Africa's economic prospects make it a good place today for optimists, but as Jim points out, a number of security headaches threaten to turn from bad to worse in 2012. Five potential hot spots stand out.
Will Congo Spiral into Civil War?
Since the Democratic Republic of Congo's second ever quasi-democratic vote on November 28, the country has been staring at the possibility of a return to civil war. The fighting that gripped Congo from 1998 through 2003 was the most deadly conflict since World War II, involving nine nations and twenty different armed groups. Last month's election, held in the world's least-developed country, was marked by violence and fraud. According to the nation's election authorities, Joseph Kabila, president since 2001, won with a plurality of votes in a field crowded with eleven candidates. His most popular rival, Étienne Tshisekedi, promptly denounced the results, declaring himself president. Last week, Kabila was sworn in at a heavily guarded ceremony while riot police patrolled the capitol city. A few days later Tshisekedi held his own inauguration, during which government security forces reportedly killed eight of his supporters. The stand-off continues, and the situation in Kinshasa is tense. Kabila has the support of the nation's security forces and political elite, while Tshisekedi has an angry and large following in the streets of Kinshasa—a city of ten million. Tshisekedi has called on the security forces to abandon Kabila; so far, they show no signs of doing so. If Tshisekedi's supporters continue to riot without the support of any militias, we will see heavy protester casualties in Congo's urban centers. If, however, organized militias or even parts of the security apparatus abandon Kabila, Congo may be headed back into war.