| (01 Dec 2013)
The Central African Republic is now on the brink of collapse. Violence pitting ex-Seleka rebel fighters against civilians and self-defence groups is on the rise and assuming an ever more intercommunal and religious dimension. The national authorities are powerless to tackle growing insecurity as reports of massacres emerge. France has begun deploying troops, but as the country slips further into chaos, the risk of much larger-scale violence and spillover to neighbouring countries, Cameroon in particular, is growing (See our commentary and letter to UNSC).
In Lebanon a suicide bomb attack on the Iranian embassy claimed by the al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigade, aimed at forcing “Iran’s Hizbollah [to] withdraw from Syria”, left 26 people killed and scores injured. Attacks against Alawites continued to multiply in Tripoli, including an incident in which Sunni militiamen beat and shot passengers riding on a bus transporting Alawite workers. Sectarian tensions were further inflamed after Internal Security Forces issued a search warrant for Alawite Arab Democratic Party (ADP) members, including General Secretary Ali Eid, charged with aiding a suspect in the August Tripoli bombings. Intensifying fighting in Syria’s Qalamoun region threatened to deepen the war’s spillover into Lebanon, forcing over 10,000 Syrian refugees to cross the border (See our recent report on the impact of the Syria confict on Lebanon's stability).
Violence between Huthis and various adversaries intensified in Yemen’s northern provinces, leaving over a hundred dead in the first half of November. Fighting was concentrated around the Dammaj Salafi religious institute in the Zaydi heartland, which Salafis claim fell victim to an unprovoked Huthi attack. Huthis claim self-defence, particularly against an influx of foreign fighters. Despite mediation efforts, an enduring ceasefire has proven elusive. In an ominous sign that fighting may continue or spread, a Huthi-affiliated MP participating in the National Dialogue was assassinated in Sanaa on 22 November. Days later, Southern Conference leader Mohammed Ali Ahmed withdrew from the talks. Though the dialogue is drawing to a close there has as yet been no agreement on the structure of the state, nor on the specifics of implementing dialogue outcomes and moving forward with a transition beyond February 2014 (See our recent report and commentary on the question of Southern secession).
Tension escalated between China and Japan after China announced it was creating an “East China Sea Air Defence Identification Zone” containing the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, and said it would take defensive measures against aircraft not complying with Chinese flight regulations. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described it as a “dangerous” move, while the U.S. called it “destabilising” and South Korea also protested. On 28 November China sent military aircraft to patrol the area after Japan, South Korea and the U.S. all flew military aircraft through the area without informing China. The U.S. advised its civilian airlines to observe China's air defence zone while asserting this would not indicate its acceptance, while Japan told its commercial flights to disregard China's new rules (See our latest report on tensions over the East China Sea).
In Thailand, a controversial amnesty bill that would have allowed exiled former PM Thaksin Shinawatra to return to Thailand ignited a wave of protests that swelled into a movement to unseat Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai Party-led government. Suthep Thaugsuban, a former member of the opposition Democrat Party, is leading the largest protests in Bangkok since 2010 in an attempt to end the “Thaksin regime” and demanding formation of a “People’s Council” to govern. Protesters have occupied ministries and government buildings. The government invoked the Internal Security Act in Bangkok and neighbouring provinces, while insisting that its security forces would exercise maximum restraint. At least two people were killed and dozens injured in protest-related violence on 30 November. On 1 December, police fired tear gas at protesters attempting to breach security barriers at Government House while the PM was forced to flee a police complex which came under siege.
Bangladesh’s political crisis deepened as the opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) continued to reject what it calls a “one-sided election” and refused to join an “all-party” interim cabinet established to supervise forthcoming polls, in protest at an earlier constitutional amendment by the government to remove the requirement that a caretaker government be installed to govern during election season. Clashes between supporters of the BNP and the ruling Awami League and security forces claimed further lives during the month as the BNP escalated its street protests and shutdowns in an attempt to increase its leverage.
After nearly a decade of deadlock, Iran and the P5+1 group of countries reached an historic interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear program on 24 November (see our statement). The agreement defines a “peaceful Iranian nuclear program” as the two sides’ common objective. It begins with details of confidence-building measures which suspend the most troublesome aspects of Iran’s nuclear program in return for some targeted and reversible sanctions relief, and outlines the main elements of the final step that will include the normalisation of Iran’s nuclear dossier and removal of all nuclear-related sanctions. Momentous challenges remain, particularly in negotiating a comprehensive agreement in the next six months, as major differences remain and the deal faces considerable opposition, led principally by Israel and Saudi Arabia (See our latest report and recent commentary in French).
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s central government, supported by UN peacekeeping forces, deployed state services to the eastern provinces following last month’s defeat of the M23 rebellion. Efforts focused on restoring a measure of state authority to the insecurity-wracked region, while steps towards tackling longstanding impunity were made as soldiers accused of mass rape in Minova in 2012 were put on trial. UN and Congolese officials now plan to turn their efforts towards neutralising the FDLR.
December 2013 TRENDS*
Bangladesh, Central African Republic, China/Japan, Lebanon, Thailand, Yemen
DR Congo, Iran
Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bolivia, Bosnia, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, India (non-Kashmir), Indonesia, Iraq, Israel-Palestine, Kashmir, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korean Peninsula, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan), Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, North Caucasus (Russia), Pakistan, Philippines, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Western Sahara, Zimbabwe
December 2013 OUTLOOK
Conflict Risk Alert
Conflict Resolution Opportunity
*NOTE: CrisisWatch trends are intended to reflect changes within countries or situations from month to month, not comparisons between countries. For example, no "conflict risk alert" is given for a country where violence has been occurring and is expected to continue in the coming month: such an indicator is given only where new or significantly escalated violence is feared.