British aid ‘risks promoting US models of democracy’?


MDG : Dfid : Department for International Development LondonThe British Department for International Development‘s use of US groups to strengthen parliaments in developing countries risks using taxpayers’ money to promote “less accountable” political systems at the expense of those based on the Westminster model, The Guardian reports:

In a report published on Tuesday, the International Development Committee acknowledges that DfID is a major contributor to parliamentary strengthening – spending around £22.5m bilaterally last year – but urges it to ensure its long-term aid is being spent effectively by putting parliaments “at the heart of its governance work” and taking a more “hands-on approach” to the issue.

 While the UK does not “explicitly promote its national parliamentary traditions”, says the report, the situation is very different in the US, where USAid set up the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (Cepps) program to provide funding for US institutions to work together to promote democracy in its country programmes.

“The Cepps and National Endowment for Democracy programmes provide some US institutions with an advantage over UK institutions; they have been effectively subsidised by US taxpayers to become powerful institutions well-positioned to win DfID tenders,” says the report. “In contrast, Westminster institutions are largely unable to win bids for US money spent on promoting democracy since much of the money is reserved for core US institutions.”

Relationships between parliaments and the president or prime minister, government ministries, civil society groups and media can be as important for effectiveness of parliaments as the formal capacity and resources of the parliament itself, the report notes, citing a submission by the Carnegie Endowment’s Rachel Kleinfeld, which argued:

Donors should look for areas of interest where elements of society itself, or portions of parliament, are already organized and active. Highest priority should go to programs where there is both citizen demand and receptivity from some portion of parliament…. Where elements of the broader public are speaking on behalf of an issue, but there is a lack of parliamentary interest, it may be a good choice for allocating funds to both civil society and to parliament, in order to enable and encourage responsiveness to citizen demands. Funding to both sides is essential to ensure oversight from citizens, as well as enable parliament to act.


Rising risk of Burundi election violence, says rights groups and analysts

Jailed journalist Bob Rugurika

Jailed journalist Bob Rugurika

Burundi is facing a mounting risk of unrest ahead of key elections and African leaders should stop President Pierre Nkurunziza from running for a third term, rights groups warned Tuesday. Burundi, a small nation in central Africa’s Great Lakes region, emerged in 2006 from a brutal 13-year civil war and its political climate remains fractious ahead of the polls, Agence France Presse reports.

“The situation in Burundi is spiralling out of control, with hundreds of civilians killed or disappeared, due to the ongoing political impasse over moves by President Nkurunziza to run for a third term,” said a grouping of civil society organisations from across the continent, who signed under the banner “The AU We Want Coalition.”

“This elaborate scheme to alter his term limits is a raw power grab, similar to what was attempted in Burkina Faso, and Senegal years prior. It also is in direct contravention of the Arusha Peace Accords and contravenes the core principles of the newly ushered in African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG),” said Dismas Nkunda, a member of the coalition, which includes several partners of the National Endowment for Democracy.

Burundian soldiers shot dead 17 rebels at point-blank range after they surrendered in January, witnesses have told the BBC:

The rebels, with hands raised, were lined up on the edge of the cliff before being killed, one witness said. Burundi’s army denied the allegation, saying 95 rebels were killed in a five-day battle in the remote north-west. Low-level conflict has resurfaced in Burundi about a decade after a civil war which killed more than 300,000.

burundi mbonipaProminent Burundian rights activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa (right – who has been described as “Burundi’s Mandela) says he has been receiving “more and more detailed reports of executions, and burials of dozens of rebels in mass graves”.

It is increasingly likely that Nkurunziza will stand for re-election, despite intense local and international opposition, according to IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review:

Although the constitution may be open to interpretation, the president’s plans run against the letter and the spirit of the 2000 Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, which brought an end to Burundi’s long-running civil war and on which the constitution is based. In December 2014, the US special envoy for the Great Lakes Region, Russell Feingold, suggested that prolonging Nkurunziza’s stay in office could threaten the country’s stability and discourage new investment.

Leading opposition parties are likely to respond to Nkurunziza’s reported plans by boycotting the elections, with their supporters likely to take to the streets, raising the risk of collateral damage to commercial assets and death and injury risk to bystanders in urban areas over the next year. It is, however, highly unlikely that the protests will lead to Nkurunziza’s ousting due to the likely intervention of the security forces. Army chief of staff Gen Prime Niyongabo and the director-general of police, André Ndayambaje, issued a statement in December, warning the opposition against embarking on similar street protests to those witnessed in Burkina Faso in late 2014.

The risk of gun attacks by individuals or groups in rural areas on military targets, CNDD-FDD supporters, and government assets, such as local administrative buildings, will increase in the one-year outlook.

Burundian authorities arrested a prominent journalist on January 20, 2015, days after his radio station broadcast a series of investigative reports into the September 2014 murder of three elderly Italian nuns in the country, Human Rights Watch said:

The broadcasts included allegations about the involvement of senior intelligence officials in the attack on the convent. Burundian authorities have produced no evidence to justify the detention of the journalist, Bob Rugurika (above), director of Radio publique africaine (RPA), and should immediately release him, Human Rights Watch said. On January 22, 2015, Rugurika was detained in an isolation cell and denied visits.

“Rugurika’s arrest and prosecution appear to be an attempt to silence him and prevent his radio station from investigating and reporting on sensitive issues,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Burundi’s justice system shouldn’t be used to stifle media freedom.”

The European Union has set aside €8 million ($5.7 million) for the Burundi Independent National

Elections in context of political Islam and Russia’s crisis challenge Tajikistan stability

tajikistanAs Tajikistan approaches the March 1, 2015, parliamentary elections, it has to cope with critical challenges from political Islam and the economic consequences of Western sanctions against Russia. The parliamentary elections will pit the ruling People’s Democratic Party of Tajikistan against its longstanding adversary, the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT), a moderate Islamic political party.  

After suffering protracted civil war in the 1990’s, the Tajik government and the IRPT signed a peace agreement – which made the IRPT the first and only Islamic party in Central Asia permitted to work lawfully and integrated into the political system. A few years later, however, a new crisis of confidence broke out, and the Tajik government has since sought to marginalize the IRPT. After the 2005 and 2010 elections, deemed not free or fair by the OSCE, the IRPT was allowed only two parliamentary seats despite its claims of winning a majority of the vote.  

Today, the Tajik government continues its effort to discredit the IRPT, portraying them to be as dangerous as the Taliban. Yet suppressing legal and moderate Islamic voices only fosters religious militancy, as more Tajiks join ISIS, and radical sentiments in the country increase.  

The International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy 

cordially invites you to a presentation entitled

 “Challenges to Stability in Tajikistan: Parliamentary Elections in the Context of Political Islam and Russia’s Economic Crisis” 

featuring tajik UmedBabakhanovUmed Babakhanov  (right)

Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow 

with comments by

David Abramson

U.S. Department of State  


Miriam Lanskoy

National Endowment for Democracy

moderated by

Sally Blair

International Forum for Democratic Studies 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 3:00 p.m.–4:30 p.m. 1025 F Street, N.W., Suite 800, Washington, D.C. 20004 Telephone: 202-378-9675 RSVP (acceptances only) with name and affiliation by Friday, February 6


Twitter: Follow @ThinkDemocracy and use #NEDEvents to join the conversation.

During his presentation, Umed Babakhanov will discuss the history of political Islam in Tajikistan and the impact of Western sanctions on Russia on stability in Tajikistan, including the implications of these trends for the 2015 elections. His presentation will be followed by comments from David Abramson and Miriam Lanskoy.

Umed Babakhanov is founder and editor-in-chief of Asia Plus (, a leading independent media outlet operating in Tajikistan since 1995. Under Babakhanov’s direction, Asia Plus has emerged as one of the most reliable sources of information in the region, committed to strengthening the independent media sector and promoting dialogue through a range of media, including a news agency, newspaper, FM radio, and a business magazine. In 2012, he launched “For a Tolerant Tajikistan,” an initiative that seeks to foster greater understanding between secular state institutions and the Muslim community through discussions on the role of Islam in society. In 2000, he founded an independent school of journalism and served for ten years as its first chairman. Over the past 25 years, he has been writing for Komsomolskaya Pravda, the Associated Press, the Moscow Times, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Eurasianet, and other media, covering the civil war in Tajikistan and political developments in Central Asia. During his fellowship, Babakhanov is tracing the evolution of political Islam in Tajikistan and examining whether a legal Islamist party will improve the country’s stability or weaken its political foundations. David Abramson is a foreign affairs analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the U.S. Department of State. Miriam Lanskoy is the director for Russia and Eurasia at the National Endowment for Democracy.

How to save the new Ukraine

ukraine euA new Ukraine was born a year ago in the pro-European protests that helped to drive President Viktor F. Yanukovych from power, note philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, and investor-philanthropist George Soros. And today, the spirit that inspired hundreds of thousands to gather in the Maidan is stronger than ever, even as it is under direct military assault from Russian forces supporting separatists, they write for The New York Times:

The new Ukraine seeks to become the opposite of the old Ukraine, which was demoralized and riddled with corruption. The transformation has been a rare experiment in participatory democracy; a noble adventure of a people who have rallied to open their nation to modernity, democracy and Europe. And this is just the beginning.

It is instructive to compare Ukraine today with Georgia in 2004. When he became president that year, Mikheil Saakashvili immediately replaced the hated traffic police and removed the roadblocks used to extort bribes from drivers. The public recognized straight away that things had changed for the better….., Mr. Saakashvili was a revolutionary leader who first stamped out corruption but eventually turned it into a state monopoly. By contrast, Ukraine is a participatory democracy that does not rely on a single leader but on checks and balances. Democracies move slowly, but that may prove an advantage in the long run.

“Unfortunately, just as democracies are slow to move, an association of democracies like the European Union is even slower. Mr. Putin is exploiting this,” they note.

Strategic Patience

ukraine euromaidan“Right now, yes, most European leaders do appreciate the scale of the problem [of Russia’s military build-up],” says Keir Giles, an expert at London’s Chatham House foreign policy think tank.

“European leaders come and go. And Russia benefits from a continuity of leadership and also from strategic patience, which none of its adversaries can match.”

A Ukrainian female army pilot may die in detention in Russia where she is on hunger-strike, her lawyer said on Monday, calling on President Vladimir Putin to release her, Reuters reports (HT: FPI).

What is at stake in Ukraine is the future of NATO and the stability and security of Europe, analyst Andrew Michta writes for The American Interest:

It’s true that since Ukraine is in Europe’s neighborhood the United States has the right to expect greater determination from Berlin, London, and Paris to stop Russia’s war. But it is only partially true. Ukraine is our common problem as an alliance. This is about the growing threat of a wider war in Europe. It’s time for Washington and its European allies to act accordingly.

What does future hold for Donbas?

This past weekend’s intensified fighting and shelling in southeastern Ukraine, from Donetsk to Mariupol, escalated the Ukraine crisis to a new level. As more people die, political negotiations and eventual diplomatic compromise look less and less likely. What, under these circumstances, does the future hold for Donbas? Carnegie Moscow Center asks:

Alexey Malashenko, Scholar in residence, Carnegie Moscow Center’s Religion, Society, and Security Program

The status of Donbas remains uncertain. Russia still insists that it is in favor of the region being part of Ukraine. However, Russian politicians and, of particular importance, President Vladimir Putin himself, already refer to Lugansk and Donetsk as republics rather than regions. In other words, their statements demonstrate that they effectively consider the regions to be state-like entities.

Still, it’s not viable for Russia to implement the Abkhazian scenario in Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and Lugansk People’s Republic (LNR). …. Donbas is to remain an instrument of Russian politics for a long haul…..the defeats in Donbas might be used to expose Kyiv’s military and political weakness to Ukrainians and point to the fact that Ukraine has no allies in the West that are prepared to take extreme steps on its behalf. …

Balázs Jarábik, Visiting scholar, Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment

Donbas is in a downward spiral. With Russia’s support, the conflict has been worsening: …. Kyiv have been able to mobilize their constituents using nationalistic wartime propaganda. Kyiv is caught between a rock (austerity/reforms) and a hard place (war), and will have a difficult time justifying social welfare cuts to the Ukrainian people and lack of reforms to the IMF. The recently introduced state of emergency in Donetsk and Lugansk regions taken together with the ongoing mobilization indicates that Kyiv has decided to take up the military challenge. The battle for Debaltsevo will be the first test of how solid—and efficient—its efforts are.

Andrei Kolesnikov Member of the board, Yegor Gaidar Foundation

It’s clear that Donbas has joined the ranks of the unrecognized republics like South Ossetia. Each case is different, of course, but the typology of such quasi-state formations is almost identical.

Donbas is headed for a protracted existence in the state of a “frozen conflict”….. RTWT

Ukraine’s struggle for democracy, independence, and territorial integrity has consequences for the whole world, The National Endowment for Democracy’s Carl Gershman writes:

And it’s why the US has a profound stake in its success. By standing with Ukraine, we are not merely supporting their struggle. We are also defending our own national security and advancing the values of human freedom that America, with all its troubles, continues to represent, he argues in World Affairs.

‘Revenge of the remnants’: double blow for Egypt’s democracy movement

egyptGeneral_Al_SisiThe two sons of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak were released from prison Monday, nearly four years after they were first arrested along with their father, AP reports:

Security officials said the two, wealthy businessman Alaa and Mubarak’s one-time heir apparent Gamal, walked free from Torah Prison in a southern Cairo suburb shortly after daybreak and headed to their respective homes in the capital’s upscale Heliopolis suburb….Mubarak’s sons walked free a day after deadly clashes between anti-government protesters and police marked the fourth anniversary of the uprising that ended their father’s 29-year rule. That violence Sunday left at least 18 people dead, including two men authorities said died planting a bomb and three police officers, and wounded dozens.

There was a vocabulary to Egypt’s “January 25 Revolution” that swept President Hosni Mubarak from power, Ruth Michaelson reports for PRI:

At the center of it all was Tahrir Square or “Freedom Square” …. And there was a new global phenomenon described as a Facebook revolution because so many of the young, secular supporters of the pro-democracy movement had organized via social networking…..Amid all of this dramatic change and great uncertainty for Egypt, the name for the old Mubarak-era police, politicians and power brokers was the word “felool,” which is Arabic for “remnant.”

Even in those heady days when it seemed a new era was being ushered in, there were many Egyptians who believed it was only a matter of time before the “felool” would regain power and reassert its authority. The violent response to demonstrations Sunday on the fourth anniversary of the Tahrir protests illustrated just how intent the old guard is on using any means necessary to keep tight control over the country.

“Four years after the Egyptian uprising, the Egyptian government of Abdel el-Sisi is taking a page from a discredited past by resorting to violence and illegal arrests to crush dissent,” said Robert Herman, vice president for regional programs at Freedom House. “Egyptian authorities should focus their energies on instituting urgently needed political reforms rather than killing and detaining those who exercise their rights to advocate for democratic change.”  

Egypt is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2014, Freedom House’s annual global assessment of political rights and civil liberties, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2014, and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2014.

In the wake of the French terrorist attacks by gunmen claiming to act in the name of Islam, remarks by Egyptian President Abdul Fattah el-Sisi have drawn praise after he called on scholars at Al Azhar University to lead a “religious revolution,” notes the Foreign Policy Initiative’s Ellen Bork.

There is no reason to believe Sisi will create the atmosphere in which the religious reform he calls for could take place, she writes for World Affairs:

Sisi is overseeing a crackdown on the press and civil society, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood and other religious groups. 

Rather than accept Sisi’s remarks at face value, Michele Dunne and Katie Bentivoglio, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, see them as part of an agenda to “align religious institutions with the military’s goals and narratives.” Far from seeking a liberal, or secular society, Sisi and his government persecute those who stand outside certain religious boundaries. Dunne (a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy) and Bentivoglio also note that although under strict government control, anti-Semitism in the media remains pervasive. RTWT