CrisisWatch

Tracking Conflict Worldwide

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.

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January 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Cyprus

Republic of Cyprus sought German mediation for Cyprus issue amid bleak prospects of resolution, while UN Security Council renewed peacekeeping mandate.

UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres 3 Jan reported to UN Security Council that harsh rhetoric and “a significant hardening of positions” posed obstacle to dialogue and reconciliation between Greek and Turkish Cypriots; UN Security Council 30 Jan renewed UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for one year. Meanwhile, Republic of Cyprus FM Ioannis Kasoulides 10 Jan said he asked Germany to act as mediator on Cyprus question; German FM Annalena Baerbock previous day said that two-state solution “cannot be an option for Cyprus”. Echoing Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar’s 1 Jan remark that “federation talks are over and … two-state politics is settling in”, de facto foreign ministry of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) 13 Jan stated “no common ground” existed between two sides and UN must recognise “current realities on the island”. Republic of Cyprus President Anastasiades 15 Jan said country will continue to seek “liberation and reunification” of island despite threats and challenges. Türkiye’s VP Fuat Oktay 17 Jan said Türkiye will continue to fight for solution in Cyprus based on sovereign equality of two entities.

Türkiye

Govt continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and affiliates as well as Syrian govt positions in northern Syria, while tensions with Greece remained elevated.

Military continued operations in south-eastern Türkiye, northern Syria and northern Iraq. Operations against PKK continued in rural areas of Diyarbakır, Bingöl, Muş and Batman provinces, while military continued airstrikes against militants in northern Iraq and Syria; presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın 14 Jan asserted ground operation into Syria was “possible any time”. As military shelled Syrian govt positions, Ankara signalled openness to normalise ties with regime (see Syria); after Syrian FM 14 Jan said Türkiye had to end its “occupation” of Syria to normalise relations, senior Turkish official 18 Jan said everything could be negotiated, including total or partial withdrawal of Turkish troops from Syria.

Tensions with Greece remained elevated. Greek coast guard 5 Jan said one of its patrol boats fired warning shots to deter Turkish coast guard vessel trying to ram it in eastern Aegean sea. Greek media 8 Jan reported that Turkish UAV violated Greek airspace by flying over island of Kandeliousa. Greek FM Nikos Dendias 12 Jan called for European Union import ban on fish from Türkiye due to what he referred to as illegal fishing practices by Turkish vessels in Greek territorial waters. Greek PM Mitsotakis 19 Jan said two countries can “resolve differences”, while President Erdoğan 20 Jan responded “as long as you act wisely, we have no thought of attacking Athens”. As Greek news reports indicated Athens was planning to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles south of island of Crete, Turkish officials voiced opposition.

Erdoğan announced elections for May, authorities arrested suspected Islamic State (ISIS)-linked individuals. Erdoğan 18 Jan said presidential and parliamentary elections would take place on 14 May; date yet to be confirmed. Constitutional Court 5 Jan blocked bank accounts of pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), depriving party of receiving election grants from treasury. Police detained some 80 individuals with alleged links to ISIS, primarily foreigners. Meanwhile, govt condemned Quran-burning incident at protest in Sweden; govt yet to ratify Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership bids.

Latin America & Caribbean

Bolivia

Amid ongoing protests against arrest of right-wing opposition leader and Santa Cruz Governor Luis Fernando Camacho, opposition-led “national assemblies” took place across country.

Santa Cruz unrest continued, protesters launched opposition assemblies. Following arrest of Luis Fernando Camacho late Dec, protests persisted in Santa Cruz province during Jan amid clashes between police and protesters; Civic Committee of Santa Cruz president, Rómulo Calvo, 1 Jan stated that blockades around Santa Cruz would remain in place to deny province’s resources to capital La Paz. Yet as concerns grew over economic impact of blockades, Civic Committee 16 Jan announced opposition-led “national assemblies” would take place 25 Jan in all regional capitals to discuss “new measures” to demand Camacho’s release. Ahead of assemblies, protesters 18 Jan lifted blockades. Judge 19 Jan ruled Camacho must remain in detention while awaiting trial. Thousands 25 Jan attended Santa Cruz “national assembly”, which pressed for Camacho’s release via proposed Amnesty Law and called on all opposition forces to form political party to oppose ruling Movement for Socialism party in 2025 elections. Minister of Government Eduardo del Castillo 26 Jan dismissed “national assembly” resolutions as Santa Cruz citizens’ “new coup adventure”, Minister of Justice Iván Lima same day called them “unconstitutional”.

Govt and protesters faced criticism for violence. Ombudsman’s office 10 Jan reported 25 alleged human rights violations since protests began late Dec, and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and its Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression 17 Jan condemned “excessive use of force by the security forces and the acts of violence perpetrated by organised groups”.

Brazil

Days after Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva’s inauguration as president, Pro-Bolsonaro protesters stormed govt buildings, demanding military coup.

Rioters stormed govt buildings in attempt to reinstate Bolsonaro as president. Days after President Lula 1 Jan took office, supporters of former President Bolsonaro 8 Jan invaded presidential palace, Congress, and Supreme Court in capital Brasília, demanding military coup to reinstate Bolsonaro as president; they stole weaponry from vaults and caused millions of dollars in damage, including by smashing windows and furniture and destroying works of art. Lula same day declared state of emergency in Federal District, where Brasilia is located, until 31 Jan. Bolsonaro 9 Jan denied any involvement, claiming to have always acted lawfully.

Authorities arrested scores for attempted coup, evidence of army role in riots emerged. Police arrested over 1,500 protesters, 39 of whom were indicted by federal prosecutors on 16 Jan for crimes including attempted coup d’état. Supreme Court head Alexandre de Moraes 8 Jan suspended pro-Bolsonaro governor of Federal District Ibaneis Rocha for 90 days due to lack of action to contain protesters; Rocha 13 Jan responded, claiming army prevented police from removing pro-Bolsonaro protesters’ encampment in Brasília before riots. Police 10 Jan arrested former Commander of Federal District’s military police Colonel Fábio Augusto Vieira due to security lapses during riots; Vieira 12 Jan said army had twice blocked police from clearing encampment. Supreme Court 13 Jan approved request to investigate Bolsonaro’s role in protests. Authorities 14 Jan arrested Anderson Torres, Brasília’s security secretary and former minister of justice under Bolsonaro, on charges of “omission”; upon searching his home, they found draft decree that would allow electoral authorities to interfere with past presidential election results and annul Lula’s win. Lula 21 Jan fired army General Julio Cesar de Arruda for not following govt orders to dismantle pro-Bolsonaro tent. Police 27 Jan raided home of Leonardo Rodrigues de Jesus, Bolsonaro’s nephew, currently under investigation for role in riots.

Colombia

Govt’s ceasefire announcement with five armed and criminal groups faced legal and political headwinds, while violence continued at high levels.

ELN peace talks faced first challenge with govt’s ceasefire announcement. Though President Petro 31 Dec announced six-month bilateral ceasefire with five armed and criminal groups, including National Liberation Army (ELN), ELN 1 Jan denied agreeing to any deal; group commander Antonio Garcia 3 Jan said govt’s announcement amounted to “crisis” in negotiations. ELN and govt 17-21 Jan held emergency meeting in Venezuelan capital Caracas to address misunderstanding, 21 Jan said they had resolved crisis but had not agreed on any ceasefire. In interim, parties 17 Jan announced they would undertake mission in municipalities in Chocó department to observe humanitarian conditions in communities beleaguered by conflict between ELN and criminal group Gulf Clan. Meanwhile, police 23 Jan captured Álvaro Luís Montejo Rueda, who coordinated finances and logistics for several ELN fronts, in Cesar department.

Authorities faced legal hurdles to implement ceasefires with four other groups. Despite complications with ELN, govt 4 Jan insisted it had agreed to ceasefires with remaining four groups – Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissident group calling itself FARC-EP, FARC dissident group Segunda Marquetalia and two post-paramilitary groups – and issued presidential decrees ordering cessation of operations against them; govt’s decree indicated that it considers FARC-EP insurgency with political goals, making group eligible for negotiations. However, attorney general’s office 13 Jan said it could not lift arrest warrants for other three groups, nor could ceasefire take place as these organisations are criminal outfits and lack political objectives. Legal crisis has meant military is effectively upholding ceasefire only with FARC-EP.

Violence continued apace. Amid lack of clarity around ceasefire arrangements, fighting between FARC-EP and ELN 10-12 Jan erupted in Arauca department, killing at least 11; FARC-EP accused military of working with ELN and said govt had therefore broken ceasefire, which Defence Minister Iván Velasquez 13 Jan denied. Meanwhile, military 11 Jan confirmed FARC dissident factions had kidnapped military sergeant in southern Cauca department; FARC dissidents 15 Jan kidnapped three soldiers in Nariño department, released them three days later.

El Salvador

Authorities renewed state of exception for tenth time as President Bukele lauded improved security situation; Salvadoran debt remained high.

Authorities once again renewed state of exception. Legislative Assembly 11 Jan extended state of exception, cornerstone of Bukele’s administration, for tenth time. News outlet La Prensa Gráfica 17 Jan reported that more than 97,000 people, or 2% of country’s adult population, is now behind bars, making it highest imprisonment rate worldwide; Legislative Assembly 12 Jan reported over 61,000 people have been arrested since state of exception began in March 2022. Bukele 17 Jan declared that El Salvador had become “safest country in Latin America” and that state of exception would last “as long as necessary”.

NGOs raised concerns over arbitrary arrests and deaths in custody in past year. NGO Cristosal 5 Jan said it had received 3,086 complaints of human rights violations between March 2022 and 31 Dec, 97% of which were for arbitrary arrests. In its World Report 2023, NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) 12 Jan expressed concern for high number of arbitrary arrests and deaths of 90 people while in custody. In joint statement, HRW and Cristosal 27 Jan said leaked database belonging to Ministry of Public Safety “supports findings of mass due process violations, severe prison overcrowding, and deaths in custody”.

In other important developments. News outlet Elsalvador.com 18 Jan reported that Bukele had increased Salvadoran debt by $5 billion in his three years in office. Legislative Assembly 11 Jan approved controversial Digital Securities Law, allowing El Salvador to issue Bitcoin-backed bonds. VP Ulloa 3 Jan asked Brazil to rejoin Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, signalling willingness to engage with other countries in region.

Haiti

Police officers demonstrated against targeted attacks on national police, and authorities unveiled details of new political accord amid calls for continued dialogue.

Police officers mutinied amid repeated gang attacks on their officers. Gangs 10-25 Jan carried out over five attacks on national police in different cities, leaving at least 14 officers dead, two wounded and two missing. Notably, Grand Grif gang members 25 Jan killed six policemen in Liancourt commune. Armed police next day launched violent demonstrations in several cities, notably capital Port-au-Prince, where they attacked interim PM Henry’s residence and airport. Meanwhile, month saw overall increase in kidnappings in capital. Notably, unknown assailants 18 Jan kidnapped 29 bus passengers in Croix-des-Bouquets, outskirts of Port-au-Prince.

Authorities published details of new political accord. Authorities 11 Jan made public text of “21 December accord” between Henry and some members of opposition forces. Document called for creation of High Council of Transition, established 17 Jan, and Body of Oversight of Government Action to sit alongside Henry during transitional period until Feb 2024 when newly elected govt assumes power. Though document received support from some international actors, including European Union and UN, members of civil society platform Montana Accord continued to disregard it. U.S. Assistant Sec State Brian Nichols 5 Jan called for “broader consensus and greater flexibility among leaders from all sectors” to address political crisis. Meanwhile, institutional crisis 9 Jan peaked when terms of ten remaining senators ended, leaving Haiti with no elected officials.

Discussions on multinational security mission continued. PM Henry 1 Jan declared that request for national police support was not request for occupation or military intervention. UN Sec-Gen António Guterres 17 Jan reiterated “urgent need” for “international specialised armed force”. Canadian PM Justin Trudeau 10 Jan said Canada is working with U.S., Mexico and Caribbean partners to ensure “we will have options” if situation deteriorates, reiterating importance of Haitian-led solution to security crisis. Canadian Ambassador to UN Bob Rae 18 Jan said foreign military intervention would have little sustainable impact.

Honduras

Govt extended state of emergency amid efforts to tackle extortion, and congress failed to elect new Supreme Court members.

Govt extended and expanded state of emergency. After govt imposed state of emergency in Dec 2022 to tackle apparent rise in extortion, Honduran Press Secretariat 7 Jan announced extension by 45 days and expansion to 73 other municipalities across country. Head of Police Gustavo Sánchez 3 Jan said police had dismantled 38 criminal gangs, apprehended 652 gang members and served 717 arrest warrants and that this had been done with “no complaints of human rights violations”. Meanwhile, shoot-out between security forces and gang members 30 Jan left one police officer dead in capital Tegucigalpa.

First attempt to elect Supreme Court members failed. Nominating Board 23 Jan published list of 45 candidates for election of new Supreme Court members, from which Congress elects 15 members. Political tensions simmered ahead of 25 Jan vote since court members are often elected along party lines. Notably, both ruling Libre party and opposition National Party throughout Jan accused each other of planning violent mobilisations on day of election. Congress 25 Jan failed to elect new Supreme Court members; unclear when Congress will convene for new vote, which must occur before 11 Feb deadline.

Mexico

Criminal violence remained high, govt appointed military officer for key role in public security apparatus, and U.S. and Mexico struck migration agreement.

Scores of security personnel killed amid high levels of violence. In north-western Sinaloa state, federal forces 5 Jan captured Ovidio Guzmán, leader of a Sinaloa Cartel faction and son of infamous drug trafficker “El Chapo” Guzmán, in Jesús Maria village; operation left at least 29 people dead, including ten military officers. In apparent bid to secure Guzmán’s release, cartel members same day set fire to shops and vehicles in area and shot at passenger plane in Culiacán airport. In northern Chihuahua state, leader of Los Mexicles criminal group, Ernesto Alberto Piñón de la Cruz, 1 Jan set off mutiny in Ciudad Juárez prison that left 17 people dead, including ten prison officers; he and 29 others escaped. Police 5 Jan killed Piñón in shootout in Ciudad Juárez. In central Mexico State, unknown gunmen 24 Jan killed seven people at gathering in Chimalhuacán municipality. In central Zacatecas state, unknown gunmen 28 Jan killed seven in bar in Jerez municipality. Violence targeting journalists also persisted. Notably, in north-western Sonora state, unknown gunmen 1 Jan shot at reporter Omar Castro.

Authorities drew criticism for further militarisation of public security. President López Obrador 16 Jan appointed former army general and commander of National Guard, Luis Rodríguez Bucio, as new sub-secretary of public security, renewing criticism against govt for entrusting military officers with civilian tasks. Supreme Court 24 Jan upheld controversial article of National Law on Registration of Detentions, which allows armed forces to make civilian arrests without informing police or public.

In other important developments. Mexico and U.S. 5 Jan announced agreement under which U.S. will accept 30,000 migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela; Mexico will accept 30,000 people from same nations having crossed, or tried to cross, U.S. border illegally each month. Trial of Genaro García Luna 16 Jan commenced in New York, U.S.; García Luna, public security secretary and chief war-on-drugs architect under former President Felipe Calderón, is accused of facilitating Sinaloa Cartel’s drug shipments into U.S. and helping group evade capture.

Nicaragua

Crackdown on Catholic Church continued, Indigenous groups condemned govt inaction on illegal settlers, and international actors urged release of political prisoners.

Ortega’s repression of Catholic Church continued. Authorities throughout month banned at least seven religious processions from taking place and attempted to stop at least three more across country as govt clamped down on religious gatherings. Public prosecutors 10 Jan started trial of Matagalpa Bishop Rolando Álvarez, accused of “conspiracy” and “spreading false news”; judge 16 Jan found priest Óscar Benavides guilty of “conspiracy to undermine national integrity and propagation of false news” and sentenced him to eight years in prison. In closed-door trial 23-26 Jan, authorities found six priests and one layman guilty of crimes of conspiracy and spreading fake news.

Indigenous communities spoke out against govt. Representatives of Miskitus and Mayangnas indigenous communities 5 Jan published open letter to President Ortega condemning state’s inaction regarding so-called colonos, or “settlers”, whom they accuse of invading indigenous lands, murdering members of local communities, causing environmental destruction and obstructing their communities’ access to food and shelter. Police 26 Jan arrested 24 settlers after they reportedly attacked Indigenous community as part of land dispute in Bonanza municipality, North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region.

International pressure to release political prisoners persisted. U.S. Assistant Sec State Brian Nichols 6 Jan said “there has been no communication” with Ortega’s govt but that U.S. was willing to engage if Nicaragua took “positive steps”, such as releasing political prisoners and restoring “minimum rights” for all citizens. Chilean President Gabriel Boric 24 Jan called for immediate release of prisoners during summit of Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. Meanwhile, Ortega 11 Jan withdrew ambassadors from Chile, European Union, Ethiopia and Belgium.

Peru

Protests rejecting Boluarte’s take-over intensified across country, killing scores and prompting widespread concern nationally and internationally; new president resisted calls to resign.

Renewed protests left dozens dead as security forces clashed with protesters. Protests, which first erupted in Dec 2022 after former President Castillo’s impeachment, 4 Jan resumed after two-week pause in southern Puno, Cusco, Apurimac and Arequipa regions, and central Junin department. Protesters continued to demand immediate elections, closure of Congress, new Constitution and removal of President Dina Boluarte, who was sworn in 7 Dec following Castillo’s removal. Violence 9 Jan escalated in Puno’s Juliaca city, where clashes between protesters and police left 19 dead. Massive protests in capital Lima 19-20 Jan once more descended into violence, leaving one dead and dozens more injured as police used tear gas to push back protesters. Police 21 Jan arrested well over 200 demonstrators who had stormed university in Lima day before. As of 30 Jan, 58 people have died during protests.

Boluarte refused to resign amid concerns over mounting violence. Prosecutor’s office 10 Jan opened investigation against Boluarte and members of her cabinet for alleged crimes of “genocide, aggravated homicide and serious injuries”. UN same day released statement voicing concern for “rising violence”, while EU 21 Jan condemned security forces’ “disproportionate use of force”. Boluarte 13 Jan apologised for violence but insisted she would not resign nor call constitutional assembly. Govt next day extended 30-day state of emergency in Lima and several other regions for another month. Boluarte 24 Jan called for “truce” and blamed “radicals” for violence, 27 Jan urged Congress to bring tentative April 2024 elections forward to Oct 2023; Congress next day rejected proposal but is set to vote again.

Relations with Honduras and Bolivia grew increasingly strained. Lima 9 Jan banned former Bolivian President Evo Morales and eight Bolivian citizens from entering Peru, accusing them of interfering in Peru’s internal affairs. Morales, who has denounced Castillo’s arrest as illegal, same day said ban aimed to “distract from “human rights abuses”. Foreign ministry 26 Jan recalled its ambassador to Honduras after Honduran President Xiomara Castro 24 Jan condemned Boluarte’s “coup d'état”.

Venezuela

Opposition selected new parliamentary leadership, Mexico talks between govt and opposition stalled, and protests over low wages erupted across country.

Opposition elected new parliamentary leadership, exposing deep internal cleavages. After mainstream opposition late Dec dissolved so-called “interim presidency” of Juan Guaidó, opposition-led National Assembly 5 Jan voted for new leadership, comprising three women, including incoming head Dinorah Figuera from Justice First (PJ) party. All three are in exile and represent so-called “G3” – three largest parties in opposition alliance Unitary Platform – which are increasingly at odds with Popular Will (VP), Guaidó’s party. Exiled VP leader Leopoldo López 12 Jan accused several leading G3 politicians in Unitary Platform delegation to Nov Mexico City dialogue of allying with President Maduro, claiming delegation was “infiltrated”. In same briefing, López blamed PJ’s Julio Borges for failure of 2019 coup attempt, triggering prosecutors 16 Jan to issue arrest warrant for Borges. Meanwhile, opposition-led National Assembly 19 Jan named five-person executive committee to manage Venezuelan assets held abroad.

Efforts to schedule next round of Mexico talks stalled over frozen assets. Maduro govt refused to agree to schedule second meeting of renewed Mexico City talks with Unitary Platform until U.S. unfreezes funds promised under Nov agreement. Unitary Platform delegation 13 Jan met U.S. Assistant Sec State Brian Nichols in U.S. capital Washington DC to resolve issue, but returned without apparent progress. Maduro’s chief negotiator and National Assembly President Jorge Rodríguez 17 Jan said there was “no reason to continue a dialogue with people who don’t keep their word”.

Fresh wave of labour unrest erupted. Demonstrations occurred throughout month as public sector wages sank further in real terms, fuelled by substantial devaluation of bolívar currency. Teachers 9 Jan began nationwide protests over wages and conditions, prompting govt-backed armed civilian groups known as colectivos in Aragua state 14 Jan to threaten consequences; National Guard 19 Jan reportedly warned protesting teachers they could face reprisals by colectivos. Union representatives at state-owned Sidor steel plant in Bolívar state said authorities 9-12 Jan arrested at least 12 workers amid labour unrest. Public sector workers 23 Jan marched in cities across country, including Maracaibo (Zulia state) and Valencia (Carabobo state).

December 2022

Africa

Burkina Faso

Jihadist violence remained widespread, while ruling junta sought to control flow of information amid rumours of coup attempt and deal with Russian paramilitaries.

Insecurity remained rampant across country. In Sahel region, alleged Islamic State Sahel Province (IS-Sahel) militants 5 Dec attacked civilian convoy near Peteguerse locality (Seno province), killing four. In North region, govt forces and volunteer fighters (VDPs) 9 Dec conducted operation in Youba village (Yatenga province); between ten and 40 people reported dead, with some sources alleging victims were civilians. In Centre-North region, al-Qaeda affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) 7 Dec killed at least 12 people in Boala village (Namentenga province). In Boucle du Mouhoun region (west), govt forces 2 Dec engaged suspected JNIM militants near Bondokuy village (Mouhoun province), leaving ten dead; 7 Dec killed 23 suspected jihadists in Bondokuy and Ouarkoye departments (Mouhoun), and 30 presumed JNIM fighters in Banwa province. Also in Boucle du Mouhoun, locals alleged VDPs overnight 30-31 Dec killed 28 civilians in Nouna city (Kossi province); govt announced investigation. In East region, passenger bus 25 Dec hit explosive device near Fada N’Gourma (Gourma province), leaving ten dead.

Authorities suspended French media outlet amid reports of coup attempt. Local and international media outlets 2 Dec reported govt forces had foiled coup plot; interim govt immediately denied claim, next day suspended French media outlet RFI for releasing “misleading information” about alleged coup attempt. Authorities 30 Dec reportedly reinforced military presence around presidential headquarters in response to “security alert”.

Ghana alleged Wagner presence in Burkina Faso, sparking diplomatic spat. In meeting with U.S. Sec State Blinken, Ghana’s President Akufo-Addo 14 Dec accused transitional President Capt. Traoré of hiring Russian paramilitary Wagner Group to fight jihadists near border with Ghana. Interim govt 16 Dec called allegations “grave and inaccurate” and summoned Ghanaian ambassador to Burkina Faso. Ghana’s national security minister 21 Dec travelled to capital Ouagadougou, met with Traoré in apparent attempt to mend ties.

In other important developments. Govt 23 Dec ordered expulsion of UN coordinator Barbara Manzi; UN Sec Gen António Guterres next day said Ouagadougou had no authority to expel UN officials.

Burundi

Authorities took steps to hold to account ruling party supporters as U.S. imposed sanctions on former PM for alleged human rights abuses; military operations against rebels continued near border with Rwanda.

Ruling party supporters came under scrutiny for human rights record. Amid general atmosphere of impunity, several members of ruling party’s youth militia Imbonerakure brought before courts for suspected role in acts of violence against civilians and opposition activists. Notably, Bubanza High Court 13 Dec sentenced one Imbonerakure to 20 years in prison for stabbing man to death in Bubanza province (west) on 7 Dec. Meanwhile, U.S. State Dept 13 Dec re-imposed sanctions, including asset freeze and travel ban, on notorious ruling party hardliner, former PM Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni, for alleged human rights violations during 2015 political crisis; U.S. had sanctioned Bunyoni in 2015, but lifted sanctions when he became PM in 2021.

President Ndayishimiye lashed out at officials as part of anti-corruption drive. Ndayishimiye 6 Dec vowed to combat corruption, notably accusing senior official responsible for public procurement control of alleged malpractices. Police in Rumonge province (south west) 7-10 Dec arrested three local officials and one governor adviser, all ruling party members, for alleged misappropriation of building materials.

Operations against Kinyarwanda-speaking rebels continued at Rwandan border. Amid ongoing fighting between govt forces and Kinyarwanda-speaking rebels in Kibira forest, Citiboke province (north west), forest rangers 2 Dec found nine bodies in Mabayi commune.

Cameroon

Separatist conflict continued to plague Anglophone regions, while President Biya travelled to U.S. amid govt efforts to bring separatists living abroad to justice.

Violence continued in Anglophone North West (NW) and South West (SW) regions. Govt forces 9 Dec killed high-profile separatist commander known as Gen. Lion in Mankon village, Mezam division (NW). In response, Ambazonia Defence Forces separatist fighters 11 Dec announced week-long lockdown of highway leading to Mankon. Anglophone separatists 15-16 Dec carried out string of attacks against govt forces notably in Kumbo town, Bui division (NW); Ndop town, Ngo-Ketunjia division (NW); and near Mamfe town, Manyu division (SW), leaving unknown casualties. In apparent retaliation, army 17-18 Dec reportedly burnt dozens of civilian homes, forcing unknown number to flee, in Bai-Panya village, Meme division (SW), and Yer-Dzekwa village, Bui division (NW). Meanwhile, Fulani militia 7 Dec killed four civilians in Menchum division (NW) over accusations of burning down cattle pasture used by Fulani herders.

Govt sought closer cooperation with U.S. against separatist sponsors. Defence Minister Joseph Beti Assomo 5 Dec announced creation of committee to identify and prosecute Anglophone separatist sponsors living abroad, particularly in U.S.; move comes after U.S. authorities late Nov indicted three people suspected of raising funds for Anglophone separatist fighters through extortion. Biya 13-15 Dec attended U.S.-Africa summit in Washington DC in likely attempt to show he remains at forefront of govt affairs despite his age. During summit, Anglophone groups demonstrated in Washington DC against Biya’s presence, blaming U.S. administration for inviting him. Meanwhile, jailed separatist leader Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe 5 Dec reiterated readiness for talks with govt under international mediation, set conditions including release of political prisoners, demilitarisation of Anglophone regions and amnesty for exiled separatists; govt reportedly rejected move.

Sporadic jihadist attacks continued in Far North region. Suspected Boko Haram militants overnight 23-24 Dec reportedly killed three women in Kolofata commune (Mayo-Sava division); 29 Dec ambushed army patrol in Ldaoussaf town (Mayo-Tsanaga division), killing one soldier and wounding another.

Central African Republic

Authorities and Russian allies accused France of perpetrating “terrorist” acts, and armed groups continued to launch violent attacks across country.

Tensions with France boiled over following incident at border with Chad. After airstrike late Nov reportedly targeted military camp in Bossangoa town (Ouham prefecture near Chadian border), head of pro-govt organisation National Network for Safeguarding the Gains of Peace, Patrick Andjida, 2 Dec accused France and domestic opposition of manoeuvring to destabilise country; Russian military representative Alexander Ivanov 13 Dec said Central African Republic was under “threat … from the outside” and accused “international community” of supporting rebels. As explosive package 16 Dec injured Dimitri Sytyi, head of Russian cultural centre in capital Bangui, Russian private military company Wagner Group owner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, same day blamed attack on Paris, urged Moscow to declare France state sponsor of terrorism; France also 16 Dec denied allegation as “Russian propaganda”. Bangui 18 Dec denounced “terrorist attack” and launched investigation; 20 Dec claimed package was sent from Togo. Meanwhile, last contingent of French troops 15 Dec left country; Paris in June 2021 had suspended military cooperation with Bangui.

Security situation remained dire across country. Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) rebel groups continued to target civilians and military. Notably, Union for Peace in the Central African Republic 1 Dec launched attack on Bakouma town (Mbomou prefecture) which left seven civilians dead and six wounded. Unidentified CPC rebels 11-12 Dec targeted army positions in Lihoto and Bokolobo localities (Ouaka prefecture), with two civilians dead. Suspected 3R rebels overnight 23-24 Dec ambushed army patrol near Gallo locality (Nana-Mambéré prefecture), killing three soldiers. Armed forces 3-7 Dec reportedly arrested over 200 people, including many civilians, in search operations in towns of Paoua (Ouham-Pendé prefecture), Kaga Bandoro (Nana-Gribizi prefecture) and Bambari (Ouaka). In Haute-Kotto prefecture, govt forces and Wagner elements 12 Dec attacked CPC position at Kocho mine site, reportedly killing 36 rebels and capturing unknown number.

In other important developments. National Assembly 28 Dec adopted law regulating organisation of referendums in country. Opposition MP Joseph Bendounga same day said law would serve President Touadéra’s efforts to change constitution and run for third term.

Chad

Court sentenced hundreds to years in prison for involvement in October anti-govt protests, and authorities detained dozen military officers amid rumours of coup plot.

Hundreds sentenced to prison for involvement in anti-govt protests. Public prosecutor 5 Dec said court had condemned 262 people arrested in relation with 20 October opposition protests to two-to-three-year prison sentences; mass trial held 29 Nov-2 Dec in Koro-Toro maximum security prison (Borkou province, north). Authorities early Dec released 139 other people who were given suspended prison terms or found not guilty during same trial. Chadian Bar Association went on strike during trial to denounce “parody of justice”, citing absence of legal representation for defendants, prisoners’ detention conditions (including allegations of torture) and other procedural irregularities. Meanwhile, international commission of inquiry into violent suppression of 20 October protests – led by Economic Community of Central African States – 14 Dec started visit to country to define working framework; civil society including Chadian Bar Association late Dec questioned commission’s independence, called for genuine participation of other international organisations including African Union and UN.

Military arrested dozen soldiers amid rumours of coup attempt. Military intelligence 9-11 Dec reportedly arrested dozen elements of elite anti-terrorist army unit trained and funded by U.S., and civilian human rights activist Baradine Berdey Targuio, sparking rumours of coup attempt. Army leadership 13 Dec denied coup plot, but said civilians used group of military officers to try to “destabilise the institutions of the Republic” and announced further investigations.

Jihadist and other violence persisted in west and north. In Lake province (west), Boko Haram militants 11-12 Dec killed seven civilians in attacks on Fougoh village and Fourkoulom camp for internally displaced persons. In Tibesti province (north), armed self-defence group, Tourkou surveillance Committee, 5 Dec reportedly fired at miners at Tourkou gold mine, killing two and injuring four.

Côte d’Ivoire

Authorities reported progress in negotiations with Mali for release of Ivorian soldiers who faced 20-year prison sentence, senior political figures continued to position themselves for 2025 election, and Grand-Bassam trial concluded.

Soldiers sentenced to prison in Mali amid reports of agreement for their release. West African regional bloc ECOWAS 4 Dec called on Malian authorities to release 46 Ivorian soldiers detained since July “by 1 Jan 2023” or face sanctions. Ivorian delegation 22 Dec met with Malian President Col. Goïta in capital Bamako and reportedly agreed on memorandum for soldiers’ release. Meanwhile, court in Bamako 30 Dec sentenced all 46 soldiers to 20-year prison term, and three released in Sept to death in absentia, for seeking to undermine state security. Ouattara next day said he was confident soldiers will “soon return to Ivorian soil”, hinting at possibility of pardon.

Political manoeuvring continued ahead of 2025 presidential election. Two weeks after returning to Côte d’Ivoire, former President Gbagbo’s Youth Minister Charles Blé Goudé 8 Dec registered on electoral roll; yet Goudé faces 20-year sentence for role in 2010-2011 post-election violence, making his eligibility for election unclear. Opposition Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) same day released contradictory statements on holding of extraordinary congress, possibly reflecting internal tensions over long-time party leader Henri Konan Bédié’s anticipated presidential bid in 2025; prominent Franco-Ivorian financier Tidjane Thiam 19 Dec registered on electoral roll during second visit to Côte d’Ivoire since Aug after more than 20 years in exile, adding to speculations over PDCI’s presidential candidate.

Court handed life imprisonment for 2016 jihadist attack. Court in Abidjan city 28 Dec sentenced at least ten people (including six in absentia) to life imprisonment for involvement in jihadist attack which killed 19 people in Grand-Bassam town in 2016.

Democratic Republic of Congo

M23 rebels announced withdrawal from strategic Kibumba town in east as fighting with govt forces and local militias continued.

Situation remained dire in North Kivu as militias took up fight against M23 rebels. Coalition of local militias from late Nov took up arms against M23’s westward advance in North Kivu province. Fighting involving M23, govt forces and local militias reported throughout month on western front of Rutshuru territory, including 6 Dec, 16-17 Dec, and 25-29 Dec in Bishusha and Tongo groupements; clashes 31 Dec also erupted in Kamatembe village in Masisi territory. Meanwhile, M23 rebels 23 Dec announced withdrawal from strategic Kibumba town (Nyiragongo territory) in “goodwill gesture”, reportedly handed over position to East African Community (EAC)’s regional force; army next day described move as “decoy”, saying rebels were strengthening positions elsewhere to occupy territory west of provincial capital Goma; local sources late Dec said M23 still present in Kibumba area. UN mission MONUSCO 7 Dec said M23 late Nov allegedly killed at least 131 civilians in Kishishe and Bambo villages of Rutshuru territory.

Other armed groups continued attacks notably in Ituri province. Islamic State-affiliated Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 10-13 Dec killed at least 15 civilians in Bahema Boga and Walese Vontuku chiefdoms, Irumu territory (Ituri). Congolese and Ugandan forces 11 Dec bombed ADF camp at North Kivu-Ituri border, killing at least 30. Suspected members of ethnic Hema Zaire militia 16 Dec killed 12 people, mostly from Lendu ethnic group, in Walendu Watsi chiefdom of Mahagi territory (Ituri). In retaliation, ethnic Lendu CODECO militia 28 Dec killed a dozen Hema people in Usigo village, also Mahagi. Third round of EAC-led Nairobi talks between Kinshasa and some armed groups active in east 28 Nov-6 Dec failed to agree on terms of disarmament.

Prominent politician announced presidential bid, broke alliance with president. After electoral commission late Nov scheduled presidential election for 20 Dec 2023, senior political figure Moïse Katumbi 16 Dec declared candidacy, criticised President Tshisekedi’s “very bad, chaotic” record and announced departure from presidential “Sacred Union” coalition. Voter registration 24 Dec kicked off in ten western provinces (of country’s 26).

Eritrea

In significant development for Ethiopia’s delicate peace process, Eritrean forces began withdrawing from Tigray.

Asmara began withdrawing its forces from Tigray late Dec. Following news early Dec of continued Eritrean abuses in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, news agency Reuters 30 Dec reported that Eritrean troops had retreated from several towns in Tigray, including strategically important Shire and Axum towns, in Central and North Western zones (see Ethiopia). Reported withdrawal, which coincided with 29 Dec launch of African Union monitoring mission in Tigray, marks significant development in Ethiopia’s fragile peace process since Asmara’s stance remains crucial factor in implementing accord. Earlier in month, reports emerged of Eritrean forces looting and attacking civilians in Tigray’s north. Notably, senior Tigray official Getachew Reda 12 Dec alleged Eritrean soldiers were still carrying out “genocidal campaign”; media outlet Bloomberg late Nov accused Asmara of allowing its forces to continue attacking civilians, which Eritrean embassy in U.S. 5 Dec dismissed as little more than “crass disinformation”.

In other important developments. First batch of Somali troops, who have participated in controversial training program in Eritrea since 2019, 21 Dec returned to Somalia. Kenyan President Ruto 9-10 Dec visited Eritrea at invitation of President Isaias; leaders agreed to abolish visa requirements and cooperate on regional peace, security and development.

Ethiopia

Fragile calm prevailed in Tigray as Eritrean forces began withdrawing from region and efforts to implement peace deal continued; escalating violence in Oromia aggravated Oromo-Amhara tensions.

Tigray’s peace deal held and Eritrean forces began withdrawing. 2 Nov peace agreement between federal govt and Tigray People’s Liberation Front continued to hold, although implementation of agreement was slow, particularly on security and political arrangements; notably, sides 3 Dec missed original deadline for Tigray’s disarmament. Tigray’s top commander Tadesse Werede 6 Dec reiterated that disarmament depended on region’s security, adding that continued Eritrean and Amhara troop presence would impede implementation. However, efforts to sustain momentum on peace deal continued and sides 22 Dec agreed to establish joint African Union Monitoring, Verification and Compliance mission to oversee implementation; days later, high-level delegation from federal govt 26 Dec arrived in Mekelle, which Tigray leaders hailed as “milestone”; monitoring mission launched 29 Dec. In another positive development, news agency Reuters 30 Dec reported that Eritrean troops had left several towns in Tigray’s Central and North Western Zones (see Eritrea). Meanwhile, UN humanitarian agency 6 Dec said humanitarian access had improved, federal govt began partially restoring phone and electricity lines and commercial flights 28 Dec resumed between Addis and Mekelle.

Conflict in Oromia intensified, fuelling intercommunal tensions. Fighting raged in western Oromia as Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) expanded operations and Amhara militias known as Fano deepened their involvement; all actors targeted civilians. Hostilities occurred throughout month in Horo Guduru Zone, East, Kellem and West Wollega Zones and South West and East Shewa Zones. Notably, clashes 3-4 Dec between Fano and Oromia regional special forces around Gutin town in East Wollega killed dozens and displaced thousands; Oromo residents and officials blamed Fano, while Amhara residents said Oromia Special Police initiated attacks. Deteriorating situation heightened Oromo-Amhara tensions elsewhere, notably in capital Addis Ababa, where several disputes related to display of Oromia flag and singing of Oromia anthem in public schools led to protests early Nov in several schools.

Relations with Sudan continued to improve. Ethiopia and Sudan 24 Dec signed cooperation agreement on peace and security issues.

Gambia

Authorities reported foiling coup attempt to topple President Barrow, arrested several junior officers.

Govt 21 Dec announced authorities previous day thwarted military plot to overthrow President Barrow. Authorities 20-25 Dec reportedly arrested several junior officers for alleged involvement in coup attempt. Govt 27 Dec set up panel to investigate incident comprised of members of armed forces, police, intelligence services and justice ministry. National Security Adviser Abubakarr Suleiman Jeng 29 Dec alleged plot was sponsored by “civilian collaborators … both within and outside of the country”. Economic Community of West African States and African Union 21 Dec condemned attempted coup.

Guinea

Regional leaders insisted two-year transition to civilian rule must end in Oct 2024, while national dialogue concluded despite boycott by main opposition groups.

ECOWAS clarified transition timetable, national dialogue concluded. West African regional bloc ECOWAS 4 Dec said 24-month transition to civilian rule must start “immediately”, understandably referring to Oct 2022 when transition timetable was agreed upon, and not in Jan 2023 as Interim President Col. Doumbouya is advocating for. Meanwhile, PM Bernard Gomou 14 Dec castigated main opposition coalition’s “express refusal” to take part in national dialogue; dialogue’s participants 21 Dec presented conclusions and final recommendations to Doumbouya, including introducing 75-year age limit for presidential candidates and maintaining ban on street protests until transition ends. Opposition coalition 30 Dec rejected dialogue’s conclusions as unilateral.

Authorities targeted President Condé-era figures in anti-corruption drive. After public prosecutor’s office 2 Dec blocked former PM Ibrahima Kassory Fofana’s conditional release for fourth time since his April arrest on corruption charges, ECOWAS leaders 4 Dec expressed concern over Fofana and other former ministers’ continued detention. Doumbouya 11 Dec and 28 Dec retired over 2,000 public servants and 22 magistrates, respectively. Justice ministry 12 Dec sought proceedings against president of Guinean Financial Information Processing Unit and security forces 15 Dec detained former Constitutional Court president, both on corruption allegations. Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury 9 Dec imposed sanctions, including asset freeze, on Condé for alleged human rights abuses by govt forces in 2020.

Former junta leader accused Condé of 2009 stadium massacre. In long-awaited testimony in trial of 2009 massacre of over 150 people in Conakry stadium, then-junta leader Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara 12 Dec said former Presidents Condé and Konaté (at the time opposition leader and defence minister, respectively), planned massacre as part of “plot” to outset him; also accused former aide-de-camp, Lt. Aboubacar Sidiki “Toumba” Diakité, of “executing” plan; Diakité’s lawyer immediately denounced “conspiracy theories”.

Mali

Northern armed groups suspended participation in peace process to protest junta’s lack of political will to implement 2015 Algiers agreement; security situation remained volatile in north and centre.

Northern armed groups pulled out of Algiers peace process. Coalition of northern armed groups including Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) 22 Dec suspended participation in monitoring and implementation mechanisms of 2015 Algiers peace agreement with govt, citing “lack of political will on the part of the transitional authorities to implement” accord. Earlier in month, CMA had deplored peace deal’s “decay” and requested emergency meeting with Algerian-led International Mediation outside Mali to examine accord’s “viability”.

Rival jihadist groups engaged in intense fighting in north. In Gao region, clashes 3-10 Dec erupted between al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) and Islamic State Sahel Province (IS-Sahel) militants near Tagarangabot, Tadjalalt and Haroum localities, leaving dozens dead. Also in Gao, JNIM 4 Dec reportedly killed around 16 ethnic Fulani or Dawsahak people near In Aoutel locality. In Timbuktu city (Timbuktu region), unidentified gunman 16 Dec fired at UN peacekeepers, leaving two dead.

Govt faced accusations of serious abuses against civilians in centre. Amid ongoing operations against JNIM in country’s centre, govt forces, along with Dan Na Ambassagou militia and Russian allies, reportedly carried out human rights abuses against civilians, including arbitrary killings. Notably, govt forces and Russian paramilitary Wagner Group 6 Dec conducted air and ground operation in Kita town (Mopti region); authorities claimed to have killed one jihadist and arrested eight others, while locals said operation left five civilians dead, three wounded, and nine others detained.

In other important developments. Choguel Maïga 4 Dec reinstated as PM after three-month absence following stroke. Transitional govt continued to tighten control of NGOs, issuing new reporting obligations 15 Dec after banning NGOs funded or supported by France in Nov. After Interim President Col. Goïta 22 Dec reportedly agreed with Ivorian delegation to release 46 Ivorian soldiers detained since July, court in Bamako 30 Dec sentenced detained soldiers to 20 years in prison on charges of undermining state security (see Côte d’Ivoire).

Niger

Govt secured major international financial support for development plan, with pledges exceeding initial expectations; jihadist violence persisted, albeit at lower levels.

Govt’s development plan garnered financial support from international partners. President Bazoum 5-6 Dec travelled to French capital Paris for fundraising event to finance Niger’s 2022-2026 socio-economic development plan, which aims to reduce poverty rate from 43% in 2022 to 35% in 2026. Public and private donors including World Bank, African Development Bank and UN reportedly promised €31.4bn in support, twice as much as initially hoped for, confirming that Niger is now international institutions’ primary partner in Sahel region.

Levels of violence decreased in Tillabery and Diffa regions. In Tillabery region (south west), suspected Islamic State Sahel Province combatants 2 Dec killed four people near Kokorbe village (Ouallam department); suspected al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims attack on police position in Say town (Say department) 5 Dec left one militant and two civilians dead; unidentified gunmen next day reportedly killed national guard in Ayorou town (Tillabery department). In Diffa region (south east), unidentified gunmen 5 Dec killed national guard in Diffa town (Diffa department); Boko Haram militants (likely JAS faction) 22 Dec clashed with armed forces between Bagué and Tchoungoua localities (N’Guimi department), leaving five jihadists dead and two soldiers wounded.

In other important developments. National Commission on Human Rights 27 Dec concluded armed forces did not commit abuses during late Oct counter-insurgency operation in Tamou village (Say department, Tillabery region), despite allegations by civil society movement M62 that airstrikes had killed many civilians.

Nigeria

Insecurity continued to pose major challenge for running and credibility of 2023 general elections; govt faced allegations of human rights violations in counter-insurgency operations.

Political violence continued ahead of 2023 polls. In Rivers state, thugs 8 Dec stormed residence of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) presidential campaign manager, Senator Lee Maeba, and gunmen 14 Dec shot and wounded local PDP youth leader. In Imo state, three attacks on electoral commission premises reported 1-12 Dec, while gunmen 16 Dec killed Labour Party candidate for state parliament, Christopher Eleghu.

Rival jihadists clashed, army’s human rights record under scrutiny in North East. In Borno state’s Sambisa forest, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) early Dec killed Boko Haram (BH) commander Aboubakar Munzir; in apparent retaliation, BH fighters around 3 Dec ambushed ISWAP militants, killing at least 12, and stormed ISWAP camp, reportedly killing 33 women. Suspected BH militants 24 Dec also killed 17 herders in Mafa area (also Borno). International news agency Reuters 7-12 Dec reported army had killed thousands of children and run forced abortion program as part of counter-insurgency campaign since 2013.

Attacks continued despite military operations in North West and North Central. In Katsina state, gunmen 3 Dec attacked mosque in Funtua area, abducting over a dozen worshippers. In Kaduna state, air force 1 and 4 Dec targeted some groups’ hideouts in Igabi, Birnin Gwari and Giwa areas, inflicting “heavy casualties”. Also in Kaduna, gunmen 15-18 Dec killed around 38 people in Kaura area, and 25 Dec abducted 45 persons in Kajuru area.

Biafra agitation and other violence persisted in South East. Wave of killings and arson reported across South East after Finland-based factional leader and self-declared spokesman of separatist group Indigenous People of Biafra, Simon Ekpa, issued five-day sit-at-home order starting 9 Dec. Notably, gunmen 9-10 Dec killed at least ten people in Anambra, Enugu and Imo states. Meanwhile in Enugu, armed men 8 Dec killed at least 25 people in Isi-Uzo areas; residents blamed Fulani herders and members of Igala ethnic group coming from Kogi state.

Rwanda

Kigali remained under international pressure to stop supporting M23 advances in eastern DR Congo.

Kigali and Kinshasa continued to trade accusations over eastern DR Congo crisis. During state of nation address, DR Congo (DRC) President Tshisekedi 10 Dec said country was victim of “unequivocal aggression by Rwanda”, denounced neighbouring country’s “expansionist tendencies”. In response, President Kagame 14 Dec said he “cannot be responsible for... Congolese of Rwandan descent in Congo who are being denied their rights as citizens”. After UN mission in DRC 7 Dec said M23 rebels late Nov allegedly killed 131 civilians in North Kivu province (see DR Congo), Rwandan govt 21 Dec accused Kinshasa of “fabricating” massacre. Kigali 28 Dec said Kinshasa violated its airspace by flying fighter jet over its territory.

International concerns over Rwandan support for M23 rose further. In call with Kagame, U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 4 Dec reportedly said “Rwanda’s support for M23” must stop. In response, Rwanda’s FM Vincent Biruta next day accused U.S. of “exacerbating” crisis in eastern DRC. Blinken mid-Dec again called on Rwanda to “use its influence” on M23 rebels to de-escalate crisis. UN experts’ report dated 16 Dec found “substantial evidence” of Rwandan forces crossing into eastern Congo since Jan 2022, either to reinforce M23 rebels or to conduct military operations. Kigali denied accusations. French embassy in Kinshasa 19 Dec condemned Rwanda’s support for M23, while European Union 31 Dec called on Rwanda to stop supporting insurgents.

South Sudan

As fighting wreaked havoc in Upper Nile state, violence escalated in Jonglei, killing dozens and forcing around 30,000 civilians to flee.

Violence raged in Upper Nile state, displacing thousands. Fighting pitting ethnic Shilluk “Agwalek” under Gen. Johnson Olony against Nuer forces, predominantly backed by Gen. Simon Gatwech, continued unabated in Fashoda county. Thousands of civilians early Dec fled to Kodok town and Malakal civilian protection camp after Nuer forces late Nov razed Aburoc village in Fashoda county’s north. Nuer forces began surrounding Kodok, prompting Agwalek militia early Dec to reinforce town as fears of imminent attack grew. President Kiir 7 Dec sent ammunition and additional soldiers to push back Nuer forces, compelling them to retreat south; UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) same day deployed 30 additional troops to deter attacks on civilians. Agwalek troops and President Kiir’s South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) 13 Dec attempted to intercept Nuer forces near Wau Shilluk village, but Nuer forces reportedly won battle.

Hostilities in Jonglei killed dozens and displaced thousands. In Jonglei state, armed Lou Nuer and Dinka Bor armed youth 26-27 Dec attacked Murle community in Gumuruk and Likuangole towns of Greater Pibor Administrative Area, killing at least 50 and forcing SSPDF forces to withdraw from Gumuruk; SSPDF 28 Dec recaptured town. UN humanitarian agency 29 Dec reported around 30,000 people displaced by violence. Escalation marks collapse of local peace deal signed in 2021 in Pieri town under UN auspices. UNMISS and international partners, including Intergovernmental Authority on Development and Troika (U.S., UK and Norway), 28 Dec urged govt to address spiralling violence.

Economy deteriorated further, ruling party began preparations for 2024 elections. In sign that hundreds of millions of dollars in International Monetary Fund support have failed to stabilise economy, South Sudanese pound further depreciated against U.S. dollar. UN Panel of Experts on South Sudan 1 Dec said Central Bank “printed in excess of 270 billion South Sudanese pounds ($423 million)”, effectively doubling currency in circulation and driving inflationary spiral. Meanwhile, ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement 6 Dec endorsed President Salva Kiir as candidate for 2024 presidential elections.

Sudan

Military and civilian groups signed framework agreement, paving way for all-civilian govt to end political impasse; deal received mixed reactions.

Sudan’s military and key civilian actors signed deal to restore civilian rule. Following months of negotiations, major civilian political parties and other civil forces, mostly under main civilian opposition bloc Forces for Freedom and Change-Central Council (FFC-CC), 5 Dec signed “political framework” deal with military to install all-civilian govt, end political stalemate and initiate two-year transition period ending in elections. Transition period is to begin with appointment of PM, nominated by civilian signatories, after second phase of negotiations concludes. These negotiations will focus on five particularly sensitive issues, namely transitional justice, security sector reform, Juba Peace Agreement, status of ex-regime dismantling committee and crisis in eastern Sudan. They were set to conclude by end of Dec but have been postponed until 5 Feb.

Public opinion on agreement remained divided. Although agreement aims to end political role of military in Sudan, implementation faces significant challenges as military expects their power to remain unchecked and deal is not yet supported by wider public or number of key stakeholders. Most notably, grassroots network Resistance Committees continues to reject deal and has vowed to sustain protests in capital Khartoum; three 2020 Juba Peace Agreement signatories also opposed deal. Still, over 50 political and civil groups week after deal was signed submitted request to sign agreement, which FFC-CC is reviewing to ensure none are affiliates of Bashir-era ruling National Congress Party.

Violence persisted in West Kordofan and South Darfur. Clashes between Humer and Misseriya groups over cattle rustlers 10-11 Dec killed at least 30 in Abu Koa area, West Kordofan state. Clashes between Arab herders, Daju farmers and other groups 21-23 Dec left at least 11 dead and around 16,000 people displaced in villages outside Nyala state capital, South Darfur.

In other important developments. UN humanitarian agency 14 Dec released 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan noting that 15.8mn people, almost one third of country’s population, will need humanitarian assistance next year. Meanwhile, relations with Ethiopia continued to improve, with both sides 24 Dec signing cooperation agreement on peace and security issues.

Uganda

President Museveni’s son lashed out at ruling party amid growing internal rift over Museveni’s succession; army repelled ADF incursion from DR Congo; and authorities rejected UN allegations that Uganda served as rear base for M23 rebels.

Museveni’s son criticised ruling party, repression of opposition continued. In series of tweets, Museveni’s son Lt-Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba 2-3 Dec attacked his father’s National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, saying it “does not represent the people of Uganda”; 5 Dec condemned “those signing declaration against [us] in NRM”, possibly referring to recent calls for Museveni to run in 2026 election. In response, NRM Sec Gen Richard Todwong 14 Dec urged Kainerugaba to “respect” and stop “insulting” party. Parliament’s Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa same day criticised party’s old guard, saying NRM elders should not underestimate younger counterparts’ capacity to run state affairs. Security forces 30 Dec reportedly fired tear gas and arrested at least 30 people at rally of opposition leader Bobi Wine in capital Kampala.

ADF rebels raided villages close to DR Congo, attacks on security targets continued. Militants of Uganda-born, Islamic State-affiliated Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 13 Dec crossed border from DR Congo into western Ntoroko district and opened fire at civilians, killing two; army engaged assailants, reportedly leaving 17 killed and capturing 13 others. Meanwhile, attacks on security installations continued. Notably, unidentified gunmen 9 Dec raided Kyabadaza police station in central Butambala district, killing two civilians.

Kampala rejected UN allegations about M23 using Ugandan territory as rear base. In report to UN Security Council, UN experts 16 Dec alleged M23 rebel group wreaking havoc in eastern DRC since March 2022 has been able to recruit in Uganda and move through Ugandan territory unhindered; also noted that Kampala denied knowledge of M23 presence on its soil, said it would “not condone any of Uganda’s territory [being] used to destabilise any country”.

In other important developments. UK 9 Dec sanctioned former Police Chief Gen. Edward Kale Kayihura over alleged police abuses under his leadership between 2005 and 2018, adding to U.S. sanctions imposed on Kayihura in 2019.

Asia

Afghanistan

Taliban banned women from universities and NGOs, prompting backlash and dramatic disruption of aid flows as civilians struggle to survive amid economic hardship and severe winter.

Taliban banned women from working for NGOs and attending universities. In dramatic decision, Taliban 24 Dec ordered “all national and international organisations to stop females working” immediately, next day exempted health workers. UN and some major NGOs paused some humanitarian assistance to signal disapproval, partially scaling back aid operations, which could have calamitous impact on one of the world's largest humanitarian response. Earlier, UN Under Sec-Gen for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths 20 Dec reported that amid sub-zero winter temperatures, 97% of Afghans live in poverty, two-thirds need humanitarian assistance to survive and half population require access to clean water; Griffiths also warned “third consecutive drought is looming”. Further deepening restrictions imposed on women since banning girls from public secondary schools in March 2022, Taliban 20 Dec forbade university education for women countrywide; ban removed any illusions that educational restrictions on girls and women could be temporary.

Insecurity persisted amid attacks by Islamic State. Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-KP) 2 Dec conducted two attacks in capital Kabul seemingly using foreign fighters from Central Asia, one targeting Pakistani ambassador and another attacking former warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in his mosque; assaults indicated increasing capacity and will by IS-KP to attack high-profile targets. IS-KP foreign fighters 12 Dec targeted Chinese-owned hotel inside Kabul, wounding at least five individuals. Meanwhile, armed opposition group Afghanistan Freedom Front showed increasing operational capacity in Dec inside Kandahar province (south). UN sec-gen 16 Dec reported that between mid-Aug and mid-Nov, country had witnessed 23% rise in security-related incidents compared to same period last year.

Taliban and Pakistani border forces clashed. Taliban border forces 11 Dec launched cross-border artillery and mortars into Pakistan, killing at least seven civilians and wounding 17 in Chaman, one of main border crossings. Further clashes 15 Dec erupted, with Taliban forces opening fire on Pakistani military personnel repairing section of border fence in Chaman, killing civilian and injuring 15 others.

Bangladesh

Violence and instability escalated as police and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) clashed, with further unrest possible.

Violence rose amid large-scale anti-govt rallies and police crackdown. Police arrested two, including BNP local leader, in connection with two homemade bomb explosions near ruling Awami League rally in Pirojpur district 6 Dec, which injured four. BNP activists 7 Dec clashed with police raiding central office in capital, killing student leader and injuring at least 50 others. Police 8 Dec arrested hundreds of BNP leaders and supporters. Police 9 Dec filed charges against 200 BNP leaders and activists allegedly linked to five homemade bomb explosions in Barisal district’s Babuganj sub-district previous day; police claimed they were attacked with Molotov cocktails as information minister 9 Dec claimed police recovered 15 bombs at BNP headquarters. At massive anti-govt rally in capital Dhaka, BNP 10 Dec disclosed ten-point agenda that included resignation of govt and early polls; all seven BNP members of parliament next day resigned, with by-elections scheduled for 1 Feb. BNP and police clashes 24 Dec killed one party leader and injured 50 in Panchagarh district. BNP 30 Dec announced another rally in Dhaka for 11 Jan, raising risks of more political violence.

Proscribed Islamist group voiced support for BNP and clashed with police. Days after Jamaat-i-Islami – country’s largest and banned Islamist party – declared its support for BNP’s anti-govt movement, police 13 Dec arrested its top leader in Dhaka under Anti-Terrorism Act. Protests by Jamaat supporters against leader’s detention 23-24 Dec led to clashes with police and scores of arrests in Dinajur town, Chittagong city and Lakshmipur district. Further arrests 30 Dec led to clashes with protesters that injured ten police officers in Dhaka.

Insecurity continued in Rohingya refugee camps. Gunfight between Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and rival armed group over drug trafficking in Cox’s Bazar Ukhiya camp 9 Dec killed two. In Ukhiya camp, assailants 22 Dec shot dead four Rohingyas and 26 Dec Rohginya leader. First group of 24 Rohingya refugees to be resettled in U.S. 8 Dec left Bangladesh, part of anticipated annual intake of 300-800; Dhaka previously resisted third-country resettlement.

China/Japan

China continued military activity around disputed islands amid joint drills with Russia, while Japan unveiled first national security strategy in almost decade.

China and Russia continued joint military drills in region. After Russia’s Tu-95 bombers and Chinese H-6K bombers late Nov flew over Sea of Japan and East China Sea during eight-hour joint military drill, China and Russia 21-27 Dec held joint naval exercises dubbed “Maritime Cooperation 2022”; Japanese defence ministry 18 Dec said at least four large Chinese warships, including two Type 055 destroyers, were spotted during exercise in East China Sea. China Coast Guard vessels 21 Dec patrolled near disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, according to official statement from China.

Japan labelled China its pre-eminent security challenge in new strategy. Japan 16 Dec released its first National Security Strategy in nine years, which dubbed China as country’s “greatest strategic challenge”; key policies include increasing defence spending by total of 43 trillion yen ($313 billion) over five years, which will bring spending to 2% of annual GDP by 2027; strategy signalled clear move away from Japan’s post-war pacifism.

India

Indian and Chinese soldiers fought hand-to-hand along disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) in first clash in two-and-a-half years, injuring dozens.

Scuffle broke out between Indian and Chinese troops along LAC. In first violent incident since deadly Galwan Valley clash in June 2020, Indian and Chinese soldiers 9 Dec violently confronted each other along LAC in Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh state (north east), leaving around 30 Indian and unknown number of Chinese soldiers with minor injuries; both sides reportedly disengaged immediately and local commanders 11 Dec met to discuss incident. Govt 13 Dec said that Indian soldiers prevented Chinese troops from crossing into Indian territory to “unilaterally change the status quo”, while China claimed that Indian soldiers “illegally” crossed LAC and “blocked” Chinese routine patrol. Clash prompted uproar in parliament: opposition parties 14 Dec walked out of both houses after chairpersons refused to discuss situation on LAC and 20 Dec accused govt of “legitimising Chinese aggression” – marking first major public criticism of PM Modi’s handling of border crisis since June 2020. National Congress party 21 Dec staged opposition protest to demand discussion on LAC dispute. FM S. Jaishankar 30 Dec said relations with China are “not normal” and “[India] will never agree to any attempt to change the [LAC] unilaterally”.

Maoist violence continued in east and centre. In Jharkhand state (east), Maoists 1 Dec injured five security personnel in clashes in West Singhbhum district; 12 Dec set two construction vehicles on fire in Chatra district. In Odisha state (east), security forces 6 Dec killed two Maoist cadres in Kandhamal district. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), security forces 20 Dec killed one Maoist in Bijapur district.

Govt resisted calls to cease imports of Russian oil. During German FM Annalena Baerbock’s visit 5 Dec, S. Jaishankar, when asked about India’s imports of Russian oil, stressed that European countries prioritised energy needs and continued importing Russian oil in first months of Ukraine war, thus cannot “ask India to do something else”. PM Modi 16 Dec reportedly urged “dialogue and diplomacy” in phone call with President Putin.

India-Pakistan (Kashmir)

Acrimonious atmosphere continued between India and Pakistan, while onset of winter saw slight reduction in violence in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).

New Delhi and Islamabad continued tit-for-tat verbal attacks. Pakistan’s newly appointed army chief Asim Munir 3 Dec condemned India’s “highly irresponsible statements”, vowing “to take the fight to the enemy if ever war is imposed on us”. New Delhi 13 Dec condemned visit by sec-gen of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation on 10-12 Dec to Pakistan-administered Kashmir, calling sec-gen “mouthpiece of Pakistan”; Islamabad 15 Dec rejected criticism. Pakistani FM Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari 14 Dec said there was “clear evidence” that India had “planned and supported” June 2021 terror attack in Pakistan’s Lahore city. India’s FM S. Jaishankar 15 Dec accused Pakistan of sheltering Osama bin Laden, calling country “epicentre of terrorism”; Bhutto-Zardari next day responded that bin Laden was dead but “the butcher of Gujarat” was alive, referring to PM Modi, who was chief minister of Gujurat state during bloody anti-Muslim riots in 2002.

Militant attacks and security operations decreased with onset of winter. Security forces 2 Dec claimed to have foiled infiltration attempt by Pakistani militants into Baramulla district’s Uri sector. Unidentified persons 16 Dec shot and killed two civilians in Rajouri district in Jammu region. Security forces 20 Dec claimed to have killed three Laskhar-e-Tayyaba militants in Shopian district. Security forces claimed to have recovered drugs sent across international border from Pakistan to India’s Punjab region via drones on 3, 5 and 6 Dec.

Officials downplayed militancy, as J&K chief introduced unique identification numbers. Minister of state for home 7 Dec told parliament that there were 123 militancy-related incidents in J&K during 2022, resulting in deaths of 31 security forces personnel, 31 civilians and 180 militants. Kashmir’s police chief 11 Dec said there were no top militant commanders left since security forces had killed 44 this year. J&K Lieutenant-Governor Manoj Sinha 12 Dec said administration will roll out eight-digit unique identification number for families in Union Territory “for speedy and transparent implementation of social security schemes”; Peoples Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti warned that this was yet another “surveillance tactic”.

Korean Peninsula

North Korea conducted space rocket launch and missile tests, vowing military satellite launch in April 2023, while its bellicose rhetoric hinted at further provocations to come.

Pyongyang launched space rocket and appeared to set April 2023 for satellite launch. Pyongyang 18 Dec launched what it claimed was carrier rocket for its space program and released grainy photos of South Korean capital Seoul and port city Incheon purportedly taken at 500km altitude; state media next day noted that country was now making “preparations for military reconnaissance satellite No. 1 by April 2023”. Military reconnaissance satellite launch is one of five main military priorities announced by leader Kim Jong-un in Jan 2021 for 2021-2026 period.

North Korea conducted ballistic missile tests, rejected South Korea’s criticism. Pyongyang 15 Dec conducted its first ever solid-fuel missile engine test at Seohae Satellite Launch Station, marking one giant step closer to obtaining solid-fuel inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability. Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong 20 Dec rejected South Korean comments, which asserted that technology used was same in ICBMs and therefore banned by UN Security Council resolutions; Kim also threatened to conduct down-range ICBM test, saying that Seoul “will immediately recognize [North Korea’s capability if] we launch an ICBM [at a normal angle]”. Combined with hints that it may launch military reconnaissance satellite in April, comments underscore risk of further escalatory actions in coming months, including possible seventh nuclear test. North Korea 23 and 31 Dec fired short-range ballistic missiles and 26 Dec deployed five drones that entered south. Meanwhile, Pyongyang 23 Dec denied U.S. assessment that it delivered arms to Russia for use by private military company Wagner Group in Ukraine.

U.S. continued military drills, Japan unveiled new security strategy. U.S. 20 Dec flew nuclear-capable bombers and stealth fighter jets during joint military drills with South Korean jets in remote corner of south. Japan 16 Dec released first national security strategy in nine years, pledging focus on three areas related to Korean Peninsula: North Korea’s state-sponsored abductions of Japanese citizens in 1970s and 80s, North Korean nuclear issue, and Pyongyang’s missile programs.

Myanmar

Violence between regime and resistance forces continued, as late Nov fragile ceasefire held in Rakhine State, while U.K., Canada, U.S. and UN Security Council censured regime.

Military continued operations, notably in Shan State; late-Nov pause in Rakhine State continued. Military continued major military operations during month; notably, ground and air forces 7 Dec launched surprise attack on ethnic armed group Ta’ang National Liberation Army close to Namhsan township headquarters, Shan State, conducting 30 airstrikes and shelling area for five days. Ceasefire in Rakhine State declared late Nov between Arakan Army (AA) and regime held throughout month despite little attempt by sides to de-escalate, with both AA and regime troops still entrenched amid regime redeployments and ongoing arrests of AA members; deal could collapse any time. Tatmadaw 4 Dec detained prominent Kachin civil society leader Rev. Hkalam Samson at Mandalay Airport.

Evidence surfaced of serious abuses at hands of People’s Defence Force (PDF). In Sagaing region, video 3 Dec emerged purportedly showing resistance group torturing and executing woman accused of being military informant in Tamu township; unnamed Tamu People’s Defence Force (PDF) member said video was six months old; National Unity Govt (NUG) 5 Dec commenced investigation. PDF Kantbalu Battlion 4 on 1 Dec detained lawyer San San Yi along with two others in Shwebo township, next day killed her in Kantbalu township and released other detainees; NUG 8 Dec confirmed investigation into her death.

Canada and UK imposed new sanctions, U.S. passed bill to support anti-regime forces. Marking Human Rights Day 10 Dec, Canada sanctioned three entities and 12 individuals including military personnel, cabinet members and arms dealers, while UK sanctioned Office of the Chief of Military Affairs Security and Light Infantry Divisions 33 and 99. U.S. Congress 15 Dec passed National Defense Authorisation Act, which included clauses to support NUG and other anti-military groups; provided for humanitarian assistance, including for first time to ethnic armed groups; and supported (but did not mandate) sanctions against state-run Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise. UN Security Council 21 Dec adopted first Myanmar resolution in seven decades, calling on junta to release all political prisoners.

Nepal

Maoist chief “Prachanda” became new PM after breaking alliance with Nepali Congress and partnering once more with KP Oli, raising concerns over durability of broad new coalition.

Political jostling after final election results birthed another Prachanda-Oli alliance, denying Nepali Congress power. In official results following Nov poll, Nepali Congress cemented position as largest party in parliament, securing 89 out of 275 total seats in House of Representatives; Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) won 78 seats, while Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) won 32 seats. However, tensions between Nepali Congress and Maoists prevented formation of new govt, specifically due to impasse between Nepali Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba and Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” over who would lead new govt first. President Bhandari 18 Dec gave parties seven days to form new govt. After Nepali Congress-Maoist talks faltered, Unified Marxist-Leninist chair and former PM KP Oli 25 Dec struck deal with Prachanda, forming new coalition govt led by Unified Marxist-Leninist, Maoists and five other parties, with Prachanda and Oli splitting up prime ministership in deal mirroring one that underpinned UML-Maoist govt formed in 2017. Prachanda 26 Dec took oath as PM. Concerns proliferated, however, over political stability and durability of new govt given ideological tensions between coalition partners and history of acrimony between Prachanda and Oli, specifically latter’s refusal to cede prime ministership in Dec 2020.

Pakistan

Political turmoil continued to roil country amid standoff between govt and former PM Imran Khan, Pakistani Taliban launched major attacks, and border clashes continued with Afghan Taliban.

Khan’s bid to dissolve provincial assemblies awaited court decisions. After Khan late Nov threatened to dissolve two Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led govts in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, Khan 2 Dec demanded govt enter talks about snap polls or face elections “in almost 66 per cent of Pakistan”; govt same day rejected ultimatum. Punjab governor 22 Dec dismissed Punjab chief minister (Khan ally) for failing to obtain vote of confidence in assembly. Lahore High Court next day reinstated chief minister, providing assembly would not be dissolved until court 11 Jan resumed hearing on case, and 26 Dec put Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly on hold till decision on Punjab’s case. PTI leader 30 Dec claimed govt had discussed, and PTI rejected, interim govt of technocrats; cabinet minister same day denied plan, raising suspicions it was military-devised. PTI 31 Dec resumed countrywide anti-govt protests.

Attacks by Pakistani Taliban in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province sharply escalated. Pakistani Taliban claimed series of deadly assaults: notably, militants 6 Dec stormed police post in Bannu, killing constable; militants 14 Dec shot dead female schoolteacher in Peshawar; group 17 Dec attacked police station in Lakki Marwat district, killing four police constables. In significant escalation, Pakistani Taliban 18 Dec stormed facility run by Counter-Terrorism Department in Bannu, holding security personnel hostage; security forces 20 Dec launched operation, which defence minister claimed killed 33 militants, freed all hostages and left two soldiers dead. Suicide attack 20 Dec killed at least one soldier and two civilians in North Waziristan. In first such attack in capital in eight years, suicide attack by Pakistani Taliban 23 Dec killed one police officer. Groups’ attacks also spiked in Balochistan province.

Pakistani and Afghan Taliban border forces clashed. Taliban border forces 11 Dec launched cross-border artillery and mortars, killing at least seven civilians and wounding 17 in Chaman, one of main border crossings. Further clashes 15 Dec erupted, with Taliban forces opening fire on Pakistani military personnel repairing section of border fence in Chaman, killing civilian and injuring 15 others.

Philippines

Insecurity persisted in south amid ongoing militant arrests and surrenders, while clashes between govt and Communist rebels continued as communist party founder died.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)-linked militants clashed with military in south. Philippine paramilitary 9 Dec fought MILF-affiliated armed group in Aleosan town, Cotabato province, allegedly over longstanding land feud, killing nine and wounding six. Decommissioning phase of peace process between govt and MILF continued at slower pace due to Dec holidays.

Militant arrests and surrenders continued in south. Police and military 15 Dec arrested two Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members allegedly involved in kidnappings and killing during joint execution of search warrant in Panamao town, Sulu province, with five others escaping. Meanwhile, 44 Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters belonging to Karialan faction members 9 Dec surrendered to army in Kabacan town, Maguindanao province, handing over firearms and explosives.

Communist insurgency killed two, senior communist party leader died abroad. Military operations and some militant ambushes by communist New People’s Army (NPA) in Mindanao Island in south, Visayas Islands in centre and Luzon Island in north claimed three combatant and civilian fatalities and ten injuries. Military 13 Dec reported dismantling of Eastern Mindanao Command and six NPA units primarily in Davao and Bukidnon regions, Mindanao. Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison 16 Dec died in Netherlands; Department of National Defense urged insurgents to surrender, while minority bloc in House celebrated Sison as “patriot and revolutionary” calling for renewed peace talks. CPP 20 Dec said NPA would not observe ceasefire over holiday season.

South China Sea

Tensions surfaced between Philippines and China over disputed claims, as new imagery revealed alleged Chinese construction in Spratly Islands.

Philippines asserted South China Sea (SCS) claims amid ongoing tensions with China. Philippine President Marcos Jr. 1 Dec reiterated Manilla could still exploit SCS energy resources even without reaching deal with China, as ongoing talks on joint energy exploration stalled amid overlapping territorial claims and sovereignty concerns. Philippines 14 Dec expressed “great concern” over “unacceptable” continued Chinese presence near Iriqouis Reef and Sabina Shoal in disputed Spratly Islands. U.S. 19 Dec echoed concern over “escalating swarms” of unsafe Chinese Coast Guards vessels encountering Philippines navy; China next day slammed remarks as “unfounded accusation”. Manilla 22 Dec ordered military to strengthen presence in SCS, citing “Chinese activities” in disputed waters close to Pagada (Thitu) Island. Meanwhile, satellite images released 20 Dec showed newly developed formations appearing over previously unoccupied land formations over past year at Eldad Reef in northern Spratlys and neighbouring Lankiam Cay, Whitsun Reef and Sandy Cay; China next day dismissed allegations it was responsible as “completely untrue”. U.S. military 29 Dec said that Chinese fighter jet performed unsafe maneuver during intercept of U.S. Air Force jet.

Sri Lanka

Govt pursued plan to exit near-unprecedented economic hardship facing millions, and renewed calls to political parties to endorse plan to address decades-old ethnic conflict.

Govt sought relief amid acute economic and humanitarian crises. Inflation fell from record levels but remained high at 57% in Dec; govt 15 Dec reported economy shrank 11.8% in July-Sept quarter, marking second-worst quarterly contraction ever. World Food Programme and UN Food and Agriculture Organisation early Dec reported that 6.3mn people (30% of population) were food insecure, while over 60% of families were eating less, and eating cheaper, less nutritious food. World Bank 6 Dec confirmed its decision to renew govt’s eligibility for concessional loans from International Development Association; President Wickremesinghe same day presided over roundtable discussion with World Bank, Asian Development Bank, International Monetary Fund and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, who were later reported to have endorsed a “coordinated assistance program” to address economic crisis. Central bank governor 20 Dec confirmed debt restructuring negotiations with bilateral creditors were progressing more slowly than hoped. Meanwhile, parliament 8 Dec approved budget with comfortable majority of 123 votes (out of 225), winning support from most of now-fragmented Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party led by Rajapaksas.

Govt provided accelerated initiative to address ethnic conflict. At All-Party Conference held 13 Dec, Wickremesinghe reiterated his appeal for all political parties to agree on solution to ethnic problem by country’s 75th anniversary on 4 Feb, specifically by: addressing immediate concerns of Tamils, especially in north and east; establishing “truth-seeking” process to address legacy of war and conflict-related violence; and constitutional reforms to strengthen devolution of power to provinces. Despite positive responses from party leaders in attendance, scepticism is high they can achieve consensus so quickly on issue that has violently riven Sri Lankan politics for decades. Wickremesinghe 21 Dec met Tamil National Alliance leaders for follow-up discussions on release of prisoners and land.

Local election preparations continued. Elections commission chief 28 Dec announced that nominations for local govt elections would be called before 5 Jan, with vote held before 10 March.

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