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In brief

by Wolf Dagmar

In brief



News in our September edition:

Failed states

African countries still top the global list of fragile statehood, as the recently published Failed States Index (FSI) 2013 shows. It was compiled by the Fund for Peace, a non-­governmental think tank, in cooperation with Foreign Policy, the Washington-based magazine.

The FSI rates countries according to their risk of state failure. This year, the researchers collected data for 178 countries and used 12 criteria, including refugee movements, human-rights violations, poverty, economic decline and the legitimacy of the state.

As in 2012, the list is headed by Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, South Sudan and Chad. For the sixth year in a row, Somalia is  considered the world’s worst failed state.

In view of persistent conflicts in the other four countries, their rankings are not surprising either. Given recent turmoil in Egypt, however, that country’s 34th position may already be out-dated (see comment in this edition).

In contrast, things are improving in Myanmar. The country’s ranking has improved by five rungs in this year’s FSI. It is now considered to be the world’s 26th most troubled state. The authors point out that Myanmar used to be a kind of pariah state, but has recently become something of a darling of global investors. (mh)


New governor for Reserve Bank of India

Raghuram Rajan was appointed head of the Indian central bank in August. The professor of economics from the University of Chicago will take office at the Mumbai-based institution in September.

He has a strong reputation as a scholar, not least because he predicted a global financial crisis three years before the investment bank Lehman Brothers failed and tipped global markets into chaos in 2008. From 2003 to 2006 Rajan served as the International Monetary Fund’s chief economist. Since 2012, he has been the Indian Ministry of Finance’s principal adviser.

After Rajan’s appointment, but before he assumed duty, the Indian rupee dropped to a record low. Currencies of other emerging-market nations were similarly under strain because  economic indicators pointed to an upswing in the USA. Investors started to withdraw capital from newly industrialising countries in the hope of safer returns in the world’s largest economy. In view of unusually low interest rates in advanced nations, international investors had found emerging markets especially attractive in recent years. (mh)

Gay rights activist  killed in Cameroon

Eric Ohena Lembembe, a Cameroonian journalist, was found dead in Yaoundé on 15 July. Apparently he was tortured before he was murdered.

Lembembe was a well-known activist for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. He was director of the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS). Human Rights Watch honoured his legacy and urged Cameroonian authorities to put the murderers on trial.

Lembembe’s killing was another violent incident in a spate of attacks against gay rights activists in recent months. The authorities have been criticised for lack of action against homophobic violence. Homosexuality is illegal in Cameroon and many other African countries. (my)


Re-elected head of state

Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s 89-year-old president, was re-elected in July. According to the Election Commission, he won more than 61 % of the vote in the election’s first round, so there was no need for a run-off.

The USA and the EU expressed doubts, but official observers from the AU and SADC (Southern African Development Community) said the elections were “free and peaceful”. Mugabe did not allow western nations to send observers. For 33 years, Mugabe has been ruling Zimbabwe with an iron fist. The once aspiring country has become one of the world’s poorest economies. Civil-society activists and members of the opposition complained about irregularities in voter registration and at polling stations. Numerous citizens were sent away and barred from casting their ballots. Mugabe’s challenger Morgan Tsvangirai, who won 34 % of the vote, said the election was “null and void”. He filed an appeal against the election results in court, but later withdrew it, stating there would never be a fair trial.

In 2008, Tsvangirai had dropped out of the presidential election’s run-off in view of brute force against his supporters. Earlier, his party had won the parliamentary elections. The governments of SADC member states brokered an awkward grand coalition. Tsvangirai became prime minister, but President Mugabe stayed in power, not least because he kept control of the military and the police. (mh)