Germany to offer South Korea tips on reunification | Julian Ryall
Berlin and Seoul set up advisory panel to pass on the foreign policy lessons Germany learned from reunification in 1990, although analysts suggest hurdles are much higher for a divided Korean peninsula.
Not many aspects of German reunification passed off without a hitch when the process began nearly a quarter of a century ago, with numerous bumps in the road only visible after the nation had set out on the journey to bring the two sides back together. But the lessons that were learned still have resonance today and some of the politicians, academics and bureaucrats who steered Germany through those difficult times are sharing their knowledge and experience with another country that has been divided for decades.
On September 18, Markus Ederer, a German foreign ministry secretary, and Kim Jae-shin, South Korean ambassador to Germany, signed a memorandum of understanding in Berlin on the creation of a group to offer advice specifically on foreign policy as the two Koreas move closer to reunification.
FULL ARTICLE (Deutsche Welle)
Kenya: Al-Shabaab – Closer to Home
Nairobi/Brussels | 25 Sep 2014
One year after the Westgate attack, Al-Shabaab has become more entrenched and active in Kenya. Meanwhile, the country’s immediate post-Westgate unity has broken down in the face of increasing attacks, and the political elites, security services, and ethnic and faith communities are beset by mutual suspicion and recriminations.
In its latest briefing, Kenya: Al-Shabaab – Closer to Home, the International Crisis Group highlights Al-Shabaab’s growing presence and increasingly frequent attacks and the muddled response of Kenya’s government, security services and political elite. Anti-terrorism operations perceived to target entire communities have exacerbated feelings of marginalisation and persecution, particularly of the Muslim minority, and are feeding directly into Al-Shabaab’s messaging and recruitment.
The briefing’s major findings and recommendations are:
“Kenya’s 4.3 million Muslims have been historically marginalised, especially in the north east and along the coast”, says Cedric Barnes, Horn of Africa Project Director. “If the government wants to cut grassroots support for Al-Shabaab, it has to address the widespread institutional and socio-economic discrimination felt by Kenyan Muslims”.
“The blame for growing radicalisation in Kenya lies less in the weaknesses of the country’s institutions than in the unwillingness of political leaders to put aside partisan divisions”, says EJ Hogendoorn, Deputy Africa Program Director. “Their playing politics with terrorism compounds an already volatile situation”.
Ebola-hit nations may ‘face collapse’ | BBC
The Ebola outbreak threatens to become a political crisis that could unravel years of effort to stabilise West Africa, a think tank has warned.
"The worst-hit countries now face widespread chaos and, potentially, collapse," the International Crisis Group (ICG) said.
The world’s largest outbreak of Ebola has caused 2,811 deaths so far, mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
FULL ARTICLE (BBC)
Photo: UNICEF Guinea/flickr
Tunisia’s borders open ground for smuggling | Mat Nashed
KASSERINE, Tunisia — Waiting until sundown, Bazz drove onto an empty desert road just beyond Farianna, a Tunisian village on the Algerian border. While making his way back hours later, he saw an unmarked truck signaling him from the opposite direction.
“These are the roads where we do business,” the 24-year-old smuggler with short black hair, a faint mustache and short beard told Al-Monitor with a smile. “If a truck signals left that means there aren’t any officers ahead. If it signal’s right, then we need to drive off the main road immediately.”
Bazz, who wouldn’t disclose his last name, is one of hundreds of people smuggling goods on the border towns of Tunisia. A graduate of computer engineering, he says that crippling unemployment and high taxes on imported goods have pushed entire communities to work in the contraband market.
FULL ARTICLE (Al Monitor)
Statement on Ebola and Conflict in West Africa
Dakar/New York/Brussels | 23 Sep 2014
The Ebola health crisis threatens to become a political crisis that could unravel years of effort to stabilise West Africa. The hardest-hit countries now face widespread chaos and, potentially, collapse. Adding social breakdown to the epidemic would create disaster perhaps impossible to manage. To avoid such a scenario, the international community must provide more personnel, resources and engagement not only to the immediate medical response but also to the longer-term problems of strengthening governance and rebuilding health-care systems. The international community alone cannot carry the burden; strong decisions are needed from West Africa’s governments, chiefly on the reopening of borders.
In the three most affected countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – the Ebola epidemic has exposed citizens’ lack of trust in their governments and the grave potential for deep unrest in these already fragile societies. In all three countries, past civil conflicts fuelled by local and regional antagonisms could resurface. In Guinea, the government’s poor response has stoked historical tensions between the state and local communities in the forested areas of the south east, where the epidemic started. In Liberia, the hardest-hit with approximately half of the total deaths, and Sierra Leone, the governments have substituted a largely misguided military response for robust focus on medical needs. This should not come as a surprise. Security has been the main pillar of post-conflict reconstruction and governments are reacting with what is at their disposal: soldiers, not doctors. Before the epidemic, Liberia had just around 45 doctors for a population of 4.5 million; as the virus has spread, half of all health centres have been closed due to lack of medical staff.
Citizens are understandably terrified and increasingly desperate. In Liberia, protesters have blocked highways, looted clinics and attacked security forces. Eleven years after its civil war, Liberia faces the risk of a popular revolt against a fragile state that has been very slow to build key institutions, especially beyond the capital city of Monrovia. Frustration with the governments’ poor management of the crisis could trigger other grievances that political opponents could easily exploit.
Venezuela: Dangerous Inertia
Caracas/Bogotá/Brussels | 23 Sep 2014
The end of street protests does not mean the end of Venezuela’s crisis. Rising economic problems and unaddressed political demands could lead to renewed violence and threaten national stability.
Violent protests on Venezuela’s streets have calmed down, but the government’s perceived victory over the opposition belies simmering political dissent. Opposition demands, such as to restore independence to the justice system and other key institutions, have not been heeded. Most of the killings during the protests remain unsolved. The economic recession and a critical shortage of basic goods, including food and medicines, require urgent action, which the government delays. Internal dissent on both sides has also contributed to a reluctance to resume the negotiations that stalled in May. The International Crisis Group’s latest briefing, Venezuela: Dangerous Inertia, outlines ways to address the root causes of the crisis that, if left to fester, might well worsen, with repercussions beyond Venezuela.
The briefing’s major findings and recommendations are:
“The roadmap for addressing the crisis does not need to be drafted from scratch, it is available in the constitution” says Javier Ciurlizza, Latin America Program Director. “Venezuela’s neighbours and the broader international community have a crucial role in bringing both sides back to the negotiation table and reforming Venezuela’s political system. If they don’t succeed, the quiet on Venezuela’s streets might be the calm before the next storm”.
Fighting rages in Yemeni capital as deal with Shia Houthi rebels stalls | Peter Salisbury
Fighting has intensified in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, in the biggest challenge to the country’s transition to democracy since former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh was ousted in 2012.
As violence raged for a fourth day the prime minister Mohammed Salem Bassindwa resigned, accusing president Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi of being “autocratic”, senior officials said. State news agency Saba reported Basindawa’s resignation, but without giving the reason.
The UN envoy to the conflict-stricken country struggled to broker a last-minute peace deal between Houthi rebels – a militant Shia movement – and the government. The city has reverberated with the sound of shelling, gunfire and fighter jets. Hundreds of people have been displaced from their homes and dozens killed in the fighting, which has spread through much of the west of the capital.
FULL ARTICLE (The Guardian)
Photo: Al Jazeera English/flickr
Israel & the US: The Delusions of Our Diplomacy | Nathan Thrall
In the early days of the Gaza war that took the lives of some 2,100 Palestinians and seventy-two Israelis, a number of officials in Washington, Ramallah, and Jerusalem began to speak of renewing Israeli–Palestinian negotiations mediated by the United States. As the fighting dragged on, this talk intensified, again showing that the “peace process” gains greatest urgency from the threat of Israeli–Palestinian violence.
There is little reason to believe that renewed talks would succeed. The obstacles that caused the failure of the negotiations led by Secretary of State John Kerry have not disappeared. Many of them have grown larger. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his political program of nonviolence and negotiation have been weakened by Hamas’s strategy in Gaza, which impressed many Palestinians, although the costs were enormous. Hamas sent thousands of rockets into Israel, killing seven civilians, while Israeli air strikes and artillery killed hundreds of children, devastated large parts of Gaza, and left tens of thousands of people homeless. Reconstruction will cost many billions and take years.
Still, Hamas demonstrated that its militancy and its willingness to endure a ferocious Israeli attack could achieve more in weeks than Abbas’s talks have achieved in years. During the Gaza war, Israel did not announce a single new settlement in the West Bank. Although Israel did not agree to some of Hamas’s most important requests—for example, the opening of a seaport and the release of recently arrested prisoners—it showed eagerness to negotiate with the Palestinians and willingness to make significant concessions, including the easing of some border crossings, extending fishing rights, and facilitating the supply of construction materials.
FULL ARTICLE (The New York Review of Books)
Photo: U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv/flickr
Syrian Kurds appeal to Turkish brethren for help fighting Isis | Erika Solomon in Beirut and Piotr Zalewski in Istanbul
Syrian Kurdish militias pleaded for help from Turkish Kurds on Thursday after fighters from the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant, Isis, seized 21 Kurdish villages in northwestern Syria in less than 24 hours, bringing them within sight of the Turkish border.
Activists said Isis is now surrounding the area around Kobani, also known as ‘Ayn al-Arab, inside Syria’s embattled Aleppo province. The region is a Kurdish pocket in rebel and Isis-held territories.
FULL ARTICLE (The Financial Times)
Photo: James Gordon/flickr