CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, an early warning tool designed to help prevent deadly violence. It keeps decision-makers up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises every month, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace. In addition, CrisisWatch monitors over 50 situations ("standby monitoring") to offer timely information if developments indicate a drift toward violence or instability. Entries dating back to 2003 provide easily searchable conflict histories.
In February, the political crisis worsened in Yemen, whose territorial disintegration is in danger of accelerating, while in Bangladesh political violence threatens to further destabilise the country; Venezuela’s downward spiral also continued amid deep political polarisation. Deadly violence rose in Libya, where the prospects of a diplomatic solution to the internal conflict receded further; in Syria, where the regime and its allies initiated a major campaign against rebels in the south; and in areas affected by the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria and Niger. Serious fighting in Myanmar’s Kokang region undermined the ongoing peace talks, while a new peace deal for Ukraine was followed by major military defeat for the government in the east.
Yemen’s political crisis deepened in early February when the Huthis created a “revolutionary council” and associated bodies in a move clearly outside the constitution. Issuing a statement from Aden after escaping his Sanaa house arrest, former President Hadi rescinded his January resignation and rejected Huthi actions as a coup, raising fears of an acceleration of the conflict and territorial disintegration. Despite the limited ability of external actors to influence events (see our latest Conflict Alert), the best way of preventing the start of serious hostilities may now be for the Gulf Cooperation Council and the UN to sponsor emergency talks outside of Yemen between core stakeholders.
In Bangladesh an anti-corruption court issued an arrest warrant for the leader of the opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP), Khaleda Zia. If the warrant is executed, it could seriously escalate the political crisis that has seen over 100 killed in anti-government protests since early January. The crisis could gravely destabilise the country unless both the government and the BNP move urgently to reduce tensions (as explained in our new report). In Venezuela, Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma was arrested after the government claimed to have foiled yet another U.S.-backed opposition plot to overthrow President Maduro. Six people including a fourteen-year-old boy were killed allegedly during or after anti-government protests, prompting criticism of security forces.
Libya’s crisis took another turn for the worse as the Tobruk-Based House of Representatives withdrew from UN-sponsored talks aimed at reaching a diplomatic solution. But Libya’s rival authorities are evenly matched: to halt the slide toward all-out civil war and state collapse they must work toward a political solution (as we explain in our new report). Deepening political divisions and the resultant military clashes have facilitated the growth of jihadi armed groups. On 15 February, an Islamic State-affiliated armed group issued a video in which militants beheaded 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians. In response, Egypt launched aerial attacks on Derna and Sirte, reportedly killing scores of people. President Assad’s regime initiated a major campaign against rebels in southern Syria, aided by Iranian and Hizbollah forces. Their participation was openly reported by pro-regime media, and represents a major escalation by non-Syrian, pro-regime forces in this part of the country. The regime and its allies also attacked rebel-held towns north of Aleppo, paired with smaller escalations inside the city where UN envoy Staffan de Mistura has been trying to broker a “freeze” of fighting.
The Boko Haram insurgency in northern Nigeria continued to spread. Following deadly Boko Haram attacks in Niger’s Diffa region, Niger’s government scaled up its response, and with military help from Chad launched several counter-attacks and airstrikes. On 10 February, Niger’s parliament authorised the army to fight Boko Haram on Nigerian territory. In Nigeria, armed forces working with troops from neighbouring Chad and Cameroon reclaimed several towns near Lake Chad. The insurgents meanwhile stepped up suicide bomb attacks on several northern cities. The Nigerian military’s claim that its operations against Boko Haram left no troops available for election security prompted the Electoral Commission to postpone national polls, aggravating tensions at a time when election-related violence is already high and on the rise (see our recent blog post).
In Myanmar fierce fighting broke out in Kokang region in Shan state in early February as the ethnic Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), apparently assisted by other groups, attempted to seize control of Kokang capital Laukkai. The fighting, the most serious in the country since 2009, prompted at least 30,000 and possibly up to 100,000 people to flee across the border to China. It has created further difficulties for the peace process, now unlikely to progress further before the November elections. Ukraine suffered one of its heaviest defeats yet with the fall of a major military garrison at the strategic railway town of Debaltseve to rebels just days after the signing of a new peace deal in Minsk. The defeat further weakened President Poroshenko’s administration, as the country comes under increasing pressure from Russia and slips deeper into economic crisis.
Transition saw most serious crisis yet when presidential guard (RSP) 4 Feb demanded resignation of PM Zida, called for their unit not to be dissolved, and for senior military appointments to be reconsidered, specifically the replacement of Théophile Nikiéma, a Zida associate, as president’s personal chief of staff. Compromise reached 7 Feb: RSP accepted Zida remain in office; Zida accepted appointment of former Compaoré associates colonel-major Boureima Kéré as president’s personal chief of staff and lieutenant-colonel Joseph Moussa Céleste Coulibaly as RSP commander. Thousands demonstrated 7 Feb, called for dismantlement of RSP. Members of former ruling Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) 1 Feb created new political party, New Alliance of Faso (NAFA), supporting presidential candidacy of former FM Djibirl Bassolé. Colonel Yacouba Ouédraogo 14 Feb announced candidacy with new Union for a New Burkina (UBN) party.
Domestic opposition to President Nkurunziza’s potential third term increased: coalition of civil society organisations 4 Feb published warning letter to president; 11 Feb said his candidacy will lead to violence. Head of intelligence service Godefroid Niyombare dismissed 18 Feb, allegedly for warning president of risk of violence should he attempt third term, replaced with Etienne Ntakirutimana 24 Feb. Journalist Bob Rugurika, arrested 20 Jan, released 19 Feb, greeted by thousands of sympathisers in Bujumbura. Human Rights Watch 12 Feb accused security forces, ruling party youth wing “Imbonerakure” of 47 extrajudicial executions during 30 Dec-3 Jan clash with armed group in Cibitoke province near DRC border. Pro-govt demonstrations throughout country 28 Feb, organised by authorities.
Regional response to Boko Haram (BH) formulated amid ongoing attacks: international meeting on Joint Multinational Force (FMM) held 5-7 Feb in Yaoundé, regional joint multinational force of 8,700 soldiers announced, based in N’Djamena: Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) 16 Feb announced emergency aid of FCFA 50bn to joint Cameroon-Chad “Operation Logone 2015” force established late Jan to fight BH. Several clashes between BH, Cameroonian forces: deadliest BH attack killed 86 civilians and seven soldiers in Fotokol 4 Feb; five soldiers killed, seven wounded in 16 Feb BH ambush on Waza-Kousseri axis; 21 BH killed by armed forces in 21 Feb Tolkomari clashes. 25 Cameroonian hostages escaped BH 20 Feb. Two marches held early Feb demonstrating support for security forces; third, larger march in Yaoundé 28 Feb.
Clashes between ex-Seleka and international forces in Bria left six ex-Seleka dead 10 Feb, civilian death toll unknown. Opposition to controversial Kenyan mediation process between some ex-Seleka and anti-balaka factions continued: UN 8 February called for end to Kenyan process; former Presidents Bozize and Djotodia signed “commitment declaration” 21 Feb agreeing to respect July 2014 ceasefire agreement. Sport Minister Armel Sayo, kidnapped 25 Jan, released 10 Feb. Month saw frequent robberies and attacks against NGOs in various towns. Transitional Council 16 Feb began constitution-drafting process.
Authorities stepped up response to Boko Haram (BH) regional attacks: troops crossed border 11 and 13 Feb to repel attacks on Gamboru, N Nigeria, and again 24 Feb; 207 BH and one Chadian soldier reported killed. BH 13 Feb launched first attack on Chadian territory, targeting Ngouboua near Nigerian border. Chad 16 Feb launched U.S.-backed counter-terrorism exercise, gathering troops from African and Western states. French FM Fabius 21 Feb met President Deby in N’Djamena to discuss fight against BH.
Divisions within political parties persisted: Ivoirian Popular Front (FPI) President Pascal Affi N’Guessan continued to clash with party hardliners; four Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) members expressed desire to contest Oct elections, refused to support President Ouattara’s reelection bid, said they would not attend 28 Feb PDCI party congress. PDCI president Henri Konan Bédié 28 Feb announced no PDCI candidate in election, reaffirmed support for ruling Rally of the Republicans (RDR) President Ouattara’s reelection bid. Authority for DDR late-Jan estimated 28,000 former combatants yet to be reintegrated; General Chief of Staff Soumaila Bakayoko 11 Feb said military unable to integrate more.
Following Jan violent protests, President Kabila 18 Feb promulgated amended version of controversial electoral law. Electoral Commission (CENI) 12 Feb published 2015-2016 electoral calendar, condemned by opposition for lack of consensus or realism. UN 13 Feb said it would not support FARDC military operations until controversial commanders in N Kivu replaced. President Kabila 16 Feb reaffirmed decision to launch unilateral military operations against FDLR rebels, operations began 24 Feb in S Kivu. Conflict between Bantu and pygmies flared in Manono district, N Katanga, leaving seven dead mid-Feb.
Deadlock between govt and opposition over electoral preparations continued, EU and UN Office for West Africa began separate consultations with both sides. Protests 2-4 Feb against civil service changes in opposition stronghold Labé left some 50 injured. Assassination of former Minister Thierno Alioune Diaouné, civil society leader serving with UN, prompted accusations against regime by opposition supporters.
Constitutional reform commission inaugurated 16 Feb. UNSC 18 Feb renewed UN Integrated Office in Guinea-Bissau mandate until 29 Feb 2016.
MP shot dead in Nairobi 7 Feb, along with two bodyguards and driver. Five suspected Mombasa Republican Council recruits arrested 25 Feb in Kisauni, Mombasa County. Mombasa’s Minaa mosque, closed by govt 19 Nov following police raid, reopened 12 Feb with interim imam and committee following settlement between govt officials and local Muslims.
Instability ahead of 28 Feb elections, called two years early in attempt to restore stability following Aug 2014 coup attempt. Two of PM Thabane’s bodyguards shot and wounded outside presidential palace 1 Feb. Conflicting explanations for attack given by military and PM’s adviser, amid concerns over continued politicisation of security forces. Election reportedly peaceful, PM’s party took lead in early results.
High Constitutional Court 12 Feb upheld President Rajaonarimampianina’s 15 Jan appointment of PM Jean Ravelonarivo following legal challenge by former coup leader Rajoelina. Rajoelina and former President Zafy 19 Feb withdrew from Malagasy Council of Churches (FFKM)-led reconciliation process; Rajoelina cited continued disagreement with PM appointment and lack of meaningful action toward reconciliation. FFKM 20 Feb insisted reconciliation process would continue with remaining former leaders and current president.
Govt and rebel groups 1 March signed preliminary peace deal; main Tuareg armed coalition, including National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA) same day requested delay for further consultations before signing agreement. Fifth round of peace negotiations began 16 Feb in Algiers, ceasefire signed 19 Feb between govt and six armed groups despite tensions following string of clashes between pro-govt and rebel groups, including: Gatia 3 Feb launched attack on Coordination of Movement of Azawad (CMA) forces near Tabankort, some ten killed; CMA 13 Feb clashed with pro-govt forces at Takazkaza, 40km from Tabankort. Mopti region also suffered attacks: group of armed men 14 Feb attacked Gathi-Loumo, clashed with govt troops, four assailants and two soldiers killed.
Discussions 7-9 Feb between President Philippe Nyusi and opposition Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama eased deadlock following disputed Oct elections. Dhlakama called on Renamo MPs to end parliamentary boycott, 10 Feb announced Renamo will present Parliamentary Proposal for creation of autonomous provinces where Renamo won/claimed to have won majority. Under proposal Dhlakama would become president of Provincial Council, Renamo would govern autonomous regions. Dhlakama 27 Feb reiterated threat to overthrow govt if proposal not passed. Dialogue on disarmament remains stalled.
Series of violent Boko Haram (BH) attacks in Diffa region targeting Bosso and Diffa cities. Attacks prompted increasingly strong govt response. Defence Minister Mahamadou Karidjo 6 Feb said 100 BH insurgents, four soldiers died during attack on Bosso; same day bombing of Diffa compelled Chadian, Nigerien forces to launch air-strikes on BH position. Bomb detonated in Diffa central market 9 Feb killed five, wounded twenty. Parliament 10 Feb voted unanimously to send 750 soldiers to reinforce regional military cooperation, authorised army to fight on Nigerian territory as part of regional response against BH insurgency. Authorities 17 Feb arrested some 160 suspected of BH links: thousands same day took to streets in support of army. National Assembly 26 Feb voted unanimously to extend Diffa state of emergency for three months.
Month saw increasing Boko Haram (BH) and election-related violence ahead of postponed polls, while military launched major offensive against Boko Haram (BH). Defence authorities 2 Feb said they retook Gamboru and four other towns near Lake Chad following combined operations by govt troops, civilian vigilantes, Chadian and Cameroonian forces. Authorities 18 Feb reported intensive operations around BH’s Sambisa Forest stronghold liberated eleven communities, some 300 insurgents reportedly killed; 19 Feb reported Special Forces, aided by Air Force and Chadian troops, reclaimed Dikwa local govt area, Borno state, some 117 insurgents killed. BH attacks continued: attack 19 Feb in Gaya village in Hong local govt area of Adamawa state killed 30 residents; some seventeen killed by explosives thrown from car in Jos, Plateau state. BH suicide bombings continued in Gombe, Yobe, Borno states, killing over 100 in Feb including 22 Feb bombing of market in Potiskum by seven-year old and 16 Feb attack on Damaturu bus station by teenager. Electoral Commission (INEC) 7 Feb postponed planned Feb elections: presidential and national polls delayed to 28 March, governorship and state polls to 11 April. Opposition All Progressive’s Congress (APC) condemned postponement, warned it would resist any further delay. Election-related violence increased with deadly incidents recorded almost daily: National Human Rights Commission (NHCR) 13 Feb reported 58 killed in election-related violence since Dec. People’s Democratic Party (PDP) thugs 17 Feb attacked APC rally with explosives, guns in Okrika, Rivers state, two killed, 50 wounded; Rivers APC chair called for international attention to rising violence.
DRC and Rwandan officials 3 Feb met to accelerate repatriation of 718 former M23 rebels to DRC, no specific agenda agreed. Defence Minister early-Feb criticised UN Force Intervention Brigade troop-contributing countries South Africa and Tanzania for lack of intervention against FDLR, accused latter of collaborating with rebel group. FM Mushikiwabo 12 Feb criticised MONUSCO’s inaction on FDLR issue.
President Sall visited Casamance separatist region late Feb to inaugurate development projects as part of greater economic strategy to resolve decades-long conflict, announced delivery of two boats to facilitate link between Dakar and Casamance regional capital Ziguinchor.
Parliament 9 Feb approved PM Abdirashidi Ali Shamarke’s third proposed cabinet list, ending months of govt paralysis following ouster of former PM Abdiweli early Dec. Al-Shabaab attacks continued throughout country including: 25 killed, 40 wounded in 20 Feb suicide attack on Mogadishu hotel; mortar rounds fired at presidential compound in Mogadishu 26 Feb; two army bases in Lower Shabelle region attacked 10 Feb. Al-Shabaab 9 Feb killed MP Abdullahi Qayed Barre in Mogadishu, 15 Feb killed govt official. Joint AMISOM/Somali National Army (SNA) campaign against Al-Shabaab continued including 3 Feb Kenyan airstrikes against several Al-Shabaab camps in Yontoy, Lower Juba region. Puntland forces 13 Feb clashed with Al-Shabaab in Madashoor area, claimed sixteen militants killed. Puntland officials accused Somaliland of supporting Al-Shabaab factions in Golis mountains after Al-Shabaab 3 Feb attacked police station in Bossaso; 7 Feb attacked home of senior Pun land police official: Somaliland denied accusations. Clashes erupted 10 and 25 Feb between SNA and Sufi militia Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa (ASWJ) in Guriel, Galgaduug region, leaving at least fifteen dead. U.S. 24 Feb nominated first ambassador to Somalia since 1991, to be based in Nairobi.
Two wounded 17 Feb in Horu-Fadhi cillage, Togdheer, in clashes between Somaliland forces and clan militias loyal to self-declared administration of Khaatumo. Djibouti 23 Feb closed border with Somaliland after it received intelligence on possible Al-Shabaab attacks in region. President Silanyo 28 Feb reshuffled cabinet ahead of polls.
IGAD-led negotiations ended 2 Feb without peace deal; President Kiir and former VP and SPLM-IO leader Machar recommitted to ceasefire, signed document outlining areas of agreement/disagreement regarding proposed transitional govt. Disputes remain over structure of executive. Delayed negotiations began 23 Feb; Kiir reversed previous commitment to attend; 5 March deadline still remains amid scepticism deal will be reached. Small clashes continued in Unity and Upper Nile states. Murle South Sudan Democratic Army-Cobra Faction (SSDA-CF) splinter group 13 Feb defected from govt, pledged allegiance to SPLA-IO. UN confirmed gunmen 14 Feb abducted at least 89 boys, now training as child soldiers, from Wau Shilluk near Malakal, Upper Nile state; thousands of children already fighters. Defence minister 3 Feb signed new Status of Forces agreement with Ugandan counterpart; Ugandan troops may remain in S Sudan another four months. Govt 13 Feb suspended elections scheduled for June for two years as negotiations continue. Kiir 24 Feb issued executive order reversing dismissal of senior party members.
Fighting continued in S Kordofan: SPLM-N claimed al-Jineziya, Angartu and Um Turuq-Turuq taken 14-16 Feb. Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) 12 Feb claimed SPLM-N attack on recently recaptured areas repelled. Election campaigning began 24 Feb amid continued crackdown on civil society and media. Opposition National Consensus Forces umbrella group, several other opposition parties and Muslim Brotherhood announced boycott of elections; Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) only mainstream opposition party not boycotting polls. Civilian opposition, civil society and armed rebel signatories to 4 Dec “Sudan Call” met in Berlin 25-27 Feb to discuss peace, national dialogue: govt not included in talks. New chief of UN forces in disputed Abyei enclave 17 Feb called for resumption of dialogue between Sudan and South Sudan; UNSC 26 Feb renewed mandate of UN mission to Abyei, called for resumption of Abyei Joint Oversight Commission (AJOC) discussions on June 2011 demilitarisation agreement. AJOC co-chair 13 Feb announced AJOC meeting late Feb. Intercommunal clashes increased in area amid rising tensions between Misseriya nomads and sedentary Ngok Dinka.
Uganda and Sudan 9 Feb agreed to form joint technical security mechanism: Uganda announced it had expelled Sudanese rebels, reportedly Sudan will cooperate in apprehending remaining LRA rebels believed to be hiding in Darfur. Dr Aggrey Kiyingi, linked to Federal Alliance rebels reportedly connected to Allied Democratic Force rebel group, 12 Feb announced he will challenge President Museveni in 2016 elections.
Tensions within ruling ZANU-PF remained high amid continued decimation of former VP Mujuru’s faction. Mujuru allies Ray Kaukonde and Enock Porisingazi stripped of seats as chairs of Parliamentary Portfolios 12 Feb. Former ZANU-PF member Didymus Mutasa attacked in state media for declaring Dec party congress unconstitutional, former ZANU-PF provincial chairman Temba Mliswa arrested 1 Feb for illegal weapons possession; both expelled from ZANU-PF 18 Feb. EU mid-Feb committed €230mn for govt support.
Delay in forming new unity cabinet continued, paralysing parts of administration and reducing customs revenue representing key source of govt income. New Interior Minister Nur-ul-Haq Ulumi early Feb travelled to outlying provinces to review security situation following parliament’s rejection of President Ghani’s defence minister nominee; Ulumi 14 Feb promised reform to stem rising police combat deaths. President Ghani 4 Feb threatened to fire any defence officials not ensuring weapons supplies and logistical support for soldiers, reflecting widespread concerns about lack of battlefield supplies. Govt forces mid-month launched major operation against insurgents in Helmand province. Turkish soldier killed in Taliban suicide attack on NATO vehicle in Kabul 26 Feb. Pakistani military officials 18 Feb claimed Taliban ready to begin peace talks with Kabul as early as March. UN 18 Feb reported 25% increase in civilian deaths in 2014 over 2013; ICRC reported collecting twice as many bodies from battlefield in 2014 than 2013.
Political crisis continued, threatening severe destabilisation of country: over 100 killed and hundreds injured since early Jan in violent anti-govt protests and country-wide transport blockade led by opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP); anti-corruption court 25 Feb issued warrant for BNP leader Zia’s arrest for non-appearance, raising fears of escalating violence in case warrant executed. PM Hasina 6 Feb compared actions of BNP and Islamist ally Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) to actions of Middle Eastern jihadi group Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL). Several civil society groups demonstrated for resolution to crisis, criticised negative economic impact including in country-wide protests early Feb; newly-formed committee of prominent jurists, retired officials and other civil society actors also pressed for AL-BNP dialogue; UNSG Ban mid-month urged Hasina and BNP leader Zia to engage in constructive dialogue. Zia remained confined to BNP offices in Dhaka; police 11 Feb temporarily blocked food and water supplies. Hasina 18 Feb promised govt action against newspaper for reprinting poster of banned Islamist group Hizb-ut Tahrir. Controversial International Crimes Tribunal, tasked with prosecuting war crimes committed during 1971 liberation war, 18 Feb sentenced senior JeI member Abdus Subhan to death.
Radio Free Asia reported three clashes in Xinjiang during month: at least seven killed in reported suicide bomb attack in Hotan prefecture 13 Feb; two killed in clash with police 16 Feb; four police stabbed to death 17 Feb, nine suspected assailants and four bystanders also killed.
Japanese PM Abe pleaded for country to revise its pacifist constitution in speech to Diet 12 Feb, latest in series of calls for constitutional change following killing of two Japanese hostages by Islamic State in Middle East. Abe also expressed “deep remorse” for Japan’s aggression in WWII, in attempt to head off criticism from Japanese left and from China and ROK that he was seeking to return to country’s past militarism. Japan’s ruling coalition 13 Feb began formal discussions of national security legislation needed for country to engage in collective self-defence. Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying 13 Feb called for Japan to honestly face past and honour its apology for wartime aggression. Chinese troops rehearsing for major parade in Sept.
Several attacks by Maoist militants in Chhattisgarh state including two police killed in Kanker district 2 Feb; another killed in Bihar state 24 Feb. Violence continued in NE: several bomb attacks by militants in Manipur state, construction worker reported killed 5 Feb; suspected separatist militants killed two in Assam state 13 Feb. Anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party won overwhelming victory in 10 Feb Delhi assembly elections with 67 of 70 seats; ruling Bharatiya Janata Party took remaining seats.
Shelling continued across Line of Control (LoC) and India-Pakistan working boundary; Pakistan accused India of killing civilian 14 Feb. Pakistani PM Sharif 5 Feb addressed representatives of separatist All Parties Hurriyat Conference in Pakistan-administered Kashmir on occasion of Kashmir Solidarity Day: reiterated support for Kashmiris’ right to self-determination, peaceful resolution of conflict. Pakistani Senate and National Assembly passed resolutions pledging support for Kashmiris, condemning “farcical” state elections in India-administered Kashmir. Trade and travel resumed across LoC 17 Feb after being halted following Indian arrest of truck driver accused of smuggling narcotics early Feb. At least six militants reported killed by Indian forces late Feb including two in Shopian district 25 Feb.
DPRK 6 Feb flight-tested new anti-ship cruise missile in Sea of Japan; media reports that DPRK flight-tested submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in Jan unconfirmed. DPRK army continued rigorous winter training program, including live-fire missile exercise and island attack drill near ROK islands off DPRK coast. Growing evidence that DPRK has restarted nuclear reactor in Yŏngbyŏn. ROK military 27 Jan conducted live-fire exercise on islands near DPRK coast. ROK conducted air force exercise, large-scale mobility exercise, combined military exercises and multinational exercises, including with U.S. and others in Thailand and Guam. USS Olympia nuclear-powered submarine 5 Feb participated in three-day ROK-U.S. combined naval exercise, commemorating inauguration of ROK Navy submarine command. ROK and Chinese defence ministers early Feb discussed bilateral security cooperation, during first visit by Chinese defence minister in nine years; China expressed opposition toward U.S. deployment of THAAD missile defence battery to ROK. DPRK Workers Party Politburo 10 Feb adopted resolution with six main points: Central Committee and the Central Military Commission met next day and published list of over 300 slogans in mass appeal for national exhortation to achieve goals outlined in Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s address. UN 24 Jan announced it would provide $2mn in aid to DPRK through Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). U.S. think-tank report published late Feb projected DPRK could have up to 100 nuclear weapons by 2020.
Serious clashes in Kokang region 9-12 Feb as ethnic Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, apparently assisted by other groups, attempted to seize control of Kokang capital Laukkai. Attack repulsed, but military reported that over 50 of its troops killed. President 17 Feb declared state of emergency and martial law in area. The fighting, most serious in country since 2009 takeover of Kokang, prompted at least 30,000 to flee across border to China, thousands more internally; sporadic clashes continued late month as military re-established control. Fighting also put huge additional strain on peace process, which remains stalled despite president’s push for deal to be signed on 12 Feb Union Day. 12 Feb talks resulted in Deed of Commitment containing significant commitment to federalism. Only four of thirteen armed groups present signed; seen as unlikely that Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) will be signed before elections. In debate on Referendum Bill, legislature 2 Feb approved by 328 votes to 79 president’s proposal to allow some one million holders of Temporary Registration Certificates or TRCs (mostly Muslims in Rakhine State) to vote. Following nationalist protests president 11 Feb said all TRCs would expire 31 March, after which citizenship status of holders would be assessed; implies there will be no valid TRCs at time of elections. With citizenship verification process in Rakhine state deadlocked over govt insistence that Muslims identify as “Bengali”, seen as unlikely that new identity documents will be issued to Rohingya, raising prospect of further confrontation in coming months in Rakhine.
Prospective Constituent Assembly vote on draft constitution, pushed for by ruling parties following failure of political parties to meet 22 Jan deadline for reaching consensus, postponed indefinitely mid-month to allow resumption of negotiations; United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M) leader Baburam Bhattarai late month said talks will resume following scheduled 28 Feb opposition demonstrations. Govt 10 Feb set up committees to investigate alleged human rights abuses and disappearances during civil war era; Supreme Court 27 Feb rejected amnesty provision in April 2014 bill offering possible amnesty for human rights offenders.
Uneven progress in implementing new counter-terrorism “National Action Plan”, adopted following deadly Dec attack on Peshawar school; army 13 Feb said nine militants arrested out of 27 linked to attack. Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT, also known as Jamaat-ud-Dawa) 5 Feb held rallies in several major cities after interior ministry official late Jan admitted neither LeT nor Haqqani Network added to list of banned terrorist organisations, contradicting earlier official claims. Punjab home minister 15 Feb said forty terrorism cases referred to military courts since Jan empowerment of courts to try civilian suspects under 21st constitutional amendment and Pakistan Army Act (amendment) bill; President Hussain 12 Feb extended latter to cover Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), allowing military courts to try terrorism suspects there. Pakistan Bar Council and Supreme Court Bar Association 9 Feb jointly challenged 21st amendment in Supreme Court: said it was passed under military pressure, undermines fundamental rights and judicial independence. Sectarian attacks and other militant violence continued: 22 killed in attack on Shiite mosque in Peshawar 13 Feb, another three killed in attack on mosque in Rawalpindi 18 Feb; paramilitary forces 15 Feb reportedly killed commander of Sunni group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), accused of masterminding deadly late Jan bombing of Shiite mosque in Sindh; several members of Sunni extremist group Sipah-e-Sahaba (also known as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat) killed in targeted attacks, including three in Karachi 1 Feb; eight killed in suicide attack near Lahore police HQ 17 Feb. Military operation continued in NW: army claimed at least 25 militants killed 4 Feb. Fifteen separatist militants, one soldier reported killed in Balochistan province 10 Feb.
House of Representatives ad hoc committee on Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) 9 Feb said it would suspend hearings on BBL “indefinitely” pending House probe into 25 Jan deadly clash between police commandos and rebels; means BBL will not pass by previous March 2015 deadline, ahead of congress break in May. Committee chair joined calls for MILF to surrender its members who participated in attack on police; MILF says it disciplines its own fighters in line with 2014 ceasefire agreement, 18 Feb turned over sixteen firearms taken from police commandos. MILF chief negotiator 10 Feb said suspension “bad sign” but respected decision, would not resort to violence. Thousands of people in Mindanao took part in rallies 10 Feb calling on Congress to reconsider suspension of hearings on BBL, calling for BBL to be passed without further delay. MILF 16 Feb asked Congress to pass proposed BBL “with no changes”; 18 Feb said it could accept a diluted BBL, but that this would not address problems in Mindanao. MILF launched operation against breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in North Cotabato province 5 Feb; thousands of civilians fled in subsequent clashes in N Cotabato and Maguindanao; BIFF 18 Feb threatened to target provincial capital. BIFF 20 Feb reiterated call for establishment of Islamic state, rejection of BBL. Military 20 Feb launched operation against BIFF in N Cotabato; also engaged in operation against Abu Sayyaf group late month, with 24 militants, two soldiers reported killed.
Regional countries continued to express concerns over Chinese land reclamation in SCS. New satellite imagery from IHS Jane’s came to light 15 Feb showing large increase in size of Chinese construction at Hughes Reef in contested Spratly Islands; Chinese land reclamation efforts also continue at Fiery Cross Reef, Gaven Reefs and Johnson South Reef. Philippines filed formal protest to Chinese embassy 4 Feb accusing Chinese vessel of ramming three Philippine fishing boats in area of Scarborough Shoal in SCS 29 Jan; Chinese Foreign Ministry said fishing boats were illegally lingering. Philippines also accused China of land reclamation activities on Mischief Reef in Spratly Islands. Philippines continues to try and shore up regional support for its position in international arbitration case against China; Supreme Court judge delivered lecture in Kuala Lumpur 15 Feb on invalidity of China’s SCS claims.
Month saw new coalition govt make some progress on promised reform although at slower pace and with less public consultation than expected by many supporters: critics pointed to lack of concrete anti-corruption measures, including arrests of former officials; Tamils criticised continued army occupation of land in north and east, failure to release detainees held for years without charges. UN HRC 16 Feb approved six-month deferral of OHCHR report on alleged war crimes during civil war; govt promised to establish domestic accountability mechanism with consultation and support from OHCHR, agreement on details pending. Postponement of OHCHR report criticised by many, especially Tamil groups, who held large demonstrations in north and east. Northern provincial council 10 Feb passed resolution requesting UN investigation of alleged genocide against Tamils. Parliament 20 Feb approved long-promised victims and witness protection bill; text appeared largely unchanged from draft proposed by ex-President Rajapaksa’s govt. Supporters of Rajapaksa 18 Feb held major rally in Colombo calling on Rajapaksa to stand as PM candidate for former ruling coalition, United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), in general elections expected in June; rally joined by Buddhist militant group Bodu Bala Sena.
Military government facing greater international opprobrium and domestic dissent than since immediate aftermath of May 2014 coup. Speaking to media during visit to Japan early Feb, PM Prayuth repeatedly mentioned govt’s intention to hold elections early 2016, but declined to rule out further coups, stating “Thailand is different from other countries. If something cannot be solved, the military will solve it”. U.S. State Dept expressed “significant concerns” about Prayuth’s statement. EU delegation 13 Feb issued statement expressing concern over continuing imposition of martial law and plans to expand military judicial authority over civilians. China continued expressions of support for junta, with President Xi’s special envoy and defence minister both visiting Prayuth during month, agreement to strengthen military ties. Tensions rising following retroactive impeachment of former PM Yingluck. Public prosecutor filed criminal charges against Yingluck 19 Feb; also faces civil suit for failure to curb alleged corruption in her govt’s rice-subsidy scheme. National Anti-Corruption Commission 24 Feb indicted 250 former lawmakers for their role passing amendment to 2007 constitution providing for fully elected senate; they face five-year ban from politics. Several protests by regime critics; four organisers of 14 Feb protest in Bangkok commemorating Feb 2014 general election detained and charged with violating a ban on political gatherings. Multiple bombing in Narathiwat town 20 Feb in which several people injured marked return to car bombings in urban areas by insurgents in southernmost provinces. Several Malay-Muslims shot dead in separate attacks in Yala and Narathiwat.
Media 3 Feb reported Russian soldier accused of killing seven 12 Jan to be tried at Russian military base in Gyumri, Armenia; Armenian authorities 3 Feb reportedly called for soldier to be transferred to Armenian custody. Opposition Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) 23 Feb staged parliament walkout in protest at perceived govt crackdown on leader Gagik Tsarukian, who President Sargsyan early Feb called “evil” and said must be excluded from political process. Police 16 Feb said 200 officers hired to provide security for Tsarukian dismissed; BHK same day said several members imprisoned. Sargsyan 16 Feb said he has recalled parliament protocols on normalisation of ties with Turkey following years of strain, said Turkey’s govt has “no political will, distorts the spirit and letter of the protocols”.
Sides continued to trade accusations of ceasefire violations. Azerbaijan authorities 6 Feb said soldier killed in shootout with Armenian troops near N-K 5 Feb. Talks on conflict held 16 Feb in Baku: Azerbaijani FM Elmar Mammadyarov said Azerbaijan ready to start negotiations to prepare draft peace agreement on N-K; Iran FM said Iran ready to play mediation role.
President Aliyev 3 Feb signed law facilitating media shutdowns. New charges brought against journalist Khadija Ismayilova, jailed since 5 Dec, including embezzlement, abuse of power, tax evasion and illegal entrepreneurship: court 23 Feb found Ismayilova guilty of libel, ordered fine. Court 5 Feb sentenced two men accused of spying for Iran to thirteen, fourteen years’ prison. Court 18 Feb extended pretrial detention of rights activist Leyla Yunus by five months to 28 July; 23 Feb extended detention of husband Arif Yunus by additional five months. Rights activist Emin Huseynov 11 Feb reportedly took refuge at Swiss embassy, said victim of political persecution. EU SR for human rights visited Baku 23 Feb. Central Bank 21 Feb devalued currency sparking fears of inflation.
Parliament 23 Feb adopted declaration pledging support for EU integration, paving way for EU to active country’s Stabilisation and Association Agreement. Ruling coalition parties agreed on new govt 22 Feb, day before visit of EU foreign policy chief Mogherini. House of Peoples 16 Feb elected new speaker Barisa Colak from Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and Serb and Bosniak deputy speakers. Talks continued on formation of Federation entity govt, with party leaders 25 Feb again failing to agree on distribution of ministerial positions.
Tensions remain high over Turkish warships, hydrocarbon drilling in east Mediterranean. Republic of Cyprus President Anastasiades 3 Feb said he could not restart suspended reunification negotiations while “war ships were at sea”, referring to Turkey’s Oct warship deployment to shadow offshore rig off Republic of Cyprus’ SE coast. Turkey’s EU Minister 12 Feb said Turkey ready to withdraw vessel if Greek Cypriots agree natural gas belongs to both Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities.
First Deputy Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri appointed interior minister 2 Feb following Jan resignation of Aleksandr Chikaidze citing accusations he covered up deaths of two men in 2006; three former Interior Ministry officials including former Deputy Minister Irakli Pirtskhalva also arrested in connection with 2006 killings. Police officer arrested 7 Feb, charged with 20 Jan murder of father of one of men killed in 2006. Prosecutor General 17 Feb called for former President Saakashvili, wanted on charges of fraud, assault and abuse of office, to be extradited from Ukraine following appointment to lead Ukrainian reform Advisory Council. Russian media 5 Feb highlighted role of ethnic Chechens living in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge in recruitment to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL) militant group. Russian President Putin 4 Feb signed law ratifying “strategic partnership” with breakaway region Abkhazia; Russian FM Lavrov 18 Feb signed “border agreement” with separatist South Ossetia region, agreement condemned by Georgian govt.