Concern is growing that the Boko Haram militant group in Nigeria is linked to Al Qaeda and Al Shabaab as part of a coordinated Islamist terrorist threat in Africa. But most often, the reasons for the group's attacks are local.
Unlike Uganda, Burundi, Kenya and Djibouti, which have sent thousands of troops under the African Union banner, Ethiopia is intervening in Somalia unilaterally, and won't stay for long.
Chinese newspapers call on China to assert itself, while India and African nations ponder the implications of becoming 'strategic partners' with the US.
Seven Monitor correspondents reflect on the world's hotspots. In this installment, Scott Baldauf says Africa showed signs of both the willingness and ability to solve their own problems in 2011.
For poorer countries like Burundi, sending soldiers to join a UN or African Union peacekeeping mission offers financial and political benefits, as well as better arms and training.
In the first visit of a UN Secretary General since 1993, Ban Ki-moon promised aid and military support, but warned Somali leaders they must stick to reform pledges.
A Famine Early Warning System – which accurately predicted the 2011 drought in the Horn of Africa – warns that millions of West Africans may face a food crisis in 2012.
Criticism has been widespread since the Kenyan High Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudan's President Bashir, who is also the subject of an international arrest warrant.