CrisisWatch is our early warning and global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.