• Research Briefing

    Somalia – President Mohamud on the back foot while al-Shabaab attacks continue

    A few days ago, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud declared that Somalia was once again in a “political crisis”. In May, UN Special Envoy to Somalia, Nicholas Kay, said that Somalia is approaching “a danger zone”. For the first year or so after President Mohamud took office in September 2012, Western supporters of the Government put a positive spin on his performance. However, there is a growing sense that President Mohamud’s government is not turning out to be the fresh start that Somalia needed. Al-Shabaab has suffered important military reverses since President Mohamud took office and is now focusing increasingly on launching regular violent attacks on government-held areas, including Mogadishu, where security has declined markedly recently. It has also increased its attacks in neighbouring Kenya, which sent troops into southern Somalia in 2011.

  • Research Briefing

    Nigeria: Boko Haram’s insurgency

    In the northeast of Nigeria, an Islamist terrorist insurgency continues to rage. At the head of the insurgency is Boko Haram, which calls for the introduction of Sharia law and an Islamic state across the whole of Nigeria. There has been a state of emergency in the three northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa since mid-2013. Well over 2000 people are estimated to have died in attacks by the group since the beginning of 2014.The Nigerian authorities have been heavily criticised both at home and abroad for their ineffective response to the crisis. Outrage in Western countries following the kidnapping in April of about 270 schoolgirls in Borno state has led the UK, US and French governments to make offers of assistance to the Nigerian authorities despite the poor human rights record of the security forces.

  • Research Briefing

    The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition

    US President Obama launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition at the May 2012 G8 summit at Camp David. It aims to address years of underinvestment in agriculture, and to meet the financing gap for global food security, in order to help pull 50 million people out of chronic poverty over 10 years. Critics of the New Alliance question whether it will help poor farmers. and charge that the New Alliance represents a “new form of colonialism”. The UK Department for International Development (DFID) supports the scheme and has committed £600 million to it.

  • Research Briefing

    A ‘democratic asteroid’: India’s elections

    As so often in the past, India’s electorate has sprung a surprise. The count on 16 May gave the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its presidential candidate, 62 year-old Narendra Modi, a convincing victory in the elections to India’s lower house, the Lok Sabha. On a 66.38% turnout, the BJP won a majority of the seats – the first party to do so since 1984. Author and academic Sunil Khilnani described the outcome as “a democratic asteroid.” For the Congress Party, the result is a disaster.

  • Research Briefing

    South Africa’s elections: no change?

    On 7 May 2014, South Africa held its fifth national and provincial elections since the end of Apartheid. The African National Congress (ANC) triumphed once again, winning 62.15% of the vote - down 3.75% on its tally in 2009. The Democratic Alliance came second with 22.13%. - up 7.57% on 2009. But while there was no big opposition breakthrough, the ruling party cannot rest on its laurels - not least in Gauteng Province, the country's economic power-house, where its vote fell by over 10% to 53.59%. Debate also continues about creating a labour party to the left of the ANC.

  • 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

    Libya

    New interim government chosen after Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was ousted from office. New elections promised for July 2014. The country is plagued by violence and fighting. Fighting is often over the country’s huge oil wealth. Distinction between official security forces and unlawful militias is blurred.