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.
Somalia has until August to complete political reform, inaugurate a new constitution and hold national elections before the end of the transitional period. It must also capitalise on the Kenyan incursion to rout Al-Shabaab and establish security in this enduring weak state, making 2012 a make-or-break year for Somalia.
UK naval forces have stepped up anti-piracy operations and the use of force in the Indian Ocean. This could, however, signal an escalation and lead to a more dangerous phase in the battle against Somali pirates.