Tuesday 21 December 2004

The Inevitability of Change in Uzbekistan

My colleague, David Lewis, and I wrote this piece for the Financial Times on 21 December 2004. Sadly, the situation hasn't improved in the last six years, particularly after the Andijan massacre of May 2005, in which the Uzbek regime lashed out at an uprising in the eastern city, killing some 700 civilian protesters.


On December 26, the world will watch the crowning moments of Ukraine's "Orange Revolution", as the country returns to the polls and, almost certainly, elects the opposition candidate who forced a rerun of the vote amid popular protest over massive electoral fraud. On the same day, another former Soviet republic will hold an election, but few abroad will watch it, and little inside the country will change because of it. If Ukraine's electoral process has been orange, Uzbekistan's will be a lemon.

Wednesday 1 December 2004

The Ceausescu Career Path?

Back in 2004, my Crisis Group colleague, David Lewis, and I looked at what might happen when the self-assumed immortal "Turkmenbashi" finally met his inevitable end. This piece appeared in Transition Online on 1 December 2004.


If you look up “cult of personality” in the dictionary, you might find a picture of Turkmenistan's president, Saparmurat Niazov. And wherever you look inside Turkmenistan, you'll see the same image.

It is not a simple matter of the ubiquitous public murals of your average dictator: Niazov has a golden statue of himself in the capital, Ashgabat, that moves with the sun. On state television, Niazov's portrait revolves continuously on the corner of the screen. His nationalistic, quasi-spiritual tome, the Ruhnama, not only forms the basis for much TV programming but also dominates Turkmenistan's education curriculum. He's renamed the months of the year, with the month of January now replaced by his self-adopted name, “Turkmenbashi” or “father of all Turkmen.”

Friday 25 June 2004

Failing Somalia at Our Peril

My then colleague, John Prendergast, and I wrote this piece for The Baltimore Sun on 25 June 2004.


It is a failed state in which the United States knows al-Qaida and its allies have operated, where endemic lawlessness provides a haven for terrorists. Yet Washington isn't investing in talks aimed at addressing the failure of the state.

The failed state is Somalia, possibly the only country in the world without a government, and a perfect example of the humanitarian, economic and political consequences of state collapse. Most important from the U.S. perspective, Somalia's governance vacuum makes the Horn of Africa country a comfortable home for terrorist groups looking for refuge or a logistical staging area.

Tuesday 8 June 2004

Darfur Starvation Will Be Televised... Eventually

This article was published in the Christian Science Monitor on 8 June 2004.


When people are starving en masse, television is there to capture their fly-covered faces as they expire. The world is appalled by the repeated images of the dying and is stirred to action: People open up their purses to charity appeals, and politicians feel strong public pressure to address the famine and its root causes at the highest level.

But mass starvation doesn't just appear out of nowhere in an instant, so where are the TV cameras just before the emaciated bodies start piling up?

Right now, they are in Iraq. Or Israel/Palestine. Or India. Or just about anywhere else in the world apart from the Darfur region of Sudan, where the next mass starvation is now imminent.

Tuesday 16 March 2004

The West Is Far Too Kind to Uzbekistan's Tyrant

This article originally appeared in the International Herald Tribune on 16 March 2004.


"I didn't want to leave my home," a friend e-mailed me a few weeks ago, "but Uzbekistan doesn't give me a choice."

After the police got rough and threatened to arrest him, he decided it would be best to leave the country right away. Given that torture by the law enforcement agencies in Uzbekistan is "systematic" - to borrow a word from the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Theo van Boven - my friend, a journalist who had tried to investigate police abuses for an international news agency, was wise to get out while he could.

Kind treatment, however, has been the approach of the international community toward the Uzbek regime.

Tuesday 20 January 2004

Don't Breathe a Sigh of Relief for Sudan Just Yet

Worried the international community was turning its back on a humanitarian crisis and possibly genocide in Darfur, my then-colleague at Crisis Group, John Prendergast, and I published this in The Observer on 21 January 2004.


Imminent peace in Sudan is supposed to be one of the few positive stories in international affairs in recent months. Indeed, the strong multi-national effort supporting talks between the Sudanese government and the insurgent Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) was one of last year's more noteworthy successes for the international community. The 20-year civil war between the government and the SPLA is now closer to its conclusion than ever before, having claimed over two million lives. The two parties have signed a series of protocols that will form the basis of a comprehensive peace agreement, expected soon. A few difficult issues remain, but progress has been remarkable.

But before everyone breathes a sigh of relief and turns away, let's not overlook the other war in Sudan: the ongoing conflict in the western region of Darfur, where an alarming deterioration in the humanitarian and human rights situation continues regardless of the ongoing peace process.