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CrisisWatch 2018 April Trends & May Alerts
CrisisWatch 2018 April Trends & May Alerts
CrisisWatch 2018 June Trends & July Alerts
CrisisWatch 2018 June Trends & July Alerts
Commentary

CrisisWatch 2018 April Trends & May Alerts

The latest edition of Crisis Group's monthly conflict tracker highlights dangers of escalating conflict in Israel/Palestine, Burundi, Central African Republic and Yemen. CrisisWatch also notes improved situations in Ethiopia, China/Japan and the Korean peninsula.

April saw the conflict in Yemen intensify, with both the Saudi-led coalition and Huthi forces increasing attacks – fuelling risks of further escalation in May. At the Gaza-Israel border, Israeli forces continued to push back Palestinian protesters with deadly force; with larger protests expected in May, casualties could rise. Eastern Libya's strongman fell ill, prompting fears of further political and military splits. In Afghanistan, the Taliban stepped up attacks, while Kashmir saw deadly clashes and protests. Dozens were killed amid anti-government protests in Nicaragua. In Nigeria, rising violence – especially between herders and farmers – left nearly 500 dead. Burundi could see more political violence around its 17 May constitutional referendum, and a flare-up in attacks by armed groups in the Central African Republic could provoke worse bloodshed in coming weeks. The United Arab Emirates’ withdrawal from Somalia led to clashes between army factions there. On a positive note, Ethiopia’s new prime minister took steps to mitigate ethnic tensions. In North East Asia, tensions escalated across the Taiwan Strait, while China-Japan relations continued to improve, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon pledged to seek “complete denuclearisation” of the peninsula.

Yemen’s war saw an uptick in violence: the Saudi-led coalition intensified its airstrike campaign, killing at least 66 civilians, and in turn Huthi forces increased missile attacks on Saudi targets. The escalation – which could continue in May – risks derailing efforts to restart peace talks, further regionalising the conflict and aggravating the already dire humanitarian crisis. To curb this worrying trend, diplomatic efforts should be aimed at preventing a coalition attack on Huthi-held Hodeidah, a strategic port city on the Red Sea coast.

As we warned, violence increased at the Gaza-Israel border, where Israeli forces suppressed weekly Palestinian protests with deadly force, raising the total number of Palestinians killed since the protests began on 30 March to at least 42. May could be worse, as the largest protests are expected on 15 May when Palestinians mourn the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from Israel during the 1948 war, a day after the U.S. plans to open its embassy in Jerusalem. In Libya, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s two-week stay in a Paris hospital prompted fears that the search for a successor will fragment his military coalition in the east and see the political camps in the east or west use force to break the current stalemate.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban stepped up its efforts to capture district centres and move closer to the provincial capitals of Ghazni and Sar-e Pul as it announced the start of its spring offensive. Islamic State-Khorasan Province also continued to attack urban centres across the country, including an attack on a voter registration centre in Kabul on 22 April killing around 60 people, amid growing fears over security around elections later this year. Clashes between alleged separatist militants and security forces south of Kashmir’s Srinagar on 1 April left thirteen alleged militants and three Indian soldiers dead. At least three civilians were killed later the same day as police fired on stone-throwing demonstrators protesting the killings.

In Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, two attempts by the army and UN peacekeepers to arrest the leader of one of the city’s armed groups failed and left 32 dead, including one peacekeeper. After armed men attacked a church on 1 May killing fifteen worshippers and a priest, many fear intercommunal violence could again flare in the city and trigger more fighting in the provinces. In Nigeria, Boko Haram kept up attacks, while herder-farmer violence and deadly banditry continued to spiral, leaving some 500 dead.

Political violence could rise around Burundi’s 17 May referendum on constitutional changes, which if adopted would allow President Nkurunziza to run in presidential elections until 2034. The regime, including the ruling party’s youth wing, the Imbonerakure, have been carrying out a campaign of intimidation against anyone who has opposed the referendum, or campaigned for a No vote.

A breakdown in relations between Somalia’s federal government and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), partly driven by the UAE’s deepening cooperation with Somaliland and Puntland regions, over which the federal government claims sovereignty, led to the UAE ending its military training program. After the Emiratis pulled out, rival Somali army factions clashed at the training centre over weapons. Good news from neighbouring Ethiopia, however, as the new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took steps to calm tensions between ethnic Somalis and Oromos and relax restrictions on civil liberties.

Dozens of people were reported killed in Nicaragua as mass anti-government protests clashed with security forces. Sparked by social security reforms, the protests vented a deeper fury with President Ortega’s authoritarian rule.

In North East Asia, China held its first ever live-fire exercises in the Taiwan Strait, intended as a warning against Taiwanese who advocate independence. There were further signs of improving China-Japan relations ahead of a planned visit to Japan by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang for a trilateral summit in May. And the month saw an historic summit between the leaders of North and South Korea who pledged to seek “complete denuclearisation” of the peninsula. As we note in our commentary, this could lead to transformative shifts in inter-Korean relations, and sets the stage for upcoming multilateral dialogue, making the meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Trump more likely.

Go to CrisisWatch

Contributors

Director of Research & Special Adviser on Gender
iarradon
Research Manager
BranczikAmelia
Senior Research Analyst
neddalby
Commentary

CrisisWatch 2018 June Trends & July Alerts

The latest edition of Crisis Group’s monthly conflict tracker highlights dangers of escalating conflict in Yemen, Syria and Somaliland. CrisisWatch also notes improved relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea, South Sudan’s leaders, Macedonia and Greece, as well as diplomatic engagement between North Korea and the U.S.

In June, Yemeni forces backed by the United Arab Emirates accelerated their offensive to take the Huthi-held city of Hodeida. A fleeting opportunity exists to find a mediated settlement and avoid prolonged urban warfare. In Syria, pro-government forces intensified efforts to retake territory in the south west, risking worse violence in July, while in Libya, new fighting over oil facilities aggravated tensions. The conflict between Somalia’s Puntland and Somaliland spread, and looks set to escalate; attacks linked to Nigeria’s farmer-herder conflict left over 200 dead; and radical Islamists in Mozambique stepped up attacks. The month saw heightened political rivalry in Tunisia, and election-related violence in Zimbabwe and Papua New Guinea. High-level engagement between North Korea and the U.S. paved the way for a diplomatic process, and Macedonia and Greece reached an agreement on their name dispute. Opportunities to advance peace opened up in Africa with Ethiopia and Eritrea taking tentative steps to address their border dispute, and South Sudan’s warring leaders signing an initial framework agreement.

In Yemen, forces backed by the United Arab Emirates stepped up their offensive to take the port city of Hodeida from Huthi rebels, pushing up to the city’s southern suburbs. As we explained, mediation efforts led by UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths toward a solution that safeguards all sides’ vital interests could – with strong international pressure on the warring parties – produce a settlement for the city, and serve as a basis for talks on a way out of the wider conflict. But if the belligerents continue to reject his proposals, a battle for Hodeida – home to 600,000 – would likely have devastating humanitarian consequences.

In Syria, pro-government forces – backed by Russian air power – ramped up their campaign to retake territory toward the Jordanian border, raising the risk of further escalation in July. Fighting again rocked Libya’s oil industry. Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s east-based Libyan National Army was forced to cede and then retook oil export terminals at Sidra and Ras Lanuf. Its announcement that oil sales from areas under its control would go through the east-based National Oil Corporation, unrecognised internationally, further aggravated political tensions and risks deepening the country’s economic woes.

A feud between Tunisia’s prime minister, Youssef Chahed, and President Essebsi intensified, with Chahed firing the interior minister, Essebsi’s ally. Ahead of the 2019 presidential election, the rivalry is polarising the political field and could hamper much needed legislative reform.

Fighting between Somaliland and Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region over contested territory spread from Tukaraq – where both sides continued to beef up their positions – to Las Anod, capital of the disputed Sool area. Incendiary rhetoric from both sides bodes ill. To stave off war, the UN – backed by Somalia and Ethiopia – should renew its mediation to broker a ceasefire, ensure both sides commit to withdraw troops, allow in humanitarian aid and launch talks aimed at a long-term settlement.

In Mozambique’s neglected and predominantly Muslim far north, Islamist militants, active since October, stepped up the rate of attacks, raiding some seven villages and killing at least 39 people. Ahead of Zimbabwe’s elections in July, an explosion at a rally for President Mnangagwa killed two and raised concerns for security around the vote. In Nigeria, attacks linked to the conflict between herding and farming communities took a yet more horrifying toll; over 200 are thought to have been killed in attacks and reprisals over five days in Plateau state.

Violence erupted in Papua New Guinea’s Southern Highlands province as protesters, angry about a failed court challenge to the 2017 provincial election result, set fire to an aeroplane and official buildings in the provincial capital, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency and deploy troops.

A historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump on 12 June produced a vague statement including a reaffirmation by Pyongyang of its commitment to work toward “complete denuclearization” of the peninsula. As Crisis Group wrote, the summit represented a shift from a confrontational track to a diplomatic one, but needs to be followed by the hard work of hammering out a path toward denuclearisation. Later in the month, U.S. officials were quoted saying that Pyongyang has been stepping up production of enriched uranium at secret sites.

Macedonia and Greece signed a historic agreement resolving their decades-long dispute over Macedonia’s official name, now to be the Republic of North Macedonia. The deal, which still needs to be ratified in the face of opposition in both countries, unblocks Greek opposition to Macedonia joining the European Union and NATO.

Relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea, hostile since the 1998-2000 border war, began to thaw. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy’s pledge to cede contested territory and initial talks opened the door to greater neighbourliness and regional stability. In another boon for the region, South Sudan’s warring leaders, President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar, signed an initial framework agreement to enact a ceasefire, work toward a new transitional government and, with Sudan, secure the oil fields. We welcomed this best, and only, hope for a breakthrough and urged other African leaders to lend it cautious support.

Go to CrisisWatch.

Contributors

Director of Research & Special Adviser on Gender
iarradon
Research Manager
BranczikAmelia
Senior Research Analyst
neddalby