(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

IRIN's Top Picks: Boko Haram, blasts in Beirut and bye bye Ebola

A Boko Haram bombing rocked the Emab Plaza shopping complex in the Wuse district of the Nigerian capital, Abuja. Scores of shoppers were killed in the attack.
Ikechukwu Ibe

Welcome to IRIN's reading list. Every week our global network of specialist correspondents share their top picks of recent must-read research, podcasts, reports, blogs and in-depth articles to help you keep on top of global crises. We also highlight key upcoming conferences, book releases and policy debates. 

Five to read:

World’s top terrorists: not who you think

This week has been dominated by the tragic attacks in Paris and Beirut. But, according to the newly published Global Terrorism Index, self-styled Islamic State (otherwise known as ISIL or Daesh) is not the world’s deadliest terrorist group. That dishonour belongs instead to Boko Haram in Nigeria, a country that experienced the largest increase in terrorist deaths ever recorded by any country in 2014, up over 300 percent since 2013 to 7,512 fatalities. Of these, 6,644 were directly attributed to Boko Haram. The second deadliest group in the world, IS, was responsible for 6,073 (excluding the Paris attacks). Globally, terrorism is dramatically up. The report, now an annual publication from the Institute for Economics and Peace, found that terrorism-related deaths increased 80 percent last year to an all time high of 32,658.

The paper notes that 78 percent of all deaths and 57 percent of all attacks occurred in just five countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria. This follows a pattern: 92 percent of attacks over the last 25 years occurred in countries where state-sponsored political violence is widespread, and 82 percent in countries embroiled in conflict. The percentage of terrorism-related deaths occurring in Western countries over the last 15 years is, by contrast, miniscule at 2.6 percent. Of those, only 20 percent are attributable to Islamic extremists, with lone wolf attacks motivated by nationalism, right-wing extremism and other forms of supremacy accounting for the rest.

Syrians: Boon or burden?

Lovely piece from the New Yorker this week, coaxing important lessons on the value of refugees out of a series of pretty dry economics reports and applying them to the current US political flap over accepting Syrians. Instead of collapsing beneath the burden of millions of Syrians, for example, the economies of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are projected to grow (says the OECD) between two and three percent next year. Even with these huge influxes, the impact has not been large. In Turkey, for example, which has paid for all costs for 2.5 million refugees from its own budget, the cost has been less than 0.2 percent of GDP. For the US, the idea that refugees could cause economic damage is, says the New Yorker, outlandish. Hillary Clinton’s proposal that the quota be increased to 65,000 is tantamount to “making room for six-and-a-half more people in a baseball stadium with 32,000”. The US has coped with, and benefited from, far larger influxes than in previous years, most notably from Vietnam.

Burundi’s hidden crisis

One facet of Burundi’s deepening political crisis that has been widely overlooked amid hyperbolic warnings of a looming genocide is internal displacement. The fact that violence between security forces and elements of the opposition has claimed 240 lives and led more than 200,000 people to flee the country since April has been well reported. But, according to research by Refugees International, an advocacy group, “impunity and persecution… has resulted in the internal displacement of untold thousands of people.” Many are now in hiding, often too scared to seek out humanitarian aid. Some of those interviewed for the report said they would have joined the refugees living in neighbouring states but feared arrest at the border by Burundian authorities. The report warned that the hidden nature of internal displacement helped create a skewed picture of humanitarian needs in Burundi.

Protection gaps in CAR

One key humanitarian need – protection – is (despite the presence of international forces) sorely lacking in the Central African Republic, according to research published by the Humanitarian Policy Group at the Overseas Development Institute. Since insurgents briefly seized power in CAR in late 2013, thousands have been killed and several million displaced. For many years, civilians in CAR have viewed the state’s various security forces as more of a threat than a source of safety. This technical paper analyses popular perceptions of protection and evaluates the response of the government; of the African Union, of French and UN intervention forces; and of the humanitarian community. It found that, for want of better protection options, many civilians have turned to local actors, including armed groups. The international community, the paper concluded, failed to address CAR’s protection gaps on three levels:  “global, operational, and in respect of the perceptions, expectations and actions of affected people.”

Beirut bombing explainer

As many were quick to point out on Twitter and Facebook, the Paris attack came just a day after an equally horrible attack in Lebanon, Beirut, which killed more than 40 people. For those not quite up to speed on labyrinthine politics of Lebanon and its relationship with the conflicts across the Middle East, the International Crisis Group has helpfully put together a short explainer. The bombing, says ICG’s senior Lebanon analyst, should be seen as the latest in a series of attacks by Sunni jihadist groups, including but not limited to IS. Although IS has claimed responsibility, it’s still not clear if this is true. The Lebanese military, with heavy Western backing, has been doing a good job of managing extremists to date, the analyst adds, but it has done little to address the root causes of such violence – and sectarian divides are deepening.

One to watch:

Bye Bye Ebola

It’s been a long and difficult week, world. If you’re in need of a bit of cheering up, may we recommend this: three minutes of unalloyed Sierra Leonean joy as everyone from street kids to senior civil servants joyfully dance at the news that the country is finally Ebola-free.  Even President Koroma cracks a smile. Of course, the awful legacy of Ebola is a terrible reality for many and the damage done to the country will take far longer than 42 days to fix. But as you watch, take a minute to remember a year ago, when the country was staring down the barrel of apocalyptic projections involving thousands more deaths, and the people in this video were working around the clock while watching colleagues, friends and family die as they fought to contain the disease. This is their victory, and it’s a treat to watch them enjoy it.

From IRIN:

How the refugee crisis is hurting foreign aid

The dramatically rising numbers of refugees arriving in Europe is sending ripples across a number of government departments in the countries hosting them, not least the ones taking care of budgets. Now several, including Sweden and Norway, have made it clear they think it appropriate to use cash reserved for development to pay for their new arrivals. While technically allowed by OECD guidelines for aid, such decisions are causing consternation in the development sector. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned that such diversions are “counter-productive”. And other plans, such as providing more funding for countries that host refugees and the Trust Fund for Africa, are also problematic. 


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