January 1 — North America: UNITED STATES
After months of disagreements along the party lines between the Republicans and Democrats, the United States Congress passes the American Taxpayer Relief Act, averting the so-called “fiscal cliff”, a scheduled tax rise, drastic cuts in public spending, and a possible new recession. The compromise deal extends the 2001 Bush tax cuts for Americans earning less than $400,000. The spending cuts decision has been deferred for two months.
January 8 — Africa / International Organizations:
SUDAN / UNITED NATIONS
The United Nations warns about the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Sudan’s two southern provinces of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where the government has been fighting the rebels. An estimated 700,000 people in the region have been affected as a result of months of clashes. The Sudanese government accuses South Sudan of fueling the unrest.
January 8 — Africa: KENYA
Kenya’s authorities report that a poaching gang has killed a family of 11 elephants for ivory, making it one of the worst single incidents of poaching in the country. Although trade in ivory was banned in Kenya in 1989, illegal hunting has been on the rise to meet growing demand for ivory from elephants and rhino horns especially in Asia.
January 11 — Africa: CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
The government of the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Seleka rebels who took control of northern and eastern part of the country sign a ceasefire agreement during unity talks in Gabon. According to the deal, the National Assembly will be dissolved, the legislative election will be held in 12 months, President Francois Bozize will be allowed to complete his term till 2016, and a prime minister, who will act as the head of the government, will be appointed from among the rebels. South Africa has sent 400 peacekeeping troops to CAR. Bozize took power in a coup in 2003.
January 12 — East Asia: CHINA
Pollution monitoring stations in China register that concentration of pollution particles in Beijing and 30 other China’s northern and eastern cities has far exceeded the levels considered hazardous by the World Health Organization (WHO). This extreme pollution is blamed on the country’s rapid economic growth and urbanization. Environmentalists say the situation could be improved by better urban planning and control of the number of vehicles allowed in the cities.
January 15 — Middle East: SYRIA
Eighty people are killed and at least 150 injured in two blasts on the campus of Aleppo University in the Syrian northern city of Aleppo. Both sides, the government and the opposition forces, blame each other for the deadly attack. According to the United Nations new estimates, more than 60,000 people have been killed in Syria in the conflict that began almost two years ago. (January 29): The UN and Arab League Peace Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi reports to the United Nations Security Council that Syria “has reached unprecedented levels of horror” and is being “destroyed bit by bit”. He also calls for the Security Council, which is divided over Syria, to act. (January 30): The International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria held in Kuwait City collects more than $1.5 billion to provide the people of Syria with food, shelter and other necessities. It is estimated that more than 700,000 Syrians fled the country and live in refugee camps.
January 16 — Africa: ALGERIA
Islamist militants attack a gas plant with hundreds of workers (including many foreign nationals) in a remote complex in the Sahara desert in Algeria, taking dozens of hostages. The attackers, who entered Algeria from northern Mali, say they plan to blow up the plant in retaliation for France’s intervention in Mali. They execute a number of hostages. (January 19): The Algerian government says it does not negotiate with terrorists and sends special forces to storm the site. The four-day siege ends with deaths of 39 hostages and 29 kidnappers. Among the killed are three US citizens.
January 20 — Latin America: COLOMBIA
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) end its two-month unilateral ceasefire declared at the beginning of the peace talks with the government. The Colombian government says it will stop military operations only after both sides reach an agreement, and accuses FARC of trying to use the ceasefire to regroup and rearm.
January 22 — East Asia / International Organizations:
NORTH KOREA / UNITED NATIONS
The United Nations Security Council unanimously condemns North Korea’s December rocket launch, including China, North Korea’s sole ally. The Council also agrees to expand sanctions against North Korea. (January 24): In defiance, North Korea announces its plan to carry out a third nuclear test and more long-range rocket launches aimed at the United States. The UN banned North Korean from nuclear tests after two previous ones in 2006 and 2009.
January 22 — Middle East: ISRAEL
Israel is holding a snap election due to the coalition’s failure to reach an agreement on the annual budget. In a surprising result, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-Beitenu alliance loses a significant number of seats in the parliament, but still remains the largest group with 31 seats. The second largest group is a newly-formed centrist Yesh Atid party led by a popular TV personality, Yair Lapid, who has demanded changes of the military conscription laws protecting the ultra-orthodox Jews. The election results show that this time the Israelis considered socio-economic problems as important as security issues while voting. Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the largest group in the Knesset, is expected to form a new government.
January 23 — Europe: UNITED KINGDOM / EUROPEAN UNION
In his speech on the United Kingdom’s relations with the European Union, British Prime Minister David Cameron announces that he plans to renegotiate UK’s membership with the European Union and organize a referendum for British citizens to decide whether the UK should stay or leave the EU. The referendum would take place after the next general election by the end of 2017 considering that the conservatives are elected back to power. His speech is welcomed by Eurosceptics within his Conservative Party and the Independence Party. It is, however, criticized by the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party. Issues that Cameron would like to renegotiate include legal rights, criminal justice, and social employment.
January 26 — Europe: CZECH REPUBLIC
Former Czech Prime Minister Milos Seman narrowly wins the country’s presidential election, defeating Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. Both candidates expressed their support for deeper integration of the Czech Republic with the European Union. Zeman replaces the Eurosceptic President Vaclav Klaus, who has concluded his second term in office.
January 28 — Africa: EGYPT
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi declares a state of emergency in Port Said, Suez and Ismalia as a result of several days of violent anti-government protests, which left more than 50 people dead. President Morsi invites the opposition for national unity talks, but the opposition declines, saying he would have to first appoint a national unity government and promise to amend the controversial constitution, which does not represent all Egyptians. (January 29): Egyptian General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi warns that recent discord is pushing the country to the brink of collapse.
January 31 — Africa / Europe / International Organizations:
MALI / FRANCE / UNITED NATIONS
After three weeks of targeted air strikes in northern Mali, French troops regain the territory from Islamist militants who took control of the area in April last year. The intervention was backed unanimously by the United Nations Security Council and accepted by Malian Interim President Dioncounda Traore. Several thousands of African troops, mostly from Chad and Niger, are taking over from the French troops.