Even though the three-day White House summit on countering violent extremism was prompted by the shocking events taking place under the “Islamic State” in Iraq and wider Middle East, Somalia stayed in the headlines. In his opening remarks at the summit on 17 February, Vice-president Joe Biden left the audience puzzled and amused by claiming that, in his Delaware hometown, “there’s an awful lot of [Somalis] driving cabs and are friends with me for real. Biden’s defensive gaffe came after a barrage of criticism the Obama administration has received for blocking American remittances to Somalia. Late in January Merchants Bank of California, which handled 60%-80% accounts of Somali-American money transfer companies, sent out letters to customers informing them of the decision to close the accounts of companies on its books. It was the last major bank still providing this service to Somali-American diaspora.
In November 2014, a television exposé revealed how a Salvation Ministries Church pastor, Victor Kanyari, performed tricks in Nairobi to lure his followers into donating seed money to his “church”. The clip went viral, and the Kenyan government reacted by imposing an indefinite suspension of registration of new religious institutions (associations, societies, churches, mosques, temples etc) while calling for fresh registration of existing ones. Attorney General Githu Muigai then announced that a framework was in the making to review the Societies Act and establish a special unit to manage religious institutions so that they operate like trade unions and political parties. According to him, operations of religious communities, churches, mosques and temples should be transparent and accountable and operate within the guidelines of spirituality that they purport to promote.
The general resource curse problem is well-known. On the one hand, oil is in high demand at a time when various former “second” or “third-world” states are about to industrialize, and industrialized countries are facing the decline of their natural resources. It promises quick wealth. On the other hand, oil, particularly in fragile or unstable settings, is likely to fuel conflict, stabilize authoritarian regimes or help to create new instabilities. What are the preconditions for responsible oil production? And what will such a production look like?
The 18th of February this year marks the official anniversary of the founding of the TPLF (Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front). The TPLF has achieved important successes in its 40 years of existence. It overthrew the military junta and has overseen an impressive process of political and socio-economic changes in Ethiopia since 1991. But, as this article illustrates, the anniversary is not only important to Ethiopia but also has regional significance.