For the last half-decade, the Fund for Peace, working with Foreign Policy, has been putting together the Failed States Index, using a battery of indicators to determine how stable -- or unstable -- a country is. But as the photos here demonstrate, sometimes the best test is the simplest one: You'll only know a failed state when you see it.
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FSI score: 114.3 (out of 120)
Somalia has topped the Failed States Index for the last three years -- a testament not only to the depth of the country's long-running political and humanitarian disaster, but also, as James Traub writes, to the international community's inability to find an answer. After two decades of chaos, the country is today largely under the control of Islamist militant groups, the most notorious and powerful of which is al-Shabab. A second faction, Hizbul Islam, rivals the former in brutality -- it recently executed two Somalis for the crime of watching the World Cup. Off the coast, pirates such as the men pictured here torment passing ships, often holding them hostage for a high price. In 2009, Somali pirates earned an estimated $89 million in ransom payments.
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Chad's troubles are often written off as spillover from the conflict taking place in next-door Darfur, Sudan. But this central African country has plenty of problems of its own. An indigenous conflict has displaced approximately 200,000, and life under the paranoid rule of Chadian President Idriss Déby is increasingly miserable. Déby has arrested opposition figures and redirected humanitarian funding to the military in recent years. Matters might soon get worse as the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the country's east, where the bulk of the refugees reside, begins to depart on July 15. Pictured here, local Chadians in the village of Dankouche struggle to share scarce resources such as firewood with a nearby Sudanese refugee camp.
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The next year will prove a decisive one for Sudan, perhaps more so than any other since the country's independence in 1956. In January 2011, the people of South Sudan will vote in a referendum on whether they would prefer to remain an autonomous region -- or secede as an independent state. All analysts predict it will be the latter, but they are equally certain that it won't be so easy. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is likely to cling close to his control of the South, where much of the country's oil riches lie. This is to say nothing of Darfur, where peacekeepers recently reported an uptick in violence with hundreds killed. In this scene, children crowd around a U.N. helicopter in the South Sudanese town of Akobo.
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Life in Zimbabwe has undoubtedly gotten better since a power-sharing agreement between Robert Mugabe, who has ruled this southern African country since 1980, and Morgan Tsvangirai, his most prominent opponent and the current prime minister, entered into force in February 2009. Inflation is down from 230 million percent, goods are back on the shelves, NGOs are able to work again (though they are often still harassed), and the country is able to tap into foreign credit lines from regional banks and China. The bad news is that Mugabe has kept up his dictatorial rule as if nothing had changed; for example, he celebrated his 30th anniversary in office to the spectacular fanfare seen here, where children display militant loyalty to the ruling party. Mugabe and Tsvangirai operate autonomously, holding occasional talks to resolve disputes over cabinet appointments, land expropriation, opposition arrests, and media freedom -- among other things. With little sign of progress for months, both leaders are now looking forward to fresh elections as the "only way out" of the political stalemate, as Tsvangirai has put it.
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5. DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the epitome of a country cursed by its resources. Blessed with perhaps the world's single most abundant, diverse, and extractable supply of minerals, Congo has been exploited from the moment its riches were known -- first by Belgian colonialists, then by miserable kleptocrats, and today by the Army and various rebel groups and militias. Meanwhile, miners, such as those seen here, work for meager wages. For all the country's mineral wealth, today it has little to show for it save one of the world's most desperate humanitarian situations. Although the International Rescue Committee's estimated death toll of 5.4 million since 1998 has been contested, no one doubts that hundreds of thousands, if not more, have died -- not from fighting but from disease.
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To anyone who has followed the news over the last decade, Afghanistan needs no introduction. An ongoing U.S.-led military operation there is working town by town and safe haven by safe haven to defeat the Taliban, the Islamist movement that ruled the country until its overthrow after the September 11, 2001, attacks. But the weak and fraying government of President Hamid Karzai, reelected under dubious conditions last August and presiding over a deeply corrupt administration, has thwarted those efforts. Now, with the self-imposed U.S. deadline to begin pulling out troops just a year away, many are wondering if conditions will permit the international forces to leave. Here, women in the capital city of Kabul stand patiently -- even as a nearby explosion sends passersby into a frenzy.
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Iraq rocketed to the top of the Failed States Index after a 2003 U.S. military invasion ousted the dictator Saddam Hussein and set off a period of violent turmoil. Amid the explosion of sectarian killings and reprisals that followed, more than 2 million Iraqis fled the country, and many have yet to return. Although Iraq has calmed dramatically since the violence peaked in 2007, the country remains deeply polarized along ethnic and religious lines. Recent parliamentary elections were among the freest in the Arab world, but were marred by suicide attacks and allegations of fraud, and a new government has yet to be named. Any number of factors could prove destabilizing going forward: tension over oil rights, latent Sunni-Shiite hostility, the pullout of U.S. combat troops by Sept. 1. An April 23 attack in Baghdad is pictured here, on a day when 58 died in similar assaults throughout the country.
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8. CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
The Central African Republic should have calmed down by now; peace deals in 2007 and 2008 brought rebels into the government's fold. But banditry and violence are still common, and lately the country has played unintentional host to the Lord's Resistance Army, a legendarily brutal group of rebels that has been pillaging and abducting new "recruits" and hapless children after being chased out of nearby Uganda. Meanwhile, François Bozizé, a former army chief of staff who came to power in a 2003 coup, has drained the country's wealth for the benefit of his small cadre. The country has known little if any modernization since its independence from France a half-century ago. Here, a man watches a burning village set aflame with the intention of warding off snakes and scorpions -- and boosting fertility.
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The last 18 months have been a roller-coaster ride for this small West African country, with far more downs than ups. After Guinea's longtime president died in December 2008, a group of renegade soldiers seized power, naming a rogue Army captain, Moussa Dadis Camara, as president. Camara quickly proved to be a delusional, erratic, and violent ruler. In September 2009, Guinean troops massacred 150 opposition protesters at the country's national stadium, provoking international outrage. Months later, Camara was shot by one of his own guards, who claimed that the junta leader was forcing him to take the fall for the massacre. The injured Camara was flown out of the country for medical care and his deputy, Sékouba Konaté, took charge together with a civilian prime minister. Elections to seat a permanent government are promised for June 27 -- the first good news this heavily militarized country has had for a while. In this photo, tanks prepare to bring a 2007 general strike to heel.
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Pakistan has more than once been described as the world's most dangerous country. Its wild northern reaches remain host to various branches of the Pakistani Taliban and likely to al Qaeda (Osama bin Laden is thought to be among them), while other militant groups make gains closer to urban areas. The bomb that went off here left six dead in Quetta, in the country's southwest. More than 3 million Pakistani civilians were displaced by "counterinsurgency" operations in 2009 -- the largest single movement of people since the Rwandan genocide. Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari's democratically elected government looks hapless -- unable to gain any measure of civilian control over a nuclear-armed military obsessed with planning for a war with India, or an intelligence service that stands accused of abetting the Afghan Taliban.
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As 2010 began, Haiti was finally making progress: Donor funds were flooding in, the government was on its feet, and there was more optimism than at any point in the last two decades. And then, in the span of a few seconds, everything fell apart. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti on Jan. 12 created one of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent memory. Today, some 230,000 Haitians are thought to have died, with more than 1 million homeless and 2 million in need of food aid. For the country's people -- such as the man seen here drinking street water from a makeshift straw -- as well as its government and donors, the temblor has been an epic tragedy, setting back years of painstaking development efforts.
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12. IVORY COAST
They signed a peace deal in 2007, but today, the Ivory Coast's northern and southern regions are more divided than ever over how to share the country's resources. Elections to replace the current government, which took office in a 2003 power-sharing agreement, were scheduled to have taken place in 2005. A half-decade later, the country has yet to finalize an electoral list, and violence once again looms. Nor has the country been rebuilt; the houses pictured here were ransacked back in 2002. This young boy is malnourished -- as one in every five children in the Ivory Coast are.
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Kenya, like the Ivory Coast, has lately shown that power-sharing arrangements can be as divisive as the conflicts they are meant to end. In Nairobi, the country's president and prime minister have been perpetually at odds since their forced marriage in 2008. The government has done little to investigate or make amends for that year's explosion of election-related violence. An exasperated Kofi Annan, the former U.N. secretary-general who helped resolve the electoral dispute, has given the International Criminal Court names of people who are implicated -- because Kenya seems unwilling to try them itself. Meanwhile, for the average Kenyan, all this has proved a distraction from everyday concerns. Villagers in northeastern Kenya, pictured here, carry water amid a drought of the sort that often threatens regional famine.
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Nigeria's infamous political instability was in the news with unfortunate frequency in recent months, as the country's president fell ill, disappeared for medical care, and eventually passed away, leaving control to his vice president, Goodluck Jonathan. Meanwhile, a combination of intercommunal violence in the country's middle belt (corpses from which are seen buried here), a flailing amnesty program in the oil-rich Niger Delta, police brutality, scathing poverty, and rampant corruption has kept this West African country in the ranks of the world's most dysfunctional states.
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Decades of conflict and insecurity have made AK-47s a status symbol in Yemen on par with the country's traditional dress. Attempted Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab trained in Yemen, and despite U.S. military aid, there is little sign that the central government is capable of rooting out militant groups such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Throw in declining oil revenues, failing water supplies, an internal rebellion or two (the destruction from which is manifest here), and an influx of Somali refugees, and the question becomes when, not if, Yemen's ticking time bomb will go off.
Burma's ruling junta will hold elections later this year for the first time in two decades -- which would be good news were it not for a few stubborn facts: The democratic opposition won't be allowed to compete, the vote will be conducted under a Constitution that entrenches military power, and the ballot will undoubtedly yield yet another strongman in uniform. After crushing a brief 2007 uprising, led by monks and dubbed the "Saffron Revolution" in the international media, the junta has retrenched and shown little willingness to engage the wider world. But beneath the facade of stability lies simmering ethnic unrest; minority groups have staged ongoing rebellions for decades. Most recently, a cease-fire between the minority Kokang and the Burmese military broke down, sending refugees pouring over the border with China. Here, a girl carries a basket through a market in the northern part of the country.
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When Ethiopians went to the polls on May 23, there was little doubt whose party would win: that of Meles Zenawi, the incumbent prime minister. Indeed, the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front took all but two of the country's 547 parliamentary seats -- an unbelievably high tally given that many think the opposition may have won the previous vote, in 2005. This time around, Zenawi ratcheted up the repression, passing a draconian NGO law, barring public meetings, and intimidating would-be opposition voters. The opposition is challenging the win in court, but international condemnation has been muted. Politics aside, Ethiopia is no stranger to misery; more than a third of children under 5 in this famine-cursed country are underweight. The women pictured here are queuing to vote in the May 23 presidential election.
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18. EAST TIMOR
East Timor is arguably the most uplifting story on this dismal list. The country has now been largely violence-free since 2008 after years of turmoil that followed its formal independence from Indonesia in 2002. East Timor's president, Nobel Peace Prize winner José Ramos-Horta, told FP last year that he is working hard to reform East Timor's police force, pictured here, so that it can take over from U.N. peacekeepers when they depart next year. Meanwhile, the country's gas and oil reserves offer hope that the fledgling country will one day be able to stand on its own.
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By Feb. 18, Salou Djibo had had enough of Niger's president, Mamadou Tandja. The Nigerien leader had been cynically seeking to use the Constitution to entrench his powers and prolong his term in office. So Djibo and his fellow military officers deposed him, held him captive, and called for democracy to be restored. Crowds cheered the new leaders on the streets, and democratic elections have been promised by February 2011. But whether the coup was really a step in the right direction might depend on how the junta handles an imminent food crisis. With the harvest in September still months off, 7 million are in need of food so far. Nearly half of Nigeriens have no access to clean drinking water, such as the boys pictured above. Extreme privation is nothing new to Niger, one of the world's poorest countries -- despite being one of the top uranium producers in the world.
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19. NORTH KOREA (tied with Niger)
Kim Jong Il's nuclear program and recent provocations may keep the world's last Stalinist dictatorship perpetually on the international radar, but it is his criminal neglect of his country's people that has guaranteed North Korea a high spot on the Failed States Index. This year threatens to be particularly grim: The regime's "currency reform" program in early 2010 devastated personal savings; the government has worked hard in recent years to shut down the illicit food trade; and cereal production is nowhere near what it needs to be -- even in a good year, more than a third of the country's 24 million people go hungry. This fittingly gray-tinged photo depicts a government office in Pyongyang.
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Ugandan journalist Andrew Mwenda has a searing way of describing his government: "Corruption is not just an element of this system but is 'the system.'" In office since 1986, the country's president, Yoweri Museveni, has come under increasing criticism in recent years for his kleptocratic rule and reluctance to give up power. There's not likely to be much of a change in the upcoming 2011 presidential election; the opposition is already crying foul about alleged plans for vote-stuffing. Here, men rallying against Museveni burn a bus in protest.
Guinea Bissau may well be Africa's first narco-state. Cocaine and heroin traffickers targeted the country several years ago and have since infiltrated every rank and file of the country's elite. Since the influx of cocaine dwarfs the country's annual GDP, it is easy to buy off military, customs, and political officials. Here, a soldier walks in former president's funeral procession; he was assasinated in March, 2009. The West African country's citizens will surely be the first to suffer, most already living in dilapidated circumstances.
Burundi is home to one of Africa's most recent civil wars, ending in 2009 after 15 years of fighting. Now, with former militant groups converted into political parties, however, some of the nasty tactics have carried over, and political violence is escalating in the lead-up to presidential elections on June 28. Stability, if it comes, could do much for the small coffee-producing country of just 8 million -- that is, if its neighbor, Rwanda, is any guide; economic growth there has taken off following the 1994 genocide.
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Bangladesh has improved significantly on the index over the last three years, from its high-water mark at No. 12 in the index to 24th today. Democracy was restored to the country in 2008 after the Army declared "emergency rule" a year earlier. The last two years of civilian authority haven't been seamless, to be sure -- a military uprising, for example, left more than 70 dead in 2009 -- but a daily calm has returned. Now, the greatest threats might come not from politics but from Mother Nature. Always prone to disasters, Bangladesh worries that climate change will push it over the edge as cyclones, floods, and mudslides grow more common. Coastal homes like the ones pictured here are among the most threatened.
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25. SRI LANKA
It should have been a moment to cheer. In early 2009, a 30-year civil war that pitted Tamil Tiger rebels against the government came to an end. But the final weeks of fighting took a terrible human toll, and on May 17, 2010, the International Crisis Group issued a report documenting war crimes committed by both sides during the last month of the war. Among the alleged government offenses were the deliberate shelling of civilians and hospitals, the cutting off of humanitarian aid, and the suppressing of Tamil voices and journalists during the conflict. (In a recent discussion with Foreign Policy, Sri Lanka's foreign minister denied any wrongdoing but failed to answer the allegations directly.) An election in January was also marred when, just days after President Mahinda Rajapaksa was reelected, he arrested his opponent, Gen. Sarath Fonseka. Here, a Buddhist monk is detained by police after holding a hunger strike to demand Fonseka's release.
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On the surface, Cameroon is a pillar of stability in a neighborhood that is anything but. The country has suffered no recent civil wars; U.N. relief agencies enjoy a friendly relationship there, using Cameroon as a base to provide help to nearby Chad; and the country's incredible rain forests attract a fair number of tourists each year (it earned $182 million from the industry last year). But stability can easily become stagnation. Paul Biya has been president for 18 years, during which time he has consolidated political power and co-opted the opposition. Meanwhile, the country's natural beauty has also become its greatest plague; poaching is prevalent and logging has stripped 81 percent of the country's un-protected forests according to the World Resources Institute. Above, villagers walk outside a nature preserve.
26. NEPAL (tied with Cameroon)
Amid a Maoist general strike (seen here), with civil war barely quelled, and up against a midnight deadline in late May, Nepal's feuding parties reached a deal to stave off the country's political collapse -- for now. Since a 2006 peace deal brought Maoist rebels into the government, Nepal has been anything but quiet. The Maoists became a political party and won the 2008 elections, and then subsequently pulled out of the government when implementation of the peace agreement stalled. Among the most contentious issues has been the integration of former Maoists into the country's military -- something that Nepal's generals have adamantly resisted. The country itself remains underdeveloped and volatile; in rural areas, just under half the population lives below the poverty line.
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Malawi's annual GDP is less than the United States plans to spend on robotic space missions over the next five years. A mostly agricultural country, Malawi produces a few cash crops, such as tobacco, sugar, cotton, and tea. Rather, the majority of agricultural workers are subsistence farmers. Drought and famine have left millions wanting for food in recent years. Almost 12 percent of the population is HIV positive, robbing the country of workers in their economic prime. Here, a corn farmer collects his harvest.
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28. SIERRA LEONE (tied with Malawi)
Trash overwhelms the eyes and nostrils upon arrival in Freetown, a capital city that expanded rapidly with refugees during and after Sierra Leone's decade-long civil war. Few of those safety-seekers have returned home, remaining instead in shantytowns on the city's outskirts and in the seaside capital's many flood plains. Public health is correspondingly poor in urban areas, with the fate of mothers particularly grim. One in eight dies in pregnancy and 43,000 children under the age of 5 perish every year. And what of the country's blood diamonds, now out of rebel control? They were enough to feed and arm a brutal rebel movement but are far from enough to fund a country, bringing in just $35 million in the first five months of this year.
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Recently described by Human Rights Watch as a "giant prison," Eritrea stands alone for its repression in Africa. The country got off to a rough start, gaining its independence from Ethiopia in a bloody war that ended in 1993, but troops have often mobilized ominously along both sides of the border. Mandatory military service is the national pastime, with all citizens required to enter the army as young adults. Scarce food and fuel, generalized repression, and rampant poverty has sent refugees fleeing abroad. The near-empty streets pictured here have an eerie, lingering quality of solitude.
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31. REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
Former rebels are demobilized in a 2008 ceremony in the capital city of Brazzaville. While the troubles of the Republic of the Congo pale in comparison to those of its larger neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, both countries have faced decades of sporadic conflict and are now struggling to rebuild.
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Clashes broke out in Tehran after a disputed June 2009 election saw President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claiming victory over his main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi. The protester seen here was one of thousands who formed the country's new opposition Green Movement in the wake of the disputed contest.
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Children walk down a central street in Monrovia, the war-wracked capital that is now slowly rebuilding after decades of conflict. When the current president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, came to office in 2007, electricity, a water system, and even the most basic public services were completely absent.
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This Palestinian refugee camp was devestated in December, 2009, when fighting between Lebanon's military and the militant movement Fatah al-Islam.
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35. BURKINA FASO
Many of the workers in this Ouagadougou gravel pit are children, laboring in difficult conditions at an age when their peers in more fortunate countries are attending school. Two decades after an international treaty banned it, child labor remains an enormous problem in this impoverished West African country.
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There is an eerie calm over the graves of the hundreds massacred in the eastern Uzbek town of Andijan in 2005, when soldiers loyal to President Islam Karimov opened fired on protesters. The government claimed the demonstrators were radical Islamists, but most observers think that Karimov's anti-terrorism rhetoric has been abused to legitimize a deeply corrupt and repressive state.
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The dramatic 2008 war between Georgia and Russia over the renegade Georgian province of South Ossetia sent Georgian refugees seeking cover, as seen here. Two years later, the status of the province remains a sore spot, with Moscow recognizing the breakaway republic as an independent state and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili insisting on a full Russian withdrawal and restoration of Georgian sovereignty.
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Facing dismal job prospects and crushing poverty at home, countless young Tajik workers have gone abroad in recent years, looking for work in Russia and Kazakhstan. Many of the women and children who stay behind make ends meet through farming. The girl here jumps a creek in a cotton field in a village outside the capital, Dushanbe.
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Western analysts have worried about terrorism in West Africa's Sahel region in recent years -- and suicide bombings such as the one pictured above have done little to reassure them. Mauritanian police cordoned off the route to the embassy of former colonial power France in the capital of Nouakchott following the attack on Aug. 8, 2009.
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This young Cambodian mother is turning her infant over to the care of a safe house built for families of persons living with HIV/AIDS and run by a Canadian NGO. About 170,000 Cambodians are HIV positive.
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40. LAOS (tied with Cambodia and Rwanda)
When it is finished, the $1.45 billion Nam Theun Dam will be Laos's largest hydropower project and the single largest source of foreign investment. Critics worry, however, that the construction will have a devastating impact on villagers such as the girl seen here fishing in local waters. Despite grinding poverty throughout the mostly rural country, big gains have been made in fighting infant mortality and extending life expectancy in recent years.
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40. RWANDA (tied with Cambodia and Laos)
Rwandan soldiers return home after operations in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where they participated in joint operations against rebel militias there. The country's president, Paul Kagame, himself a former soldier, has helped supercharge the Rwandan economy following the 1994 genocide. Many worry that political repression is setting in, however, as Kagame consolidates power.
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43. SOLOMON ISLANDS
A building burns after riots in the capital city of Honiara in 2006. Australian troops were deployed to quell the violence that followed the inauguration of the then-new Prime Minister Snyder Rini.
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44. EQUATORIAL GUINEA
A view of the capital, Malabo, is nondescript -- belying the country's bountiful oil wealth. Most of the spoils have remained in the hands of the government, leaving the country's people deeply impoverished. Life expectancy is a mere 50 years, and primary-school enrollment has actually fallen in recent years.
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Riot police form a barricade outside the capital, Bishkek, on April 20. Just days earlier, opposition forces ousted the country's president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, installing a transitional regime in his place. The unrest sparked an orgy of ethnic unrest in its wake; here, troops protect against the looters who attacked mainly ethnic Russian and Meskhetian Turks' homes.
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The streets of Commune 1, a shantytown in the country's second-largest city of Medellín, have been among the most violent in recent years. Drug gangs have fought out turf wars here, contributing to the ranks of the displaced -- still numbering about 3 million even after decades of internal conflict have slowly wound down.
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Supporters of a defeated presidential opposition candidate protest the outcome of March 2010 election in the capital city of Lomé. The victor, President Faure Gnassingbé, is the son of the country's former strongman leader.
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Demonstrations broke out in Syria last year as Israeli security forces began a hard assault on the Gaza Strip. In recent years, hopes that President Bashar al-Assad would bring change after his father's iron-fisted rule have proved largely unfounded.
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Members of the banned opposition Muslim Brotherhood protest outside Parliament in downtown Cairo in May after the country's prime minister, Ahmed Nazif, requested that a state of emergency law be extended for another two years. Already in place for almost three decades, the law has allowed President Hosni Mubarak to clamp down on the opposition, all but guaranteeing he will stay in power, as he said in 2004, "until the last breath in my lungs and the last beat of my heart."
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A policeman and an elderly Bhutanese woman pass in the capital city of Thimphu in April, where a regional summit was being held. The impoverished country is one of the world's most isolated, but its ruling monarchy is relatively enlightened; King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck favors his own metric, "gross national happiness," over the traditional GDP.
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Democratic elections will see power transfer from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to her successor, Benigno S. Aquino III, at the end of June. Despite booming foreign investment, poverty is the dominant reality for the country's population. Here, a child walks between shantytown blocks built on tombs.
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Governance has ground to a halt in this Indian Ocean island chain over disputes on an election timetable for the country's next presidential vote. Much of the population depends on tourism and agriculture for their livelihoods. Here, a young Comorian boy fishes.
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Coca plantations, such as the one being destroyed here, have become an increasing problem in Bolivia in recent years, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Aside from growing links to the cocaine trade, the issue has sparked a series of diplomatic spats with Washington over how best to tackle the problem.
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54. ISRAEL/WEST BANK
A young Palestinian throws stones at Israeli troops, part of an ongoing protest against Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Such settlements have been a particularly thorny issue in the U.S.-Israel relationship in the last year, with Washington demanding a freeze in their construction as part of a move to restart peace talks.
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U.S. and Azerbaijani troops hold joint exercises in 2009 outside the country's capital of Baku. The country has become an important, if unhappy Washington ally in the war in Afghanistan, to say nothing of its role as a major energy supplier.
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56. PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Life expectancy among residents of Papua New Guinea barely exceeds 60, according to the United Nations Development Program, and only 58 percent of the population can read. Just a third of rural inhabitants have access to clean water. Here, Kiriwina islander children and elders take shelter from the sun in an airport terminal.
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56. ZAMBIA (tied with Papua New Guinea)
Opposition supporters rioted following the 2008 presidential election after their candidate lost to Rupiah Banda. Following allegations of corruption in the government's Health Ministry last August, international donors like the Global Fund suspended millions of dollars in aid to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria; they are only now beginning to restore assistance. Thanks in part to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, life expectancy in the country is a mere 38 years.
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Although Moldova was largely insulated from the global economic downturn thanks to a nationwide reliance on cold, hard cash, this former Soviet satellite remains locked in political crisis. The country will hold a referendum in September on whether the office of the president should be filled by parliamentary appointment or popular vote. Here, Moldovans walk by as police guard the presidential building in Chisinau, the capital.
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Two years ago, Angola became Africa's largest oil producer at 2 million barrels per day. Resource wealth hasn't meant better lives for the majority of Angolans, however. The country still stands at 114th in terms of per capita GDP. The man pictured here makes ends meet by collecting recyclable material.
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An April demonstration by war veterans in Bosnia-Herzegovina set fire to a federal government building. Despite NATO peacekeeping forces in the country, Bosnia-Herzegovina has recently teetered on the edge of political disaster, with the contesting factions of the 1992-1995 war still at odds.
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