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.
The month saw an intensification of deadly violence in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, with over 80 people killed following clashes with security forces. The African Union Peace and Security Council (AU PSC) made a welcome statement of intent to deploy forces to halt the slide toward civil war and mass atrocities. In Afghanistan, fighting raged between government and Taliban forces, particularly in Helmand province, while in Djibouti, Ethiopia and Niger, political tensions heightened. In a positive step forward, a peace deal was signed in Libya but uncertainties remain over the viability of the agreement. As stressed by Jean-Marie Guéhenno, President and CEO of the International Crisis Group, in today’s Ten Conflicts to Watch in 2016, it “should be seen as a beginning, not an end, to the peace process”.
In Burundi, violence dramatically escalated on 11 December with coordinated attacks on three military camps by unidentified armed insurgents in Bujumbura. The army announced 87 killed including eight members of the security forces, while other sources put the death toll at nearly 200. In the midst of a worsening humanitarian situation and to avert further violence, the AU decided to deploy a 5,000-strong AU Prevention and Protection Mission (MAPROBU). Crisis Group welcomes the AU’s decision and calls on all governments in the region and continent as well as the wider international community to provide full support to MAPROBU.
In Afghanistan, Taliban related attacks continued to spread. The deputy governor of Helmand said on 20 December the province was “on the brink” of Taliban takeover, while Sangin district has been reportedly taken. In early December, Taliban attacks in Kandahar left dozens killed, while clashes between Taliban factions in Shindand district left over 50 reported dead. Senior U.S. commander General John Campbell warned on 15 December of Islamic State (IS) activity in Jalalabad and Nangarhar. On 27 December, Pakistan army chief Raheel Sharif held talks in Kabul on ways to revive talks with the Taliban, amid heightened violence including insurgent attacks in Kabul.
In the Horn of Africa, political tensions increased. In Ethiopia, some 75 civilians and four police were reportedly killed in clashes, hundreds were injured and scores arrested in Oromiya region during demonstrations against the government’s plan to expand its capital, Addis Ababa. A grenade attack on the Grand Anwar Mosque in Addis Ababa on 11 December injured 24. Meanwhile, in Djibouti, President Ismail Omar Guelleh’s 3 December announcement of his candidacy for a fourth term was followed by a government crackdown on the opposition, with some 50 people arrested mid-month. Nineteen were reportedly killed on 21 December in a government raid on a religious gathering in Djibouti’s capital – the government has said nine were killed after its security forces came under attack. Tensions between government and opposition also increased in Niger ahead of presidential elections planned for February 2016. President Issoufou reported on 17 December that a coup attempt had been foiled, following the arrest of four high-ranking military officers, and several civilians including politicians and journalists. The alleged coup attempt occurred amid intensifying disagreement over the electoral process, and shrinking space for political opponents and journalists.
In Libya, representatives of Libya’s rival parliaments, the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) and the Tripoli-based General National Congress (GNC), signed on 17 December a UN-brokered agreement establishing a Government of National Unity headed by Prime Minister Faez Serraj. Uncertainties remain, however, over the level of support for the agreement, particularly as the leadership of both existing parliaments continue to oppose it. In a statement, Crisis Group warned international actors involved in the peace process who also intervened militarily in Libya in 2011 without a plan for the aftermath, not to repeat that mistake on the diplomatic front. Among other measures, plans for Libya’s future will need to ensure actors who did not initially sign onto the peace deal will have the opportunity to do so at a later date without sanctions, and that security and economic tracks with key stakeholders will be pursued as a priority.
President-elect Roch Marc Christian Kaboré sworn in 29 Dec. Negotiations to form coalition govt began early-Dec following 29 Nov presidential elections: Movement of People for Progress (MPP) won 55 National Assembly seats; runner-up opposition Union for Progress and Change (UPC), with 33 seats, and second runner-up former ruling party Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) with eighteen seats form main opposition. MPP first VP Dalif Siallo elected speaker of National Assembly 30 Dec. Additional audio recordings of plans for Sept coup allegedly involving coup leader General Diendéré, former FM Djibril Bassolé and Ivorian National Assembly speaker Guillaume Soro leaked throughout month; PM Zida 2 Dec publicly said recordings were authentic. Diendéré indicted for murder 6 Dec and international arrest warrant issued 4 Dec against former President Blaise Compaoré, in exile in Côte d’Ivoire, as part of investigation into assassination of former President Sankara. Govt 25 Dec said attempted prison break to free Diendéré and Bassolé foiled. Three presidential guard (RSP) members indicted and detained 13 Dec in connection to murder of journalist Norbert Zongo. Commission on army reform set up 8 Dec with six-month mandate to produce plan for strategic army reform for 2017-2022.
Violence in Bujumbura dramatically intensified 11 Dec with coordinated attack on three military camps by unidentified armed insurgents. Security forces swiftly retaliated, army announced 87 killed including eight members of security forces; local sources put death toll at nearly 200 with reports of abuses including extrajudicial executions by security services. Incident prompted international outcry; AU Peace and Security Council 17 Dec decided to deploy 5,000-strong AU Prevention and Protection Mission (MAPROBU); President Nkurunziza said Burundians would fight any foreign troops. Rebel groups 23 Dec announced formation of “Republican Forces of Burundi (FOREBU)” to oust Nkurunziza. AU called for both govt and opposition to cooperate with peace talks, next round scheduled for 6 Jan. Trial of 28 accused of involvement in May coup attempt began mid-Dec.
Boko Haram (BH) attacks in Far North continued killing dozens, including at least seven killed and 27 wounded 11 Dec in attack on Kolofata. Govt early Dec said over 100 BH militants killed, some 900 hostages freed in multinational operation late Nov.
Presidential and legislative elections held peacefully 30 Dec after three-day delay due to logistical difficulties. Transitional Constitutional Court 8 Dec rejected 30 candidate applications for presidential vote including former President François Bozizé, anti-balaka leader Patrice Edouard Ngaissona and businessman Amine Michel; Bozizé accused court of banning him because of foreign pressure; demonstrators 12 Dec protested court’s invalidation of Ngaissona’s candidacy. Some 90% approved constitution in constitutional referendum held 13 Dec amid significant technical and logistical challenges. Violence erupted across country same day including in Bangui’s PK5 district where clashes erupted after MINUSCA peacekeepers came under fire, armed men launched repeated attacks in attempt to block vote. Ex-Seleka rebel and current leader of Front patriotique pour la renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC) Noureddine Adam 7 Dec said he would not allow elections to take place in Kaga Bandoro region under his control, 14 Dec proclaimed “Republic of Logone” and said he will seek independence.
Boko Haram continued to launch deadly attacks despite strengthening of security measures in Lake Chad region and deployment of significant military forces in area. At least 27 killed and 130 injured 5 Dec when four female suicide bombers targeted market on Koulfoua island. Trade Unions 8 Dec called strike to protest nonpayment of salaries; student protests erupted in Pala, SW, violently repressed by security forces; students in Abéché in east protested 9 Dec against one-month interruption of classes triggering violent clashes with police. As Chad’s economy struggles, IMF 15 Dec approved immediate disbursement of $28.7mn credit facility; African Development Bank 10 Dec announced $18mn funding to finance project to support public finances reforms; World Bank same day announced $50mn pledge to finance budget consolidation program. Opposition leader Saleh Kebzabo late Dec called for political dialogue ahead of April 2016 elections in order to organise credible polls.
French judge 5 Dec issued warrant against Ivoirian National Assembly speaker Guillaume Soro following his repeated refusal to answer summons in case lodged by Michel Gbagbo, son of former President Laurent Gbagbo, for illegal detention and ill-treatment in 2011. Govt 8 Dec protested warrant, said Soro had diplomatic immunity; opposition leader Pascal Affi Nguessan 16 Dec called for Soro’s resignation. Unidentified gunmen 2 Dec attacked two military camps in Olodio in SW near Liberian border, seven soldiers and four attackers killed; three Ivoirian suspects arrested 15 Dec in refugee camp in Liberia. Gunmen 27 Dec attacked army post in Nougoua, near Ghanaian border; no casualties reported.
President Kabila gave State of Union speech 15 Dec amid continued political tension, called for support for national dialogue, threatened opposition parties for rejecting talks. Over 27 high-profile Congolese figures, including former governor of Katanga province Moïse Katumbi, 19 Dec formed coalition “Citizen Front 2016” to prevent Kabila running for a third term. Katumbi 10 Dec met with Félix Tshisekedi, international spokesman for opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), in Paris to discuss upcoming elections. Month saw continued Allied Defence Forces (ADF) activity in Oicha Eringeti area: four killed 13 Dec; group of special envoys from UN, AU, EU and U.S. mid-Dec visited Beni, called for resumption of collaboration between MONUSCO and Congolese armed forces (FARDC); Kabila 19 Dec promised to neutralise ADF rebels. UN 29 Dec appointed South African commander Derick Mbuyiselo Mgwebi head of MONUSCO. International Criminal Court 19 Dec handed over convicted warlords Germain Katanga and Thomas Lubanga to authorities.
Govt crackdown on opposition followed President Ismail Omar Guelleh’s 3 Dec announcement of candidacy for fourth term: peaceful protests against Guelleh’s candidacy held 14 Dec in capital; some 50 opposition members 13-16 Dec arrested in Djibouti city. Nineteen reportedly killed, dozens wounded 21 Dec in govt raid on religious gathering in capital; govt said nine killed, violence was in response to attack on security forces.
Protests against govt plan to expand Addis Ababa erupted in Oromia region: some 75 civilians and four police reportedly killed in clashes, hundreds injured and scores arrested throughout month. Ten members of opposition Ginbot-7, designated as terrorist organisation by state, arrested after reported shootout with police 9 Dec in Gonder town. Grenade attack on Grand Anwar Mosque in capital 11 Dec injured 24. Govt early month warned number of people suffering food insecurity due to drought now ten million. Govt 29 Dec signed agreement with Sudan and Egypt on use of contractors, implementing declaration of principles of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
President Condé inaugurated 14 and 21 Dec in two-pronged ceremony. PM Fofana 23 Dec resigned to make way for new cabinet; Condé 29 Dec named Mamady Youla as new PM. Govt 7 Dec dismissed five high-ranking economic and education officials for “gross misconduct” in ongoing govt clean-up. Divisions within opposition persisted: Sidya Touré, second-runner up in presidential polls who had initially rejected election results, 7 Dec announced alliance with Condé.
PM Correia 11 Dec presented new govt program amid ongoing tensions with President Vaz, following month-long dispute over composition of govt. Correia failed to obtain majority in 23 Dec parliamentary vote, as opposition Party for Social Renewal (PRS) and 15 MPs of ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) abstained. Failure of second vote, due within two weeks, would result in fall of government.
Al-Shabaab militants continued to target Kenyan security forces in Mandera and Lamu counties with at least seven attacks and ten fatalities reported in Dec including two police officers killed 27 Dec in ambush on vehicles in Lamu; two killed and three wounded 21 Dec in attack on bus and lorry between Kotulo and Elwak. At least two killed, ten injured and hundreds displaced during 23-28 Dec intercommunal violence in Narok county; govt deployed security forces to area. President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto 15 Dec announced plan for new permanent coalition “Jubilee Party”. Electoral commission 21 Dec threatened boycott of elections over inadequate funding.
Final two Ebola patients discharged 3 Dec from hospital but tensions within communities over virus persisted: govt 14 Dec reported some seventeen suspected Ebola patients missing after attack on treatment centre in Monrovia. Three Ivoirian citizens arrested 15 Dec in refugee camp in Liberia, on charges of recruiting fighters in connection with 2 Dec attack on Ivoirian military base.
Senatorial elections held peacefully 29 Dec; electoral commission reported high voter turnout. Administrative tribunal tasked with assessing July municipal election results 18 Dec cancelled election results in Ifanaria community of Ikongo district amid ongoing review of communal poll results. Parliament 14 Dec passed 2016 budget despite initial opposition threats to vote against or boycott session.
Fighting between Coalition of Azawad Movements (CMA) and pro-govt armed groups halted following mid-Oct Anefis peace agreement; campaigns and reconciliation meetings continued throughout month to consolidate and extend peace. Members of Fulani self-defence group Ganda Izo 8 Dec began patrolling Menaka city following mid-Nov clashes between on the one hand Fulani and alleged affiliates of Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), and Daoussak communities on the other. Implementation of Bamako peace accords remains stalled. Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) 2 Dec confirmed re-alignment with al-Murabitun, one of two groups claiming responsibility for 20 Nov Bamako attack, following 2012 split between al-Murabitun leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar and AQIM over leadership feud. French army 20 Dec launched operation against al-Murabitun militants near Menaka, some ten militants captured or killed. Pro-govt armed groups alleged operation caused death of several of their members. Radical Islamist group Ansar Eddine 25 Dec claimed responsibility for 24 Dec attack against CMA position in Talandahaq, Kidal region; accused militants from armed group Azawad Liberation National Movement (MNLA), part of CMA, of collaborating with French forces.
Parliament 7 Dec rejected opposition Renamo’s proposed constitutional amendment to allow leader Dhlakama to appoint governors in provinces where he won most votes in Oct 2014 presidential election. In first media interview since security forces forcefully disarmed his bodyguards in Oct, Dhlakama 17 Dec threatened to “democratically” seize control of six northern and central provinces, Sofala, Manica, Zambezia, Tete, Nampula and Niassa, from March 2016. Dhlakama ruled out dialogue with President Nyusi, stating all channels had been suspended. Margarida Talapa, head of ruling Frelimo’s parliamentary group, 17 Dec urged Renamo deputies to persuade Dhlakama to accept President Nyusi’s repeated invitations for dialogue.
President Issoufou 17 Dec announced a foiled coup attempt following 15-16 Dec arrest of four high-ranking military officers; civilians including politicians and journalists also arrested in following days. Disagreements between govt and opposition intensified ahead of planned Feb presidential elections. Opposition 7 Dec refused to recognise expertise of ECOWAS envoy Bakary Fofana, appointed early-Dec to assess quality of electoral process following accusations by opposition of pro-govt bias within Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), said his alleged links with govt made him partial and unreliable. Govt 12 Dec offered to create joint electoral register audit committee (CAFE); opposition 15 Dec left CAFE, asked for independent and credible international agency to assess electoral process. Opposition welcomed 23 Dec CENI decision to request electoral monitoring assistance from the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF). Attacks by radical Islamist group Boko Haram (BH) decreased, but insecurity persisted in SE.
Clashes 12-13 Dec in Zaria, Kaduna state between soldiers and members of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN); over 100 killed including senior IMN members. Army alleged clash triggered by IMN attempt to assassinate chief of army staff Lt Gen Tukur Buratai; IMN denied charge, said military assault unprovoked and premeditated. Killings sparked protests in several northern cities and drew international condemnation. IMN 17 Dec issued five preconditions for truce with govt including handover of wounded and detained leader Sheikh Zakzaky. Security forces reported continued progress in campaign against Boko Haram (BH); President Buhari 6 Dec said Dec deadline to end insurgency was only “guide” and 24 Dec said BH had been “technically” defeated. BH attacks continued with raids on Borno state villages and suicide bombings in state capital, Maiduguri, and in Madagali, Adamawa state, over 100 civilians killed. Demonstrations in SE by pro-Biafra separatist youth demanding release of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) leader Nnamdi Kanu escalated: thousands of protesters 2 Dec blocked Niger Bridge at Onitsha, Anambra state; at least eight protesters and two policemen killed. Federal High Court 17 Dec ordered Kanu’s immediate and unconditional release but federal govt 18 Dec filed new six-count charge including allegations of treasonable felony, maintaining unlawful society and illegal possession of items.
Referendum on constitutional amendment that would allow President Kagame to run for third term held 18 Dec; large majority voted in favour of amendment, with electoral commission reporting 98% of voters supported the change; EU and U.S. condemned vote.
National Consultative Forum 16 Dec issued conclusions on public consultations on process to form new govt in 2016: included preliminary election framework; detailed agreement to be finalised at 10 Jan conference on elections. Increased Al-Shabaab attacks continued including: assassination of journalist 3 Dec and senior intelligence officer 10 Dec in Mogadishu; one UN staff killed 14 Dec in capital; three killed, at least eight wounded 19 Dec in IED explosion in Mogadishu. Dozens killed as deadly clashes with Somali National Army (SNA) and AMISOM forces continued in Lower Shabelle, Hiiraan and Bay regions throughout month. Three militants including senior Al-Shabaab leader Abdirahman Sandhere killed 2 Dec, one 21 Dec in U.S. airstrikes. Senior militant leaders Muhammad Ferey, Muhammad Ibrahim Dhubow surrendered late month. Govt 7 Dec confirmed 6 Nov surrender of U.S.-born Al-Shabaab member following increasingly visible rift within group between supporters of al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS); video published online 7 Dec again called for Al-Shabaab members to join IS. Tensions over federal state formation in Galkayo reduced with ceasefire signed 5 Dec by Galmudug and Puntland officials. Breakaway Upper Bakool region formed 25 Dec. At least twenty killed 12 Dec in inter-clan clash in Beledweyne, Hiiraan, reportedly sparked by tensions over pastoral resources; peace agreement signed 18 Dec; some ten killed 31 Dec. Some 30 killed 12-20 Dec in clashes between rival militias in Lower Shabelle, Puntland regions.
Implementation of peace deal began in South Sudan: SPLM/A-IO advance delegation led by chief negotiator Taban Deng Gai 21 Dec arrived in Juba; parties held first meetings of joint peace institutions. Machar 6 Dec unilaterally announced formation of a political party structure amid ongoing debates over whether the SPLM/A-IO should rejoin SPLM or form independent party; Dhieu Mathok appointed Sec Gen, Machar’s wife Angelina Teny appointed chairperson of security and defence committee. Sporadic, low-level conflict continued, largely in Equatoria region. UNSC 15 Dec extended UNMISS mandate to July 2016, authorising use of drones. In violation of peace deal, president Kiir 24 Dec created 28 states by decree and appointed governors, dissolved previous ten states; announcement was condemned by SPLM/A-IO and alliance of eighteen political parties. Govt 24 Dec announced memorandum of understanding for negotiation with South Sudan Armed Forces/Federal Democratic Party (SSAF/FDP), breakaway group from the SPLM/A-IO, in bid to undermine Machar’s SPLM/A-IO.
Govt, opposition claimed AU-supported informal talks 16-18 Dec made some progress, main issues still unclear; both sides agreed to resume discussions this month. SPLM-N and Sudanese Congress Party (SCoP) 26 Dec agreed to boycott the forthcoming National Dialogue preparatory meeting if “Sudan Call” opposition group formed late 2014 is excluded. Govt 31 Dec announced National Dialogue (ND) extension until 10 Feb, ceasefire until 31 Jan; opposition Darfuri New Justice and Equality Movement (NJEM) 20 Dec joined ND; SPLM-N 19 Dec denied plans to join. Fighting between govt and rebels continued in Blue Nile and S Kordofan. Govt forces 13 Dec captured Sudan Liberation Movement-Abdel Wahid al-Nur (SLM-AW) spokesperson in central Darfur; govt 21 Dec suspended execution of seven members of opposition Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).
At least seventeen injured 13 Dec in clashes between supporters of President Museveni and pro-Mbabazi youth in Ntungamo; twenty arrested 21 Dec at Mbabazi party headquarters. Voters’ register released 15 Dec caused public controversy over its legality and accuracy, national ID registration, nomination of candidates. Clashes erupted 5 Dec along disputed border with South Sudan after some 300 SPLA soldiers crossed border into Uganda.
Divisions within ruling ZANU-PF persisted with series of no confidence votes against VP Mnangagwa’s supporters including: 7 Dec ouster of two ZANU-PF women’s league national executive members, Esphinah Nhari and Monica Mutsvangwa; ZANU-PF member Chris Mutsangwa ousted 14 Dec in no confidence vote. Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai 21 Dec claimed President Mugabe had been replaced by wife Grace Mugabe in “palace coup”. Rift between Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Indigenisation Minister Patrick Zhuwao persisted over indigenisation regulations for foreign owned companies.
Fighting raged between govt forces and Taliban in Helmand province. Deputy governor of Helmand 20 Dec said province “on the brink” of Taliban takeover; also reported Taliban had taken control of Sangin district. UK 22 Dec announced deployment of troops to Helmand in advisory role, U.S. 23 Dec launched airstrikes in Sangin district. Taliban 8-9 Dec attacked airport and military base in Kandahar, leaving over 40 killed; 11-12 Dec attacked Spanish embassy guesthouse, killing two Spanish security officials, four police. Six U.S. troops killed by suicide bomber near Bagram air base 21 Dec; three rockets hit govt area of Kabul same day. New Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour reportedly wounded in argument with rival commanders in Quetta, Pakistan 2 Dec; Taliban denied, released audio message reportedly of Mansour 5 Dec. Clashes reported between Taliban factions in Shindand district 8 Dec, at least 54 reported killed. Senior U.S. commander Gen. John Campbell 15 Dec warned of Islamic State activity in Jalalabad, Nangarhar; Attending “Heart of Asia” conference in Islamabad 8-9 Dec, President Ghani appealed to neighbours to help contain terrorism. Meeting in Paris 1 Dec, Ghani and Pakistani PM Sharif agreed to resume talks with Taliban. National Directorate of Security chief resigned 10 Dec over disagreement with Ghani on forging closer ties with Pakistan. Pakistan army chief Raheel Sharif held talks in Kabul on ways to revive talks with Taliban 27 Dec. One killed, thirteen wounded in Kabul suicide attack 28 Dec. Ghani pledged to hold parliamentary and district council elections in 2016. First new opposition party in fourteen years “Council of Protection and Stability in Afghanistan” formed 18 Dec.
Govt continued clampdown on dissent, including with ban on several social media sites. During Facebook ban police arrested three for making “derogatory” remarks against govt; ban lifted 10 Dec, paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion same day arrested administrator of satirical Facebook page Refayet Ahmed for “campaigning against the government and state”, released four days later. Further signs of rising extremism, with two temples in northern district Dinajpur attacked 5 and 10 Dec; former attack involved timed bomb, two shot dead in latter. At least six including three naval officers wounded following two explosions at two mosques at Chittagong naval base 18 Dec; two men arrested. Alleged Islamist extremist Jamaat-ul-Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB) member 8 Dec admitted Oct killing of Japanese national; another JMB member reportedly admitted to Nov attack on Italian priest. Security Forces arrested seven suspected JMB militants in Dhaka 24 Dec; 28 Dec killed two alleged JMB militants in raid outside Dhaka. Police 15 Dec attributed recent attacks including on foreigners and Hindu temples to JMB, claimed no evidence of Islamic State (IS) link despite IS public claims of responsibility. Calls 16 Dec by several civil society organisations for Bangladesh to cut bilateral ties after Pakistan dismissed claims of genocide during 1971 war of independence from Pakistan. Dhaka-based Pakistani diplomat withdrawn 23 Dec after local media reported links to detained JMB operative; Pakistan said charges “baseless”.
Govt passed new anti-terror legislation late Dec creating national intelligence centre for counter-terrorism and increasing ability to monitor and decrypt online activity.
Japanese officials 18 Dec confirmed Tokyo will position anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile batteries along 200 islands in East China Sea (ECS) and increase military personnel in area to almost 10,000 over five years, in response to threat from China. Chinese and Japanese officials met in Xiamen, China 7-9 Dec to discuss early implementation of agreed aerial and maritime contact mechanism; agreed to strengthen cooperation and exchanges, but few concrete results. Australian PM Turnbull visited Japan 18 Dec, confirmed agreement to ease cooperation between their armed forces: issued joint statement calling for halt to land-reclamation activities in South China Sea. Japan 30 Dec reported sighting of armed Chinese coastguard ship near disputed islands in ECS.
In continued clashes between security forces and Maoists, five security personnel wounded in Maoist ambush in Sukma district, Chhattisgarh 9 Dec; police 17 Dec killed alleged commander of People’s Liberation Front of India. Scores of Maoists reportedly surrendered to police in Bastar region. Naxals 16 Dec reportedly killed two civilians in Rajnandgaon district, Chhattisgarh. Two villagers reported killed by Maoists in Malkangari district 25 Dec. New Delhi police 17 Dec arrested three suspected members of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent including alleged leader.
Indian and Pakistani national security advisers met in Bangkok 6 Dec, discussed peace and security, terrorism, Kashmir, Line of Control (LoC). Indian FM Sushma Swaraj 8-9 Dec attended conference in Islamabad in first visit by Indian diplomat to Pakistan in three years; issued joint statement saying both countries “condemned terrorism and resolved to cooperate to eliminate it”, agreed to “Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue”. Indian PM Modi paid surprise visit to Pakistan PM Sharif’s Lahore residence via Kabul 25 Dec, first by an Indian leader in almost twelve years; agreed to foreign secretaries meeting mid Jan. Pakistan defence secretary Alam Khattak 4 Dec told Senate’s standing committing on defence India had violated ceasefire 247 times since PM Modi’s election in May 2014: 163 along LoC and 84 along Working Boundary; resulted in at least 39 Pakistani civilians killed, 150 wounded. One civilian and six Indian security officials injured in terrorist attack on Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy 7 Dec in Anantnag district; two militants killed 8 Dec in clashes with police and CRPF in Pulwama district; Indian army reportedly prevented infiltration attempt 4 Dec in Poonch district, three guerrillas killed. Indian security forces 4 Dec launched anti-militancy operation in Kupwara district, two militants and soldier killed.
Non-governmental organisations reported alleged killings and other abuses by security forces on day marking West Papuan Independence celebrations 1 Dec. Follows Nov release of West Papua activist Filep Karma, jailed eleven years for raising Morning Star flag. Three police reported killed by gunmen in attack on police station in Puncak district 27 Dec. President Widodo conducted official visit to Papua/West Papua 29-31 Dec. Guerrilla leader Din Minimi and over 100 former separatist fighters, reportedly splinter elements from Free Aceh Movement which signed peace agreement with govt in 2005, and accused of criminal activities including extortion over the past year, surrendered to Aceh authorities late Dec.
U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies 3 Dec issued report concluding from satellite photos that new work is being carried out on tunnel at DPRK’s Punggye-ri nuclear testing site. U.S., ROK and Japanese nuclear envoys met 4 Dec to discuss denuclearisation of peninsula. U.S. implemented new sanctions 8 Dec, targeting Strategic Rocket Force of Korean People’s Army, also six individuals, three Pyongyang-based shipping firms. Official DPRK news agency 10 Dec reported leader Kim Jong-un declared country has developed hydrogen bomb, currently preparing for tests; claim treated with scepticism. DPRK and ROK 11 Dec held vice-ministerial talks in DPRK, marking first inter-govt dialogue since Aug deal on defusing tension; meeting ended without joint statement. Former secretary of Korean Worker’s Party Choe Ryong Hae reportedly sent to work in mines for “ideological re-education”. DPRK state media reported top aide to Kim Jong-un and key negotiator with ROK Kim Yang Gon killed in traffic accident 29 Dec. UNGA 17 Dec adopted resolution condemning DPRK’s human rights record, further encouraging UNSC to refer country to International Criminal Court. UNSC 10 Dec again discussed DPRK rights situation, despite Chinese opposition.
Following National League for Democracy (NLD)’s Nov electoral victory, party leader Aung San Suu Kyi (ASSK) met with president 2 Dec to discuss formation of transition teams to ensure smooth and efficient handover of responsibilities, and try to set precedent of constructive handover of power after future elections; govt and NLD transition teams established following week. ASSK also met commander-in-chief 2 Dec, without observers; content of discussion unknown, but mood afterward appeared positive. ASSK met with former military ruler Than Shwe 4 Dec, after which he signalled his support of ASSK. ASSK met with chief peace negotiator Aung Min 7 Dec for briefing on peace process. More generally, ASSK hinting she may keep some existing ministers on; and that some posts will go to non-Burmans; has told NLD MPs they should not expect to be appointed to executive. Election commission released final details on election 2 Dec, showing nationwide turnout of 69.7%, high variation across states. Following six-point agreement between Shan State Army-North (SSA-North) and govt late Nov security situation calm, though tensions remain; 6,000-10,000 villagers still displaced. Attack in main Kokang town Laukkai 27 Nov; no casualties reported. Several rounds of clashes between Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and SSA-South after initial deadly shootout between them 27 Nov; tensions likely exacerbated by suspicions after SSA-South signed Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) mid-Oct and TNLA did not. Rapid movement on procedural follow-up to NCA, with framework agreement for next step, the political dialogue, agreed 15 Dec, in line with deadline included in NCA; political dialogue scheduled to start 12 Jan.
Protests against new constitution by Madhesi groups, disruption of imports across Indian border, and clashes between demonstrators and police continued along southern plains. Protesters 16 Dec attacked President Bidya Bhandari’s motorcade in Dhanusha district. One protester killed in police firing 20 Dec in Rautahat district; at least 50 protest-related deaths since Aug. Veteran Madhesi leader Rajendra Mahato injured in 26 Dec clash with police. Madhesi leaders 5 Dec met Indian FM Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi, urged India to play diplomatic role in resolving crisis. Coalition of Madhesi parties criticised Constitution Amendment Bill tabled 15 Dec for not addressing demands regarding citizenship, proportional inclusion in state bodies, and redrawing of provincial boundaries; intensified protests beginning 18 Dec; rejected Govt’s 20 Dec “ambiguous” three-point roadmap that included formation of political committee to resolve state restructuring dispute despite Indian Foreign Ministry welcoming govt decision. Amid ongoing criticism of UML-led govt over deteriorating humanitarian situation following April/May earthquakes, eight displaced people living in temporary shelters died as temperatures dropped throughout Dec; Reconstruction Authority Bill passed 16 Dec to expedite reconstruction work. Ruling-coalition member UCPN (Maoist) reportedly dissatisfied with PM Oli’s 24 Dec cabinet expansion.
Four men hanged 2 Dec for involvement in Dec 2014 Peshawar school attack, first executions in connection to attack. Attacks in FATA included: at least 23 suspected militants killed 15 Dec in airstrikes in Khyber Agency; bomb targeting Shias in Parachinar 13 Dec killed at least 22, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and S Waziristan-based Ansar ul Mujahidin both claimed responsibility. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) police 12 Dec reportedly arrested over 500 for suspected terrorism links. At least 22 killed in suicide bomb in KPK’s Mardan 29 Dec; Pakistani Taliban faction Jamaat-ul Ahrar claimed responsibility. Sindh’s civil-military provincial apex committee 2 Dec announced creation of 30 anti-terrorism courts and hiring of 8,000 police and twenty prosecutors to support Karachi operation. Sindh assembly 16 Dec extended Rangers’ policing powers in Karachi, though with conditions and limitations following intense criticism of Rangers’ methods and overreach. Police 1 Dec killed four suspected militants in raid targeting al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent in S Punjab; 11 Dec killed five suspected LeJ members in Lahore. Nine suspected militants with alleged ties to Islamic State (IS) arrested in Punjab 28 Dec. Attacks on journalists continued, including grenade attacks on television network offices in Lahore 1 Dec injuring four, and 7 Dec attack in Punjab’s Sargodha district. Lahore High Court 9 Dec acquitted Sunni extremist Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan’s (SSP) Qari Muhammad Yousaf, overturning May 2015 sentence by anti-terrorism court. Balochistan govt 7 Dec extended paramilitary Corps’ policing powers; continuing violence in province included: gunmen 8 Dec killed two National Party members in Khuzdar district; security forces 14 Dec killed at least thirteen suspected militants in Awaran district. Pakistan military 11 Dec test-fired intermediate range nuclear-capable ballistic missile.
Congress failed to pass proposed Basic Law on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR) by 16 Dec when house adjourned, though did complete plenary debates. Despite widespread concerns that law now unlikely to be passed under President Aquino’s administration, speaker of parliament said he was hopeful that BLBAR would be passed when congress resumes session 18 Jan, prior to long recess ahead of May 2016 national elections. Leaders of Moro rebel factions MILF and MNLF gathered in Mindanao mid-Dec to discuss concerns over Bangsamoro peace agreement, attempts to unify movements to increase pressure on govt to pass BLBAR. EU 9 Dec pledged continued support for peace process, alongside EUR5.5mn aid for peacebuilding in Bangsamoro region. Six people reported killed in MILF attack in Tulunan town, North Cotabato 8 Dec, police said clash motivated by longstanding land conflict. Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters reportedly killed nine villagers in south 26 Dec, while govt forces killed at least five rebels in Mindanao clashes. At least fifteen al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) rebels and three soldiers reported killed in clashes in Basilan mid-month; ten ASG and several soldiers reported killed in Jolo island clash 30 Dec.
Beijing 19 Dec reported two U.S. B-52 bombers flew within two nautical miles of Chinese-built artificial island in Spratly islands 10 Dec, in what it called “serious military provocation”; U.S. said overflight unintentional. Australia mid-Dec confirmed it conducted freedom of navigation operations in SCS late Nov. Chinese FM 19 Dec urged countries outside region to steer clear, avoid aggravating tensions. U.S. 25 Nov announced it increased military aid to Philippines in 2015 to
$79mn from previously announced $50mn. U.S. deployed first P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane to Singapore 7-14 Dec, following announcement of new defence cooperation agreement. At conclusion of Philippine legal argument to UN Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague 30 Nov, tribunal gave China until 1 Jan to comment on Philippines’ arguments. AP 6 Dec reported satellite photos show three additional Chinese airstrips under construction in SCS. Taiwan 12 Dec unveiled new lighthouse, harbour and memorial tablet declaring its sovereignty in disputed Spratly islands 12 Dec, prompting protest from Vietnam, which reiterated its sovereignty. Japanese and Indian PMs 12 Dec issued joint statement on SCS calling for countries to avoid unilateral actions that could inflame tensions. China conducted naval exercises in SCS mid-Dec. Indonesia 15 Dec announced plans to boost defense capabilities on Natuna Islands, whose EEZ overlaps with China’s nine-dash line.
Govt’s first budget passed 3 Dec with over two-thirds majority; addressed some serious fiscal and economic challenges, but widely perceived as transitional step toward deeper reforms. Responding to public pressure, govt 18 Dec agreed to withdraw legislation criminalising hate speech; civil society groups and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) objected to adoption of language resembling that of Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), used to imprison dissidents. Govt 17 Dec announced establishment of new secretariat for coordinating development of various “reconciliation mechanisms”, including missing persons office and “truth, reconciliation and prevention of conflicts commission”. Sri Lanka 10 Dec signed international convention on disappearances. Presidential commission on missing persons resumed public hearings in Jaffna mid Dec, amid new protests by affected families. Despite repeated promises and renewed hunger strikes by prisoners, no further releases of the more than 200 detainees held under PTA. Officials denied new allegations by Tamil politicians and activists of secret detention camps. Failure to release more military-occupied land has also fuelled discontent among Tamils in north; govt officials reiterated FM’s 3 Dec pledge that further 6,000 acres would be released for resettlement, but without date/location. 19 Dec formation of “Tamil People’s Council”, composed of civil society and political party leaders and co-chaired by Northern Provincial Council Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran, seen as having potential to pose strong challenge to TNA.
U.S. 16 Dec authorised $1.83bn weapons sale to Taiwan, first in four years, despite strong opposition from China. U.S. said package consists almost exclusively of defensive weapons. China called deal “serious violation of international laws ... as well as China’s territory and security interest”, announced sanctions against companies involved in sale.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej appeared in public 14 Dec for first time since Sept 2015 to swear in new judges. Junta faced continued criticism for alleged graft in army-sponsored project to build park near Hua Hin to commemorate seven Thai kings. Soldiers 30 Nov arrested three United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) leaders as they were talking with reporters en route to park – first instance of open UDD defiance of military orders to avoid “political gatherings” since May 2014 coup. Soldiers 7 Dec halted train heading to Hua Hin to prevent group of student activists from reaching Rajapkahti Park; arrested 38 including group leader. Leaked police memo early Dec revealed Thai police received warning from Russia’s state security agency that ten Syrians linked to Islamic State could stage attacks in Thailand on targets associated with Russia and others, in Bangkok, Pattaya, and Phuket. Several casualties reported in ongoing insurgent attacks in Deep South. Internal Security Operations Command 4 Dec announced suspected militant died while being interrogated in Pattani’s Nong Chik district, third detainee to die in military custody in past two months.
Ahead of 6 Dec referendum on President Sargsyan’s proposal to change constitution to make country a parliamentary democracy, opposition organised protests, claiming proposed changes aim to allow Sargsyan to continue to hold power after end of his second term in 2018; govt says changes aimed at greater democratisation. Election Commission reported 63.5% voted in favour of changes 6 Dec. Opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) rejected result, amid reports of widespread irregularities; other opposition parties also challenged official report of 50.51% turnout. Election commission 13 Dec said constitutional amendments adopted. Protests continued late month demanding govt resign over alleged corruption. Russia deployed military hardware to reinforce its air base in Armenia.
Rights activist Leyla Yunus released early from jail on medical grounds after serving a year of sentence on charges including fraud, tax evasion. Journalist Rauf Mirkadirov sentenced to six years’ jail 28 Dec on charges of spying for Armenia; lawyer said charges politically motivated. Council of Europe launched official inquiry into Azerbaijan’s compliance with European Convention on Human Rights. Authorities conducted further raid on Shiite settlement Nardaran outside Baku 1 Dec, several reportedly detained. Prominent opposition figure Fuad Qahramanli arrested in Baku 8 Dec, charges include publicly calling for overthrow of govt; lawyer said arrest linked to social media comments about Nardaran raid. Manat fell 48% against dollar 21 Dec after central bank abandoned currency peg.
Crisis over Bosnian Serb leaders’ demands for reform of Constitutional Court (CC) to remove foreign judges continued; Republika Srpska (RS) leader Milorad Dodik 1 Dec threatened to withdraw entity’s representatives from state institutions if reforms not adopted in 120 days. RS 10 Dec announced it was suspending cooperation with state-level police and court in response to arrest of five Serbs for war crimes; signed agreement renewing cooperation 16 Dec following intense international criticism.
Reunification talks continued between Republic of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akinci. Anastasiades 6 Dec suggested elections planned for May 2016 could be delayed by two or three months. UN SRSG Espen Bath Eide 8 Dec met with Turkish PM Davutoğlu to discuss talks.
Defence ministry 10 Dec said Russian helicopter violated Georgian airspace near breakaway republic South Ossetia previous day; Moscow denied claim. EU 18 Dec decided to award Georgian citizens visa-free travel status by mid-2016.
Amid ongoing economic crisis, Chinese company 14 Dec bought controlling stake in state-owned oil and gas company KazMunaiGas, part of package of deals worth $4bn. EU foreign policy chief Mogherini 21 Dec chaired eleventh EU-Central Asia Ministerial Meeting in Astana, signed EU-Kazakhstan Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.
Opposition parties continued to disrupt parliament in protest over Aug EU-brokered agreement to set up Association of Serbian Municipalities. Opposition MPs set off further tear gas attacks in parliament 14 Dec, disrupting two sessions; opposition supporters clashed with police outside parliament. Police arrested more opposition MPs over attacks. Several govt-owned cars set on fire 12 Dec. U.S. Sec State Kerry 2 Dec said U.S. backs Aug agreement, urged opposition to use democratic methods to express its opposition. Constitutional Court 23 Dec endorsed Aug agreement, but said some parts of deal violate constitution. Two Serb homes and memorial in Gorazdevac village damaged by gunshots 7 Dec. EU decided against awarding Kosovo citizens visa-free travel status in 2016; govt called decision “insult”.
Two unnamed suspects shot dead by Special Forces 10 Dec in Bishkek after opening fire on officers; suspects said to be responsible for 19 Nov murder of Bishkek policeman, declared to be members of extremist group Jaysh al-Mahdi linked to Nov 2010 bomb blast in Bishkek and to July 2015 anti-terrorist operation in Bishkek.
N-K de facto officials reported one of their soldiers killed in clash with Azerbaijani forces 4 Dec; Azerbaijan accused NK forces of attempted attack on its positions, said one of its officers wounded. Azerbaijan reported one officer killed in shootout along contact line with NK 7 Dec. Baku 9 Dec reported it had used tanks to shell NK positions for first time in 21 years, in response to Armenian mortar fire; one Armenian soldier killed. Armenian and Azerbaijan presidents met in Berne, Switzerland 19 Dec to discuss NK conflict, first meeting since Oct 2014, under OSCE Minsk Group auspices; no concrete progress reported. UNSG Ban urged sides to cooperate with Minsk Group on de-escalation of conflict, avoid new violence. Sec Gen of Collective Security Treaty Organization 28 Dec said NK conflict source of great concern.
Implementation of July agreement to end political crisis continued. Electoral commission appointed after PM Gruevski and opposition leader Zoran Zaev 15 Dec agreed on names of independent experts. Parliamentary commission investigating mass illegal wiretapping scandal began calling witnesses. Ruling party 2 Dec walked out of EU-backed talks with opposition on media reform, after opposition leader said mainstream media biased. Gruevski mid-Dec said govt willing to “open dialogue” with Greece to find solution to name dispute; FMs met 18 Dec.
Chechen man beheaded on 2 Dec Islamic State (IS) video; IS claimed he was Russian spy, threatened Moscow with attacks in response to Russian airstrikes in Syria. Russian FM Sergey Lavrov 9 Dec reportedly said terrorists training in Turkey are threat to North Caucasus (NC). NC Regional Military Court 1 Dec jailed six men for up to seven years for IS recruitment. Attacks continue in Dagestan: unknown assailants 1 Dec shot dead imam in Khasavyurt city, third imam killed in five months; police reportedly killed three gunmen in Kizilyurt 16 Dec; five suspected militants and supporters killed in other clashes during month. Five firemen attacked in Derbent district 16 Dec; IS claimed responsibility for another attack in Derbent city centre 30 Dec which left one dead and eleven injured, including tourists. Up to 100 parishioners detained in Shamkhal mosque after Friday prayer 11 Dec, later released. Three suspected militants killed in Chegem district, Kabardino-Balkaria 22 Dec, another three in Adyghe-Khabl district, Karachay-Cherkessia 24 Dec. Moscow Court 16 Dec upheld arrest of Ruslan Mukhudinov, Chechen security official suspected of organising killing of politician Boris Nemtsov.
Interior Minister 14 Dec reiterated claim that opposition Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) funded renegade former Deputy Defence Minister Nazarzoda, killed by security forces in manhunt mid-Sept. Exiled IRPT leader Mukhiddin Kabiri’s extended family in Tajikistan, including 95-year-old father, detained 15 Dec, released two days later. President Rahmon’s late Nov defence ministry reshuffle believed to be linked to doubts over loyalties of senior staff in wake of Nazarzoda affair. Seven men from Khatlon province sentenced 1 Dec to 27 years’ jail for raising black Islamic flag in district near Afghan border. Parliament 9 Dec approved draft law granting President Rahmon “Founder of Peace and Harmony: Leader of the Nation”, immunity from prosecution for life, right to veto decisions; president signed bill into law late Dec.
Ceremony marking start of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline construction held 13 Dec.