Democracy & Governance in Nigeria: the Road Ahead

NigeriaHow can Africa’s largest country build on the success of its recent elections? How can civil society and others consolidate the recent democratic gains and bridge the divides deepened by the election period? And what should Nigeria’s priorities be as it sets its course for the years to come?

These questions will be addressed at a Center for International and Strategic Studies discussion on democracy and governance in Nigeria. Panelists will share their perspectives on how best to address issues around security and the economy, and the task of re-building a national consensus around democracy and governance.


His Excellency, Mr. Magbus Abe
Senator, Rivers State of Nigeria

His Excellency, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko
Governor, Ondo State of Nigeria

Dr. Fatima Akilu 
Director of Behavioral Analysis and Strategic Communication, Office of the National Security Adviser, Government of Nigeria

Zikirullahi Ibrahim
Chair, Transition Monitoring Group

Kingsley Bangwell
Founder & Team Leader, Youngstars Development Initiative

Chris Fomunyoh
Senior Associate and Regional Director for Central and West Africa, National Democratic Institute

Moderated by:

Jennifer Cooke
Director, CSIS Africa Program

Tuesday, July 7, 2015
1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
CSIS | 2nd Floor Conference Room

This event is made possible by generous support from the Ford Foundation. RTWT

Print Friendly
Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on Pinterest

Will U.S. Cuba policy shift aid or antagonize dissidents?

cuba ladies in whiteThe U.S. policy shift in Cuba and the decision to open embassies in Washington and Havana would assist U.S. efforts to press human rights concerns, says State Department spokesman John Kirby.

But Berta Soler, leader of the dissident Ladies in White (left), believes that the opening of embassies will not help the Cuban people or civil society “at all,” Pan-Am Post’s Belén Marty reports:

Moreover, she asserted that the Cuban regime has been repressing the Ladies in White “in dungeons” for 11 consecutive Sundays, after demonstrating in favor of the release of political prisoners. She further noted that “neither of the governments have released any statements” on this matter.

However, said Ted Henken, Cuba analyst at Baruch College in New York, “having diplomatic relations with Cuba doesn’t mean we approve of the Cuban government nor do we approve of their treatment of the Cuban people. I think we’ll have a better chance of having some kind of influence in Cuba with a relationship that’s engaging, empowering [rather] than one that is isolating and impoverishing the government and the people,” he told VOA.

Henken said changing policy toward Cuba is about American interests and influence, not about regime change.

CUBA EXPRESSION“This is not a silver bullet – it’s not a concession to the [Cuban] dictatorship. It’s a concession to the U.S. people – it’s a concession to pragmatism and to common sense,” he said.

Other observers believe the Communist regime has secured considerable benefits without making reciprocal concessions on human rights and democracy issues.

The State Department should have insisted that U.S. diplomats have unrestricted access to average Cubans and rejected the regime’s demands that ongoing democracy programs be canceled, The Washington Post adds:

Instead, a senior U.S. official said that, while access would improve, the State Department had accepted “constraints” on personnel in Cuba similar to those in other “restrictive environments,” and that services provided by the existing interest section, such as Internet access, “might not be so necessary.”

The regime has made “zero” concessions on human rights, said Council on Foreign Relations analyst Elliott Abrams, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy.

The desire to normalize relations with Havana—regardless of whether or not the regime changes its behavior—is a major reason why dissidents in Cuba are complaining that the administration has caved to Castro’s demands without extracting anything in return, The Daily Beast’s James Kirchick writes.

The FBI issued (PDF) an advisory to American institutions of higher learning warning them about the Cuban government’s ongoing attempts to recruit spies on university campuses, where sympathy for the regime and its failed revolution remains potent, he adds.

cuba somos mas“According to what we are seeing here, it seems there is no progress in the fundamental changes [needed],” said Ovidio Martin Castellanos, a member of the Coordinating Council of the dissident Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) “We can clearly see that the Obama administration is trying to get things ironed out in Cuba, but all the Castro-communist dictatorship is looking for is its own welfare.”

He asserted that just as a group of US officials gathered with Cuban authorities over the weekend, “the peaceful opposition were being brutally repressed” on the streets of Santiago de Cuba. As for the touted benefits the restoration of embassies could bring, he said “there is nothing for the people, no recognition of civil society, no recognition of the opposition.”

​Tomas Bilbao, executive director of the Cuban Study Group in Washington, said this is a historic moment after 54 years of severed diplomatic relations, VOA reports.

“I think that re-establishing diplomatic relations puts us in a better position to be able to work with the Cuban government to resolve many of those issues. It will be necessary, again, for the full normalization of relations, including expropriations, and issues of human rights, and others. But, having senior diplomats present [in Havana] on the ground and at the embassy will help us be able to advocate for those positions [those issues].”

Roger Noriega, who is now a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and who served as a U.S. diplomat and policy maker, specializing in Western Hemisphere Affairs, had a contrarian reaction to the White House announcement the embassies will reopen, VOA adds:

“Well, I certainly hope that the president hasn’t lowered our standards in defense of democracy in order to raise the [U.S.] flag in Havana,” said Noriega.

Print Friendly
Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on Pinterest

Ukraine: Russian generals leading Kremlin-manufactured conflict

ukraine dnipro

Five Russian generals are playing a key role in organizing and commanding separatist forces inside Ukraine, according to a dossier provided by Ukraine’s security service to the Obama administration last month, Bloomberg’s Eli Lake Josh Rogin report:

The document, obtained by us, is a consensus product of the Security Service of Ukraine and dated June 16. It identifies five Russian generals and a Russian colonel as playing a senior leadership role inside Ukraine. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied that Russian military personnel are directing military operations inside the country. Top Ukrainian intelligence officials shared the document with White House, State Department and U.S. intelligence officials in Washington late last month.

The war in eastern Ukraine is a Kremlin-manufactured conflict, notes Alina Polyakova, the Associate Director of the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council, where she oversees the Ukraine-in-Europe Initiative. The arrival of “little green men” in Crimea in February 2014 transformed the conflict from a domestic altercation between citizens and their government to an international crisis, she notes:

Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly acknowledged in a government-sponsored documentary that he carefully planned and orchestrated the military takeover of the Crimean peninsula. No such admissions have been made about the war in the Donbas. From the outbreak of fighting in the east, the official Kremlin narrative has framed the Ukrainian crisis as a civil war between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists. In reality, for the first six months of the conflict, from March to August 2014, the Ukrainian civil war was a myth concocted by Russian state-sponsored media, reiterated by Russian officials, and then picked up by Western media outlets eager for objectivity and balance. But with the continued influx of Russian weapons, soldiers, and Russian recruitment and training of local Ukrainian forces, that myth is swiftly becoming a reality. 

Her argument is borne out by reports that what appears to be a Russian base has been exposed within Ukraine.

Russia’s complicity is being further exposed by  digital investigators  from around the world at Bellingcat — and organizations such as InformNapalm – who are honing the techniques of digital forensic journalism, RFE/RL adds.

“Digital forensic techniques involve verifying the locations of where videos and photographs were taken in a process known as ‘geolocating,'” the Atlantic Council’s report – Hiding In Plain Sight: Putin’s War In Ukraine –  explains. “Geolocation techniques…allow an investigator to firmly establish the location of recorded images even without an embedded geotag (information in a computer file’s metadata that reveals its location).”


Print Friendly
Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on Pinterest

Strategic benefits to democratizing postcommunist Europe, Eurasia



It remains in the strategic interest of both the United States and the European Union to foster democracy and open economies throughout postcommunist Europe and Eurasia, despite the “very long” time-frame for some of these countries, according to a new analysis.

Just as democratic consolidation has taken nearly a generation even in frontrunner countries such as Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, and Estonia, so it is likely that countries in the region that are much further behind in their transitions will require at least another ten to twenty years to consolidate, writes Adrian A. Basora, project director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s series on democratic transitions:

NED-220x53Focusing the attention of policymakers in Washington, Brussels, and other Western capitals on such a prolonged project will be a challenge. ….Even though democracy is not a cure-all, the combination of democracy with a viable security system and open-market economies that we have nurtured over the past fifty-plus years in the transatlantic space has worked remarkably well. Within the next twenty years it seems quite reasonable to project the emergence of stable, responsive governments and viable market economies in Ukraine, Belarus, the Balkans, and the Caucasus. To the extent that this endeavor proves successful, one can also imagine progress in Russia and the Central Asian republics over the coming decades.

The National Endowment for Democracy is “our most flexible tool for working in tough authoritarian regimes,” writes Melinda A. Haring, a former officer at the Eurasia Foundation, Freedom House, and the National Democratic Institute, where she managed democracy assistance programs in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia.

“It deserves support, but too great an infusion of funds could have a negative impact on its effectiveness,” she argues. “A modest 20-percent increase to its current budget, spread over the next 10 years in small annual additions intended mainly to keep pace with inflation, would be appropriate.”

Temple University’s Sarah Bush suggests that “the three D’s of democracy assistance” are common to successful democracy and governance programming efforts.:

First are donor interests, whereby the use of conditionality (i.e. linking punishments and rewards to earnest reform efforts) effectively incentivizes governments to build and uphold democratic institutions. Conditionality can be supported with diplomatic pressure, trade status, and other means of economic assistance; however, the US government has to be committed to supporting the country’s democratization. It is in such countries that resources for democracy assistance are best employed.

The second ‘D’ stands for delivery. Bush advocated aid initiatives and institutions that are insulated from short-term US foreign policy goals, which at times may compete with the longer term aim of promoting democracy. Bush cited the National Endowment for Democracy as a successful example. She also spoke of the difficulty of evaluating delivery, noting that difficulties in evaluating quality can result in an over-emphasis on quantitative program assessment.

Bush’s final ‘D’ is for design, which she cites as one of the most persistent challenges facing democracy assistance programs. Bush questioned the need and efficacy of programs that are genuinely and substantively designed to bring about real democratic change. Bush mentioned democracy programming in Jordan as one example — a state where the US government prioritizes stability far beyond democratization. Bush concluded that assistance should be targeted to countries which have genuine opposition movements.

The report also includes contributions on Ukraine and Afghanistan from Richard Kraemer, a Fellow at PDT and the senior program officer for Afghanistan, Iran, and Turkey at the National Endowment for Democracy.


Print Friendly
Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on Pinterest

Ben Wattenberg – ‘democracy is our mission’

Credit: AEI

Credit: AEI

Ben Wattenberg, who died this past Sunday at the age of 81, will be remembered for many things, writes Andrew Walworth, Executive Producer of Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg:

He engaged in public debate over issues ranging from how and whether to promote democracy overseas to the global consequences of falling birth rates. He was tireless in his attempt to bring the Democratic Party back to what he considered the political center.

Wattenberg advocated that “America ought to wage democracy” and, according to one account, saw the National Endowment for Democracy as the ideal instrument for encouraging democratic reform, as Jonathan Bronitsky wrote for National Affairs:

In 1981, Wattenberg was tapped to serve on the board of directors of Radio Liberty, Radio Free Europe, and the Board of International Broadcasting. He eventually rose to vice chairman of all three institutions and became affiliated with Radio Martí, a station geared toward destabilizing Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba. Wattenberg was further called upon by Senator William Brock to help coordinate what became the National Endowment for Democracy. He devised the idea of independent grants to private institutions, which has since become a mainstay of the organization.

Yet, he adds tongue-in-cheek, “Wattenberg is missing from the ever-expanding lineup of suspects accused of recklessly selling the proliferation of democracy.”

wattenberg-2-obit-master180-v3He outlined a new democratic internationalism – what he termed a “Neo-Manifest Destinarianism” – in a Fall 1990 article for The National Interest. Americans “ought not to be passive players,” he wrote, anticipating the emergence of “soft power” by stressing that the U.S. possesses “the biggest cultural arrows in the biggest quiver.” “These include our global entertainment monopoly, immigration, the spreading English language, the prime tourist destination, the best universities, the most powerful and far-flung military, an opportunity society, and a worldwide information operation.”

“Only Americans have the sense of mission-and gall-to engage in benign, but energetic, global cultural advocacy,” he added. “We are the most potent cultural imperialists in history, although generally constructive and non-coercive.”

He was also quick at repartee, Joshua Muravchik noted in a eulogy for his longtime friend and colleague:

Interviewing Washington Post editor Jodie Allen on “new ideas,” she said: “my new idea is being pushed most forcefully by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir, who argues that  the West’s brand of dynamic capitalism is so careless of social costs that it is neither efficient nor satisfying to the very people that it’s supposed to serve.” To which Ben added without skipping a beat: “And that’s why the Malaysians enjoy a higher standard of living than we do.”

On another show, discussing different approaches to foreign policy, Ben rattled off various schools of thought before turning the floor over to Richard Barnet of the IPS, who began rather huffily saying, “at the risk of adding to your long list of silly ideas, let me suggest . . . “ At which point Ben interjected, “another silly one.”

Though he could thus pop balloons, he always remained genial and insisted on civility, Muravchik added:

Once I was on with Tim Wirth of the United Nations Association and we were getting pretty hot and I guess started speaking over each other, and Ben broke in: “Hold it.  Let’s go sequentially,” he said, adding as if we were children who might not understand: “you go, you go, you go, you go.”

Once when a guest seemed embarrassed not to have something to say different from the previous speaker’s point, Ben reassured: “This is not Crossfire.  We’re allowed to agree.”

Bronitsky wrote that Mr. Wattenberg’s “most concrete triumph has been that every decade over a stretch of 60 years, he published at least one critically acclaimed title that challenged and reshaped conventional wisdom.”

“Above all, he refused time and time again declinist forecasts about America,” he added:

Wattenberg has always stood out because of his sanguinity, the source of which has been his ebullient faith in the American people. “We’re an adaptable folk, with ingenuity, common sense, a moral streak and a stubborn streak,” he wrote in 1974. These proclivities had borne “Americanism,” a universal ideology that is “open, mobile, individualistic, anti-establishment, pluralistic, voluntaristic, populist, dynamic, and free.” But Wattenberg knew this ideology could easily fall prey to pessimism and nihilism. Though it seemed at times that America played an almost providential role in history, he has never forgotten both the fragility of liberal democracy and the vicissitudes of human nature.

WATTENBERG FIGHTINGWattenberg, a writer, television commentator and self-described “old center-right Democrat” defied easy political categorizations during nearly five decades as a public intellectual, The Washington Post adds:

Mr. Wattenberg became widely known for his argument that, even amid social upheaval and economic difficulty, the United States was scarcely as troubled as the media and many liberals suggested. He captured his worldview in the title of one of his books, “The Good News Is the Bad News Is Wrong” (1984).

 “I am a paleoliberal, a supply-side infrastructuralist, a neomanifest destinarian, a numbers nut, a pro-natalist redistributionist capitalist,” he once wrote — “and still a hawk.”

Mr. Wattenberg also produced and hosted the PBS television series “Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg,” “In Search of the Real America,” and “Ben Wattenberg at Large,” The New York Times adds:

In addition to embracing the neoconservative label (his 2008 memoir was titled “Fighting Words: A Tale of How Liberals Created Neo-Conservatism”), Mr. Wattenberg also defined himself as an American chauvinist and what he called a “neo-manifest destinarian,” believing in American exceptionalism. Citing the infusion of immigrants from around the globe that he had championed in his 1991 book, “The First Universal Nation,” he argued that the United States was poised for even greater success….

“Americans have a missionary streak, and democracy is our mission,” he insisted. “The new sticker should read ‘pro-democracy.’

“There was a rich and fine fight between values of the New World and the Old,” he wrote. “We were winning that fight before the Cold War, and we still are. Now, with the totalitarians out of the way, we ought to kick it into overdrive.”

In the 1970s, Wattenberg worked tirelessly on behalf of the presidential ambitions of his friend, Washington Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, whose own name is associated with what have come to be known as “national security Democrats,” notes The Wall Street Journal:

In the years that followed, Democratic pundits would say Wattenberg was a Democrat with “conservative leanings,” and it wasn’t meant as a compliment. Wattenberg was too pro-defense, too pro-market for the party’s evolving tastes. As the party’s establishment drifted leftward, Ben Wattenberg remained fixed across a remarkable career as a small “d” democrat. 

He was one of the Democrats in the late 1960s and early 1970s who committed himself to fighting those who wanted to divert his party into anti-American tributaries, adds Commentary’s John Podhoretz, through the founding of the Coalition for a Democratic Majority [co-founded with social democrat Penn Kemble], a group that had little success but did prove prophetic in insisting that only a move to the center, a la Bill Clinton, would save the party from itself.

Wattenberg and Allen Weinstein were both sons of Jewish immigrants, born in the 1930s and raised in the Bronx, then which then had the highest Jewish percentage of any American county and also large Irish, Italian and black communities, writes veteran political analyst Michael Barone:

The Bronx was one of the heartlands of American liberalism — the big argument there in 1948 was whether to support Harry Truman or the anti-anti-Soviet Henry Wallace — and Weinstein and Wattenberg as young adults were proud liberal Democrats. But while both remained liberals in many respects, both were willing to challenge leftist orthodoxy…..

American liberalism has moved in different directions from these two sons of the Bronx, but Allen Weinstein and Ben Wattenberg embodied some of its historic virtues: patriotism, optimism, openness to dialogue, friendly but zestful argument. Legacies we all can learn from. RTWT

Print Friendly
Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on Pinterest