05 July 2011

African and Near East Update

* South Sudan less than two weeks from becoming a new nation. There is still unfinished business and conflict, however. Nuba, which is geographically in North Sudan, but ethnically and politically more like South Sudan has seen continuing violent conflict within the last month and sees itself as stranded on the wrong side of the border. Ethiopian peacekeepers have moved into an oil rich contested border region that has seen recent clashes (also on the wrong side of the proposed border). Darfur (essentially all of Western rump Sudan) remains a powder-keg of disaffected people, if not the full fledged genocide in progress that it was - but independence won't necessarily help because the oppressed populations there are a minority. South Sudan also faces the challenges involved in having a tremendously uneducated people with an economy left in tatters by decades of war.

* Morocco has passed a new constitution that in theory turns the nearly absolute monarchy into a constitutional monarchy a bit like that of the British monarch in the period between that when the monarch was absolute and the one when the monarch was purely symbolic. The military and foreign affairs remain royal perogatives, but the elected legislature has a greater say in domestic affairs and the courts are supposed to be more independent. The Moroccan king is fairly popular at the moment, so in the short term it may not matter much.

* In Yemen, the beginning of the end of the dictatorship seems near as the ruling dictator is in exile, but violent unrest in the divided country continues as a new regime takes shape.

* The civil war in Libya, in which the Western powers have united against the outgoing regime is not at a stalemate, but the outgoing regime is seeing its power slip away slowly and domestic politics in the U.S. aren't strongly mobilized in favor of our halfway involvement.

* Sudan's reform protesters have been among the least successful of the Arab spring who were facing mere dictators rather than monarchs. They regime has not hestitated to kill many hundreds of protestors and to apprehend every able bodied man and boy in some villages. Refugees have poured into Turkey and Lebanon. In some cases, refugees first fled Iraq and now must flee again. Reform proposals have been half-hearted and not won popular support.

* Dissent was crushed in Saudi Arabia and in Bahrain (with Saudi support). There is discontent in these places, but it is only the usual boil, not of Arab spring proportions.

* Egypt seems to be struggling to consolidate the revolution. The old regime is gone, but the successor is not entirely clear. There were riots when police were acquitted for actions taken during the uprising.

* In Palestine, even elections for posts such as medical society board of directors have partisan contestants.  The Israeli imposed embargo of Gaza also increasingly appears to be counterproductive overkill as a relatively educated and healthy population is denied the means to import basic building supplies for civilian projects which must instead be smuggled into the area.  Greek forces headed off a high profile publicity boat mission there by human rights activists, but situation remains, as ever, unstable.

 * Vile suicide bombings continue in Afghanistan.  Iraq has been comparatively quite lately as the U.S. prepares its departure from the region.  Related to Afghanistan, militant leaks in the Pakistani security complex have been released and an apparently military linked hit killed a reporter who revealed those leaks.

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