Reading list – News round up

United Nations

–  Trends in Uniformed Contributions to UN Peacekeeping: A New Dataset, 1991–2012

A very interesting project by the International Peace Institute. Since the creation of the United Nations, peace operations have been one of the body’s integral components: sixty-seven operations in forty-two countries. Thanks to UN members’ investment in human capital and resources, there is evidence that peacekeeping operations have had a positive impact on the prevention or resumption of conflict. However, not a lot of data has been made available to researchers. In order to fill this gap, the International Peace Institute has therefore developed a Peacekeeping Database. One the focus of the database is to analyze the factors that encourage or discourage states from contributing to UN peacekeeping operations and to look at contribution patterns among regions (such as number and type of personnel), and over certain periods. The IPI wants to disseminate the results of the research and data based in order to improve the capacity of troop- and police-contributing countries. The database will be updated on a monthly basis. What is interesting to look at is geographic disaggregation over the years and whether personnel contributions are being shared more equally or less equally.

– Defying the UN Security Council: Last week, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Lithuania, Chad and Chile were elected to nonpermanent seats at the UN Security Council. However, in a astonishing diplomatic move Saudi Arabia declined the offer, citing the UN’s failure to face its responsibilities, especially in Syria and Palestine: “Work mechanisms and double-standards on the Security Council prevent it from carrying out its duties and assuming its responsibilities in keeping world peace”. Saudi Arabia’s Civil Disobedience at the United Nations analyzes and speculates on the short-term and long-term implications for the UN. The author suggests that, in the future, this kind of diplomatic move may be used by member states who want to put pressure on the UN to reform the structure of the Security Council



Three interesting analyses of the current situation in Syria. “The Four Things We Know About How Civil Wars End (and What This Tells Us About Syria)” analyzes the war from a theoretical point of view, or rather from our experiences of civil wars in general, and concludes that the chances of a negotiated agreement are null.

“The Syrian War in three capitals” end on a more positive note and looks at the war from three different angles (four even if you count Damascus): Teheran, Washington, Moscow. Looking at the interests and strategies of these three capitals, Marc Pierini argues that their best option is the diplomatic avenue.

Syria’ s entry into the chemical weapon conventions and the regime’s agreement to remove chemical weapons has allowed Assad to stay in power – at least for now. In Tracking the “Arab Spring”: Syria and the Future of Authoritarianism Steve Heydemann of Georgetown and the U.S. Institute of Peace analyze the regime’s capacity to adapt to the challenges, including by crushing protest from the start (unlike Egypt and Tunisia). According to the authors, Assad regime had to “reconfigure its social base, tighten its dependency on global authoritarian networks, adapt is modes of economic governance, and restructure its military and security apparatus.” More grimly, they state that “What seems more plausible is that the repressive and corrupt authoritarian regime that entered civil war in 2011 will emerge from it as an even more brutal, narrowly sectarian, and militarized version of its former self,” he writes. The article goes further by analyzing the way other governments in the region have responded to the Arab Spring or the threat of uprisings.



The World Peace Foundation is going to run a number of article on patterns of violence in Somalia. In “Clan Cleansing in Somalia: The Ruinous Turn of 1991 (2013)” , Lidwien Kapteijns looks at the divisive policies of the Barre regime and the resulting clan-based violence against civilians between 1978-1992, and identifies 1991 as a key shift in the history of Somalia . For the first time, politico-military leaders purposely incited civilians to become perpetrators which had the effect to make clan-affiliation much stronger. According to Kapteijns, clan cleansing is widely denied, which undermines state building. As she rightly states “recent work in the fields of new genocide studies and the anthropology of violence have shown that silences, misrepresentations, and denials have been an integral part of acts and campaigns of genocide and ethnic cleansing.” The solution, Kapteijns argues, is to engage with the past and encourage a dialog on the clan cleansing violence.


Advancing the Responsibility to Protect

The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and the Cardozo School of Law s-worked together on a report that seeks to advance the Responsibility to Protect. “A Common Standard for Applying the Responsibility to Protect”

– Addresses the need to systematically develop a common standard against which relevant actors can assess information in relation to potential mass atrocities and R2P;

– Develops guiding principles for the application of the standard;

– Assesses the benefits of, and challenges to, adopting a common standard.


The dilemma of engaging with armed group

Engaging armed groups: challenging preconceptions and expanding options

“You can’t make peace without talking to those doing the fighting” but engaging with non-state armed groups is complex. The parties in the conflict have contradictory motives and objectives. The article is based on the premise that governments often lack expertise and tools on how to engage with armed groups. When it comes to choosing options, governments need to look at conflict dynamics, potential obstacles, at the objectives of armed groups, and the role outside local and international actors could play.  Teresa Dumasy offers a balanced reflection on the complexity of engaging with armed groups and the need to broaden the range of options available. More importantly I think, Dumasy also underlines the need for good practice guide.


Gender and Conflict

The World Peace Foundation will release occasional paper on Gender, Conflict, and Peace. In the first paper, Dyan Mazurana and Keith Proctor provide a useful summary of the literature on the subject. More specifically they focus on five major themes:

– Culturally-inscribed notions of gender as an analytical framework for understanding conflict-related violence 

– How experiences of conflict and levels of vulnerability vary according to gender.

– Gender and non-violent resistance

– Looking at gender and peace in order to understand how local groups can influence national agendas and to promote a bottom-up approach to peace.

– Gender and transitional justice: transitional justice programs consistently fail to incorporate women and girls’ specific needs.

 On the same subject, Women Under Siege suggests “10 must-read books on sexualized violence in war”. You’ll find case studies (the Balkans, Vietnam, Romania, Nanking), analyses of the causes, consequences, and responses to sexualized violence in wartime, and policy recommendations. I would also add “Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War? Perceptions, Prescriptions, Problems in the Congo and Beyond” by Maria Eriksson Baaz and Maria Stern.


Sectarian violence on the rise

Recent violent attacks on religious communities have highlighted the fact that sectarian violence and religious strife is on the rise. Christians have been targeted in Kenya, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Pakistan, Zanzibar, in Northern Mali following a military coup in 2012 and even in the Central African Republic where Muslim and Christians had been living side by side peacefully. In Myanmar, Buddhists monks are attacking Muslim minorities, often under the eyes of security forces who fail to prevent these human rights violations. Extremist Islamic terrorist groups are targeting moderate Muslim, including in Pakistan and Nigeria The Bahai’s have long been persecuted in Iran, especially under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I could go on.

In many of these countries, Somalia and Nigeria in particular, weak governments are unable to take effective measures against extremist groups. In other cases such as Myanmar and perhaps Pakistan, the state has been accused of failing to prevent violence against Muslim minorities or failing to prosecute perpetrators.

Groups such as Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab, who share similarities to AQIMI, are now moving beyond borders and attacking neighbouring countries. They recruit fighters among young, impoverished and unemployed youths not only locally but also in the diaspora. One of the most disturbing aspects is the presence of foreign fighters from North America and Europe, young people who seem to see no future for themselves and vanish abroad to fight for what they see as bigger cause. In the case of Al-Shabab, some observers say the flow of recruits from the diaspora is bound to decline because the group is a lost legitimacy. Nonetheless, every time there is a large-scale attack such as in Kenya in September or in Algeria last January, foreign fighters are among the attackers. So one can only wonder whether extremists will continue to successfully attract global fighters.

Nigeria – Boko Haram

A “monster” seems to have emerged in Nigeria: Boko Haram. Created twelve years ago, this religious sect used to protest against the establishment. But the movement has grown more violent, more political and more radical. Last week, Boko Haram attacked a college in Yobe State, brutally killing more than 50 students, a lot of them Muslim. Between July 2009 and February 2011, the terrorist group claimed responsibility for 164 suicide attacks, executions and raids against security forces, the UN, prisons and banks. More than 900 people have died, a majority of them Muslim. Amnesty International says Boko Haram, which means “Western education is a sin”, is now targeting schools, killing teachers and students. One consequence of these attacks is that in parts of northern Nigeria “as many as 80% of the students have stopped attending classes and more than a thousand teachers have fled the region.” Parents have been told to send their children to Islamic schools.

Boko Haram wants to set up an Islamic State in North-eastern Nigeria. Last May, the government declared a state of emergency in the three northern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, but Amnesty International argues that the government is not doing enough to stop the attacks. The army has conducted a number of offensive against the extremist group but it only seems to lead the rebels to intimidate and commit reprisal attacks against innocent civilians. It raises questions about the capacity and efficiency of Nigeria’s security forces.

There is a real danger that Nigeria will break apart. One of the most urgent needs is for the government 1) raise the capacity of the security and counter-terrorism forces 2) address the inequalities and poverty in the North considering that the country’s northern states are the least developed. In a region where more than 60% of the population lives under the poverty line and where the central government is seen by many as elitist and corrupted, the population is vulnerable to Boko Haram’s negative influence.



By attacking the Westgate mall on 21 September, Al-Shabab came in the world’s collimator once and for all. According to witnesses the attackers were specifically targeting Christians and telling Muslims to get out of the way. In view of this bloody massacre, analysts wonder whether the group, is getting weaker or stronger, and what ties it has to Al-Qaeda. Al-Shabab (“The Youth” in Arabic) emerged in south-central Somalia, a country that has been stateless for more than two decades, and won the control of most Somalia’s capital in 2006. They were recently ousted from the city by a United Nations-backed force from the African Union but remain in control of rural areas where they have imposed the Sharia law.

Al-Shabaab officially formed an alliance with Al-Qaeda in 2012. But Somali-American journalist Abdi Aynte says that jihadists had already been congregating in Somalia before 2012. Considered by many as a failed state, Somalia had basically become “the best theatre of operations for al-Qaeda.” The raid in Nairobi shows that the alliance leads Al-Shabab not simply to focus on controlling Somalia, but also to move beyond their borders and to attack on symbols of prosperity such as the Westgate Mall. With the internationalization on Al-Shabab, such attacks could happen again.

Washington is very worried. Not only has it given millions to the UN-backed African force but last weekend, the U.S. carried out a raid on the home of a senior leader of al-Shabab in Somalia (and failed to capture him). Just hours later a similar operation was carried out in Libya against the al-Qaida leader Anas al-Libi, this time with positive results. The rarity of such dangerous operations shows a regain of determination following the massacre in Kenya. “Those members of al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations literally can run but they can’t hide.” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Again, one of the main problems here is rampant poverty, unemployment and a long history of corrupt or non-existent governments. As analyst Richard Dowden states “Al Qaeda feeds on despair rather than hope.”  The current Somali government is only on-year old and it will take years for the country to reconstruct – if the transitional regime is willing to take its responsibilities.



On September 22 a militant group called Jundullah (Soldiers of God) claimed responsibility for an attack on the All Saints Church in Peshawar, which killed 85 worshippers. This is not the first attack on Pakistan’s Christian community but it is certainly the worst. Jundullah is believed to be one of about 150 semi-linked militant groups currently active in Pakistan. Motives for these attacks seem to vary depending on the attacker but they are often linked to grievances against the West, including the war in neighboring Afghanistan, deadly US drone strikes attacks in Pakistan, the withdrawal of the army from their tribal areas, and/or the application of Islamic a radical version of Islamic law.

The Paskistani Christian communities has called for protection but the government is suspected doing little to hold perpetrators of attacks accountable. Not unlike other minorities in Pakistan, Christians have long been discriminated against and are seen as second-class citizens. Cecil Shane Chaudhry, the executive director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, says the attack “is a new dimension, a new direction to attack the Christian community at large.” But Muslim are being persecuted as well.  Sunni militant groups Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan have attacked Shiite Muslims. In 2012 close to 400 Pakistanis died in sectarian violence, many of them Shiite Muslims. In 2013, 300 have already died in three major attacks. Again the government has done little to investigate the killings, leading analysts to accuse it not only of incompetence but also of complicity.


I have previously mentioned the plight of Muslim minorities in Burma.  The Rohingya in Rakhine state, who are considered by many as illegal migrants from Bangladesh (even tough many of them have been there for decades), have been the target of assaults for more than a year. Deadly riots have already killed 200 people since June 2012. Extremist Buddhist monks have been attacking Muslim homes and shops, burning them to the ground. The ultra-nationalist 969 Movement is responsible for inciting violence but the government has also been unwilling to prevent the violence from growing fiercer. President Thein Sein visited Rakhine at the beginning of the month but stayed mostly silent about what some human rights groups have described as ethnic cleansing. Worse, in the past Thein Sein has been know to call for the removal of the Rohingya. Last week the speaker of the Lower house praised ethnic Rakhine people for safeguarding Myanmar’s “national sovereignty, territorial integrity, culture, traditions, customs and religion.” Violence is now spreading to other regions such as Mandalay region, Kachin and Shan state, and the pattern is often similar: a trigger event, armed organizers wearing red-color headbands and inciting violence, angry mobs, security services standing by. In the past Burma has engaged in democratic reform and Francis Wade suggests that anti-Muslim violence may be a tactic used by the military elite and/or politicians to reassert control: “help manufacture a threat, and jump in to save the day.”



This is a lesser-known case. The Christian minority of semi-autonomous and largely Muslim Zanzibar (1%) used to live in peace but in recent months several churches have been set on fire and attacks against Christians have increased. In February, Father Evarist Mushi was gunned down, two teenage Britons volunteering at a nursery school had acid thrown at them in August and last month Reverend Joseph Anselmo Mwagambwa was badly hurt in an acid attack. The Christian community blames a local religious social movement called Uamsho (Awakening, in Swahili), which promotes Islam on the archipelago and recently acquired a new political focus. Like other radical Islamist movement such as Boko Haram, MUJAO and Al-Shabab, Uamsho has expressed dissent to western-style government and society. The relationship between Christians and Muslim also started to crumble when the government engaged in a process of constitutional review and the emergence of new demands for independence from Tanzania. Like other extremist movements, Uamsho finds recruits among the impoverished and unemployed youths of Zanzibar. The group is certainly one to watch out for: a raid in Tanzania led to the arrest of 11 suspects who are allegedly linked to Al-Shabab – this would be the first a link is established between the two movements.



Today’s reading list

While I am working on my next blog post, here are a few things that I found on the internet and in the press today

– UN Security Council members visit Kigali Memorial

15 ambassadors of the United Nations Security Council visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda today. The delegation was led by UN Security Council President Agshin Mehdiyev (Azerbaijan’s) and Samantha Power (U.S.). Power got particularly emotional: “Nobody who comes to this memorial site is ever the same when they leave. People who come through this site dedicate themselves with new passion and new commitment to the Rwandan people, to the cause of reconciliation and peace in the region, and to the broader cause of preventing genocide forevermore.”

– Building Peace Forum: Preventing conflict

The Building Peace Forum published their second issue of Building Peace, “Preventing Deadly Conflict”This time, the writers and editors focused on genocide, conflict and mass atrocity prevention, including the Responsibility to Protect. What is interesting is the variety of actors and initiatives presented in this issue, from local initiatives in Kenya to the Atrocities Prevention Board in the United States, and the variety of actors, from local peacebuilders and trainers to private sector companies. As the editor in Chief states “just as one medication cannot cure every illness, there is no one size fits all approach to conflict and violence prevention.” This issue an interview with Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Jan Eliasson.

– France’s Foreign Affairs Minister calls for UN reform

An interesting article in the New York Times written by French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius.This article follows President Hollande’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly Meeting and the need for UN reform. Hollande proposed a code of conduct for the UN’s Security Council Members “that in the event of a mass crime they can decide to collectively renounce their veto powers.”

The  full article  available on

– Germany and the Responsibility to Protect

For those of you who understand German, here is a great piece by Gregor Hofmann. In “Politische Bekenntnisses ohne Folgen” he looks at the Responsibility to Protect in German politics and the lack of a clear strategy . He argues that German politicians often forget that R2P envisages a large number of preventive and peaceful measures. Military intervention and military measures are the last resort. Hoffman calls for a pro-active role for Germany in the operationalization of R2P. Not only has Germany a responsibility to do so but it also has the necessary influence to strengthen the norm internationally.

– Sudan Rises?

Mark Fathi Massoud write a good analysis of the situation in Sudan today, which should be analyzed as part of a decades-long struggle for peace.

In this analysis, Islam Ahmed Al-Tayeb says the current protests in Sudan are a clear sign of the need for political reform. The Sudanese regime headed by Al-Bashir has become an expert in crushing dissent, labeling protesters as terrorists and muzzling the media: “With the dwindling revolutionary appetite, weak political stamina and incoherent economic vision to engineer change, much of the revolution will highly likely remain as a deep rumbling beneath the surface. Many will prefer the devil that they know than the devil that they don’t”

– New Push for Syria intervention under the Responsibility to Protect

This thorough article  starts with an analysis of the refugee and IDP crises in Syria. On Thursday 3 October the U.N.Security Council issued a Presidential Statement which notes the council’s concern with the humanitarian crisis and condemns human rights violations. The statement calls on the Syrian government to facilitate the expansion of international assistance and access. The statement then introduces R2P by stressing that Syria has the obligation to protect its population.This is the first time in two years, that  R2P  is officially mentioned in the Syria situation.


News Round-Up


The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), a UN-backed court, has upheld the guilty verdict against former Liberian President Charles Taylor for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In April 2012, the court’s trial chamber found Taylor guilty on eleven counts war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by rebel forces in during the civil war in Sierra Leone, including murder, rape, terrorism and use of child soldiers. The civil war claimed more than 1991-2002.

This is a landmark ruling: Charles Taylor is the first former head of state convicted by an international war crimes court since the Nuremberg Trials. The UN Security Council welcomed the decision as  “an important step in bringing to justice those individuals who bear the greatest responsibility for such crimes, regardless of their official status.” Victims welcomed the decision as well but several Liberians, including the current opposition party, expressed sadness and sympathy for their former president. Some, like Taylor, may think that Taylor also called his trial a political conspiracy by western countries and by the current government of Liberia, to keep him out of the country.

The verdict finally brings an end to judicial proceedings in the case.


Protests have been raging in Khartoum and across the country since the government lifted popular fuel subsidies, which doubled the price of fuel and other commodities. Protesters want the fall of the regime and attacked public buildings and fuel stations.

The army and the police fired tear gas and shot into the crowds of protesters in the Khartoum suburb of Omdurman, apparently aiming at the chest or head. The latest death toll figures vary between 21 and 140, depending on sources. Many protesters have also been arrested and access to the internet has also been cut, probably to prevent demonstrators to get organized. Sudan’s Information Minister Ahmed Bilal and government spokesperson described those who took the streets as outlaws, not peaceful protesters.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the African Center for Peace Studies called for an end to the violent repression: “Repression is not the answer to Sudan’s political and economic problems,” said Human Rights Watch.

Sudan’s fuel crisis began in 2011 and protests, when they happen, are getting bigger and fiercer each time.

Bashir Bashing – The Economist

Good blog post: Uprising in Sudan: What we know now


Al Bashir is Persona Non Grata:

Last Sunday, Sudanese President Al-Bashir announced that he had applied for a visa to travel to the US in order to attend the UN General Assembly meeting last week. He even boasted that he secured his flights and hotel. Bashir is sought by the ICC for war crimes and genocide. Human rights agencies, civil society groups and the ICC were appalled by Bashir’s demand and urged the US to refuse him entry or to arrest him on arrival. A coalition of human rights groups even wrote a letter to the hotel association of New York asking its members to deny Bashir requests for accommodation.

Under international law, the U.S. would not have been able to refuse him a visa. According to the UN headquarters agreement act of 1947, the US is obligated to allow heads of states and representatives to attend meetings at the UN. This is unlike other organizations such as the African Union and the European Union do not allow the participation of government leaders and representatives that are considered illegitimate.

However, Sudan’s President cancelled the demand at the last minute. The U.S. and the U.N. avoided a major embarrassment and disgrace, especially since the US has no obligation to arrest Bashir since it is not party to the ICC Rome Statute. Perhaps the UN should review this treaty…

Bashir’s travel plans dilemmas have been in the media a lot in lately. Most recently, he travelled to Nigeria to attend African Union conference but public condemnation of his visit and demands by the ICC to arrest him led him to depart Nigeria abruptly.

South Sudan

Security forces have been accused of committing crimes against civilians in Pibor. The New York Times featured a set of pictures of the volatile region and the consequences of clashes between the Murle and the Lou Nuer ethnic group allegedly assistant by Sudan People’s Liberation Army (government troops).


The 15 members of the UN Security Council managed to agree on a resolution on Syria’s chemical weapons. 1) Syria has to abandon its chemical arsenal 2) weapons inspectors must be given free access to Syria’s military facilities. The members also agreed to endorse a plan for political transition. A peace conference is planned for mid-November.

However, the document does not mention who is to blame for the 21st sarin-gas attack and does not also mention what will happen if the Assad’s regime fails to get rid of its chemical arsenal? Many questions are left unanswered. The resolution continues to expose one of the problems with coercive diplomacy: how to negotiate with the Assad and his regime, knowing that he will stay in power. In terms of diplomacy, the Syrian crisis is certainly an extremely interesting case to follow: the outcome is unpredictable.

A few recent reads:

How to Dismantle a Chemical Bomb: Lessons for the United Nations in Syria – Amy Smithson

On Assad and chemical weapons “For the time being, the world must hope that this increasingly desperate man will not do even worse things than he already has.”

How to Safe Syrian – Michael Ignatieff

“The prize—successful control or confiscation of chemical weapons and an eventual cease-fire—is not merely an incalculable good for global security and for the lives of untold Syrians. It is the success we need in order to reinvigorate democratic faith in the capacity of the international community to protect civilians from tyrannical brutality.”

In the meantime, let’s not forget that people can be killed with conventional weapons as well. It happened on September 29.

United Nations General Assembly Meeting


In his speech to the UN General Assembly, French President François Hollande underlined that the UN has a responsibility to: “Our credibility depends on our ability to intervene swiftly and effectively to enforce international law (…).” Hollande proposed the adoption of a code of conduct in the event of mass crimes through which the permanent members of the Security Council would collectively renounce their veto powers. The idea is not new but the context is different as the permanent members are debating military intervention and the problem of the legality of intervention. The Syrian civil war clearly exposed the weaknesses of the Security Council and the need for reform. How to find a balance between a country’s veto power and the need for the Security Council take urgent measures when faced with mass atrocity crimes. Since the veto power is here to stay, could Hollande’s proposition be a reform to consider? Perhaps. But a state would still only renounce its veto power if its interests are at stake.

If you want to know what heads of states and representatives have said, see here for the transcripts.

Remarks at Ministerial side event on “Prevention of Genocide: Divided Societies and Election-Related Violence” during the Opening of the UN General Assembly. Delivered by Simons Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect


In Nigeria, Boko Haram killed at least 40 students in their dorms last night. This is not the first school attack – another deadly one took place in July in Mamudo. Why schools? The name Boko Haram means “western education is forbidden” and their goal is to establish an Islamic state in Borno state, Northern Nigeria. Attacks against civilians and vigilante groups have increased ever since the government launched a military offensive against the rebel sect in mid-May. More than 3,600 people have been killed since the insurgency started and 30,000 have fled to neighboring countries. Although the government says the army has made progress against the rebels, this new attack is another sign of the threat posed by Islamist groups in countries such as Somalia, Nigeria, Kenya and Mali. They have also been targeting security forces, churches and mosques, politicians and a UN building. Some students have stopped attending school out of fear of being killed: “We no longer care about anything else except to live and see the next day” said one student. It seems like Boko Haram’s terror is having effects.

Despite Nigeria’s crackdown, Boko Haram continues its killing ways by Peter Tinti,

Is Nigeria’s get-tough approach working?

Boko Haram insurgency: The conflict in northern Nigeria crying out for more attention – and less violence – Ian Birell

“What is clear is that for the past four years Boko Haram has been talking the language of jihad and waging a vicious form of civil war against the Nigerian state.”



Of course there is a lot of news on Kenya. The massacre committed by Al-Shabaab at the Westgate commercial center, seen by many as a symbol of prosperity, signifies Kenya’s official entry in the club of countries currently fighting a war without borders. Kenya intervened in Somalia two years ago as part of the African Union mission in Somalia, AMISOM. While Kenya and its allies control Kismayo, Al-Shabaab is still strong in the interior of the country and use nationalism to turn the population against “foreign invaders.”

Observers this week were debating whether Al-Shabaab has grown weaker, as many thought before the attack in Nairobi. Based in Somalia, the group has established a links with armed groups in other African countries and the Arabic Peninsula, thereby extending their presence beyond Somalia, including in Kenya. Observers also question the goal of the attack. Since it attracted worldwide attention, the repercussions certainly go beyond Kenya.

A Wounded Leopard: Why al-Shabaab Attacked Kenya, R. Rotberg

“The attack on Nairobi shows how weak, how desperate, al-Shabaab has become. However the crisis in the mall is resolved, al-Shabaab has marked itself for destruction under the laws of war, intensifying its own vulnerability. Ahmed Abdi Godane, its unquestioned leader, may have needed the raid to improve his standing within al-Shabab and al-Qaeda. He recently purged competitors. But now he has made himself a target, along with others in the top ranks of his movement.”

Al-Shabaab and Twitter: When terror attack go digital  Terror 2.0: Kenya’s #Westgate and a New Face of Terrorism by Joshua Ramisch

“Other gunmen and bombers around the world have used the web to post their rants and suicide videos, but this explicit use of online terror is a worrying innovation.”


Finally a few updates on the situation in Burma, which is not improving.

Burma’s Rakhine clashes kill five as Thein Sein visits

For background on the situation, read this Q&A and this timeline. There’s not been a lot of international response but the U.S. embassy in Ragoon condemned the new sectarian violence against the Rohingya. President Thein Sein continues to remain silent and security services simply stand by.

Here’s a description of what is happening

“In Thabyuchaing, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Thandwe, more than 700 rioters, some swinging swords, took to the streets, police officer Kyaw Naing said. A 94-year-old Muslim woman died from stab wounds in the clashes that followed, the officer said, adding that between 70 and 80 houses were set on fire. Another officer, however, said only 19 homes were burned