CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.
Bosnia And Herzegovina
Central African Republic
CrisisWatch warns of three conflict risks in August.
Our monthly conflict tracker highlights deteriorations in thirteen countries in July.
We also noted two improvements. In the Central African Republic, the government took steps to organise a long-delayed political dialogue with the opposition and civil society. In Côte d’Ivoire, President Ouattara met with former President Gbagbo in a strong symbolic step toward national reconciliation.
Aside from the 70+ conflict situations we regularly assess, we tracked notable developments in: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Cuba, Eswatini, Guatemala, Indonesia, Morocco, Papua New Guinea, and U.S.-Russia.
Thousands protested across country to denounce insecurity as jihadist attacks persisted in several regions. Amid mounting pressure following Solhan massacre which left over 160 dead in early June, President Kaboré 1 July sacked defence and security ministers, assuming defence portfolio himself. Thousands 3-4 July protested in capital Ouagadougou and other cities across country against insecurity and to demand govt action. Meanwhile, violence persisted albeit at lower intensity in Sahel region. In Soum province, IED allegedly planted by jihadists 5 July killed two women and one child on Liki-Arbinda axis (Arbinda department). In Oudalan province, suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants 5 July killed three people in Tin-Zalayanane village (Tin-Akof department). Al-Qaeda-affiliated Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM) maintained attacks in North region, particularly Loroum province, notably killing four people and abducting two volunteers fighting alongside security forces (VDPs) in Nogo village (Titao department) 7 July; security forces and VDPs 13 July clashed with JNIM in Titao department, leaving two members of security forces and three VDPs wounded, and five VDPs missing. In Centre-North region, Sanmatenga province witnessed most violent incidents, including suspected JNIM attack on Niha-Mossi village (Pensa department) 10 July, which killed at least ten including seven VDPs. In East region, presumed JNIM militants 3 and 5 July killed three civilians and one VDP in Fada N’Gourma department, Gourma province. Military 26 July said troops had killed dozens of suspected jihadists in counter-insurgency operation in Kompienga province 19-25 July. Meanwhile, French Council of State 30 July cleared extradition of François Compaoré, brother of former President Blaise Compaoré, to Burkina Faso, where he is wanted in connection with 1998 murder of journalist Norbert Zongo; François Compaoré’s lawyers same day said he had appealed to European Court of Human Rights.
Govt continued to mend ties with neighbours; clampdown on opposition persisted. Following arrest of at least six members of main opposition party National Congress for Freedom (CNL) for alleged role in June deadly ambush in Muramvya province, CNL 3 July criticised “disguised way to harass [opposition] and thereby further lock down political space”. CNL 13 July said its leader in Mutimbuzi commune, Bujumbura Rural province, had gone missing 9 July after boarding army vehicle, called for investigation and decried “arbitrary arrests” of party members. Meanwhile, govt officially engaged in regional security cooperation, notably hosting meeting of heads of intelligence and security from DR Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda 5-6 July; officials adopted two-year plan of action for Contact Group set to implement non-military measures to complement military efforts against armed actors in region from early Aug. During President Ndayishimiye’s visit to neighbouring DRC, Gitega and Kinshasa 13 July announced bilateral cooperation against armed groups in eastern DRC; agreement likely to lead to joint operations against Burundian armed groups in South Kivu province. Amid rapprochement with Rwanda, Rwanda’s PM Edouard Ngirente 1 July attended Burundi’s independence celebration; Gitega 4 July however did not attend Rwanda’s Liberation Day festivities, which marks end of genocide against ethnic Tutsis. Burundian FM Albert Shingiro 12 July said Kigali’s refusal to hand over those allegedly involved in 2015 failed coup against former President Nkurunziza remains final obstacle in rapprochement; Ndayishimiye 17 July expressed hope that solution is close. Kigali 30 July handed over to Gitega 19 RED-Tabara rebels captured in late 2020.
Violent clashes continued in Anglophone regions between govt forces and separatists fighting for independent Southern Cameroon state; jihadists attacked govt positions in Far North. In North West region, separatists 1 and 7 July used IEDs to ambush army patrols in Mezam and Boyo divisions respectively; 7 July attacked Njavnuy checkpoint, Bui division, killing one policeman; 18 July killed five policemen after detonating IED in Mezam division; 24 July ambushed army patrol in double IED explosion in Mezam, death toll unknown. Govt forces 6 July killed two separatists in regional capital Bamenda, and 16 July clashed with separatists in Ngo-Ketunjia division, reportedly killing at least 15. In South West region, separatists 7 July kidnapped two policemen in Kumba city, Meme division; armed forces 18 July said they had killed separatist leader “General Rambo” in Kumba. In neighbouring Francophone West region, suspected separatists 14 July killed two soldiers in Babadjou town. Govt forces 24 July killed two women in Pinyin, Bamenda town. Nigerian President Buhari 13 July pledged support for Cameroonian institutions, said Cameroon’s stability was in Nigeria’s interest; move comes after Anglophone and Biafran separatist groups in April announced alliance. During visit of President Biya to Geneva city, Switzerland, where he was reportedly receiving medical treatment, over 100 protesters 17 July attempted to break police barricade at his hotel; incident raised tensions in Cameroon where govt supporters accused opposition leader Maurice Kamto’s ethnic group of harassing Biya. In Far North, jihadists stepped up attacks against govt forces. In Mayo-Sava division, Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) 4, 12 and 14 July attacked military posts in Kolofata area. Govt forces 9 July killed two ISWAP militants in Fotokol town, Logone-et-Chari division, and two Boko Haram (BH) combatants in regional capital Maroua. BH militants 24 July attacked Sagme village, Logone-et-Chari division at border with Nigeria, killing eight soldiers, while armed forces reportedly killed 20 militants. Jihadist militants 26 July killed five soldiers and one civilian in raid on military outpost in Zigue village, Logone-et-Chari division; in response, armed forces killed 17 assailants. At least 60 BH militants 18 and 25 July surrendered in Kolofata town.
Govt took steps to organise long-delayed political dialogue with opposition and civil society; govt forces along with foreign allies continued to clash with rebels. After opposition 5 July criticised as biased committee which President Touadéra appointed late June to set up and run political dialogue, govt 9 July held talks with opposition and civil society representatives to reach compromise; main opposition coalition COD-2020 24 July said it would take part in dialogue, after govt agreed committee would no longer be placed under Touadéra’s direct authority, raised number of political parties’ representatives from one to four, and broadened choice of experts who can provide support. Long-delayed Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission, recommended in 2015 Bangui Forum and 2019 Khartoum peace deal, set up 2 July with swearing-in of all 11 commissioners. Meanwhile, army along with Russian security personnel pursued military offensive against rebel Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), who continued to harass govt forces and civilians mainly in areas left by Russian security personnel in recent months. Notably, CPC rebel groups reportedly killed three soldiers in Besson town, Nana-Mambéré prefecture 9 July, one civilian in Bédamara village, Ouham-Pendé prefecture 18 July, and another two in Naziboro village, Nana-Mambéré prefecture 20 July; CPC member 3R 26 July killed at least four Russian security personnel and two govt troops in Ndongué Douane village, Nana-Mambéré prefecture, and 31 July killed at least six civilians in Mann village, Ouham-Pendé prefecture. CPC also staged further ambushes along main roads, mainly in Ouham-Pendé and Lim-Pendé prefectures, notably killing three civilians in Ouham-Pendé prefecture first week of July. Unidentified assailants 21 July killed 13 civilians in Bongboto area, Ouham prefecture; govt immediately blamed CPC, which denied responsibility; UN peacekeeping force (MINUSCA) next day called for investigation amid persistent reports of abuses against civilians by all sides in conflict. Rebel group Union for Peace in Central Africa (UPC), which withdrew from CPC in April, 17 July offered to “definitively lay down arms” in exchange for concessions from govt, including two ministerial portfolios. UN Security Council 29 July renewed sanctions regime until 31 July 2022.
Tensions ran high with African Union (AU) over appointment of High Representative for Chad; govt took steps toward organising national dialogue. Following June appointment of former Senegalese FM Ibrahima Fall as AU high representative to support Chadian transition, senior govt official in French media outlet RFI 1 July ruled out collaboration, said Chad was “not under AU tutelage”. High-level AU delegation 7-9 July visited capital N’Djamena, met with Transitional Military Council (CMT) head Mahamat Idriss Déby and FM Cherif Mahamat Zene in attempt to resolve dispute. AU 23 July appointed its head of Liaison Office in Chad, former Congolese FM Basile Ikouébé, as new high representative. Déby 5 July met French President Macron in first official visit to France; Macron reiterated support for transition. Meanwhile, presidential decree 2 July established Organising Committee of National Dialogue (CODNI) comprising 71 members including civil society and religious organisations’ representatives; opposition and civil society platform Wakit Tama 8 July said process not inclusive, while prominent opposition figure Yaya Dillo 16 July decried CODNI as biased in favour of ruling party. Newly authorised opposition party Les Transformateurs 4 July held public gathering in N’Djamena. After transition authorities 12 July authorised for first time march of Wakit Tama (which includes Les Transformateurs), hundreds 29 July protested in N’Djamena against CMT rule and French influence.
President Ouattara met with former President Gbagbo in strong symbolic step toward national reconciliation. Following Gbagbo’s return from ten-year exile in June, Ouattara and Gbagbo 27 July met in economic capital Abidjan for first time since 2010-2011 post-electoral violence that left over 3,000 dead; Ouattara, who has aimed to ease political tensions following his controversial re-election in 2020, said crisis was “behind” and called for “peace”; Gbagbo said he had urged Ouattara to continue reconciliation efforts by freeing his followers imprisoned since 2010-2011 violence. Earlier in month, prospects for reconciliation appeared to falter. Gbagbo 11 July visited former political rival, former President Bédié, in his hometown of Daoukro (centre) in “act of reconciliation and acknowledgment”, said Ouattara’s third term was unconstitutional; Bédié said meeting was “historic turning point” and called on govt to initiate “true national reconciliation project”. National Assembly Deputy Speaker and ruling party Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace Executive Secretary Adama Bictogo next day dismissed Bédié’s call, saying Côte d’Ivoire was “not in need of any national dialogue”, and decried Bédié and Gbagbo’s rapprochement as “deceitful alliance of two men of the past”.
Controversial nationality bill threatened to break up President Tshisekedi’s Sacred Union coalition; meanwhile, armed violence continued unabated in east. Tshisekedi 3 July signed law on organisation and functioning of Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) ahead of 2023 presidential election; two-thirds of members to come from political parties, same as previous CENI, despite calls from opposition and religious leaders for CENI to be composed mainly of civil society and electoral experts. Tshisekedi’s Sacred Union coalition MP Nsingi Pululu 8 July introduced controversial nationality bill seeking to prohibit anyone born to a non-Congolese parent from accessing presidency and other sovereign functions. Bill drew widespread domestic and international criticism. Notably, Moïse Katumbi’s party Ensemble pour la République next day criticised law for seeking to exclude Katumbi, whose father is Greek, from presidential election and threatened to leave Sacred Union coalition if bill passed; Archbishop of Kinshasa 11 July denounced bill as “instrument of exclusion and division”. Meanwhile, in address to UN Security Council, head of UN mission 7 July warned of “potentially dangerous consequences of a divisive debate on nationality” ahead of next year’s election. Amid ongoing and increasingly sophisticated violence in east, MPs 16 July approved fourth extension of state of siege. UN refugee agency same day said Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) had launched series of attacks in and around North Kivu’s Beni city since 22 June, killing at least 14 and displacing 20,000; fresh ADF attacks 16, 19, 22 and 27-28 July reportedly left at least 29 civilians dead in Beni territory; armed forces 30 July reportedly clashed with ADF in Kilya locality leaving four ADF, one civilian and one soldier dead. In neighbouring Ituri province, armed violence notably by ADF continued, at times turning into interethnic settling of scores in Irumu territory: mob 1 July killed nine Banyabwisha community members suspected of ADF connections in Komanda locality; ADF 10 July killed seven and kidnapped 30 civilians in Monge village; and armed forces 26 July clashed with ADF in Boga and Tchabi villages, reportedly leaving 15 ADF and seven soldiers dead.
Govt continued to face international pressure to withdraw its forces from Ethiopia’s Tigray region. As violence in Tigray started to spread to other Ethiopian regional states (see Ethiopia), UN Human Rights Council 13 July passed resolution calling for “swift and verifiable withdrawal of Eritrean troops” from Tigray; govt previous day had called on council to reject resolution, denouncing “unjust and unfair treatment [of Eritrea] by some western countries”. Meanwhile, allegations of rights violations against Eritrean refugees in Tigray mounted throughout month. Notably, UN refugee agency 13 July said it had received credible reports of “reprisal attacks, abductions, arrests and violence” meted out against Eritrean refugees there, with “hundreds” reportedly arrested in Tigray’s Shire town in previous weeks; 27 July said armed elements operating in and around refugee camps had killed at least two Eritrean refugees in Tigray’s Mai Tsebri area since 14 July. Tigrayan forces mid-month also allegedly abducted over a dozen Eritrean refugees in Tigray’s Adi Harush camp; Tigray leaders 22 July denied targeting Eritrean refugees. Some 300 Eritrean refugees 29 July demonstrated outside UN refugee agency office in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa demanding protection for fellow Eritrean refugees stuck in Tigray camps.
Tensions remained high in wake of anti-monarchy protests. After authorities late June quashed days of protests against King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch, UN Human Rights Office 6 July urged authorities to “fully adhere to human rights principles in restoring calm”; Local NGO reports late July said violence had left over 70 dead and 150 injured since late June. Southern Africa’s regional bloc SADC 15-22 July deployed fact-finding mission to country; delegation met with civil society and church groups but not with main opposition force PUDEMO. King Mswati III 16 July appointed Cleopas Dlamini as new PM following death of predecessor Ambrose Dlamini in Dec 2020, called protests “satanic” in his first public address since June. Police same day fired tear gas and water cannon at anti-monarchy protesters who had gathered in Manzini city to denounce PM’s appointment, reportedly leaving eight injured; right to democratically elect PM has been a core demand of protest movement. Authorities 24-25 July arrested pro-democracy legislators Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube on terrorism-related charges.
Tigrayan forces advanced into neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions as federal and regional state govts took steps to reinforce their military capacity, making greater instability countrywide likely in coming weeks. After capturing Tigray’s capital Mekelle from federal troops in June, Tigrayan forces 4 July set conditions for ceasefire negotiations with federal govt, including withdrawal of Eritrean troops and Amhara regional forces from Tigray, independent UN probe into alleged war crimes, and “procedures” for holding PM Abiy and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki accountable for their actions in Tigray. Tigrayan forces 12 July launched southward and westward offensives with apparent view to driving ethnic Amhara forces off disputed territory, reportedly seizing Korem and Alamata towns 12-13 July; Abiy 14 July vowed to repel Tigrayan “enemies”, effectively tearing up unilateral ceasefire declared by federal govt late June; most of country’s ten regional states in following days said they would send reinforcements. Tigrayan forces 17-19 July clashed with Afar regional forces and militias in Afar regional state, leaving at least 20 civilians killed and some 54,000 displaced; 25 July said they had seized Adi Arkay town in Amhara regional state, which latter denied; Afar and Amhara regional govts 23 and 25 July called on civilians to take up arms. Tigrayan forces mid-month allegedly abducted over a dozen Eritrean refugees in Tigray’s Adi Harush camp; Tigray leaders 22 July denied targeting Eritrean refugees. Federal authorities 30 June-2 July reportedly arrested at least 11 journalists, 15-21 July temporarily suspended license of Ethiopian magazine Addis Standard for allegedly advancing Tigray leaders’ agenda; police throughout month reportedly arbitrarily detained hundreds of ethnic Tigrayans and closed Tigrayan-owned businesses across country. Elsewhere, tensions between Afar and Somali regional states in east resumed: Somali region 27 July accused militia from neighbouring Afar region of killing hundreds of civilians in contested border area 24 July. Meanwhile, electoral commission 10 July said ruling Prosperity Party had won 410 of 436 seats in federal parliament in June elections. Tensions remained high between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt as Addis Ababa completed second filling of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (see Nile Waters).
Authorities faced pressure to continue releasing political prisoners, and opposition remained divided. After authorities in past two months released dozens of individuals arrested around Oct 2020 presidential election, National Assembly Speaker Amadou Damaro Camara 5 July exhorted President Condé to grant more presidential pardons; NGO Amnesty International 8 July welcomed recent release of 40 individuals who had been detained in election period, said 57 others including four prominent leaders of main opposition party Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG) remained incarcerated; all four granted parole 16 July. UFDG leadership 10 July announced resumption of anti-Condé demonstrations in Aug; party remains divided over strategy toward Condé, with several incarcerated leaders in favour of conciliatory approach while remaining segment of party’s leadership, including its President Cellou Dalein Diallo, maintains anti-dialogue stance.
Intercommunal violence flared up in north and by-election loss dealt new blow to President Kenyatta ahead of 2022 general elections. Competition ahead of 2022 governorship poll fuelled intercommunal violence in Marsabit county in north; notably, clashes between ethnic Gabra and ethnic Borana 12-18 July left five dead. National Cohesion and Integration Commission 12 July called for “ceasefire”, said it would convene peace dialogue to ease tensions between communities, while Kenyatta 15 July called on local leaders to use their influence to foster peace and reconciliation. In new blow to Kenyatta ahead of 2022 elections, ruling Jubilee Party 15 July lost parliamentary by-election in Kenyatta’s home county of Kiambu to candidate aligned with Deputy President William Ruto, who has long been locked in power struggle with Kenyatta. Electoral commission 23 July concluded interviews for four commissioner positions left vacant since 2018.
Interim President Goïta survived apparent assassination attempt, while security situation remained fragile in north and centre. Armed individual 20 July reportedly attempted to stab Goïta in capital Bamako; authorities 21 July said they had opened probe into attack, 25 July said main suspect had died in custody; National Commission for Human Rights 26 July called for investigation into his death. Meanwhile, PM Choguel Maïga 8 July said govt would establish single election body ahead of presidential and legislative elections scheduled for Feb 2022; opposition politician Amadou Diallo and others immediately voiced concern that junta may use reform as pretext to prolong transition. Maïga 30 July presented interim govt’s action plan, said he was mindful of “fixed timeline for the transition”. Main signatories of 2015 Algiers Peace Agreement, rival armed groups Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) and Platform coalition 3-5 July gathered in Kidal city (north), vowed to accelerate agreement’s implementation, coordinate and unify efforts to protect northern regions’ populations. Security situation remained fragile in north and centre. In Timbuktu region (north), presumed al-Qaeda-linked Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM)-affiliated Katiba Macina 4 July killed four soldiers in ambush near Diartou village (Niafunke district). In Mopti region (centre), suspected Katiba Macina militants 5 July attacked ethnic Dogon militia Dana Ambassagou’s position between Dourou and Yawa villages (Bandiagara district), killing six. In Ségou region (also centre), presumed Katiba Macina militants 3 July killed three ethnic Bambaras in Kourouma Koubé village, jeopardising local truce struck in April with Bambara “Donso” militiamen. In Koulikoro region (west), unidentified gunmen 17 July raided construction site, abducted three Chinese and two Mauritanian nationals. France 2 July announced resumption of joint military operations with Mali, suspended following Goïta’s coup in May. During G5 Sahel summit, French President Macron 9 July detailed reconfiguration of French military presence in Sahel, said he would halve number of soldiers and close three military bases in Mali’s north by early 2022. Civil society actors immediately expressed concern, citing risk of jihadist takeover of key towns. UN Sec-Gen Guterres 15 July called on Security Council to increase UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA)’s authorised strength by 2,069.
Islamic State (ISIS) claimed several attacks in far north amid Rwandan offensives and arrival of Southern Africa regional forces to counter militants. In far northern Cabo Delgado province, ISIS claimed several attacks for first time since siege of Palma town in March. Notably, ISIS 13 July claimed attack on Diaca town, Mocímboa da Praia district, which likely took place 2 July, said militants had repelled govt forces’ advance on strategic Mueda-Mocímboa da Praia road; same day claimed killing soldier in Namacande district capital Muidumbe 12 July; 15 July said combatants had killed four civilians in Ncumbi village, Palma district, and clashed with govt forces on Palma-Mocímboa da Praia road in recent days; 29 July claimed six armed encounters with govt forces and self-defence militias in several districts 17-28 July, said several militia members killed. Suspected Islamist militants 2 and 18 July killed 13, mostly civilians, in Namande and Saba-Saba villages, both Muidumbe district; 15 July killed six civilians in Macomia district; and 17 July killed another five in Mitope village, Mocímboa da Praia district. In Nangade district, govt forces 13 July reportedly captured and executed 15 suspected militants attempting to cross into neighbouring Tanzania. Rwanda 9 July started deployment of 1,000-strong joint army and police force to Cabo Delgado as part of bilateral agreement. Rwandan forces 20 July clashed with militants in Quionga village, Palma district; 23 July killed 26 militants in Mandela village, Muidumbe district; 24-25 July reportedly killed seven militants in Awasse town, Mocímboa da Praia district. Meanwhile, South African Special Forces 19 July arrived in Cabo Delgado’s capital Pemba to pave way for deployment of Southern Africa regional block (SADC) Standby Force; South Africa’s President Ramaphosa 23 July confirmed his country will send “up to” 1,495 troops as part of regional force. Disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration process of former armed opposition movement Renamo forces continued, with 50 per cent threshold reached following demobilisation of 360 fighters in Tete province 11 July.
Niger emerged as France’s new privileged security partner in Sahel region; jihadist violence continued unabated in south west. During G5 Sahel virtual summit, French President Macron 9 July detailed reconfiguration of French military presence in Sahel region (see Mali), said international Takuba Task Force’s role will be enhanced and its command centre transferred from Mali to Niger; announcement, as well as Macron and Nigerien President Bazoum’s post-summit joint press conference in France’s capital Paris, signal greater role for Niger in regional security architecture. Bazoum same day criticised military junta’s takeover in Mali, prompting Bamako to immediately blame him for going against “spirit of friendship” traditionally uniting both countries. Bazoum 12-13 July visited Algeria, secured agreement for enhanced security cooperation; deal may entail military assistance from Algeria including air support. Meanwhile, in Tillabery region (south west), suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) combatants 11 July stormed Tchoma Bangou village, Ouallam department; military reportedly repelled attack, killing at least 40 militants including senior ISGS commander Malam Younoussa; four soldiers and five civilians also killed. Suspected jihadists 25 and 28 July killed 33 civilians in two villages of Banibangou area, Ouallam department, and 31 July ambushed military supply mission in Torodi area, Say department, leaving 15 killed and six missing. In neighbouring Tahoua region’s Tillia department, suspected ISGS militants 4 July killed civilian in Inizdan village, and ethnic Tuareg militia 6 July abducted two ethnic Fulani individuals between internally displaced person (IDP) sites of Telemces and Assagaygay. Bazoum 2 July toured Diffa region (south east) to bolster support for his plan to relocate 130,000 IDPs, most of whom have fled region in recent years due to repeated jihadist attacks; Local authorities 30 July said over 26,000 people already returned to their hometown. Niamey 9 July said it had reached agreement with Nigeria’s Borno state to repatriate 130,000 Nigerian nationals currently living in Diffa by year’s end.
Violence continued unabated in north west, while jihadist and separatist attacks ebbed in north east and south east respectively. Armed group violence left dozens dead and scores kidnapped in north west, notably in Zamfara state: 49 killed in Maradun area 8 July; 20 farmers kidnapped in Bakura area 16 July; 150 villagers kidnapped in Shinkafi area 16-17 July; and at least 13 police killed in Bungudu area 18 July. Air force Alpha jet same day crashed after coming “under intense enemy fire” in Zamfara, leaving no casualties; unprecedented incident confirms armed groups acquiring anti-aircraft capabilities. In Katsina state, armed group 4-5 July killed at least 20 in three villages in Batsari area. In Kaduna state, gunmen 5 July abducted 121 students near state capital; armed groups 8-13 July killed 33 in Zangon Kataf area. North east saw lull in Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) attacks in Borno state as group reportedly reshuffled its leadership as directed by Islamic State (ISIS); ISWAP notably reinstated Abbah Gana as leader of so-called Islamic Caliphate of Africa straddling Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon. Suspected Boko Haram (BH) militants 7 July killed at least 18 civilians in neighbouring Adamawa state. Security forces 16-28 July reportedly killed 16 ISWAP or BH combatants, arrested 29, and rescued 40 civilians in north east. Violence between govt forces and separatist group Indigenous People of Biafra and its armed wing Eastern Security Network ebbed in south east; at least ten policemen however killed in five states throughout month. In south west, state security forces 1 July raided home of ethnic Yoruba separatist agitator, Sunday Igboho, killed two aides and arrested 13, and declared him “wanted”; Igboho arrested in Benin 19 July. Meanwhile, gunmen 15 July killed army Major General Hassan Ahmed just outside Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; 18 July killed at least ten including two humanitarian workers in Guma area, Benue state; residents blamed attack on herders. Court 28 July acquitted Ibrahim Zakzaky, leader of outlawed Shiite group Islamic Movement in Nigeria, of all eight criminal charges against him; Zakzaky had been detained since 2015.
Regional tensions ran high as Ethiopia completed second filling of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Egypt’s Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel Aati 5 July said he had received notice from Addis Ababa that it had begun filling GERD reservoir for second year in a row, expressed “firm rejection of this unilateral measure” and reassured citizens filling would not impact available water volumes yet. UN Security Council (UNSC) next day urged all parties to recommit to talks. Egypt’s FM Sameh Shoukry 8 July urged UNSC to help resolve dispute and approve draft resolution calling for legally binding agreement between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia within six months; U.S and Russia same day reiterated support for AU-led mediation efforts and opposition to any changes to current diplomatic framework. Ethiopia 19 July announced it had completed second filling of GERD; Khartoum same day rejected Addis Ababa’s “fait accompli policies” and Sudan’s Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas 28 July said Khartoum would not resume negotiations without involvement of international quartet composed of U.S., UN, EU and AU.
As long-awaited elections faced new delays, Al-Shabaab attacks and counter-offensives continued, leaving scores dead. Most federal member states failed to form local selection committees and submit candidates’ lists in time for Senate election to take place 25-28 July as planned. Earlier in month, federal electoral commission 4 July elected Mohamed Hassan Irro as chair, finalising its composition. Electoral process continued to face several hurdles, however; notably, Senate speaker Abdi Hashi and Deputy PM Mahdi Guled throughout month continued to spar for control of local selection committee for Somaliland; opposition bloc of 15 presidential candidates 18 July expressed concern that electoral preparations remained incomplete and federal govt had not done enough to guarantee free and fair polls. Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab 20 July threatened to target electoral authorities and continued to launch deadly attacks. Notably, in capital Mogadishu, suicide bombings killed at least ten people 2 July and at least another nine 10 July; latter attack reportedly targeted Mogadishu police chief Farhan Qarole, who survived unharmed. In Jubaland state, suspected Al-Shabaab explosive device 30 July killed at least five civilians in Kismayo city. Clashes between suspected Al-Shaabab militants on one side and security forces and AU mission troops on the other 13 July reportedly left 11 militants and seven security forces dead in Kuday village, Lower Juba region. Security forces 4-29 July reportedly killed dozens of Al-Shabaab combatants in centre and south, including 15 in Galguduud region 4 July, 35 in Mudug region 19 July, and another 30 in Hiraan region 26-29 July. Following six-month hiatus, U.S. airstrikes 20 and 23 July killed unknown number of Al-Shabaab militants in Galmudug state. Violence erupted in Hirshabelle state where forces reportedly aligned with renegade Gen. Abukar Huud 3 July clashed with Hirshabelle state forces and federal troops in state’s largest city Beledweyne; at least two killed. Clashes between rival federal govt forces over control of checkpoint 24 July reportedly killed four civilians in Mogadishu. Federal govt 17 July rejected conclusions of AU report proposing four options for future of AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM), including transition to hybrid UN-AU mission.
Top Court upheld results of May parliamentary and local elections and local NGO voiced concern over arbitrary arrests of civilians. Supreme Court 7 July certified results of late-May parliamentary and local elections, dismissing 21 legal challenges brought by defeated parliamentary candidates; parliament’s lower house expected to select new speaker within 30 days. Ruling Kulmiye party MP 26 July alleged opposition parties Waddani and Justice and Welfare Party (UCID) – which together won majority in parliament in May – tried to bribe him to vote for their candidate for speaker of parliament; both opposition parties 29 July accused President Bihi of harassing and bribing opposition MPs. Local NGO Human Rights Centre 18 July called on govt to release 42 people, most of them women, whom it said were arbitrarily detained for displaying Somalia’s flag in June; authorities next day released most of them.
Most violent unrest since end of apartheid in 1991 killed over 300. After former President Zuma 7 July began serving 15-month prison sentence for refusing to testify in corruption probe, riots next day erupted in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces, with mobs blocking major highways, looting shops and warehouses. Protesters 11 July marched through capital Johannesburg, with acts of vandalism reported. Rioters 13 July looted warehouses and supermarkets in port city of Durban, forcing country’s largest refinery on city’s outskirts to shut down temporarily, while roads to Durban’s harbour – sub-Saharan Africa’s largest – also closed, disrupting fuel and food deliveries as well as key exports. Army 13 July announced dispatch of 25,000 troops to provinces. President Ramaphosa 16 July said calm had been restored and unrest was “deliberate, coordinated and well-planned attack on our democracy”; also announced arrest of over 2,500 people for alleged involvement in violence. Govt 22 July said 337 people killed during unrest. Zuma 19 July sought further delay of corruption trial; High Court in Pietermaritzburg city next day granted request, adjourning proceedings by three weeks to 10-13 Aug.
Country marked tenth independence anniversary amid ongoing violence and delays in implementation of transitional agenda. On tenth anniversary of South Sudan’s independence, President Kiir 9 July lamented “lost decade” and warned against “ethnic and regional activism” but lauded “new spirit of dialogue” among civil war belligerents. Kiir 3 July replaced 35 MPs due to sit in Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA); govt 7 and 29 July postponed swearing-in of TNLA initially scheduled for 9 July, now expected for 2 Aug. Govt and factions of South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA, coalition of non-signatory rebel groups) led by Paul Malong and Pagan Amum 15 July resumed talks in Italian capital Rome, 18 July agreed to incorporate Malong’s and Amum’s factions into ceasefire and transitional security arrangements monitoring body; also signed political roadmap scheduling three rounds of talks from Sept to Nov. However, attempts to restart peace talks between govt and SSOMA faction led by Thomas Cirillo, leader of rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS), remained stalled. Meanwhile, official body monitoring Sept 2018 peace deal implementation 22 July expressed “critical concern” over delays in setting up unified army, amid reports that soldiers keep abandoning cantonment and training sites over lack of food and medicine. Intercommunal violence persisted in centre, north and south. In Lakes state (centre), suspected armed youth from neighbouring Rumbek East county 13 July reportedly killed three people in separate attacks on Pulthib and Mayom-cuei villages, Yirol West county. In Warrap state (also centre), cattle raid in Tonj East county by suspected armed youth from Tonj North county 9 July left 14 dead. In Unity state (north), clashes between two ethnic Dinka Bek subgroups 13 July killed three in Mayiendit county. In Western Equatoria state (south), intercommunal violence and clashes between forces loyal to Kiir and those loyal to VP Riek Machar throughout month reportedly killed at least three and displaced over 4,000 in greater Tambura area. UN Mission in South Sudan 26 July said it was “deeply disturbed” by recent spate of extrajudicial executions of alleged criminals in Warrap and Lakes states that reportedly left at least 42 people dead since March.
Intercommunal violence left dozens killed in Darfur, violence persisted in al-Fashaga area along border with Ethiopia, and govt made some progress in implementation of Oct 2020 peace deal. In West Darfur state, tribal clashes left over 20 people dead in Sirba locality 1-4 July and another 12 in Kereinik and Jebel Moon localities 2-5 July. In South Darfur state, unidentified gunmen 15-16 July killed three people in two separate attacks in Gereida locality. In North Darfur state, artillery shelling 17-18 July reportedly killed at least 17 in Sortony camp for displaced people, Kabkabiya locality. Alleged tribal violence also left at least four dead in Red Sea state’s capital Port Sudan 10 July and another 13 in Qadir area of South Kordofan state next day, prompting Security and Defence Council 12 July to scale up security operations in both states. Meanwhile, authorities 5 July said long-delayed Transitional Legislative Council would hold its first session in August; Sovereign Council head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan same day issued decree to form long-awaited body in charge of supervising disarmament, demobilisation and integration into armed forces of rebel group signatories of Oct 2020 peace agreement, as well as ceasefire monitoring committees in Darfur. Hundreds of combatants affiliated with Minni Minnawi’s Sudan Liberation Movement/Army faction 17 July deployed to North Darfur state to take part in joint forces aimed at protecting civilians following Dec 2020 pull-out of AU-UN peacekeeping mission UNAMID. Amid continued economic turmoil, international creditors 16 July cancelled $14.1bn of Sudan’s international debts and rescheduled another $9.4bn. Meanwhile, tensions persisted with Ethiopia over disputed al-Fashaga border zone; army 11 July reportedly repelled cross-border attack by Ethiopian militia, number of casualties unknown; govt 20 July vowed to keep troops in border zone until area “regains its full security and stability”; Ethiopian militia 23 July reportedly abducted three Sudanese children, next day killed one Sudanese soldier. Tensions ran high between Sudan and Egypt on one side and Ethiopia on the other as Addis Ababa completed second filling of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (see Nile Waters).
Authorities arrested main opposition party leader, prompting calls for protests. Main opposition party Chadema 21 July said police and army officers overnight arrested its chairperson Freeman Mbowe alongside ten other party officials who had gathered in Mwanza city to discuss need for constitutional reforms; move follows 18 July arrest of dozens of Chadema members for holding public meeting without permission. Chadema immediately accused President Suluhu Hassan of prolonging late predecessor Magufuli’s “dictatorship”, with Chadema’s former presidential candidate Tundu Lissu, who lives in exile in Europe, calling for “nationwide protests” and “international isolation” of Hassan’s govt. Authorities 26 July charged Mbowe with terrorism-related crimes. Chadema 31 July called for protests on 5 Aug, announced it had filed legal challenge against prosecution of Mbowe, saying his legal rights were violated. Meanwhile, Hassan 16-17 July completed state visit to neighbouring Burundi at invitation of Burundian counterpart Ndayishimiye; both presidents agreed to implement infrastructure projects to facilitate movement of goods, services and people, strengthen bilateral ties and business relations.
Armed forces repelled attack by suspected Congolese rebels in north west, and President Museveni replaced top civil servants by close allies. After assassination attempt against Transport Minister and former chief of defence forces Gen. Katumba Wamala in June, police 1 July claimed attackers had been trained in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)’s North Kivu province by armed group Allied Democratic Forces with alleged links to Islamic State (ISIS); eight suspects 15 July filed complaint against govt and deputy inspector general of police, claiming they were tortured while in police custody. In Zombo district (north west) at border with DRC, armed forces 16 July repelled attack by suspected Cooperation for the Development of Congo rebels; six assailants and one soldier killed. Following army and cabinet reshuffles in June, Museveni 15 July retired seven top civil servants and appointed several close allies to new positions, including his son-in-law Odrek Rwabwogo as presidential adviser for special duties. Meanwhile, govt 23 July signed deal with Russian company to install tracking devices on all public and private vehicles as part of anti-crime measures; opposition and rights activists immediately denounced plan as violation of individual rights and attempt by govt to watch over critics, while lawyer Hassan Male Mabirizi 26 July filed lawsuit against govt at High Court.
Series of violent incidents pitting ruling party against opposition supporters heightened tensions in lead-up to 12 Aug polls; electoral violence could worsen. Ahead of general elections scheduled for 12 Aug, climate grew increasingly tense amid reports of killings of political activists and violent clashes between supporters of incumbent President Edgar Lungu’s Patriotic Front (PF) and opposition candidate Hakainde Hichilema’s United Party for National Development (UPND). Police early July revealed investigation into Hichilema for allegedly spreading fake footage of violence against UPND supporters. Meanwhile, PF media director 22 July accused UPND of training 60,000 youths to cause violence on 10-11 Aug; UPND Sec-Gen Batuke Imenda same day denied claims. Despite official ban on political rallies to curb COVID-19 spread, reports revealed rival political parties clashed in different parts of Zambia throughout month. Notably, violence surged in Ikelenge district: as around 60 UPND supporters 23 July reportedly clashed with PF supporters, some UPND militants reportedly attacked and injured Victor Mwila, reporter of state-owned Zambia News and Information Services, who was photographing incident; authorities subsequently arrested 19 people, charging them with assault and damage to property; electoral commission 28 July banned UPND from campaigning in Ikelenge. Attackers suspected of affiliation with opposition party 30 July killed two PF supporters in Kanyama compound, Lusaka capital city; police subsequently arrested four suspects; police 13 July also revealed finding burnt body of Socialist Party candidate Stallon Chobe, who had been vying for position of council chairperson for Chisamba district, in Kapiri Mposhi town.
Legal battle over chief justice position continued as authorities sought to restrict space for NGOs. Constitutional Court 16 July reserved judgment in case that challenges High Court ruling invalidating President Mnangagwa’s five-year extension of Chief Justice Luke Malaba’s term. Mnangagwa 25 July appointed Justice Mary Zimba-Dube as judge president, responsible for overseeing High Court; Zimba-Dube’s predecessor was removed after justice minister accused him of assigning hostile judges to case in which govt was being sued. Harare High Court 14 July granted bail to Makomborero Haruzivishe, member of main opposition party faction led by Nelson Chamisa; Haruzivishe was sentenced to 14 months in prison in April for allegedly “inciting violence” and “resisting arrest”. After ruling party ZANU-PF’s Acting National Political Commissioner Patrick Chinamasa late June said party would not surrender its “unbreakable” bond with armed forces, Chamisa 4 July reproached ZANU-PF for treating military as party’s armed wing in violation of constitution. UK govt 22 July imposed asset freeze and travel ban on businessman and presidential adviser Kudakwashe Tagwirei for alleged corruption; sanctions also apply to any entity Tagwirei owns or controls. After Harare provincial authorities 29 July said all NGOs that failed to submit workplans by 30 June had to cease operations, two human rights NGOs 30 July filed High Court application seeking to overturn decision.
Taliban forces continued nationwide offensive, launching first assault on Kandahar city since Western intervention in 2001 and seizing more international border crossings. Taliban continued to make territorial advances throughout month, mostly in north and north west, and gained strategically important border crossings. Taliban attacks 5 July killed 16 security forces in Herat province (west), which saw all but two districts fall under Taliban control during month, and 6 July killed 65 security forces in Badghis (north west). Taliban 12 July killed 25 security forces in Kandahar province (south), in which group had encircled Kandahar city, and fighting remained ongoing in its outskirts by end of month; assault on city, largest in southern Afghanistan and de facto capital of former Taliban regime in 1990s, is first since Western intervention in 2001 and could mark moment of strategic importance in conflict; govt poured resources into defence of city. Taliban 14 July killed 11 security forces in Takhar province (north). In addition to seizing 26 of 28 districts in Badakhshan province (north east), Taliban fighters 5 July seized control of border crossing with Iran in Herat province (west) and 14 July took over border crossing with Pakistan in Kandahar province. Govt forces rebounded slightly by shoring up defence of provincial capitals. Govt 8 July briefly drove back Taliban after they entered capital of Badghis province (north west). Govt defences also held in other provinces, such as Ghazni (centre), Helmand (south) and Kandahar (south) during month. Anti-Taliban militia also rallied in urban centres, such as northern city Mazar-e Sharif. Meanwhile, peace process remained stalled despite high-level meetings between govt and Taliban’s political office in Iran’s capital Tehran (7-8 July) and Qatar’s capital Doha (17-18 July); further high-level talks expected in August. Internationally, tensions heightened with Islamabad. Afghan VP Amrullah Saleh 15 July alleged Pakistani air force requested Afghan govt not to attack Taliban positions on border, which Pakistan’s MFA denied. Kabul 18 July withdrew its ambassador and senior diplomats from Islamabad, alleging kidnapping of ambassador’s daughter.
Govt arrested thousands for allegedly violating COVID-19 restrictions amid surge in infections nationwide and inside Rohingya refugee camps. Govt 1 July extended nationwide lockdown as numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths spiked, deploying police, border forces and army to patrol streets, leading to some 5,800 people arrested throughout month for breaching restrictions. Coronavirus cases surged inside congested Cox’s Bazar Rohingya refugee camps, with over 2,350 cases and at least 27 deaths during month. Floods and landslides caused by heavy monsoon rain in camps 25-27 July also killed at least 11 Rohingya refugees, and left more than 12,000 homeless. Authorities continued to detain Rohingya refugees fleeing Bhasan Char camp situated on flood-prone island throughout month; notably, police 11 and 17 July arrested 38 Rohingyas in Chittagong City’s Mirsarai sub-district. Police 17 July also detained 21 Rohingyas refugees near Moulvibazar district, who had reportedly entered country from India. Authorities 28 July detained nine refugees in Kurigram district for allegedly flouting COVID-19 rules. Forty-seventh session of UN Human Rights Council 11 July adopted resolution calling on Myanmar to ensure safe return of Rohingya refugees to country; Bangladesh’s envoy Mustafizur Rahman at session blamed lack of repatriation on “continued non-cooperation and reluctance of Myanmar”. Concerns over authorities stifling dissent persisted. UK 8 July reported that political and media freedoms remained restricted throughout 2020 and highlighted govt’s use of Digital Security Act to suppress criticism; Bangladesh foreign ministry 11 July summoned UK’s envoy to express its “disappointment” with report. Meanwhile, clashes between armed groups in Chittagong Hill Tracts’ Rangamati district 8 July killed one person, and counter-terrorism operations continued. Authorities 11 July arrested suspected New Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh militant in Narayanganj district; 26 July arrested 19 Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh leaders in Chittagong, accused of planning attack on govt installations. Internal Awami League clashes 26-27 July left two activists dead in Khulna and Bogra cities in lead-up to local govt polls.
Tokyo linked for first time stability in Taiwan Strait to Japan’s security, while tensions with China over disputed islands in East China Sea continued. In notable shift in public tone, several Japanese officials openly expressed support for Taiwan and tied Japan’s security to stability in Taiwan Strait throughout month. After Japanese deputy defence minister late June called Taiwan “democratic country” during U.S. think-tank event, remarks which China 30 June called “erroneous”, Japanese Deputy PM Tarō Asō 6 July suggested Tokyo would join U.S. in defence of Taiwan in event of attack on Taiwan; China 6 July called comments “extremely wrong and dangerous”. In Defence White Paper, Japan 13 July linked stability in Taiwan Strait to Japan’s security for first time and emphasised concerns over China’s actions in East China Sea; China called paper gross interference in internal affairs. Meanwhile, U.S. and Japanese military forces 1 July conducted exercises on Japan’s Amami Ōshima island. Chinese navy 17-21 July conducted live-fire exercise in East China Sea, alongside exercises in Yellow Sea, Bohai Strait, and off coasts of China’s Fujian and Guangdong provinces. As of 28 July, 80 Chinese vessels entered into contiguous zone around disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands and ten Chinese vessels entered into territorial Japan’s waters during month.
Maoist violence continued in centre and east while Indian and Chinese FMs met to discuss disengagement along disputed border. Maoist violence continued. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), Maoists killed civilian and worker of mining site in Narayanpur district; security forces 13 July killed one Maoist in Bijapur district; security forces 15 July killed three Maoists in Dantewada district; Maoists 16 July killed suspected police informer in Gariabandh district; exchange of fire with Maoists 20 July killed one member of security forces in Narayanpur district; security forces 25 July killed one Maoist in Sukma district. In Jharkhand state (east), security forces 15 July killed one Maoist in Gumla district and another 16 July in West Singhbhum district. In Odisha state (east), security forces 22 July killed one Maoist in Nuapada district. FM Subrahmanyam Jaishankar 14 July met Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi, after which India’s FMA emphasised that disengagement along Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh was not yet complete and situation was “still unresolved”; in contrast, China’s FMA claimed “overall situation in the border area was de-escalated”. Military commanders from both sides 31 July held 12th round of talks on de-escalation. Meanwhile, hostilities 26 July erupted along border of Assam and Mizoram states in north east of country between state police forces, reportedly killing six policemen; fighting follows mutual accusations of territorial encroachment. Farmers continued to protest against controversial agriculture laws. Notably, farmers 8 July held nationwide protests against fuel price hike and vowed to hold rallies outside federal parliament from 19 July. Amid widespread criticism of mishandling COVID-19 crisis after official death toll surpassed 400,000 in early July, and ahead of state and general elections due to be held before May 2024, PM Modi 7 July removed 12 members of his cabinet, including minister of health.
Tensions remained elevated between Pakistan and India, while opposition parties in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) called for restoration of statehood ahead of local assembly elections. Pakistani National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf 4 July said backchannel contacts had been abandoned due to New Delhi’s refusal to reverse Aug 2019 revoking of J&K’s special status; Yusuf same day blamed Indian intelligence for 23 June car bombing in Pakistan’s Lahore city. India External Affairs Minister Jaishankar 18 July said India was responsible for keeping Pakistan “under the lens” of inter-govt agency Financial Action Task Force (FATF); Pakistani FM Shah Mahmood Qureshi 19 July accused India of “manipulating” FATF for “narrow political designs”. Meanwhile, counter-insurgency operations and militant attacks continued in J&K. Notably, security forces 2 July killed five militants in Pulwama district; 7 July killed alleged Hizbul Mujahideen commander in Kupwara district; 8 July killed four militants in separate operations in Kulgram and Pulwama districts; 10 July killed three militants in Anantnag district; 14 July killed three militants in Pulwama district; 16 July killed two militants in Srinagar regional capital. Indian army 8 July claimed it killed two suspected Pakistani terrorists during alleged infiltration bid in Rajouri district that left two soldiers dead. Security forces 16-31 July killed at least ten militants in Srinagar city and Baramulla, Bandipora, Pulwama and Kulgam districts; militants 27 July killed civilian in Srinagar. Tensions persisted over J&K’s statehood leading up to assembly elections. People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, J&K opposition coalition which includes National Conference and People’s Democratic Party, 5 July demanded restoration of J&K’s statehood before assembly elections. Delimitation Commission, tasked with carving out new constituencies in J&K, 6-9 July visited J&K and indicated that New Delhi planned to go ahead with elections, set to take place within 6-8 months. In Pakistan-administered Kashmir, PM Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party 25 July won Azad Jammu and Kashmir elections; poll violence left two PTI workers dead.
Parliament renewed Special Autonomy Law for Papua, sparking protests that led to dozens of arrests. Parliament 15 July extended by 20 years Special Autonomy Law for Papua and West Papua provinces first adopted in 2001; international rights groups TAPOL and CIVICUS 16 July said parliament amended 18 articles, added two, including on ability of central govt to create new regencies and districts, and omitted provision granting right to form local political parties. Home Affairs Minister Tito Karnavian same day said: “We hope the law will accelerate development in Papua”, but law’s opponents claimed it increases Jakarta’s control over region and criticised central govt for lack of consultation. Law sparked series of protests. Authorities 14 July arrested 23 students protesting law in Papua province’s capital Jayapura; 15 July arrested 40 protesters at rally in front of House of Representatives in capital Jakarta. In West Papua province, authorities 15 July arrested 20 protesters in Kaimana town, while reportedly blocking protest in Manokwari town; 19 July arrested 36 protesters in Sorong town. Papuan People’s Assembly 20 July filed constitutional challenge against law.
Pyongyang and Beijing reaffirmed their mutual ties while U.S. confirmed plans to hold joint military exercises with South Korea in August. After Pyongyang and Beijing late June arranged series of events to commemorate past reciprocal summits in 2018 and 2019, including joint symposium hosted by Chinese Communist Party in Chinese capital Beijing, Chinese President Xi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un 11 July exchanged letters to commemorate and reaffirm 60th anniversary of their Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance. U.S. 15 July confirmed that it would hold joint military exercises with South Korea in August without yet specifying scale; in response, North Korean propaganda website Uriminzokkiri 20 July called exercises “scheme to invade the North” that violates 2000 and 2018 inter-Korean agreements. Two Koreas 27 July announced restoration of cross-border hotlines, indicating possible return to dialogue if/when South Korea-U.S. military drills pass uneventfully.
Authorities struggled to bring rising COVID-19 infections under control, while unidentified armed groups staged attacks against state electricity corporation in response to power cuts. Ruling State Administration Council throughout month faced rapidly worsening COVID-19 crisis across country, as number of confirmed cases more than doubled each week, with unofficial tallies expected to be far higher; authorities initially blamed victims for hoarding oxygen, before belatedly moving to secure consignments from China and Thailand. In response to large outbreaks of virus in northern Shan State, China continued to shutter trade crossings and 8 July closed last two crossing points near border town of Muse – cutting off around half of Myanmar’s overland trade. Meanwhile, officials in several townships began cutting power to households that have refused to pay bills either to avoid giving funds to regime or due to financial difficulties. After firing and replacing electricity workers on strike in April, State Administration Council issued outstanding bills, attempting to force residents to pay them; in response, resistance groups launched series of targeted attacks against Yangon and Mandalay electricity offices, including bomb explosions at two Yangon offices 7 July, and Mandalay office 16 July, latter killing two people – staffer and customer. Karenni Nationalities Defence Force 13 July bombed electricity offices in Kayah State capital Loikaw; in Mandalay city, resistance groups 11 July shot two electricity workers, killing one. Anti-military forces also continued to stage assassinations of regime officials and sympathisers at similar levels as June, including members of counter-resistance Pyusawhti network. Notably, resistance group in Sagaing region 14 July shot dead former MP from military-established Union Solidarity and Development Party as well as his assistant; military-appointed village administrator next day killed in Sagaing region. Amid ongoing clashes since June between rival armed groups in Shan state, main Shan political party 26 July released statement blaming both groups for violence, calling for end to hostilities and warning that behaviour of groups was undermining “Shan political struggle”. Internationally, U.S. 2 July announced additional sanctions against State Administration Council members and their immediate families, as well as military-linked companies.
Nepali Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba appointed new PM after Supreme Court blocked K.P. Oli’s second attempt to dissolve parliament and ruled out prospects of early elections. Supreme Court’s Constitutional Bench 12 July overturned Oli’s 21 May bid to dissolve House of Representatives, ruling it unconstitutional; court also ruled that President Bhandari’s rejection of Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba’s attempt to form new govt in May contravened statute and ordered Deuba be appointed PM; Deuba was sworn into office 13 July. Court’s verdict was criticised by Oli, with his supporters 12 July staging protests against ruling party and Oli’s party 16 July deciding to campaign against decision. Supreme Court Bar Association 15 July expressed serious concern over Oli’s remarks as well as burning of effigies representing chief justice by his supporters. Deuba 18 July received vote of confidence in reinstated House of Representatives, preventing early general election and confirming his mandate to govern until next elections, due to be held in winter 2022.
Top officials expressed concerns over possible spillover effects of intensifying conflict in Afghanistan, while militant attacks and counter-insurgency operations continued. Senior military and political leaders expressed concern about impact on security of Afghanistan’s conflict and tensions heightened with Kabul (see Afghanistan). Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and intelligence chief Faiz Hameed 1 July warned victory by Afghan Taliban would rejuvenate Pakistani Taliban and voiced concerns about potential additional influx of up to 700,000 Afghan refugees. Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed 6 July said Pakistan would not allow Afghan refugees to enter but would establish refugee camps along border if situation required. Govt same day announced closure of Torkham – key border crossing in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province – citing COVID-19 concerns. Authorities 14 July closed border crossing in Balochistan’s Chaman district after Afghan Taliban captured bordering district, but 26 July reopened it for trade after reportedly consulting Taliban officials. FM Qureshi and National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf 9 July warned that Pakistani Taliban fighters could enter Pakistan disguised as Afghan refugees; Army spokesperson Major General Babar Iftikhar 11 July emphasised ‘‘Pakistan is only a facilitator of the Afghan peace process – not a guarantor’’. Yusuf 30 July met U.S. counterpart Jake Sullivan in Washington; Sullivan said pair discussed “urgent need” for negotiated political settlement in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, militant attacks and security operations continued. Notably, in Balochistan province, counter-terrorism police 6 July killed five suspected Baloch militants on outskirts of Quetta district; militant attack 15 July killed two soldiers in coastal Pasni town in Gwadar district. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, police operation 3 July reportedly killed two Pakistani Taliban militants in Dera Ismail Khan district. Militant attack 5 July killed three soldiers in North Waziristan district. Security operation 13 July killed three militants and two soldiers in Kurram district. In South Waziristan district, security operation against militants 18 July killed one soldier. In major attack on Chinese workers, suspected car bomb 14 July killed nine Chinese engineers as well as two civilians and two soldiers in Upper Kohistan district capital in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province; unidentified gunmen 28 July shot and wounded Chinese national in Karachi city.
Papua New Guinea Bougainville govt and national govt of PNG pledged to conclude final political settlement by 2027. Following Dec 2019 non-binding referendum in which Bougainville electorate overwhelmingly voted for independence from PNG, PM Marape and president of Autonomous Region of Bougainville Ishmael Toroama 6 July reportedly agreed timetable for process related to transfer of powers to Bougainville authorities by 2023; in joint statement, both sides pledged support for final political settlement “no earlier than 2025 and no later than 2027”.
Clashes in south between militant groups and security forces continued, while fighting between govt and communist militants left dozens killed. In Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in south, clashes between insurgents and security forces took place at relatively low levels throughout month. Military 17 July clashed with elements of Daulah Islamiya-inspired armed group under Salahuddin Hassan in village of Nabundas, in Maguindanao province, killing one militant; three Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters combatants 5 July surrendered to govt in Lanao del Sur province. Military operations against elements of Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) continued; clashes between ASG members and military 10 July killed one militant on Basilanisland. Meanwhile, clashes between armed forces and communist New People’s Army (NPA) continued at relatively higher levels than June: violence in Luzon Island in north, Visayas Islands in centre and Mindanao Island in south killed at least 12 combatants and civilians and injured three throughout month. Govt 19 July declared National Democratic Front, umbrella of leftist organisations, as terrorist organisation, while Secretary of Defence Delfin Lorenzana 1 July confirmed that main spokesperson of counter-insurgency task force against communist rebels General Antonio Parlade resigned. Regarding ongoing govt efforts to rehabilitate Marawi city, Task Force Bangon Marawi Chairman Del Rosario 27 July urged member agencies to speed up work. Lorenzana 30 July announced in joint news conference with visiting U.S. counterpart Lloyd Austin in capital Manila that President Duterte retracted 2020 termination of Visiting Forces Agreement, and confirmed that two nations could continue military exercises.
Maritime tensions continued amid regional military activity, while Canada, Germany and U.S. voiced support for 2016 international court ruling. Maritime activity continued in region. U.S. navy 12 July announced that destroyer USS Benfold conducted freedom of navigation operation near Paracel Islands “to uphold rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of sea recognised in international law”; in response, China’s Southern Theatre Command same day claimed its forces “drove away” USS Benfold from waters and urged U.S. to stop “provocative actions”. China’s Southern Theatre Command 18 July announced it had recently conducted exercise in SCS that included planes, ships, submarines and land-based missiles. Philippines’ Coast Guard 13 July issued verbal challenge to Chinese naval vessel near Marie Louise Bank; Chinese vessel eventually moved away from area. UK aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth 30 July arrived in SCS to conduct freedom of navigation operations alongside U.S. navy. Earlier in month, think-tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative 8 July reported China Coast Guard had regularly challenged Malaysian pipe-laying vessel contracted to Malaysian oil company Petronas at Kasawari gas field, off of Sarawak state coast, since its arrival in area early June. On diplomatic front, German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer 6 July met with Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe via video conference and discussed SCS; Kramp-Karrenbauer raised importance of upholding 2016 arbitration decision by Permanent Court of Arbitration that limited China’s claims to some sea areas, which China has called null and void. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 11 July issued statement to mark fifth anniversary of court’s ruling and reaffirmed U.S. support for verdict; Blinken also stated that “armed attack on Philippines armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in South China Sea would invoke U.S. mutual defence commitments”. Canada’s foreign ministry 11 July issued statement expressing concern at “China’s escalatory and destabilising actions in the East and South China Seas” and support for 2016 arbitral tribunal award. U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin 26-30 July visited Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam; in Singapore, Austin 27 July said China’s SCS claims have “no basis in international law”.
Economy remained under great pressure, while authorities used repressive practices to control growing protests. Govt continued to focus on increasingly dire economic situation as prices of staples rose, trade deficit grew, currency reserves fell and concerns persisted over potential international debt default; Money, Capital Markets and Public Enterprise Reforms Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal 2 July rejected opposition calls for deal with International Monetary Fund to restructure debt. Basil Rajapaksa, brother of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and PM Mahinda Rajapaksa, 8 July sworn in as finance minister, promising new economic policies. Meanwhile, police 6 July announced ban on public gatherings amid growing number of protests by unions, students and farmers. Police 8 July used unusually aggressive measures to end protest outside parliament against controversial Kotelawala Defence University Act that critics say could end free higher education; police same day arrested general secretary of Ceylon Teachers Union and more than dozen trade union and student activists for violating COVID-19 health regulations; suspects sent to military-run COVID-19 quarantine centre despite being granted bail by court; all released 16 July. Former Parliamentary Speaker Karu Jayasuriya 11 July accused govt of “systematic repression” with “aim to eradicate democracy” and 17 July convened almost all opposition parties to chart strategy of resistance against govt practices. Govt 7 July appointed three-judge special court for trial of ex-Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and ex-police chief Pujith Jayasundara accused of negligence for failing to prevent 2019 Easter bombings. In 12 July letter to President Rajapaksa, Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Malcolm Rogers, criticised “lethargic pace” of investigations into bombings and called on govt to prosecute “main culprits” and investigate evidence of possible larger “conspiracy”. Cabinet 19 July approved legal changes - still to be endorsed by parliament - that would allow Muslim couples to marry under ordinary marriage registration law, rather than Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, in line with longstanding demand of women activists. COVID-19 case numbers and death rates levelled off during month but latter remained high at 40-50 per day; vaccination programme progressed significantly with substantial new supplies from abroad.
Cross-strait relations between Beijing and Taipei remained tense amid heated diplomatic exchanges, while Taiwan remained point of friction between U.S. and China. During speech at centenary celebrations of Chinese Communist Party, President Xi Jinping 1 July raised “peaceful reunification” in reference to Taiwan. Taiwan officials same day issued statement on celebrations, criticising Communist Party for its “one-party dictatorship” and “interference with international order”; in turn, Beijing officials said Taiwan had “spoken outrageously”. U.S. military transport plane 15 July landed briefly in Taiwan’s capital Taipei, reportedly to deliver packages to U.S. diplomats, prompting China to rebuke U.S. for “aggravating dangerous tensions” in strait; separate U.S. military transport plane 19 July landed briefly in Taipei. China 16 July held joint amphibious landing exercises in strait. Taiwan next day conducted live-fire artillery drill, simulating response to enemy invasion. According to Taiwan’s defence ministry, total number of Chinese military aircraft that entered into Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone in July reached 16, showing significant decline compared to previous months. President Tsai Ing-wen 20 July announced Taiwan would open representative office in Lithuania in “important diplomatic breakthrough”; China same day warned Lithuania against move. Earlier in month, U.S. National Security Council Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell 6 July said U.S. does not support Taiwan’s independence, but rather “strong unofficial relationship” with island. Japanese Deputy PM Tarō Asō 6 July suggested that attack on Taiwan would be interpreted as threat to Japan and would prompt Japanese military support (see Japan).
Pro-democracy activists held large-scale rally in capital Bangkok, while govt faced criticism for insufficient vaccine supplies as COVID-19 cases reached record highs. Over 1,000 protesters 18 July assembled in Bangkok to oppose govt’s handling of COVID-19 pandemic; as protesters attempted to reach Government House, security forces responded with water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas; eight police officers and unknown number of demonstrators were injured. Police arrested at least 16 demonstrators. As daily COVID-19 infection rates hit record high daily tallies during month, govt faced growing public criticism for tardy, insufficient and non-transparent efforts to secure effective vaccines; Siam Bioscience, contracted by govt to produce AstraZeneca vaccine, 14 July advised public health ministry that 61mn doses scheduled for delivery by 31 Dec would be delayed until May 2022. Leaked document 18 July showed that in Sept 2020 govt ordered only six million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine per month, rather than ten million previously announced by health minister. Authorities continued to silence critics. Following pro forma apologies, state-backed Govt Pharmaceutical Organisation 14 July registered defamation complaints against two critics of govt’s slow response to pandemic; former ruling party MP 21 July asked police to investigate comments critical of govt made by over 20 celebrities; 18-year-old rapper next day reported to police to answer defamation charges related to tweets critical of PM Prayuth. Six professional media associations 28 July issued joint statement condemning govt use of emergency decree to curb free speech. Violence continued in deep south. Improvised bomb 6 July killed one soldier and wounded three more in Chana district, Songkhla province. IED attack and ambush 19 July wounded five police officers in Sai Buri district, Pattani province.
Tensions with Azerbaijan rose along state border with deadliest clashes since Autumn 2020 war; fighting could intensify in coming weeks. On international border, despite striking second deal to exchange prisoners and mine maps (see Nagorno-Karabakh), Armenia and Azerbaijan traded unprecedented number of accusations of ceasefire violations during month as exchanges of fire occurred almost daily, primarily in Gegharkunik/Kelbajar and Yeraskh/Nakhchivan regions of state border of two republics. Fighting 6-26 July killed at least one Azerbaijani and one Armenian, and wounded three Azerbaijanis and five Armenians (one of whom remains in critical condition). Azerbaijan 14-15 July also claimed that Armenian forces inside conflict zone had fired at their positions in Shusha town. Deadliest clashes since Autumn 2020 escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh 27-28 July erupted on international border; Armenian foreign ministry accused Azerbaijani armed forces of infiltrating its territory and attacking its military positions; Baku confirmed incident left two Azerbaijani soldiers wounded and Yerevan said three Armenian soldiers were killed and six wounded. Armenian defence ministry 28 July confirmed Russian peacekeepers brokered ceasefire, which remained in force by end of month despite continued exchanges of fire; concerns remained that fighting could resume in August. Earlier in month, Armenia objected to Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) secretary general’s 3 July characterisation of standoff with Azerbaijan as “border incident”, thus ruling out triggering of CSTO’s collective defence clause; Armenian Security Council Secretary Armen Grigoryan 6 July responded that “border incidents cannot last two months”. PM Pashinyan 7 July met with Russian President Putin to discuss security concerns along border. President of European Council Charles Michel 18 July said EU was ready to support border demarcation efforts. Meanwhile, after opposition bloc Armenia Alliance 2 July requested Constitutional Court to overturn June parliamentary election result, court 17 July upheld Central Election Commission’s decision to award election victory to PM Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party; opposition parties decided to take their seats in new parliament, due to hold its first session on 2 August.
Tensions with Armenia rose along state border with deadliest clashes since Autumn 2020 war; fighting could intensify in coming weeks. On international border, despite striking second deal to exchange prisoners and mine maps (see Nagorno-Karabakh), Armenia and Azerbaijan traded unprecedented number of accusations of ceasefire violations during month as exchanges of fire occurred almost daily, primarily in Gegharkunik/Kelbajar and Yeraskh/Nakhchivan regions of state border of two republics. Fighting 6-26 July killed at least one Azerbaijani and one Armenian, and wounded three Azerbaijanis and five Armenians (one of whom remains in critical condition). Azerbaijan 14-15 July claimed that Armenian forces inside conflict zone had fired at their positions in Shusha town. Deadliest clashes since Autumn 2020 escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh 27-28 July erupted on international border; Armenian foreign ministry accused Azerbaijani armed forces of infiltrating its territory and attacking its military positions; Baku confirmed incident left two Azerbaijani soldiers wounded and Yerevan said three Armenian soldiers were killed and six wounded. Armenian defence ministry 28 July confirmed Russian peacekeepers brokered ceasefire, which remained in force by end of month despite continued exchanges of fire; concerns remained that fighting could further resume in August. Earlier in month, President Aliyev 7 July signed decree to re-organise economic regions establishing new regions “Karabakh” – including territories partly controlled by Russian peacekeepers and areas not under Azerbaijani control such as Stepanakert and Khojaly cities – and “East Zangezur”. Since 20 June Armenian election that handed victory to PM Pashinyan, Baku intensified calls for peace deal with Armenia and mutual recognition of territorial integrity and borders; Aliyev 14 July warned it would be “a very big mistake” for Armenia to refuse peace negotiations.
Opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya sought greater U.S. support as govt stepped up crackdown on independent media. Opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya visited U.S. capital Washington and 28 July met U.S. President Biden who declared U.S. “stands with the people of Belarus in their quest for democracy and universal human rights”; earlier, Tsikhanouskaya 19-20 July met U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken and U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, said she had requested U.S. “to be the guarantors of our independence” and “politically pressure the regime”. Meanwhile, authorities 8-9 July raided offices of multiple media outlets, reportedly arresting 32 individuals. NGO Human Rights Watch 15 July accused govt of “massive, unprecedented raids and detentions against the Belarus human rights community” after authorities arrested at least 12 activists across ten cities previous day. Belarusian Association of Journalists, largest media association in country, 21 July said ministry of justice had filed lawsuit at Supreme Court in attempt to “liquidate” organisation. Court 27 July labelled Polish-funded news channel Belsat “extremist”, ordering its website and social media accounts be blocked. Lithuanian FM Gabrielius Landsbergis 2 July accused govt of seeking “to weaponize migration to weaken our resolve for sanctions” and Lithuanian PM Ingrida Šimonytė 7 July accused Belarusian govt of offering migrants from third countries flights to capital Minsk in order to transit across border into Lithuania; in letter to EU member states publicised 29 July, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson described developments on border as “unacceptable instrumentalization of people for political purposes”; Lithuania border services 27 July revealed that over 2,300 migrants had been detained in July along border with Belarus, bringing number of detained migrants since Jan 2021 to 3,027 – compared to 81 in 2020.
International High Representative for Bosnia imposed ban on genocide denial, prompting Bosnian Serb representatives to announce boycott of state institutions. In one of his final acts in office, outgoing head of Bosnia’s Office of the High Representative (OHR), Austrian diplomat Valentin Inzko, 23 July imposed change in Bosnian criminal law, outlawing denial of 1995 Srebrenica genocide and imposing up to five years imprisonment for genocide denial and glorification of war criminals; OHR is mandated with implementation of 1995 Dayton peace agreement and empowered to enact laws and remove elected officials. Bosnian Serb leader and member of joint presidency Milorad Dodik same day rejected decree and reportedly threatened “dissolution” of Bosnia. Bosnian Serb political representatives from all political parties in Republika Srpska’s National Assembly 27 July began boycott of joint presidency, parliament and govt until withdrawal of decision. Republika Srpska parliament 30 July passed laws blocking approval of Inzko’s decision and permitting up to 15 years imprisonment for “violating the reputation of the Republika Srpska”. Previously, Russia in draft resolution co-sponsored by China called for UN Security Council to abolish OHR by July 2022; resolution 22 July failed to pass. Meanwhile, police 14 July arrested intelligence chief Osman Mehmedagic for alleged money laundering, abuse of office and document forgery; hundreds next day protested in front of State Prosecutor’s Office in capital Sarajevo in show of support for Mehmedagic.
Turkish Cypriot leader announced plan to take civilian control of area under Turkish military since 1974, sparking widespread international opposition, while maritime tensions continued. Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar 20 July announced that Turkish military would hand over 3.5-sq km section of sealed-off quarter of Varosha/Maraş to civilian “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (TRNC) control and Greek Cypriot property owners could apply to Turkish Cypriot administration for reparations. Announcement sparked international criticism: Republic of Cyprus President Anastasiades called plan “illegal and unacceptable” and Greek MFA 20 July condemned action “in the strongest terms”, while UK, U.S., Germany and EU 20-22 July voiced strong opposition; UN Security Council 23 July unanimously called for “immediate reversal” of steps. EU 27 July condemned “Turkey’s unilateral steps”, prompting Turkish foreign ministry same day to call EU position “biased”. President Erdoğan 19-20 July visited “TRNC”, announcing plans to construct new govt complex for political leadership of “TRNC”. In maritime domain, Turkish Petroleum Corporation 9 July applied for new exploration licence in three areas off coast of Silifke in Mersin province, in zone that also includes significant parts of Greek Cypriot-claimed Exclusive Economic Zone. Tensions rose after Greek Cypriot police 16 July accused Turkish Cypriot Coast Guard vessel of firing warning shots at Greek Cypriot Coast Guard patrol in island’s northern gulf of Morphou, while allegedly violating Greek Cypriot territorial waters; Greek Cypriot official Marios Pelekanos said: “There is no excuse for this behaviour by the Turkish vessel”, while “TRNC” Security Forces Command called incident “fake news”. Meanwhile, Turkey and “TRNC” intensified efforts to secure diplomatic recognition of “TRNC”. Consular team of Pakistan embassy in Turkey 11 July conducted official three-day visit to de facto administration in north while Azerbaijani parliamentarians 16 July visited “TRNC”. UN Security Council 29 July extended mandate of UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus for six months until 31 Jan 2022.
Positive overtures between Greece and Turkey were tainted by diplomatic spat over cancelled football fixture amid ongoing maritime tensions. Signs of conciliation between Greece and Turkey surfaced during month. Greek PM Mitsotakis 4 July appeared hopeful on short-term prospects of Greek-Turkish relations, stating: “I’m sure the summer of 2021 will be quieter than the summer of 2020 [...] what we have done is to clearly delineate what our lines are”. In reference to feasibility of drilling in maritime zones contested with Greece, Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Dönmez 13 July said: “We do not drill where there is no possibility of finding anything”. Tensions rose, however, after Turkish football team Galatasaray 12 July cancelled match against Greek team Olympiakos due to take place in Greece after Greek authorities requested additional COVID-19 test upon arrival in country. Dispute escalated when Turkish foreign ministry 12 July said incident “shows [Greece’s] intolerance towards our country”, Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu 13 July communicated Turkish discontent to Greek FM Nikos Dendias, and Turkish foreign ministry same day summoned Greek ambassador to convey “strong protest”; Greek officials maintained they were merely following public health rules. Meanwhile, Turkey’s Antalya Station announced advisory for gunnery exercises just north of Greece’s Rhodes island for 6-9 of July, while Greece’s Heraklion Station announced French vessel Nautical Geo – leased by Greece, Cyprus and Israel – started scientific research in north of Greece’s Crete island, from 14 July “until further notice”.
Far-right mob attacks at Pride event in capital Tbilisi undermined political reconciliation deal; engagement between Tbilisi and breakaway territories displayed some positive signs. Pride march 5 July held in capital Tbilisi, but quickly sparked backlash from far-right demonstrators who clashed with pro-LGBTQ+ participants, leaving over 50 journalists injured; organisers same day cancelled march in light of near-absent police protection and far-right attacks. PM Gharibashvili same day claimed “radical opposition” led by former President Saakashvili was behind march to spread unrest; authorities’ failure to prevent violence sparked international criticism, including from Western embassies, along with EU and UN representatives. Political tensions heightened further after confirmation that cameraman Aleksandre Lashkarava had died 11 July from injuries suffered during 5 July disorder; 19 civil society organisations immediately called on Gharibashvili and Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri to resign, while hundreds 11-12 July protested in Tbilisi, and smaller protest took place in Black Sea port city Batumi, demanding PM’s resignation; in Tbilisi, scuffles 12 July broke out between govt and opposition MPs in parliament. Reconciliation deal between govt and opposition faced further strains after govt 12 July appointed six Supreme Court judges in contravention of April agreement, sparking criticism from EU and U.S. officials 14-15 July. Amid growing political turmoil, ruling Georgian Dream party 28 July announced that it considers EU-brokered April deal “annulled”. Meanwhile, following 53rd round of Geneva International Discussions held late June, Inguri crossing between breakaway Abkhazia region and Tbilisi-controlled territory 5 July reopened after 478-day closure due to COVID-19. Georgian and South Ossetia representatives 8 July agreed technical solution to cross-line water supply issues. As part of exchange of detainees, South Ossetian de facto leader Anatoly Bibilov 14 July pardoned Georgian citizen Zaza Gakheladze who was detained in July 2020.
EU-led Belgrade-Pristina talks continued in Brussels, concluding without significant progress. Following talks in June, PM Kurti and Serbian President Vučić 19 July participated in their second face-to-face meeting as part of Belgrade-Pristina dialogue hosted by EU in Belgian capital Brussels; dialogue focused on missing persons and other issues. After closing of talks, EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajčak 20 July said “very little progress” had been made, with both parties accusing other of unwillingness to make compromise; parties agreed to resume talks in Sept. Vučić 20 July told media that Serbia had accepted points in EU proposal reportedly refused by Kurti, such as bolstering efforts to identify remains of missing persons, refraining from destabilising actions, and holding monthly meetings to prepare for high-level talks; Kurti same day stated, however, that Vučić had rejected his six-point “Declaration of Peace” along with request for elimination of alleged barriers to free trade. Parliament 7 July adopted resolution condemning 1995 Srebrenica massacre and recognising it as genocide; representatives from Serb party boycotted vote.
Skirmishes broke out on Kyrgyz-Tajik border amid concerns over border security with Afghanistan. Kyrgyz and Tajik forces 8 July reportedly exchanged gunfire along border in Leilek district, Batken region, killing one Kyrgyz border guard; guards 24 July reportedly exchanged fire on border between Batken oblast and Tajikistan’s Sughd region. Kyrgyz authorities 29 July reportedly confirmed that in recent meetings with Tajik counterparts, sides delimited/demarcated additional 40km of border. Collective Security Treaty Organization Parliamentary Assembly 1 July convened in Tajik capital Dushanbe and expressed concern over intensity of fighting in Afghanistan. State Committee for National Security head Kamchybek Tashiev 8 July said withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan posed risks to country, particularly as “terrorist organizations have moved to an active phase of their activities in the Central Asian countries”.
Azerbaijan and Armenia agreed to second deal exchanging Armenian detainees for landmine maps amid ongoing diplomatic tensions and border hostilities. In second deal of its kind since June, talks under Russian auspices led Baku 3 July to release 15 Armenian detainees in exchange for Armenian landmine maps of Fuzuli and Zangilan districts. Tensions with Yerevan rose, however, after Azerbaijani govt 10 July organised visit with diplomatic delegations and international organisations in Azerbaijan to Shusha town; Azerbaijani pro-govt media and social media accounts immediately criticised absence of U.S., French and Russian ambassadors from visit, said it proved failure of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group to make diplomatic progress. Armenian foreign ministry 13 July praised U.S., France and Russia for not joining trip, stated that it deemed visit to Shusha – which it called “occupied territory” – unacceptable. Azerbaijan 14-15 July claimed that Armenian forces inside conflict zone had fired at their positions in Shusha town. Hostilities and tensions rose along state border as both sides claimed unprecedented number of ceasefire violations including regular exchanges of fire throughout July (see Armenia and Azerbaijan). Meanwhile, Azerbaijan welcomed U.S. participation in peace process; in letter to U.S. President Biden, Azerbaijani President Aliyev 3 July invited U.S. to help establish lasting peace and trust between Baku and Yerevan, adding: “We would like to see U.S. companies as partners” in reconstruction work in Nagorno-Karabakh. OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs 13 July called for resumption of high-level political dialogue; Aliyev next day warned it would be “a very big mistake” for Armenia to refuse peace negotiations and Armenian PM Pashinyan 15 July responded that Yerevan was ready to resume peace talks under auspices of OSCE Minsk Group, while accusing Azerbaijan of “destructive actions and statements”. President Aliyev 7 July signed decree establishing new economic regions that include territories not under Azerbaijani control (see Azerbaijan).
Authorities continued crackdown on independent media and opposition, and launched security operations against jihadist networks. Authorities continued to impose restrictions on independent media and NGOs operating inside country. Notably, Prosecutor General’s Office 15 July declared independent media outlet Proekt “undesirable organization”, making it first media outlet to receive status. Independent association of lawyers and journalists Team 29 18 July announced its closure, fearing criminal prosecution after authorities blocked its website; Team 29 had represented in court imprisoned opposition figure Alexei Nalvany’s organisations as well as former journalist Ivan Safronov, accused of treason. At request of Prosecutor General’s Office, federal agency for mass media (Roskomnadzor) 26 July blocked access to websites associated with Navalny, citing “promotion” of “prohibited extremist activities”; agency also requested Google to block YouTube channels of Nalvany’s associates. Meanwhile in North Caucasus, security forces 3 July launched security operation in Kabardino-Balkarian Republic, killing total of five militants. Elsewhere, security forces 7 July reported on late June-early July operations in Penza, Ufa and Chelyabinsk cities, which led to capture of four leaders and 11 members of international jihadist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami. Security forces 9 July arrested suspected Islamic State militant plotting attack in Moscow region and 15 July arrested individual allegedly plotting attack in capital Moscow.