• Research Briefing

    The US-Japan Security Treaty and the East China Sea

    During a three day visit to Tokyo in late April 2014, US President Barack Obama confirmed that the islands in the East China Sea known as Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China are covered by 1960 US-Japan Security Treaty, under which the US has pledged to come to Japan’s defence if its territory is attacked. Some observers have argued that Obama’s statements mark the first time a US president has clearly taken Japan’s side over islands. However, President Obama stressed that this was "not a new position". His remarks come at a time of growing Japanese nervousness about the state of its longstanding alliance with the US.

  • Research Briefing

    Democratic Republic of Congo: a gathering momentum towards peace?

    The Special Representative of UN Secretary-General on Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Martin Kohler – who is also the head of the UN mission, MONUSCO – has claimed that there is a “new momentum” behind efforts to stabilise the country. This note briefly surveys the DRC's current trajectory.

  • Research Briefing

    The Central African Republic: a primer on the current crisis

    President Francois Bozize was overthrown in March 2013 by a rebel coalition called Seleka, which then installed its leader, Michael Djotodia, as the new president. However, the country remained in turmoil and ‘self-defence groups’ opposed to Seleka, called Anti-Balaka, took up arms. By late 2013, senior UN officials were warning the conflict had turned into one between the Muslim minority and the Christian majority. They said there was a real danger of genocide. While not disputing the seriousness of the crisis, many experts caution against over-simplified narratives of ‘Christian versus Muslim’ and question claims of possible genocide. Despite the arrival of French and African peacekeepers and the resignation of Michael Djotodia - recently replaced by an interim president, Catherine Samba-Panza, who heads an transitional government - violence continues in many parts of the country, with some now fearing de facto partition.

  • Research Briefing

    Burma: recent political and security developments

    Burma’s international rehabilitation continues. However, critics argue that the pace of this rehabilitation is too fast because the outcome of the current Constitutional review process is not yet clear; a durable peace deal with the country’s ethnic insurgencies has not been achieved; and inter-communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims persists. There has been criticism of the UK Government for providing some training for the Burmese military.

  • Research Briefing

    Nigeria: MINT-ed?

    Jim O’Neill, the economist who first coined the term ‘BRICS’ in 2001, has announced that Nigeria (along with Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey [acronym: MINT) could become one of the next emerging ‘economic giants’. Yet there remain grounds for wondering whether Mr O’Neill’s view is overly rose-tinted. In sharp contrast to him, some recent observers have been talking instead of possible ‘revolution’ or the ‘disintegration’ of Nigeria. Perhaps, like pre-1914 Russia, it is precariously teetering between all three options.

  • Research Briefing

    The African Union, Kenya and the International Criminal Court

    At an extraordinary summit of the African Union on 11-12 October 2013, heads of state and government agreed that Kenya should send a letter to the UN Security Council requesting the deferral of the ICC’s ongoing proceedings against the President and Deputy President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, both of whom have been charged with crimes against humanity in the context of the post-election violence during 2007-08. Western governments face an acute dilemma. Until now, they have been strong supporters of the ICC’s work in Kenya. However, in recent years, Kenya has become an active regional player in combating Islamist terrorism and recently suffered a major attack by al-Shabaab on a shopping mall in Nairobi. If the UN Security Council were to defer the proceedings, this would be the first time that this has happened since the Court’s inception.

  • Research Briefing

    Nepal’s peace process: towards elections for a new Constituent Assembly

    After 18 months of political uncertainty about the prospects for its apparently endless peace process, Nepal is due to hold elections for a new Constituent Assembly on 19 November. The original Constituent Assembly elected under the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement was dissolved in May 2012 having failed to agree a new Constitution. A break-away Maoist faction and a number of ethnically-based parties have pledged to boycott and disrupt the elections; this could bring them into direct confrontation with the army.

  • Research Briefing

    In brief: Mali – Ibrahim Boubacar Keita wins the presidential election

    On 11 August Mali held the second round of its presidential election. The overwhelming winner with 77.6% of the vote was Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (IBK). He beat Soumaila Cisse, who won 22.4% of the vote. IBK has a credible mandate and has pledged to push ahead with national reconciliation, tackle corruption and rebuild the country’s collapsed economy. But many challenges lie ahead.

  • Research Briefing

    In brief: Zimbabwe – 2013 elections

    Zimbabwe held presidential and parliamentary elections on 31 July 2013. They resulted in overwhelming victory for President Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and shattering defeat for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T). The 2013 elections were certainly extremely flawed – it had been obvious for some time that they would be – but there is no escaping the fact that President Mugabe and ZANU-PF have comprehensively outmanoeuvred their rivals.

  • Research Briefing

    In brief: the controversy over the November 2013 Commonwealth Summit in Sri Lanka

    In November 2009, the Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting (CHOGM) agreed that its 2013 meeting should be held in Sri Lanka. This decision has faced persistent criticism since then, with organisations including Human Rights Watch arguing that the Sri Lankan Government’s human rights record is so poor that the Commonwealth should relocate the Summit elsewhere. The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, has rejected such calls. So far, Canada is the only Commonwealth member state to say that it will definitely not be attending the Summit. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, have confirmed that they will both be attending the Summit on behalf of the British Government (Prince Charles will represent the Queen). The official British position is that they will use their presence to raise concerns about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.