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CrisisWatch 2018 April Trends & May Alerts
CrisisWatch 2018 April Trends & May Alerts
CrisisWatch 2019: November Trends & December Alerts
CrisisWatch 2019: November Trends & December 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.

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Contributors

Director of Research
iarradon
former Research Manager
BranczikAmelia
Senior Research Analyst
neddalby
Commentary

CrisisWatch 2019: November Trends & December Alerts

The latest edition of Crisis Group's monthly conflict tracker highlights dangers of escalating conflict in Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau and Iraq, and a resolution opportunity in Bolivia.

In November, security forces in both Iraq and Iran brutally suppressed mass protests, with over 100 killed in both places; Iraq’s political instability could lead to more violence in coming weeks. In Syria, fighting escalated between Russian-backed government forces and rebels in the north west, and the standoff between Algeria’s authorities and protesters intensified as demonstrators turned up their calls to cancel December’s presidential polls. Violence against civilians surged in DR Congo’s east and Guinea-Bissau’s run-off elections in a few weeks’ time could spark unrest. In Burkina Faso and Mali, jihadists inflicted heavy losses on security forces and civilians, while in Tajikistan suspected ISIS militants reportedly attacked a border post in the south. In Asia, the victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka’s presidential polls sparked fears of ethnic polarisation and repression. Political confrontation heightened in Somaliland, Somalia’s Galmudug state, Georgia and Nicaragua; and Bolivia’s crisis worsened, with security forces cracking down on protesters. Tensions rose on the Korean peninsula after an apparent resumption of North Korean missile launches. On a positive note, Bosnia named a prime minister after a thirteen-months hiatus. Chad’s government and a community defence group in the north signed a peace deal, and Yemen’s government entered a power-sharing agreement with separatists to end hostilities in the south.

Trends and Outlook

In the Middle East and North Africa, Iraqi security forces continued to brutally suppress protests against the ruling elite leaving over 100 dead, and Prime Minister Mahdi resigned; the political vacuum could lead to greater unrest in December. In Iran, a violent crackdown on protests sparked by a rise in fuel prices led to the deaths of at least 161 civilians, and the government further breached the 2015 nuclear deal. In Syria, fighting intensified in the north west as Russian-backed government forces ramped up their offensive in the last remaining rebel stronghold. In Algeria, the standoff between protesters and security forces intensified as demonstrators called on the government to cancel the presidential election planned for 12 December. In Yemenin an unexpected turn of events, the government and southern separatists signed an agreement to end hostilities in the south, and Saudi Arabia scaled back its airstrikes in Huthi-controlled areas in the north.

In Africa, suspected jihadist attacks against civilians, officials and security forces rose markedly in Burkina Faso, and President Kaboré’s call for volunteers to help counter the jihadist threat could lead to greater violence in December. In Mali, jihadists continued to inflict heavy losses on the military fuelling further protests against the government and foreign forces, while intercommunal violence persisted in the centre. Tensions rose between Somalia’s federal government and a local militia in Galmudug federal member state ahead of local elections, and between Somaliland’s government and opposition party Waddani over delayed polls, while Al-Shabaab, for the first time, briefly captured a village in Somaliland. In DR Congo, the military ramped up its offensive in the east against armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which in response killed about 100 civilians. In Guinea-Bissau, violence could escalate around the second round of presidential elections between former Prime Ministers Domingos Simões Pereira and Umaro Sissoco Embaló, scheduled for 29 December. In Chad, the government and a community self-defence militia in the north signed a peace agreement ending a year-long conflict.

In Asia, the decisive victory of polarising wartime figure Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka’s presidential elections, along with his appointment of controversial figures associated with the atrocities during the civil war, prompted fears over a rise in political repression and ethnic tensions, and an end of reconciliation and transitional justice efforts. Tensions increased in the Korean peninsula, with another round of what Japan said appeared to be North Korea missile launches in late November.

In Latin America, the political crisis engulfing Bolivia following controversial general elections in October worsened; 29 people are reported to have been killed since the polls as security forces cracked down on protesters supporting former President Morales. An agreement between the interim government and Morales supporters late month offered hopes for de-escalation. In Nicaragua, the government intensified threats and attacks on political opponents and churches, despite mounting international pressure.

In Europe and Central Asia, thousands of people joined protests across Georgia after the parliament failed to adopt promised legislation for a new electoral system that would allow the opposition to gain more parliamentary seats during elections scheduled for late 2020, and clashed with the police and government supporters. In Tajikistan, authorities reported that twenty alleged ISIS-linked militants attacked a Tajik border post in the south near the border with Uzbekistan, with security personnel and militants killed in a subsequent clash. Thirteen months after Bosnia’s October 2018 elections, members of the country’s tripartite presidency agreed on a new prime minister, paving the way for a new government.

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Contributors

Director of Research
iarradon
Senior Research Analyst
neddalby