South Sudan: Darkness After the Dawn

A NEW DAWN FOR A NEW NATION. A MAN CARRIES THE SOUTH SUDANESE FLAG DURING INDEPENDENCE CELEBRATIONS ON 9TH JULY OF THIS YEAR. PHOTO: BABASTEVE. FLCKERA new dawn for a new country. After fifty years of bitter struggle, South Sudan officially became an independent nation on 9th July 2011. It has been a tough five months for the South since its independence. The challenges facing the new country are as grave and problematic as ever. Internal conflicts, food shortages, as well as more serious oil and border disputes with the north, have all contributed to making it an extremely difficult period for the world’s newest country. 

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After the Egyptian Elections

"SCAF KEEP OUT", GRAFFITI IN CAIRO, EGYPT. PHOTO: GIGI IBRAHIM. FLCKR

- Winners and Losers

Many international and domestic political observers have watched the Egyptian parliamentary elections with hope. This round of parliamentary elections came to bridge a gap of trust between the national Egyptian institutions and the Egyptian people, who had been rendered voiceless by the previous regime. Whereas the SCAF (Supreme Council of Armed Forces) has stressed that, unlike in the past era where there was little judicial supervision of elections, this time elections would be carried out “under complete judicial supervision”.

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The Eastern Partnership and the Danish Presidency

The Eastern Partnership initiative, a cooperation involving six countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine), emerged from a Polish-Swedish idea in June 2008, and  developed into an official program one year later. The quest was to improve the relations between the EU and the partner countries in different ways, thus offering a prospect for them which can eventually lead to EU membership. (As Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said: “to the south, we have neighbours of Europe. To the east, we have European neighbours”.)The program is based on bilateral as well as multilateral relations including political and economic ties,  through meetings and conferences at different levels.

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“You Can Listen, You Can Talk”

CARSICK CARS PERFORM AT EMO'S ANNEX IN AUSTIN, TX. PHOTO: MEHAN. FLCKR

-  Music and Politics in China

A few years ago a sleazy, run down bar called D22 was one of the few places where Chinese underground bands in the capital could get a chance to try their wings. Its location  in the middle of Beijing’s northwestern district, in close proximity to several of China’s biggest and most prestigious universities, would prove perfect for attracting Chinese youth. The bar quickly became an outlet for the developing local underground music culture.

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Chinese Youth Culture

CHINESE BAND "THE MUSHROOMS" FROM SHANGHAI. PHOTO: SLASH85. FLCKR

In the West, it is commonly believed that a thriving music scene goes hand in hand with criticism of the established political system. One would think that this would be the same in China, where youth culture and music has exploded in the past decade. But is this really the case?

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China’s Increasing Impact on Africa

RAILWAY IN UGANDA. PHOTO: US ARMY AFRICA. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

China’s economy has grown rapidly over the last two decades. Due to this growth, the standard of living has improved in China. At the same time, African exports to Asia have grown by at least 10 percent every year since the early 1990s, and Chinese investments in Africa  have risen at a similar rate. The pattern seems to be quite clear: although the Chinese influence in Africa is still relatively limited, it is growing fast. Is China the new coloniser of Africa, or can the increasing economic investments help Africa out of poverty?

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The DRC Elections

JOSEPH KABILA, PRESIDENT OF THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT. FLCKR.

November 28th marked the beginning of the second democratic general election in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, since the end of the Congo Wars. Although this large African country is rich in mineral resources its GDP is only $300 per capita and according to the Freedom house it is listed as “not free”. The DRC hosts the world’slargest UN peacekeeping force, is subjected to massivehuman rights violationsmass rape and was part of The Great War of Africa (killing over 5 million people). Moreover, the republic is still enduring the consequences of its outdrawn civil war. The International Crisis group fear that the result will be another violent election, similarly to the one held in the 2006, which was boycotted by candidates, sparked violence and was suspected to have been fallacious.

The international media covering the event focuses on thedifficulties in accomplishing a democratic election, such as the large country’s poor infrastructure, lack of organization surrounding the election, along with violence and suspected fraud. Nonetheless, according to the International Crisis Group, the conflict region in the east has improved its infrastructure and electoral situation, implying that participation in the election will probably be higher than it was in 2006. As important as these logistical aspects might be in providing a democratic election, a more challenging could be the lack of proper debate and campaigning in the political arena of DRC.

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The Onset of Mexican Drug Cartels

A MEMBER OF THE MARA SALVATRUCHA GANG DISPLAYS HIS TATTOOS INSIDE THE CHELATENANGO PRISON IN EL SALVADOR 2007. PHOTO: MARKARINAFOTOS. FLICKR– A threat for the development in Central America

In May 2011, 27 people were murdered – most of them beheaded – at a ranch situated in the Peten province, close to Mexico’s border to Guatemala. The killings were carried out by members from a Mexican drug cartel, allegedly the Zetas, which is the second largest drug cartel in Mexico after The Sinaloa Cartel, but considered to be the most violent. This is only one example of how Central American states that exert little or no control over certain parts of their territories risk being overrun by anti-state groupings with strong cross border networks. Many Mexican drug cartels are increasing their presence in such countries due to the fervent attempts by Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderón, to curb their turf and activity. There are signs of the drug cartels increasingly beginning to align with gangs, such as The 18th Street Gang and the Mara Salvatrucha, both of which originate from Los Angeles, later expanding their networks to Central America. The real extent of the collaboration is still unknown, but a potential cooperation could pose a great threat to positive development in several Central American countries, as has been pointed out by the World Bank.

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The Guatemalan Election

GUATEMALA'S NATIONAL PALACE. PHOTO: ROB MERCATANTE. WIKIMEDIA COMMONSEvery fourth year the western media massively mobilize to cover every single detail of the presidential election of the United States of America. Meanwhile, other states hold elections that pass by without anyone taking notice. One of these countries is Guatemala, a small country in Central America known for its ancient pyramids (that appear as the rebel base in the Star Wars IV – A New Hope), Mayan culture, and a long and bloody civil war. In 1996, Guatemala came out of a 36 year long civil war in which 200,000 people were killed, of which 83% were indigenous, and has since embarked on a difficult path towards democracy and development.

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Occupation Movement Grows Bigger

OCCUPY WALL STREET CAMP ON OCTOBER 29.PHOTO: DAVID SHANKBONE. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

More than two months have passed since activists started demonstrating against social and economic inequalities in Zucotti Park, Wall Street, New York. Now the so called Occupy Wall Street movement has grown and become known globally. Critics say that the movement must have a concrete agenda in order to be taken seriously. Yet the occupiers do not show any signs of leaving their tents. 

 

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