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 80 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.
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In November, security forces in both Iraq and Iran brutally suppressed mass protests, with over 100 killed in both places; Iraq’s political instability could lead to more violence in coming weeks. In Syria, fighting escalated between Russian-backed government forces and rebels in the north west, and the standoff between Algeria’s authorities and protesters intensified as demonstrators turned up their calls to cancel December’s presidential polls. Violence against civilians surged in DR Congo’s east and Guinea-Bissau’s run-off elections in a few weeks’ time could spark unrest. In Burkina Faso and Mali, jihadists inflicted heavy losses on security forces and civilians, while in Tajikistan suspected ISIS militants reportedly attacked a border post in the south. In Asia, the victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka’s presidential polls sparked fears of ethnic polarisation and repression. Political confrontation heightened in Somaliland, Somalia’s Galmudug state, Georgia and Nicaragua; and Bolivia’s crisis worsened, with security forces cracking down on protesters. Tensions rose on the Korean peninsula after an apparent resumption of North Korean missile launches. On a positive note, Bosnia named a prime minister after a thirteen-months hiatus. Chad’s government and a community defence group in the north signed a peace deal, and Yemen’s government entered a power-sharing agreement with separatists to end hostilities in the south.
In his introduction to this month's edition of CrisisWatch, Crisis Group's conflict tracker, our President Robert Malley reflects on some rare and noteworthy positive developments in Yemen, Afghanistan and South Sudan.
In the Middle East and North Africa, Iraqi security forces continued to brutally suppress protests against the ruling elite leaving over 100 dead, and Prime Minister Mahdi resigned; the political vacuum could lead to greater unrest in December. In Iran, a violent crackdown on protests sparked by a rise in fuel prices led to the deaths of at least 161 civilians, and the government further breached the 2015 nuclear deal. In Syria, fighting intensified in the north west as Russian-backed government forces ramped up their offensive in the last remaining rebel stronghold. In Algeria, the standoff between protesters and security forces intensified as demonstrators called on the government to cancel the presidential election planned for 12 December. In Yemen, in an unexpected turn of events, the government and southern separatists signed an agreement to end hostilities in the south, and Saudi Arabia scaled back its airstrikes in Huthi-controlled areas in the north.
In Africa, suspected jihadist attacks against civilians, officials and security forces rose markedly in Burkina Faso, and President Kaboré’s call for volunteers to help counter the jihadist threat could lead to greater violence in December. In Mali, jihadists continued to inflict heavy losses on the military fuelling further protests against the government and foreign forces, while intercommunal violence persisted in the centre. Tensions rose between Somalia’s federal government and a local militia in Galmudug federal member state ahead of local elections, and between Somaliland’s government and opposition party Waddani over delayed polls, while Al-Shabaab, for the first time, briefly captured a village in Somaliland. In DR Congo, the military ramped up its offensive in the east against armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which in response killed about 100 civilians. In Guinea-Bissau, violence could escalate around the second round of presidential elections between former Prime Ministers Domingos Simões Pereira and Umaro Sissoco Embaló, scheduled for 29 December. In Chad, the government and a community self-defence militia in the north signed a peace agreement ending a year-long conflict.
In Asia, the decisive victory of polarising wartime figure Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka’s presidential elections, along with his appointment of controversial figures associated with the atrocities during the civil war, prompted fears over a rise in political repression and ethnic tensions, and an end of reconciliation and transitional justice efforts. Tensions increased in the Korean peninsula, with another round of what Japan said appeared to be North Korea missile launches in late November.
In Latin America, the political crisis engulfing Bolivia following controversial general elections in October worsened; 29 people are reported to have been killed since the polls as security forces cracked down on protesters supporting former President Morales. An agreement between the interim government and Morales supporters late month offered hopes for de-escalation. In Nicaragua, the government intensified threats and attacks on political opponents and churches, despite mounting international pressure.
In Europe and Central Asia, thousands of people joined protests across Georgia after the parliament failed to adopt promised legislation for a new electoral system that would allow the opposition to gain more parliamentary seats during elections scheduled for late 2020, and clashed with the police and government supporters. In Tajikistan, authorities reported that twenty alleged ISIS-linked militants attacked a Tajik border post in the south near the border with Uzbekistan, with security personnel and militants killed in a subsequent clash. Thirteen months after Bosnia’s October 2018 elections, members of the country’s tripartite presidency agreed on a new prime minister, paving the way for a new government.
Death toll rose markedly from suspected jihadist attacks against civilians, officials and security forces mostly in east and north, and President Kaboré’s call for volunteers to help counter jihadist threat could lead to further violence against civilians in Dec. In East region, unidentified gunmen 6 Nov attacked military-escorted convoy of five buses transporting local employees of Canadian gold mining company Semafo 40km from Boungou mine in Gourma province, killing at least 39; modus operandi aligned with that of jihadist groups, Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS); Kaboré 7 Nov called for mobilisation of volunteers to defend country from terrorist threat. Military 20 Nov announced suspension of requests for voluntary departure from armed forces, citing dwindling resources. In Sahel region in north, suspected members of JNIM 3 Nov ambushed vehicle carrying deputy mayor of Djibo near Gaskinde village, Soum province, killing him and three others; suspected JNIM militants 4 Nov attacked gendarmerie in Oursi, Oudalan province, killing five gendarmes. Army 17 Nov said it had killed 24 suspected jihadists in Yorsala, Loroum province 15 Nov and eight on outskirts of Bourzanga, Bam province 16 Nov. French armed forces minister Florence Parly in capital Ouagadougou 4 Nov announced launch of operation Bourgou IV under French leadership to counter jihadists in area straddling Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. According to French govt, joint military operation Bourgou IV conducted by troops from G5 Sahel joint force, Mali and Burkina Faso supported by French forces 1-17 Nov killed or captured 24 suspected jihadists on both sides of Mali-Burkina Faso border. Police 12 Nov arrested blogger Naïm Touré for attempting to demoralise security forces; Touré released without charges 14 Nov. Govt 18 Nov suspended for three months private Radio Optima, accusing radio presenter of undermining judicial authority. Govt 13 Nov announced one-month suspension of activities of small opposition party Patriotic Front for Renewal after party 3 Nov called on govt to resign.
Jihadists intensified large-scale attacks on military inflicting heavy losses and fuelling further protests against govt and foreign forces, while intercommunal violence continued in centre. Militants of jihadist group Islamic State in the Greater Sahara 1 Nov attacked military base at Indelimane, Ménaka region near border with Niger in east, killing 54 soldiers; 18 Nov ambushed military patrol near Tabankort, Ménaka region, killing 43 soldiers. Suspected militants of jihadist group Katiba Macina 2 Nov attacked military convoy near Douvombo village in Bandiagara area, Mopti region in centre, killing two soldiers. In fear of further attacks, military evacuated three isolated posts near Niger border at Indelimane and Anderamboukane in Ménaka region, and Labbezanga in Gao region. Hundreds, including widows of fallen soldiers, 8 and 15 Nov protested in capital Bamako demanding greater support for army, denouncing French operation Barkhane and UN mission (MINUSMA), and calling on Russia to intervene. In address to nation 4 Nov, President Keïta said army would shift from defensive to offensive strategy. Govt 11 Nov said military operation in centre had killed several jihadists. Joint military operation Bourgou IV, conducted by troops from G5 Sahel joint force, Mali and Burkina Faso supported by French forces, 1-17 Nov killed or arrested 24 suspected jihadists in Mali and Burkina Faso. France 6 Nov said it and other European countries were preparing joint military operation called Takouba to train local forces and engage jihadists in combat. U.S. 8 Nov added leader of Katiba Macina Amadou Koufa to its terrorist list. Two French helicopters collided and crashed near Niger and Burkina Faso borders 25 Nov killing thirteen French soldiers. In centre, intercommunal violence continued. Dogon militiamen 13 Nov attacked Fulani village of Pé, killing at least twenty civilians. Jihadists 9 Nov chased out inhabitants of Dogon villages of Deguembere and Golo in Bandiagara area.
In run-up to 2020 presidential and legislative elections, main opposition leader returned from exile, and suspected jihadists continued attacks in west. Former national assembly president and runner-up in 2016 presidential election Hama Amadou returned 14 Nov after three years in exile in France and Benin. Amadou 18 Nov handed himself in to authorities and was imprisoned, due to serve eight months on charges of baby trafficking. Opposition continued to boycott electoral commission and electoral code adopted in June that disqualifies any potential candidate who has been sentenced to at least one year in prison, making Amadou ineligible. In Tillabery region in west, suspected jihadists 1 Nov reportedly attacked Firgoun, near Ayorou town, killing one; suspected members of jihadist group Islamic State in the Greater Sahara 11 Nov attacked Boni Kado village, reportedly killing village chief. Suspected Islamist militants 29 Nov attacked Djaouga village near Torodi in west near border with Burkina Faso, two civilians wounded; security forces killed militant.
Security forces clashed with armed groups in north west near borders with DR Congo (DRC) and Rwanda, while govt and ruling party continued to repress opposition, targeting main opposition party National Congress for Freedom (CNL). Unidentified armed groups night of 7-8 Nov and 14 Nov reportedly crossed from Burundi into Rwanda and attacked military positions. Unidentified armed group night of 16-17 Nov attacked military outposts in Mabayi, Cibitoke province in north west killing nineteen; govt 28 Nov accused Rwandan army of attack and threatened to retaliate if Rwanda continued hostilities, Rwanda denied accusation. Rebel groups Burundian Revolutionary Front (FRB) and National Council for the Restoration of the Arusha Agreement (CNR) both claimed responsibility. Imbonerakure, youth wing of ruling party CNDD-FDD, 2-10 Nov assaulted and detained ten CNL members in Ruyigi and Kayanza provinces. Clashes between Imbonerakure and CNL members 10 Nov left one CNL member dead in Nyamurenza, Ngozi province; police subsequently arrested some 30 CNL activists. Local CNL women’s leader found dead in Kiganda, Muramvya province 12 Nov. Authorities 4-28 Nov arrested at least fourteen CNL supporters and son of opposition party FRODEBU’s deputy leader Ngendakumana, whom party 9 Nov elected as its candidate in 2020 presidential elections. CNL leader Agathon Rwasa 15 Nov said CNL would participate in 2020 elections despite intimidation of its members. In Moscow, FM Nibigira and Russian FM Lavrov agreed to strengthen relations 5 Nov.
Violence persisted in North West and South West regions as military continued efforts to crush Anglophone separatist insurgency, Boko Haram (BH) kept up attacks in Far North, and authorities continued to repress opposition. In North West region, security forces in Mbot 4 Nov killed twelve motorbike taxi drivers it claimed were separatists. Clashes between security forces and separatists 9 Nov reportedly left four dead in Ngoketunjia. Suspected separatists 10 Nov killed at least one and kidnapped eight in North West capital Bamenda. Army raid in Menchum 21 Nov left two dead. Unidentified men 29 and 30 Nov kidnapped seven including aid worker they later killed. In South West region, security forces 4 Nov launched attack on separatist camp in Muyuka killing eight and prompting separatists to kidnap and kill soldier there 8 Nov. Security forces in Muea 27 Nov killed five civilians it claimed were separatists. Separatist leader, president of self-declared Federal Republic of Ambazonia, Sako Ikome 20 Nov said he wished to engage with President Biya in talks mediated by Switzerland. In Far North, BH incursions 1-30 Nov left at least a dozen dead in several villages. Opposition party Movement for the Renaissance of Cameroon (MRC) 2 Nov held rally in capital Yaoundé despite authorities banning event, prompting police to arrest 33. Court of First Instance 29 Nov sentenced fifteen MRC members to six months for taking part in June demonstrations. Biya 10 Nov announced legislative and local elections would take place Feb 2020. MRC leader Maurice Kamto 25 Nov announced his party would boycott elections claiming electoral laws favour ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) and called on other opposition parties, civil society and religious groups to join boycott.
Security forces clashed with armed groups in provinces and capital Bangui, as disarmament and demobilisation efforts continued in west. In south east, after armed group Union for Peace in Central African Republic (UPC) mid-Oct invaded Bambouti, Haut-Mbomou prefecture on border with South Sudan, UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) 6 Nov called on UPC to withdraw and govt 13 Nov said it would deploy security forces to Bambouti. Security forces 21 and 27 Nov clashed with UPC combatants in Ouaka and Basse-Kotto prefectures leaving unknown number dead on both sides. In east, anti-balaka combatants and ex-Seleka combatants 26 Nov clashed near Bria, Haute-Kotto prefecture leaving three anti-balaka dead. In north, high-level delegation of govt officials and international partners in Ndélé, Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture 14 Nov sought to persuade Abdoulaye Hissene, leader of armed group Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance (FPRC), not to retaliate against rival armed group Movement of Central African Liberators for Justice (MLCJ) following clashes in recent months, but Hissene vowed to take revenge if justice was not done. Clashes between security forces and rebel group Patriotic Movement for the Central African Republic (MPC) in Kaga-Bandoro left five rebels dead. In west, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration process continued: 160 combatants of armed group Return, Restitution and Rehabilitation (3R) 4-7 Nov disarmed and demobilised in Koui and Makoundji Wali, Ouham Pende prefecture. In Chad, authorities 19 Nov arrested four members of CAR armed group Democratic Front of the Central African People (FPDC) including leader Abdoulaye Miskine; govt requested his extradition. In capital Bangui, clashes between security forces and ex-Seleka combatants 19 Nov left around ten dead. Self-defence groups 29 Nov clashed in PK5 leaving two dead. UN Security Council 15 Nov renewed MINUSCA mandate for one year and expanded it to include support for presidential, legislative and local elections scheduled for 2020-2021. EU 5 Nov delivered 38 vehicles to CAR security forces; 21 Nov adopted concept for new mission to support security sector reform in CAR (EUAM RCA).
Govt and self-defence militia signed peace agreement ending year-long conflict in north, and killing of young taxi driver sparked protests in capital N’Djamena. Self-defence militia, which has clashed several times with govt forces over control of gold mining areas in Tibesti region in north, 2 Nov said it had signed preliminary ceasefire agreement with govt. As part of deal, govt lifted blockade of Miski village and released several militiamen, and militia pledged to lay down arms; President Déby 5 Nov reinstated canton chiefs who were fired for opposing govt’s Aug 2018 decision to move internal boundaries so that Miski was no longer in Tibesti region but Borkou. Govt and self-defence militia 11 Nov signed peace deal: militia agreed to cease hostilities and govt agreed to set up mechanism for gold exploitation that invests revenues locally. Bodyguards of National Assembly president 4 Nov shot dead taxi driver as they cleared roads in N’Djamena, sparking public outrage. Amid tight security, thousands demonstrated at taxi driver’s funeral 23 Nov; protesters that day set fire to car killing one person and clashed with security forces. Clashes between farmers and herders 20 Nov left two dead in Doudeï, Salamat province in south east. Intercommunal violence mid-Nov left three dead in Méou, Moyen-Chari province. In Lake Chad province in west, Boko Haram mid-Nov reportedly killed five civilians. Authorities 19 Nov arrested four members including leader of CAR armed group near Chad-CAR border.
In response to army’s offensive in east against armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), militants killed about 100 civilians sparking protests; deadly attacks continued in Ituri in north east; and tensions rose between alliances of President Tshisekedi and former President Kabila. In Beni territory, North Kivu province in east, after army launched offensive against ADF late Oct, troops captured several of its positions. In response, ADF upped attacks against civilians, leaving about 100 dead 1-27 Nov and thousands displaced. Angered by failure of security forces and UN mission (MONUSCO) to protect them, residents protested late Nov, setting fire to Beni town hall and storming MONUSCO facilities. Clashes between protesters and security forces, mainly in Beni, 23-26 Nov left two police officers and at least seven protesters dead. Tshisekedi 25 Nov decided to increase army presence in Beni territory and agreed to joint army-MONUSCO operations against ADF. In Rutshuru territory, North Kivu, military 9 Nov killed Juvenal Musabimana, commander of Rwandan armed group Union for Democracy (RUD). In Ituri province in north east, Maï-Maï raids 2-28 Nov left five dead. Armed group Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) 16 Nov killed two in Djugu territory. Security forces 29 Nov killed ADF leader Mohamed Mukubwa Islam in Mapobu. In North Kivu and Ituri provinces, suspected Maï-Maï attacks targeting Ebola health workers night of 27-28 Nov left four dead. In South Kivu province, clashes between Maï-Maï and Gumino armed groups 4-27 Nov left twelve dead. After supporters of Kabila and Tshisekedi vandalised posters of rivals in capital Kinshasa and Kolwezi in south east, head of Tshisekedi’s party Jean-Marc Kabund 10 Nov announced suspension of talks between Tshisekedi’s alliance Heading for Change (CACH) and Kabila’s coalition Common Front for Congo (FCC). Kabund 12 Nov described FCC as unreliable partner; FCC same day condemned Kabund’s remarks. Tshisekedi’s Chief of Staff Vital Kamerhe 14 Nov called for calm and FCC 28 Nov reaffirmed its support for coalition govt. Tshisekedi and Ugandan President Museveni 9 Nov agreed to work together to fight armed groups in east.
Security incidents continued to strain Rwanda-Uganda and Rwanda-Burundi relations. In north east near Ugandan border, security forces 4 Nov shot and wounded Rwandan returning from Uganda and in Tabagwe, Nyagatare district 10 Nov shot dead two Ugandan nationals accused of smuggling tobacco into Rwanda. Ugandan govt 12 Nov sent protest note to govt condemning killing of its nationals. Ugandan authorities 25 Nov arrested 35 Rwandans for illegal entry into Uganda and 28 Nov deported 32. In south west near Burundian border, unidentified armed groups night of 7-8 Nov and 14 Nov reportedly crossed from Burundi into Rwanda and attacked military positions in Bweyeye district. Following deadly attack in Burundi mid-Nov by unidentified armed group, Burundian govt 28 Nov accused Rwandan army of attack and threatened to retaliate should Rwanda continue hostilities; govt denied accusation. President Kagame 14 Nov in parliament insinuated that neighbouring countries have been involved in sponsoring cross-border armed attacks against Rwanda. Opposition leader Victoire Ingabire 9 Nov announced creation of new opposition party Development and Liberty for All (DALFA-Umurinzi).
Ruling coalition decided to become single party, ethnic Sidama voted in referendum to create new federal state, and Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan committed to resolve dispute over Nile waters by mid-Jan. Three of four regional parties in ruling coalition 16 Nov voted in favour of merging to become one national party called Prosperity Party; fourth party, Tigray People’s Liberation Front, opposed move, while affiliated ruling parties from five other regions set to join. Residents of Sidama Zone in south 20 Nov held referendum on whether to turn region into semi-autonomous federal state; electoral board 23 Nov said 98.5% voted in favour and turnout was 99.7%. Ethnic violence erupted at Woldia University in Amhara region in north 9 Nov, leaving two students dead, and spread to other universities in Amhara and Oromia regions; another student killed at Dire Dawa University in east. FMs from Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan in Washington 6 Nov agreed to hold four technical meetings, with World Bank and U.S. as observers, in bid to reach agreement by 15 Jan on filling and operation of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on Blue Nile River.
Al-Shabaab attacks and banditry persisted in north, and Kenya and Somalia pledged to normalise relations. In Wajir county in north east near Somalia border, Al-Shabaab 30 Oct raided police station in Dadajabula in attempt to free two militants detained there; both detained militants killed in raid. Kenyan military convoy 12 Nov detonated improvised explosive device planted by Al-Shabaab in Wajir county. After months of strained relations between Kenya and Somalia including over maritime border dispute, President Kenyatta and Somali President Farmajo met in capital Nairobi 14 Nov and agreed to normalise relations, including by resuming issuance of travel visas on arrival and lifting of flight restrictions.
Tensions rose between federal govt and local militia in Galmudug federal member state, while Al-Shabaab kept up insurgency. In Galmudug, federal govt forces 2 and 3 Nov seized Guriel and Mataban towns from local Sufi militia Ahlu Sunnah Waa-Jama’a (ASWJ) which opposes what it calls Mogadishu’s efforts to manipulate state’s forthcoming presidential elections. Federal govt 4 Nov deployed additional troops to state capital Dhusamareb and 25 Nov released timetable scheduling presidential elections for 17-23 Dec. Ethiopian forces unaffiliated with African Union mission (AMISOM) late Nov reportedly deployed in Dhusamareb. Jubaland federal state govt 21 Nov claimed non-AMISOM Ethiopian soldiers and working on behalf of federal govt early Nov arrested several state and security officials, took them to Ethiopia where federal govt officials coerced them into handing over control of their territories and security forces; demanded removal of non-peacekeeping Ethiopian troops from Jubaland. Federal govt 10 Nov briefly prevented former presidents and now opposition leaders Hassan Sheikh and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed from travelling to flood-hit Beledweyne to deliver aid; tensions reportedly diffused following meeting between former presidents and President Farmajo 20 Nov. Al-Shabaab attacks on Somali and AMISOM bases 1-23 Nov left at least nine dead. U.S. airstrikes 12-30 Nov killed at least two Al-Shabaab militants. In Gedo region in south, security forces and Al-Shabaab clashed leaving at least six militants dead. In Puntland in north, after state MPs tabled motion to remove parliament speaker from office, clashes erupted in Garowe 6 Nov between police and speaker’s bodyguards leaving at least four dead. Also, in Puntland, clashes between Bari regional forces and clan militias mid-Nov reportedly left several dead in Bosaso. In Bay region of South West state, clashes broke out 18 Nov between security forces and mayor of Dinsor’s bodyguards over latter’s refusal to hand over authority to new mayor, five soldiers killed. President Farmajo and Kenyan President Kenyatta 14 Nov met in Kenyan capital Nairobi and agreed to normalise relations.
Tensions rose between govt and opposition party Waddani over elections delay, and Al-Shabaab for first time briefly captured village in Somaliland. Parliament’s lower house 12 Nov approved new electoral commission (NEC); opposition parties Waddani and Justice and Welfare Party (UCID) same day rejected new body over its composition. Following calls by Waddani leadership for peaceful demonstration at its headquarters in capital Hargeisa, police 17 Nov arrested two Waddani officials including its party leader and 18 Nov occupied Waddani’s headquarters and barricaded roads leading to it. Parliament’s upper house 24 Nov extended term of upper and lower houses until 2022 and 2023 respectively; Waddani and UCID said term extensions were illegal. Following mediation by traditional elders, President Bihi 26 Nov ordered release of Waddani officials. Near Borama in west security forces 15 Nov clashed with armed group led by local militia leader Suldaan Wabar; unknown number of casualties. In Sanaag region in east, Al-Shabaab 17 Nov claimed it captured Gacan Maroodi village, first time armed group temporarily held control over village in Somaliland. Clashes over gold between two rival clans late Nov left at least three dead near Waqdariya. Authorities 10 Nov assaulted and briefly detained two journalists covering traders’ protest in Hargeisa; 18 Nov closed private television station and arrested its chief editor.
Parties to Sept 2018 peace deal agreed to extend pre-transitional period by 100 days pushing back deadline for formation of unity govt to Feb 2020; and intercommunal violence left over 50 dead. Days before 12 Nov deadline to form unity govt, guarantors of peace agreement Ugandan President Museveni and Sudanese Sovereign Council head General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan 7 Nov convened President Kiir and main rebel leader Riek Machar in Entebbe, Uganda where they agreed to 100-day extension in order to resolve outstanding issues, and to review progress after 50 days. U.S. mid-Nov said it would re-evaluate its relationship with South Sudan and questioned suitability of Kiir and Machar to lead country; 25 Nov recalled its ambassador to South Sudan. Sudanese delegation led by deputy head of Sudanese Sovereign Council General “Hemedti” 25 Nov arrived in capital Juba to hasten implementation of peace agreement. Attacks by unidentified gunmen in Bieh, Jonglei, Tonj and Tambura states 5-24 Nov left at least nine dead and ten missing. In Abyei region, disputed between South Sudan and Sudan, gunmen suspected to belong to Misseriya ethnic group 7 Nov launched attacks on two Dinka villages that left at least nine dead. In centre, killing of Manuer trader triggered clashes 27 and 29 Nov between Manuer and Gak communities leaving at least 53 dead in Western Lakes state. Fighting between security forces and civilians 29 Nov left twelve security force members and two civilians dead in Tonj state. UN Security Council 14 Nov extended mandate of peacekeeping force in Abyei (UNISFA) until 15 May 2020. Sudanese authorities mid-Nov released over a dozen South Sudanese officials and civilians they had arrested along border in Upper Nile state late Oct-early Nov. Third round of talks in capital Juba between Sudanese govt and Sudanese armed opposition groups postponed from 21 Nov to 10 Dec.
Authorities took steps to dismantle former regime. Authorities 20 Nov arrested and imprisoned Ali al-Haj, secretary general of Islamist Popular Congress Party (PCP), after summoning him for questioning over former President Bashir’s 1989 coup. Govt 26 Nov approved draft law to dismantle former regime, including dissolving former ruling National Congress Party. Sovereign Council and Council of Ministers 28 Nov approved legal reforms to increase protection of civil liberties. Resumption of talks between govt and rebel groups postponed from 21 Nov to 10 Dec. Following PM Hamdok’s meetings with EU leaders in Brussels, EU announced it would provide €55mn for humanitarian relief. UN Security Council 14 Nov extended until 15 May 2020 mandate of UN Interim Security Force for Abyei, area disputed between Sudan and South Sudan. FMs from Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt in Washington 6 Nov agreed to hold four technical meetings, with World Bank and U.S. as observers, in bid to reach agreement by 15 Jan on filling and operation of Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on River Nile. Hamdok 25 Nov visited Eritrean capital Asmara to discuss violence in north east near border with Eritrea. Regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) selected Hamdok to hold position of chair for one year from Feb 2020, taking over from Ethiopia which held role since 2010.
Ruling party won landslide victory in local elections which opposition boycotted citing govt manipulation of process, and suspected Islamist militants killed six people near Mozambican border. Ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi won 99% of seats in 24 Nov local elections, which leading opposition party Chadema boycotted 7 Nov citing govt intimidation and manipulation of electoral process. UK and U.S. 27 Nov questioned credibility of election results. Unidentified gunmen 12 Nov killed six farmers in ambush near Mozambican border in south; police believe assailants entered Tanzania from Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique where Islamist militants have carried out similar attacks. Authorities 20 Nov postponed trial of investigative journalist Erick Kabendera for eighth time.
Authorities cracked down on opposition and media and tensions rose between Uganda and Rwanda. In capital Kampala, police 4 Nov blocked supporters of opposition party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) from reaching rally venue, prompting FDC supporters to march to their party headquarters. Police used tear gas, water cannon and live ammunition to disperse crowds and arrested some 50 FDC members including former FDC head Kizza Besigye. Police same day used tear gas and rubber bullets to break up demonstration of some 50 journalists protesting police brutality against journalists. Govt 14 Nov shut down more than 12,000 mostly local NGOs that had failed to register and obtain permits to operate. In Rwanda, Rwandan security forces 4 Nov shot and wounded Rwandan national returning from Uganda and 10 Nov shot dead two Ugandan citizens accused of smuggling tobacco into Rwanda. Ugandan govt 12 Nov sent protest note to Rwandan govt condemning killing of its nationals. Security forces 25 Nov arrested 35 Rwandan and four Congolese nationals in Kisoro in south west for illegally entering Uganda. President Museveni 7 Nov hosted peace talks in Entebbe between South Sudan’s warring parties who agreed to push back by 100 days deadline for formation of transitional govt.
Opposition continued to dispute May’s election results. President Mutharika 9 Nov appealed to opposition to end protests and accept election result to allow govt to focus on economic development. Chairperson of NGO Human Rights Defenders Coalition Timothy Mtambo 24 Nov said coalition would continue protests against electoral commission chairperson Jane Ansah until she resigns; Mtambo announced plans for further mass protests 10 Dec. Youth wing of ruling Democratic Progressive Party 25 Nov rallied supporters to disrupt constitutional court hearing over election results in capital Lilongwe; court to conclude hearing by 6 Dec.
Court rejected opposition’s appeal against ruling party’s win in Oct presidential and parliamentary elections, and in north suspected Islamist militants continued to attack civilians as military continued operations against them. EU 8 Nov questioned credibility of Oct election results citing “irregularities and malpractices” during process. Constitutional Court 11 Nov dismissed opposition party Renamo’s application for annulment of poll results citing insufficient evidence. Renamo 22 Nov called for President Nyusi to resign after evidence emerged in U.S. court suggesting that he used funds borrowed by state-run security firms to finance 2014 presidential election campaign. In Manica province in centre, suspected Renamo splinter group 6 Nov ambushed minibus killing three. In Cabo Delgado province in north, suspected Islamist militants 2 Nov killed four civilians near Mumu village. Militants 12 Nov attacked Lucamba village, Nangade district killing eight civilians; 13 Nov killed seven fishermen in Nssemo village, Palma district. Military 16 Nov executed eight suspected militants in Macomia district. Islamic State (ISIS) 21 Nov claimed responsibility for 17 Nov attack in Chitunda district that killed eight including five soldiers. Militants 23 Nov killed six civilians in Darumba village, Macomia district. Militants 27 Nov killed two soldiers following attack on market area in Litingina, Nangade district. Defence Minister 13 Nov held talks with Tanzanian counterpart to discuss ways to improve security in border areas.
Public-sector strike continued as police suppressed opposition rally. Nurses in public clinics 4 Nov joined strike action over wages in capital Harare. Civil servants 6 Nov held mass one-day strike over public-sector wages in Harare; clashes occurred as police blocked protesters en route to Ministry of Finance. Govt dismissed 435 public-sector doctors for failure to attend disciplinary hearings over strike action. Police 20 Nov used tear gas and water cannons to disperse supporters of opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) assembled at party HQ to hear address by leader Nelson Chamisa. Govt 21 Nov dropped treason charges against govt critic Evan Mawarire; govt arrested Mawarire for role in encouraging nationwide protests in Jan against President Mnangagwa’s decision to raise fuel prices. Lawyers 29 Nov led protest march in Harare over police brutality against protests by civil servants and opposition supporters. UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Hilal Elver 28 Nov warned country was on brink of man-made starvation with over 60% of 14mn population food insecure.
Ahead of late 2020 presidential election, opposition continued to accuse electoral commission appointed late Sept of pro-govt bias. Representative of regional bloc Economic Community of West African States to Côte d’Ivoire 8 Nov expressed intention to “reinforce” collaboration with electoral commission. Govt 12 Nov asked UN to help organise 2020 presidential election. Presidential candidate Guillaume Soro, former rebel leader and national assembly speaker, continued his campaign to drum up support in Europe, notably Rome and London. Soro 24 Nov met former youth minister Charles Blé Goudé in The Hague in reported attempt to forge alliance with opposition party Popular Ivorian Front (FPI). Prosecutor in Abidjan 6 Nov said he would prosecute Blé Goudé for suspected crimes in 2010-2011.
Security forces continued to crack down on protests against President Condé’s alleged intention to change constitution so that he can run for third term in 2020 elections. Following calls by coalition that opposes constitutional change National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC), protesters gathered 4, 7, 11, 14 and 26 Nov in capital Conakry and on some days in regional capitals such as Labé in centre and Boké in west; in Conakry, police 4 Nov opened fire at demonstrators escorting funerals of those killed in mid-Oct protests, reportedly killing one; one protester killed in Conakry 14 Nov. Regional bloc Economic Community of West African States 4 Nov asked authorities to shed light on death of protesters 14-15 Oct. International Criminal Court 11 Nov urged govt and opposition to resume talks and warned that it could try those fanning tensions. Condé 11 Nov dismissed security minister Ibrahima Keira, replacing him with Albert Damantang Camara. After many deemed calendar for legislative elections announced 14 Oct unfeasible, electoral commission 9 Nov said they would take place 16 Feb 2020; Condé 11 Nov confirmed date.
In 24 Nov presidential election, former PMs Domingos Simoes Pereira and Umaro Sissoco Embaló came first and second with 40% and 28% of votes respectively and will contest second round planned for 29 Dec; tensions and violence could rise in coming weeks. Incumbent President Vaz came fourth with 12%, 28 Nov conceded defeat. Vaz’s campaign team accused rivals of buying votes and stuffing ballot boxes; electoral authority 25 Nov denied claims, said vote was transparent. Minor clashes involving party supporters or police broke out in several places including Bissorã in north, Canchungo in north west and Empada in south west, and in neighbourhoods of capital Bissau. After Vaz late Oct dismissed govt and replaced PM Gomes, African Union’s Peace and Security Council 7 Nov deemed removal of Gomes “illegal”. Heads of state from regional bloc Economic Community of West African States at extraordinary summit in Niger 8 Nov said decision violated country’s constitution and threatened to apply sanctions if govt of Vaz-appointed PM Imbali did not resign. Imbali resigned same day and Gomes resumed his functions.
As part of effort to overhaul Central Bank after several scandals damaged institution’s reputation in recent months, President Weah 8 Nov appointed former head of country’s electricity regulator Jolue Aloysius Tarlue as Central Bank governor.
Military continued counter-insurgency operations against Boko Haram (BH) factions in north east, banditry-related violence continued in north west, and violence and fraud marred governorship elections in Kogi state in north centre and Bayelsa state in Niger Delta. In north east, army and air force reported several attacks on BH factions in Borno state. Army 1 and 16 Nov reported unspecified number of insurgents killed in several operations. Air force reported that airstrikes near Lake Chad killed dozens of fighters of BH faction Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP): at Arrinna Ciki 2 Nov, around Mallam Fatori 13 Nov, at Jubillaram 19 Nov; at least 30 BH fighters killed 27 Nov at Ngoske near Sambisa forest. BH factions kept up attacks on military and civilians. Insurgents 6 Nov ambushed soldiers in Damboa district reportedly killing at least ten. ISWAP fighters 18 Nov killed four soldiers and vigilante in ambush outside Marte town; 27 Nov attacked Babban Gida town in Yobe state, repelled by troops. Governors of six states in north east met 5 Nov and, for first time, urged federal govt to engage in dialogue with insurgents to facilitate their surrender. In north west, bandit-related violence continued at lower tempo. In Gummi area of Zamfara state, vigilantes 3 Nov attacked Fulani they suspected of being bandits killing nine; bandits 17 Nov attacked Karaye village killing at least fourteen. In Kaduna state, bandits 12 Nov killed three policemen in gun battle in Sanga area. In Katsina state, bandits 17 Nov attacked Kofar Kudu community in Kaita area killing two residents. Violence around governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states 16 Nov left at least sixteen dead. In Kogi, where ruling party All Progressives Congress (APC) retained power, observers reported widespread malpractice and armed violence; APC thugs 18 Nov burnt to death opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) women’s leader.
North Korea increased tensions with another round of what Japan said appeared to be missile launches 28 Nov, and threatened further launches, while relations between U.S. and South Korea grew more strained over negotiations on cost-sharing for U.S. troop presence. North Korean missiles 28 Nov flew into sea between Korean peninsula and Japan; Pyongyang 30 Nov threatened ballistic missiles would fly over Japan “in the not distant future”. Earlier in month, Pyongyang 13 Nov warned U.S. would face “bigger threat and harsh suffering” if Kim Jong-un’s unilaterally-imposed end-2019 deadline is “ignored”, continuing pressure on U.S. to offer proposal on nuclear deal; Pyongyang demanding U.S. and South Korea halt joint military drills and lift sanctions. Washington and Seoul 17 Nov announced postponement of joint air drills as good-will gesture; Pyongyang dismissed it, said it was not interested in talks “that bring nothing to us” and would not “gift the U.S. president with something he can boast of”. North Korean state media 25 Nov reported Kim ordered artillery drills near disputed inter-Korean maritime border while inspecting military unit on islet off west coast, in first known trip to front-line military unit since entering nuclear diplomacy with U.S.; artillery firing aimed toward South Korea, which expressed regret saying drills violated 2018 inter-Korean military agreement. Third round of negotiations between U.S. and South Korea on how to divide cost for maintaining U.S. troops on Korean peninsula ended abruptly 20 Nov, amid renewed tensions after U.S. President Trump demanded Seoul pay 400% (about $5bn) more in 2020. South Korean newspaper 20 Nov reported U.S. considering withdrawing one brigade (3,000-4,000 troops) if sides unable to reach agreement by end of 2019; U.S. denied. Seoul 22 Nov postponed with conditions its controversial decision to terminate intelligence sharing agreement with Japan, which had omitted South Korea from its “white list” of trusted trading partners. South Korean and Chinese defence ministers 17 Nov agreed to establish more military hotlines, in apparent message and warning to Washington.
Rhetoric between Taipei and Beijing grew more tense ahead of Taiwan’s presidential and legislative elections set for 11 Jan 2020, with President Tsai accusing China of interfering with elections. China’s Taiwan Affairs Office 4 Nov revealed measures to further open China’s markets and economic projects to Taiwanese firms, prompting Taipei to accuse China of agenda “promoting reunification, enticing Taiwan, and trying to split apart Taiwan internally” to influence elections. Chinese Communist Party early month issued communiqué pledging to “fully respect” Taiwanese way of life after it has been “peacefully reunified”. Taiwan’s Foreign Affairs Minister 6 Nov warned that China could resort to military conflict with Taiwan to divert domestic attention from economic slowdown; Beijing called Wu’s comments “nonsense” and “rubbish”. China sailed its first domestically-built aircraft carrier through Taiwan Strait to South China Sea 17 Nov; Taipei accused it of intimidation. China 21 Nov warned independence is “dead end” that will bring “profound disaster to Taiwan”, after President Tsai’s running mate called himself “realistic worker for Taiwan independence”. Australian media 23 Nov reported Chinese asylum seeker in Australia had confessed to authorities to being Chinese spy and provided details inter alia of Beijing-led campaign to interfere in Taiwan’s election; Taipei said it was investigating claims, which Beijing denied. Foreign minister of Tuvalu in South Pacific 21 Nov said country had rejected Chinese offers to help build artificial islands, which it interpreted as effort to undermine Taiwan’s influence; told Reuters diplomatic ties with Taiwan are “strongest they’ve ever been”, and country is working with other Taiwanese allies in South Pacific to counter Chinese influence. U.S. 13 Nov guided-missile cruiser sailed through Taiwan Strait, in what U.S. described as routine operation to demonstrate its “commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific”.
U.S. President Trump made surprise visit to U.S. troops, week after U.S. and Taliban traded hostages for prisoners in confidence-building measure ahead of planned resumption of informal talks over peace process, while violence remained high despite seasonal winter lull in fighting, and further delay in results of Sept presidential election raised concerns about legitimacy of vote and fuelled political tensions. Trump made unannounced Thanksgiving visit to U.S. troops in Bagram Airfield 28 Nov, confirmed U.S. officials were meeting with Taliban representatives, and said he believed Taliban would agree to ceasefire. Earlier, U.S. 18 Nov released three Taliban prisoners, including brother of Taliban deputy leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, in exchange for release next day of two Australian and American academics held hostage by Taliban since 2016, in southern Zabul province. Taliban described prisoner swap as “confidence-building measure to help the peace process”. Despite slower pace of fighting, serious security incidents included Taliban 29 Oct capture of military base in Aqcha district, Jowzjan province in north, killing 24 security personnel and capturing five soldiers; govt recaptured base but Taliban escaped with vehicles, weapons and equipment. In Kunduz province in north east, Taliban 20 Nov attacked military base killing thirteen soldiers; U.S. aerial counter-attack killed three Taliban. U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in 2019 reported at record high amid concern over increasing civilian casualties. Number of high-profile attacks in Kabul down slightly; car bomb 13 Nov exploded near convoy of foreign security contractors, killing twelve; no group claimed responsibility. Independent Election Commission (IEC) 13 Nov postponed results of 28 Sept presidential election for second time, sparking complaints among opposition factions; President Ghani’s leading opponent in race Abdullah Abdullah 17 Nov said his campaign would try to stop partial vote recount until decision on status of 300,000 votes he considers suspicious; also accused IEC of favouring Ghani. Abdullah’s campaign organised protests throughout month, growing bigger at end of Nov.
Arrests of alleged members of banned militant groups continued, while govt warned of potentially destabilising effects of Rohingya refugee camps. Arrests by paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and police included suspected member of Allahr Dar militant group, which govt formally banned 5 Nov, in Gaibanda district 11 Nov; suspected Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) regional commander in Barisal district 13 Nov; four suspected members of banned Ansar ul-Islam in Dhaka and Satkhira districts; and five suspected Hizb ut-Tahrir members in Dhaka district 16 Nov. Officials alleged two suspected JMB members arrested in Dhaka 30 Oct were on their way to Cox’s Bazar to recruit Rohingya refugees, claimed some refugees had already joined group. U.S. State Department’s country report on terrorism 1 Nov attributed decline of terrorist activity in Bangladesh to govt’s “zero-tolerance” policy, but noted transnational groups continued to spread ideologies, using social media. Islamic State (ISIS)’s media outlet 2 Nov released photographs of Bangladeshi militants pledging allegiance to new ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Quraishi, reportedly in Egypt’s Sinai. Govt raised Rohingya refugee issue at various international forums, warning of potential for destabilisation and radicalisation. NGO Amnesty International 4 Nov accused Bangladeshi security forces of extra-judicial killings under guise of anti-drugs campaign. In one such example, border guards 15 Nov claimed to have killed alleged Rohingya drug dealer in Cox’s Bazar district; two refugees, also accused of narco-trafficking, killed by border guards in same district 17 Nov. Arrests and sentencing of opposition politicians continued; supreme court 30 Oct rejected banned Jamaat-e-Islami party leader ATM Azharul Islam’s appeal against death sentence by controversial International Crimes Tribunal in 2014 for war crimes committed during 1971 war. Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s secretary general 16 Nov criticised govt’s agreeing to share Feni river waters with India, and accused Indian border forces of continuing to kill Bangladeshis; two days later, Bangladesh’s Border Guards protested killing by India’s Border Security Force of two Bangladeshi nationals allegedly smuggling cows.
In Jharkhand state, officials reported three police killed by Maoists in Latehar district 22 Nov; police reported Maoist rebel killed in clash with security personnel in Seraikela-Kharswan district 28 Nov.
Tensions continued over India’s revocation of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) special constitutional status, amid ongoing clashes between India and Pakistan at Line of Control (LoC, dividing Pakistan and Indian-administered Kashmir), and India’s deployment of joint special forces to J&K to combat attacks by militants. At LoC, Indian military 8 Nov reported death of soldier from Pakistani shelling; improvised explosive device attack 17 Nov killed one Indian soldier and injured two in Pallanwalla sector. Within J&K, unclaimed grenade attack 4 Nov killed one civilian and injured dozens in Srinagar; further grenade attacks 26 Nov killed two in Badasgam village including govt official and injured four civilians in attack in Srinagar. Indian armed forces 26 Nov killed two suspected militants in Pulwama district. Indian govt 24 Nov announced joint deployment of special forces from army, navy and air force under new Armed Forces Special Operations Division, to conduct combined counter-terrorism operations against militants in Kashmir valley. Indian Home Ministry 15 Nov claimed situation in Kashmir close to normalcy but refused to provide timeframe for release of Kashmiri chief ministers detained since Aug; several released during month. Home Minister Amit Shah’s 20 Nov declaration that situation was “fully normal” prompted traders to shut down shops in protest. Indian media 25 Nov reported handful of businesses being allowed to restore internet for first time since Aug but under strict conditions, after promising connections would be used “for business purposes only” and accepting to give “complete access … as and when required by security agencies”; use of connections for social media, proxies, virtual private networks and Wi-Fi banned, and access for general public remains suspended. Pakistan PM Khan 9 Nov called for renewed talks with India including on resolution of Kashmir dispute at inauguration of India-Pakistan border crossing at Kartapur corridor connecting two Sikh shrines, first ever visa-free border crossing between countries. U.S. Congress Commission on Human Rights 14 Nov opened public hearing on human rights situation in Kashmir.
Following factional differences between its main leaders, ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) 20 Nov elevated former Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal from party’s co-chair to its sole executive chairman in exchange for PM KP Oli continuing to lead govt for remainder of its five-year tenure, despite a May 2018 gentleman’s agreement to handover prime-ministership to Dahal halfway through tenure. Oli appeared unwilling to cede complete control of NCP, however, asserting 25 Nov that he retains seniority over Dahal. Oli also reshuffled cabinet 20 Nov to address internal NCP divisions, with three of six new ministers coming from Dahal’s faction. Concerns over NCP’s unilateral decision-making increased following 3 Nov dismissal of governors of all seven provinces appointed under previous Nepali Congress-led govt; critics described move as abuse of power. NCP’s continued restrictions over civil liberties also came into focus with cabinet decision to authorise Home Ministry – responsible for internal security – to draft new legislation to regulate NGOs; Human Rights Watch (HRW) 14 Nov rebuked govt’s move as attempt to weaken civil society. NGOs HRW, Amnesty International and International Commission of Jurists 25 Nov expressed concern over govt’s moves to appoint new transitional justice commissioners without making necessary legal reforms.
Govt warded off opposition challenges, including protest march by politico-religious party. Amid growing concern over risks of violence, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) govt sought peaceful end to Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) chief Fazlur Rehman’s protest march. Leaders of opposition Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) addressed marchers at rally 1 Nov, however both parties distanced themselves from JUI-F’s Islamabad sit-in, instead calling for replacement of govt through constitutional means. Following talks including with PTI’s coalition ally Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam - PML-Q), Rehman 13 Nov called off sit-in, and 19 Nov also called off action blocking major highways. Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa 4 Nov told corps commanders in Rawalpindi that army “will continue to support national institutions as and when asked as per constitution”, implying continued support for PTI govt; military spokesperson 18 Nov said PTI govt and army were “on the same page”. Govt continued confrontational stance toward mainstream opposition, but suffered judicial setbacks including higher courts’ decisions to release its most prominent opponent, former PM Nawaz Sharif, on bail. PM Khan 19 Nov said Pakistan “fully supported and facilitated” exchange of Taliban prisoners for Western hostages in Afghanistan as part of its support for negotiated political settlement of conflict (see Afghanistan). Speaking at National Assembly committee meeting 7 Nov, Minister for Economic Affairs warned that country could remain on Financial Action Task Force (FATF)’s grey list at least until Oct 2020 if it failed to ensure 100% compliance with its action plan to curb terrorist financing. Militant attacks included: four security personnel reportedly killed in clash with suspected Baloch militants 10 Nov in Punjab’s Rajanpur district; three soldiers killed in bomb blast in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s North Waziristan district 12 Nov; three personnel of paramilitary Frontier Corps killed in bomb blast in Balochistan 15 Nov.
Victory of former defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa in 16 Nov presidential election, his appointment of controversial figures to govt and moves to increase surveillance and militarisation, prompted fears over rise in political repression and ethnic tensions, and end of post-war reconciliation and transitional justice efforts. Following largely peaceful campaign, Rajapaksa won with 52.25% of vote, largely from majority Sinhala voters; ethnic and religious tensions increased following result, with upsurge in anti-Tamil and anti-Muslim hate speech on social media. Leader of anti-Muslim group Bodu Bala Sena 19 Nov praised Gotabaya as “good leader” who has fulfilled their goal of uniting Sinhalese people. Gotabaya 21 Nov appointed his brother and former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as PM and finance minister, and another brother as minister of development and trade; 19 Nov appointed as his new defence secretary retired Major General Kamal Gunaratne, who commanded units that the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights has implicated in war crimes against Tamils in final months of civil war. Gotabaya 22 Nov invoked Public Security Ordinance authorising military to engage in civilian policing throughout country. Website critical of Rajapaksas raided by police 26 Nov; editor of separate website called in for police questioning 28 Nov. Lead police investigator in multiple cases implicating military and Rajapaksa family 24 Nov fled country after new govt removed his security detail. Swiss foreign ministry 27 Nov demanded govt investigate 25 Nov incident of local embassy employee allegedly “detained against her will on the street and threatened at length by unidentified men in order to force her to disclose embassy-related information”, reportedly including whereabouts of police investigator who had just fled country and details of others seeking political refuge. Mahinda Rajapaksa 17 Nov stated that new govt would push for constitutional changes to reverse 19th amendment to return to system of stronger presidential rule.
Tensions continued in Papua, while police arrested dozens across country following suicide terror attack in Sumatra. With tensions in Papua still high from deadly unrest in recent months, authorities put in place additional security measures ahead of 1 Dec, when region traditionally mark anniversary of West Papuan independence day, and which was marred by deadly separatist violence in 2018. Papua police chief said patrols being intensified in known separatist strongholds in regencies of Puncak Jaya, Lanny Jaya, Intan Jaya and Mimika, as well as in provincial capital Jayapura in anticipation of pro-independence rallies. Military 30 Nov reported rebel attack on army helicopter in Nduga regency, one suspected separatist rebel shot dead. Jayapura police reportedly arrested more than 30 people same day for planning to celebrate independence day, and several for wearing symbols of independence. In north Sumatra, 24-year-old student blew himself up outside police station in Medan 13 Nov, injuring four police and two civilians; police 18 Nov said attacker connected to Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, along with 22 other suspects in area. Police arrested dozens in north Sumatra and other provinces, including group leader, and killed two suspected bomb-makers in raid in Hamparan Perak village in north Sumatra 16 Nov. Police 14 Nov also arrested wife of Medan suicide bomber, who they said had been planning attack in Bali.
Amid ongoing clashes between Arakan Army (AA) and military in Rakhine State, AA continued apparent asymmetric tactic of mass kidnappings, with 3 Nov abduction of ten people from speed boat on Kaladan River from southern Chin State to Rakhine State, including five Indian engineers and ruling party MP for Paletwa; AA released hostages after one engineer died, but continues to hold MP, U Hwai Tin. Bilateral ceasefire talks continued between army and four members of Northern Alliance - Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), AA, Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA, Kokang); military and KIO appeared to be inching toward new agreement, however possible accord between military and AA and TNLA remained elusive. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and UN Secretary-General António Guterres clashed at ASEAN-UN Summit in Bangkok 3 Nov, after Guterres expressed concern over situation of Rohingyas in Rakhine State and Cox’s Bazar refugee camps in Bangladesh, and stressed Myanmar’s responsibility for creating conditions conducive to voluntary return. Moves toward international accountability ramped up, with Gambia 11 Nov filing case under Genocide Convention against Myanmar at International Court of Justice (ICJ), which will hold public hearings 10-12 Dec to consider Gambia’s request for provisional measures; Myanmar 19 Nov announced Suu Kyi would personally lead delegation to “defend the national interest of Myanmar at the ICJ”, and has retained prominent international lawyers. Case launched in Argentina 13 Nov under country’s universal jurisdiction provisions that names Suu Kyi, Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing and two former presidents in crimes against Rohingya. International Criminal Court 14 Nov announced decision granting authorisation for formal investigation which could lead to indictments of individuals in Myanmar deemed responsible for international crimes.
Military operations continued against Islamist militants, including Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in south, notably in interior parts of Maguindanao province and Sulu province’s Patikul town, while communist rebels clashed with armed forces in several regions. In BARMM, armed forces 23-24 Nov killed six ASG members, including a major leader, in two separate encounters in Sulu province. Army operations against BIFF and ASG led to temporary alliances between sub-groups, notably ASG’s Radullan Sahiron and Hatib Sawadjaan. Army 25 Nov, with help from local Moro National Liberation Front, rescued British national and his wife, kidnapped by ASG 4 Oct, near Parang town, Sulu province. Political violence also resurgent, including ambush by unidentified perpetrators on Lanao del Sur mayor in Buadipuso-Buntong town 10 Nov that killed police escort and injured two civilians. As part of Bangsamoro peace process implementation, decommissioning of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants continued, with more than 7,000 members laying down arms since late Sept. Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) continued its work, with working groups focusing on drafting priority legislation, including administrative code, election code and local govt code. BARMM end-Nov also approved 65.6bn Peso budget for 2020. While surrenders of communist New People’s Army (NPA) members to armed forces continued, clashes took place in Nueva Ecija and Quezon (Luzon, north), northern and eastern Samar island (Visayas, centre) and Agusan del Sur and Bukidnon Sultan Kudarat (Mindanao, south). NPA attacks included explosive device in Borongan in eastern Samar, killing six soldiers and injuring twenty others 12 Nov. Security forces early Nov arrested over 40 NPA militants in Negros island (Visayas).
Tensions continued between Vietnam and China over latter’s seismic surveys in disputed area, and between U.S. and China amid U.S. activity in South China Sea (SCS). Vietnamese official 6 Nov said govt was exploring legal action and other options, including through UN Charter and UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, against China over its seismic surveys since July in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone, in area also claimed by China; China 8 Nov said it hopes Vietnam will not “complicate” SCS issue, accused Vietnam and other claimants of “invading and occupying” Chinese islands; countries discussed issues late month, agreed to continue working for peaceful solution. At ASEAN-China summit in Bangkok, Chinese premier Li Keqiang 3 Nov cited progress toward code of conduct among SCS claimants, and said China “willing to work with ASEAN, to sustain long term peace and stability” in SCS. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper 17 Nov accused Beijing of increasing “coercion and intimidation to advance its strategic objectives” in area; Chinese counterpart next day urged him to “stop flexing muscles” and not provoke and escalate tensions in SCS; Esper responded reiterating U.S. “will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows” and will “encourage and protect the rights of other sovereign nations to do the same”. U.S. 15 Nov deployed littoral combat ship (designed for operations near shore) for first time for freedom of navigation operations near Mischief reef in disputed Spratly Islands; 19 Nov vowed to continue freedom of navigation operations in SCS, and to “continue support and to help modernise the Philippines armed forces and to improve maritime security and domain awareness”. China 20 Nov called on U.S. to stop sending naval vessels to avoid “mishap”. U.S. and Australian navies held joint navy drills in SCS early Nov; U.S. 20 Nov announced it will provide Vietnam with another coast guard cutter to boost its ability to patrol SCS.
Large-scale militant attack in deep south indicated continued potency of Malay-Muslim insurgency despite steadily declining levels of violence over past years, while political tensions mounted as constitutional court disqualified opposition leader as MP. In deep south’s Yala province, insurgents attacked checkpoint in Lam Phaya, Muang district, killing fifteen including many Village Defence Volunteers. Killing represented highest death toll in single militant attack over past eighteen years, and prompted questions about transfer of security responsibilities from army troops to civilian militias with minimal training. PM Prayuth floated idea of curfews; army 11 Nov announced it would not impose curfews. Suspected militants 11 Nov killed elderly couple in Mae Lan district, Pattani province, also injuring two-year-old child. General Wanlop Rugsanaoh, new head of Thai Peace Dialogue Panel, and other panel members spoke to media 29 Nov, pledged to renew dialogue with Malay-Muslim militants that has been suspended since Feb 2019. In national politics, constitutional court 20 Nov disqualified Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, founder and leader of anti-junta Future Forward Party (FFP), as MP for failing to divest shares in media company before registering as candidate, in precedent that could potentially jeopardise standing of more than 50 MPs. Thanathorn and FFP still face multiple court cases, which could result in Thanathorn’s imprisonment, dissolution of party, and banning of its 24 executives from politics. Thanathorn told supporters he would continue to fight and though he “might die in jail”, he would not “lick the boots” of the military; deputy PM warned Thanathorn against using inflammatory language.
Voting began in long-delayed referendum on Bougainville island 23 Nov, where some 207,000 registered voters will choose between independence from PNG or greater autonomy, in line with 2001 Bougainville peace agreement; voting to continue until 7 Dec; result is non-binding and will go to national parliament.
Members of country’s tripartite Presidency agreed on new PM, paving way for new govt thirteen months after Oct 2018 elections. Tripartite presidency members 19 Nov agreed to nominate Zoran Tegeltija, Bosnian Serb ally of Serb Presidency member Milorad Dodik, as new Chair of Council of Ministers, while Dodik agreed to allow submission of Reform Program for NATO Annual National Plan, despite his longstanding opposition to Bosnia’s NATO Membership Action Plan. Appointment of Tegeltija, first nominated by Dodik after 2018 elections, must be confirmed by parliament. EU and U.S. welcomed end of deadlock on new govt; EU called for progress on EU-oriented reforms including on judiciary, anti-corruption and organised crime. Earlier in month, parliament of country’s majority Serb entity Republika Srpska 12 Nov adopted resolutions reaffirming entity’s right to referendums on self-determination and NATO membership, and rejecting wide-ranging “Bonn Powers” of Office of the High Representative, international overseer of implementation of 1995 peace agreement; opposition politicians noted resolutions carry no legal weight.
Leader of Vetevendosje (“Self-Determination” party, which won 26.29% of votes in Oct election, 32 of 120 seats in parliament) Albin Kurti continued talks with second-placed Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK, which won 24.46%, 29 seats) on formation of coalition govt, and efforts to secure support of three minority MPs. Final result announced 7 Nov, however following complaints from losing parties Election Complaints and Appeals Panel 11 Nov ordered recount of votes from over half of polling stations in Kosovo, and invalidated 3,782 ballots cast in Serbia on procedural grounds, prompting criticism from Belgrade and challenge at Supreme Court by Vetevendosje party against decision. Election turnout reported as 44.72%, higher than previous polls. Ghana 11 Nov announced it had reversed its 2012 recognition of Kosovo independence, saying decision had been “premature”. Hungarian nominee for EU enlargement commissioner 14 Nov told MEPs he would aim for “successful conclusion” to EU-mediated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina in 2020. After meeting with his Serbian counterpart in Paris 12 Nov, President Thaçi said dialogue should continue “without any conditionality”.
Following Oct decision by European Council not to begin formal EU accession talks with North Macedonia due to French opposition, PM Zaev 14 Nov reiterated that “there is no alternative to the EU and NATO” for country; also noted “huge encouragement” from his Greek counterpart on North Macedonia’s EU aspirations, as well as neighbouring Bulgaria. Speaking at Russia-North Macedonia economic forum in Skopje same day, Zaev said efforts to improve economic cooperation with Russia not an alternative to Euro-Atlantic integration. Zaev met with Albanian PM Rama and Serbian President Vučić 10 Nov, agreeing to lift trade barriers between their countries.
During visit by Russian FM Lavrov to Yevevan 10-11 Nov, the two countries’ FMs announced planned memorandum providing Russian specialists unrestricted access to biological laboratories in Armenia that were set up with U.S. assistance. Former President Sargsyan appeared in public for first time since 2018 21 Nov, and criticised current leadership and lack of reforms.
Political council of ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP) 28 Nov decided to initiate dissolution of parliament and asked President Aliyev to call snap general election, originally scheduled for Nov 2020, soon; YAP claimed landslide victory in previous elections in 2015 that were boycotted by all opposition parties.
Govt facing political crisis as thousands of people joined protests in Tbilisi and other cities starting 14 Nov, clashing with police and govt supporters. Protests began after parliament failed to adopt legislation for new electoral system that would allow opposition to gain more parliamentary seats in election scheduled for late 2020, breaking promise by PM Ivanishvili following protests in June; some leading ruling party figures resigned in protest, many accusing Ivanishvili of preventing adoption of promised amendments. Some 20,000 protested in Tbilisi 17 Nov, biggest protest since ruling Georgian Dream party came to power, joined by all opposition parties. Govt 18 Nov began forceful dispersal of protesters blocking govt buildings; three people injured, including one policeman; police arrested 37 people, some of whom were handed down short prison sentences. Embassies of EU member states and U.S. released statement 17 Nov calling for calm and return to discussion of electoral code. Georgian Dream and opposition met 30 Nov to discuss amendments to electoral system but unable to reach agreement. In breakaway republic South Ossetia, humanitarian impact of ongoing closure of roads connecting it to Georgia-controlled territory worsened with onset of winter, with thousands of ethnic Georgians in area experiencing food shortages and lack of access to emergency health services. South Ossetia de facto authorities 9 Nov arrested well-known Georgian doctor Vazha Gaprindashvili and jailed him for two months for “illegal border crossing” after he entered breakaway region to visit patient, prompting outrage in Tbilisi, where hundreds of doctors organised strike 18 Nov; de facto authorities launched investigation into Gaprindashvili’s role in 2008 war, claiming he supported Georgian army. Co-chairs of Geneva International Discussions 11 Nov called for continued dialogue on contentious Georgian police outpost and demanded opening of crossings “without delay”.
Relative calm in conflict zone continued, but rhetoric between Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders remained tense ahead of planned meeting between their foreign ministers early Dec. In conflict zone, neither side reported casualties or major incidents, making Nov one of calmest months of 2019. Also in line with March agreement between leaders, groups of journalists from Baku, Yerevan, and Stepanakert visited each other’s capitals during last week of Nov for meetings with experts, journalists and NGOs, first such visits in over fifteen years seen as possible step forward in preparing populations for peace. Harsh rhetoric between leaders focused on historical interpretations of Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict. During speech in Baku 14 Nov, Azerbaijani President Aliyev said NK had always been Azerbaijani land, accused Armenians of “genocide” against Azerbaijanis during 1992-1994 war, and excluded possibility of NK independence. Armenian PM Pashinyan 20 Nov gave speech in Italy accusing Azerbaijan of continuously preparing for war, and calling for Azerbaijan to consider interests of people living in NK, who will stay in region regardless of final outcome. During visit to Yerevan 10-11 Nov, Russian FM Lavrov supported Armenian demand to recognise NK’s role in peace process, stating that without consent of NK people no agreement could be reached; Baku responded with call to include Azerbaijani internally displaced persons from NK in peace process.
Authorities announced head of Interior Ministry’s Anti-Extremism Centre in Ingushetia, Ibragim Eldzharkiyev, and his brother reportedly shot dead by unknown gunman in Moscow 2 Nov; Eldzharkiyev was believed to have been previously targeted by gunmen in Jan 2019 near Ingush-Chechen border. Relatives of man arrested in Dagestan capital Makhachkala on charges of weapons possession who claimed he was tortured in prison held rally in his support 29 Nov; court next day placed him and his alleged accomplice under arrest; police claim they are connected to armed militant groups. Chechnya’s Supreme Court 26 Nov began trial over case of eight Dagestanis whose relatives claim they were kidnapped and killed by Chechen law enforcement; latter claim men were planning terror attack and were killed in a shoot-out. European Court of Human Rights in Oct registered complaint from rights activists that case was not being duly investigated; Russian Supreme Court in Aug declined to transfer case outside of Chechnya.
Snap parliamentary elections 17 Nov saw all 110 seats in lower house won by candidates belonging to parties loyal to President Lukashenka, with opposition candidates winning no seats; turnout reported at 77%. International election observers reported significant problems; Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe criticised “obstacles to political party registration, fees and limited space for holding public gatherings, and criminal sanctions for defamation”, and “overall lack of respect for democratic commitments”. Lukashenka, in power since 1994, told media he planned to run for a sixth term in 2020 presidential election. Over 1,000 people reportedly joined anti-Lukashenka rally in Minsk 8 Nov.
Coalition govt led by pro-Western PM Sandu collapsed 12 Nov after losing no-confidence vote prompted by disagreement on how to appoint prosecutor general. Parliament 14 Nov approved new govt led by former finance minister Ion Chicu, nominated by pro-Russian President Dodon, to have transitional role until elections.
Sides progressed on withdrawal of troops from pilot zones along front line, while leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France geared up for early-Dec peace talks. Participants of so-called Normandy Format set to gather 9 Dec for first time since 2017 for summit to negotiate next steps on resolving Donbas conflict; expected to sign communiqué that may serve as starting point for more detailed and far-reaching measures. President Zelenskyy 20 Nov listed several desired outcomes from summit: concrete agreement on prisoner exchange, modalities for a sustainable ceasefire, strategy for Ukraine to regain control of its eastern border, and plans for elections under Ukrainian law on territories currently held by separatists. In conflict zone, Ukrainian military and Russia-backed separatists completed troop disengagement at two pilot zones along front line, Zolote (1 Nov) and Petrivske (12 Nov); Zolote withdrawal coincided with 75-80% drop in reported ceasefire violations, however ceasefire violations increased again by mid-month, recorded at same level as July before “unlimited ceasefire” agreement. Ukrainian govt forces lost three servicemen in combat 23 Oct-23 Nov, Russia-backed forces sixteen according to various reports; four civilians injured, all in separatist-controlled territories. Kyiv eased some restrictions on freedom of movement of civilians across contact line end-Nov, simplifying procedures for minors and transporting goods, and opened new bridge at pedestrian crossing point Stanytsia Luhanska. Zelenskyy continued apparent efforts to balance normalising relations with Russia and moving closer to West, including 15 Nov signing of law to unbundle natural gas supplier Naftogaz, condition of Ukraine-EU Association Agreement. International Court of Justice 8 Nov issued judgment recognising its own jurisdiction in suit Kyiv filed in 2017 accusing Moscow of violations of International Convention for the Suppression of Financing of Terrorism and International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Security services mid-Nov arrested Georgian citizen Al-Bara Shishani, alleged senior member of Islamic State (ISIS), in Kyiv. Moscow 18 Nov returned ships it seized in Azov Sea Nov 2018, in reportedly badly damaged state.
Republic of Cyprus President Anastasiades 25 Nov met Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı in Berlin for informal UN-mediated talks; President Anastasiades deemed meeting “first positive step” toward resumption of formal UN negotiations as both parties reiterated commitment to goal of creating bi-communal federation on island. Intercommunal tension on island rose as supporters of Republic of Cyprus’ ultranationalist party National Popular Front 15 Nov burned flag of “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” during demonstration; Akıncı and Ankara condemned incident. European Council 11 Nov implemented framework for restrictive measures in response to Turkey's “unauthorised” drilling activities in eastern Mediterranean; sanctions targeted individuals and entities involved in drilling and included EU travel bans and asset freezes.
Annual report by Independent Reports Commission 4 Nov stated UK’s planned departure from EU could lead to rise in paramilitary violence in Northern Ireland; also claimed return of devolved govt powers key to reducing potential violence. Irish PM Varadkar 15 Nov announced talks over restoring devolved power at Stormont would not recommence until after UK general election in Dec.
Protests over Catalonia independence continued, and trial of regional president began. Catalan separatists 5 Nov burned pictures of king in anti-monarchy protest attended by some 2,000 people during royal visit to Barcelona. French riot police 12 Nov clashed with estimated 2,000 pro-Catalan independence protesters blocking road between France and Spain. Trial of president of Catalonia regional govt Quim Torra began 18 Nov in Barcelona, on charges of refusing to remove Catalonian independence symbols from public buildings.
Govt continued criminalising pro-Kurdish opposition and intensified crackdown on suspected Islamic State (ISIS) operatives, while military continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in south east Turkey and northern Iraq, and began joint patrols with Russia in parts of border areas in Syria’s north east. Fatalities in PKK conflict decreased amid harsher winter conditions; Turkish military 13 Nov launched “Kıran-6” operation against PKK in Van, Hakkari and Şırnak provinces; air raids targeting PKK militants in northern Iraq also continued. Govt intensified efforts to criminalise pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), replacing several more HDP co-mayors with state-appointed trustees. In north east Syria, Turkish and Russian troops 1 Nov carried out first join patrol in designated border areas; as of end-Nov, twelve joint patrols were carried out. Two Turkish soldiers killed by mortar fire in north east Syria 27 Nov. FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu 18 Nov threatened further military action if U.S. and Russia fail to ensure full withdrawal of Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG) from agreed areas (see Syria). President Erdoğan 13 Nov met with U.S. President Trump in Washington DC in attempt to address tensions caused by Turkey’s incursion in Syria, Ankara’s acquisition of Russian S-400 missile systems and other points of contention. While both sides expressed intent to improve relations, hardly any concrete progress was marked. Following Oct assassination of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi near border in Syria, govt redoubled crackdown on ISIS networks in Turkey. Turkish forces captured sister of al-Baghdadi in Azaz in north east Syria 4 Nov before arresting 25 other close relatives in Turkey mid-month. More than 100 individuals suspected of ISIS links were also detained during month, while govt intensified repatriation efforts of foreign nationals with ISIS ties. U.S. 19 Nov imposed sanctions on three Turkey-based companies and two Turkish citizens for allegedly providing financial and logistical support to ISIS.
Dozens of people joined sanctioned demonstration in capital Nur Sultan and unsanctioned rally in former capital Almaty 9 Nov demanding fair elections, parliamentary republic and release of political prisoners; police did not intervene. Media Watchdog Freedom House named Kazakhstan as one of countries with worst deterioration in Internet freedoms over past year.
Reports emerged of massive corruption scheme in country’s custom services resulting in illegal outflow of hundreds of millions of dollars, prompting public outcry. Ethnic Uighur Chinese businessman who provided secret evidence on scheme to journalists from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and other media was shot dead in Istanbul 10 Nov. Office of President Jeenbekov 22 Nov denied involvement with another figure named in investigation. Estimated 2,000 people joined protest in Bishkek 25 Nov calling punishment for those involved, including high-level customs official (who denied involvement). Head of financial police 26 Nov told MPs almost $1 bn believed to have been illegally transferred out of country under scheme, which is now under investigation.
Authorities reported 20 alleged Islamic State (ISIS)-linked militants including at least one woman attacked Tajik border post in south, 50km south west of capital and close to border with Uzbekistan 6 Nov, with two security personnel and fifteen militants killed in subsequent clash, five arrested. According to official statements, attackers were mostly Tajik nationals with links to Islamic State-Khorosan Province, crossing from Afghanistan, although later information created some uncertainty over details of attack. ISIS claimed responsibility for attack 8 Nov, and claimed number of security personnel killed higher.
Political crisis following controversial general elections worsened with growing unrest and polarisation, and reports of 29 killed as security forces cracked down on protesters supporting former President Morales, but with moves late-month to de-escalate tensions. Amid worsening unrest over alleged electoral fraud, Organization of American States audit 10 Nov identified “serious” irregularities in 20 Oct election won by Morales, recommended re-run; Morales agreed and, under pressure from armed forces, resigned along with senior figures from ruling Movement toward Socialism (MAS) party, accepting political asylum in Mexico. Legislative Assembly met to appoint caretaker govt, in session not attended by MAS legislators; conservative opposition senator Jeanine Áñez 12 Nov declared herself interim president, pledging new elections and “all measures necessary to pacify country”. Morales 15 Nov called for dialogue, saying he was still legally president, but accepted new elections be held without him “in the name of peace”. Protests and unrest intensified as Morales supporters expressed outrage over what they claimed was anti-indigenous right-wing coup, meeting with violent response from security forces. Nine people killed 15 Nov after army reportedly opened fire on demonstration in Cochabamba; ten protestors blockading fuel plant killed in El Alto outside La Paz 19 Nov, in what Morales and his supporters called “a massacre”. Thousands demonstrated against killings in capital La Paz 21 Nov, forcibly dispersed by security forces. Áñez 14 Nov issued decree exempting security forces from criminal responsibility in operations aimed at “restoration of order and public stability”; repealed decree 28 Nov following criticism from rights bodies. Interim govt 22 Nov filed criminal complaint against Morales for alleged sedition and terrorism for inciting protests; 23 Nov passed bill with support from MAS annulling Oct election, appointing new electoral board and stipulating new elections must be held within 120 days. With protester roadblocks causing some food and fuel shortages, agreement between govt and protest leaders 25 Nov to release imprisoned demonstrators, withdraw security forces and respect Morales’ social policies led to protesters lifting roadblocks in La Paz, El Alto and Chapare.
Mass anti-austerity protests continued across country, with ongoing incidents of violence, looting and clashes between demonstrators and security forces. President Piñera 7 Nov announced tightened security measures to counter vandalism, looting and rioting. In response to protesters’ demands, govt 11 Nov agreed to schedule referendum in April 2020 on whether to draft new constitution, and whether to create special constituent assembly. UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet 8 Nov sent fact-finding mission to investigate alleged abuses, including cases of excessive force, while public prosecutor reported over 2,000 allegations of human rights violations by security forces; President Piñera acknowledged some abuses in handling of protests but vowed commitment to investigation and prosecution of cases. Violent protests resurged from 22 Nov, prompting parliament 27 Nov to agree to advance security reforms, acknowledging “crisis of violence and vandalism that threatens our democracy”. Three people killed in protests during Nov, including thirteen-year-old boy who died after being hit by vehicle in Arica 21 Nov as he was taking part in roadblock; total of 23 people killed since protests began in Oct.
Govt faced widespread protests over discontent with funding for higher education, pension reform, urban inequality, and perceived failure to advance 2016 peace agreement with Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), while killings targeting indigenous communities continued. Hundreds of thousands joined largely peaceful national strike 21 Nov; ahead of action, govt deployed army in Bogotá and other major cities; national labour union reported house raids against several civil society and student leaders 19 Nov. Police in Bogotá fired teargas 21 Nov, some clashes reported with protesters. Dozens of public transport infrastructure sites damaged or destroyed and shops looted 21-22 Nov; three people reported killed in Valle del Cauca province in looting incidents. More than 100 people arrested, hundreds of civilians and security personnel injured; night-time curfew imposed in Bogotá 22 Nov and Cali 21 Nov. Violence rose from 22 Nov; three police killed in bomb at police station in Cauca, south west 22 Nov; eighteen-year-old killed by tear gas canister 23 Nov. Second national strike held 27 Nov; one protester reportedly seriously injured in Bogotá. Govt 24 Nov began National Dialogue to calm tensions, but strike organisers criticised content and structure; protesters planning continued demonstrations gave Presidency thirteen-point program of demands 26 Nov. Defence minister resigned 6 Nov following controversy over deaths of eight children in bombardment on FARC dissident camp late Aug, adding to previous accusations that military commanders pressured soldiers to increase their kill and capture numbers. Indigenous communities in Cauca continued to suffer assassinations as armed groups attempt to move into their autonomous territory for illicit economic and criminal activity; at least five killed late Oct-early Nov. Govt 4 Nov announced “shock” strategy in response, including additional 2,500 military personnel and fast-tracking development and employment initiatives in area; fearful of increasing militarisation, consortium of national human rights organisations broke off contact with govt. Mass displacement and forced community confinement continued in several areas; fighting between National Liberation Army (ELN) and Gaitanista criminal cartel displaced more than 2,000 in Alto Baudó, Chocó in west, 16-18 Nov.
Following violent protests over planned fuel price hike in Oct which govt was forced to withdraw, National Assembly 17 Nov rejected President Moreno’s proposed tax and monetary reforms, aimed at reducing fiscal deficit; International Monetary Fund 27 Nov backed amended version of tax and monetary reforms.
Despite reports of attempts to revive Norway-facilitated negotiations between Maduro regime and opposition led by Juan Guaidó, prospects for resumption of talks remained remote; govt and minority parties involved in National Dialogue initiative continued to insist they offer route to political settlement. Process of releasing political prisoners appeared to have stalled, however month saw progress on formation of parliamentary commission that will consider changing composition of National Electoral Council, key element of deal struck between govt and minority parties. National Assembly 13 Nov approved nine-member committee that, along with yet-to-be-chosen members of civil society, will appoint commission; three members belong to ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). On international front, resignation and exile of Bolivian President Evo Morales (see Bolivia) following his controversial re-election bid gave encouragement to Venezuelan opposition; interim govt in La Paz immediately recognised Guaidó as interim president, along with El Salvador bringing number of countries who do so to 56. Guaidó called nationwide demonstrations for 16 Nov, however attendance in tens of thousands in Caracas and smaller numbers elsewhere seen as disappointing; thousands of govt supporters also rallied. Amid speculation over foreign policy position of new left-leaning Argentine govt, incoming Argentine FM 29 Nov said that his country would not leave Lima Group, set up in 2017 to address Venezuela’s crisis, and that foreign relations should not be ideological in nature; Argentina also likely to join Mexico-led Montevideo mechanism, which advocates unconditional talks between Venezuelan govt and opposition; however new Uruguayan government under Luis Lacalle seen as likely to leave it.
Congress took further actions to delegitimise defunct anti-corruption body, the International Commission against Impunity (CICIG), while govt lifted state of emergency imposed to tackle organised drug crime in north east. Truth Commission created in Oct for people who consider themselves to be victims of CICIG 6 Nov requested list from Public Prosecutor with names of all national and foreign personnel who have worked for body; as of 11 Nov, Truth Commission had held 28 hearings with more than 20 pending. Congress 12 Nov adopted amendment to Criminal Code which provides for reduction of sentences up to 50% for those involved in certain criminal cases including corruption, illicit association, money laundering and electoral crimes, if they accept guilt; civil society groups denounced legal change as strengthening impunity and filed appeal at constitutional court. President Morales 4 Nov announced end of state of emergency in 22 municipalities and six departments in north east since early Sept, during which govt seized thousands of kilos of drugs and 75 tons of chemical precursors, and arrested 973 people. Govt temporarily closed Mexican border after two attacks 13 and 17 Nov on customs facilities and officers by alleged smugglers. U.S. 18 Nov issued rule allowing it to send migrants seeking protection at its southern border to Guatemala in compliance with July agreement designating it “safe third country”, and 21 Nov sent first migrant, a Honduran. U.S. 1 Nov announced extension of Temporary Protected Status for Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and other countries until Jan 2021, which provides nationals from these countries temporary permission to live and work in the U.S..
Protests demanding Hernández’s resignation continued, although at lower intensity following govt’s violent response and growing fear caused by murders and kidnappings of social leaders. Ex-president Zelaya, leader of left-wing Freedom and Refoundation Party (Libre), accused govt of involvement in assault of party member who went missing 28 Oct, later found alive having been tortured and thrown into Río Grande river. Zelaya called for protest 22 Nov in support of Evo Morales in Bolivia and in support of the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH); hundreds marched in capital Tegucigalpa. Congress 4 Nov approved six-month extension before new Penal Code enters into force, following requests from civil society groups concerned that it hardens penalties for participation in social protest and will benefit former officials imprisoned for embezzlement. Foreign Ministry and Organization of American States 13 Nov established commission to evaluate MACCIH, prompting concern from body’s supporters and calls for extension of its mandate, scheduled to expire 15 Jan. U.S. 1 Nov announced extension of Temporary Protected Status for Honduras as well as Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and other countries until Jan 2021, which provides nationals from these countries temporary permission to live and work in the U.S..
Relations between President Bukele and Legislative Assembly (LA) remained tense; LA 31 October shut down controversial commission it had created to investigate accusations that opposition parties Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN) and the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) could have been behind Sept peak in homicides. Commission nonetheless presented report 26 Nov arguing no evidence was found, and suggested president dismiss govt official who made accusations. Bukele 12 Nov urged LA to approve funds for govt’s Territorial Control Plan to combat crime. Bukele 13 Nov met with new LA head and announced “180-degree shift” in relations with LA. Officials pointed to improvements in security and the fight against organised crime: Minister of Justice and Public Security 5 Nov stated that, as a result of Territorial Control Plan, security forces had seized more than 2,000 weapons, while Bukele reported Oct was least violent month since 1992. Director of prisons system 17 Nov claimed to have been able to curb communication from within jails to the outside. On international front, Bukele 3 Nov recognised Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela and gave Venezuelan diplomats 48 hours to leave country.
President Ortega’s govt intensified threats and attacks on political opponents and churches, despite mounting international pressure. Political tensions surged following resignation of Bolivian President Morales 10 Nov (see Bolivia); Head of National Assembly and pro-govt trade unions condemned “fascist coup” that ousted Morales and called on Ortega govt supporters to mobilise and be on alert to combat “enemy” action; group of pro-govt armed men 13 Nov released video warning they are ready to fight any coup attempt inside Nicaragua. Ortega 14 Nov hosted extraordinary meeting of Political Council of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America and condemned what he called U.S.-sponsored coup in Bolivia and example of how elections could not be trusted to reflect people’s will. Govt increased crackdown on continuing protests, mostly small-scale protests in capital Managua by students, political opponents and hunger-striking mothers of political prisoners to request liberation of around 140 political detainees; police detained at least thirteen people assisting hunger strikers in church, and on 18 Nov attorney general accused sixteen people of illicitly carrying weapons. Hunger strikers eventually evacuated from church 22 Nov, in precarious health conditions. Police 30 Oct and 4 Nov attacked several reporters covering protests. International condemnation continued, including from UN Human Rights chief and EU foreign policy chief. U.S. 7 Nov imposed sanctions on three senior officials accused of human rights abuses, election fraud and corruption; Spain 16 Nov condemned govt’s attacks on opponents and churches where hunger strikes were being held. Organization of American States (OAS) condemned events and 19 Nov released special commission report recommending special session of OAS Permanent Council potentially leading to country’s expulsion from OAS; also calling for measures including resuming negotiations between govt and opposition and electoral reforms. OAS Permanent Council convened 25 Nov to discuss report, without taking further action. Shoot-out in Masaya 30 Nov left one police officer dead; police claimed episode involved criminal gang led by José Isaías Ugarte López, who allegedly participated in 2018 roadblocks.
Political stalemate continued, contributing to deteriorating security and humanitarian situation and violent protests demanding resignation of President Moïse. Turnout at ongoing anti-govt protests reportedly lower, although levels of violence increased; during protest attended by several hundreds people 10 Nov, masked protesters vandalised and looted businesses near Delmas. Journalist, police officer and two protesters wounded by gunfire during small protest in capital 18 Nov. NGO Amnesty International 31 Oct accused police of excessive force against protesters, firing live ammunition after Oct departure of UN peacekeepers. Report from Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 1 Nov stated at least 42 people killed and 86 injured since 15 Sept. With distribution of aid restricted by fuel shortages, roadblocks and protests, and UN reporting almost 3.7 million people in urgent need of food assistance, Moïse 15 Nov called for international support for humanitarian crisis. No significant progress in terms of negotiations, although Moïse claimed in 7 Nov interview that he was holding closed-door talks with civil society groups, private sector and members of opposition, and spoke of need for agreement allowing establishment of a Government of National Unity. Members of opposition met 9 and 10 Nov to discuss transition in case of Moïse’s resignation. The Consensual Alternative, an opposition platform, 20 Nov said they do not intend to negotiate with Moïse. International community continued attempts to facilitate dialogue, with U.S. ambassador to UN meeting with Moïse 20 Nov. U.S. 1 Nov announced extension of Temporary Protected Status for Haiti among other countries until Jan 2021.
High-profile violent incidents continued, intensifying public debate and pressure on President López Obrador’s govt domestically and from U.S.. Nine members of Mormon family including six children, most with double Mexican-U.S. nationality, killed in attack 5 Nov on border between Sonora and Chihuahua states (north); govt said attack was mistake by armed group, but family said they had been targeted previously. U.S. President Trump offered cooperation to wage “war” on cartels, with other U.S. Republican politicians calling for U.S. intervention or special forces operations on Mexican soil; López Obrador rejected proposal, stating his non-violent approach to insecurity is working. Trump 26 Nov said U.S. would designate cartels as foreign terrorist organisations, prompting Mexican govt to warn against violations of national sovereignty. Opinion polls showed significant drop in López Obrador’s popularity. Violence continued in other regions. In Ciudad Juárez on U.S. border, 26 people were killed, 35 vehicles burnt, and four bomb threats received 5-8 Nov, allegedly by “Mexicles” organised crime group in response to state operation against it in local prison. Security forces killed seven suspected cartel members in Coahuila near U.S. border 30 Nov after group launched attack on Villa Union city hall. In San Vicente Coatlán, Oaxaca (south), five state police were killed in ambush by armed group 8 Nov, bringing the total number of police killed in 2019 to 333. Armed group 8 Nov set ablaze vehicles to block coastal highway of Guerrero state (south), close to community of Petatlán, which various non-state armed groups are competing over. Plastic bags allegedly containing remains of four young men were left on road outside Celaya, Guanajuato (centre) 9 Nov, with messages reportedly signed by Jalisco Cartel New Generation and threatening enemy group “El Cartel de Lima”; competition between groups has made Guanajuato one of Mexico’s most violent states. Mexico offered asylum to Bolivian President Morales following his resignation (see Bolivia), leading to accusations govt was intervening in Bolivian affairs.
Violence flared in Gaza between Israel and Palestinian faction Islamic Jihad leaving 34 Palestinians dead. In Gaza, militants fired ten rockets into Israel night of 1-2 Nov, one landed in Sderot; Israel same night struck Hamas sites in Gaza leaving one Palestinian dead. Israeli airstrike 12 Nov killed Islamic Jihad senior leader and his wife in Gaza City. In next two days Islamic Jihad launched over 450 rockets and projectiles into Israel (most intercepted or landed in fields) to which Israel responded with airstrikes on Islamic Jihad targets throughout Gaza killing at least 34 Palestinians, including sixteen civilians. Despite Egyptian-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Islamic Jihad that came into effect 14 Nov, sporadic strikes continued. Hamas cancelled weekly protests along Israel-Gaza fence 15, 22 and 29 Nov. Israel 23 Nov shot down drone near fence and Israeli security forces 29 Nov shot dead one Palestinian protester near fence area. In West Bank, EU 5 Nov contributed some $18mn to Oct salaries and pensions of Palestinian Authority civil servants. Clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians commemorating anniversary of death of Yasser Arafat, former leader of Palestine Liberation Organization, 11 Nov left one Palestinian dead near Hebron. U.S. 19 Nov said it would no longer consider Israeli settlements illegal under international law. Thousands 26 Nov demonstrated in cities across West Bank against U.S. policy change, dozens injured. In Israel, following elections in Sept, parties continued attempts to form coalition govt but to no avail. Israel’s attorney general 21 Nov indicted PM Netanyahu on corruption charges. In Syria, Israeli airstrike targeting Islamic Jihad member in capital Damascus 12 Nov killed at least two. Following Israeli airstrikes on Iranian targets in Hama and near Palmyra, suspected Iran-backed forces 19 Nov launched four rockets from Syria toward Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, all intercepted. Israel next day launched airstrikes on Iranian and Syrian positions in and near Damascus leaving at least 23 dead.
Around 400 activists 3 Nov demonstrated peacefully in capital Amman demanding Israel release two Jordanian citizens it detained in Aug and Sept. After Jordan late Oct recalled its ambassador in protest against Israel’s detainment of its citizens, Israel 6 Nov released Jordanian detainees and Jordanian ambassador returned to Israel 12 Nov. UN 15 Nov extended until 2023 mandate of UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). King Abdullah II 21 Nov said Jordan-Israel relations at “an all-time low”.
Following govt’s resignation late Oct, anti-govt protests continued across Lebanon. Protesters demanded new govt independent from ruling political class to address economic crisis and widespread corruption. President Aoun’s 12 Nov speech, in which he indicated that formation of new govt could be further delayed, provoked public outrage and sparked new wave of demonstrations in capital Beirut and across country. Soldier attempting to disperse protesters later that day in Khaldeh, 15km south of Beirut shot and killed one. Reports that major political parties had agreed that former finance minister Mohammed Safady would replace Hariri as PM prompted thousands to take to streets in Beirut and Tripoli rejecting Safady’s nomination on grounds that he is part of current ruling elite; Safady 16 Nov withdrew his candidacy. Hariri 26 Nov withdrew his candidacy for PM. Scuffles broke out in Beirut 19 Nov between police and protesters blocking MPs from reaching parliament to discuss law that could provide amnesty for range of offences including corruption and misuse of public funds; parliament later that day postponed parliamentary session indefinitely. Protesters clashed with supporters of Hizbollah and Shiite Amal Movement throughout country 24-26 Nov. Scuffles broke out in Beirut 26 Nov between supporters of Hizbollah and those of Christian party Lebanese Forces. Same day, confrontations broke out across Lebanon between protesters and supporters of President Aoun leaving dozens injured.
Fighting intensified in north west between rebels and Russian-backed govt forces, in north east fragile ceasefire between Turkey and Kurdish-led forces held as Russia increased its presence there, and Israel launched retaliatory strikes against Syrian and Iranian targets in south. In north west, Russian and govt forces continued offensive in rebel-held parts of Idlib province killing over 50 civilians; govt airstrike on displaced persons’ camp in Qah 20 Nov killed at least fifteen civilians. Fighting between Russian-backed govt forces and rebels in south east Idlib province 30 Nov left almost 100 combatants dead from both sides in most intense fighting since Aug ceasefire agreement. Protests erupted in Idlib 2 Nov over rise in fuel prices and electricity shortages; protesters also demonstrated against ties between region’s self-proclaimed National Salvation Govt and jihadist group Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham. In north east, following incursion in Oct, Turkey limited its military operation against Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG) and carried out joint patrols with Russian forces in safe zone agreed with Russia in Oct. Russia increased its military presence in north east, 18 Nov claimed to have taken control of former U.S. military base near Sarrin, north east of Aleppo following U.S. withdrawal in Oct. Syrian govt forces exchanged artillery fire with Turkey’s Syrian proxies near Tel Abyad in safe zone and 19 Nov carried out first joint patrol with Russian troops between Tel Tamer and Abu Rasin in Hasakah governorate. Car bombing 26 Nov killed dozens in Turkish-controlled Tel Halaf near Ras al-Ayn; Turkey blamed YPG. In east, U.S. forces 22 Nov carried out first major operation against ISIS in Deir al-Zour province since 7 Oct withdrawal from north east. Israel night of 17-18 Nov struck Iran-backed convoy near Palmyra and Iranian official in Hama; 19 Nov intercepted four rockets suspected Iranian-backed forces launched from Syria into Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. In retaliation, Israel next day struck over twenty Syrian and Iranian targets reportedly killing at least 23.
Govt sent players to Gulf Cup football tournament in Qatar to run 24 Nov-8 Dec, which it had previously planned to boycott.
Violent crackdown on protests over rise in fuel prices led to deaths of over 100 demonstrators and govt further breached 2015 nuclear deal. Govt raised fuel prices 15 Nov sparking protests nationwide, which security forces sought to disperse forcibly; NGO Amnesty International 29 Nov reported deaths of at least 161 protesters. U.S. 22 Nov sanctioned Iran information minister following internet blackout during protests. President Rouhani 5 Nov announced Iran was going ahead with further violation of nuclear deal, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), by resuming uranium enrichment at Fordow nuclear facility. European parties to JCPOA (France, UK and Germany) and EU 11 Nov raised possibility of invoking agreement’s dispute resolution mechanism. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 7 Nov claimed Iran had temporarily prevented one of its inspectors from leaving country. IAEA 17 Nov affirmed Iran had accumulated more heavy water than JCPOA’s 130 tonne limit. U.S. Treasury Department 4 Nov imposed sanctions on Iranian armed forces general staff and nine individuals associated with Supreme Leader Khamenei including his son and Iran’s judiciary chief. Govt 8 Nov said it had intercepted drone in south west without commenting on its provenance.