CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 80 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.
In July, Libya’s war spread beyond Tripoli, and Iran and the U.S. continued to teeter on the precipice of military confrontation. Nigeria’s woes deepened as Boko Haram stepped up attacks in the north east, tensions rose between herders and farmers, and the government cracked down on Shiite Muslim protesters in the capital Abuja. In Somalia, Al-Shabaab ramped up attacks in the capital Mogadishu and across the south, and thousands took to the streets in Malawi to protest President Mutharika’s re-election and alleged electoral fraud. In Europe, tensions rose between Kosovo and Serbia with a senior Serbian official claiming Kosovo had denied him entry. On a positive note, the peace process in Afghanistan saw signs of progress, which could lead to the finalisation of a U.S.-Taliban agreement in August.
The war in Libya expanded. Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s military alliance pursued its campaign to take the capital Tripoli from forces nominally loyal to the UN-backed government based there. For the first time since hostilities erupted in April, government forces struck outside the Tripoli area, deploying drones to destroy enemy assets in Jufra and Waddan in central Libya. Haftar’s forces retaliated by striking the air base in Misrata, some 200km east of Tripoli, from where the drones launched. To end this destructive stalemate, international actors should press both sides to reconsider their uncompromising positions and accept an internationally-monitored ceasefire, followed by talks for new political, military and financial arrangements under a UN aegis.
Tensions continued to run high between Iran and the U.S., keeping them on the brink of military confrontation. Once sparked, such a conflict could spread rapidly across regional flashpoints and engulf their respective allies. In July, Iran breached limits on uranium enrichment agreed in the 2015 nuclear deal, and said it would accelerate its violations if the deal’s remaining parties did not by 6 September find ways to protect it from U.S. sanctions. Maritime confrontations continued, especially in the Strait of Hormuz. In a new report, Averting the Middle East’s 1914 Moment, we warn that in the absence of direct talks between the two sides, a small incident could blow up into a regional conflict. We urge third parties to intensify efforts to defuse the crisis, salvage the nuclear accord and de-escalate tensions.
Nigeria faced greater insecurity on several fronts. Ten years after Boko Haram’s founding father, Muhammad Yusuf, was killed in police custody, the radical insurgent group seemed to be on the offensive, stepping up attacks across Borno state and leaving scores dead, both civilians and security forces. In a recent report, we explain how one of its two factions, Islamic State in West Africa Province, is gaining influence by cultivating support among locals. The authorities will struggle to end the insurgency without a political strategy to supplement their military campaign, one focused on improving governance and services and ensuring that security forces are held accountable. Meanwhile, in the centre and south, herder-farmer tensions rose, partly over the government’s initiative to create temporary settlements for Fulani herders. And in the capital Abuja, security forces violently dispersed protests demanding the release of Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky, leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria. The government officially labelled the group a “terrorist organisation” and banned it.
In Somalia, the Islamist insurgent group Al-Shabaab increased attacks on civilians as well as Somali and international forces, killing at least 109. In the capital Mogadishu, a female suicide-bomber detonated her explosives in the mayor’s office, killing six people and injuring others including the mayor, who later also died. Al-Shabaab said the attack’s target was U.S. diplomat James Swan, recently appointed UN envoy to Somalia, who had left the building not long before. The counter-insurgency remains hampered by bitter feuding between the federal government and federal states over power and resources. In Malawi, protests against President Mutharika’s 21 May re-election picked up steam, and in places opposition activists clashed with ruling party supporters. Opposition parties and civil society groups claim the election was rigged and demand the election commission chair resign.
In Europe, tensions rose between Kosovo and Serbia. A Kosovar foreign ministry advisor on 4 July announced a ban on Serbian officials entering Kosovo, which a government spokesperson denied the next day. Despite this, Serbia’s defence minister said he was prevented from entering the country on 10 July, calling Kosovo’s leaders “liars”.
As violence in Afghanistan continued to take a heavy civilian toll, the latest round of U.S.-Taliban talks bore fruit on four critical issues: countering transnational jihadists, U.S. troop withdrawal, intra-Afghan dialogue, and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire. This progress could augur the finalisation of an agreement in August. Moreover, for the first time Taliban and Afghan government officials met, albeit informally, to discuss a roadmap toward intra-Afghan dialogue. While these discussions constitute a step forward, whether and how this ice-breaker event evolves into substantive negotiations on difficult issues, including the state’s structure and power sharing, remains to be seen.
Russian President Putin 3 July signed bill suspending Russia’s participation in 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) between U.S. and Russia. U.S. 1 Feb said it was suspending its obligations under INF starting 2 Feb and gave Russia six months to return to “real and verifiable” compliance before its ultimate withdrawal from INF, due 2 Aug.
Insecurity persisted in north and east, especially in Centre-North, East and Sahel regions, and also in south, and govt organised political dialogue with opposition. In Centre-North region, unidentified gunmen raided several villages in Dablo, Sanmatenga province in two attacks 21 and 26 July, killing at least 26; 22 July attacked Sagho and Toékodogo, Barsalogho province, killing fifteen. In Sahel region, unidentified assailants 18 July reportedly attacked Béléhédé, Soum province, killing seventeen. In East region, unidentified gunmen 15 July reportedly killed four soldiers in Natiaboani; fighting left seven assailants dead. In Centre-South region, unidentified assailants 5 July attacked ranger station in Nahouri province, near Ghanaian border, wounding four civilian guards; 16 July killed two gendarmes between Po and Guiaro. Govt 11 July renewed state of emergency in fourteen provinces until 12 Jan 2020. President Kaboré 15-22 July held political dialogue to ease tensions with opposition and address concerns over security, constitutional reform and electoral code. After parliament 21 June adopted amendments to penal code, which civil society warned could criminalise work of journalists and advocacy groups, Constitutional Court 22 July declared amendments constitutional; for amendments to take effect, President Kaboré must sign them into law. EU foreign policy chief Mogherini in Ouagadougou 10 July pledged additional €138mn to G5 Sahel joint force. Govt and Niger 10 July signed agreement to improve cooperation between local authorities on management of common border.
Communal and jihadist violence continued in centre despite intensification of military operations and mediation initiatives, and insecurity persisted in north. In Mopti region in centre, suspected ethnic Dogon militants 30 June attacked Fulani villages of Bidi and Saran in Bankass circle, killing 23. Explosion same day between Guiri and Yoro in Koro circle killed eleven Fulanis. Security forces stepped up operations against Dogon militias in Bandiagara circle, near Mopti, destroying check points and seizing weapons. Security forces 10 July bombed camp of Dogon militia Dan Na Ambassagou in Wadouba, no casualties reported; group same day condemned attack and called for govt to cooperate with it. Security forces 11 July disarmed Dogon militants near Diombolo Kanda, seizing 28 hunting rifles. Govt and civil society launched several peace initiatives. Dan Na Ambassagou and Fulani-dominated militia in Mopti signed peace agreement 1 July. Civil society group Faso Dambe Ton late June mediated dialogue between Dogon militias and jihadist group Katiba Macina; latter listed conditions for peace, including that Dogon militias stop collaborating with security forces, refer all legal cases to religious courts, and stop attacking Fulani civilians. In north, crime and jihadist violence continued in Gao, Menaka and on main roads. Notably, unidentified assailants 5 July reportedly killed eight people in Talataye, Ansongo circle and 17 July ambushed military convoy between Fafa and Bentia, killing one soldier; French airstrike same day killed nine people suspected of carrying out attack. Suicide car bombing on base of international forces in Gao 22 July injured at least five soldiers; jihadist Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM) 25 July claimed responsibility. Armed group Movement for the Salvation of Azawad, formerly affiliated with ex-rebel Coalition of Azawad Movements, 12 July said it had joined pro-govt Platform coalition. UN Security Council 10 July sanctioned five additional people for obstructing implementation of peace accord. UK 22 July said it would contribute 250 troops to MINUSMA peacekeeping mission in 2020.
Jihadist groups continued violent attacks, including suicide car bombing on military targets and abduction of civilians, in west near Mali and in south east near Nigeria. In Inates, Tillabery region in west, Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) coming from Mali 1 July staged complex attack on military camp involving two suicide car bombs and dozens of militants on motorbikes, at least eighteen soldiers killed before U.S. and French airstrikes forced militants back across border to Mali. Also in Inates, suspected ISGS militants 15 July killed Tuareg leader Almoubacher ag Alamjadi. In Diffa region in south east, deadly attacks continued and kidnappings of women and girls increased. Suspected Boko Haram faction Islamic State West Africa Province 2 July reportedly abducted twelve people in Kolo Manga, including two women and four girls; 6 July kidnapped at least eight girls in Tchoungoua and one girl in Toumour next day. France 9 July said it had suspended military operations at its Madama outpost in far north and transferred personnel and equipment to restive Liptako-Gourma area that spans border areas of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. Niger and Burkina Faso 10 July signed framework to facilitate cross-border cooperation.
Authorities continued clampdown on opposition and France revealed it had resumed bilateral support to govt in late 2018. Security forces 3-25 July arrested at least 49 supporters of leading opposition party National Congress for Freedom in multiple provinces including Rumonge, Bururi, Gitega and Kirundo. Security forces 11 July reportedly executed two opposition party members in Gihanga, Bubanza province. Youth wing of ruling party CNDD-FDD Imbonerakure also continued to assault opposition supporters. UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi 2 July said fair and transparent elections could not be held in 2020 in current conditions of shrinking democratic space. President Nkurunziza 3 July appointed former leader of Imbonerakure to head of national broadcaster. After govt withdrew BBC’s license to operate in country in March, BBC 16 July said it would close its bureau and operations in Burundi after failing to reach agreement with govt. French ambassador to Burundi 12 July revealed France had resumed bilateral support to govt late 2018 in defence and education sectors having severed cooperation following Nkurunziza’s 2015 decision to run for third term, and encouraged govt to maintain current “positive dynamic” by ensuring all parties can take part in elections set for May 2020.
Opposition kept up pressure on govt, fighting between Anglophone separatists and security forces continued to take heavy civilian toll in Northwest and Southwest regions, and Boko Haram (BH) kept up attacks in Far North. Following series of anti-govt protests in Western capitals in June, authorities 12 and 17 July released some 60 activists of opposition party Movement for the Renaissance of Cameroon (MRC), but its leader Maurice Kamto remained behind bars. In capital Yaoundé, hundreds of prisoners, mainly Anglophone separatists and MRC members, rioted night of 22-23 July in protest at their detention and living conditions; injuries reported. In Northwest region, soldiers 4 July killed civilian in regional capital Bamenda; separatists ambushed military in Ndop 9 July killing two soldiers and security operation in Bamenda 10 July left two civilians dead; in Bui, fighting left at least five separatists and one soldier dead 17 July, and security forces killed at least three civilians 19 July. Separatists 14 July briefly kidnapped some 30 travellers in Belo. Unidentified men 17 July kidnapped lawyer representing detained separatist leaders in Bamenda, released him next day. Fighting in Donga-Matung 29 July left four separatists dead. In Southwest region, separatists 3 July attacked military boat in Manyu reportedly leaving several soldiers dead; clashes between security forces and separatists in Eyumojock 21 July left one gendarme dead. Organisers of Anglophone General Conference 24 July said conference would be held 30 Nov. In Far North, violence involving BH militants in Amchide, Goudoumboul, Masla and Gakara 21-30 July left at least eleven dead. During Lake Chad Basin Governors’ Forum in Niger’s capital Niamey 17-19 July, UN Development Programme 17 July launched Regional Stabilization Facility for Lake Chad region to scale up stabilisation at cost of $100mn for Sept 2019-Aug 2021.
Violence between armed groups continued in capital Bangui and provinces, while efforts to disarm, demobilise and reintegrate rebel fighters advanced slightly in west. Clashes between traders and self-defence groups in PK5 neighbourhood of capital Bangui 10-11 July left eleven dead. In north east, fighting between armed groups Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance (FPRC) and Movement of Central African Liberators for Justice (MLCJ) in Am-Dafock, Vakaga prefecture 14 July left between nine and 23 dead. Armed group Union for Peace in Central African Republic (UPC) 26 July attacked Ngoulaka village, Ouaka prefecture and abducted 25 people. In west, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration process progressed: 167 members of armed group Democratic Front of the Central African People (FDPC) 2-3 July disarmed in Beloko, Nana Mambere prefecture. UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) 17 July said that since process began in Dec 2018 over 450 combatants had disarmed in Nana Mambere prefecture. MLCJ 11 July said it had removed all its roadblocks. Ali Darassa, leader of UPC, 15 July ordered his men to remove roadblocks in several villages of Ouaka and Haute Kotto prefectures. FPRC leader Nourredine Adam 26 July announced immediate and complete cessation of hostilities. FDPC leader Abdoulaye Miskine 30 July called on President Touadéra to immediately resign, if not, he threatened to remove him by force. France 7 July took lead of EU Training Mission and increased troops in mission from 80 to 140; French General Franck Chatelus appointed MINUSCA chief of staff 8 July. EU foreign policy chief Mogherini 12 July announced EU would put additional €55mn in fund for CAR and extend it until 2020.
Boko Haram (BH) continued to attack security forces in west and President Déby held talks with political parties on electoral process. In Lake Chad province in west, BH militants attacked gendarmerie in Meliya village night of 7-8 July killing three civilians and one gendarme. During Lake Chad Basin Governors’ Forum for regional cooperation on stabilisation, peacebuilding and sustainable development held in Niger’s capital Niamey 17-19 July, UN Development Programme 17 July launched Regional Stabilization Facility for Lake Chad region to scale up stabilisation at cost of $100mn for Sept 2019-Aug 2021. In south, clashes between nomadic herders and sedentary farmers 20 July left at least six dead in Tchiré, Tandjilé province. Déby late June reshuffled govt, notably appointing Mahamat Abali Salah as defence minister and shifting responsibility for police and nomadic guard from territorial administration ministry to defence ministry. Déby held meetings with political parties 10 and 16 July to discuss legislative elections which he has committed to organising this year. Opposition parties failed to agree on list of members to be included in renewed National Framework for Political Dialogue, platform comprising ruling majority, opposition and civil society to discuss conduct of elections. Déby 13 July lifted restrictions on social media networks, which govt imposed in March 2018 citing security reasons.
President Tshisekedi continued to negotiate govt formation with former President Kabila; Kabila faced challenge from within his Common Front for Congo (FCC) coalition; violence continued in Ituri in north east; and World Health Organization (WHO) declared Ebola outbreak a global public health emergency. Senator Bahati Lukwebo, president of Alliance for the Democratic Forces of Congo and Allies (AFDC-A), major party within Kabila’s coalition, 10 July declared himself candidate for senate presidency, challenging dominance of Kabila’s party within coalition. FCC expelled Bahati, prompting AFDC-A politicians and activists to stage protests in Bukavu in east 11 July. In senate council elections 27 July, Kabila’s candidate former Minister Alexis Tambwe Mwamba won presidency, but AFDC-A candidate Samy Badibanga won vice presidency. In Sankuru province in centre, provincial parliament 20 July elected Joseph-Stéphane Mukumadi, nominally independent candidate but reportedly close to Tshisekedi, as governor, beating Kabila ally Lambert Mende. In Ituri province in north east, violence continued in Djugu, Mahagi and Irumu territories as armed groups continued to target civilians and military. Eight headless bodies discovered 10km from provincial capital Bunia 18 July, prompting youth to protest against insecurity. 200 additional police deployed to shore up security 8 July. In east, first person in Goma, North Kivu provincial capital, to have tested positive for Ebola 14 July, died next day while being transferred to Butembo. WHO 17 July declared Ebola outbreak in Congo a global public health emergency, noting that Goma is “a city of almost two million people on the border with Rwanda, and the gateway to the rest of DRC and the world”. Tshisekedi 20 July placed Ebola response under presidency’s supervision and same day created seven-man technical secretariat to lead on it. Health Minister Oly Ilunga 22 July resigned in protest.
Tensions between Rwanda and Uganda remained tense despite steps to improve relations. Rwandan President Kagame 3 July received Ugandan FM in Rwandan capital Kigali. Following 12 July summit between presidents of Rwanda, Uganda, DR Congo and Angola in Angolan capital Luanda, heads of state appointed Angola as mediator between Uganda and Rwanda with support of DR Congo. Ugandan security forces 23 July arrested at least 40 Rwandans reportedly on suspicion of espionage in Ugandan capital Kampala.
President Afwerki received Ethiopian PM Abiy in capital Asmara 18 July one year after they signed peace agreement and discussed deepening cooperation, no substantial outcome. Russia 22 July lifted sanctions, which it imposed on govt in 2009, to conform with Nov 2018 UN Security Council resolution that called for lifting sanctions on Eritrea following its normalisation of relations with Ethiopia and Somalia.
Deadly clashes erupted in south between security forces and ethnic Sidama protesting delay of referendum on creation of Sidama state, and Tigrayan and Amhara parties in ruling coalition blamed each other for late June high-level killings. Ahead of Sidama movement’s unilateral declaration of statehood planned for 18 July, electoral board 16 July said it would hold referendum on creation of Sidama federal state by 20 Nov, thereby indicating 18 July deadline set by Sidama movement was invalid. Sidama Zone administrator and some Sidama movement leaders 18 July accepted new schedule, fuelling tensions with those who rejected it. Other Sidama activists, including part of youth movement Ejetto, opposed delay and took to streets. Clashes between security forces and protesters in Hawassa in south 17 July left at least four dead and soldiers next day reportedly killed thirteen people in nearby Wotera Rassa. Reports suggested dozens of people were killed in total, including when Sidama attacked minorities, but internet blackout (lifted 29 July) restricted information. Security forces reportedly arrested some 150 protesters. National Security Council 22 July placed Sidama and all other southern districts under temporary oversight of federal security forces. Regional govt 25 July suspended senior leaders of Hawassa city and Sidama and Hadiya zones for playing “major role” in violence. Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) 10 July called on Amhara Democratic Party (ADP), both members of ruling coalition, to admit responsibility for 22 June killings of high-level officials and called for investigation. Next day ADP condemned TPLF allegations and claimed latter was responsible for overall political crisis. ADP 15 July nominated as Amhara state leader National Security Advisor Temesgen Tiruneh, replacing Ambachew Mekonnen who was killed in June attacks. Seven opposition parties 25 July called for independent investigation into 22 June killings and subsequent arrests. Govt 27 July released 57 people arrested in connection with attacks.
Al-Shabaab kept up attacks in east and relations between Kenya and Somalia remained fraught over contested status of Somaliland. In Lamu county in east: suspected Al-Shabaab militants 15 July ambushed police in Kiunga, fighting left three attackers dead and two police wounded; suspected Al-Shabaab bombing on road between Ishakani and Ras Kamboni 20 July reportedly left two dead. In Marsabit county in north, unidentified gunmen killed one person and took 250 cattle in Elle-Bor 3 July. Following late June tweet by Kenyan FM referring to Somaliland as a country, Somalia 1 July called tweet affront to its sovereignty and summoned Kenyan ambassador to Somalia. Govt 1 July agreed to establish joint border commission with South Sudan to help settle conflict between communities in disputed Ilemi Triangle.
Al-Shabaab stepped up attacks in capital Mogadishu and elsewhere in south, tensions persisted between federal govt and federal member states and between it and breakaway Somaliland. In Mogadishu, two Al-Shabaab attacks 8 July left nine dead; suicide car bombing near airport 22 July killed at least seventeen; suicide bombing in municipal govt HQ 24 July killed six and seriously wounded others including city’s mayor (Al-Shabaab said suicide bombing target was U.S. diplomat recently appointed U.N. envoy to Somalia). Al-Shabaab kept up attacks elsewhere in south, notably Al-Shabaab militants 12 July stormed hotel in Kismayo, Jubaland state capital, killing at least 26. Attacks also reported in Middle Juba, Lower Juba, Gedo and Lower Shabelle regions killing at least 50 civilians and soldiers. U.S.-backed security forces continued offensives against Al-Shabaab: notably, unclaimed airstrikes 11 July reportedly killed dozens of Al-Shabaab militants in Jilib, Middle Juba. In north, unidentified gunmen opened fire on vehicle in Galkayo, Puntland 11 July killing at least five civilians. U.S. airstrike 27 July killed one member of Islamic State (ISIS)-Somalia. Jubaland federal member state 8 July rejected federal govt’s announcement previous day that it would help identify elders who would select Jubaland’s assembly members in Aug polls; 25 July suspended co-operation with govt accusing it of interfering in electoral process. Govt 1 July called Kenya’s late June reference to Somaliland as a country an affront to Somalia’s sovereignty. Govt 4 July cut diplomatic ties with Guinea after it gave Somaliland President Bihi official welcome 2 July. President Farmajo 17 July appointed six-member committee to represent govt in any new talks with Somaliland; latter 19 July rejected committee reportedly because it included members from Somaliland whose legitimacy it does not recognise. Puntland federal member state 19 July also rejected committee since govt had not consulted federal member states before forming it.
Fighting flared in several areas, political parties struck deal unblocking electoral process, and relations with Somalia, which claims sovereignty over Somaliland, remained fraught. In Sanaag region (disputed between Somaliland and Puntland), rival clan militias clashed in Duud Arraale and El Afweyn 7-8 July leaving at least 25 dead. Also in Sanaag, Somaliland forces clashed with those loyal to Colonel Arre, who defected from Somaliland to Puntland in 2018, near Dhoob 10 July leaving three Somaliland soldiers and one of Arre’s soldiers dead. After Arre’s forces 26 July took Karin village, clashes broke out there next day between them and Somaliland troops, reportedly leaving two Somaliland soldiers dead. Country’s three political parties 27 July agreed way forward to holding long-delayed parliamentary and municipal elections this year, including by increasing number of members of electoral commission from seven to nine. Govt early July filed complaint at UN following late June agreement between Somalia and international civil aviation authorities that sees Somalia take over managing airspace over Somalia and Somaliland from agencies neglecting previous agreement between Somalia and Somaliland to manage airspace jointly. After Somaliland President Bihi visited Guinea 2 July and received welcome befitting head of state, Somalia 4 July cut diplomatic ties with Guinea on grounds that invitation to Bihi violated Somalia’s sovereignty; Guinea apologised. Somalia President Farmajo 17 July formed committee to represent govt in renewed dialogue with Somaliland; Somaliland 19 July rejected it reportedly because it included members from Somaliland whose legitimacy it does not recognise.
Rebel leader Riek Machar indicated his willingness to resume direct talks with President Kiir, as implementation of 2018 Sept peace deal continued to lag ahead of Nov deadline to form interim govt. Machar 8 July told govt he was willing to hold face-to-face talks with Kiir on condition that regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) lift travel restrictions imposed on him and that an IGAD head of state broker meetings with Kiir. Body tasked with command and control of all forces during pre-transitional period Joint Defence Board (JDB) 21 July ordered all govt and rebel forces to report to cantonment sites by 31 July, which reportedly they did. Army clashed with non-signatory armed group National Salvation Front (NAS) in Lobonok, Jubek 22-23 July, resulting in unconfirmed number of casualties. UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) 3 July released report indicating that security forces and rebel groups had killed 104 civilians between signing of peace deal in Sept 2018 and April 2019 in Central Equatoria region in south. Unidentified gunmen 16 July killed one UN peacekeeper and six civilians in Abyei region, disputed between South Sudan and Sudan. Govt 1 July agreed to establish joint border commission with Kenya to help resolve conflict between ethnic communities in disputed border territory Ilemi Triangle. Kiir 27 July facilitated talks in Juba between, on one side, Sudanese rebel groups active in border areas Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) Hilu and SPLM-N Agar and, on other, joint delegation of Sudanese ruling Transitional Military Council and opposition coalition Forces for Freedom and Change led by TMC deputy head “Hemedti”; parties renewed ceasefire agreement.
Ruling military council and opposition coalition signed political agreement for three-year transitional period, but continued to negotiate over constitutional declaration that will govern power structures; military reportedly foiled coup attempt and mass protests continued. Transitional Military Council (TMC) and opposition coalition Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) resumed talks mediated by African Union and Ethiopia 3-4 July. TMC 4 July released 235 members of rebel faction Sudan Liberation Movement led by Minni Minnawi. TMC and FFC 5 July reached provisional agreement on transitional arrangements. U.S. Assistant Sec State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy 8 July tied lifting of Sudan’s “state sponsor of terror” designation to implementation of power-sharing agreement. Military officers 11 July allegedly attempted coup to block agreement; in response TMC arrested sixteen military personnel. TMC and FFC 17 July signed political agreement: joint military-civilian sovereign council to rule for 39 months until elections; eleven-member council to comprise five civilians from FFC, five TMC officers, and one consensually selected civilian. TMC to chair council for first 21 months, civilian for eighteen months. Agreement called for national investigation into 3 June attack on protesters. FFC 27 July rejected findings of TMC-appointed inquiry into 3 June attacks, which implicated eight RSF officers but exonerated TMC leadership. In Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, political opposition and rebel alliance Sudan Revolutionary Front 25 July agreed to set up FFC-led body to formulate common vision on constitutional declaration and to start talks on agreement between govt and rebel groups after transition to civilian rule. In South Sudan capital Juba 27 July TMC and FFC discussed implementation of political agreement with other Sudanese rebel groups, parties renewed ceasefire. Paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) 29 July reportedly killed at least five protesters in North Kordofan’s capital el-Obeid, prompting nationwide protests. Tens of thousands demonstrated countrywide 11 July to commemorate those killed 3 June and thousands demonstrated in Khartoum 25 July to demand experts, not political parties, make up transitional govt.
Diplomatic efforts to improve relations between Uganda and Rwanda accelerated and musician-turned-opposition leader Bobi Wine announced he would run for president in 2021. Ugandan FM 3 July met Rwandan President Kagame in Rwandan capital Kigali in bid to improve relations. At summit in Angolan capital Luanda 12 July, presidents of Uganda, Rwanda, DR Congo and Angola decided Angola would mediate between Uganda and Rwanda with support of DR Congo. Security forces 23 July arrested at least 40 Rwandans reportedly on suspicion of espionage in capital Kampala. MP Robert Kyagulanyi, known as Bobi Wine, 24 July announced he would contest 2021 presidential polls.
Armed Forces of Cabinda (FAC), armed wing of movement for secession of Cabinda exclave Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC), 4 July claimed to have killed nine soldiers 1-2 July in exclave’s northern Massabi region, one FAC combatant killed. Following Feb arrest of supporters of smaller secessionist organisation Cabinda Independence Movement (MIC), police 4 July released ten detained activists.
Protests against President Mutharika’s 21 May re-election escalated and in places turned violent, and authorities continued to arrest movement’s leaders. Thousands took part in demonstrations organised by NGO Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) in capital Lilongwe 4 July to protest Mutharika’s re-election and alleged electoral fraud. After Mutharika 6 July warned that authorities would take action against protest leaders, police following day arrested at least 68 protesters for alleged “criminal acts”. Authorities 9 July arrested Gift Trapence and McDonald Sembereka, HRDC’s vice chairman and member respectively. In Blantyre, ruling Democratic Progressive Party youth cadets armed with knives 19 July attacked protesters in Chichiri Upper Stadium, police nearby failed to intervene; in city’s outskirts youths suspected to belong to opposition Malawi Congress Party blocked roads. In Lilongwe, opposition protesters 25 July damaged and torched part of govt office complex and attacked head office of Japan International Cooperation Agency. In Mzuzu, protesters 25 July burned down offices of govt and ruling Democratic Progressive Party and police unit. HRDC 29 July announced postponement of demonstrations on following day in order to prepare upcoming “One million march” 6 August against Malawi Electoral Commission chairperson Jane Ansah.
Suspected Islamist militants continued attacks against civilians and security forces in Cabo Delgado province in far north where Islamic State (ISIS) claimed its second attack and frictions continued within former armed opposition Renamo. Police 3 July said it had arrested several Ahlu Sunnah Waa-Jama’a (ASWJ) gunmen after militants 26 June reportedly killed eleven civilians in Itole, Palma district. Militants 4 July reportedly beheaded three people in Chamala, Miudumbe district; 3 July attacked Lidjungo in Nangade district, killing one police and six civilians; ISIS 5 July claimed responsibility. After group claiming to be Renamo’s military wing from Sofala province threatened to kill party leader Ossufo Momade in June, another group of alleged Renamo fighters in Funhalouro, Inhambane province in south east early July threatened to derail implementation of disarmament agreement signed with govt 2 June if Momade did not step down, Renamo’s leadership called group “deserters”. Constitutional Council 9 July declined to hear Renamo’s complaint against electoral commission for allegedly inflating number of voters registered in Gaza province in south; Renamo said it would file criminal charges and request independent audit. Parliament 29 July passed amnesty bill that exempts from prosecution govt forces and Renamo fighters for crimes committed since 2014. Renamo’s armed wing 30 July started disarmament process. President Nyusi 31 July said govt would next day sign peace agreement with Renamo to put formal end to military hostilities. Newly appointed South African Justice Minister Ronald Lamola 13 July said he would ask courts to reverse his predecessor’s May ruling to extradite former Mozambican Finance Minister Manuel Chang to Mozambique, citing concerns that Chang still enjoyed political immunity; same day said he would consider extraditing Chang to U.S., where he is wanted for alleged involvement in Mozambique govt’s undisclosed $2bn loan that U.S. says was fraudulent. Chang 24 July resigned from parliament, losing his immunity.
Amid continuing economic crisis, power shortages and rising inflation, attempts to initiate political dialogue remained deadlocked. Nelson Chamisa, leader of main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), 11 July warned party would organise protests against govt but did not say when. Chamisa called for seven days of prayer 26 July, “before undertaking crucial and decisive next steps” which remain undefined. Police 9 July charged MDC deputy Chairman Job Sikhala with attempting to overthrow govt after he allegedly vowed MDC would overthrow President Mnangagwa before 2023 election. Police 10 July arrested MDC Youth Assembly Sec Gen Gift Ostallos Siziba for allegedly inciting subversion of govt. Confederation of unions Civil Service Apex Council 18 July said it would not call for strike as threatened after govt same day agreed to provide “cushioning allowances”. Court 26 July ruled that Tourism Minister Prisca Mupfumira be detained for 21 days while anti-corruption commission investigates corruption allegations. Unidentified gunmen 31 July made failed attempt to abduct MDC officials in capital Harare.
Following violent anti-govt protests in May-June, Church representatives 3 July began mediation between opposition and pro-govt parties, civil society and President Talon. Opposition insisted on dissolution of parliament and new elections. Following govt’s decision to bar opposition parties from taking part in 28 April parliamentary election, Talon 15 July met representatives of eleven pro-govt and opposition parties in bid to establish roadmap for certification of opposition parties; opposition called meeting “disappointing” and called on Talon to lift “artificial blockages”. Interior minister 18 July refused to legalise parties, insisting they required 1,155 founding members and not 120 as previously stated.
Tensions persisted between President Ouattara’s coalition Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP) and opposition Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire-African Democratic Rally (PDCI-RDA) led by former President Bédié. Following Nov 2016 recommendations from African Court on Human and People’s Rights, govt 3 July proposed bill to reform electoral commission, decreasing number of members from seventeen to fifteen and reducing proportion of seats allocated to ruling coalition; parliament 30 July approved reform bill with 124 votes to 78, despite opposition MPs criticising govt for publishing final text day before vote. PDCI and other opposition parties and civil society following day protested against reform, arguing that, since executive’s representatives were biased, commission’s membership remained biased in favour of ruling coalition. Opposition also denounced 5,000 francs (about $8.50) fee for identity card on grounds that it would disenfranchise poor voters; 6 July mobilised hundreds to protest in Abidjan against fee. Authorities continued to pressure Bédié’s allies: 1 July arrested PDCI Youth President Valentin Kouassi, releasing him next day; 2 July sentenced in absentia senior PDCI member and former mayor of Plateau district in Abidjan Noël Akossi Bendjo to twenty years in prison for embezzlement of public funds; Bendjo called decision “parody of justice”; 6 July arrested Bamba Moriféré after opposition meeting, charging him with “incitement to insurrection”.
Hundreds 4 July marched in capital Banjul in support of victims of sexual violence demanding better laws to prevent abuse. Protests came a week after report from NGO Human Rights Watch detailed how former President Jammeh used his power as well as state institutions to entrap and sexually abuse young women. Jammeh’s party, Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction, called rape allegations against Jammeh by Fatou “Toufah” Jallow in New York Times “smear campaign”. Protests erupted 24 July in Serrekunda near Banjul, sparked by death in custody of young trader, during which protesters attacked police station and police fired tear gas at protesters. Same day another protest took place in Brikama, about 30km from Banjul against lack of development in area, some protesters reportedly injured in clashes with security forces.
Tensions persisted between supporters and opponents of President Condé ahead of 2020 presidential elections. Following late June leak of official document that argued for president’s right to propose new constitution that would allow Condé to run for third term and submit it to referendum, FM Touré 5 July confirmed authenticity of document and vowed to track those responsible for leak, while opposition called document proof that govt was promoting “undemocratic project”. NGOs Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International 11 July criticised 25 June law that gives police “too much discretion to use firearms” and shields them from prosecution. Somalia 4 July cut diplomatic ties with Guinea after latter 2 July gave official welcome to President Bihi of Somaliland, over which Somalia claims sovereignty; Guinea apologised to Somalia.
Following 23 June reappointment of Aristides Gomes as PM, President Vaz 3 July nominated Gomes’s proposed cabinet and Ladislau Embassa as attorney general. New govt mainly comprising members of African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde’s (PAIGC) and its allies took office 4 July. PM Gomes same day nominated 21 new advisers, including PAIGC’s leader Domingos Simões Pereira as special adviser to PM and head of Office to Support Reforms; civil society organisations criticised appointments as “nepotism” and waste of public funds. After electoral commission 10 July set 24 Nov as date of presidential election, National Assembly President Cipriano Cassamá announced his candidacy, adding that if he won Pereira would be his PM; Pereira 11 July reminded Cassamá that PAIGC would opt for primaries to choose candidate. Former PAIGC leader and former PM Gomes Júnior 13 July also announced his candidacy.
In capital Monrovia, electoral commission 31 July released preliminary results of by-election in Montserrado county pointing to victory of opposition candidate Darius Dillon of Liberty Party; announcement triggered clashes same day between opposition activists and supporters of ruling party Congress for Democratic Change, fourteen injured. Hundreds same day staged anti-govt protest in Monrovia against alleged corruption and economic mismanagement under President Weah, prompting police to use tear gas and arrest five.
Boko Haram (BH) increased attacks in north east, deadly bandit violence continued in north west, govt forces cracked down on Shiite Muslim protesters in capital Abuja, while herder-farmer tensions rose in centre and south. In north east, both BH factions continued insurgency: in Borno state, insurgents 17 July killed at least six farmers near state capital Maiduguri; 18 July ambushed humanitarian convoy near Damasak, killed driver, abducted six NGO staff; 25 July attacked displaced persons’ camp in Maiduguri, killing two; 27 July attacked villages near Maiduguri, killing at least 70. Also in Borno state, BH faction Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) 4 July ambushed troops in Damboa, killing five; 17 July attacked army vehicle in Jakana town, killing four; troops repelled insurgent attacks in Baga and Benishiek 29-30 July, killing ten. In north west, Zamfara state govt’s peace and reconciliation initiative led to bandits and vigilantes releasing over 100 captives. In Katsina state, over 300 bandits 13 July attacked Kirtawa, killing at least ten; over 200 bandits 21 July attacked Zango, killing at least ten. In Sokoto state, bandits 17 July attacked several villages in Goronyo area, killing 39. In capital Abuja, Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) protesters demanding release of their leader Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky and his wife marched to parliament 9 July; security forces dispersed march killing two. Further clashes 22-23 July left about fifteen dead, including senior policeman; govt 30 July declared IMN “terrorist organisation” and banned it. IMN suspended protests, but said it would challenge ban in court. In centre and south, herder-farmer tensions rose: federal govt 31 June said it had begun creating temporary settlements for Fulani herders in twelve of 36 states, but suspended plan 3 July following protests by state govts and ethnic leaders in south and Middle Belt. In south west, unidentified gunmen killed daughter of pan-Yoruba group leader in Ondo state 12 July, group alleged gunmen were Fulani herders, heightening anti-Fulani sentiment across region.
Electoral commission 5 July announced provisional results of 30 June local elections: President Gnassingbé’s Union for the Republic party won more municipal councillor seats than any other party (60%); turnout was about 52% and particularly low in capital Lomé. Main opposition parties had boycotted Dec 2018 parliamentary elections, but most ran for municipal seats; Pan-African National Party was only opposition party not to run. Its leader Tikpi Atchadam continued to demand release of activists detained during anti-govt demonstrations 13 April.
Japanese coast guard 10 and 15 July spotted four Chinese coast guard ships around contested Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. International tensions increased over Chinese and Russian planes’ incursion of airspace over islands contested by Japan and South Korea; joint air exercise 23 July saw three Russian and two Chinese military planes fly over Dokdo islands in East Sea/Sea of Japan, claimed by both South Korea and Japan; Russia denied violation of airspace but confirmed it took part in joint patrol with Chinese aircraft. Japan’s ministry of defence said it had scrambled fighters to intercept planes (see Korean Peninsula).
U.S. and North Korea denuclearisation talks remained stalled while North Korea tested projectiles. Despite end June agreement to restart negotiations following meeting between U.S. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in demilitarised zone between North and South Korea, stalemate in denuclearisation talks ongoing with no talks announced. North Korea 24 July conducted test of two short-range missiles and 31 July fired two more. U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton 23 July met with Korean officials in Seoul to discuss stalled talks as well as strengthening of South Korea-U.S. alliance. World Food Programme 24 July announced it had learned that North Korea intended to reject South Korea’s food aid program, announced in June and due to be delivered through UN agencies. Joint air exercise 23 July saw three Russian and two Chinese military planes fly over Dokdo islands in East Sea/Sea of Japan, claimed by both South Korea and Japan; South Korea scrambled jets and fired hundreds of warning shots after one of Russian planes violated its sovereign airspace. Russia denied violation of airspace but confirmed it took part in joint patrol with Chinese aircraft (see China/Japan). Exercise came amid deterioration in Japanese-South Korean relations, with National Security Advisor Chung Eui-yong 18 July saying govt could even reconsider sharing intelligence with Japan if bilateral situation worsens.
Tensions continued amid military drills and Chinese condemnation of U.S. sale of weapons to Taiwan. China ministry of defence 14 July held military drills involving navy and air force near Taiwan Strait. China 28 July began military drills near both ends of Taiwan Strait, due to conclude 2 Aug. In response, Taiwan 29-30 July held live-fire drills. Earlier in month, U.S. State Department 8 July announced it had approved estimated $2.2bn sale of tanks, missiles and related equipment to Taiwan; China’s foreign ministry expressed anger and urged U.S. to revoke sale. Next day, China foreign ministry spokesperson said sale “harms China’s sovereignty and security interests”, followed by 12 July claim it would sanction U.S. companies selling weapons to Taiwan. President Tsai mid-July visited U.S. including 12 July meeting with UN representatives, where she said Taiwan “facing threat and penetration of overseas forces”. China 24 July released national defence white paper accusing Taiwan of “pursuing path of separatism” and warning China “must and will be reunited”. U.S. warship 24-25 July sailed through Taiwan Strait; in response, China foreign ministry 25 July expressed “deep concern”. China’s culture and tourism ministry 31 July announced it will temporarily restrict individual travel permits from China to Taiwan starting 1 Aug.
Amid continued violence causing a high civilian toll, peace process saw signs of progress in latest rounds of talks and could lead to finalisation of U.S.-Taliban agreement in coming month. During seventh round of U.S.-Taliban talks in Doha (28 June-9 July) U.S. Special Envoy Khalilzad 6 July said round was “most productive session” to date, with progress made on all four fronts: counter-terrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, intra-Afghan dialogue and permanent and comprehensive ceasefire; talks resumed late July. Taliban and Afghan representatives, including govt officials, met in Doha 7-8 July to discuss roadmap for initiation of formal intra-Afghan talks; in joint-declaration both parties called for reduction of civilian casualties and respect of women’s rights. Violence continued: in Kabul, Taliban truck bomb 1 July reportedly killed 40 people; security forces said they killed five militants in subsequent gunfight. In Ab Kamari, Baghdis province, Taliban killed at least eighteen commandos and captured eleven during security forces operation to capture senior Taliban leader 17 July. Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-KP) stepped up attacks: 6 July killed two in attack on Shiite mosque in southern Ghazni province; child-suicide bomber 12 July killed five at wedding party in Pacheragam district, Nangarhar province in attack widely attributed to IS-KP. In Kabul, three separate explosions 25 July killed fifteen; Taliban claimed one and IS-KP claimed others; unidentified suicide bomber and gunmen 28 July attacked VP candidate Amrullah Saleh’s office, killing twenty and injuring Saleh. High level of civilian deaths continued; in Jaghatu district of Wardak province, airstrike killed seventeen civilians 14 July, prompting protests from local residents accusing govt of overlooking incidents and saying casualties rose sharply since spring. NGO Human Rights Watch 12 July said Afghan special forces raided medical clinic in Wardak province and executed four civilians 8-9 July, calling on govt to investigate attack. UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan 30 July released report documenting 3,812 civilian casualties, including 1,366 deaths, 1 Jan-30 June 2019, and stating that “civilian deaths attributed to pro-govt forces exceeded those caused by anti-govt elements” for second quarter in succession.
Security forces continued anti-militancy operations while political tensions arose over death sentences for members of opposition. In continued operations, police 1 July arrested member of banned Hizb ut-Tahrir in Sylhet district; 9 July arrested suspected members of Ansar al-Islam in Barisal town and Dhaka for allegedly attempting to recruit new members online, particularly women; 11 July arrested three alleged Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) militants in Chittagong district. Inspector General of Police 1 July warned home-grown JMB militants could join Islamic State, stressing use of social media in recruitment. Pabna district court 3 July sentenced to death nine leaders and activists of opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), 25 to life imprisonment, and thirteen to ten years in jail over 1994 bomb attack on train carrying then-opposition Awami League leader and current PM Hasina; BNP’s Sec Gen 6 July called charges fabricated and said verdict was part of govt’s attempt to “eliminate BNP using the court”. BNP continued to campaign for release of imprisoned BNP leader Khaleda Zia, holding rallies in Barishal 18 July, Chittagong 20 July and Khulna 25 July. Monsoons caused heavy flooding since early July in Rohingya refugee camps, leading to at least five deaths and deterioration of living conditions. Prosecutor of International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda 4 July requested court’s judges authorise investigation into alleged crimes against humanity and persecution committed against Rohingya Muslims (in which at least one element occurred in Bangladesh – a State Party to the Rome Statute) (see Myanmar).
Govt announced new campaign against Maoists amid ongoing insurgents’ clashes with security forces, abductions and targeted killings of civilians. Ministry of Home Affairs officials 4 July announced increase of Central Reserve Police Force operations in “decisive push” against “weakened” Maoist insurgents. In Chhattisgarh state (east), security forces 6 July killed four militants in Dhamtaru district; in Sukma district, Maoists 12 July killed regional party Telangana Rashtra Samithi leader Srinivas Rao, after kidnapping him 8 July; in Bastar district, security forces 27 July killed seven insurgents. In Jharkhand state (east), police 19 July arrested four Maoists allegedly involved in 14 June killing of five policemen in Tiruldih in Seraikela-Kharsawan district. In Kerala state (south), govt 29 July approved amnesty scheme for Maoists cadres, on condition of insurgents revealing details of crimes, collaborationists and source of arms.
Indian and Pakistani forces continued to exchange fire along Line of Control (LoC, dividing Pakistan and Indian-administered Kashmir) and separatists clashed with security forces in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). In cross-LoC clashes, explosion 3 July killed five Pakistani soldiers in Bhimber district of Pakistani-controlled Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), Pakistani military statement accusing India of “state sponsored terrorism”; India defence spokesperson 6 July said Pakistani cross-border firing killed two soldiers in Rajouri district. International Court of Justice 17 July ruled Pakistan must grant consular access to Indian naval officer sentenced to death in April 2017 on spying charges, while calling for “effective review” of case. UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights 8 July released update report into May 2018-April 2019 situation in Indian- and Pakistan-administered Kashmir, expressing concern that past rights concerns raised in June 2018 report had yet to be addressed, and reiterating need that govts address past and ongoing human rights violations; India criticised report, Pakistan said it confirmed accusations of Indian rights abuses in Kashmir. In J&K, Indian home minister 10 July reported 93 militants killed since Feb 2019 Pulwama terrorist attack as clashes between security forces and militants continued. In Shopian district, police 5 July killed militant allegedly affiliated with Hizbul Mujahideen and 17 July killed militant allegedly affiliated with Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba; police 27 July killed Jaish-e-Mohammed commander Munna Bhai and associate. In Pulwama district, unidentified gunmen 30 July injured People’s Democratic Party (PDP) local leader Lateef Ahmed.
Govt campaign against hardline Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) continued; CPN and police 10 July clashed in eastern Bhojpur district, killing one cadre and one police official. Amid concerns over govt’s use of force against CPN individuals, govt rejected opposition parties’ repeated calls for formation of parliamentary panel to investigate 20 June killing of CPN cadre Kumar Paudel in Sarlahi district; National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) 19 July launched investigation into 20 June incident following preliminary probe suggesting police killed Paudel under suspicious circumstances. Opposition continued to criticise govt for failing to make progress on talks with CPN; CPN has set three preconditions for talks – official invitation from govt, lifting ban on its activities, release of arrested cadres. Tensions between federal and provincial govts continued with Supreme Court 1 July ruling federal Public Service Commission can fill over 9,000 vacant civil service positions at provincial level; provincial officials claimed recruitment initiative undermines their jurisdiction and violates principles of inclusion by ignoring quotas for marginalised groups. NGOs Amnesty International, International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights Watch, and TRIAL International 29 July expressed concerns about govt’s commitment to transitional justice and raised questions about selection of new leadership for Nepal’s two main transitional justice mechanisms.
Authorities arrested leader of militant group Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) amid continued militant attacks while govt continued push for criminal prosecution of opposition’s leadership. Following international pressure and possibility of Financial Action Task Force blacklisting govt, Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) 17 July arrested Hafiz Saeed, leader of LeT (renamed Jamaat-ud-Dawa) on terrorism financing charges; U.S. President Trump 17 July commended arrest of “mastermind” of 2008 Mumbai attacks. During four-country consultation on Afghan peace process in Beijing 10-11 July, U.S., China and Russia recognised Pakistan’s role in facilitating negotiations and political settlement in Afghanistan. In meeting with PM Khan 22 July, Trump also praised Islamabad’s role in facilitating U.S.-Taliban talks while downplaying political disagreements between the two govts. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf govt pursued confrontation with opposition: Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) 1 July arrested Punjab President of Muslim League-Nawaz party (PML-N) Rana Sanaullah; military-led ANF claimed to have found heroin in Sanaullah’s car, prompting opposition and media outlets to accuse agency of planting drugs. Former PM Sharif’s daughter 6 July released video allegedly showing judge confessing having been blackmailed to convict Sharif in Dec 2018 on corruption charge; Supreme Court 16 July allowed the opening of a probe into controversy; govt regulator 8 July blocked three TV channel’s live broadcast of daughter’s news conference in incident Reporters Without Borders called “brazen censorship”. National Accountability Bureau 18 July ordered arrest of former PML-N PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi while next day former PML-N Finance Minister Mitfah Ismail obtained pre-arrest bail, both on alleged charges of corruption. Militant-related violence continued; in Punjab’s Gujrat district, CTD 1 July raided militant hideout, killing three. In Dera Ismail Khan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) 21 July conducted twin attacks: four gunmen killed two policemen followed by suicide bomber attack on hospital, killing at least seven. Military 27 July reported attack by suspected TTP militants killed six soldiers on patrol along Afghanistan-Pakistan border in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and same day said unidentified militants killed four soldiers in Balochistan.
Fallout from April terror attacks continued with arrests of high-level security officials amid ongoing anti-Muslim campaigns. Police 2 July arrested former defence secretary and suspended chief of police, on charges of murder and criminal negligence over failure to prevent attacks. Catholic Archbishop of Colombo 21 July claimed attacks were foreign conspiracy to destabilise country and happened due to President Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe’s power struggle and neglect of national security, calling on both to resign and new govt to form. Head of Criminal Investigation Department 24 July said April’s attackers inspired by but not directly linked to Islamic State (ISIS). Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, leader of hardline Buddhist organisation Bodu Bala Sena released from prison by presidential pardon in May, held rally in Kandy 7 July decrying Muslim threat and calling for Sinhalese to unite and elect all-Sinhala govt. Police 25 July released on bail after two months detention a Muslim doctor accused by Buddhist militants of mass sterilisation of Sinhalese women, following police investigations revealing allegations false and politically motivated. Organisation of Islamic Cooperation 3 July said it remained concerned about rise in “intimidation, anti-Muslim rhetoric and hate speech”, calling on authorities to counter hate speech and ensure Muslims’ safety. UN special rapporteur on rights to freedom of assembly and association, concluding country visit 18-26 July, said hate speech laws “not applied with even hand” and “discriminatory and violent rhetoric, particularly by members of majority community, frequently goes unpunished” and exacerbated by social media. Supreme Court 5 July delayed Sirisena’s plans to carry out execution of four convicted drug dealers in first executions since 1976, amid opposition from all political parties except for Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party, with parliamentarian from ruling-United National Party 2 July introducing bill to abolish death penalty.
Anti-militant operations continued, amid low-level violence in Papua. Anti-terror police Densus 88 reported they had foiled plot to carry out Independence Day bombing on 17 August, arresting suspected militant in West Sumatra province 18 July; police stated suspect believed to be member of Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Jemaah Ansharut Daulah. Police 23 July said deadly cathedral bombing which killed over 22 in Jan was carried out by Indonesian couple who attempted to travel to Syria to join ISIS. Counter-terrorism agency chief 8 July said govt set up task force to decide whether it will take back families of Indonesian ISIS fighters stranded in Syria. Military 30 July announced new military unit to fight terrorism, reportedly consisting of 500 personnel. In Papua province, suspected separatist rebels 20 July killed soldier guarding construction of bridge in Nduga district. NGO Solidarity Team for Nduga 18 July claimed around 5,200 people displaced by fighting between soldiers and separatists since Dec 2018, alleging some 139 had died from malnutrition and disease; military spokesman disputed figures.
Clashes between Arakan Army (AA) and Myanmar military in Rakhine state continued amid protests over deaths of AA suspects in military custody. AA used new tactic of attacking navy vessels in Rakhine state three times since late-June, including 19 July rocket attack on two ships on river in Myebon Township which killed army captain and two navy personnel. Local media 5 July reported govt had charged in absentia four AA leaders under Counter Terrorism Law for organising and participating in militant group, alongside charging numerous villagers for harbouring AA members. At govt’s request, Singapore police 10 July arrested and deported seven politically-prominent Rakhine individuals, including brother of AA leader, on charges of using country as platform to organise support for anti-govt violence by raising funds and seeking diaspora support for AA; Myanmar police arrested all seven on arrival in Myanmar or shortly after. Amid demonstrations in Rakhine over deaths of AA suspects in military custody, military 12 July announced formation of investigative team to probe incidents; since early 2019 some fifteen civilians held on suspicion of AA ties reportedly died in military custody or shortly after release. Lull in fighting in Kachin and Shan states continued following military’s late-June extension of unilateral ceasefire until 31 Aug. Amid monsoons causing heavy flooding since early July in Rohingya camps in Bangladesh and leading to at least five deaths and deterioration of living conditions, Rohingya Muslims continued attempts to cross Bay of Bengal to Malaysia; over 60 people from Bangladesh camps and displacement camps around Sittwe in Rakhine state found on coast of southern Maungdaw township 7 July after boat difficulties. Prosecutor of International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda 4 July requested court’s judges authorise an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity, namely deportation, other inhumane acts and persecution committed against Rohingya Muslims (in which at least one element occurred in Bangladesh – a State Party to the Rome Statute) during the period since 9 October 2016.
Clashes involving militants and communist rebels continued. In Negros Oriental province (centre), communist New People’s Army (NPA) 18 July killed four police officers; in subsequent days unidentified assailants killed at least ten people, including a total of seven in separate incidents on 25 July. Police arrested four suspected NPA members during operations 26 and 29 July. Govt 29 July announced deployment of over 300 Special Action Force troops to province. Military reported clashes with Abu Sayyaf on southern island Basilan including suspected Abu Sayyaf militants 15 July killing one and wounding four members of security forces during attack on military auxiliary forces, next day military reportedly killed mid-level commander during raid and arrested two other militants. Civilian killed and two others injured during 25 July military air and ground assault in North Cotabato targeted at splinter group of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) militants, at least one militant reported killed. Military 30 July reported it killed at least nine suspected members of BIFF in late-July clashes in Mindanao province, local media reported one soldier dead. Military 23 July reported at least seven foreign militants running training camp for suicide bombers in southern provinces of Sulu, Maguindanao, and Basilan; foreign suspects supposedly “embedded” with Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Abu Sayyaf and BIFF militant groups. Authorities 12 and 17 July arrested two suspected members of Abu Sayyaf in separate raids in Manila and Quezon City respectively. Authorities 23 July arrested two alleged ISIS sympathisers in General Santos City, recovering explosives and bomb-making materials. Numerous militants surrendered to authorities between 15 and 22 July, including over 200 former NPA rebels along borders of North Cotabato, Bukidnon, and Davao del Sur provinces. Govt 31 July filed protest with China over maritime disputes (see South China Sea).
Tensions continued over Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile tests in South China Sea (SCS) and over presence of Chinese ships in disputed waters. U.S. Defense Department 3 July condemned China’s anti-ship ballistic missile tests that began late-June, first over open water and including DF-21Ds missiles, known for capability to target ships at range of 1,500km. Chinese oil exploration ship and escorting vessels 4-15 July embarked on survey of waters around disputed Spratly islands, in area claimed by Vietnam; Vietnamese vessels closely followed flotilla. Events saw two Chinese and four Vietnamese armed coast guard vessels involved in standoff. Vietnam 19 July called on China to remove oil exploration ship from area, demanding China stop “unlawful activities” and 25 July reiterated demands. Philippines foreign ministry 31 July filed protest with China after spotting 113 Chinese fishing vessels near Pag-asa (Thitu) Island in Spratly archipelago 24-25 July, where Philippines has been refurbishing facilities and repairing airstrip since late 2018. Amid ongoing U.S.-China tensions, U.S. State Department 20 July said China’s “repeated provocative actions” aimed at other countries’ offshore energy projects “threaten regional energy security”; China’s foreign ministry 22 July called U.S. comments “slander”. During bilateral talks, Philippines and U.S. 16 July agreed to safeguard freedom of navigation and overflight over SCS. Malaysian navy 1-18 July conducted rare military exercises in SCS including tests of anti-ship missiles.
Violence continued in deep south, while new govt cabinet under PM Prayuth Chan-ocha was sworn in. Insurgents launched series of attacks on security forces in Southern Thailand: bomb 12 July targeted four defence volunteers on two motorcycles in Muang district, Yala province, wounding three. In Bacho district, Narathiwat IED explosion 15 July targeted convoy of ranger trucks in district, causing no injuries and improvised mine 17 July wounded three rangers. IED 21 July wounded four rangers in Bannang Satar district, Yala province. Army 22 July announced investigation after suspected insurgent found unconscious in army camp in Pattani province 21 July, day after his arrest; family members claimed he was tortured. Suspected insurgents 23 July killed two soldiers and two defence volunteers in bombing and shooting at military outpost in Pattani province. PM Prayuth Chan-ocha 1 July publicly apologised for delays in forming cabinet and seating new govt, threatening to use the “old method that nobody wants to see”, provoking widespread criticism for allegedly implying threat of staging coup. King Maha Vajiralongkorn 16 July swore in new cabinet, with ruling National Council for Peace and Order party filling finance and interior ministries, and PM serving as defence minister. Constitutional Court (CC) 19 July accepted petition to evaluate PM’s qualifications as PM to determine if being junta leader made Prayuth a “state official”, which would disqualify him from standing as PM candidate. Same day, CC accepted petition accusing Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, his party and its executives of trying to end constitutional monarchy.
Inter-tribal violence in mountainous Hela Province early July left dozens dead. Following incidents of violence in June, tribesmen 6 July ambushed and killed six women and children near Peta village which prompted revenge attack by rival tribe 8 July, killing nine women and seven children in Karida village; in days following attacks, govt announced deployment of joint military-police taskforce to Hela province while PM Marape sent police minister to region to assess situation.
Netherlands Supreme Court 19 July ruled that, due to failure by Dutch UN peacekeepers to adequately protect 350 Bosnian Muslims killed in 1995 Srebrenica massacre, state was liable for 10% of damages suffered by surviving relatives; decision reduced different court’s previous assessment of 30% responsibility, disappointing victims’ organisation which sued for compensation. Bosnian who joined Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014 charged for terrorism 15 July.
Kosovo-Serbia tensions rose as Kosovo reportedly banned Serbian officials from entering country, and PM Haradinaj resigned after war crimes tribunal summoned him as suspect, triggering uncertainty over govt’s legal competency to continue governing. Shopkeepers in Kosovo’s northern Serb-led municipalities reportedly went on strike 1-3 July in protest against Kosovo’s 100% customs tariff on imports from Serbia imposed in Nov 2018. PM Haradinaj 2 July accused Serbian President Vučić of trying to “destabilise” northern Kosovo. Kosovo foreign ministry spokesperson 4 July said govt had banned Serbian officials from entering Kosovo because Serbia published “constant propaganda and false news” about Kosovo. Next day, govt denied ban. Serbia’s defence minister 10 July said Kosovo had prevented him from entering country and called Kosovo’s leaders “liars”. Haradinaj 19 July announced he would resign as PM citing summons to appear as suspect in war crimes court in The Hague and called for early polls. After resigning 22 July, he appeared in court in The Hague 24 July but refused to answer prosecutor’s questions; Haradinaj was previously acquitted of wartime crimes in 2012 and 2018. Haradinaj’s resignation created uncertainty over legality of govt’s continued rule; Haradinaj 29 July reportedly requested Constitutional Court to rule on matter.
President Pendarovski 15 July said he expected North Macedonia to become NATO member by end of 2019. FMs of Cyprus and North Macedonia at conference in Greece 17 July said two countries would establish diplomatic relations at next EU Foreign Affairs Council summit in Aug 2019. U.S. Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian affairs visited North Macedonia and Greece 21-27 July and reportedly discussed issue of former’s desire to become member of NATO and EU.
Constitutional Court 18 July said it had requested advice from European Court of Human Rights and Venice Commission of Council of Europe regarding case of former President Robert Kocharyan, who was arrested for third time in June for ordering violent crackdown against opposition protesters after 2008 election. Kocharyan’s team reportedly welcomed decision; hearing set for 29 Aug. European Council President Donald Tusk visited Azerbaijan and Armenia 9-10 July; 10 July met PM Pashinyan, highlighted Armenia’s effective implementation of EU-Armenia partnership agreement that supports Armenian modernisation, and reconfirmed that “EU will continue providing technical and financial assistance for its implementation”.
European Council President Donald Tusk visited Azerbaijan and Armenia 9-10 July; 9 July met President Aliyev, reconfirmed EU’s “readiness to further deepen [its] cooperation with Azerbaijan”, said Nagorno-Karabakh conflict can only be resolved by political settlement in accordance with international law and expressed EU’s readiness to further support concrete peacebuilding activities to prepare population for peace.
Following large-scale street protests and rise in Georgia-Russia tensions in June, protests eased and Russian President Putin blocked sanctions against Georgia. Presenter on opposition TV channel 8 July broadcast obscenity-filled message directed at Putin, sparking outrage and leading senior govt officials to condemn message and some politicians to publicly express their regret to Russian leader. To calm situation Putin 9 July said that “out of respect for the Georgian people” he would not support new economic sanctions against Georgia which members of Russian State Duma 8 July proposed, including suspending import of wine and mineral water from Georgia. Statement prompted parliamentarians to halt drafting any new sanction bill. Street protests that erupted in capital Tbilisi in June lost momentum. Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia, whom protesters held responsible for heavy-handed police crackdown on rally in June, 12 July promised to investigate crackdown and punish those responsible but said he would not resign. Leader of Georgian dream party supported interior minister’s decision and 17 July said resignation would have been betrayal of state. Prosecutor’s office 15 and 17 July arrested two policemen involved in crackdown on protesters, and interior ministry suspended ten police officers and head of interior ministry’s Special Task Department. Authorities 15 July arrested four protesters for instigating violence in June. In South Ossetia, de facto special security service 8 July arrested former staff member and his spouse and two current employees for passing secret information to Georgia. Abkhaz opposition leader Aslan Bzhania, still in hospital after alleged poisoning in April, 19 July withdrew his candidacy for Abkhazia’s presidential elections scheduled for Aug and urged voters to support opposition candidate Alkhas Kvitsinia.
Security along front lines improved slightly after late June meeting between Armenian and Azerbaijani FMs, but both sides continued to report security incidents mainly along state borders, which increased in frequency in second half of July. Azerbaijan 18 July said Armenian sniper fire injured one of its border guards on shared border; Armenia did not confirm. Armenian defence ministry said Azerbaijan injured one of its soldiers 27 July and killed another 28 July, Azerbaijan did not confirm either incident. Armenian FM 5 July visited de facto Nagorno-Karabakh (NK), met local leadership and signed annual plan to consult with de facto foreign ministry. U.S. House of Representatives 10 July adopted two amendments related to NK conflict as part of its National Defense Authorization Act; first blocks U.S. spending on transfer of defence articles or services to Azerbaijan that could strengthen its air capabilities, and second calls on both sides to strengthen NK ceasefire at Line of Contact by refraining from deploying “snipers, heavy arms, and new weaponry”, deploying “gun-fire locator systems”, and increasing OSCE observers along line. OSCE Parliamentary Assembly members 8 July adopted Luxembourg declaration; document endorses multilateral approach to addressing challenges, including arms control and conflict resolution, and encourages dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan within mediation process led by OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and calls on both sides to take “specific and tangible measures to reach a peaceful solution to the conflict”.
Govt’s barring of most independent candidates from Sept local elections sparked mass protests in capital Moscow, which police violently suppressed, arresting over 1,300 protesters. After authorities banned over 30 independent candidates from running in 8 Sept elections for Moscow’s city legislature, protests began mid-July. Authorities night of 24-25 July arrested opposition party leaders, including main opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, detained for 30 days, for planning to lead non-authorised protests. Shortly after his arrest, Navalny was hospitalised for one day 28 July for severe swelling; doctor said he had been exposed to “toxic agent”. Police suppressed mass protests in Moscow 27 July, assaulting protesters and arresting over 1,300. In North Caucasus region, Islamic State (ISIS) claimed deadly grenade attack at police station in Chechnya and authorities continued to arrest journalists and activists. In Chechnya, unidentified assailant 1 July attacked police post in Achkhoi-Martan district with knife and grenade, killing one police officer and injuring several others, before police shot him dead; ISIS claimed responsibility. In Ingushetia, authorities in Nazran 12 July arrested and detained for possessing drugs Rashin Maysigov, reporter for investigative news site Fortanga. According to his lawyer, Maysigov was tortured during interrogation. Russia 14-21 July reportedly blocked access to Fortanga. At Russia’s request, authorities in Sweden 8 July reportedly detained self-exiled Chechen human rights activist but later released him after refusing to extradite him to Russia. Russia 8 July appointed to post of deputy defence minister Ynus-Bek Yevkurov, former leader of Ingushetia who resigned in June amid tension over Sept 2018 border delineation deal between Ingushetia and Chechnya.
Following creation of coalition govt in June, European Commission 15 July said it would unlock €14.5mn in financial aid citing “progress on issues which are linked to the disbursement of money”, and proceeded to disburse funds 23 July. During 24 July visit to Brussels, new PM Maia Sandu signed three financial assistance agreements worth total of €40.25mn with EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn, who lauded new anti-corruption efforts; EU had cut aid to govt in Nov amid concerns of democratic backsliding. Authorities 26 July issued national arrest warrant for oligarch Ilan Shor, who allegedly organised theft of €0.9bn from banking sector in 2014.
Following escalation in fighting between govt forces and Russian-backed separatists in Donbas in east, parties renewed ceasefire 21 July, and President Zelensky’s party won snap parliamentary elections. In Donbas, fighting intensified in first half of July with both sides using heavy weapons along contact line; at least eight separatist fighters, twelve members of Ukrainian army and national guard, and five civilians killed. Talks made progress on several fronts. At 17 July Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) meeting in Minsk, capital of Belarus, parties agreed on how to rebuild pedestrian bridge at Stanytsia Luhanska checkpoint, critical for humanitarian access, and not to use it for military purposes. At 18 July TCG meeting, sides agreed to implement renewed ceasefire from 21 July in Donbas, for first time specifying “ban on any sort of fire”, and made progress toward “all-for-all” prisoner exchange. After military 19 July allegedly suggested it would reject TCG ban on defensive fire, Ukraine’s envoy to talks clarified ceasefire would not prohibit return fire in case of attack. Parliamentary elections held peacefully 21 July but turnout low at 49.8%; Zelensky’s Sluha Narodu party won with 42% of vote, pro-Russian Opozytsiyna Platforma-Za Zhyttya came second with 13%. Ukraine-Russia relations remained strained. Zelensky and Russian President Putin in phone call 11 July (their first direct interaction) reportedly discussed 24 Ukrainian sailors whom Russian security forces captured in Nov 2018. After Russian state investigators finalised charges against sailors of violating country’s borders, Moscow court 17 July approved investigators’ request to prolong their pre-trial detention for two additional months until late Oct. Putin 17 July signed order to expand eligibility for expedited Russian citizenship; in addition to those registered in areas controlled by Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, all residents and former residents of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts will be able to apply; Ukraine condemned move. During U.S. and Ukrainian-led multinational maritime exercise in north west Black Sea. Ukraine navy said Russian destroyer 10 July created “dangerous situation” by sailing into area restricted for live-fire drills, which Russia denied. Ukrainian authorities 24 July in Odessa region detained Russian tanker allegedly used to block Kerch Strait prior to Russian seizure of Ukrainian boats and their crews 25 Nov; Russian crew released that day.
Tensions persisted between Republic of Cyprus and EU on one side and Turkey and Turkish Cypriot leadership on other over efforts to extract hydrocarbons off Cypriot coast. Turkey early July deployed a second drilling ship, called Yavuz, to East Mediterranean. Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu 10 July warned that EU’s siding with Republic of Cyprus would hamper resolution of Cyprus issue. Turkish Cypriot leadership 11 July proposed joint committee with Greek Cypriots on natural gas; Cypriot govt dismissed proposal. Citing Turkey’s violation of Cyprus’s sovereignty, EU’s Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) 15 July cut pre-accession assistance to Turkey for 2020 by €145.8mn, suspended talks for aviation agreement with Ankara and reviewed sovereign-backed lending to Turkey. Turkish energy minister 16 July said Turkey would deploy a second seismic exploration vessel to East Mediterranean, bringing total number of Turkish ships in area to four.
Amid growing concerns over possible escalation of dissident violence following UK’s planned departure from EU, police responding to reports of explosion in Craigavon, County Armagh night of 26-27 July found booby-trapped explosive device made to look like fired mortar near bus stop; police accused dissident republicans of laying device in attempt to kill police officers.
Fighting continued between security forces and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), tensions rose between Turkish citizens and Syrian refugees, and govt’s purchase of Russian missile defence system continued to fuel tensions with U.S.. Military continued to carry out air and land operations against PKK in Turkey’s south east and northern Iraq; senior PKK figures were among members killed. In Iraqi Kurdistan’s regional capital Erbil, unidentified assailants 17 July killed two people, including Turkish diplomat; Turkish state blamed attack on PKK while PKK leadership denied direct involvement. Authorities maintained crackdown on members of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Following 29 June violent protests against Syrian refugees in Istanbul, authorities 2 July detained sixteen people for inciting hatred on social media. Istanbul governor’s office 22 July set 20 Aug as deadline for Syrian refugees to return to Turkish province in which they registered or face forced return. Syrian opposition activists 22 July reported that Turkish authorities had in July deported 1,000 Syrian refugees to Syria’s Idlib province; Turkish govt 31 July denied reports. Islamic State (ISIS) 10 July released propaganda video in Turkish threatening Turkey and U.S.; authorities 9-18 July arrested 34 suspected ISIS members in Istanbul and Adana, including alleged emir of ISIS’s Turkey branch. After Russia 12 July began delivery of its S-400 surface-to-air missile defence system to Turkey, U.S. President Trump 16 July banned Turkey from buying American F-35 fighter jets. U.S. administration and Congress deliberated over set of sanctions to impose on Turkey under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). In response to Turkey’s continued efforts to locate and extract hydrocarbons off Cyprus in East Mediterranean, EU’s Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) 15 July imposed sanctions on Turkey including cut in pre-accession assistance for 2020 by €145.8mn citing Ankara’s violation of Republic of Cyprus’s sovereignty (see Cyprus).
Authorities continued to repress nationwide anti-govt protests spurred by June’s presidential election, which foreign observers rated far short of democratic standards. Sporadic protests and detentions continued throughout month; notably, authorities 6 July reportedly detained at least 70 anti-govt protesters in capital Nur-Sultan and almost 100 in Almaty.
Violence erupted on contested Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border and tensions persisted between President Jeenbekov and his predecessor former President Atambayev. Ahead of meeting of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan presidents to resolve border dispute planned for 26 July in Isfara in Tajikistan, residents of Tajikistan’s exclave Vorukh erected Tajik flag near Kyrgyz village of Ak-Sai; move sparked fighting between Kyrgyz and Tajik locals that left one Tajik citizen dead 22 July. Further clashes reportedly erupted 24 July in Batken region of Kyrgyzstan, which surrounds Vorukh. Two presidents met in Vorukh 26 July and spoke to local residents, Jeenbekov urged “more dynamism and progress in negotiations”. Former President Atambayev 19 July rejected for third time interior ministry’s summons for questioning in unspecified criminal investigation. Atambayev 24 July travelled by private jet to Moscow where he met Russian President Putin. He returned next day and said Putin intended to talk to Jeenbekov about “political prosecution of opponents”.
Violence erupted on contested Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border. Ahead of meeting of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan presidents to resolve border dispute planned for 26 July in Isfara in Tajikistan, residents of Tajikistan’s exclave Vorukh erected Tajik flag near Kyrgyz village of Ak-Sai; move sparked fighting between Kyrgyz and Tajik locals in which one Tajik citizen killed 22 July. Further clashes reportedly erupted 24 July in Batken region of Kyrgyzstan, which surrounds Vorukh. Two presidents met in Vorukh 26 July, Kyrgyzstan President Jeenbekov urged “more dynamism and progress in negotiations”.
After rumours emerged of President Berdymukhamedov’s death late July, govt denied his death and 24 July reported that he had spoken with his Uzbek counterpart on occasion of latter’s birthday. Soon after, state television showed new clips of Berdymukhamedov, although date of their filming was not provided.
Political tensions continued amid disappearance of ex-Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) commander, while violence between armed groups remained high. After former FARC commander and current Congressman Jesús Santrich went missing 30 June from FARC demobilisation zone on Colombia/Venezuela border, Supreme Court issued arrest warrant for Santrich 9 July, day he was due to attend court on charges of drug smuggling; President Duque 1 July claimed Santrich “wants to evade justice” while FARC 9 July released statement reiterating commitment to peace process. UN Security Council 11-14 July visited Colombia, calling on govt to protect FARC ex-combatants and community activists, move forward on transitional justice and promote rural reform; Duque 12 July asked for extension of UN Mission in Colombia. National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla-related violence continued; ELN 4 July bombed Attorney General’s Office in Ocaña (north east), on 55th anniversary of group’s foundation, and 18 July attacked army base in Samaniego, Nariño (south west) with improvised mortar, causing loss of power. ELN 4 July called on govt to restart negotiations; govt refused and said Venezuelan govt directly protects ELN and FARC dissidents. Dissident-related violence remained high; dissidents 10 July attacked police truck in Caquetá (south), injuring three soldiers. Dissident group Steven González Front 12 July clashed with army in Cumbitara, Nariño, reportedly killing several soldiers. Humanitarian groups early July said ongoing violence between FARC dissidents and ELN confined over 1,000 people in Chocó (west). Attacks on activists continued; unidentified attackers 3 July killed social leader Tatiana Paola Posso Espitia in El Copey, Cesar (north).
Govt and opposition dialogue resumed while UN human rights chief released report into human rights violations. Govt and opposition delegations 15 July resumed talks in Barbados; Norwegian govt, mediating negotiations, said intention was for talks to be “continuous and expeditious” with delegations due to meet each week for several days to find solution to crisis. President Maduro 19 July said ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela should prepare for “epic battle” to recover opposition-controlled National Assembly (AN) in as yet unannounced parliamentary elections; opposition leader and “interim President” Juan Guaidó 16 July said “real solution” to crisis was close but three days later said “tough days” lay ahead and there were “no magic solutions”. Amid continued opposition division between those seeking dialogue and hardliners pushing for international military intervention, AN 23 July approved law restoring country’s membership of regional defence Rio Treaty, which some in opposition see as step to requesting foreign military assistance; however, Guaidó insisted treaty was not primarily about military intervention. International support for Norwegian-sponsored talks remained strong with International Contact Group, headed by EU and Uruguay, and UN Sec Gen Guterres reiterating support for talks; U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliot Abrams 12 July expressed hope negotiations would remain confidential so as to be constructive. Contact Group’s Special Representative Enrique Iglesias 9 July held talks in Caracas with both Maduro and Guaidó. UN Human Rights Chief Bachelet 5 July presented report accusing govt of committing “numerous human rights violations” including torture and extrajudicial killings; govt filed over 70 objections to report and said report failed to take into account evidence govt presented. Report called for dissolution of police special forces (FAES) but Maduro 19 July expressed support for FAES. Repression of opposition continued; govt 12 July arrested two of Guaidó’s bodyguards, accusing them of trafficking military weapons. U.S. 21 July said Venezuelan air force “aggressively shadowed” U.S. reconnaissance aircraft in international airspace 19 July, govt claimed plane entered its airspace. Mass power-cut hit most of country 22 July; govt blamed U.S. “electromagnetic attack”.
Fallout from June presidential and legislative elections continued amid uncertainty over future of International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) 1 July confirmed two most successful candidates from presidential vote – Sandra Torres of Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza (UNE) and Alejandro Giammattei of political party Vamos – would contest run-off 11 Aug; Congress 11 July confirmed out of 160 seats in congress UNE won 52 and Vamos 17. Amid criticism from public prosecutors that TSE rushed results confirmation and ignored irregularities, TSE 17 July announced official end to voting recount, ruling out allegations of electoral fraud. Ahead of 3 Sept end of CICIG’s mandate, Human Rights Prosecutor Jordán Rodas 15 July asked Constitutional Court (CC) to permanently uphold Jan ruling which blocked govt from terminating CICIG’s mandate with immediate effect; report from NGO Amnesty International 9 July warned govt’s attacks on CICIG could wipe out progress in strengthening judicial system. Govt and U.S. 26 July signed “Safe Third Country” protocol which requires Central American migrants who pass through Guatemala to first seek asylum there, rather than in U.S. Earlier in month, President Morales 23 July filed appeal against CC 14 July ruling that prevented govt from entering into such an agreement without Congressional approval.
Civil unrest continued while rights groups expressed concerns about new penal code. Students and security forces 15 July clashed at Honduran Technical Institute in capital Tegucigalpa; police deployed to several schools in city where protests disrupted teaching. Congress 11 July announced continuation of consultations over new penal code, due to come into effect in Nov after revisions to previous versions due to criticism over several articles supposedly limiting free speech and offering leniency for corruption and drug trafficking; 30 civil society organisations 17 July called for code to be abandoned and said they would develop alternative. In continued electoral reform efforts, Organization of American States advisers 11 July delivered final recommendations on reform process including on functioning of newly-created National Electoral Council to oversee electoral cycles and Electoral Justice Tribunal to settle election-related disputes; Congressional caucuses 15 July committed to finalising laws on new bodies by mid-Aug.
President Bukele continued to detail measures as part of anti-gang “Territorial Control Plan”. Bukele 2 July announced second phase in plan, called “Opportunities” and aimed at preventing gang recruitment, providing vocational training to 100,000 youth. As part of anti-gang plan, Bukele 8 July ordered police and military deployment on transport routes to deter gangs from assaulting passengers and 17 July instructed defence ministry to recruit up to 3,000 new soldiers to implement measures. Amid concerns over extraordinary measures adopted in jails, govt 2 July accepted Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ request to visit country. Regional focus on migration continued; Bukele 21 July met with U.S. Sec State Pompeo in El Salvador, signing agreement to combat drug trafficking, gangs and illegal migration.
Govt continued to alternate between adopting conciliatory measures and repressing opposition. Following June amnesty law for crimes related to 2018 uprisings, govt 4 July dismissed cases against 307 political prisoners, though lawyers warned judges could reopen them in future; govt continued to insist all political prisoners were freed despite opposition Civic Alliance’s late-June distribution of list of 91 govt opponents allegedly still jailed. Alliance 5, 11 and 17 July reiterated availability to resume third round of talks with govt, however govt did not reply to offers. Govt crackdown on opposition, including church members, continued. Permanent Commission on Human Rights 15 July said it was receiving multiple reports each day of unlawful detentions; same day, police encircled commission’s headquarters. Police 17 July broke into house of civilian in León during police operation, shooting him dead and wounding two others; police alleged officers fired in self-defence but other accounts disputed this, with NGO Amnesty International and Organization of American States Sec Gen Almagro condemning killing and urging accountability. Bishop Álvarez said civilians 18 July helped thwart group of armed men who attempted to stop and harass convoy he was travelling in, in Terrabona, Matagalpa department. Students 25 July marched in Managua and elsewhere to commemorate National Student Day; police, who had not authorised marches, repressed demonstrations, leaving at least two injured and fourteen temporarily detained. International pressure on govt remained high, though govt allies reiterated support; UN deputy human rights chief 10 July urged govt to engage in dialogue, while U.S. VP Pence 18 July condemned President Ortega for alleged crackdown on dissent and harassment of church. Russian President Putin 19 July reassured Ortega of Russian support in letter on 40th anniversary of Sandinista revolution.
Govt faced civil unrest and demands for President Moïse to resign. Unrest continued amid anger over corruption allegations linking Moïse to embezzlement of PetroCaribe (alliance giving Caribbean states access to cheap Venezuelan oil) funds; police and demonstrators clashed in capital Port-au-Prince following 6 July funeral of radio journalist killed in June, protesters setting up roadblocks and setting fire to vehicles and police firing tear gas. As opposition senators blocked ratification of PM Lapin and his cabinet, some in opposition proposed election of new PM, while others reaffirmed they will block any ratification process until Moïse resigns; Moïse 22 July named Fritz-William Michel as new PM, third in 2019. Gang-related violence continued; shootout between rival gangs in Port-au-Prince 6-7 July killed two, while 10 July clashes between different factions in capital’s La Saline neighbourhood killed at least four people. Police 22 July captured high-profile gang leader Arnel Joseph as he sought medical attention in Les Cayes.
Amid high levels of violence, govt continued deployment of National Guard (NG), controversial main instrument of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO)’s security plan. Rights groups remained concerned NG will further militarise public security with initial 70,000 officers coming from army and navy; members of Federal Police due to join NG protested against alleged labour rights abuses in transitioning to force, with group of officers 3-4 July blocking major road in capital Mexico City. Planned training for NG in human rights, agreed in April with UN human rights office, yet to take place despite deployment of forces; Guerrero and State of Mexico (south) authorities 16 July arrested three soldiers on charges of kidnapping, saying soldiers belonged to NG; AMLO said they had “not yet” been incorporated into force. Record levels of violence continued with authorities reporting 17,065 homicides Jan-June 2019, up from 16,585 same period in 2018. Armed group violence remained high with groups clashing with newly deployed NG units. On day of NG deployment to Tabasco (south), criminal group 1 July set vehicles on fire to block roads; Jalisco Cartel New Generation clashed with NG in shootout on border of Guanajuato and Michoacán states (centre) 8 July, injuring one member of NG. Amid focus on regional migration, U.S. President Trump announced negotiations on “Safe Third Country” agreement – which would require Central American migrants to seek asylum in Mexico, rather than continuing north to U.S. – would begin 22 July; FM Ebrard said govt will not enter negotiations “without express authorisation of Congress”. Finance Minister Carlos Urzúa 9 July resigned, saying conflicts of interest existed within AMLO administration and accusing senior govt members of nepotism.
Low-level violence continued between Israeli forces and Palestinians along Israel-Gaza fence. Palestinians in Gaza continued to protest each Friday near fence that separates Gaza strip from Israel. Israeli gunfire left hundreds of protesters injured and incendiary balloons from Gaza started fires in nearby Israeli communities. Israeli security forces 11 July shot and killed Hamas member who tried to stop Palestinian youths approaching Gaza-Israel fence, Israel claimed incident was case of mistaken identity. Hamas same day responded by firing two rockets into southern Israel, which caused no injuries. Egyptian delegation same day met Hamas leadership in Gaza to discuss measures to prevent escalation of violence and consolidate ceasefire; Egyptians also discussed ways to repair relations between Hamas and Fatah. In West Bank, Palestinian Authority (PA) 1 July said it would pay its employees 60% of their June salaries; PM Shtayyeh next day announced PA had received first instalment of Qatari loan pledged in May. UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) 29 July announced $50mn contribution from United Arab Emirates. Israeli security forces 22 July demolished dozens of Palestinian homes in neighbourhood under PA control in south east Jerusalem prompting PA President Abbas 25 July to declare that PA had suspended all agreements with Israel and assigned committee to recommend course of action. Israeli security forces 30 July defused bomb near Joseph’s Tomb, religious site in Nablus in West Bank and clashed with Palestinians there, at least four Palestinians injured, fifteen arrested. Israel 31 July approved construction of some 7,000 houses for Israelis and 700 houses for Palestinians in West Bank. In Iraq, Israel 19 July struck Iraqi army base where Iranian security forces suspected to be present, reportedly killing one Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander, and another army base 28 July. In southern Syria, Israel 24 July reportedly carried out airstrikes close to Golan Heights targeting Syrian govt positions which left six Iranians and three Syrians dead.
Govt 16 July restored diplomatic ties with Qatar, two years after breaking them off over Gulf crisis.
Disagreement in cabinet over which judicial body should handle case of deadly shooting in June paralysed govt, and hundreds protested against austerity budget. Shooting at convoy of refugee affairs minister near capital Beirut late June that killed two of his assistants paralysed govt because cabinet was divided on which judicial body should prosecute case; several mediation attempts failed. Civil servants 17 July went on strike nationwide and hundreds gathered in Beirut to protest austerity measures. Army veterans 18 July clashed with security forces outside parliament where legislators were discussing 2019 budget. Veterans next day again clashed with security forces and parliament ratified budget. Protesters vowed to challenge budget in court. As U.S.-Iran tensions continued to rise, U.S. imposed additional sanctions on Hizbollah: 9 July added two Hizbollah MPs and one security official to sanctions list; 19 July imposed sanctions on Hizbollah security official.
Pro-govt forces continued offensive against rebel-held areas of Idlib province in north west causing significant civilian suffering but failed to take new ground, and in west Israeli air raids hit Iranian targets. In north west, jihadist coalition Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) 11 July took al-Hamamiyat town in northern Hama province, but pro-govt forces same day repelled rebels’ advance, and 28 July recaptured Jubain and Tal Malah. Hizbollah fighters from Lebanon 11 July reportedly joined pro-govt offensive in north west for first time, despite group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah same day announcing that it was reducing its presence in Syria. Pro-govt and Russian offensive reportedly caused at least 662 civilian deaths and damaged 37 medical facilities since late April, including hospitals known to Russia through UN’s de-confliction mechanisms. Russian and govt airstrikes 16-26 July killed at least 100 civilians in Maarat al-Numan, Khan Shaykhun and Ariha, in Idlib province; NGO Save the Children 24 July reported 33 children killed 24 June-24 July. In Turkish-controlled Afrin, Aleppo province, suspected fighters of Kurdish People’s Protection Units 11 July killed five combatants and eight civilians in car bomb attack, including three children. Media outlet Foreign Policy 9 July reported that UK and France had agreed to increase their military presence in north east by 10% and 15% respectively to compensate for ongoing U.S. drawdown. In Deir al-Zour province in east, U.S. and French special representatives to Syria 10 July met Arab council to discuss governance and devolving authority from Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces to local Arab leaders. U.S. special envoy James Jeffrey 23 July met Turkish officials to discuss creation of safe zone on Syria-Turkey border. Islamic State (ISIS) 11-12 July claimed bombings in al-Hasakah and Qamishli cities, with no deaths reported. In west, Israeli warplanes 30 June-1 July attacked govt and Iranian targets in Damascus and Homs, killing sixteen, including three children and ten Iranian and Hizbollah fighters.
Authorities 27 July executed three people for alleged crimes of terrorism. Rights groups said that two of convicted were Shiite activists who confessed under duress and had faced mass trial.
Relations between Iran and its allies on one side and U.S. and its allies on other remained tense as maritime confrontations intensified and Iran breached limits of 2015 nuclear deal, raising risk of military clash in Aug. British navy 4 July detained tanker off Gibraltar suspected of trying to smuggle Iranian oil to Syria. In Strait of Hormuz, Iranian boats 10 July allegedly tried to impede British tanker before British warship warned them off, Iran denied responsibility; U.S. President Trump 18 July said U.S. had downed Iranian drone, Iran denied; Iran 18 July claimed to have seized Panamanian tanker; Iranian security forces 19 July seized British-flagged tanker and temporarily detained another British-owned tanker. U.S. 19 July said it was developing multinational maritime security framework for Middle Eastern waterways. UK 23 July unveiled plan for separate European-led maritime security coalition to defend shipping in Middle East. Iran 24 July test-launched medium-range missile. United Arab Emirates officials attended 6th Iran-UAE meeting on maritime affairs in Tehran 30 July, first such meeting since 2013. Iran’s stockpile of low enriched uranium exceeded nuclear deal’s limit 1 July. Iran 7 July said it had raised uranium enrichment beyond limit and set 6 Sept as new deadline for deal’s parties to protect it from U.S. sanctions, threatening further violations. EU foreign policy chief Mogherini 15 July said infringements would not push P4+1 (UK, France, Russia, China and Germany) to activate dispute resolution mechanism for non-compliance, which could lead to re-imposition of sanctions. U.S. 18 July sanctioned individuals and firms it said were involved in acquiring materials for Iran’s nuclear program; 31 July sanctioned FM Zarif and announced extension of sanction waivers allowing countries to continue civil nuclear projects with Iran for 90 days. Suspected Kurdish militants 9 July killed three soldiers in Piranshahr in north west near Iraq. In south east near Pakistan border, clashes between Iranian border guards and unidentified gunmen 21 July left two guards dead.
Amid continued U.S.-Iran tensions, PM Mahdi issued decree placing Iran-backed militias under his command and ordering their integration into formal security framework, and security forces intensified operations against Islamic State (ISIS). Mahdi 1 July issued decree legalising Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Unit (PMU) militias, granting him authority to appoint PMU head, forcing them to sever ties with political groups and integrating them into conventional security forces; Shiite cleric and political leader Moqtada al-Sadr and Hikma opposition bloc 2 July commended move. U.S. Treasury 18 July sanctioned four Iraqis, including two PMU commanders, for corruption and human rights abuses. Drone 19 July dropped grenade on base in Salah al-Din province, where Iranian Revolutionary Guard commanders were present; attack unclaimed, Pentagon denied responsibility. Security forces upped operations against ISIS. Security forces 8 July killed three ISIS militants, following launch of operation in Mosul, Anbar and Salah al-Din provinces; U.S. military 15 July confirmed it had carried out airstrikes in support of Iraqi forces. In capital Baghdad, double suicide bombings claimed by ISIS same day killed at least five civilians. In Sinjar mountains, PMUs 24 July clashed with ISIS militants, killing five. Suspected ISIS attacks 31 July killed seven members of security forces in Dujail, Salah al-Din province, and Kalar, Suleimaniya province. Govt 9 July said it had signed agreement with Iraqi Kurdistan regional govt for security cooperation in Nineveh, Salah al-Din, Diyala and Kirkuk provinces. In Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital Erbil, unidentified gunmen 17 July killed two, including Turkish diplomat; Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) denied involvement. Turkey continued air and land raids against PKK targets in north, killing fourteen 20 June-20 July. Israeli warplanes attacked Iraqi army bases in Amerli, Salah al-Din province and in Ashraf, north east of Baghdad 19 and 28 July, both suspected of housing Iranian advisors and missiles, one Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander reported killed.