• Macron Isn’t So Post-Colonial After All

    National sovereignty is one thing. Monetary sovereignty is another.

    Emmanuel Macron is the first French president born after the end of colonialism, and in many ways, he personifies this generational break through his forward-looking approach to Africa. In 2017, he famously called French colonialism “truly barbarous” and a “crime against humanity” while on a visit to Algeria. Yet, he has done little to abolish the most enduring vestige of French colonialism: Paris’s continued monetary control over 14 sub-Saharan African countries.

  • Bitcoin And Democracy Tech

    In a conversation with Alex Gladstein of the Human Rights Foundation and the Oslo Freedom Forum, we explore why blockchain technology is both pivotal and timely.

  • The Kim-Trump Summit Is a Tragedy for the North Korean People

    As U.S. president Donald Trump prepares to sit down with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un Tuesday in Singapore, it has emerged that the U.S. government has decided not to mention human rights at all during the talks.

  • How the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals undermine democracy

    This weekend, the Group of Seven (G7), an informal alliance of the world’s advanced economies, will meet to discuss today’s most pressing global challenges. A key theme of the meeting will center on progress made towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including gender equality, climate change, “building peace,” and “jobs of the future.” These issues are certainly worthy of concern, and on the surface, there would appear to not be much to criticize. Conveniently missing from the menu of high-level discussion topics, however, are the very causes of the world’s most persistent social ills: lack of respect for democratic values and basic human rights. Indeed, this is by design and not at all a coincidence.

  • Why Dictators Love Development Statistics

    The problem with using statistics to sing the praises of autocracy is that collecting verifiable data inside closed societies is nearly impossible. From Ethiopia to Kazakhstan, the data that “proves” that an authoritarian regime is doing good is often produced by that very same regime.

  • The Atlantic Council’s questionable relationship with Gabon’s leader

    Washington is filled with public relations firms which promote the agendas of the world’s most repressive regimes in exchange for cash. To hide human rights abuses, Equatorial Guinea’s strongman hired Qorvis; the pre-revolutionary Tunisian regime hired Washington Media Group and the Saudis hired Edelman. There are plenty of suitors for foreign autocrats looking to whitewash their reputations on Capitol Hill.

  • Why Did the Atlantic Council Even Consider Giving African Dictator Ali Bongo Ondimba a ‘Global Citizen Award’?

    Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba was scheduled to attend a swanky gala on Monday hosted by the Atlantic Council, a well-known Washington-based think tank, to accept an award for “his life of public service and efforts to improve the lives of the people of Gabon.” Unfortunately for the dictator, he was forced to cancel at the last moment because of mounting unrest in his country — the bloody fallout from a likely stolen election on Aug. 27. (International observers declared the vote fraudulent after the regime reported an improbable 95.5 percent victory for Bongo in his home province amid 99.98 percent voter turnout.)

  • Bomben som reddet Terje Håkonsen | Alex Gladstein

    Det måtte en kjernefysisk bombe til for hindre at Norges største snowboardstjerne, Terje Håkonsen, havnet på listen over kjendiser som kaster glans over Nord-Koreas diktatur.

  • How North Korea’s Marchers for Peace Became Fellow Travelers

    The Nobel Laureates and prominent activists who recently crossed into North Korea showed a shocking lack of sympathy for the North Korean people.

    In May, a group calling itself Women Cross DMZ carried out a highly publicized “peace march” across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates North Korea from South Korea. The thirty women activists called for an end to the Korean War — the two sides of the conflict signed an armistice, but not a peace treaty, in 1953 and remain technically at war — and argued that the crossing was a bold new way to push for peace and unification. Their goal of bringing female perspectives into a male-dominated discussion was an admirable one. And yet, the women became, willingly or unwillingly, shills for North Korea’s dictatorship.

  • North Korea’s Fellow Travelers

    Gloria Steinem, two Nobel Laureates, and 26 other women will be making a big mistake if they march across the DMZ with Christine Ahn.

    On May 24, a march billed as WomenCrossDMZ will try to pass through the two-mile wide demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates North and South Korea in a “symbolic act of peace.” Organized by the Korean-American activist Christine Ahn, the march’s 30 confirmed participants include feminist icon Gloria Steinem, Nobel Laureates Leymah Gbowee and Mairead Maguire, filmmaker Abigail Disney, and Amnesty International Americas director Erika Guevara Rosas.

  • Erykah Badu’s Oppressively Apolitical Stance on Human Rights

    The singer claimed ignorance, then got defensive, about her performance for an African dictator–and is scheduled to sing for another dictator later this month.

    Entertainers have been learning the hard way that there are consequences for celebrating dictators. In the past, pop stars could engage in low-risk, high-reward transactions with human rights violators. A couple of songs and a few hours of photo-ops made for a quick and easy way to pull in a small fortune. However, with the advent of smart phones and social media, these collaborations are getting harder to keep under wraps, and often lead to PR meltdowns for performers and unwanted attention for the tyrants who pay them.

  • Africa’s Game of Thrones

    Imagine a mountainous kingdom at the edge of a lush, tropical continent, where one house has clung to power for hundreds of years. The aged king passed away after ruling for more than six decades in one of history’s longest reigns. He fathered more than 200 children but left no heir, unleashing an epic struggle between the queen regent and a handful of challengers in the royal court. Eventually, a 14-year-old boy, the product of one of the king’s hundreds of illegitimate affairs, was chosen as successor, and his mother was wedded to the dead leader’s corpse to legitimize the plot. Selected as a puppet, the new king quickly outgrew his courtiers and became notoriously cruel and corrupt.

  • Mourning a Musical Dissident

    The story of Cameroon’s late ‘Guitar Man,’ who spent his life fighting to take down a brutal autocrat.

    Lapiro de Mbanga, the great Cameroonian musician, political prisoner, and champion of human rights, died of cancer this past Sunday, March 16, in Buffalo, New York. Known as “Ndinga Man” to millions of Cameroonians, Lapiro escaped President Paul Biya’s regime in 2012, after three years of political imprisonment. He received asylum in the United States with the help of a global campaign for his freedom.

  • Requiem for a Reprobate: Ethiopian Tyrant Should Not Be Lionized

    With the dust beginning to settle on yesterday’s death of Meles Zenawi—ruler of Ethiopia since 1991—Western leaders have been quick to lavish praise on his legacy. A darling of the national security and international development industries, Zenawi was applauded for cooperating with the U.S. government on counter-terrorism and for spurring economic growth in Ethiopia—an impoverished, land-locked African nation of 85 million people. In truth, democratic leaders who praise Zenawi do a huge injustice to the struggle for human rights and individual dignity in Ethiopia.

  • Hope for Obiang, but Not Equatorial Guinea

    Beginning next week on August 20 in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea the world’s longest-ruling non-royal—Teodoro Obiang Nguema—will host a “human rights” summit. It is being organized by a US-based charity, the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation, which is headed by Hope Sullivan Masters and includes president Bill Clinton as co-chairman of the board and former UN Ambassador Andrew Young as its other co-chairman. The effort is part of Obiang’s systematic effort to whitewash his repressive regime and sweep 33 years of dictatorship and 44 years of human rights violations, under the rug as his government continues to amass oil wealth.

  • Taiwan Fails to Learn From Its Own History

    The leader of China’s ethnic Uyghur minority, Rebiya Kadeer, was recently banned from entering Taiwan for three years. Kadeer, a human rights advocate and spokesperson for millions of China’s repressed Uyghurs, had been invited by a Taiwanese arts organization to attend screenings of The 10 Conditions of Love, a documentary about her life story.

  • Malaysia’s Bridge is Falling Down

    The farcical trial of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim resumes this week in Kuala Lumpur. This is the second time that the country’s ruling establishment has tried to destroy Anwar’s career with trumped-up allegations of sodomy. It succeeded 12 years ago, when he was imprisoned for six years on similar charges. Now Anwar faces up to 20 years in jail and whipping if convicted.