CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.
United Arab Emirates
Our monthly conflict tracker warns of two conflict risks in February.
CrisisWatch also highlights deteriorations in 13 countries and conflict situations in January.
Aside from the 70+ conflict situations we regularly assess, we track in January notable developments in Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Senegal, the United Arab Emirates and U.S.-Russia relations.
Our CrisisWatch Digests for Ethiopia, Lebanon and Somalia offer a monthly one-page snapshot of conflict-related country trends in a clear, accessible format, using a map of the region to pinpoint developments:
View the January 2022 CrisisWatch Digest on Ethiopia here.
View the January 2022 CrisisWatch Digest on Lebanon here.
View the January 2022 CrisisWatch Digest on Somalia here.
New IED attack targeted military near border with Burkina Faso. Army vehicle 6 Jan struck explosive device likely planted by al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) militants in Tanguiéta commune, north-western Atakora department; two soldiers killed. Military Chief of Staff Patrick Aho 21 Jan lamented “deleterious” security situation, said series of jihadist attacks since late Nov augurs “challenging year ahead”.
Soldiers toppled President Kaboré in military coup amid growing public anger at govt’s inability to stem widespread violence. Hundreds 22 Jan protested notably in capital Ouagadougou to denounce insecurity and call on Kaboré to resign, defying gathering ban and erecting barricades; security forces responded with tear gas. Soldiers next day staged mutinies at several army barracks in Ouagadougou, Kaya city and elsewhere, and overnight 23-24 Jan attacked Kaboré’s residence. Soldiers under leadership of Third Military Region Commander Lt Col Henri-Paul Sandaogo Damiba 24 Jan declared military junta now in charge; also announced suspension of constitution, dissolution of parliament and govt. Hundreds next day celebrated Kaboré’s ouster notably in Ouagadougou. West Africa’s regional bloc ECOWAS 28 Jan suspended country from its governing bodies but stopped short of imposing sanctions, and African Union 31 Jan suspended country until constitutional order is restored. Military junta same day claimed it had restored constitution and appointed Damiba as interim head of state. Earlier in month, authorities 11 Jan said they had arrested Lt Col Emmanuel Zoungrana, leader of 12th Commando Regiment, alongside seven soldiers over alleged coup attempt. Meanwhile in Sahel region (north), suspected jihadists 11 Jan killed at least six soldiers in complex attack in Oudalan province. Clashes between al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) 2 Jan left at least nine dead (mainly ISGS) in Oudalan. Burkinabé and French forces 15-23 Jan reportedly killed around 60 suspected jihadists in country’s north. In Centre-North region, suspected jihadists 1-2 Jan killed four volunteers fighting alongside security forces (VDPs) in Namentenga province; 5 Jan killed 11 civilians in Sanmatenga province’s Pensa department. In East region, VDPs and Koglweogo community defence militia 21-23 Jan confronted suspected jihadists in Komondjari province; around 25 reportedly killed on all sides. In Cascades region (south west), JNIM 2 Jan killed two VDPs in Comoé province; military and VDPs same day dismantled presumed JNIM base in same area killing ten. In Boucle du Mouhoun region (west), suspected JNIM 1 Jan killed one soldier in Sourou province; army killed at least 29 militants in response.
Insecurity persisted across country, armed forces and ruling party youth wing reportedly clashed with RED-Tabara rebel group in eastern DRC, and authorities continued to mend ties with neighbours. President Ndayishimiye 1 Jan held public forum during which he reiterated anger at country’s judiciary, threatened to fire public servants, notably magistrates, and said mining and energy sectors’ lack of professionalism explains country’s low ranking in economic indexes; Ndayishimiye also rehabilitated local elected officials previously accused of corruption and acknowledged torture cases at hands of intelligence services. Insecurity persisted across country with six incidents involving ruling party youth wing Imbonerakure alongside intelligence and security officials reported 1-13 Jan; notably, Imbonerakure 9 Jan beat to death suspected thief on Musugi hill (Kanyosha commune, Bujumbura Rural province). Macabre discoveries in Cibitoke province and beyond in Makamba and Rumonge provinces (south west) continued: locals of Makamba’s Mabanda commune 5 Jan found the body of unidentified young man, while local administration ordered his burial before identification. Tensions late-Dec-early Jan rose as DR Congo (DRC)-based Burundian rebel group RED-Tabara along with local Mai Mai militia 2, 6 Jan clashed with Burundian armed forces and Imbonerakure in DRC’s South Kivu province; Burundian govt around 7 Jan denied army presence in DRC while media reports alleged dozens of soldiers injured and some killed during incidents. Meanwhile, Rwanda and Burundi pursued reconciliation efforts. Rwandan president 10 Jan received Burundian delegation led by Foreign Minister Ezekiel Nigibira to strengthen bilateral relations and prepare ground for meeting between two presidents. Authorities 12 Jan also received Ugandan defence minister to discuss regional security and 16 Jan signed Memorandum of Understanding for $900mn deal on railway construction with Tanzania.
Violence in Anglophone regions continued amid Africa Cup of Nations tournament; jihadists attacked govt positions in Far North. Clashes between army and security militias continued, albeit at lower levels, in Anglophone North West (NW) and South West (SW) regions. Despite Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament during month, notably in Anglophone towns of Limbe and Buea, separatists continued attacks, including 5 Jan launched IED in Limbe, wounding three civilians. Dozen armed men 12 Jan also attacked neighbourhoods in Buea town: IED at police checkpoint near stadium hosting AFCON’s training wounded three policemen, crossfire during army retaliation subsequently killed three civilians. Separatists 8 Jan detonated IED and attacked patrol in Bafut town (NW), wounding five soldiers. In regional capital Bamenda (NW), unidentified gunman 11 Jan shot dead Senator Henry Kemende, opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF) leader and Anglophone minority advocate in parliament. Also in Bamenda, separatist same day shot dead two people in failed kidnapping attempts. In SW, separatists 19 Jan killed at least one soldier in Muyuka town; 14 Jan abducted eight workers in Tiko town. Separatists 25 Jan crossed over into francophone West region, attacking soldiers in Galim town, Bamboutos division, killing at least one. In Far North, ethnic clashes 10 Jan flared up in Kousseri town, Logone-et-Chari division, after army in Dec arrested member of Choa community, which reportedly provoked riots that left at least two soldiers and one civilian killed. Jihadi militants continued to carry out attacks, notably 12 Jan on army’s position, killing one in Talakachi town, Mayo-Moskota division. Militants same day killed two civilians near Nigeria border in Mozogo town, Mayo Tsanaga division. Cameroon army 10 Jan killed two Boko Haram fighters in Mayo Moskota; 28 Jan killed four Boko Haram fighters who had attacked military post near Tourou locality, Mayo Tsanaga.
Govt forces and Russian allies continued to clash with rebel groups, tensions over surrenders of UPC rebel group rose, and Russia renewed diplomatic engagement. Russian Wagner group, currently overstretched with over 2,000 personnel, relied more and more on national armed forces and anti-balaka fighters during month; group continued to carry out attacks, notably 6 Jan on mining site in Bambari reportedly killing at least 17 people, including civilians, in Pandé area (west); follows visit from Wagner heads to CAR in late Dec reportedly concluding need to strengthen presence around mining sites instead of military engagements across country. In Ouaka prefecture (centre), internal division within rebel Union for Peace in CAR (UPC) leadership 6 Jan prompted 100 combatants to surrender to military forces; fighters now held by Wagner Group in Bambari base. Soldiers 15 Jan killed former UPC officer who had surrendered. In Ouham-Pendé prefecture (north west), national armed forces by local militias reportedly committed serious abuses on Fulani civilians, notably 9 Jan killed one in Bozoum town. Meanwhile, rebel group Retour, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R) stepped up use of landmines, posing serious threat to civilians and UN forces and hampering humanitarian assistance delivery. Fighting also reported in Haute-Kotto on Bria-Ndélé axis, where Russian paramilitaries and armed forces joined operation against UPC rebels, killing at least 13 civilians 16-17 Jan; UN mission MINUSCA subsequently launched enquiry. Meanwhile, Russia appeared to adjust strategy through 10 Jan appointment of Alexander Bikantov as new ambassador after six-month gap; former Russian Ambassador Vladimir Titorenko, who had left CAR in July 2021, was openly supportive of Touadéra and vocal on social media against political opposition and rebel leaders. National dialogue and regional roadmap announced by Touadéra in March 2021 still at standstill. Luanda roadmap adopted during Sept 2021 Great Lakes summit not implemented yet as govt forces and armed groups continue to violate unilateral ceasefire decided by Touadéra in mid Oct; Angolan and Rwandan diplomats 14 Jan met president to explore possible ways forward to support roadmap.
Transitional authorities made progress ahead of May national dialogue; banditry and intercommunal tensions ran high in east. President of Transitional Military Council (CMT) Mahamat Idriss Déby lifted some obstacles to allow rebels’ participation in dialogue. Notably, authorities 18 Jan released 22 former armed group combatants detained at N’Djaména central prison; move followed two amnesty laws enacted 31 Dec covering over 300 rebels and political dissidents charged with “wrongful beliefs”, “terrorism” and/or “harming the integrity of the State”. Chadian delegation mid-Jan travelled to Qatar’s capital Doha to discuss Feb pre-dialogue with armed groups – initially planned late Jan in Qatar, later rescheduled to 27 Feb. Representatives of “politico-military” movements 21 Jan met in Italy’s capital Roma, at invitation of Sant’Egidio community, for dialogue consultation; representatives reiterated their will “to contribute to the solution of the Chadian crisis”. After Déby’s declaration late Dec that dialogue conclusions will be binding and draft constitution will be endorsed by referendum, five opposition parties and civil society groups 7 Jan welcomed announcement, but requested formal written commitment. Opposition party Les Transformateurs next day held major meeting in capital N’Djamena, while group of 14 opposition parties and high-ranking officials created new coalition, Convergences des Organisations Politiques. Meanwhile, banditry activities and intercommunal tensions increased in east, notably in Sila province, on border with Sudan’s Darfur. Unidentified gunmen 1 Jan attacked two people in Abdi town; four gunmen 11 Jan assaulted man prompting clashes with security forces, one assailant killed. In Hadjer Beyda village, local administration 12 Jan conducted mediation mission after land disputes escalated. Déby 14 Jan expressed concerns about Sudan’s situation as “it could have repercussions on us”. Also in east, in Abéché city in Ouaddaï region, security forces 24-25 Jan suppressed demonstration against 29 Jan inauguration of district head (chef de canton), reportedly leaving at least 11 dead and more than 80 injured; four ministers subsequently travelled to Abéché to appease tensions and territorial administration minister 26 Jan suspended contested local leader and Dar Ouaddaï sultan. In Lake Chad region (west), over a thousand 13 Jan fled Massakani village and sought shelter in new internally displaced persons site.
Authorities blamed opposition for 2020 electoral violence, casting potential shadow over reconciliation process; relations soured with Mali. Tensions ran high after Special Unit tasked with investigating violence around 2020 presidential election late Dec accused opposition leaders, including former President Bédié and former PM Pascal Affi N’Guessan, of instigating violence that left 85 people killed; unit under leadership of Abidjan Prosecutor Richard Adou also warned that “those who coordinated and funded the civil disobedience [campaign] could be prosecuted”. In response, Bédié’s Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) and former President Gbagbo’s African People’s Party-Côte d’Ivoire (PPA-CI) 5 Jan held joint press conference, argued govt had “little interest in national reconciliation”; Affi N’Guessan did not comment. Presidential party next day said “justice and reconciliation are not incongruent” and highlighted ongoing political dialogue was not designed to “grant immunity from prosecution to opposition leaders”. As part of political dialogue process, govt and opposition 20 Jan agreed to discuss five priority issues starting 27 Jan: revamp of Independent Electoral Commission, appeasement measures to ease political tensions, revision of electoral register, review of electoral code and national reconciliation. In context of much-needed cooperation against jihadist insurgencies, ties unravelled with neighbouring Mali. After Mali’s junta 1 Jan announced five-year transition, President Ouattara emerged as prominent advocate of West African regional bloc ECOWAS’ hardline posture vis-à-vis coup leaders. In response, Bamako 10 Jan released Ivorian politician Sess Soukou Mohamed aka Ben Souk; Ben Souk, who is close to former PM Guillaume Soro, had been imprisoned in Mali since Aug 2021 on basis of international arrest warrant accusing him of “undermining state security”.
Ugandan and Congolese armies continued joint operations against ADF jihadist group in east, while influential National Assembly VP announced his resignation after security incident. Uganda army and Congolese counterparts continued joint operations against Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in North Kivu (NK)’s Beni territory amid ADF extension beyond Beni area. Ugandan and Congolese military leaders 15 Jan met in Beni area to discuss new operational axes against ADF and ways to secure construction projects, including Kasindi-Beni-Butembo-Goma roadworks. Armies 11 Jan jointly arrested ADF small faction leader Benjamin Kisokeranio in Uvira city (South Kivu). Govt 14 Jan extended state of siege in Ituri and NK provinces; protest against state of siege 24 Jan turned violent in Beni city and left one dead. In Ituri, armed group continued violent attacks. Notably, presumed ADF 4 Jan killed 17 in Irumu territory’s Idobu forest. Also in Irumu, Patriotic and Integrationist Force of Congo (FPIC) 15 Jan raided church leaving 11 dead and dozens injured. Cooperative for the Development of Congo militia 14 Jan stepped up attacks in Djugu and Mahagi territories and killed nine. In NK, ADF 5 Jan killed two on Mbau-Beni axis; 12 Jan looted health centre in Watalinga chiefdom and same day reportedly killed seven in Kisima-Vutotholya. In NK, March 23 rebel group late Jan launched several deadly attacks; notably group 23 Jan attacked army in Nyesisi village, Rutshuru territory, reportedly leaving tens of military killed. In largest cities like Goma, criminality ran high leaving mid-Jan three killed, notably well-known musician Black Balume. On political front, National Assembly’s influential VP and President Tshisekedi’s ally Jean-Marc Kabund 14 Jan announced resignation over “bullying, humiliation and torture” showing emerging political fault lines and potentially spelling uncertainty for ruling Sacred Union coalition; move followed clash between Kabund’s security officer and Republican Guard tasked to protect Tshisekedi as guards reportedly ransacked Kabund’s residence 12 Jan. Sacred Union members and Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) deputies 17-18 Jan dissociated themselves from Kabund, called for resignation and reaffirmed Tshisekedi as sole authority; UDPS National Disciplinary Commission 29 Jan removed Kabund from party’s interim presidency and struck him off permanently.
Alleged Eritrean attacks in Tigray region drew renewed scrutiny on country’s sustained role in Ethiopia’s civil war. Tigray govt 9 Jan said Eritrean military previous day launched “fresh attacks” on Tigray forces near Sheraro town in north-western Tigray. In rare interview to state media, President Isaias Afwerki 8 Jan used bellicose rhetoric saying his troops would strive to prevent Tigray forces from attacking his country; also said unexpected withdrawal of Ethiopian federal forces from Tigray in June 2021 was “tactical setback”.
Despite lull in large-scale fighting since late Dec, airstrikes and skirmishes continued notably in western Tigray. Fighting near Abala town along Tigray-Afar border continued to block only available route for humanitarian supplies to Tigray region; aid trucks unable to enter Tigray since 14 Dec. Medical staff at Tigray’s largest hospital 5 Jan attributed 117 deaths at facility to insufficient medical supplies, without providing dates, while UN World Food Programme 14 Jan warned aid operations “about to grind to a halt” as vital supplies running out. UN human rights office same day said airstrikes allegedly carried out by Ethiopian air force in Tigray region had killed at least 108 civilians and injured another 75 since 1 Jan, said attacks could amount to war crimes. Notably, airstrike on camp for internally displaced people in Tigray’s Dedebit area 8 Jan killed over 50 people. In phone call with PM Abiy, U.S. President Biden 10 Jan raised concerns about airstrikes, civilian deaths and detentions under state of emergency. Federal govt 26 Jan decided to lift months-long state of emergency citing improving security situation. Meanwhile, govt 7 Jan said it would open dialogue with political opposition and released six former Tigray People Liberation Front leaders, notably founding member Sebhat Nega; also released Oromo Federalist Congress leaders Jawar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba, and journalist and opposition leader Eskinder Nega. UN Sec-Gen Guterres same day lauded “significant confidence-building step”. Security forces intensified offensive against Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) in Oromia region, with fighting early to mid-Jan expanding to West and East Hararghe Zones, Jimma Zone, Kellem Wollega Zone and all zones of Shewa surrounding capital Addis Ababa; OLA also reported aerial attacks in East Wollega Zone. Clashes late-Jan intensified in West Gujji Zone, with OLA forces reportedly taking control of Torre and Shamole towns. State media 7 Jan said Jaal Odaa Qabsoo, leader of OLA Eastern Command, captured in Harar city. Abdulwahab Mahdi, former leader of rebel group Benishangul-Gumuz People’s Liberation Movement, 5 Jan escaped from prison in Asosa city; regional officials said he might have crossed into Sudan.
Amid concerns over slow transition and junta’s interference in judicial sphere, military set up legislative council in charge of defining timetable for elections. Junta late Dec-early Jan dismissed and replaced Justice Minister Fatoumata Yarie Soumah after she criticised junta’s intrusion into judiciary and disagreed with Presidency’s Sec Gen Col Amara Camara over her department’s inner workings. Over 120 opposition parties 3 Jan formed new coalition Collectif des Partis Politiques around main opposition party Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea with view to proposing electoral schedule. Following consultations between govt and political party leaders 11 Jan, junta 22 Jan set up 81-member National Transitional Council (CNT) to serve as legislative body; CNT includes number of civil society representatives, 15 political party representatives and nine security forces representatives, with prominent civil society activist and election expert Dansa Kourouma appointed CNT president. Interim President Doumbouya 24 Jan dismissed nine senior public officials, accusing them of embezzlement of public funds and forgery, including Head of National Anti-Corruption Agency Sékou Mohamed Sylla. Meanwhile, West Africa’s regional bloc ECOWAS 9 Jan maintained sanction regime against junta, including travel ban and asset freeze, regretted transition’s “slow progress” and “absence of electoral calendar”. Junta next day refused to enforce new ECOWAS sanctions on Malian junta citing “pan-Africanist vision”. Following late Dec request, deposed President Condé 17 Jan flew to United Arab Emirates for medical reasons.
Amid longstanding intercommunal tensions, spate of deadly attacks in Lamu county signalled risks of escalating violence in area in lead-up to August polls. Unidentified assailants 1-9 Jan killed at least 14 people in Lamu county (south east near Somalia border), including six in Widho village near Mpeketoni town 2-3 Jan. Govt blamed al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab for violence, but locals said killings related to hostility between Kikuyu and Swahili communities, with political race for governor seat in Lamu reportedly worsening longstanding intercommunal tensions over land. Suspected Al-Shabaab gunmen 26 Jan ambushed and injured five court officials in Lango la Simba area, also in Lamu. In neighbouring Garissa county, suspected Al-Shabaab militants 10 Jan ambushed and killed four police officers on Liboi-Kulan axis; police 17 Jan killed 15 suspected Al-Shabaab militants in Boni forest. Minibus 31 Jan ran over explosive device in Mandera county (north east near Somalia border), leaving at least 13 dead; police blamed Al-Shabaab. French embassy in Nairobi 27 Jan warned of risk of impending terrorist attack targeting foreigners in capital; police subsequently scaled up security. After Meru county Senator Mithika Linturi 8 Jan called to “remove” opponents of presidential hopeful Deputy President William Ruto during rally in Eldoret town, Rift Valley region, authorities next day detained him arguing divisive rhetoric could ignite electoral violence. In boon for President Kenyatta and his preferred successor, Orange Democratic Movement’s Raila Odinga, National Assembly 5 Jan and Senate 26 Jan passed controversial bill changing way political parties can field candidates; bill’s opponents, notably Ruto, argue bill will allow Odinga, who is currently struggling to form coalition, to push for one close to polls. Electoral commission 17 Jan started second voter registration drive, after first round in Oct-Nov registered 1.5mn new voters, far from 6mn target.
Regional bloc ECOWAS imposed new economic sanctions after interim authorities announced five-year transition; Russian mercenaries reportedly deployed across country. Interim authorities 1 Jan presented five-year transition timeline to West Africa’s regional bloc ECOWAS; revised timeline includes constitutional referendum in Jan 2024, legislative elections in Nov 2025 and presidential elections by Dec 2026. Coalition of 100 political parties and 60 civil society groups next day condemned “attempt to confiscate power by force and trickery” and called on military to respect Sept 2020 transition charter. ECOWAS 9 Jan imposed sweeping economic sanctions and announced closure of borders between ECOWAS member states and Mali. China and Russia 11 Jan at UN Security Council blocked French-drafted statement endorsing sanctions. Tens of thousands 14 Jan protested across country in support of junta, chanting anti-ECOWAS and anti-French slogans. On state TV, PM Choguel Maïga next day strongly condemned sanctions but stressed authorities keen to pursue dialogue with ECOWAS. Junta 26 Jan called on Denmark to immediately withdraw its troops from European Task Force Takuba, saying country lacked permission to deploy its 90 soldiers; Denmark next day denied claim but confirmed it would pull out troops. After French FM Le Drian 28 Jan said junta was “out of control”, Bamako 31 Jan gave French ambassador 72 hours to leave country. Meanwhile, reports of deployment of operatives from Russian private military company Wagner Group kept emerging. French newspaper Le Monde 6 Jan and head of U.S. Africa Command Gen Stephen Townsend 20 Jan alleged presence, notably in central regions, of hundreds of Russian mercenaries. Violence continued in Mopti region (centre), where clashes between army, reportedly joined by Wagner operatives, and al-Qaeda-linked Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims-affiliated Katiba Macina 3 Jan reportedly left several militants and soldiers killed and one Wagner element injured in Bandiagara area. Mortar attack 22 Jan killed French soldier in Gao region (north east). Soldiers faced accusations of exactions in southern Koulikoro region’s Nara district, including killing between 18 and 31 ethnic Fulani and Soninke civilians in Boudjiguire village 31 Dec and another two people in neighbouring Guiré village 3 Jan.
Islamist militants retained offensive capacity in Cabo Delgado province in far north, notably launching series of attacks in Meluco, Macomia and Nangade districts. Series of attacks, some claimed by Islamic State (ISIS), marked first sustained offensive in Meluco district since start of Cabo Delgado conflict, with a dozen incidents recorded in Jan. Notably, militants 2 and 4 Jan targeted two villages located on N380 road between Macomia and Pemba cities; 15 Jan struck Mitepo village, advancing toward district capital; and 27-28 Jan killed 15 people in Mitambo, Iba and Muaguide villages. Militants also struck villages located on N380 road in Macomia district: repeated raids on Nova Zambezia village killed a dozen people throughout month; militants 4 Jan attacked nearby Nova Vida village, and 6 Jan killed two in Nashi Bandi village. Simultaneous campaign in Meluco and Macomia showed insurgents’ capacity to bracket Macomia on both sides of major axis that connects city to both Mueda and Pemba. Violence also peaked in Nangade district in north-western Cabo Delgado, with attacks in eight villages leaving at least 20 civilians killed 7-23 Jan; notably, militants 15 and 23 Jan attacked Limualamuala village, less than 10km from Nangade town, killing nine civilians and prompting other to flee. Militant attack on Alberto Chipande (known locally as Nachipande) village in northern Mueda district 8 Jan killed two, including at least one local militia member; ISIS claimed attack. Rwandan and Mozambican forces 29 Jan killed two militants, including suspected leader of 2020 offensive on Mocímboa da Praia, Tanzanian national Tuahil Muhidim, in operation in Mocímboa da Praia district. Rwanda and Mozambique 10 Jan agreed to expand security forces co-operation against militants in Cabo Delgado, paving way to extension of Rwandan troops’ stay. Southern African Development Community heads of state 12 Jan agreed to extend Standby Force Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) deployment in Cabo Delgado, but gave no detail on envisaged timeframe; three to six-month period allegedly envisaged, contingent on available funding.
Violence persisted mainly in south west but also south east, and corruption scandal re-emerged weakening President Bazoum. In Tillabery region (south west), Al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) launched several attacks on security forces: gendarmerie vehicle 7 Jan hit explosive device likely planted by JNIM militants on Torodi-Makalondi axis (Torodi department), leaving at least three gendarmes killed; JNIM 15 Jan stormed mixed position of National Guard, customs and forest guards in Torodi department, killing one national guard. Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) also staged several attacks in south west, notably ambushing National Guard convoy between Sanam village in Tillabery and Tebaram village in neighbouring Tahoua region 3 Jan; five national guards killed. Spate of kidnappings continued in Diffa region (south east). Suspected Boko Haram Bakura faction or Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) combatants 3 Jan abducted three women in Gorodi village (Diffa department); all three next day escaped as air force conducted strikes on militants’ hideout. Suspected Bakura faction 5 Jan also kidnapped seven women and girls in Klakamana village (N’Guigmi department). Also in Diffa region, security forces 29 Jan reportedly repelled ISWAP attack on Chetima Wangou military camp, killing ten militants. In first major drug interception in Niger, police 2 Jan seized 214kg of cocaine – worth around $9mn – in local official’s vehicle at Tourayyat checkpoint in Agadez region (north). After legal document late Dec revealed govt had refused to bring civil action against those accused of having embezzled over FCFA12bn ($20mn) of defence ministry’s funds, president’s office 6 Jan insisted settlement allowed state to recover full amount and reaffirmed authenticity of Bazoum’s commitment to combat corruption; statement comes after Moussa Tchangari, sec gen of NGO Alternative Espaces Citoyens, 29 Dec said govt feared inquiry would reveal senior administration officials or prominent politicians’ involvement.
Authorities intensified air strikes on armed groups notably in Zamfara state, as criminal violence across North West and in North Central zone killed hundreds. Military stepped up air and ground operations against armed groups in North West, notably killing over 100 suspected bandits including two of their leaders in air strikes in Gusami forest and West Tsamre village, Zamfara state, 3 Jan. Bold armed group attacks meanwhile killed hundreds across region. In Zamfara, gunmen allegedly fleeing govt airstrikes around 9 Jan killed between 58 and 200 people mainly in Bukkuyum and Anka areas; over 10,000 displaced. In Kebbi state, armed group 14 Jan attacked Dankade village in Danko Wasagu area; at least 16 and up to 50 killed. Niger state authorities 18 Jan said armed groups 1-17 Jan killed 220 people and kidnapped another 200 across Niger state; another 31 including 11 security agents reportedly killed 29 Jan in Niger’s Shiroro area. Criminal violence also spread further to North Central zone. Notably, in Taraba state, gunmen 2 and 12 Jan killed 30 vigilantes and six other people in Gassol area. Federal govt 5 Jan designated armed groups in North West as “terrorists”, clearing way to apply fuller range of weaponry against them. In north-eastern Borno state, military operations deterred large-scale jihadist attacks, but state authorities 12 Jan said Guzamala and Abadam areas fully under Boko Haram or Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) control. ISWAP 10 Jan reportedly killed ten soldiers in Buratai village in Biu area. As skirmishes between security forces and separatist group Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)’s armed wing continued in South East, Imo state residents 5 Jan accused security forces of killing 25 civilians in operation starting 30 Dec. President Buhari 5 Jan said he would not seek negotiated settlement to IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu’s legal case; closure of political option could fuel more violence. Meanwhile, herder-farmer violence persisted at low level, notably killing eight in Ondo state 3-11 Jan. Ethnic violence between Fulani and Irigwe groups flared in Plateau state, leaving 20 dead in Bassa area 2 and 13 Jan.
Deadly clashes broke out between Casamance separatists and soldiers in neighbouring Gambia. Suspected members of separatist Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance 24 Jan killed four Senegalese soldiers from West Africa’s regional bloc ECOWAS Mission in The Gambia and took another seven hostage during clash near Bwiam town in Gambia; soldiers killed one suspected rebel and captured another three.
As long-delayed electoral process inched forward, tensions ran high in Puntland and Hirshabelle states, and deadly Al-Shabaab attacks continued. PM Roble 9 Jan struck deal with state leaders to complete long-delayed Lower House elections by 25 Feb; further slippage likely, however, as only a quarter of seats selected by late Jan. Leaders same day also re-committed to addressing political interference in elections, signalling little meaningful effort to counter ongoing manipulation. PM Roble pursued efforts to gain upper hand in power struggle with President Farmajo: Internal Security Minister and Roble ally Abdullahi Mohamed Nur 1 Jan ordered intelligence agency acting head and Farmajo ally Yasin Abdullahi Farey to withdraw officers from Mogadishu Airport; Roble 23 Jan reversed controversial Farmajo decision to designate Ogaden National Liberation Front (nationalist movement seeking self-determination for ethnic Somalis in Ethiopia) as terrorist organisation. Amid standoff between Puntland state President Deni and former Puntland Security Forces Commander Mohamoud Osman Diyano, violence continued in Puntland’s Bosasso city: two grenades 16 Jan exploded, killing one, and bomb blast 26 Jan killed one and injured another two. In Hirshabelle state, fighting 30 Dec-2 Jan erupted in Hiraan region’s capital Beledweyne between forces loyal to Hiraan Governor Ali Jeyte and Hirshabelle President Guudlaawe on one hand, and local militia on the other, reportedly leaving eight killed. Federal security forces 26 Jan deployed to city following fruitless efforts to reach accommodation; Roble stated he did not authorise operation, raising doubts over military discipline. Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab continued to extend territorial reach. Group early Jan advanced on Balcad-Jowhar road in Middle Shabelle region (Hirshabelle state) and temporarily took over Baxdo and Cada Kibir villages in Galguduud region, signalling continued expansion of operating radius within Galmudug state. Al-Shabaab also launched series of attacks in capital Mogadishu. Notably, car bomb 12 Jan killed at least eight people outside airport compound; suicide bombing 16 Jan seriously injured govt spokesperson Mohamed Moalimmu on Maka al-Mukarama road; and suspected militants 22 Jan shot and killed former Hiraan Governor Abdirahman Ibrahim Ma’ow, who was running for Hirshabelle MP, in Mogadishu’s Wadajir district.
Supreme Court issued key ruling on selection of new political parties ahead of presidential election. Supreme Court 16 Jan ruled new political parties should be selected before year’s end in accordance with constitution which stipulates political arena limited to three parties and party licenses awarded every ten years. Opposition parties UCID and Waddani – who could lose party status and thus ability to compete in polls – in following days accepted ruling but said govt could use selection process as excuse to delay presidential election slated for 13 Nov.
Breakaway Kitgwang faction of VP Machar’s forces signed agreement with President Kiir to become part of 2018 peace deal, prompting end of Machar-Kitgwang hostilities; intercommunal violence persisted. Talks between Kitgwang faction officials – who broke away from Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) in Aug 2021 – and Kiir’s govt 11 Jan started in Sudan’s capital Khartoum; both sides 16 Jan reached agreement for Kitgwang faction to become part of 2018 peace deal and be integrated within South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF). Machar next day ordered his forces to stop hostilities with Kitgwang forces, saying 2018 ceasefire between SSPDF and SPLM/A-IO now applies to Kitgwang. Meanwhile, SPLM/A-IO forces 8-14 Jan clashed with SSPDF in Upper Nile state, resulting in at least three fatalities; SPLM/A-IO around 24 Jan accused SSPDF of attacking its position in Unity State’s Koch county twice in last two weeks. Suspected SPLM/A-IO forces 10-12 Jan attacked local chief and other civilians in Jur River county, Western Bahr El Ghazal state; at least two killed on both sides. Meanwhile, holdout rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS) 13 Jan claimed to have repelled SSPDF attack on NAS positions in Central Equatoria state’s Juba county 5 Jan; also said authorities arrested 14 civilians including local chiefs, women and youth on charges of supporting NAS. Intercommunal violence continued in several states. In Jonglei state, suspected ethnic Murle armed group 23 Jan killed at least 32 ethnic Dinka people in Baidit locality, Bor South county. In Lakes state, intercommunal clashes between Atuot-Luac and Jieleek clans 8 Jan left one dead in Yirol West county. In Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, violence by Sudanese pastoralists reportedly spiked in late Dec-early Jan. Notably, state authorities said Masseriya tribesmen from Sudan 4 Jan launched attack in Yihn Pabol area in Aweil East county, leaving two dead and four injured. World Food Programme Representative in South Sudan Matthew Hollingworth early Jan warned year ahead could be country’s hungriest ever as “food insecurity is at horrific levels”.
Abdalla Hamdok resigned as PM, leaving military in full control of transition and provoking unprecedented political blockage amid ongoing mass protests. PM Hamdok 2 Jan resigned after failing to name civilian govt six weeks after his reinstatement by military. EU and Troika group (U.S., UK and Norway) 4 Jan called for appointment of new PM in accordance with 2019 Constitutional Declaration, which gives political coalition Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) prerogative to select PM; head of Sovereign Council and leader of Oct coup Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan next day rejected call. UN Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) 8 Jan announced dialogue process between stakeholders to try to salvage country’s transition to democracy and in following days met with 2020 Juba Peace Agreement signatories. FFC 16 Jan vowed to support UN-brokered dialogue, but Sudanese Professionals Association 9 Jan and Local Resistance Committees, grassroots networks, around same day rejected any negotiations with military. Thousands of pro-military demonstrators 26 Jan rallied outside UNITAMS office in capital Khartoum to protest against UN talks. Mass anti-military protests continued on near-daily basis with heavy crackdown by security forces bringing number of protesters killed since Oct coup to at least 79; notably, in one of deadliest days since coup, security forces 17 Jan killed seven protesters in Khartoum. In rare public statement, head of judiciary 20 Jan condemned violence against protesters. U.S. 20 Jan said it would not resume economic assistance unless violence ceases and civilian-led govt is restored. In Darfur, joint forces including paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and former rebel soldiers – recently created as per 2020 Juba Agreement – 10 Jan looted former headquarters of UN-AU mission (UNAMID) in North Darfur’s capital El-Fasher, stealing vehicles and equipment; incident comes after gunmen late Dec looted World Food Programme warehouses in El Fasher, prompting agency to suspend operations across North Darfur. In West Darfur state, renewed tribal violence starting 20 Jan killed nine and displaced over 15,000 near El Geneina city. Sovereign Council Deputy Chairman Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti” 22 Jan met Ethiopian defence minister in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa to discuss bilateral relations in first official visit since border dispute flared up in Dec 2020.
Tensions ran high within ruling party as President Suluhu Hassan continued to consolidate power. After National Assembly Speaker (and late President Magufuli loyalist) Job Ndugai late-Dec criticised “excessive” foreign borrowing, several ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party leaders in following days said country’s debt is sustainable. Suluhu Hassan 4 Jan condemned politicians decrying economic policies for political interest, without naming Ngudai, who resigned 6 Jan; ruling party 20 Jan nominated National Assembly Deputy Speaker Tulia Ackson as its candidate for speaker position. Suluhu Hassan 8 Jan announced cabinet reshuffle replacing several ministers with loyalists. Newly appointed Minister for Information, Communication and Information Technology Nape Nnauye mid-Jan said Suluhu Hassan had given green light to amend controversial media law that gives ministry sweeping powers to ban and punish media outlets; also said govt aims “to provide a conducive working environment for journalists” and ensure their “freedom and rights will be promoted and protected”. Suluhu Hassan 28 Jan met Mozambican president in Pemba town in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province to discuss Islamist insurgency in province neighbouring Tanzania.
Authorities held in custody prominent novelist, considered restoring ties with Rwanda, and claimed military successes in DR Congo. Court 4 Jan ordered unconditional release of novelist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, who was arrested late Dec for having reportedly insulted President Museveni and his son, Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, on Twitter; 11 Jan charged Rukirabashaija with offensive communication, and 25 Jan ordered release on bail on medical grounds following allegations of torture in detention. Ruling National Resistance Movement-affiliated group early month proposed constitutional change to voting system, suggesting parliament could elect president in replacement of direct voting; govt declined to comment while critics including Norbert Mao, leader of opposition Democratic Party (DP), argued move would benefit President Museveni; president 23 Jan rejected proposal, stating parliament does not represent views of the entire population. Amid ongoing disarmament exercise in north east, security forces mid-month clashed with Karamajong pastoralists in Kotido and Napak districts, leaving 12-year-old herder dead in Abim district. Army throughout month continued joint military operation against Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militants in eastern DR Congo, claiming several successes including arrest of ADF leader Benjamin Kisokeranio 12 Jan (see DR Congo). While formal talks with Rwanda have yet to resume, news mid-month surfaced about possible rapprochement with Kigali after Gen Muhoozi 16 Jan called in tweet Rwandan President Kagame “family” and warned “those who fight him” to “be careful”. Rwandan foreign ministry next day announced Ugandan Ambassador Adonia Ayebare met Kagame; Muhoozi 22 Jan visited Rwandan capital Kigali and met Kagame to discuss restoring bilateral ties. Rwandan foreign ministry 28 Jan announced reopening of Gatuna border between Rwanda and Uganda from 31 Jan.
Authorities scheduled long-delayed by-elections for March, and main opposition party changed name. Zimbabwe Electoral Commission 6 Jan announced by-elections to fill 28 vacant parliamentary seats and 105 local govt positions will take place 26 March; by-elections, which govt had banned in Oct 2020 citing COVID-19 pandemic, are seen as mini-general elections ahead of 2023 harmonised polls (which cover local, parliamentary and presidential contests). Youth Coalition on Electoral Reforms 21 Jan expressed “concern over the increasing threat of political violence”, said “young people being coerced to attend political party meetings against their will”. Main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa 24 Jan announced he had registered new party called Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), de facto dropping contested Movement for Democratic Change name and sidestepping factional squabbles and legal disputes. On registration day for by-election candidates, CCC 26 Jan submitted more than one candidate in a handful of wards to contest in municipal elections in Bulawayo and Masvingo cities, risking to divide votes; party Spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere 27 Jan blamed “technical glitch”. Mnangagwa 10 Jan fired controversial State Security Minister Owen Ncube for “conduct unbecoming of a minister”; Ncube, who was implicated in violent factional clashes relating to recent provincial elections, has been on U.S. and UK sanctions lists for several years in connection with human rights violations. Trial of freelance journalist Jeffrey Moyo 12 Jan kicked off at Bulawayo magistrates’ court, two days later adjourned to 14 Feb; Moyo faces accusations of helping two New York Times journalists enter Zimbabwe last year using fake accreditation documents.
Taliban continued to tighten their rule as government increasingly imposed ideologically driven policies; for first time since August takeover, group showed signs of disunity. Taliban imposed policies regulating social behaviour. Notably, Taliban officials 3 Jan ordered shopkeepers in parts of Herat province (west) to remove heads from display mannequins (as per their beliefs, representations of human figures are prohibited in Islam). Authorities 25 Dec dissolved Independent Election Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission, institutions that had overseen presidential and parliamentary polls. Taliban continued to target figures who challenge their rule; security forces 8 Jan erroneously arrested prominent critic Professor Faizullah Jalal (who was released a few days later), and 6 Jan reportedly arrested social media activist Faisal Mudarres, following his coverage of Dec Panjshir protests. Reports also claimed Taliban arrested female protesters mid-month; six women’s rights activists abducted in capital Kabul remained missing by end of month. Taliban leadership has denied responsibility for incidents, and have yet to clarify whereabouts of missing women or identify culprits. Attacks by Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) and Northern Resistance Front (NRF) continued albeit at reduced rate, in part because of harsh winter conditions. Taliban FM Amir Muttaqi 10 Jan met NRF head in Iran but talks do not appear to have borne any immediate results. Taliban 12 Jan arrested one of their popular Uzbek commanders, Makhdoom Alam, in Mazar city, Balkh province, revealing possible ethnic divisions between Uzbek and Pashtun Taliban; Alam’s arrest led to sporadic Uzbek Taliban-led protests in Faryab province’s Maymana city (north west), with reports that Uzbek Taliban had disarmed and expelled Pashtun Taliban from city. In response, Taliban 16 Jan deployed suicide attack unit to quell unrest; situation appeared to have quietened by month’s end. Internationally, Taliban 9 and 24 Jan visited Iran and met with European and U.S. officials in Norway’s capital Oslo; international counterparts have yet to formally recognise Taliban as new Afghan govt. EU 21 Jan announced it had started to re-establish diplomatic presence in capital Kabul. Meanwhile, tensions with Pakistan persisted over security at Afghanistan-Pakistan border (see Pakistan entry).
Electoral violence continued, killing dozens, and authorities arrested scores of opposition supporters. Election related clashes continued; notably, violence on poll day killed at least 11 persons and injured five policemen and 50 others across country 5 Jan. Clashes 6-7 Jan killed four and injured at least 26 persons in Satkhira and Bogra districts. Rivals 6 Jan also beat to death defeated candidate in Shariatpur district; 6 Jan seriously injured elected female member in Manikganj district; 20 Jan shot dead elected member in Jessore district. Govt clamped down on Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) opposition as protesters advocated for BNP leader Khaleda Zia to be granted medical treatment abroad. Police 1 Jan arrested four local BNP members following 30 Dec confrontation with ruling party Awami League (AL) supporters in Sirajgani district which had left 100 injured; next day imprisoned 31 BNP activists for 22 Nov clash with police during rally in Natore district; 5 Jan filed charges against 75 BNP leaders and activists for assaulting police officers and destroying public property during protest in Chittagong city previous day. Dhaka court 10 Jan sentenced ten BNP activists to five-year imprisonment in case filed in 2013 for violations of Explosive Substances Act. Senior BNP leader 11 Jan accused govt of filing “false and politically motivated cases” to hold on to power during general elections due in Dec 2023 or early 2024; accused judiciary of working on govt’s behest. Cabinet minister 12 Jan said govt was preparing list of those “involved in anti-state activities and making anti-state statements abroad”. Fires 2 and 9 Jan destroyed over 1,000 refugee shelters, including medical facilities and learning centres in Cox’s Bazar’s Ukhiya camp. Authorities 4 Jan admitted that they had demolished more than 3,000 Rohingya-run shops in Cox’s Bazar in past weeks. In raid in Bandarban subdistrict, Paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion 7 Jan detained four Rohingya men and seized firearms. Police 16 Jan detained Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army chief’s brother in Cox’s Bazar’s Ukhiya camp. Govt 28 Jan said it held repatriation talks with Myanmar junta officials.
Japan deepened defence ties with Australia and U.S., while encounters between Chinese and Japanese vessels in disputed waters reportedly doubled in 2021 compared to previous year. Japan and Australia 6 Jan signed reciprocal access agreement to facilitate enhanced cooperation between two militaries, marking first time Tokyo signed such security agreement with govt other than U.S.. Japan and U.S. next day held “two-plus-two” talks between defence and foreign ministers, announcing plan to conduct joint research on defence technologies including hypersonic missiles and space capabilities, and increase joint use of military facilities in Japan including south-western islands close to both Taiwan and disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. As of 30 Jan, 105 Chinese coast guard vessels had entered waters surrounding Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands during month. Japanese media 8 Jan reported Chinese coast guard vessels approached Japanese fishing vessels around disputed islands 29 times during 2021, doubling 2020 number. In 17 Jan speech, Japanese PM Fumio Kishida noted 50th anniversary of normalisation between Japan and China occurring in 2022, saying Japan would “aim to build a constructive and stable relationship” with China.
Maoist-related violence increased, north east witnessed militant attacks, and tensions persisted with China over disputed unofficial boundary. Month witnessed uptick in Maoist-related violence. Notably, security operation 18 Jan killed three alleged Maoists, including one woman, and left one security personnel injured on border of Telangana state (centre) and Chhattisgarh state (centre). Encounter with Maoists 2 Jan injured Special Task Force constable in Gariyaband district of Chhattisgarh. Maoists 4 Jan killed two police guards of former lawmaker in Jharkhand state (east). Encounter between police and Maoists 5 Jan killed Maoist in Aurangabad district of Bihar state (east). Chhattisgarh police 6 Jan claimed Maoists killed three officers in Bijapur district. Exchange of fire between Maoists and security forces 18 Jan killed two Maoists in Sukma and Bijapur districts; police same day killed three Maoists in Mulugu district of Telangana. Conflict in neighbouring Myanmar fueled militancy in north east. Security operation reportedly left two insurgents and one security forces personnel killed during raid of Manipur militant group People’s Liberation Army’s camp about 10km inside Myanmar 13 Jan; Indian army 17 Jan denied operation. Earlier, IED blast 5 Jan killed one security forces member and injured another in Thoubal district, Manipur state; Manipur-based outfit People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (Progressive) subsequently claimed responsibility. Tensions continued with China over disputed territory. China’s Land Border Law 1 Jan came into effect, with law stipulating that state will take measures to safeguard territorial integrity and land boundaries and “combat any act that undermines” this effort, also calling for opening up border areas to civilian population and ramping up infrastructure along borders. Observers fear law could provide legal cover for Chinese military transgressions across disputed unofficial border known as Line of Actual Control (LAC), as Beijing late Dec had issued names for 15 locations inside Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh situated on border. Media 3 Jan also reported that China is building bridge on Pangong Tso Lake in Eastern Ladakh, which would enable faster passage of troops and equipment. Indian govt 12 Jan held 14th round of military talks with China at senior highest military commander level, aimed at resolving 21-month standoff in eastern Ladakh; military talks yielded no progress but both countries pledged to stay in contact.
Tensions continued in Jammu and Kashmir as authorities killed over a dozen militants during security operations and stifled dissent. Indian army 1 Jan accused Pakistani army of violating Feb 2021 ceasefire agreement by carrying out Border Action Team attack inside Kashmir near Line of Control in Kupwara district, said it had killed one Pakistani “inflitrator”. India 5 Jan lodged “strong protest” with Pakistan over infiltration attempts, smuggling of arms, ammunition and narcotics across border. Despite harshest months of winter, security operations and militant attacks continued unabated in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Security forces 1 Jan killed alleged Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) militant in Kupwara district; 3 Jan killed two alleged LeT militants in regional capital Srinagar; 4 Jan killed two suspected LeT militants in Kulgam district; 5 Jan killed three alleged Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militants in Pulwama district; 6-7 Jan killed three alleged JeM militants in Budgam district; 10 Jan killed two militants in Kulgam district. Security operation 12 Jan also left one suspected JeM militant and one police officer killed. Police 6 Jan claimed to have found hybrid terror group of four militants in Srinagar; 15 Jan claimed to have arrested three militants in Bandipora district in north. Govt continued to stifle media: police 8 Jan arrested reporter Sajjad Gul at his home in Bandipora district for violating Public Safety Act day after he uploaded video on Twitter of family of slain militant expressing anti-India slogans. Local govt 15 Jan helped group of alleged journalists take over Kashmir Press Club and appoint themselves as new management body; central govt 17 Jan cancelled club’s registration and handed building over to estates department. Meanwhile, concerns and criticism over delimitation of electoral constituencies continued. Authorities 1 Jan put under house arrest leaders of all five political parties affiliated with People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration after they had announced planning protest against delimitation commission draft proposal.
Peninsula North Korea conducted slew of missile tests, prompting U.S. to impose more sanctions, while early signs emerged of potential trade resumption with China. North Korea 1 Jan published report on Kim Jong-un’s speech to regular plenum of Korean Workers’ Party held 27-31 Dec; report expressed “heavy yet responsible agony for 2022”. Pyongyang thereafter conducted six missile tests during month, marking notable uptick in frequency compared to just eight tests of all kinds in 2021. Pyongyang claimed to have fired hypersonic weapons 5 and 11 Jan from heavily militarised Jangang province, short-range ballistic missiles 14 Jan from train mount and 17 and 27 Jan from static launchers, and cruise missiles on 25 Jan; tests appear to signal Pyongyang’s resumed desire to shake up political situation in East Asia after U.S attention focused elsewhere. In response to first two tests, U.S. 12 Jan imposed unilateral sanctions on several individuals linked to weapons programs; move reportedly chief cause of North Korean politburo’s 20 Jan decision to “promptly examine the issue of restarting all temporarily-suspended activities”, likely referring to resumption of inter-continental ballistic missile launches it last conducted in 2017, also accused U.S. of joint military exercises and “shipping…[of] nuclear strategic weapons” into surrounding region. Former U.S. Forces Korea head Gen Robert Abrams 20 Jan responded that U.S. “has not had a Carrier Strike Group, a Strategic Bomber, or 5th Gen fighter in [South Korean] waters or air space since May 2018”. UN Security Council 10, 20 Jan convened to discuss testing, with Russia and China making clear opposition to further sanctions. Trains crossed China-North Korea border in first indication of tentative reopening for trade; notably, three freight trains 17, 18, 19 Jan crossed border between Sinuiju city, North Korea, and Dandong city, China.
Deadly fighting between Tatmadaw and resistance forces escalated sharply in Kayah State in south east, while Cambodian PM became first foreign leader to visit country since Feb 2021 coup. Kayah State saw marked escalation in conflict during Jan following 24 Dec massacre by Tatmadaw of over 30 civilians outside Moso village. Clashes 6 Jan erupted between military and Karenni Nationalities Defence Force (KNDF) fighters in state capital Loikaw, forcing 60,000 residents to flee to neighbouring Shan State and prompting Tatmadaw to deploy helicopter gunships and launch military airstrikes 7-16 Jan; notably, two jets 11 Jan dropped seven bombs in Maing Lone ward. KNDF same day said it had killed 20 soldiers and captured three during fighting. Rising violence in Kayah and Kayin States in past two months have led civilians to flee to Moei River bordering Thailand, with some 2,000 people camped on Myanmar side by mid-Jan. Regime-controlled court 10 Jan sentenced deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi to four additional years in prison on charges of violating COVID-19 rules, breaching import-export laws and owning signal jammers, increasing her most recent sentence to six years. Cambodian PM and current Chair of South East Asia regional body ASEAN Hun Sen 7-8 Jan visited capital Naypyitaw, becoming first foreign leader to visit Myanmar since coup; visit reportedly sparked protests, notably in Depayin and Mandalay cities. In meeting, State Administration Council Chairman Min Aung Hlaing attempted to reframe ASEAN’s demands for complete cessation of violence and dialogue among “all parties concerned” to cover only clashes with Myanmar’s ethnic armed groups, also proposed to extend unilateral ceasefire with ethnic armed groups that notably excludes People’s Defence Force and other resistance forces. Amid fallout from Hun Sen’s visit, with some ASEAN member states, notably Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, criticising progress and implications of visit, Cambodia 12 Jan announced indefinite postponement of ASEAN foreign ministers’ retreat scheduled 18-19 Jan. Attorney general of Gambia 14 Feb said International Court of Justice will hold next hearing on Rohingya genocide case on 21 Feb – first hearing since Feb 2021 coup.
Political parties disputed timing of local and general elections, reflecting potential fissures within five-party coalition ahead of polls. Following indecision by Nepali Congress-led govt on timing of local elections, which Election Commission recommended be held by early May, Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) Chairman and key leader of ruling alliance Pushpa Kamal Dahal 19 Jan argued general elections for lower house of parliament – likely to be held late 2022 – should be held first in spring and local polls delayed until later in 2022. Following widespread criticism of Dahal’s proposal for potentially undermining rule of law, ruling coalition 29 Jan agreed on holding local polls by mid-June and leaving general elections likely for late 2022. Observers argued episode revealed fears among some ruling parties that weak showing in local polls could damage their prospects in general elections, especially amid uncertainty over whether five-party coalition will continue its alliance into new electoral cycle; Nepali Congress leaders have indicated willingness to end coalition ahead of polls. In elections for upper house of parliament held 26 Jan, where 19 of 59 total upper house seats were contested, opposition Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) lost seven previously held seats while ruling alliance parties won 18 seats; UML remains largest party with 16 seats.
Tensions over border fencing at Afghan border ran high as Pakistani Taliban continued to clash with security forces. Tensions flared over Pakistan’s construction of border fencing along Nangarhar district at Afghan border. After Afghan soldiers 2 Jan tried to remove section of fence, FM Qureshi 3 Jan declared border “confusion” would be quickly resolved through “diplomatic channels”; however, Taliban acting information minister same day said “issue of the Durand Line is still an unresolved one” and “construction of fencing itself creates rifts”. In response, Pakistani military 5 Jan said “purpose of the fencing is not to divide people but to protect them”, blamed problems on local Taliban commanders, said Pakistan has “good relations” with Afghan central govt. Use by Pakistani Taliban (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, TTP) of Afghan territory as refuge became another point of contention during month, as insurgents continued to clash with Pakistani security forces. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KP), unknown armed men 1 Jan shot dead police officer in Bannu district; clashes 5 Jan left two militants and two soldiers dead in Dera Ismail Khan and South Waziristan districts. Unidentified gunmen 9 Jan also shot dead Pakistani Taliban spokesman and operational commander, known as Mohammad Khorasani, in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province; Pakistani Taliban 13 Jan vowed to avenge his death. One police officer killed, three injured 17 Jan in TTP attack in capital Islamabad. Bomb blast in Lahore market 20 Jan also attributed by interior minister to TTP. In Balochistan province, counter-terrorism police 8 Jan claimed to have killed six Islamic State (ISIS) militants who had been planning major attack in Quetta city. Militant attack night of 26-27 Jan killed ten soldiers in Kech district. Military 27 Jan confirmed militant raid on base in Balochistan killed at least ten soldiers. Meanwhile, Election Commission of Pakistan’s Scrutiny Committee 3 Jan released report revealing ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had hidden millions in foreign funds. Following first phase of local polls held 19 Dec, commission 7 Jan announced final results of 41 out of 65 district councils in KP, with bulk of seats attributed to opposition as Pashtun Islamist Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam won 15 seats.
Low-level violence continued in south, while skirmishes between govt forces and communist rebels persisted, albeit at reduced frequency and lethality. In Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in south, militants and military forces engaged in few major clashes amid some instances of political violence. In Maguindanao province, unknown gunmen 7 Jan fired on house of mayor of Datu Piang municipality. In Cotabato province, bus explosion 11 Jan injured six people in Aleosan town, including three children. Police and military 15 Jan conducted operations against alleged members of Al-Khobar gang suspected of responsibility for explosion, killing four; gang is allegedly linked to jihadist militants formerly under control of Salahuddin Hassan. Military 17 Jan clashed with Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf Group in Sumisip town, Basilan province, killing one militant. In Talipao town, Sulu province, two Abu Sayyaf members 3 Jan surrendered. In Marawi city, rehabilitation efforts continued. Department of human settlements and urban development 20 Jan inaugurated two public infrastructure projects, including Pumping Bridge in Barangay Raya Madaya previously destroyed in 2017 fighting. Senate 24 Jan adopted resolution granting amnesty to Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants following earlier proclamation by President Duterte in Feb 2021. Meanwhile, clashes between armed forces and communist group New People’s Army (NPA) dropped in frequency compared to last month, following general trend of lull in hostilities at end of year. Yet, incidents between govt security forces and rebels in Mindanao Island in south and Visayas Islands in centre killed five combatants and one civilian. Preparations for May presidential elections continued. Election Commission 17 Jan rejected petition from civic leaders seeking to disqualify candidacy of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on basis of tax fraud; petition comes amid several filed by civil rights groups since Nov 2021.
China protested U.S. military activities in South China Sea, while Washington issued report disputing basis of Beijing’s maritime claims. Chinese military 20 Jan said U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold sailing around Paracel Islands “illegally entered China’s Xisha territorial waters” and had been given “eviction” warning; U.S. Navy same day challenged claims, said Chinese move posed “serious threat to the freedom of the seas”. U.S. response comes on heels of 13-17 Jan joint training operations in South China Sea (SCS) between Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group and Essex Amphibious Ready Group, including 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. U.S. State Dept in 12 Jan report said China’s declaration of “historic rights” over SCS “is deficient for its vagueness” and unlawful; Philippines 21 Jan welcomed report as “consistent with Philippines-U.S. Joint Vision Statement”. Chinese FM Wang Yi 17 Jan during virtual forum organised by Chinese embassy in Philippines stressed importance of not “imposing one’s own will on the other”, vowed to work with Philippines to resolve tensions in SCS. Philippine Defence Secretary Lorenzana 14 Jan said that Philippines had finalised deal to acquire shore-based anti-ship missile system from India. Chinese media 7 Jan claimed Vietnamese militia-armed fishing boats were being built in Da Nang town, Vietnam, and launched on trial voyages; Vietnamese foreign ministry 14 Jan said all activities in SCS adhered to international law. Japanese PM Fumio Kishida and Australian PM Scott Morrison 6 Jan signed reciprocal access agreement set to go into effect “as early as possible.” Malaysian FM Saifuddin Abdullah 19 Jan raised concern over Beijing’s shift from disputing “nine-dash line” water territories to disputing “Four Sha” land territories, which “is even more serious” than former.
Financial and economic crises grew increasingly acute, parliament reconvened after prorogation, and tensions came to fore between govt and Catholic leaders. Prices of food and other essentials continued to rise amid widening shortages and increasingly frequent power cuts, as govt currency reserves dwindled and risk of default rose. Bar Association of Sri Lanka 14 Jan issued unprecedented statement expressing grave concern over economic crisis’s “possible impact on the Rule of Law and Democracy and on the living conditions of the people”. Central bank 18 Jan repaid $500mn due on international sovereign bonds, despite prominent economists and business leaders urging govt to postpone repayment and use its scarce currency to purchase food and medicine. After late Dec currency swap with China, and China’s promises of further support to Sri Lanka during 8-9 Jan visit to capital Colombo by Chinese FM Wang Yi, India offered more than $1.5bn in stop-gap loans to support Sri Lankan govt, including 18 Jan announcement of $500mn credit line to allow fuel importation from India. After suspending parliament in Dec, President Rajapaksa 18 Jan opened new parliamentary session with speech that confirmed govt is “preparing to make relevant amendments to the Prevention of Terrorism Act”; govt 27 Jan released text of proposed amendments. Delegation of Tamil parliamentarians, led by Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R. Sampanthan, 18 Jan met Indian high commissioner in Colombo, and handed over letter addressed to Indian PM Modi; letter appeals for renewed Indian efforts to press Colombo to negotiate lasting political solution to “Tamil national question” based on federal model. Discovery 11 Jan of live grenade in Catholic Church in Colombo deepened bitter conflict between govt and Catholic leaders as Church officials challenged police arrest of long-time church employee and initial disregard for Church CCTV footage. Catholic Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith 13 Jan publicly criticised police investigations into incident and noted possible political motives behind it, next day alleged authorities are suppressing truth over 2019 Easter attacks, claiming existence of conspiracy to allow attacks to take place for political reasons ahead of presidential election.
China conducted largest aerial incursion into Taiwan’s air defence zone since Oct 2021, while Taipei adopted special military budget and continued to cultivate international ties. Chinese aircraft flew into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone throughout month, totalling 138 aircraft as of 30 Jan; 23 Jan marks largest incursion since Oct 2021 with defence ministry scrambling fighters to warn off 39 Chinese aircraft. U.S. navy destroyer 22 Jan transited Taiwan Strait. Taiwan’s army 6 Jan conducted urban warfare exercise. Parliament 16 Jan passed over $8bn five-year special military budget to produce precision and long-range missiles and naval ships. In 1 Jan New Year’s speech, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said Taiwan would “neither bow to pressure nor act rashly when we have support” and that Beijing should “stop the spread of military adventurism within their ranks”. In rare face-to-face meeting with U.S. senior officials, Taiwan’s VP Lai Ching-te during 26-29 Jan trip to Honduras spoke with U.S. VP Kamala Harris at Honduran president’s inauguration, and met virtually with U.S. congressional representatives. In 28 Jan interview, Chinese Ambassador to U.S. Qin Gang said if Taiwan continued “down the road of independence, it most likely will involve China and the United States … in a military conflict”. Former Deputy Director of China’s Taiwan Affairs office Sun Yafu said 8 Jan Beijing would put forward “new policy decisions and arrangements” on Taiwan at 20th Party Congress due to take place in late 2022. Despite tensions last year, trade data 7 Jan revealed China-Taiwan trade grew in 2021, reaching new high of $188.9bn. EU 27 Jan launched case at World Trade Organization against China for blocking trade with Lithuania after Vilnius opened Taiwan representative office using “Taiwanese” in its name rather than usual “Taipei.” Taiwan 11 Jan pledged $1bn credit fund for projects in Lithuania including semiconductor industry. Slovenian PM Janez Jansa 17 Jan said Slovenia and Taiwan were discussing exchanging representatives; Taiwan next day confirmed talks, while Chinese foreign ministry 19 Jan expressed shock, calling Jansa’s remarks “dangerous”.
Political parties continued to prepare for looming election, while talks recommenced between govt and separatist group Barisan Revolusi Nasional after almost two-year hiatus. Ruling Palan Pracharat Party faced several challenges in Jan. Two MPs 17 Jan resigned and former MPs Uttama Savanayana and Sontirat Sontijirawong 19 Jan formed new Sang Anakot Thai party, with splintering indicating weakening of PM Prayut Chan-o-cha’s parliamentary majority. Ruling party 20 Jan also expelled Sec Gen Thammanat Prompao and 20 other MPs. Meanwhile, former PM Thaksin Shinawatra 4 Jan vowed to return to Thailand during 2022, potentially signalling optimistic outlook for main opposition Pheu Thai Party in general election likely going ahead this year. Month saw no anti-govt rallies in one of quietest months since commencement of pro-democracy protests in early 2020, likely due to jailing of protest leaders, end-of-year break and coronavirus concerns. Judges 13 Jan extended bail of student protest leaders Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul and Benja Apa on condition they refrain from participating in protests; other leaders remain in jail. In deep south, insurgents conducted several attacks during Jan. More than ten insurgents 3 Jan attacked Ranger Base 4513 in Ra-ngae district, Narathiwat province, killing one ranger and injuring two. In Narathiwat province, unidentified attackers night of 28 Jan set off 13 small explosives in Yala town, injuring one. Ranger truck 7 Jan struck IED in Nong Chik district, Pattani province, injuring five. Malaysian authorities 13 Jan repatriated three suspected Thai Malay insurgents connected to Runda Kumpulan Kecil group previously arrested in Malaysia after fleeing across border in first such extradition in approximately 25 years. In first dialogue since March 2020, Thai govt and Barisan Revolusi Nasional separatist group 11-12 Jan held preliminary talks over conflict in deep south in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, facilitated by Malaysia’s former federal police chief and observed by delegates from UK and Norway; talks agreed upon three-point framework for future negotiations centred on violence reduction, public participation and political solutions, set to be facilitated by working groups.
Deadly clashes with Azerbaijan along state border resumed, jeopardising international efforts to reduce tensions, while authorities deployed peacekeepers to Kazakhstan. Azerbaijani defence ministry 8 Jan claimed that Azerbaijani positions in Kelbajar region were “subjected to fire”; Armenian defence ministry same day alleged accusation “does not correspond to reality”. Foreign ministry 11 Jan accused Azerbaijani forces of violating ceasefire using artillery and UAVs against positions in Gegharkunik region in clashes that killed three Armenian and one Azerbaijani soldiers; Azerbaijani defence ministry same day said Armenia “bears full responsibility”. Azerbaijani President Aliyev 12 Jan warned Armenia against not recognising Azerbaijani “territorial integrity”, said Baku would respond in kind. Russian FM Sergey Lavrov 14 Jan announced Armenia had submitted proposal on process of demarcation and delimitation of Armenian-Azerbaijani border, which he would share with Azerbaijan, and underscored importance of establishing agenda of priority issues. However, differences surfaced between Yerevan and Baku as FM Ararat Mirzoyan 19 Jan underlined need for “border stability and security”, and preventative mechanisms, whereas Azerbaijani FM Ceyhun Bayramov same day called Armenian preconditions “absolutely unacceptable”. In response, Armenian foreign ministry 20 Jan said that Yerevan had no preconditions for border demarcation. Regarding agreed corridor connecting Azerbaijan to its exclave Nakhichevan, Aliyev 12 Jan said main condition in negotiations with Armenia is that highway follow “shortest route” and remain “open in all seasons”. As current chair of Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Armenia 7-14 Jan deployed around 100 peacekeepers to Kazakhstan following Nur-Sultan’s request for CSTO assistance; parliamentary opposition bloc Gegham Nazaryan 7 Jan argued that “no Armenian serviceman should have left for that country” due to Kazakhstan’s alleged support to Azerbaijan (see Kazakhstan). Special envoys of Armenia and Turkey 14 Jan held first meeting for normalisation negotiations; after talks, foreign ministry described “positive atmosphere” and Turkish FM announced agreement “to continue negotiations without preconditions”. Armenian President Sargsyan 23 Jan announced his resignation, said he did not have “the necessary tools” to influence country’s domestic and foreign policies.
Clashes with Armenia along state border resumed, jeopardising international efforts to reduce tensions. Azerbaijani defence ministry 8 Jan claimed that Azerbaijani positions in Kelbajar region were “subjected to fire”; Armenian defence ministry same day alleged accusation “does not correspond to reality”. Armenian foreign ministry 11 Jan accused Azerbaijani forces of violating ceasefire using artillery and UAVs against positions in Gegharkunik region in clashes that killed three Armenian and one Azerbaijani soldiers; Azerbaijani defence ministry same day said Armenia “bears full responsibility”. President Aliyev 12 Jan warned Armenia against not recognising Azerbaijan’s “territorial integrity”, said Baku would respond in kind. Russian FM Sergey Lavrov 14 Jan announced Armenia had submitted proposal on process of demarcation and delimitation of Armenian-Azerbaijani border, which he would share with Azerbaijan, and underscored importance of establishing agenda of priority issues. However, differences surfaced between Yerevan and Baku as FM Ararat Mirzoyan 19 Jan underlined need for “border stability and security”, and preventative mechanisms, whereas Azerbaijani FM Ceyhun Bayramov same day called Armenian preconditions “absolutely unacceptable”. Regarding agreed corridor connecting Azerbaijan to its exclave Nakhichevan, Aliyev 12 Jan said main condition in negotiations with Armenia is that highway follow “shortest route” and remain “open in all seasons”. Following unrest in Kazakhstan and deployment of Armenian forces within broader Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) operation early month, opposition alliance National Congress of Democratic Forces 9 Jan condemned CSTO support to “authoritarian regimes”.
President Lukashenko scheduled constitutional referendum and announced forthcoming military exercises with Russia in Feb, stoking international tensions. Lukashenko 20 Jan scheduled referendum on constitutional amendments for 27 Feb; amendments would allow Lukashenko to remain in office until at latest 2035, establish immunity for former president(s), and introduce govt-friendly All-Belarus People’s Assembly as second legislative body. Western media mid-Jan reported arrival of Russian military equipment, as Lukashenko 17 Jan announced joint military drill with Russia at western and southern borders lasting from early Feb to 20 Feb; U.S. same day described troop movements as “extremely dangerous”, while Lithuania 19 Jan warned of “direct threat” (see Russia-U.S.). Tensions with neighbours continued. Govt 5 Jan expelled Polish consul following border crisis in recent months. Lithuania 13 Jan cancelled contract on delivering fertilisers to Belarus. Iraqi foreign ministry 16 Jan announced return of 4,000 Iraqi citizens “trapped” at Belarusian-EU border. UN Aviation Agency 18 Jan finalised report on Ryanair aircraft incident with “further action” pending agency’s council members meeting scheduled for 31 Jan; agency 18 Jan concluded that official information on bomb threat was “deliberately false”. Regarding incident, U.S. 20 Jan charged four govt officials. U.S. and EU 27 Jan called for immediate and unconditional release of “1,000 political prisoners.”
Republika Srpska held controversial celebrations marking 30th anniversary of its creation, while Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik indicated possible return to federal institutions. Following moves toward separatism in recent months, U.S. Treasury Dept 5 Jan imposed new sanctions on Milorad Dodik, Dodik-linked media outlet Alternativna Televizija, and two other officials for “significant corruption and destabilizing activities”. Bosnian Serbs 9 Jan celebrated 30th anniversary of Republika Srpska’s creation in 1992 in defiance of international pressure and two Constitutional Court rulings declaring holiday unconstitutional. During celebrations, which counted guests from Russia, China, Serbia and France’s National Rally far-right party, police parade marched through Banja Luka town; reports surfaced of riots, Bosnian Serbs singing nationalist and Islamophobic songs as well as gunfire near mosques. In response, EU 10 Jan condemned leaders’ “negative, divisive and inflammatory rhetoric” and threatened possible sanctions; Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe 12 Jan warned against “all acts that carry the potential to incite conflict”, while UN high commissioner for human rights 14 Jan said UN was “deeply concerned”. After Dodik met Serbian President Vučić 14 Jan, who urged him to participate in state institutions, Dodik announced that Republika Srpska National Assembly would consider return to institutions next month. Vučić and Turkish President Erdoğan 18 Jan agreed to broker Bosnian talks after Serbia’s April election. Separately, protesters 10 Jan rallied in 35 cities across 14 countries demanding international community prevent Bosnia’s break up.
UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres warned about diminishing prospects of negotiated solution. UN Security Council 17 Jan discussed two new reports on Cyprus submitted by UN Sec-Gen Guterres on 3 Jan in three-hour long meeting, during which Special Envoy Colin Stewart told members that UN mission is now focused on building trust and respect between two communities to foster better environment for building peace; in reports, Guterres had warned “without decisive action, continuing dynamics in and around Cyprus and electoral timelines could render future efforts to reach a mutually agreeable settlement to the Cyprus issue unattainable” and noted “further deepening of mistrust” between communities. In response to reports, Republic of Cyprus 4 Jan voiced disappointment for “downplaying the Turkish side’s aggressive conduct” while Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar 7 Jan emphasised importance of “institutional cooperation on the basis of sovereign equality and an equal international regime”, adding that opening of Maraş/Varosha in Oct 2020 was done in accordance with civil rights and does not go against relevant UN resolutions. In his annual meeting with ambassadors of EU member states, Turkish President Erdoğan 13 Jan asserted that solution can only be reached by “acknowledging the sovereign equality and equal international status of the Turkish Cypriot people”; he also accused EU of acting as “mouthpiece” for Greek Cypriot side. In snap elections held in de facto Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on 23 Jan, right-wing National Unity Party won with around 40 per cent of vote; voter turnout was at record low of just under 58 per cent. UN Security Council 28 Jan renewed mandate of UN’s peacekeeping force on Cyprus until 31 July 2022, but expressed regret over lack of progress in restarting formal negotiations.
Relative calm returned to domestic politics amid criticism over controversial law. After former President Mikhail Saakashvili and his supporters agreed to cease hunger strike in Dec, political tensions eased off; hearings of Saakashvili’s corruption case continued during month. Leadership of main opposition party United National Movement (UNM) 10 Jan changed key positions, vacating party chair. Irakli Kobakhidze of ruling party Georgian Dream 17 Jan said ruling party consolidated as ever. UNM 31 Jan ended its boycott of parliament, seeking commission to investigate treatment of Saakashvili and warning of “fierce Spring protests”. President Zourabichvili 13 Jan signed off controversial law amendment that abolished State Inspector’s Office, govt body that had launched investigation into alleged violations of penitentiary office related to imprisonment of Saakashvili; move prompted criticism from UN country team and numerous Georgian NGOs as well as U.S., which 3 Jan said amendment “undermined government accountability” and “damaged Georgia’s aspirations for NATO and European Union membership”. Amid U.S.-Russia negotiations on European security architecture, FM David Zalkaliani 6 Jan spoke to U.S. Deputy Sec State Wendy Sherman, insisting on Georgia’s freedom to “pursue an independent foreign and security policy”; FM 17-18 Jan visited NATO headquarters in Belgian capital Brussels to reiterate Georgian aspiration to join NATO. Meanwhile, head of the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia and special representative of OSCE chairperson-in-office for South Caucasus 20 Jan jointly facilitated 104th meeting of Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism, format bringing together Georgian and Russian officials along with de facto authorities and foreign mediators; participants “focused on ongoing detention cases”, also discussed impact of “protracted closure of crossing points” while co-facilitators “noted with concern the increased number of detentions in recent weeks”. Following Dec violence around opposition rally in breakaway Abkhazia, de facto Prosecutor’s Office 8 Jan detained at least four individuals; opposition People’s and Patriotic Union of Abkhazia, group uniting several key opposition groups that led Dec protests and opposition lawmakers, 8 Jan condemned detentions, which it said are politically motivated.
Localised protests over fuel price turned into nationwide rioting heavily repressed by security forces, killing over 200 people. Protesters 2 Jan flooded streets of petroleum-producing city of Zhanaozen in west after govt doubled fuel prices; protests spread rapidly across country, first in other oil- and mineral-producing regions and then to most regions. In Almaty city, thousands of demonstrators 5 Jan shouted “Old man out” in reference to former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who led country until 2019 and retained position of head of National Security Council thereafter. In response to unrest, govt 5 Jan resigned and President Tokayev same day removed Nazarbayev from security council position, as well as senior intelligence official Karim Masimov. Protesters 5 Jan took control of Almaty’s airport. Amid unrest, Tokayev 5 Jan requested regional alliance Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to send forces to guard govt facilities in capital Nur-Sultan; Russia 7 Jan announced regional forces, comprising notably Russian and Armenian troops, retook Almaty’s airport. Tokayev 11 Jan announced beginning of departure of CSTO forces on 13 Jan. Media reports indicated authorities detained up to 12,000 people and officials reported 225 deaths during unrest, with over 2,000 requiring hospital treatment. Last four Russian military transport aircraft with Russian CSTO peacekeepers on board 19 Jan departed from Nur-Sultan.
Assembly banned international organisations from facilitating voting in Serbia’s referendum on Kosovo territory, prompting criticism from Serbia and Western countries. Assembly 15 Jan passed resolution to ban international organisations from facilitating voting on Kosovo territory in Serbia’s constitutional referendum that took place next day; referendum seen as effort to strengthen independence of judiciary and enhance rule of law institutions in Serbia. Ban prompted Kosovo authorities to confiscate ballots, prevent setting up of polling stations, and deny entry to Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) planning to recover ballots. Director of Serbia’s Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Petar Petković, 15 Jan accused Kosovo of “open confrontation with the Serbian people”; France, Germany, Italy, UK, U.S. and EU 14 Jan expressed regret over decision to prevent OSCE from collecting ballots of eligible voters and urged Kosovo and Serbia to “engage constructively in the EU-facilitated Dialogue”. After govt late Dec expelled Russian official from UN Mission in Kosovo for alleged “harmful activity”, UN Sec-Gen Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric 1 Jan stated that designation of persona non grata “is not applicable to United Nations personnel”; Russian foreign ministry 4 Jan called expulsion “continuation of the provocative line for aggravation of interethnic relations”. Opposition Social Democratic Party 29 Jan called for protests over spiking energy prices; thousands reportedly gathered in capital Pristina, which led to scuffles with police. U.S. Special Envoy Gabriel Escobar and EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak 31 Jan visited PM Kurti in Pristina in effort to reinitiate dialogue with Serbia.
Deadly clashes erupted along disputed border with Tajikistan. Clashes along disputed border between Tajikistan’s north-western Sughd province and Kyrgyzstan’s south-western Batken province 27-28 Jan killed two civilians and injured ten people – six servicemen and four civilians – on Tajik side, while 11 were injured on Kyrgyz side; clashes reportedly forced some 1,500 local residents to flee before ceasefire was agreed 28 Jan. Commander of Russia’s Central Military District Alexander Lapin 24 Jan announced Russia will reinforce its military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan with new weapons and equipment.
Tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan remained high amid skirmishes, as Baku protested visits to Nagorno-Karabakh by French and Russian politicians. As tensions at Armenian-Azerbaijani state border flared up mid-Jan amid series of deadly clashes (see Armenia and Azerbaijan), de facto Nagorno-Karabakh authorities 10 Jan claimed Azerbaijani troops fired shots in Krasny Bazar (Karmir Shuka) village in Martuni region, and firefighters arriving at scene near kindergarten came under fire; Azerbaijani defence ministry same day denied claims of Azerbaijani troops firing at civilians or civilian facilities. Following Dec visit to Nagorno-Karabakh by Russian MP from ruling United Russia party, Azerbaijani President Aliyev sent letter to United Russia Chairman Dmitry Medvedev “strongly objecting” to visit that he said lacked Baku’s permission. In reaction to Nagorno-Karabakh visit by French presidential candidate Valérie Pécresse, Aliyev 12 Jan said Baku would not have let Pécresse leave if it knew about visit in advance; French FM Jean-Yves Le Drian 18 Jan protested “unacceptable” comment, while noting with regret that Pécresse did not consult French govt beforehand.
Crackdown on opposition supporters and other forms of dissent continued across country. Govt financial agency Rosfin monitoring 14 Jan included opposition leader Alexei Navalny associates Leonid Volkov and Ivan Zhdanov on extremist and terrorist organisations list, blocking their bank accounts; Rosfin 25 Jan also listed Navalny and 11 of his associates. Interior ministry 26 Jan issued wanted notice for Oleg Navalny, younger brother of Alexei Navalny, after authorities asked court to replace Oleg Navalny’s suspended sentence with real one. One-year anniversary of Alexei Navalny’s return to Russia 17 Jan saw rallies in multiple countries including U.S., Canada, Australia, Germany and France to demand his release; EU same day reiterated condemnation of “incomprehensible” prosecution, and called for release of Navalny as well as ex-chief of Navalny Support Group Lilia Chanysheva, detained last Nov. Armed men from Chechnya 20 Jan abducted Zarema Musayeva, wife of former federal judge and mother of lawyer working for human rights organisation Committee against Torture, from flat in Nizhny Novgorod city; Musayeva was told she was witness in fraud case and taken to Chechnya, where she was detained for 15 days. Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov 21 Jan declared that “this family is waiting either in prison or underground”, and declared entire family “terrorist accomplices”; EU 22 Jan demanded release of Musayeva, “end to the prosecution of human rights defenders” and investigations into violations such as extrajudicial executions and torture.
Diplomatic row between Moscow and Washington over Russian military build-up in Ukraine and European security more broadly escalated. As U.S. and Russia continued negotiations during month, notably in swiss city Geneva 10 Jan, Moscow continued to demand legally binding guarantees from U.S. and NATO against Ukraine’s accession to NATO and that alliance pull back forces from Eastern Europe. Tensions persisted amid growing Russian military build-up near Ukraine (see Ukraine). U.S. Deputy Sec State Wendy Sherman 18 Jan warned “Russia could launch military attack at any time”; Russian armed forces 18 Jan arrived in Belarus ahead of joint military exercises in country due to run until 20 Feb. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 19 Jan said Russia could attack Ukraine “on very short notice” and warned again of tough sanctions; Moscow 19 Jan claimed it had no intention “to attack, strike or invade Ukraine”, while Head of Russian delegation to Vienna talks on military security and arms control Konstantin Gavrilov warned that “West either accepts our proposals or other ways will be found to ensure Russia’s security”. As Russian FM Sergey Lavrov and Blinken 21 Jan met in Geneva, Russia 21 Jan requested foreign NATO troops withdraw from Romania and Bulgaria. U.S. 24 Jan announced 8,500 soldiers in state of alert ready to be deployed on European soil and Biden same day said he would “personally sanction Russian President Putin” if Russia invades Ukraine; Kremlin next day said sanctions would not be “painful”. U.S. 26 Jan formally rejected Russia’s demand to bar Ukraine from NATO and pushed for diplomatic solution “to maintain and defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine”.
Deadly clashes erupted along disputed border with Kyrgyzstan. Clashes along disputed border between Tajikistan’s north-western Sughd province and Kyrgyzstan’s south-western Batken province 27-28 Jan killed two civilians and injured ten people – six servicemen and four civilians – on Tajik side, while 11 were injured on Kyrgyz side; clashes reportedly forced some 1,500 local residents to flee before ceasefire was agreed 28 Jan. At virtual Central Asia-India summit, President Rahmon 27 Jan urged Central Asian countries and India to address Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis. Social media users from 24 Jan called for Russian and Tajik authorities to establish whereabouts of activist Amriddin Alovatshoyev from Mountainous Badakhshan Autonomous Region amid allegations Alovatshoyev may have been detained by authorities. Commander of Russia’s central Military District Alexander Lapin 24 Jan announced Moscow will reinforce its military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan with new weapons and equipment.
Military operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party continued in south east and northern Iraq, while security forces detained over 100 Islamic State-linked suspects. Military operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) remained concentrated in northern Iraq, but some clashes took place in Turkey’s south east. Notably, IED explosion 8 Jan killed three Turkish soldiers in Şanlıurfa’s Akçakale district on Turkey-Syria border; military in subsequent days responded with operations targeting PKK members in border area. Ground operations in south east were concentrated in rural areas of Tunceli, Mardin and Şanlıurfa provinces. Air operations in northern Iraq and northern Syria continued targeting higher-ranking members of PKK. In Syria, bomb attacks targeting Turkish security forces and Ankara-backed rebels in Turkish-controlled Afrin, al-Bab and Azaz mid-month prompted Turkish military retaliation (see Syria). Govt 4 Jan submitted request to parliament to lift legislative immunities of 24 pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party MPs, including party’s current Co-Chair Pervin Buldan. Security units’ operations against Islamic State (ISIS) continued during month. Police detained around 100 individuals with suspected links to ISIS across country. Notably, in significant raid on 12 Jan, police detained 21 individuals, including ten Syrian and four Iraqi nationals, in southern Mersin province. Maritime tensions in eastern Mediterranean with Greece continued. Greek FM Nikos Dendias 4 Jan said Turkey’s rhetoric against Greece “has reached a level we have not seen for years”; Defence Minister Hulusi Akar 8 Jan accused Greece of undermining NATO by attempting to form alliances within bloc. Fifth meeting of the Turkish-Greek Joint Economic Committee 26 Jan commenced in Greek capital Athens for first time since 2010; Turkey and Greece signed Fifth Term Protocol to enhance bilateral trade relations and cooperation in several fields at Committee meeting. Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar same day said Turkey was ready to engage with Greek side in fourth round of military-to-military talks on confidence-building measures. Meanwhile, Ankara and Yerevan continued steps to normalise relations. Armenia 1 Jan lifted embargo on Turkish goods; Turkish Special Envoy Serdar Kılıç and Armenia’s Special Envoy Ruben Rubinyan 14 Jan met for first time in Russian capital Moscow in “positive and constructive atmosphere”.
U.S. rejected Russian demands for legal guarantees prohibiting NATO expansion, while tensions over Russian military build-up continued ahead of planned military exercises in Feb. After Moscow 15 Dec proposed to U.S. draft agreement on security guarantees that included provision not to expand NATO eastward, U.S. 26 Jan provided written response rejecting demand after coordinating with Ukraine and European allies; U.S. urged Russia to dismantle its military build-up near Ukraine and continue diplomatic path; rejection followed 21 Jan meeting between U.S. Sec State Blinken and Russian FM Sergey Lavrov that ended without breakthrough (see Russia-U.S.). Meanwhile, Russia continued military build-up. Significant number of Russian personnel and equipment, including Iskander short-range ballistic missiles, during month arrived in Belarus ahead of “Allied Resolve” joint military exercises that will last until 20 Feb; Blinken 19 Jan said Russia may attack Ukraine at “very short notice”, while President Zelenskyy same day said risks of invasion have not increased. Zelenskyy 20 Jan suggested, however, Russia may attempt to occupy Kharkiv city under pretext of protection of Russian-speaking population. Amid tensions, Ukraine has been receiving significant military assistance from U.S., UK and other European countries. Situation in Donbas conflict zone remained relatively calm as shelling decreased compared to Dec; no civilian casualties from live-fire reported while govt sources reported one serviceman killed by live fire, two killed by explosive device detonations, seven injured in Jan; two Russian-backed armed group members were killed during month, one from live fire, and one fighter was injured. Despite tensions, Kyiv continued seeking new Normandy summit with leaders of four countries (Germany, France, Russia, Ukraine). Political advisers of leaders 26 Jan met in French capital Paris; Dmitry Kozak, deputy chief of staff of the Presidential Executive Office, said sides agreed that July 2020 ceasefire agreement in Donbas should be adhered to unconditionally; advisers agreed to meet in German capital Berlin in two weeks to discuss discrepancies over political part of the Minsk agreements. Govt 25 Jan decided to withdraw from parliament its transition policy law that defined Russia as aggressor state and described Kyiv’s vision of how to reintegrate territories seized by Russia’s proxies.
Authorities detained suspected members of proscribed group. Police in capital Tashkent 26 Jan announced detention of dozens of alleged members of Islamist group Katiba al-Tawhid wal-Jihad that authorities banned in 2016. Media reports 19 Jan revealed Uzbek and Russian security officers detained individual from Uzbekistan in Russia for attempting to join militants in Syria.
Diplomatic row between Moscow and Washington over Russian military build-up in Ukraine and European security more broadly escalated. As U.S. and Russia continued negotiations during month, notably in swiss city Geneva 10 Jan, Moscow continued to demand legally binding guarantees from U.S. an