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A Political Tour of the WorldDecember 2022
Rarely has the world been so unstable with so many places threatened by either internal or external tensions.
The section on Saudi Arabia has moved here.
The section on Iraq has moved here.
The section on Syria has moved here.
Lebanon, which used to be the richest Arab country in the Middle East, is now a failed state and its people are facing starvation. Lebanon's food price inflation has reached 208%, the second highest in the world See Nations in Crisis: Lebanon.
The section on Turkey has moved here.
The section on Iran has moved here.
The section on Afghanistan has moved here.
The section on Pakistan has moved here.
The section on Bangladesh has moved here.
The section on Myanmar has moved here.
The section on Sri Lanka has moved here.
By comparison with its neighbor Myanmar, Thailand is a model of stability. Everything is relative: in reality, Thailand was rocked by a military coup in 2014 and since 2019 it is ruled by former army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, who more or less won elections. In 2020 there were mass protests against his government, but overall Thailand continued to function normally.
The section on Malaysia has moved here.
The section on Indonesia has moved here.
The section on the Philippines has moved here.
Next, Latin America. There are several hot spots, and one was largely unexpected but has been building up through decades of drug-related trouble.
The section on Mexico has moved here.
The section on El Salvador has moved here.
El Salvador inspired Jamaica, the country with the second highest homicide rate in the world: Jamaica declared the same kind of state of emergency. Jamaica’s homicide rate per hundred thousand is now 45. By comparison, the western country with the highest murder rate is the USA with 5%.
The section on Haiti has moved here.
The three communist dictatorships of the Americas, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, are instead doing just fine. Daniel Ortega's Sandinista National Liberation Front has now full control of Nicaragua after local elections delivered all the country’s 153 municipalities. That was not a difficult feat in a country where the main opposition parties have been outlawed and many opposition politicians have been jailed. Miguel Diaz-Canel continues the policies of the Castros in Cuba, which continue to result in shortages of goods and in emigration towards the USA.
Now that Luiz Inacio Lula has won the elections in Brazil, almost all of South America is run by left-wing governments that are likely to be less hostile to Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela: Andres Lopez-Obrador in Mexico, Gustavo Petro in Colombia, Pedro Castillo in Peru, Luis Arce in Bolivia, Alberto Fernandez in Argentina, Gabriel Boric in Chile, and Lula in Brazil.
The section on Venezuela has moved here.
There's another country that is heading down the route of Nicaragua and Venezuela: Guatemala. The section on Guatemala has moved here.
The section on Peru has moved here.
The section on Colombia has moved here.
The section on Ecuador has moved here.
That leaves us Africa. There is perennial hope that Africa will undergo the same economic boom that took place in East Asia or at least the moderate economic growth that lifted South America out of poverty. However, in recent years turmoil has increased rather than decreasing. Start with Libya, where the civil war doesn't seem to end. See Nations in Crisis: Libya. Then Ethiopia is engulfed in its own civil war. See Nations in Crisis: Ethiopia. Then you have the endless civil war in Somalia, where the government fights the Al-Shabab Islamists. Somalia suffered 308 terrorist attacks in 2021. See Nations in Crisis: Somalia. Then you have the Jihadists who are terrorizing the region between Nigeria (where Boko Haram has never been defeated) and Libya, i.e. Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Cameroon. Nigeria has had for the longest time the Boko Haram insurgency (officially started in 2009) and Libya has fallen into chaos after the revolution that deposed and killed Qaddafi. Somehow the Sahel region is being devastated by shockwaves from both events.
Scores of people have been killed in Burkina Faso since 2016 when an Al-Qaeda affiliate (Al-Mourabitoun) attacked a hotel taking 150 hostages (23 people of 18 different nationalities were killed). After a particularly virulent 2021 (30 people killed in Kodyel village, 132 in Solhan village, 53 people in Inata village), Burkina Faso joined Ghana, Ivory Coast and Togo to launch a counterterrorism operation, but in 2022 Burkina Faso was rocked by two consecutive military coups (Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba removed president Roch Kabore' and then Ibrahim Traore overthrew Damiba).
Niger didn't fare much better in 2021: 50 people killed in Tchombangou, more than 30 in Zaroumdareye mostly near the triborder with Mali and Burkina Faso 58 in Tillaberi region, 137 in several villages of Tahoua region, 69 people in western Tillaberi. In 2023 the military ousted the government. Thus all three bordering countries are now run by military dictatorships: Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.
Cameroon has fared better. At the peak, in 2015, Boko Haram staged 34 suicide attacks in Cameroon in one year, killing about 200 people. Now the main problem in Cameroon is the rift between the Francophone government and two Anglophone regions (that used to be a British colony before the creation of Cameroon), a rift that led to mass protests in 2016 and then to an armed rebellion by separatists. Incidentally, Cameroon has been ruled by Paul Biya for 40 years.
Ditto for Chad: 2015 was the worst year of Boko Haram attacks on Chadian territory. Chad too now has a different problem: in 2021 Islamists killed Chad's president Idriss Deby and his son Mahamat, an army general, seized power, but popular protests have been going on for months against the military junta. In March 2022 the countries of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria launched a joint military operation against Islamists around the Lake Chad basin that lasted until August (they claim to have freed thousands of civilians and killed more than one thousand militants).
Meanwhile, Nigeria still has one of the highest murder rates in the world, 34.5 per one hundred thousand people. See also Nations in Crisis: Nigeria.
A beneficiary of the Islamist insurgencies has been the Wagner Group, a group of mercenaries directed by a Russian oligarch close to Putin. The Wagner Group's brutal methods have been more effective than the United Nations or France (the old colonial power) in protecting African governments from the threat of rebel groups. The Islamist insurrection in Mali, mainly led by Al Qaeda's affiliate Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), has indirectly caused two military coups in two years, Assimi Goita, installed as the new president after the 2021 coup, requested help from the Wagner Group. Atrocities have been carried out on both sides. For example, in March 2022 more than 300 people were massacred in Moura by Mali's army and the Wagner Group, and in June 2022 two days of Islamist attacks in the Bankass region left more than 130 people dead. Burkina Faso too is rumored to be employing the Wagner Group, a group of mercenaries directed by a Russian oligarch close to Putin, which in return would be given a cut in lucrative businesses like diamonds. The Wagner Group has been operating in the Central African Republic (CAR) since 2018.
The section on the Central African Republic has moved here.
In 2023 civil war erupted also in Sudan. By the summer, the Sudanese army, headed by Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, controlled most of eastern and central Sudan, while the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo (aka "Hemedti"), controlled most of Khartoum and Darfur, the latter being ethnically cleansed by their allied Arab militia.
Africa has witnessed a proliferation of ISIS and Al Qaeda affiliates. Africa has de facto replaced the Middle East as the epicenter of Islamic terrorism. Half of all deaths from Islamic terrorism of 2021 happened in Africa. If at the beginning African terrorism was limited to Nigeria (Boko Haram) and Somalia (Al-Shabab), it has expanded south to Mozambique and the question now is which country will be next. See also Nations in Crisis: Mozambique.
The section on South Sudan has moved here.
The section on Congo Kinshada has moved here.
In the south of Africa, there's also the eternal sick man of Africa, Zimbabwe, once the richest region of Africa: food price inflation has reached a staggering 321%. The death of Mugabe, and the appointment of new president Emmerson Mnangagwa, haven't changed much for the lives of ordinary people.
I omitted Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the various China-related tensions (Taiwan, crackdown on Hong Kong protesters, Xinjiang's reeducation camps, zero-covid policy, militarization of South China Sea islands, North Korea's nuclear program). You can read about them in separate articles:
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