.
And now for this week's recommended reads:
A paper from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance provides an in-depth look at Venezuela's presidential election.
In a provocative op-ed, MIT scholar Brian Haggerty argues that those who argue for a "limited" intervention in Syria are likely to be proven wrong by conditions on the ground.
The International Crisis Group offers a handy backgrounder on Malaysia, where a long-anticipated general election may soon shake up the political landscape.
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Sadanand Dhume explains why he expects little from the new anti-corruption party just launched in India.
The Jamestown Foundation's Igor Rotar worries that the explosive situation in Central Asia's restive Ferghana Valley is likely to aggravate instability throughout the region.
A new book from Democracy Lab contributor Francisco Martin-Rayo tells of his travels through the terrorist recruiting grounds of Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia.
And finally, Jadaliyya offers a withering review of The Daily Show appearance of Jordan's King Abdullah II, who, they say, is incorrectly portrayed as a reformist "constitutional monarch." You be the judge: You can find Part I of the interview here.
The Daily Show
It was in a piece for The East African newspaper by the distinguished Ugandan journalist Joachim Buwembo that first brought to my attention the details of an unfortunate incident that occurred three weeks ago in Kampala. The story goes like this: A U.S. Embassy car rammed into the car of Major General Pecos Kuteesa, a respected Ugandan army general. In real Hollywood gangster style, two U.S. security personnel emerged from their vehicle, beat up the general's driver, and slashed the car's tires.
Photo still from NTV Uganda
Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese democracy leader and Nobel laureate, is coming to Washington, D.C. On September 19 she is set to receive the Congressional Gold Medal. This is the highest civilian honor bestowed by the U.S. Congress, and it will be presented to Suu Kyi "for her leadership and steadfast commitment to human rights and for promoting freedom, peace and democracy in her home country of Burma," said House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner.
Soe Than WIN/AFP/GettyImages
Christian Caryl reports on the Salafi movement, which has been implicated in many of this week's protests around the Middle East.
Syrian journalist Malik Al-Abdeh argues that the Syrian National Council's lack of leadership has been a disaster for the revolt against Assad.
Political analyst Jay Ulfelder explains why Kim Jong Un may be about to embark on reform in North Korea.
Blair Glencorse and Charles Landow report on five East African nations that are working towards an economic community modeled on the European Union (but without a common currency, thank you).
In 2009, Moe Thee Zun, a famous student leader during Burma's 1988 pro-democracy movement and a former chairman of the All Burma Students' Democratic Front, flung his shoe at a car carrying then-prime minister Thein Sein while he was attending the UN General Assembly in New York. He argued that Thein Sein and the repressive military junta ruling Burma do not represent the people of Burma -- whom they brutally killed during the peaceful protests of the 2007 Saffron Revolution.
Now Moe Thee Zun is back in Burma after 24 years in exile. The student leader, who was condemned to death in absentia by the old military regime, can now legally return to his homeland -- now that-President Thein Sein's pseudo-civilian government has removed his name, along with 2,081 others, from a blacklist denying him entry into the country. After his arrival on Saturday he held a press conference at which he declared that he had returned to help the president's reform process and make peace in the war-torn areas of the country.
Soe Than WIN/AFP/GettyImages
Three Princeton researchers (Morgan Greene, Jonathan Friedman, and Richard Bennet) tell the story of how post-Yugoslavia Kosovo (with some help from the international community) managed to pull off a remarkable feat of state-building.
Endy Bayuni explains why Indonesians disagree about the start of Ramadan, and what it says about the country's climate of religious toleration.
TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP/GettyImages
Picture the scene: It's July 1974, and congress is on the brink of impeaching President Nixon. As the procedure moves forward, Britain's foreign minister comes to Washington, D.C. in a desperate diplomatic bid to save a key ally from losing power. But instead of talking to the White House or trying to lobby congress, the British Foreign Minister heads straight for the Pentagon, where he gives a fiery harangue beseeching the Joint Chiefs of Staff to disregard any congressional move to impeach Nixon, telling them that doing so would nullify the democratic will of the electorate, and that it's their duty to stand firmly by their president, putting troops on the streets if need be.
Substitute July 1974 with June 2012, Richard Nixon with Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo, and Britain's foreign minister with Venezuela's, and you have a rough approximation of the extraordinary events that allegedly took place just two weeks ago as Paraguay's congress moved to impeach the president.
It's been three days since I first heard about the insulting sms message sent by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (shown above) to his finance minister: "Stand your ground, we're the number four power in Europe. Spain is not Uganda." Business Insider translated the statement as follows: "We're a major power, not some random IMF-case banana republic." (A friend and blogger, Rosebell Kagumire, first posted it on Facebook, where I saw the link to the article.)
It was an affront to me as a Ugandan. Indeed, a number of netizens -- both Ugandans and non-Ugandans -- took to Twitter with the hashtag #ugandaisnotspain to protest the remarks. Ms. Kagumire set up the hashtag on Twitter in order to prompt Ugandans and friends to comment about the article:
Can Burma make headway towards democracy when it's still saddled with an authoritarian constitution? Michael Albertus and Victor Menaldo argue that countries in comparable situations have managed to overcome similar obstacles in the past.
Skeptics say that Brazil's economy is losing its mojo. But Albert Fishlow begs to differ, explaining why investors shouldn't give up so soon.
Christian Caryl tells the peculiar story of a West Texas town that has become a player in the global human rights industry.
Thirty-five years after the end of the "Dirty War," Alex Gibson shows how a trial in Argentina is struggling to come to terms with a legacy of state-sponsored violence.
Peter Reuter explains why the West won't be able to contain money laundering from developing countries unless it cleans up its own act first.
Min Zin asks whether Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is making a mistake in her latest confrontation with the powers-that-be, and also offers an entertaining primer on the politics behind the latest Burmese New Year celebrations.
Mohamed El Dahshan explores the decision that has thrown Egypt's presidential election into disarray.
Juan Nagel shows why the Venezuelan government's recent decision to subsidize beauty products will score it political points.
Endy Bayuni explains how Aceh's separatist leaders have morphed from guerillas into governors.
And in his column, Christian Caryl argues that economic inequality is now becoming a hot political issue in both rich countries and poor ones.
This week's recommended reads:
In Foreign Affairs, Leon Goldsmith writes on the Alawite community of Syria and the motives for their persistent support of the Assad regime.
In an essay in the current issue of Journal of Democracy, political philosopher Abdou Filali-Ansary casts light on why many voters in the Arab world prefer Islamist parties -- and arrives at some surprising conclusions.
A new report by the International Crisis Group documents the growing fight over resources between the Iraqi central government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan regional government.
Writing for Project Syndicate, Alfred Stepan and Etienne Smith discuss the surprising resilience of democracy in Senegal.
Democracy Digest reports on the difficulties faced by Russian dissidents following Vladimir Putin's victory in the March 4 presidential elections. And the German Marshal Fund examines the recent release of imprisoned opposition leaders in Belarus. (The photo above shows activist Dmitry Bondarenko meeting his wife after leaving prison.)
And don't miss Jeffrey Bartholet's great travelogue from post-Mubarak Egypt in National Geographic.
VICTOR DRACHEV/AFP/Getty Images
On April 23, 43 members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) are supposed to take up their seats in Burma's national parliament. But before they can do that, they have to swear an oath. Now NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi has started a fight over its wording.
The MP-elects have refused to take the pledge because it requires them to state that they will "uphold and abide by the Constitution of the Union." The constitution in question is the one that was adopted in 2008 as the result of a process orchestrated by the then-ruling military junta and denounced by most outside observers as illegitimate. During the recent election all the NLD candidates campaigned on a promise to amend this constitution. In a recent meeting with President Thein Sein, Suu Kyi asked that the text of the oath be changed from the present version to one that stipulates only "respect" for the constitution.
The present standoff was preceded by a lot of complicated maneuvering that probably isn't worth going into. Suffice it to say that it will be almost impossible for the NLD leader to get her way unless the government amends the constitution itself accordingly. While some sources suggest that Thein Sein might be willing to concede the point, it will be very hard for him to do so without causing considerable discontent among other members of the ruling elite.
While the NLD has threatened to boycott parliament if its demand isn't met, Aung San Suu Kyi has tried to avoid saying this all too directly. "We won't say we are not attending parliament," she told Radio Free Asia in an interview on Thursday. "We will attend after the oath [is amended]."
Soe Than WIN/AFP/Getty Images
It's been all Burma, all the time this week on the Democracy Lab, as we present our Burma Special Report. Experts weigh in on the crucial challenges the country must tackle in order to strengthen its path toward development, and (hopefully) democratization.
Tom Malinowski assesses the strength of sanctions in encouraging regime liberalization in Burma, and what its future leaders must do to continue this process.
In an excerpt from The Lady and the Peacock, a new biography of Aung San Suu Kyi, journalist Peter Popham shows the moments when Daw's extraordinary courage facing the Burmese military turned her into an iconic figure.
Rick Rowden assesses Burma's options for economic opening and development.
And Christian Caryl reports from Burma's former capital of Yangon, capturing the fever of excitement as well as the aura and strength of Aung San Suu Kyi. He also looks at how rampant corruption hinders the nation's possibility for development.
Some recommended reads for the week:
Stanford University's "Post-Soviet Post" looks at one factor impeding Ukraine's prospects for democracy (and the rule of law, and human rights): the pervasiveness of sexism in government.
Following the coup last week, a new report by the International Crisis Group discusses how to put Mali back on the path of constitutional order.
The Democracy Digest follows the feuding between the SCAF and Muslim Brotherhood, the two main contenders for power in Egypt.
An interview published in the Council on Foreign Relations gives an insider's view to the Arab League summit meeting in Baghdad this week.
Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
I've been waiting for this story to die away but it doesn't appear to want to. I'm observing its escalation with amused horror. Amused, because it looks like the Egyptian military government is effectively bullying the U.S. in a crisis neither really controls. Horror, because when all is said and done the losers will be the Egyptian people.
A brief recap: In December, the Egyptian authorities raided the offices of 17 humanitarian organizations. The police confiscated documents, money, computers. The government, basing its actions on a shameful and draconian Mubarak-era law, accused the groups of receiving illegal funding from overseas and operating in Egypt without proper registration.
Four of the 17 are U.S.-based organizations: the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), and Freedom House. One is German, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. Several of the groups' staffers, including such notable figures as Nasser Amin, director of the Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and Legal Profession, were detained and questioned for hours on end.
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Transitions is the group blog of the Democracy Lab channel, a collaboration between Foreign Policy and the Legatum Institute.