[in] focus

The Mali-Algeria crisis and the Western Sahara Question

This is a ‘quick and dirty’ take on the fast-moving Saharan crisis unfolding in Africa’s northwest. It appears that in the cut-and-thrust of the French intervention to roll back Islamist insurgents in northern Mali and the hostage crisis in Algeria, that virtually all commentaries on the security vacuum in trans-Saharan Africa have missed the point as they missed it in Libya. It boils down to two words: Western Sahara.

This is the long and the short of it as far as post-Qaddafi regional instability is concerned and for all interested parties, not the least the African Union (AU) but also the West. The current crisis should propel the unresolved Western Sahara stalemate to the top of the international security agenda as it relates to Africa, Europe and the Mediterranean.

It is one that underlines the geostrategic spatial interdependencies between Africa and Europe to the detriment of Africa’s continental sovereignty which, by the way, is a hell of a lot more important than the sovereignty of either Mali or Algeria – or for that matter, the Western Sahara.

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Have the AU and SADC failed the Swazi nation’s democratic aspirations?

Swaziland is to go to elections in August 2013 and the tensions preceding these elections, as was the case in 2008, do not augur well for this southern African country. Both the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) aim to, among other things, promote democratisation in their member states, which include Swaziland. Yet the Swazi people continue to wait patiently for rescue from the firm grip of their absolute monarchy. The question that this article discusses is whether the people of the kingdom of Swaziland can realistically expect the AU and SADC to help meet their democratic aspirations.

For 39 years now, Swaziland has been under a post-colonial monarchy, which in the recent past has faced difficulties that a state of emergency, the banning of political parties ,systematic repression of critical civil society, restriction of freedoms of association and assembly, and other draconian legislations have failed to resolve. Instead, the country has reached the brink of economic collapse. This has put to sharp scrutiny the extravagant lifestyle of the head of state, King Mswati III, which is in sharp contrast to the abject poverty that 80 percent of the population live under. The socio-economic malaise deepens by the day.

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Does the United Nations have a future?

Is the UN outdated, an anachronistic bureaucratic beast that fails to reflect today’s geo-political realities? The simple answer is yes, and with this comes the question of its viability in today’s world. Every September the world’s leaders gather for the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York. On the 25th of September 2012, at the 67th session of the General Assembly, President Zuma took the opportunity to raise concerns on the fairness of the rules of international law, and in particular the composition of the UN Security Council (SC) and its impact on the promotion of international law. The problem, he noted, is that the lack of representation and the undemocratic nature of the UNSC undermines its legitimacy.

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Bilateral relations and why they matter: the case of South Korea

South Africa’s (SA) dynamic engagement in foreign affairs has the potential to yield favorable outcomes for the South African economic and development agenda. At the multilateral level SA’s participation in BRICS, IBSA and BASIC present potentially positive outcomes, including significant increase in trade and investment. Bilateral relations are particularly important in expanding South Africa’s national interest, both within and outside these multilateral groups, and play a significant role in respect of trade and investment relations. SA’s relations with the Republic of Korea (ROK) are a case in point.

ROK is Asia’s fourth-largest economy; a major player among the world’s top exporting nations. It is a high-tech industrialized nation, its automobile, shipbuilding, steel making, and IT industries are on the leading edge in global markets. In South Africa, the presence of ROK has increased and trade between the two nations include a vast range of products, from minerals and semi-finished products to sophisticated high-technology electric and electronic products, and adding to that is the success of ROK companies such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai that makes ROK to be better known in SA than ever before.

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United States neutrality in the East China Sea row, can it be trusted?

The Sino-Japanese dispute on the claims of sovereignty and the territorial rights over the Senkaku Islands (as known in Japan) or Diaoyu Islands (as known in China) in the East China Sea is taking its toll. Top diplomats from both nations met for the second time in October to explore possible solutions to mend their frayed bilateral ties. So far the tension is causing economic damage that is hurting Japanese investments in China.

While the disputation is about hoisting one’s national flag in the mineral resource rich islands, what is at stake is not just sovereignty of the islands but power relations between China and the United States. It is also China’s regional interest versus Japan’s and United States’.

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