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.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Papua New Guinea
Our monthly conflict tracker highlights one conflict resolution opportunity and two conflict risk alerts in August.
CrisisWatch assesses deteriorations in seven countries in July.
Last, our conflict tracker welcomes one improvement in July.
Aside from the scores of conflict situations we usually assess, we tracked notable developments in July in Brazil, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda and Togo.
Our CrisisWatch Digests for Ethiopia, Lebanon and Somalia offer a monthly one-page snapshot of conflict-related country trends in a clear, accessible format, using a map of the region to pinpoint developments:
View the June 2022 CrisisWatch Digest on Ethiopia here.
View the June 2022 CrisisWatch Digest on Lebanon here.
View the June 2022 CrisisWatch Digest on Somalia here.
Ruling junta reached agreement with West Africa’s regional bloc over transition timeline; former President Compaoré returned to Ouagadougou to mixed reception as part of govt’s push for national unity; insecurity remained rampant in several regions. Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) 3 July withdrew threat of sanctions after agreeing with Ouagadougou on 24-month transition starting 1 July. Former President Compaoré 7 July returned home for first time since his 2014 ousting to meet with Transitional President Lt-Col Damiba as part of latter’s reconciliation talks with five former heads of states scheduled for 8 July. Over 20 civil society organisations and political parties 7 July called on heads of states to boycott 8 July meeting, saying Compaoré, who was handed life imprisonment sentence in April for murder of predecessor Thomas Sankara in 1987, should be detained. Only Compaoré and Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo 8 July attended meeting with Damiba. Military reported successful counter-insurgency operations in Sahel region (north) as jihadists from al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) pursued efforts to isolate region from areas under govt control: two jihadist bases destroyed around 3 July in Yagha province and Seytenga town, with 34 militants reportedly killed; joint Burkinabè-Nigerien unit 8 July repelled presumed jihadist ambush near Sebba town (also Yagha), killing 22 militants. Jihadists however conducted deadly attacks in Yagha: up to 14 civilians killed 17 July in Guissendiori village, while army vehicle 27 July hit explosive device in Titabe area, leaving six soldiers dead. Jihadists continued to consolidate territorial control in Centre-North region, which could pave the way for attacks closer to capital Ouagadougou. Notably, presumed ISGS 3 July attacked artisanal mining site near Yeou village (Namentenga province), killing 18 vigilantes; and suspected JNIM militants 10 July killed at least five people in Barsalogho town (Sanmatenga province), prompting govt airstrikes in area. In Centre-East region, presumed JNIM militants 22 July reportedly attacked two villages of Koulpelogo province; 15 killed and others missing. Several incidents also reported in western regions. Notably, in Boucle du Mouhoun region, suspected JNIM overnight 3-4 July killed 22 civilians in Bourasso town (Kossi province).
Harassment of govt opponents persisted; military operations against rebels in eastern DR Congo continued; and President Ndayishimiye assumed chairmanship of East African Community regional bloc. Ruling party youth wing Imbonerakure 2 July allegedly battered individual to death in Ntega commune, Kirundo province, over accusations of stealing food. Suspected Imbonerakure around 8 July reportedly raided home of main opposition party National Congress for Freedom member Donatien Ndayishimiye in Mwumba commune, Ngozi province; local media denounced “assassination attempt”. Police 14 July arrested three Imbonerakure in Mparambo village, Cibitoke province, after discovering military uniforms at their house; authorities suspect group impersonated soldiers to commit robberies. Hundreds of soldiers and Imbonerakure (who reportedly received two months of accelerated military training) 14-16 July reportedly left Buganda and Rugombo communes in Cibitoke province for DR Congo’s South Kivu province to fight Tutsi-led RED-Tabara rebel group. NGO Burundi Human Rights Initiative 27 July said Burundi has secretly sent hundreds of troops and Imbonerakure to fight RED-Tabara in DR Congo since late 2021. Meanwhile, Rwandan rebels from Hutu-led National Liberation Front (FLN) reported still present in Cibitoke province: locals in Mabayi and Bukinanyana communes 14 July accused them of committing string of thefts in collusion with local retailers and Imbonerakure; also in Mabayi, soldiers 17 July found four dead bodies believed to be those of FLN rebels. On occasion of UN Human Rights Council’s session in Switzerland’s Geneva city, NGO Human Rights Watch 4 July denounced govt’s lack of cooperation with newly appointed UN special rapporteur on Burundi, reported “limited positive steps” under Ndayishimiye to tackle “systematic human rights violations”. Ndayishimiye elected chair of East African Community regional bloc for one year during 21-22 July summit, taking over from Kenyan President Kenyatta.
Conflict continued between separatists and govt in Anglophone regions, bomb blasts hit capital Yaoundé for first time since August 2020, and Boko Haram attacked civilians in Far North. Deadly conflict between separatists and govt forces persisted in Anglophone regions. In North West region, separatists 8 July killed one gendarmerie commander at checkpoint in Mbiame town, Bui division; locals in Bafut town, Mezam division, 16 July found two bodies believed to be those of separatist fighters arrested 22 June by govt forces. In South West region, govt soldiers 15 July displayed corpse of notorious separatist leader “Field Marshall” Lekeaka Olivier Fongunueh to locals in Kumba city; armed separatists 26 July killed special forces Rapid Intervention Battalion commander, Major Eyenga Essama, during clashes in Kumba; Essama is most senior army officer to be killed in battle since start of Anglophone conflict five years ago. Defence Minister Joseph Beti Assomo 19 July condemned abuses by military against Anglophone civilians, ordered soldiers to cease violations. National Assembly Speaker Cavaye Yéguié Djibril 6 July called for increased military presence in Anglophone regions to counter rebels, saying latter in past month abducted hundreds of officials and killed at least 20 govt workers. Meanwhile in North West region, unidentified gunmen 24 July kidnapped and killed three ethnic Fulanis in Wum town, Menchum division; reprisal from angry mob of Fulanis next day injured ten members of Aghem ethnic group. Artisanal bomb explosions 2 and 12 July wounded three people at Mokolo market in Yaoundé; authors unknown. Boko Haram attacks on civilians persisted in Far North region. Insurgents 2 July killed one guard in raid on health centre in Makary town, Logone-et-Chari division; 6 and 15 July killed five people in two villages of Mayo-Sava division; overnight 15-16 July killed at least four civilians in Moutchikar village, Mayo-Tsanaga division. French President Macron 26 July met President Biya during visit to Cameroon, said decentralisation and further dialogue can solve Anglophone conflict; raised Ukraine-Russia conflict and its related food crisis, while Biya evaded question from journalist on his succession.
Govt forces and their Russian allies continued to fight rebel groups; controversy persisted over constitutional amendment which could pave way for President Touadéra’s third term; and country faced serious fuel shortages. In Basse-Kotto prefecture, govt forces and allies 3 July clashed with Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) in Dimbi town, leaving 25 dead including 23 CPC elements, one soldier and one civilian; CPC rebels 15 July captured Kembe town before leaving three days later. UN human rights office 25 July published two reports detailing serious human rights violations by pro-govt militia as well as CPC-affiliated armed groups since Dec 2020, including some possibly amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Authorities banned demonstration scheduled by NGO Coordination of Civil Society Organisations for Peace for 1 July to protest constitutional amendment – currently being discussed in parliament – that would remove two-term presidential limit and pave way for Touadéra to run in next presidential election. Two pro-govt platforms 8 July led march in capital Bangui in support of constitutional revision. Lawyer Olivier Manguereka 12 July accused pro-govt platforms, including Galaxie Nationale, of inciting violence against opposition figures. Serious fuel shortages during month constrained delivery of humanitarian aid to 3mn people in need of assistance, and threatened to impact military operations against rebels. Meanwhile, after making bitcoin legal tender in April, Touadéra 3 July launched “Sango” crypto hub, said cryptocurrencies are key to tackling financial exclusion in country. “Sango” coin 25 July went on sale as national digital currency. UN Security Council 29 July voted to relax 2013 arms embargo against Bangui; govt had sought complete lifting of ban on sale or transfer of weapons and ammunition. International Criminal Court 28 July unsealed 2019 arrest warrant for former security minister and Seleka group leader, Mahamat Nouradine Adam, over alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Transitional govt announced national dialogue for August, prompting rebel groups to briefly back out of Qatar-mediated peacebuilding talks. Transitional Military Council (CMT) 14 July set 20 August start date for national dialogue meant to pave the way for elections. In response, 14 rebel groups, including Front pour l’Alternance et la Concorde au Tchad (FACT) and Union des forces de la Résistance (UFR), 16 July withdrew from Qatar-mediated peacebuilding talks with transitional govt, said lack of consultation on start date for national dialogue revealed attempt to “exclude” them and their political allies. Groups 22 July however accepted to resume talks after Qatari mediator previous day submitted new draft pre-national dialogue agreement. Media outlets 31 July cited negotiators saying agreement between Chad’s military govt and opposition rebels will be signed in Doha in early August. To prepare for national dialogue, CMT President Mahamat Idriss Déby 27 July consulted with some political parties, civil society organisations and religious leaders. Earlier in month, Déby 9 July reshuffled govt, removing Agriculture Minister Dene-Assoum Kamoungué, Economy Minister Mahamat Hamid Koua and his half-brother and head of transitional presidency’s civil cabinet, Abdelkérim Idriss Déby Itno, from office. Reshuffle likely linked to recent cases of corruption and looting of state’s financial resources. Meanwhile, reports emerged of kidnappings for ransom in southern localities. In Mont de Lam department, unidentified group around 6 July allegedly killed villager held in captivity since 20 May, despite his family paying ransom. Local resident 11 July told radio FM Liberté that his two children were recently kidnapped in same area and released after ransom payment. U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Ellen Thornburn 1 July urged CMT members to uphold commitment to abstain from running in next elections; former President Déby’s Patriotic Salvation Movement in following days denounced “American interference in Chadian affairs”.
In long-awaited step toward national reconciliation, President Ouattara met with former Presidents Gbagbo and Bédié; govt engaged in diplomatic battle with Mali over arrest of Ivorian soldiers in country. Long-time rivals Ouattara, Gbagbo and Bédié 14 July met at presidential palace in economic capital Abidjan in first trilateral encounter since 2010-2011 post-election violence; discussions focused on national reconciliation and political dialogue ahead of 2025 presidential election, possibly touching on release of political and military prisoners incarcerated during 2010-2011 crisis, and return of prominent exiles such as former Minister Charles Blé Goudé; Ouattara proposed making such meetings a regular occurrence. Govt pursued efforts to tackle insecurity in country’s north amid recurrent jihadist attacks along border with Burkina Faso. Ouattara’s brother, Defence Minister Téné Birahima Ouattara, 12 July participated in donor conference in France on financing of International Counter-Terrorism Academy, which was inaugurated in June 2021 near Jacqueville town. French Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu 16 July met with president and his brother in Abidjan to discuss bilateral cooperation to contain jihadist threat in West Africa. Meanwhile, Malian authorities 10 July arrested 49 Ivorian soldiers at Bamako International Airport, labelling them “mercenaries” attempting to destabilise transition. Ivorian govt 12 July said soldiers were part of UN stabilisation mission in Mali (MINUSMA), urged Bamako to release them. Togo-led mediation launched around 19 July. MINUSMA 26 July said “dysfunctions” may have led to crisis, acknowledging that “certain measures were not taken” ahead of Ivorian troops’ arrival (see Mali).
Anti-UN protests left over 20 dead amid rising anger over peacekeepers’ inability to stem insecurity; govt signed de-escalation agreement with Rwanda as M23 rebels’ offensive in North Kivu continued; other armed group violence remained rampant in east. Hundreds of protesters 25 July stormed UN base in North Kivu’s capital Goma, demanding UN’s MONUSCO force depart. Protests next day spread to Butembo city, and 27 July reached Uvira city, South Kivu province. Govt 27 July said demonstrations had resulted in at least 22 fatalities. Amid rising tensions, UN peacekeepers 31 July opened fire at border post with Uganda, killing two civilians. Amid M23 rebels’ offensive in North Kivu’s Rutshuru territory, President Tshisekedi 6 July met with Rwandan counterpart, President Kagame, in Angola’s capital Luanda; both leaders agreed on roadmap to de-escalate tensions (see Rwanda). M23 next day rejected move and clashed with Congolese forces in Rutshuru’s Kanyabusoro and Kazuba localities, forcing residents to flee. Three-week lull in fighting followed until 27 July, when clashes between M23 and govt forces resumed in Rutshuru’s Kabingo and Rubavu villages. Meanwhile, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) remained active. In North Kivu’s Beni territory, ADF 7-8 July killed 13 people in Lume locality, while govt forces 15 July pushed back ADF attack on prison in Beni city. In Ituri province’s Irumu territory, ADF 9-10 July killed six and kidnapped over 100 civilians in Banyari Tchabi and Bahema Mitego chiefdoms, and overnight 23-24 July killed at least nine civilians in Kayera and Kyabohe villages. Congolese and Ugandan joint operation against ADF continued: Ugandan forces 3 July captured ADF Lisulubi camp in North Kivu near Ugandan border after heavy bombardment, next day reported discovery of mass grave with 100-150 bodies. Violence by Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) rebels in Ituri’s Djugu territory declined following CODECO’s June commitment to cease hostilities. Clashes between rival CODECO factions 10-11 July however killed at least 18 in Ritsi locality. Politicians geared up for 2023 presidential election. Martin Fayulu, who lost to Tshisekedi in 2018 election, 14 July announced his candidacy, while Tshisekedi’s former ally, Jean-Marc Kabund, 17 July launched new party. DR Congo 12 July formally joined East African Community.
Precarious calm prevailed at border with Ethiopia’s Tigray region; President Isaias and Somali counterpart vowed to strengthen bilateral cooperation. Border areas between Eritrea and Ethiopia’s Tigray region throughout month remained calm but volatile and inaccessible to humanitarian agencies. Tensions persisted between Asmara and Addis Ababa as Ethiopian govt took further steps toward peace talks with Tigray leadership (see Ethiopia). Meanwhile, media outlet BBC 14 July reported that over 10,000 Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia’s Alem-Wach refugee camp (Amhara region) were facing severe flooding. Somalia’s newly elected President Mohamud 9-12 July embarked on four-day trip to Eritrea, signalling willingness to maintain ties with Asmara. In seven-point memorandum signed 12 July, Isaias and Mohamud notably agreed to enhance defence, security, diplomatic and political cooperation. During visit, Mohamud also met with Somali soldiers who have been undergoing secretive military training in Eritrea in 2019; later renewed pledge to bring soldiers home amid long-running controversy around program participants’ alleged deployment in Tigray.
Disagreement over mediator impeded progress toward Tigray peace talks; violence persisted in Oromia and Al-Shabaab made rare incursion from Somalia. Federal and Tigray govts in July took further steps toward peace talks. Seven-member negotiating committee tasked by Addis Ababa to lead talks 12 July met for first time. Tigray leadership 18 July announced creation of negotiating team, reiterated refusal to negotiate over Amhara-controlled Western Tigray, saying area must be returned to Tigray’s administration. Senior official 28 July said federal govt was ready to negotiate “without preconditions”. Disagreement over whether African Union (AU) Envoy Olusegun Obasanjo or Kenya’s govt should lead mediation efforts however impeded progress toward negotiations; federal govt favours Obasanjo, but Tigray leaders accuse him of close ties to Addis Ababa. In second large-scale attack against ethnic Amharas in Oromia region in two weeks, armed group 4 July targeted ethnic Amhara villages in Kellem Wollega Zone, killing at least 150. PM Abiy accused Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) of “massacre”, vowed to “eliminate” group, while OLA denied responsibility and blamed govt. Meanwhile, clashes 7-8 July erupted in Oromia’s West Wollega and Kellem Wollega Zones; residents said federal forces killed state civil servants for allegedly refusing to cooperate against OLA. Fighting between govt forces and OLA reported during month in Degem and Dera districts in Oromia’s North Shewa Zone. In Amhara region, clashes 10-12 July erupted between armed militia, possibly OLA, and govt forces at border of North Shewa and Oromia Special Zones; at least 25 killed. In rare incursion into Ethiopia, Al-Shabaab militants 20 July entered Somali region from neighbouring Somalia; authorities 24 July announced victory over group in operation that reportedly left over 200 militants dead. Renewed clashes 25 July however erupted, with authorities claiming 85 Al-Shabaab killed. Senior U.S. military official 28 July warned group will likely continue launching attacks in Ethiopia. After renewed violence in disputed al-Fashaga borderlands late June, Abiy and head of Sudan’s Sovereign Council Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan 5 July met in Kenya, agreed to establish joint committee to resolve dispute (see Sudan).
Main opposition forces boycotted second round of national dialogue and held several anti-junta protests; and West Africa’s regional bloc set 1 August deadline for revised transition timetable. Govt 1 July launched second round of national dialogue initiated in June; prominent political party Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea and civil society coalition National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC) did not attend, however, demanding terms of dialogue be reset. Meanwhile, authorities 5 July arrested three FNDC leaders, including prominent pro-democracy activist Foniké Mengué, for alleged “contempt of court” over comments criticising Prosecutor’s Office and military-appointed parliament. As videos showing leaders’ brutal arrest circulated on social media, protests 5-6 July erupted in capital Conakry; clashes between police and youth groups reportedly left at least 17 police officers injured. All three activists released 8 July after Dixinn court same day found them not guilty. FNDC, joined by deposed President Condé’s Rally of the Guinea People and other opposition forces, 28-29 July defied ban on protests and held anti-junta marches in Conakry; clashes with police reportedly left at least two dead and many injured on both sides, while police said 85 people were detained 28 July. FNDC 30 July said two senior officials, including Foniké Mengué, arrested previous night; also said it was calling off protests for one week following request by Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to give mediation a chance. Earlier in month, ECOWAS 3 July rejected 36-month transition proposed by interim authorities, required latter to submit revised transition timetable by 1 August or face economic sanctions. ECOWAS heads of state same day appointed Benin’s former President Boni Yayi as mediator for Guinea; Yayi 19 July arrived in Conakry for series of meetings with govt officials, including interim President Col Doumbouya. ECOWAS chair, Guinea-Bissau’s President Sissoco Embaló, 28 July said junta had accepted two-year transition, which Conakry refused to confirm.
Tensions between rival camps continued to run high ahead of 9 August general elections; Al-Shabaab activity persisted along border with Somalia. Youths 2 July stoned convoy of Siaya county gubernatorial candidate, Nicholas Gumbo, on its way to political rally in Bondo town. Clashes between police and demonstrators accusing electoral commission officers of bias 20 July injured six police officers in Kiisi county. Frontrunners in presidential election, veteran politician Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto, in July traded accusations claiming bias of electoral commission in favour of the other. Odinga 26 July boycotted presidential debate saying Ruto “has no regard for ethics, public morals”. Meanwhile, all four presidential candidates 9 July signed charter committing themselves, parties and supporters to uphold peaceful elections. Hundreds 7 July demonstrated in capital Nairobi against increasing cost of living, saying basic commodity prices have doubled in recent weeks; protesters accused political leaders of letting citizens down and threatened to boycott elections. Similar protests reported early July in Kisumu and Muranga counties. Authorities 6 July extended curfew in parts of Baringo, Elgeyo-Marakwet and West Pokot counties until 7 Aug in effort to tackle banditry and intercommunal violence. Meanwhile in Samburu county, suspected ethnic Pokot gunmen 11 July attacked Samburu pastoralists; one dead and two wounded. Al-Shabaab activity persisted along border with Somalia. Military 1 July announced killing ten suspected Al-Shabaab militants during security operation in Sarira and Kolbio areas of Boni forest in Lamu county. Explosive device allegedly planted by Al-Shabaab 14 July injured three people in Wargadud area of Mandera county. Presumed Al-Shabaab militants 25 July reportedly attacked security camp in Kutulo area, Mandera, injuring three police officers. In sign of improving relations, President Kenyatta and Somali President Mohamud 15 July signed 11-point agreement including resumption of khat stimulant trade and of Kenyan national carrier Kenya Airways flights to Somalia.
Jihadists extended operations further south from their stronghold in country’s centre, launching bold attacks near capital Bamako; West Africa’s regional bloc lifted economic and financial sanctions; and diplomatic spat erupted with Côte d’Ivoire. Jihadists struck targets just north of Bamako. Suspected al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) 14 July attacked Zantiguila security post (Koulikoro region), only 50km from Bamako, killing at least six. JNIM-affiliated Katiba Macina 22 July launched sophisticated attack on Kati military base on outskirts of Bamako, leaving one soldier dead; govt forces repelled raid, killing at least seven assailants. Elsewhere, coordinated jihadist attacks on military targets near towns of Sévaré (Mopti region), Sokolo (Ségou region) and Kalumba (Koulikouro region) 27 July killed at least 15 troops and three civilians; military said 48 militants killed. Meanwhile, 2015 peace agreement signatory group Coordination of Azawad Movements 17 July decried “abandonment” of accord by transitional authorities, promoted “consolidation of unity” between signatory armed groups. After Bamako late June released electoral timetable scheduling presidential election for Feb 2024, West Africa’s regional bloc ECOWAS 3 July lifted economic and financial sanctions on Mali, only keeping individual and diplomatic sanctions in place; ECOWAS demanded that no member of transitional govt run as presidential candidate in 2024 election, amid persistent concern among Malian actors and outside observers over transitional President Col Goïta’s intentions. Supreme Court prosecutor 28 July issued international arrest warrant for ex-PM Boubou Cissé and several other ministers of deposed President Keïta, in likely attempt to prevent them from running in presidential election. Meanwhile, diplomatic incident soured Bamako’s relations with Côte d’Ivoire and confirmed junta’s reluctance to cooperate with UN mission MINUSMA going forward. Bamako 10 July arrested 49 Ivorian soldiers at Bamako airport, described them as “mercenaries” attempting to enter country without proper authorisation in order to foment unrest. Côte d’Ivoire’s govt 12 July denied claim, said soldiers were part of MINUSMA, and requested their “immediate” release. Bamako 20 July ordered MINUSMA Spokesperson Olivier Salgado to leave country within 72 hours over tweets about incident (see Côte d’Ivoire).
Islamist insurgents attacked military and police targets in Cabo Delgado province in possible attempt to stock up on arms and other materiel following their offensive in province’s southern districts in June. After weeks of seemingly trying to avoid confrontation with military, Islamist insurgents throughout month launched several attacks on security and defence forces. Notably, insurgents 9 July attacked police Rapid Intervention Unit’s position in Pundanhar locality, Palma district, forcing officers to withdraw and leave weapons, ammunition and equipment behind; Islamic State (ISIS) 11 July claimed responsibility for raid, which could be the biggest on govt positions since Rwandan and Southern African Development Community (SADC) troops arrived in Cabo Delgado in 2021. Insurgents 13 July also clashed with security forces around Quinto Congresso village, Macomia district, reportedly seizing large quantity of arms and ammunition. Authorities however claimed major gain following late June establishment of new military base north of Macomia town: President Nyusi 15 July said govt forces, with support of Rwandan soldiers and SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM), had captured insurgent base in Macomia’s Catupa forest. Meanwhile, militants continued attacks on civilians in northern Cabo Delgado. In Macomia, insurgents 12 and 24 July launched attacks in or around Nkoe village, killing two farmers, injuring at least five people and burning down over 100 houses; 19 July attacked Litandacua village, clashed with govt and Rwandan forces, with unknown number dead. In Nangade district, insurgents 26 July killed at least three civilians and burnt down houses in Chitunda area; in response, govt and SAMIM forces same day ambushed insurgents, killing two. Further south in Meluco district, insurgents 2-10 July raided three villages, looting and burning down houses; ISIS claimed all attacks. In neighbouring Montepuez district, suspected Islamist militants 17 July attacked Nacaca artisanal mine, 12km north of Montepuez city, beheading three miners; and govt forces 21 July reportedly launched airstrikes on Islamist militants in Namanhumbir area in first known counter-insurgency operation in Montepuez. Southern Ancuabe district also remained under militant threat. Notably, two men were beheaded 13 July outside Muaja village; insurgents 19 July also attacked Mihecane village, with ISIS 22 July claiming five people beheaded.
Violence ran high in Diffa region in south east; govt sought to strengthen regional security cooperation, and reported growing food insecurity. In Diffa region in south east, Boko Haram splinter group – Jama’tu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad (JAS) or Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) – 3 July attacked National Guard post in Gueskérou commune (Diffa department), killing two; 11 militants also killed and eight others captured. Around 50 presumed JAS combatants 4-5 July attacked Blabrine military position in N’Guigmi department, killing six soldiers and wounding 14 more, and losing 17 militants; 18 July abducted 16 people including 11 Chadian Quranic students and five women in N’Guigmi town. In Tillabery region in south west, violence continued along Burkina Faso border, near capital Niamey, where al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) operates. Notably, in Torodi department, govt forces around 7 July killed five suspected JNIM members near Torodi town, while unidentified gunmen around 13 July ambushed joint Nigerien-Burkinabe patrol in same area; patrol repulsed attack, reportedly killing 22 assailants. Amid relative lull in violence in Mali-Niger border area of Tillabery, partly due to dialogue between govt and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), suspected ISGS militants 17-18 July reportedly clashed with militiamen near Adabdab village in Banibangou department; at least eight militiamen and three militants killed. Niger and Benin 11 July signed military cooperation agreement with view to enhancing information-sharing and air-intelligence cooperation amid rising security concerns along shared border. PM Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou 7 July said 4.4mn Nigeriens will need food assistance during lean season in June-Sept, as inflation and rising food prices have further exacerbated existing food shortages.
Jihadists launched attacks within Federal Capital Territory, confirming ability to strike targets far beyond decade-old heartlands in North East; elsewhere, levels of violence remained high notably in North West. In Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) overnight 5-6 July stormed prison in Kuje area, freeing 69 jailed group members along with over 700 others. Suspected jihadists 24 July ambushed Presidential Guard elite unit on patrol along Bwari-Kubwa road in FCT, killing at least three soldiers. Fears of further attacks 27 July forced closure of schools in federal capital Abuja and adjoining Nasarawa state. Meanwhile in North East, suspected jihadists 18 July killed five vigilantes in Gubio area of Borno state; military said troops fought back, killing “many”. In North West and North Central zones, armed groups continued deadly attacks and kidnappings, targeting farmers, highway travellers and clerics despite govt forces’ air and ground operations. In Kaduna state, gunmen 4 and 15 July kidnapped three Catholic priests in Kauru and Lere area, killed at least one of them. In Sokoto state, armed groups 17-18 July killed four farmers with 70 others abducted or missing in villages of Sabon Birni area; 25 July kidnapped Catholic priest in Tambuwal town. In Katsina state, armed groups 5 July ambushed presidential advance team near President Buhari’s hometown of Daura; 19-20 July killed at least 11 people including five policemen in Faskari and Kankara areas. In Zamfara state, gunmen 10 July killed 18 villagers in Maru area. In Taraba state, armed groups 14-20 July killed at least 30 people in Takum and Ussa areas, leaving over 20,000 displaced. In Kogi state, unidentified gunmen 30 July ambushed and killed eight security officers in Ajaokuta area. In South East, suspected members of separatist group, Indigenous People of Biafra, and its armed wing, Eastern Security Network, continued attacks on govt’s security personnel and facilities. Notably, electoral commission mid-July suspended ward-level voter registration in Igboeze North area, Enugu state, following 3 and 13 July attacks on its office and officials. Opposition lawmakers 27 July threatened to impeach Buhari over failure to curb insecurity.
Govt signed de-escalation agreement with DR Congo after two countries traded accusations of supporting rebels in Great Lakes region. President Kagame 6 July met with Congolese counterpart, President Tshisekedi, in Angola’s capital Luanda to discuss tensions amid M23 rebels’ offensive in DR Congo’s North Kivu province; both leaders agreed on de-escalation process, including “immediate cessation of hostilities” and “immediate and unconditional withdrawal” of M23 rebels from eastern DRC. Rebels next day rejected move, claiming that only they can sign ceasefire agreement, and clashed with Congolese military in North Kivu’s Rutshuru territory. Congolese and Rwandan officials 20-22 July met again in Angola, called for quick deployment of East African Community regional force (agreed upon in June) in eastern DRC to combat M23 rebels; Kigali agreed to be excluded from regional force at Kinshasa’s request. Renewed clashes late July broke out between M23 and Congolese forces in Rutshuru (see Democratic Republic of Congo).
President Mohamud went on regional tour to reset foreign policy; deadly firefight erupted between Puntland state security units; Al-Shabaab targeted Ethiopian police units near and across border with Ethiopia. Mohamud in July travelled to Turkey, Eritrea, Kenya, Djibouti, Tanzania and Egypt in search of external support ahead of implementing ambitious internal agenda, including on security. During 9-12 July visit to Eritrea, Mohamud notably visited Somali troops undergoing military training in Eritrea since 2019, amid long-running controversy around program participants’ alleged deployment in Ethiopia’s Tigray region; later renewed pledge to bring soldiers home. In Kenya, Mohamud 15 July signed 11-point agreement aimed at improving ties with neighbour, including resuming trade of khat stimulant and flights by Kenya’s national carrier Kenya Airways to Mogadishu. Security incident highlighted ongoing fault lines in Puntland state following Puntland leader Said Deni’s failed bid to become president in May, along with Puntland’s uneasiness with federal govt. Puntland Security Force (PSF) 11 July clashed with Puntland Maritime Police Force at Bosasso airport (Bari region) during landing clearance dispute for aircraft carrying federal parliament’s Lower House deputy speaker and then-acting Somali president, Sadia Samatar, leaving about 20 people dead. Meanwhile in South West state, Al-Shabaab launched most significant attack along Ethiopian border in years before making rare incursions into Ethiopia (see Ethiopia): up to hundreds of Al-Shabaab militants 20 July clashed with Ethiopian police units in Yeed and Aato villages, Bakool region; security officials claimed 17 Ethiopian police officers and 63 Al-Shabaab killed. Renewed clashes reported 29 July in Aato. Also in South West state, explosive attacks in Marka and Afgoye towns (Lower Shabelle region) 27 July killed at least 16, including Marka’s district commissioner. Elsewhere, Al-Shabaab 17 July detonated vehicle packed with explosives at hotel in Jowhar city (Middle Shabelle region), where Hirshabelle state officials were meeting, leaving up to seven dead and others injured. U.S. military killed two Al-Shabaab fighters in 17 July airstrike in Jubaland state.
Delay of electoral cycle increasingly likely as talks between govt and opposition parties over sequencing of upcoming elections were short-lived. Mediation by group of elders, including those from Upper House of parliament, 6 July brought govt and two opposition parties together for series of meetings aiming to end dispute over sequencing of upcoming elections; Waddani and UCID parties have maintained that no other ballot can precede presidential election scheduled for 13 Nov, while President Bihi has insisted on political association election to come first. Opposition parties 19 July said talks had failed, putting blame on Bihi, while govt instead accused opposition of walking away. Negotiation committee next day called on political leaders to de-escalate tension and get back to negotiating table. Waddani’s presidential candidate, Abdirahman Irro, 25 July called on his supporters to launch peaceful nationwide protests following failed talks. Police around 31 July warned opposition parties against holding demonstrations without permission. Technical preparations for elections remained stalled: four election commissioners appointed and sworn in around 5 July, but three positions remained unfilled. Authorities 19 July indefinitely suspended British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Somali service for allegedly lacking neutrality and undermining Somaliland’s sovereignty. Police officers 23 July raided BBC Media Action office in capital Hargeisa, briefly detained five staff members.
Controversial proposal to extend coalition govt’s time in power beyond Feb 2023 ratcheted up political tensions; violence continued in multiple areas. Media outlets late July reported President Kiir and VP Machar around 26 July agreed to extend their time in power for 24 months after end of 2018 peace deal’s transitional period in Feb 2023. Earlier in month, after senior Kiir allies 15 July submitted draft roadmap detailing extension plan to complete peace agreement’s implementation, Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO), civil society actors and other political leaders criticised lack of deliberation and called for more inclusive process to define way ahead. Dissident Gen Stephen Buay Rolnyang 9 July called to replace Kiir and Machar through violence, while holdout opposition leaders Thomas Cirillo and Paul Malong, Pagan Amum and others 15 July announced broader opposition alliance. U.S. 15 July confirmed withdrawing funding to peace-monitoring bodies, citing a lack of progress on peace deal provisions. Meanwhile, South Sudan People’s Movement/Army (SSPM/A) led by Gen Stephen Buay Rolnyang late July engaged in hostilities in Mayom county, Unity state, with over 30 fatalities recorded; notably, group 22 July killed Mayom county commissioner, 26 July attacked South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSDPF) reinforcement convoy. Violence flared in Eastern Equatoria state when suspected ethnic Murle, Tennet and Buya gunmen 7 July launched cattle raid in Kapoeta North County; county commissioner 11 July claimed about 235 people killed, but figure likely exaggerated. Also in Eastern Equatoria, armed men 11 July shot dead chief of Madi ethnic group in Nimule city (Magwi county), prompting locals to accuse Dinka Bor cattle keepers. Kitgwang faction, which split from Machar’s SPLM/A-IO in 2021, split again when its deputy leader, Gen Johnson Olony, 12 July attempted to replace Gen Simon Gatwech as faction leader; internal tensions mid- to late July led to clashes in Magenis area (Upper Nile state), Pieri town (Jonglei state) and Panyikang county (Upper Nile state), while political cadres and military commanders met in Khartoum to contain crisis. Meanwhile, controversy persisted over dredging of Nile tributaries. In response to public outcry against initiative, Kiir 11 July halted dredging activities until further environmental assessments are completed.
Military withdrew from post-coup negotiations, calling on civilian groups to form govt and announcing new military council; intercommunal clashes in Blue Nile state killed over 100. In move likely aimed at shifting pressure onto civilian opponents, Transitional Sovereign Council Chair Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan 4 July announced military’s withdrawal from negotiations with civilian parties – mediated by UN, African Union and Intergovernmental Authority on Development –, called on civilian groups to form transitional govt. Burhan same day declared plans to establish “Supreme Council of the Armed Forces”, consisting of army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, to succeed Sovereign Council. RSF Head Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti” lent his support to Burhan’s announcements while civilian opposition groups denounced attempt to entrench military power. Notably, political coalition Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) 5 July dismissed al-Burhan’s speech as “tactical retreat” and urged continued resistance to coup. Divisions persisted within coalition, however: FFC leader Mohamed al-Faki 30 July told media outlet Sudan Tribune that FFC and other “revolutionary forces” were discussing new constitutional arrangements and would announce civilian PM within two weeks. Near-daily protests against military continued throughout month. Notably, thousands 2, 4 and 31 July demonstrated in capital Khartoum. In Omdurman city, security forces 21, 26 July reportedly killed two protesters. In Blue Nile state, intercommunal violence sparked by land dispute between Berti and Hausa communities 11 July erupted; at least 105 killed and 30,000 displaced over several days of clashes. Authorities 15-16 July declared state of emergency, deployed additional troops and imposed curfew. Tensions spread to other states, with Hausa protesters 18 July setting fire to govt buildings in Kassala. In capital Khartoum, security forces 19 July fired teargas at thousands of Hausa protesters calling for end to oppression of Hausa people. In South Darfur state, sporadic fighting 15-21 July between factions of Sudan Liberation Army in East Jebel Marra killed three and displaced thousands. After renewed violence in disputed al-Fashaga borderlands late June, al-Burhan 5 July met Ethiopian PM Abiy in Kenya; counterparts agreed to establish joint committee to resolve dispute. Khartoum 17 July reopened Gallabat border crossing, key trading route with Ethiopia.
Govt airstrike and jihadist raids left about 20 civilians dead in northern Savanes region near Burkina Faso. Airstrike 9 July left seven people dead and two injured in Margba village, Tone prefecture. Armed forces 10 July launched investigation into incident, 14 July announced military aircraft had wrongly targeted civilians, mistaking them for jihadists. Meanwhile, suspected jihadists overnight 14-15 July raided several villages in Kpendjal prefecture, leaving at least 12 civilians dead; overnight 18-19 July killed two soldiers in ambush in Tiwoli village, also Kpendjal prefecture. NGO Amnesty International 27 July urged Togolese authorities to respect human rights in fight with armed groups, citing reports of arbitrary arrests and restrictions on freedoms of assembly and expression.
Police detained dozens for protesting skyrocketing food and fuel prices, while hundreds reportedly died of starvation in Karamoja sub-region. Residents of Jinja district, Eastern region, 11 July protested soaring prices of consumer goods, reportedly burning tyres and closing off Jinja-Kamuli highway; police fired tear gas and live bullets to disperse crowds, and 11-12 July arrested at least 25 people. Renewed protests 25 July erupted in Jinja: demonstrators blocked Jinja-Kamuli and Jinja-Iganga highways, burnt tires and pelted motorists with stones, while security forces used tear gas and arrested over 40. Meanwhile, authorities 1 July released opposition leader Kizza Besigye on bail after two-week detention on charges of inciting violence. Rising fuel and commodity prices, combined with drought, caused food shortages notably in Karamoja sub-region (Northern region), where officials around 19 July said over 200 people had died of starvation since beginning of month; govt 14 July said four of ten people in Karamoja have no food, with shortages particularly dire in Kotido, Napak, Kaabong and Moroto districts. Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) 4 July distanced itself from Twitter comments by commander of land forces and President Museveni’s son, Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, supporting Ethiopia’s Tigray rebels; statement came after Museveni late June ordered UPDF officers to stop sharing sensitive military information on social media platforms. UPDF 12 July confirmed pay rise for senior officers in move seen as effort to quell dissent in UPDF leadership. Meanwhile, armed forces continued operations against Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels in eastern DR Congo, notably capturing major ADF base in North Kivu province 3 July, and reportedly killing ADF commander in Ituri province 17 July (see DR Congo).
Political tensions remained high, and authorities took steps to address soaring inflation. Skirmishes 11 July erupted between ruling ZANU-PF party members during election of Mutare district coordinating committee’s new secretary for youth. Opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change Deputy Chairman Job Sikhala and lawmaker Godfrey Sithole in July remained in detention as courts denied them bail following mid-June arrest on charges of instigating violence. Sikhala around 12 July faced new charges of obstructing or defeating course of justice. Zimbabwe’s Catholic bishops 18 July called for “meaningful, inclusive dialogue” to address “growing political volatility brought about by the impending 2023 general elections”. Central Bank 4 July said it will start issuing gold coins as legal tender in effort to tame inflation, and rekindle faith in local currency; over 2,000 gold coins had been issued by late July. Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency 29 July said annual inflation surged to over 250% in July.
UN voiced concerns over human rights under Taliban’s governance, while Taliban continued to battle Islamic State Khorasan Province and Northern Resistance Front. UN Human Rights Council 1 July began session discussing human rights of women and girls in country and adopted resolution reaffirming commitment to rights, including education and free movement. In report on human rights, UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan 19 July reported “erosion of women’s rights has been one of the most notable aspects of the de facto administration to date”. In attempt to garner domestic legitimacy, Taliban authorities organised gathering of nearly 4,500 scholars and community leaders; participants 2 July pledged allegiance to Taliban Emir, denounced rebellion against govt, and called on international community to recognise Taliban govt. On economic front, hardship continued. Local media reports 18 July indicated some 170,000 retired civil servants are yet to receive pensions. Senior Pakistani trade delegation 20 July visited Kabul to discuss continuation of Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement. De facto govt during month sought to reopen women-led businesses, notably in capital Kabul (east), Jowzjan (north), Balkh (north), Herat (west) and Kandahar (south). Meanwhile, Taliban launched raids against Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP): notably, security forces 16 July raided ISKP hideout in Kunduz city (north), allegedly against cell responsible for recent cross-border attacks into Tajikistan and Uzbekistan; 19 July launched raid in Samangan province (north), where they killed ISKP members allegedly responsible for beheading of Taliban fighter on 14 July; 20 July allegedly captured three foreign fighters in Kabul. NGO Human Rights Watch 7 July accused de facto authorities of committing war crimes in their fight against ISKP. UN Sanctions Monitoring Team 19 July reported that al-Qaeda in country does not pose major international threat for now due to lack of capacity and need to stay on good terms with Taliban. Fighting in north also continued between Taliban and Northern Resistance Front (NRF). NRF 7 July purportedly captured Taliban military base in Baghlan province. Taliban mid-July launched offensive against NRF in Baghlan’s Andarab region. NRF leader Ahmad Massoud 12 July claimed NRF had 3,000 armed fighters.
Upcoming polls remained point of contention between ruling Awami League party and opposition, while inter-religious tensions continued. After opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s (BNP) vice chairperson late June warned that it “won’t be possible for [ruling Awami League] to hang on to power by rigging votes again”, upcoming general elections due to be held by Dec 2023 dominated political scene during month. Heads of missions representing Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries 3 July met with Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal in preparation for election; Habibul Awal said some political parties had reported they would not take part in polls but he hoped they would reach consensus on remaining issues. FM Masud Bin Momen 4 July emphasised country was on track for “free, fair and participatory” national elections and noted there was “no issue of interference of foreign countries”. BNP Sec Gen Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir 12-13 July held closed-door meetings with UN Resident Coordinator Gwyn Lewis and EU Ambassador Charles Whiteley; Information and Broadcasting Minister Hasan Mahmud 13 July accused BNP of frequently raising domestic issues with foreigners instead of “countrymen”, while Awami League sec gen 18 July rejected BNP’s demand for neutral govt to oversee polls and accused opposition of wanting to capture state power through foreign conspiracies. BNP late month announced nationwide rallies against power shortages. Meanwhile, in suburb of Dhaka, hundreds of locals 1 July attacked home of prominent Professor Ratan Siddiqui, physically assaulting and calling him and his family atheists and Hindus. Chittagong court 4 July sentenced Hindu teacher to eight years in prison for “anti-Islam” remarks in case filed five years ago. In Narial district, local villagers 15 July accused local Hindu boy of blasphemous Facebook post, attacked and burnt Hindu homes and shops, and vandalised Hindu temple, causing many Hindu families to flee village. Paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) 3 July arrested convict in Dhaka, who had been sentenced to death in 2018 by controversial International Crimes Tribunal on charges of war crimes during 1971 war of liberation.
China continued naval activity in and around Japan’s territorial waters, while Japanese PM Kishida voiced desire to revise strictly pacifist constitution. As of 31 July, 114 Chinese coast guard vessels had entered waters around contested Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands and 12 entered Japan’s territorial sea. Notably, Chinese vessel 4 July entered contiguous zone around islands to chase Russian vessel from area in what Tokyo called apparent attempt to assert Chinese sovereignty over islands; Chinese vessel had entered contiguous zone of islands only three times before, in 2016, 2018 and last month. Japan, Australia and U.S. 4-6 July conducted trilateral training exercise in East China Sea; Japan and U.S. 8 July held bilateral exercises in same area, including aerial exercises. In its annual report, Japan’s defence ministry 23 July said China continues to unilaterally change status quo in East and South China Seas. Following 8 July assassination of former PM Shinzo Abe in Japan, ruling Liberal Democratic Party and coalition partner Komeito party 10 July retained majority in upper house elections; Japanese PM Kishida next day said he would push forward efforts to revise constitution’s Article 9, which renounces war, in line with both parties’ and Abe’s wishes.
Govt and China continued diplomatic and military talks to resolve border standoff in Eastern Ladakh without breakthrough. FM S. Jaishankar and Chinese FM Wang Yi 7 July met on sidelines of G20 FMs meeting in Bali, Indonesia, and held hour-long discussion; Delhi said Jaishankar “called for an early resolution of all the outstanding issues along the [Line of Actual Control (LAC)] in Eastern Ladakh” and “reiterated the need to sustain the momentum to complete disengagement from all the remaining areas”. Military officials and Chinese counterparts 17 July held 16th round of corps commander-level meetings at Chushul-Moldo border meeting point on Indian side in Ladakh aimed at ending standoff in Eastern Ladakh; joint statement next day indicated no breakthrough, mentioning “two sides continued discussions for the resolution of the relevant issues along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Western Sector”. Beijing 7 July protested PM Modi’s birthday wishes for Dalai Lama previous day, urging Delhi to “stop using Tibet-related issues to interfere in China’s internal affairs”. Meanwhile, regional court in Chhattisgarh state (east) 16 July acquitted 121 tribals accused of assisting Maoists in April 2017 killing of 25 security forces personnel for lack of evidence. Separatist militant group Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak Muivah) 25 July said that peace talks with govt have stalled because of objections raised by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, ideological parent of ruling Bhartiya Janata Party, against demand for separate flag and constitution.
Tensions between India and Pakistan ran high, while militant attacks and security operations persisted in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Pakistan’s foreign ministry 2 July summoned Indian chargé d’affaires to issue demarche over India’s decision to block access to content on 80 Twitter accounts of Pakistani diplomatic missions at UN and in Iran, Turkey and Egypt. Pakistan’s foreign ministry 7 July rejected Indian defence ministry dossier, which accused Islamabad of “hatching terrorist plots”, calling it “false and fabricated” and attempt to divert international attention from India’s “campaign of state-terrorism and widespread rights violations” in Indian-administered Kashmir. Protests by Kashmiri Pandit (Hindu) govt employees in Kashmir, which began after 12 May killing of Kashmiri Pandit official inside govt office, continued, as protesters demand relocation to Jammu until security situation improves. For second consecutive year, authorities did not list 13 July, observed as Martyrs Day in Kashmir, among official holidays; instead, govt 22 July announced launch of “Har Ghar Tiranga” campaign, calling on every household in Kashmir to hoist India’s tricolour flag ahead of India’s Independence Day on 15 Aug. J&K’s Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha 2 July said “the process of preparing fresh electoral rolls has been started”, in sign assembly elections will go ahead; dates yet to be confirmed. People’s Alliance of Gupkar Declaration, J&K opposition coalition, 4 July announced they would contest polls together. Former J&K Chief Minister and head of National Conference party Farooq Abdullah 3 July said “the caravan of militancy will not end” unless govt wins hearts of people in J&K. Meanwhile, militant attacks and counter-insurgency operations continued in J&K. Security forces 8 July claimed to have stopped an infiltration bid by Pakistani militants in Kupwara district, killing one militant and one security personnel; 11 July killed two suspected Jaish-e-Mohammed militants in Awantipora. Militants 12 and 17 July killed two security personnel at check posts in Srinagar and Pulwama districts.
Armed separatists launched deadly attack in Papua region, killing at least nine. Police in Papua’s provincial capital of Jayapura 16 July said armed separatists same day attacked civilians in Nogolait village, Nduga highland area, killing at least nine and injuring one, marking one of deadliest attacks in recent years. Military wing of Free Papua Organisation, West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), 18 July claimed responsibility for attack, accusing targets of being govt spies. Earlier, parliament 14 July ratified legislation to divide Papua into five separate provinces, adding three to existing Papua and West Papua regions, which many locals see as govt attempt to further assert control over region. Police 13-14 July reportedly arrested over 60 protesters demonstrating against law in provincial capital Jayapura and national capital Jakarta.
Military cooperation between South Korea, U.S. and Japan sparked opposition from China and North Korea, as tensions could rise further ahead of major U.S.-South Korea drills next month. South Korea participated in U.S.-led Rim of the Pacific military exercise running 29 June-4 Aug in signal of improving relations and military alliance coordination. Chinese state media 2 July responded angrily; domestic experts criticised deployment as “dangerous signal” of South Korean President Yoon administration’s deviation from “neutral line” balancing Beijing and Washington relations, and portent of U.S., South Korean and Japanese trilateral military alliance. North Korea 3 July similarly criticised U.S., South Korea and Japan’s 29 June agreement to reinforce “extended deterrence” as fostering U.S. “military supremacy” over Asia-Pacific. U.S. F-35A stealth fighter jets 5 July arrived in South Korea for ten-day deployment in first publicly announced visit since 2017. Yoon next day ordered military to “promptly and sternly” retaliate against any provocation from North. South Korean military 10 July reported trajectories of shots fired by North Korea, possibly from multiple rocket launches. U.S. and South Korea will hold major summertime military drills late Aug for first time in four years, potentially adding fresh impetus for Pyongyang to conduct seventh nuclear test. After North Korea 13 July recognised self-proclaimed people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, Russian ambassador to North Korea 18 July told media North Korean labourers may soon be sent to Ukraine’s Donbas region for rebuilding of “social, infrastructure, and industrial facilities”; comments underscore increased difficulty in maintaining existing UN sanctions regime on North Korea amid tensions between West and Russia. State media 18 July said country is en route to “finally defuse” crisis over COVID-19 outbreak. Meanwhile, South Korean FM Park Jin 18 July met Japanese FM Yoshimasa Hayashi to discuss reconciliation and disputes, including payments for forced labour stemming from 1910-1945 Japanese occupation of Korea. South Korea’s national intelligence service 6 July filed criminal complaints against two former chiefs on charges of abuse of power as well as for allegedly destroying intelligence documents.
Regime conducted first judicial executions in decades, provoking condemnation and jeopardising crisis resolution efforts, while regime and armed groups clashed in Kayin and Shan States. Regime 23 July executed four political prisoners, including two high-profile dissidents, in country’s first judicial executions since 1988; killings outraged public, further damaged any prospect of negotiations to address crisis, and sparked strong international criticism, as regional body ASEAN’s chairman 25 July described acts as “highly reprehensible” and “setback” to bloc’s diplomatic efforts, while UN Security Council 27 July unanimously condemned executions. In Kayin State, intense fighting late June-early July erupted between regime and combined ethnic and resistance forces around military outpost at Ukarithta, southern Myawaddy township, with regime forces launching scores of airstrikes and firing heavy weapons; notably, People’s Defence Force (PDF) Cobra Column 12 July reportedly carried out series of ambushes on Myawaddy-Waw Lay Road, killing several soldiers. In northern Shan State, armed group Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) 1 July clashed with military in Mongmit township in first fighting since SSPP last month rejected regime’s ultimatum to vacate three bases, reportedly killing three soldiers and injuring 15, with one SSPP member also killed. Delegation of armed group Lahu Democratic Union 7 July visited capital Naypyitaw for talks with regime leader Min Aung Hlaing, becoming ninth armed group to accept peace talk invitation. NGO Amnesty International 20 July said military’s use of landmines in Kayah State constituted war crimes. On diplomatic front, Chinese FM Wang Yi 3 July met Cambodian FM Prak Sokhonn and Myanmar FM Wunna Maung Lwin and outlined three “expectations” for how Cambodia should handle Myanmar crisis as ASEAN chair, including need for “political reconciliation”, restarting “democratic transition process” and upholding ASEAN’s “non-interference in internal affairs”. Wunna Maung Lwin next day met Thai deputy PM and FM Dom Pramudwinai, discussing implementation of five-point consensus. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 10 July said ASEAN needed to hold regime “accountable” for failure to make progress on five-point consensus, said bloc should push military to cease violence and restore democracy and “all countries to speak clearly” on regime’s “ongoing repression and brutality”.
Corruption allegations against finance minister fuelled criticism of govt as winter elections approach. Finance Minister Janardan Sharma 6 July resigned following allegations of corruption in relation to new fiscal year budget announced late May. Parliamentary committee formed to investigate accusations 29 July concluded that it could not confirm allegations against Sharma, largely due to insufficient evidence after surveillance footage considered crucial to probe was found to have been deleted. Following committee’s conclusion – and despite widespread rebuke of Sharma’s breach of budgetary protocol and more general critique of his neglect of worrying trends in financial sector – Sharma was reappointed finance minister 31 July upon recommendation by PM Sher Bahadur Deuba; observers criticised Deuba for prioritising ruling alliance over governance amid pressure from Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Election Commission 6 July recommended to Deuba that federal and provincial elections be held in single phase on 18 Nov; Deuba’s govt, however, is yet to announce official poll date. Deuba’s Nepali Congress party 18 July officially decided to contest upcoming elections with other ruling coalition parties.
Political tensions remained at all-time high as PM Khan continued to denounce govt and sought to take control of Punjab province in contentious and disputed votes. Govt and Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party tussled over control of Punjab. Supreme Court 1 July ordered by-elections for 20 constituencies of de-seated PTI lawmakers to precede election for chief minister. In by-elections 17 July, PTI won back 15 of 20 seats, while ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won four; vote proceeded relatively smoothly despite sporadic violence. Day after vote, Khan demanded chief election commissioner’s resignation and called for snap general elections; PM Sharif’s coalition partners 18 July, however, said parliament will complete its full five-year term lasting until Aug 2023. Election for Punjab’s chief minister went ahead 22 July. Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid-e-Azam’s (PML-Q)’s Pervez Elahi, PTI’s candidate, received 186 votes while PML-N’s Hamza Sharif received 179 votes. However, assembly’s deputy speaker discounted 10 PML-Q’s votes, citing party as opposed to parliamentary head’s instructions and Supreme Court ruling on defections, allowing Hamza to be sworn in 22 July. Supreme Court 26 July struck down deputy speaker’s ruling, permitting Elahi to be sworn in as chief minister next day. Govt 14 July reached staff-level agreement with International Monetary Fund for $1.17bn bailout; public discontent likely to grow as govt takes steps to stem economic decline, including raising fuel and energy prices. Meanwhile, PM-led parliamentary committee 5 July formally approved ceasefire talks with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Despite “indefinite” ceasefire announced by group last month, militant attacks continued in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Notably, militants 4 July killed two police in Tank district; 5 July killed two police officers in Dera Ismail district; 7 July killed one police and wounded four others at police station in Mardan district. In North Waziristan district, militants 11 and 14 July killed three Jamiat Ulema-e-Islami –Fazlur Rehman officials. In high-profile incident, Balochistan Liberation Army 12 July kidnapped lieutenant colonel and his cousin in Ziarat, Balochistan; militants next day shot dead colonel during military’s rescue operation, while operation to rescue his cousin 15 July killed nine militants and one soldier.
National elections were marred by fraud allegations, deadly clashes between rival supporters and tribal fighting in Highlands region that killed 18 and displaced thousands. Voting in national elections for parliament took place over weeks-long period amid widespread reports of voter exclusion, ballot tampering and deadly violence, reminiscent of 2017 election in which some 200 were killed. Notably, prospective voters in East Sepik and Hela provinces 4-6 July destroyed ballot boxes and set fire to ballot papers to protest not being enrolled on voter lists. Local media 19 July reported fighting between rival candidates’ supporters since 4 July in Hela killed nine people. Clashes 20 July erupted between tribes in Porgera town in Enga province (Highlands region), which reportedly killed at least 18 people; govt next day deployed 120 soldiers to area. UN 21 July raised alarm over “deteriorating security situation” in Highlands region, citing govt sources that confirmed reports of “deaths, assaults, rape, and the extensive destruction of property and infrastructure”, while also noting “estimates of several thousand people, mostly women and children, displaced”; UN also noted widespread allegations of ballot tampering and ballot box theft. In capital Port Moresby, armed mobs supporting rival political parties 25 July clashed, leaving six people injured. International newspaper The Guardian citing country observer next day reported nationwide death toll reached 22 people since vote counting began. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 31 July reported that “unofficial estimates” assess 300 have been killed in Enga since May.
Insecurity continued in south amid military operations against armed groups, suspected clan feuds and gun attacks linked to May elections. In Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, soldiers 18 July killed suspected Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) bombmaker in Shariff Saydona town following soldier deployment in so-called SPMS-Box (four-town area in Maguindanao province known for being BIFF stronghold). In Lanao del Sur province, two alleged supporters of Islamic State-linked Maute Group 2 July surrendered to police in Marawi city. Six Abu Sayyaf Group members 16 July surrendered in Patikul municipality, Sulu province, with further four militants surrendering 18 July in Lamitan city, Basilan province. Gunmen 6 July killed former Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commander in Datu Hoffer, Tuayan village, Maguindanao, in possible clan feud. Insecurity following May’s heated electoral contests persisted. In Basilan province, unidentified gunmen 19 July killed Albarka town elections officer Ruayna Sayadi in Isabela city, marking third such killing of election officers in province since May elections. In Sultan Kadarat province, unknown attackers 10 July shot school district supervisor of Buluan town, in his residence in President Quirino town, and unidentified gunman 12 July clashed with police in Simuay village, injuring four. Gunman 24 July killed three, including former mayor of Lamitan city, Basilan province, and injured one at Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon city, in wider Metro Manila area. Meanwhile, clashes between armed forces and communist New People’s Army continued at more lethal levels than in June; violence in Mindanao Island in south, Visayas Islands in centre and Luzon Island in north led to at least 20 combatant and civilian fatalities and seven injuries. In Marawi, Lanao del Sur province, Department of Environment and Natural Resources 9 July turned over new sanitary landfill facilities to city govt of Marawi. Govt Commission on Audit 2 July spotlighted Local Water Utilities Administration’s unreleased funds set aside for rehabilitation of areas affected by 2017 Marawi city siege.
China purportedly sought management of South China Sea (SCS) dispute with Philippines, while U.S. warned of risk of major incident with China and conducted naval operations near disputed islands. Chinese VP Wang Qishan 1 July said China and Philippines should “adhere to the proper handling” of SCS dispute while attending inauguration of President Marcos Jr; Chinese FM Wang Yi 7 July said “differences cannot be allowed to define the relationship between the two countries.” On occasion of sixth anniversary of SCS Arbitral Tribunal Ruling, U.S. 11 July reaffirmed its 2020 policy rejecting China’s maritime rights claims in SCS and that any attack on Filipino armed forces, vessels or aircraft would invoke U.S. commitments under Mutual Defence Treaty; Philippines FM next day said arbitral tribunal ruling was “final” (China previously judged it illegal, null and void). U.S. Navy 13 July conducted freedom of navigation operations near disputed Paracel Islands; China same day said it had “driven away” ship and called U.S. “destroyer” of regional peace and stability. U.S. 16 July conducted additional operation near disputed Spratly Islands; USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group same day entered SCS. U.S. media reports citing informed sources 14 July said Chinese fighter jet had “unsafe” and “unprofessional” interaction with U.S. special operations C-130 aircraft in June. U.S. 26 July accused China of increased provocations against other claimants in SCS and said that it was only matter of time before major incident because of China’s “aggressive and irresponsible behaviour.” On sidelines of Mekong-Lancang foreign ministers’ meeting in Bagan, Myanmar, Wang Yi and Vietnamese FM Bui Thanh Son 5 July agreed to advance maritime cooperation and promote talks to handle conflict over SCS.
Protesters compelled President Rajapaksa’s resignation after storming official residence; newly-appointed President Wickremesinghe authorised violent clampdown in capital Colombo. In unprecedented display of “people power”, crowds gathered for massive protests 9 July stormed presidential residence in capital Colombo in bid to force President Rajapaksa to resign; Rajapaksa 13 July fled country and next day resigned. Rajapaksa 13 July appointed PM Wickremesinghe as acting president, which provoked outrage among protesters who stormed and occupied PM’s office in effort to force his resignation. In response, Wickremesinghe same day declared state of emergency and curfew, and proclaimed his intention to “eliminate the fascist threat” posed by protesters, whom he accused of 9 July arson attack that destroyed his private residence. With security situation increasingly fraught amid clashes between security forces and protesters outside parliament in following days, credible reports indicated govt had authorised military to use live ammunition to quell protests; tensions, however, somewhat eased by 15 July when Wickremesinghe was sworn in as acting president. Wickremesinghe 20 July won parliamentary vote to become president and 22 July appointed new PM and cabinet dominated by Rajapaksa loyalists, appearing to have brought country full circle. Tensions 22 July reignited following Wickremesinghe’s decision to send in heavily armed soldiers and police commandoes to forcefully clear away Colombo’s main protest encampment and oust protesters from nearby presidential secretariat, resulting in some 50 people injured and nine arrested; govt use of force was condemned by Sri Lankan Bar Association and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, while U.S., British and Canadian ambassadors expressed deep concern. Final week of month saw police arrest key protest leaders and parliament 27 July ratify state of emergency. Meanwhile, economic crisis continued to worsen amid inflation running at more than 60% during month, and UN surveys indicating more than quarter of population, and nearly half of children, required emergency assistance; lack of fuel continued to cripple economy. Talks with International Monetary Fund had made progress last month but final deal likely hampered by political instability, while actual disbursement of funds will await successful outcome of debt restructuring negotiations with international creditors.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s potential visit in August raised risk of unintended crisis; Chinese aircraft continued incursions into Taiwan’s air defence zone and made rare crossing of unofficial “median line”. Speculation over potential visit to Taiwan of U.S. Senator Nancy Pelosi during her regional tour that began 31 July significantly raised tensions between U.S. and China and risk of unintended crisis in Aug. China late month warned of military response and said visit would seriously undermine China’s sovereignty and political foundation of China-U.S. relations, as it 30 July announced live-fire drills off of Fujian province, which sits across from Taiwan. U.S. military assets, including aircraft carrier, were also moved closer to Taiwan at end of month. Meanwhile, Chinese incursions into Taiwanese air defence identification zone continued during month, totalling 70 aircraft as of 30 July. Notably, Taiwan 8 July scrambled jets and “forcefully expelled” Chinese fighters that crossed median line – unofficial and tacitly recognised demarcation in Taiwan Strait – in rare “provocative” act that coincided with U.S. Senator Rick Scott’s visit to Taiwan; Chinese military same day announced it had conducted joint combat readiness patrols and combat drills in sea and airspace around Taiwan in response to U.S. support for Taiwan independence. In 7 July joint chiefs of staff meeting between U.S. and China, China demanded U.S. “cease U.S.-Taiwan military collusion”, warned provocations against China’s core interests would “be met with a firm counter-attack”. In talks with U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken, Chinese FM Wang Yi 9 July said U.S. should “stop hollowing out or distorting” one-China policy; Blinken same day said U.S. had no intention of supporting Taiwan independence or changing the status quo in Taiwan Strait. U.S. State Dept 15 July announced $108mn sale of arms to Taiwan; China 18 July demanded U.S. cancel sale. Former U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper 18 July visited Taiwan, and urged Washington to move away from policy of strategic ambiguity. EU Parliament VP Nicola Beer 19 July visited Taiwan, affirmed island as member of “family of democracies”.
Govt pledged closer ties to both China and U.S. as PM Prayuth and ten ministers saw off fourth no-confidence vote, while insecurity persisted in deep south. PM Prayuth Chan-ocha 5 July met Chinese FM Wang Yi in capital Bangkok, where pair agreed to “open up a more stable, prosperous and sustainable future for the two countries”. Prayuth 10 July met U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken in Bangkok; Blinken and FM Don Pramudwinai same day signed “Strategic Alliance and Partnership Communiqué” covering areas including trade and investment, climate change and regional cooperation. Domestically, parliament 19 July held fourth no-confidence vote since 2020 against Prayuth and ten cabinet ministers, with 45 hours of censure ending 23 July with Prayuth still in office. Canadian cybersecurity organisation Citizen Lab in collaboration with Thai NGO iLaw and internet watchdog Digital Reach 17 July reported that govt used Israeli-supplied Pegasus spyware to monitor at least 30 activists during Oct 2020-Nov 2021 protests for democracy and monarchy reform. Police 20 July denied govt use of spyware but Digital Economy and Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn same day in parliament said authorities used spyware in limited number of cases related to national security without identifying spyware as Pegasus or specifying which govt agencies used it. Insecurity persisted in deep south. In Muang district, Pattani province, security forces 5 July killed suspected insurgent after exchange of gunfire. Unknown gunmen next day shot and wounded Muslim man in same area. Also on 6 July, IED targeting govt car wounded ranger in Bannang Sata, Yala province. Security forces same day killed suspected insurgent in shootout in Reusoh district, Narathiwat province. Govt representatives and main separatist group Barisan Revolusi Nasional 14 July confirmed 1-2 Aug dates for next round of peace talks.
Border with Azerbaijan remained calm as EU and Russia continued mediation efforts; govt and Türkiye took tentative steps toward normalisation. Despite occasional reports from Baku and Yerevan of shooting at tensest part of state border between Azerbaijan’s Kelbajar district and Armenia’s Gegharkunik region, calm largely persisted along front lines ahead of new EU-mediated summit, expected to take place in Aug. Meanwhile, thanks to EU and Russian mediation efforts, Azerbaijani and Armenian FMs 16 July met in Georgian capital Tbilisi, reconfirmed readiness for continued diplomatic engagement. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 25 July spoke with PM Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Aliyev separately about “historic opportunity to achieve peace” and urged “further progress towards peace and stability in the region” (see Nagorno-Karabakh). After six months of contact between Türkiye and Armenia, sides 1 July met in Austrian capital Vienna. In historic move, they agreed to open border crossings for foreign citizens and to open their countries’ airspace to cargo movement “as soon as possible”; their respective leaders 11 July confirmed deal in rare telephone call. President Khachaturyan 14 July appointed Maj-Gen Edvard Asryan, who was among senior officers who 25 Feb 2021 signed letter demanding PM Pashinyan’s resignation, as chief of general staff of armed forces. Meanwhile, opposition activist Armen Grigoryan, arrested in March 2022 during protests in capital Yerevan, 15 July died in courtroom of possible heart failure, following numerous reports that he had health problems. Human rights defender Kristina Grigoryan 16 July said his treatment was “absolutely unacceptable” and promised to investigate. Opposition same day dedicated its street rally to Grigoryan, accusing leadership of unfair detention and neglect contributing to his death. In surprise visit, U.S. CIA Director William Burns 15 July met with PM Pashinyan in Yerevan along with other govt officials; statement issued following meeting gave few details of what was discussed. Russian Foreign Intelligence Chief Sergei Naryshkin 19 July travelled to Yerevan and Azerbaijani capital Baku, respectively; visits prompted speculation about possible secret talks on war in Ukraine; Naryshkin same day refuted claims that there was any connection between U.S. and Russian trips.
Situation at border with Armenia remained calm as EU and Russia continued mediation efforts, while govt signed energy deal with EU. Despite occasional reports from Baku and Yerevan of shooting at tensest part of state border between Azerbaijan’s Kelbajar district and Armenia’s Gegharkunik region, calm largely persisted along front lines ahead of new EU-mediated summit, expected to take place in Aug. Meanwhile, thanks to EU and Russian mediation efforts, Azerbaijani and Armenian FMs 16 July met in Georgian capital Tbilisi, reconfirmed readiness for continued diplomatic engagement. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 25 July spoke with President Aliyev and Armenian PM Pashinyan separately about “historic opportunity to achieve peace” and urged “further progress towards peace and stability in the region” (see Nagorno-Karabakh). Amid EU efforts to diversify gas supplies, and thus reduce dependence on Russia, govt 18 July signed new energy cooperation deal with EU in Baku, which aims to expand Southern Gas Corridor, thereby doubling gas supply from Azerbaijan to EU by 2025. In surprise visit, U.S. CIA Director William Burns 15 July met with Armenian PM Pashinyan in Yerevan along with other govt officials; statement issued following meeting gave few details of what was discussed. Russian Foreign Intelligence Chief 19 July travelled to Yerevan and Baku, respectively; visits prompted speculation about possible secret talks on war in Ukraine; Naryshkin same day refuted claims that there was any connection between two trips.
Govt and Western powers imposed tit-for-tat sanctions, and crackdown on opposition continued. UK 4 July introduced new sanctions worth £60mn, saying govt “continues to actively facilitate” Russia’s war in Ukraine. Responding to “hostile” actions, govt 29 July recalled ambassador to UK but insisted that communication channels will remain open. In response to Western sanctions, govt 5 July said it would freeze foreign shareholdings in 190 Belarusian companies from “unfriendly” countries. Opposition leader Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya 22 July dismissed recent reports that President Lukashenko wants military to play more active role in Ukraine, citing significant opposition to war, even within military. Meanwhile, crackdown on dissent continued. Court 13 July sentenced journalist Katerina Bakhvalova (pen name Katerina Andreyeva) to eight years in prison on charges of “state treason”; she was already serving two-year sentence for “violating public order”. Russian court in St Petersburg 21 July upheld decision to extradite activist Yana Pinchuk, whom Belarus accused of inciting national hatred and endangering national security; Pinchuk same day said she risks torture upon return. Minsk court 29 July began trial against political activists, including leader of opposition party Belarusian Popular Front, Ryhor Kastusyou; Human rights organisation Amnesty International same day called trial “desperate attempt to crush dissent”. In UN Aviation Agency’s report published 19 July, agency condemned Ryanair aircraft incident, when govt diverted flight and arrested opposition activist and his girlfriend, as “unlawful interference”; EU 22 July welcomed report and condemned “ongoing repression” while govt 27 July “resolutely disagreed” with findings.
Republic of Cyprus rejected Turkish Cypriot leader’s proposal to cooperate on energy, resources and other issues, claiming it undermined reunification prospects. Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar 1 and 8 July presented proposals for cooperation with Greek Cypriots on hydrocarbons, electricity, renewable energy, water, demining and irregular migration. Republic of Cyprus President Anastasiades 20 July rejected proposals, claiming they point toward creation of two states and not reunification, but said his administration would still be open to discuss them on condition that talks take place on basis of UN Security Council resolutions related to Cyprus question. UN Security Council 28 July unanimously voted in favour of renewing mandate of UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus for six months, until 31 Jan 2023.
EU accession roadmap sparked fierce political debate, while tensions rose between ruling Georgian Dream party and U.S., EU. Since EU member states conditioned Georgia’s candidate status on fulfilling “outstanding priorities” in June, country’s leadership, opposition and civil society failed to agree on path forward, particularly with regard to electoral reform and “de-oligarchisation”. Ruling Georgian Dream party 1 July presented plan, listing new commissions and existing ministries responsible for reforms, along with timeline; group of civil society organisations 3 July released its own plan. Many opposition politicians and president 11 July voiced concerns about leadership’s readiness to initiate genuine process that might satisfy EU demands. Several leading civil society organisations 12 July declared readiness to support ruling party, while president with support of remaining opposition 15 July signed decree initiating special parliamentary session for debates on fulfilling recommendations; ruling party 18 July promised to boycott session. Several opposition parties 25 July initiated working process on recommendations in parallel to discussions led by ruling party. Tensions with U.S. and EU rose during month. After several parliamentarians late June accused U.S. Ambassador Kelly Degnan of attempting to involve Georgia in war with Russia, Degnan 8 July dismissed claim as “conspiracy theories”. Head of ruling party Irakli Kobakhidze 9 July accused Degnan of “regrettable, offensive” remarks; U.S. State Dept 20 July condemned attacks on Degnan and embassy. In rare public statement, founder of ruling party and former PM Bidzina Ivanishvili 27 July echoed claims that “certain forces” were attempting to “drag Georgia” into war and also confirmed meeting with Degnan late March, which she previously denied; Degnan same day asserted there was “never any talk about Georgia’s involvement” in war. Pushing back on EU demands for “de-oligarchisation”, which ruling party sees as attempt to undermine Ivanishvili, PM Irakli Gharibashvili 18 July published letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen blaming European Parliament for “factual inaccuracies” about Ivanishvili. Adding to criticism, Kobakhidze 20 July said outgoing EU Ambassador Carl Harzell “played only a negative role in EU-Georgia relations”; EU 21 July said govt was “blaming others for own unfulfilled ambitions”.
Tensions rose late month amid govt plans to issue temporary IDs for Serbs entering country, with protesters in Serb-majority area setting up roadblocks and reportedly shooting at police. Following decision late June to issue Kosovo ID cards to citizens entering with Serb-issued documents, and to give drivers until 30 Sept to obtain Kosovo licence plates, authorities 25 July said all preparations were complete for new rule to begin by 1 Aug. However, decision fuelled frustration in northern Kosovo, prompting some to take to streets. Notably, protesters in majority Serb North Mitrovica town 31 July set roadblocks at two border crossing points with Serbia while police reported shots fired, harassment of passing Albanian civilians and attacks on cars. Govt condemned unrest while pledging to postpone implementation of new rule until 1 Sept. Serbian President Vučić same day said “Serbs will not suffer any more cruelty” but that Serbian govt “would try to preserve peace at all costs”; PM Kurti meanwhile defended reciprocity measures. NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo same day stated readiness “to intervene if stability is jeopardized in the north of Kosovo”. Earlier, European Parliament 6 July called for “comprehensive, legally binding normalisation agreement” between Serbia and Kosovo to further progress on EU accession; Serbian President Vučić same day said Serbia “won’t consider” mutual recognition of Kosovo and Serbia. EU Special Representative for Belgrade-Pristina dialogue Miroslav Lajčák 10 July announced that Serbian and Kosovar leaders had agreed to meet during month; similarly, Kosovar President Osmani 4 July said she believed “there will be a meeting” between leaders. Lajčák 20 July said Kosovo and Serbia needed to agree on meaning of normalisation and conceded that “it’s better to wait a little and make sure the meeting is successful”; he nonetheless stipulated that meeting should not be postponed again and that it should take place by Sept. Meanwhile, European Council 18 July reconfirmed “desire to intensify the EU-facilitated Dialogue” by extending Lajčák’s mandate until Aug 2024.
Leaders from four other Central Asian states arrived in Kyrgyzstan for summit designed to strengthen regional cooperation; notorious criminal leader killed in custody. Kyrgyzstan 20-21 July hosted leaders of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in Issyk-Kul Lake town of Cholpon-Ata to discuss economic and political cooperation in wake of Ukraine war, COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest and situation in Afghanistan. Summit marked first gathering of regional heads of state since Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 Feb (see Ukraine) and ended with pledge to increase cooperation. Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, however, did not sign off on treaty committing countries to “friendship, good neighbourliness and cooperation”, citing domestic procedures. Notorious criminal leader Chyngyz Dzhumagulov, whom authorities 15 July detained on racketeering charges, 30 July was stabbed by his cellmate at detention facility in Bishkek; Dzhumagulov reportedly had links to kingpin Kamchybek Kolbayev, for whom U.S. has offered $1mn reward.
Situation in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) remained calm amid EU and Russian mediation efforts. Calm persisted along front lines as Armenia and Azerbaijan prepared for new EU-mediated summit, with neither side reporting casualties during month. Russian President Putin 4 July spoke to Azerbaijani President Aliyev on sidelines of Caspian summit in Turkmenistan ahead of first substantial meeting between Armenian and Azerbaijani officials on border demarcation and related security issues, which will take place in Russian capital Moscow in Aug. EU also continued to facilitate diplomatic efforts. European Council President Charles Michel 4 July spoke with Aliyev; EU Special Representative Toivo Klaar 13 July travelled to Armenia for meeting with Armenian PM Pashinyan and 15 July met Aliyev in Azerbaijan. Subsequently, Azerbaijani and Armenian FMs 16 July met for first bilateral talks in Georgian capital Tbilisi, where they reconfirmed their readiness for continued diplomatic engagement. Meanwhile, U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 25 July spoke with Aliyev and Pashinyan separately about “historic opportunity to achieve peace” and urged “further progress towards peace and stability in the region”. U.S. ambassador to Armenia 26 July reaffirmed willingness to use Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group as “platform” for renewed cooperation with Russia to facilitate settlement to NK conflict.
Crackdown on dissent persisted, Ukraine launched more cross-border attacks and Gazprom imposed further cuts to Europe’s gas supply. Clampdown on opposition continued throughout month. Notably, court in Moscow 8 July sentenced Councillor Alexei Gorinov to seven years in prison for spreading false information or “fakes” about Russian army; authorities 12 July arrested opposition leader Ilya Yashin for same reason and opened criminal case over Yashin's YouTube stream discussing Bucha massacre in Ukraine; 15, 25 July detained opposition politician Leonid Gozman for failing to report his Israeli citizenship; 22 July brought criminal case against Councillor Helga Pirogova for spreading “fakes”. Head of human rights group Agora 18 July said authorities have brought criminal cases against 200 people for anti-war actions since invasion of Ukraine 24 Feb (see Ukraine). Meanwhile, court in Krasnodar 15 July sentenced politician and activist Andrei Pivovarov to four years in prison for cooperating with “undesirable organisation”; authorities 27 July opened criminal case against politician Vladimir Kara-Murza for same reason; throughout month authorities added four other organisations and media outlets to list of “undesirables”. Ministry of justice 21 July filed lawsuit demanding liquidation of Soсhnut Jewish Agency, which helps Jews emigrate to Israel; Israeli delegation 27 July travelled to Moscow to resolve issue. Authorities 28 July filed lawsuit to revoke independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta’s registration. Ukrainian forces continued attacks on Russian borderlands. Notably, missiles 3 July struck Belgorod city, killing five. Governor of Belgorod region 20 July said Ukraine shelled two villages, killing one. Drone 26 July struck border checkpoint in Bryansk region, killing one. UK, Australia, Canada and Japan imposed sanctions. EU 21 July approved seventh sanctions package targeting gold and Russia’s biggest lender, SberBank. At same time, EU unfroze some assets of seven Russian banks to prevent food supply issues. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy condemned EU sanctions for not going far enough. State-owned gas company Gazprom 27 July cut Europe’s gas supply to 33mn cubic metres per day — about 20% of pipeline’s capacity; Zelenskyy accused Moscow of waging “gas war”. Meanwhile, Lithuania 22 July lifted ban on transport of sanctioned goods to and from Russia’s exclave Kaliningrad.
President Rahmon visited Kyrgyzstan along with leaders from five Central Asian states in summit designed to strengthen regional cooperation. Kyrgyzstan 20-21 July hosted President Rahmon along with leaders of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in Issyk-Kul Lake town of Cholpon-Ata to discuss economic and political cooperation in wake of Ukraine war, COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest and situation in Afghanistan. Summit marked first gathering of regional heads of state since Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 Feb (see Ukraine) and ended with pledge to increase cooperation. Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, however, did not sign off on treaty committing countries to “friendship, good neighbourliness and cooperation”, citing domestic procedures. Meanwhile, 146 women and children 25 July were repatriated to Tajikistan from refugee camp in Syria, where relatives of ISIS militants were reportedly being held.
Military continued operations against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), tensions persisted with Greece, and govt pursued normalisation with Armenia. Military continued operations against PKK and its affiliates in northern Iraq, northern Syria and, to lesser extent, Türkiye, seeking to target PKK’s upper echelons. In notable escalation, artillery fire 20 July killed nine tourists and injured more than 20 in Duhok province in Iraq’s Kurdistan autonomous region; Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Govt authorities blamed attack on Türkiye and issued harsh and critical statements, while Ankara rejected these claims and held PKK responsible (see Iraq). Security operations against Islamic State (ISIS) cells/operatives continued, leading to at least 110 individuals with alleged links to ISIS being detained across country, majority of them foreigners. Tensions remained elevated with Greece over Eastern Mediterranean/Aegean Sea disputes. President Erdoğan 1 July responded to calls for meeting with Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis at NATO summit, saying: “We said, ‘Sorry, but we don’t have time for such a meeting right now’. Because it is obvious that they are militarising the islands”; Erdoğan also asserted: “We don’t want war with Greece, but Greece does not keep its word”. Ankara and Athens also exchanged barbs over movement of irregular migrants across Aegean and Türkiye-Greece land border during month. Meanwhile, govt and Armenia made progress in normalising ties. Special representatives from both sides 1 July held their fourth meeting in Austrian capital Vienna. In historic move, Ankara and Yerevan agreed to – as soon as possible – enable crossing of land border by third-country nationals; they also agreed to commence direct air cargo trade between their countries. FM Çavuşoğlu 4 July announced that Türkiye had offered to hold normalisation talks in Yerevan. After govt lifted its veto on Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO bids last month, President Erdoğan 18 July warned: “If these countries do not take the necessary steps to fulfil our conditions, we will freeze the process”; it remained to be seen which steps two Nordic nations will take and whether those will satisfy Ankara’s demands.
Russia continued operations to fully occupy Donbas, Ukrainian forces announced counter-offensive to liberate southern coast, and Russia, Ukraine, Türkiye and UN struck grain deal. Ukrainian forces 2 July retreated from Lysychansk, Severodonetsk’s twin city in east. Russian army 3 July declared it had taken full control of Luhansk region and throughout month continued operations to bring remainder of Donetsk region under its control. Notably, Russian forces 5 July struck market in Sloviansk, killing at least two; missile 9 July hit apartment building in Chasiv Yar city, killing over 40. Missile 29 July struck prison in separatist-held Olenivka town, killing around 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war; Moscow and Kyiv traded blame for attack. In south, attack 2 July on building near Black Sea port of Odesa killed at least 21. Month saw some attacks in centre and west; missile 14 July struck Vinnytsia city centre, killing 23; Russian forces 28 July struck Kyiv, Chernihiv regions for first time in weeks. Ukrainian forces used their new Western-manufactured artillery with longer range to destroy dozens of Russian ammunition depots. Notably, 3 July they targeted military base outside occupied Melitopol city, which mayor claimed killed 200 Russian troops; 11 July struck warehouse in Nova Kakhovka city. Ukraine’s defence minister 11 July announced counter-offensive to liberate southern coast; Ukrainian forces 19, 20, 27 July shelled Antonivskyi bridge across Dnipro river in bid to blockade Russian-occupied Kherson city. Meanwhile, govt continued lobbying for long-range ammunition to target Russian-occupied Crimea; U.S. under-secretary of defense cautioned of their escalatory potential; Russian official 17 July said attack on Crimea would trigger “judgment day scenario”. Drone 31 July exploded in Crimea's Sevastopol city, which Russian officials said they would investigate as terrorist attack. Elsewhere in occupied territories, low-intensity insurgency continued. On humanitarian front, UN 19 July estimated 5.9mn refugees and around 6.3mn displaced by war. On international front, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe mission to Ukraine 1 July ceased activities after Russia vetoed its renewal. Russia, Ukraine, Türkiye and UN 22 July signed deal in Istanbul opening Black Sea ports to grain exports; Russia next day struck Odesa port, sparking outcry from Ukraine’s allies.