The news of Ethiopian Meles Zenawi's death may have eclipsed the inauguration of Somalia's new parliament - an event the UN has called a 'watershed moment' in Somalia's history. But with political and security challenges still unaddressed in Somalia, the end of the transition may turn out to be forgettable for other reasons too.
In the aftermath of the Mali coup, northern secessionists have declared an independent Islamic state. With verifiable links to Al-Qa'ida, there is a real risk that 'Azawad', as it is known, will become the next wellspring of instability and terrorism in Africa.
Somalia will continue to dominate the 2012 agenda for East African states as the humanitarian impact of famine and ongoing fighting pulls in regional and international actors. Now embroiled in military operations, Kenya also faces a big year for domestic politics. Other regional dynamics are tying together Uganda and South Sudan, and Kenya and Eritrea, who are all facing political challenges.
With fewer elections scheduled for 2012 in West Africa, the emphasis will shift to regional security and dealing with complex security threats. Terrorist groups and local militias are still a major problem, while religious conflict and instability threaten the region’s largest economy; Nigeria.