President Robert Mugabe can't believe his luck. At the beginning of September, he faced humiliating public criticism and an ultimatum for the first time from fellow African leaders.
A special delegation of Commonwealth foreign ministers meeting in the Nigerian capital Abuja secured Mr Mugabe's commitment to upholding Commonwealth principles of democracy and restoring the rule of law. South African Development Commission (SADC) leaders had also given Mr Mugabe four weeks to address the land crisis or face isolation. The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) loomed in early October, with Zimbabwe possibly facing suspension. The European Union and the United States had also threatened moves against Zimbabwe. Then, on 11 September, the attacks in the United States blew the steady diplomatic march on Zimbabwe off the map. CHOGM was postponed until next year, and Mugabe now believes, quite rightly, that the world's attention is focussed elsewhere.
Washington, D.C. — Already notorious as the world’s only state without a functioning government, Somalia may be about to deteriorate even further. The country is rapidly sliding back toward war. As an Islamist militia, the Council of Somali Islamic Courts, consolidates control over large swathes of southern Somalia, neighboring Ethiopia has sent thousands of troops over the border, and both sides are preparing for a showdown. A return to war could bring about the same horrific famine conditions that precipitated a US military intervention 14 years ago, and damage rather than advance US counter terrorism objectives in a vulnerable region.
George Clooney's meeting to discuss Darfur with Vice President Joe Biden and with President Barack Obama Monday night at the White House provided one of the first glimmers of Africa involvement from the top echelon of the new administration.
According to Biden spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander, Clooney was told that Sudan policy is under "ongoing review." The Academy Award-winning actor, who skipped the Oscar's ceremony Sunday night to fly to Washington, said he welcomed what he heard "because there was some concern this could fall off the radar."
Eleven African Union peacekeepers were killed in a brutal attack in Mogadishu, Somalia on Sunday. Witnesses described hearing two massive explosions.
A spokesperson for the Shabaab, a radical yet powerful Somali militia that the United States labels a terrorist group, claimed responsibility for the attack. The spokesperson warned more is yet to come.
This weekend's tragedy makes the title of Jeffrey Gettleman's new piece on Somalia - "The Most Dangerous Place in the World" - particularly pertinent. Gettleman, the East African bureau chief for the New York Times, writes in Foreign Policy that even after reporting in Afghanistan and Iraq, "nowhere was I more afraid than in today's Somalia."
February 20, 2009: Somalia headed the list last month in my annual review of what would likely be Africa’s most significant conflicts or flash-points this year.
The situation got so bad in Baidoa that the Transitional Federal Government’s parliament had to meet in neighbouring Djibouti during the last week of the month to elect a permanent replacement for Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, who resigned from the presidency on December 29.
While the legislators were out of town, the interim regime lost it altogether as militants from al-Shabaab (“the youth”), an al-Qaeda-linked group that was formally designated a “foreign terrorist organization” last year by the US Department of State, took over Baidoa and announced the imposition of their version of Islamic law.