• Research Briefing

    In brief: Kenya after the March 2013 elections

    The 4 March presidential elections saw Jubilee Alliance candidate Uhuru Kenyatta win a narrow victory in the first round. , Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, are both due to be tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in connection with the violence that followed the December 2007 elections. The victory of Kenyatta and Ruto has presented Western governments with a dilemma. While Western rhetorical support for the ICC remains strong, many in Kenya and beyond believe that pressure is being exerted on it ‘behind the scenes’ to soften its position so that the cases do not excessively impede Western cooperation with the new Government.

  • Research Briefing

    Disputes over the British Indian Ocean Territory: a survey

    Between 1968 and 1973 the British Government cleared the entire Chagos Archipelago of its inhabitants, opening the way for a US military base on the biggest island, Diego Garcia. The Archipelago was made a British overseas territory, the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). Two main disputes have arisen from these events. One has been between the Chagos Islanders and the British Government over the legality of the former’s removal and whether they have a right to return. The other has been between the UK and Mauritius about sovereignty over the BIOT. The UK has said that it will cede sovereignty to Mauritius once the BIOT is no longer required for defence purposes.

  • Research Briefing

    Burundi: recent political and security developments

    Since 2010 President Jean-Pierre Nkurunziza and his CNDD-FDD government have been at loggerheads with the main opposition parties. The stand-off has raised concerns that Burundi’s status as a ‘post-conflict’ country might be in jeopardy. These concerns have been compounded by occasional armed skirmishes between the security forces and remaining rebel groups. However, with the next elections due in 2015, in recent months there has been some progress in terms of promoting political dialogue.

  • Research Briefing

    Rwanda: recent political and security developments

    Paul Kagame and the Rwandan Patriotic Front remain in a dominant position domestically, with parliamentary elections due in September 2013 and presidential elections set for 2017. President Kagame has indicated that he may step down then. But criticism continues of the government's intolerance of open dissent. Rwanda's role in in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo remains controversial too and there is virtually complete consensus across the international community that it has been providing support to rebel groups, including most recently M23.

  • Research Briefing

    In brief: the Commonwealth Charter

    On 11 March 2013 in London the Queen signed the Commonwealth Charter. However, while the UK Government has welcomed it, there has been considerable criticism of the Charter on the grounds that it is not legally binding and cannot be effectively enforced. In September 2012 three Commonwealth Nobel Laureates, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nadine Gordimer and Wole Soyinka had said that a weak and ineffective Charter should not be endorsed. LGBT rights campaigners have also been vocal in signalling disappointment with the final text.

  • Research Briefing

    The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands: tension between Japan and China in the East China Sea

    Tensions between Japan and China in connection with long-standing rival claims to sovereignty over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea have deepened since September 2012, with nationalist sentiment being stirred up in both countries. Taiwan also claims the islands. Japan, which administers the islands, does not accept that there is a dispute to be resolved. China insists that there is. This note briefly summarizes the competing claims and reviews developments over the last six months or so.

  • Research Briefing

    In brief: South Africa – Zuma set for a second term in 2014

    In December 2012, at the African National Congress (ANC) conference in Mangaung, President Jacob Zuma was re-elected leader of the party. This makes it virtually inevitable that he will be South Africa’s next President following national elections next year, which the ANC remain overwhelming favourites to win comfortably. Nonetheless, all is far from entirely rosy for Zuma and the ANC. In recent years it has been deeply divided over economic policy, damaged by mounting official corruption and faced with growing discontent from below over its alleged failure to deliver better public services.

  • Research Briefing

    North Korea: domestic developments during Kim Jong-Un’s first year in power

    This note briefly surveys domestic developments in North Korea since the death of Kim Jong-Il in December 2011 and the succession of his son, Kim Jong-Un. The nuclear issue is referred to only in passing. Insofar as we can know, Kim Jong-Un appears to have consolidated power smoothly and quickly. There are signs that the new leadership wants to shift from a 'Military First' to a 'People First' policy, which will involve economic reform measures. However, there are no real signs yet of an improvement on human rights.

  • Research Briefing

    China: new political directions under a new leadership?

    A new Chinese leadership is about to take power at the National People’s Congress, which begins on 5 March. Xi Jinping will take on the role of President, while Li Keqiang will become Premier. The succession of the 'fifth generation' of Communist leaders appeared to have been destabilised during 2012 following the fall of Bo Xilai, but in the end has gone relatively smoothly. Commentators are now focused on whether and, if so, how Xi and Li will change China's political course. This note surveys some of the views being expressed on this issue.

  • Research Briefing

    In brief: Malawi under President Joyce Banda

    Joyce Banda became Malawi's president in turbulent circumstances in April 2012 and since then has sought to build domestic support and win back previously alienated Western donors through an economic and political reform programme. While she has had some successes, there is currently growing public discontent about the economy and her political position is still vulnerable. Her prospects in the 2014 elections are uncertain.

  • Research Briefing

    Southeast Asia: an update

    The political and economic profile of Southeast Asia as a region continues to rise. The UK is scaling up its engagement with the region. This briefing provides country snapshots of the main events in six of the countries in the region since the start of 2012 and also looks at significant developments over the past year or so in the UK’s relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its member states.

  • Research Briefing

    In brief: North Korea and the nuclear issue one year on from the succession

    After a failed ballistic missile launch by North Korea in April 2012, an apparently more successful one took place in December, characterized at the time by the regime as a satellite launch. The UN Security Council passed a resolution further toughening sanctions. North Korea has responded to the new sanctions with its customary threatening rhetoric and has announced that it is preparing to conduct a third nuclear weapon test, following on from those undertaken in 2006 and 2009. This note surveys the state of play on the nuclear issue in the light of internal developments in North Korea, where Kim Jon-Un appears to have consolidated his power.

  • Research Briefing

    The Turks and Caicos Islands

    This note briefly reviews the crisis of political and economic governance which has affected the Turks and Caicos Islands since 2008. A period of direct rule came to an end when fresh elections were held in November 2012. Only time will tell whether the Turks and Caicos Islands are now set on a new course – and, if so, what that course is.

  • Research Briefing

    Large-scale land acquisitions in developing countries – camouflage for ‘land grabbing’?

    Oxfam has launched a campaign on the issue of ‘land-grabbing’ – or what others would call ‘large-scale land acquisitions’ – in developing countries around the world, including by foreign governments or companies, with the World Bank primarily in its sights. This note is a brief introduction to the debate, current multilateral initiatives on the issue and the stance of the UK Government.