In 2013, possibilities for stability from Somalia to South China Sea
Policymakers in many of the world's hot spots have a common New Year's wish: for unity to usher in and consolidate political and economic stability.
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Meanwhile, across the continent in Mali, events moved in the opposite direction in 2012. An ethnic Taureg rebellion spiraled into a takeover of the north by Islamist militants, while the army ousted Mali’s democratically elected president. Malians hope that in 2013 their country can reunite and that democracy will be restored. If not, Western and African leaders fear Mali could become a failed state.Skip to next paragraph
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Some Malians say only force can dislodge the Islamists, while others place hope in dialogue. Meanwhile, worry is growing that ethnic grudges might transform a possible intervention into a tragedy of unintended consequences.
“Families affected by crisis may seek vengeance,” says Mohamed Ag Ossad, the director of Tumast, a Tuareg cultural center in Bamako. “The state should take things in hand before there’s an ethnic war.”
This month soldiers loyal to coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo removed Mali’s interim prime minister – a brazen show of force that the US said endangered national dialogue and delayed a government recapture of the north, according to a statement on Dec. 11. Members of the security forces are also accused of beating, detaining, and killing critics of the army, as well as Tuareg and Arab men, said a December 20 report by Human Rights Watch.
For Moussa Mara, an accountant and district mayor in Bamako, such problems underline the need to reestablish democratic rule by holding presidential elections that were derailed by this year’s coup. “Crisis can be an opportunity for our country,” he says. “If we’re intelligent.”
Middle East: to the victors, more divisions?
A number of Syria experts warn that without a plan to disarm opposition groups, they risk destabilizing the country.
"What do you do with the men with guns? The men who don't have jobs.... We've seen this in Libya, and we also saw it in Iraq," says Aram Nerguizian, a Syria expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The vast majority of Free Syrian Army units in Syria say they will put down their weapons and let democracy determine their future after Mr. Assad. Still, a number of observers worry that there is a possibility armed groups may want an undue stake in Syria's government, and the challenge for 2013 will be to incorporate them into civilian life.
In Israel and the Palestinian territories, positions on both sides hardened as the window for a two-state solution rapidly closed. Israel moved further to the right heading into January elections, while Palestinians became more assertive with a perceived victory against Israel in the November Gaza conflict and an overwhelming vote recognizing Palestine as a state at the United Nations.