Al Shabaab and the Food Crisis

Published September 1, 2011 | By Annie Janus and Kendall Lawrence

Al Shabaab, a hard-line militia group, controls most of southern Somalia and, until recently, a large swath of Mogadishu. Though the exact origins of al-Shabaab are unknown, most scholars believe that the group started as a military faction of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which took over Mogadishu and large parts of the south after intense factionalized fighting in 2006. Al-Shabaab has waged an insurgency against Somalia''s transitional federal government (TFG) and its Ethiopian supporters over the past five years. The full name of the group is Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (HSM) meaning ‘Movement of Striving Youth.’ The fighters are a mix of local and foreign youth, attracted to the group by its claims to be the defenders of Somali dignity from outside invaders while it also calls for a broader global jihad.

The Food Crisis: Origins & Threats

Published August 19, 2011 | By Annie Janus

The world is facing its second food crisis in three years. In 2008, soaring food prices led to widespread famine, political instability, and violent riots from Bangladesh to Egypt. Recently, food prices have resurged, placing pressure on many countries as they reached record highs earlier this year. The sharp increase in food prices presents many far-reaching threats. In addition to humanitarian concerns, hunger is an instant source of instability. Due to the intense pressure spiked food prices have placed on many countries, food riots have recently erupted Algeria, Jordan, and Tunisia. Unless the situation improves, the international community is at risk of the widespread protests, land grabbing, and political upheavals that plagued the 2007-08 food crisis.

Failed States Index 2011: The Troubled Ten

Published June 18, 2011 | By Kristen Blandford, Annie Janus, Kendall Lawrence.

On this year’s Failed States Index, Somalia scored as the worst offender for Refugees and IDPs, Economic Decline, Human rights and Security Apparatus. The absence of a permanent national government for almost twenty years has led to ongoing civil violence, economic hardship, poor social conditions, and the displacement of several million Somali citizens. It has become increasingly difficult for international agencies to provide aid to Somalia in light of the recent troubles with piracy and hostility towards foreigners. An upsurge of civil violence in the southern part of the nation has created further destabilization and threatens any potential improvements to Somalia’s condition.

Kyrgyzstan’s Forgotten Revolution

Published June 18, 2011 | By Annie Janus

With much of the world’s attention turned to the Arab Spring, Kyrgyzstan’s 2010 revolution seems to have been forgotten. Nevertheless, Kyrgyzstan’s politically tumultuous year has seen it worsen significantly in the Failed States Index, moving from 45th position to a more serious 31st, and into the Alert category. Kyrgyzstan’s worsening in this year’s index reflects dramatic reversals in several scores that tend to indicate the state’s susceptibility to internal conflict, and as such, these worsening scores are largely are result of the 2010 revolutions.