In Iraq, the official withdrawal of the last U.S. combat troops, nearly nine years after the invasion, was quickly followed by a political crisis. Authorities issued an arrest warrant for the country’s top Sunni politician, Vice President Tariq Al-Hashimi, accusing him of running death squads. He and other leading Sunni politicians fled to Kurdistan, while the Iraqiya alliance, to which they belong, protested by boycotting parliament. In turn, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki threatened to abandon the power-sharing agreement. Meanwhile Baghdad was hit by a new wave of attacks by suspected Sunni insurgents linked to al-Qaeda, reigniting fears of a resurgence of sectarian violence.
Tension remained high after November’s flawed presidential and parliamentary elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Continued violence and repression by security forces claimed at least 30 lives. Incumbent president Joseph Kabila was sworn in for a second term on 20 December, despite international observers finding that the results “lacked credibility”. Opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who has declared himself president, continues to contest the vote. Kabila’s dubious mandate bodes ill for the country’s peace and security, especially if legislative polls throw up a pliant parliament – counting of legislative ballots is ongoing.
Relations between Sudan and South Sudan deteriorated further. Tension over the status of Abyei continued, with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calling for the withdrawal of both sides’ armed forces, while the two countries’ militaries clashed in the disputed territory of Jau. Southern President Salva Kiir accused Khartoum of destabilising South Sudan with cross-border militia raids and bombings. Khartoum, meanwhile, accuses the South of hosting JEM rebels, who are stepping up attacks in North Kordofan.
In Senegal, President Abdoulaye Wade showed no signs of reconsidering his candidacy for a controversial third term. Clashes between ruling party and opposition supporters left one dead and several injured. In the country’s southern Casamance region, insurgents attacked two military positions, killing thirteen soldiers and taking five hostages.
In Nigeria a spate of violent attacks by militant Islamists Boko Haram left at least 100 dead and 90,000 displaced. President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency. In Guinea-Bissau an attempted coup by renegade soldiers on 26 December left at least two dead. The navy chief, former army chief, and a number of politicians suspected of orchestrating it have been arrested.
Tensions between Pakistan’s government and military leadership escalated as the Supreme Court began its probe over a memo last May requesting U.S. help to avert a military takeover. The government continues to deny allegations that its former ambassador to the U.S. Hussain Haqqani authorised the memo and rejects the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction. Army and intelligence top brass have repeatedly insisted on the Supreme Court investigation, raising fears of a coup.
Friction with NATO over its November airstrike on Pakistani border posts continued, with the government boycotting the Bonn conference on Afghanistan in protest and tens of thousands marching in Lahore to demonstrate against the strikes.
In Afghanistan bomb attacks by Pakistani Sunni militants Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif killed 84 people on the Shia holy day of Ashura. Relations with Pakistan remained strained, as Pakistan’s boycott overshadowed the Bonn conference.
At least fifteen people were killed and 100 injured in Janaozen in western Kazakhstan on 16 December as government forces clashed with a crowd including former oil workers, who have been on strike for 6 months. Eyewitnesses and opposition activists allege much higher casualties, amid reports of mass arrests and torture. The violence marks growing social tensions in the country. Elsewhere, the security services’ response to several armed jihadi attacks raises questions about the state’s ability to handle its security challenges.
Bosnia avoided an intensified political crisis as leaders of the six main political parties agreed to form a government at the end of the month, ending fourteen months of deadlock after the October 2010 elections. A new state budget was adopted just in time to avert shutting down state institutions.
December 2011 TRENDS
Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Nigeria, Sudan, South Sudan, Senegal, Kazakhstan, Pakistan
Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bolivia, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Kashmir, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Myanmar/Burma, Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan), Nepal, Niger, North Caucasus (Russia), North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, Serbia, Somalia, Somaliland, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Western Sahara, Yemen, Zimbabwe