CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, an early warning tool designed to help prevent deadly violence. It keeps decision-makers up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises every month, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace. In addition, CrisisWatch monitors over 50 situations ("standby monitoring") to offer timely information if developments indicate a drift toward violence or instability. Entries dating back to 2003 provide easily searchable conflict histories.
Papua New Guinea
In June, Yemeni forces backed by the United Arab Emirates accelerated their offensive to take the Huthi-held city of Hodeida. A fleeting opportunity exists to find a mediated settlement and avoid prolonged urban warfare. In Syria, pro-government forces intensified efforts to retake territory in the south west, risking worse violence in July, while in Libya, new fighting over oil facilities aggravated tensions. The conflict between Somalia’s Puntland and Somaliland spread, and looks set to escalate; attacks linked to Nigeria’s farmer-herder conflict left over 200 dead; and radical Islamists in Mozambique stepped up attacks. The month saw heightened political rivalry in Tunisia, and election-related violence in Zimbabwe and Papua New Guinea. High-level engagement between North Korea and the U.S. paved the way for a diplomatic process, and Macedonia and Greece reached an agreement on their name dispute. Opportunities to advance peace opened up in Africa with Ethiopia and Eritrea taking tentative steps to address their border dispute, and South Sudan’s warring leaders signing an initial framework agreement.
The June/July 2018 instalment of CrisisWatch features important updates on some of the world's longest-running conflicts. Our President Rob Malley finds optimism in Ethiopia and Eritrea; mixed omens in Afghanistan and Yemen; and dashed hope in Syria.
In Yemen, forces backed by the United Arab Emirates stepped up their offensive to take the port city of Hodeida from Huthi rebels, pushing up to the city’s southern suburbs. As we explained, mediation efforts led by UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths toward a solution that safeguards all sides’ vital interests could – with strong international pressure on the warring parties – produce a settlement for the city, and serve as a basis for talks on a way out of the wider conflict. But if the belligerents continue to reject his proposals, a battle for Hodeida – home to 600,000 – would likely have devastating humanitarian consequences.
In Syria, pro-government forces – backed by Russian air power – ramped up their campaign to retake territory toward the Jordanian border, raising the risk of further escalation in July. Fighting again rocked Libya’s oil industry. Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s east-based Libyan National Army was forced to cede and then retook oil export terminals at Sidra and Ras Lanuf. Its announcement that oil sales from areas under its control would go through the east-based National Oil Corporation, unrecognised internationally, further aggravated political tensions and risks deepening the country’s economic woes.
A feud between Tunisia’s prime minister, Youssef Chahed, and President Essebsi intensified, with Chahed firing the interior minister, Essebsi’s ally. Ahead of the 2019 presidential election, the rivalry is polarising the political field and could hamper much needed legislative reform.
Fighting between Somaliland and Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region over contested territory spread from Tukaraq – where both sides continued to beef up their positions – to Las Anod, capital of the disputed Sool area. Incendiary rhetoric from both sides bodes ill. To stave off war, the UN – backed by Somalia and Ethiopia – should renew its mediation to broker a ceasefire, ensure both sides commit to withdraw troops, allow in humanitarian aid and launch talks aimed at a long-term settlement.
In Mozambique’s neglected and predominantly Muslim far north, Islamist militants, active since October, stepped up the rate of attacks, raiding some seven villages and killing at least 39 people. Ahead of Zimbabwe’s elections in July, an explosion at a rally for President Mnangagwa killed two and raised concerns for security around the vote. In Nigeria, attacks linked to the conflict between herding and farming communities took a yet more horrifying toll; over 200 are thought to have been killed in attacks and reprisals over five days in Plateau state.
Violence erupted in Papua New Guinea’s Southern Highlands province as protesters, angry about a failed court challenge to the 2017 provincial election result, set fire to an aeroplane and official buildings in the provincial capital, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency and deploy troops.
A historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump on 12 June produced a vague statement including a reaffirmation by Pyongyang of its commitment to work toward “complete denuclearization” of the peninsula. As Crisis Group wrote, the summit represented a shift from a confrontational track to a diplomatic one, but needs to be followed by the hard work of hammering out a path toward denuclearisation. Later in the month, U.S. officials were quoted saying that Pyongyang has been stepping up production of enriched uranium at secret sites.
Macedonia and Greece signed a historic agreement resolving their decades-long dispute over Macedonia’s official name, now to be the Republic of North Macedonia. The deal, which still needs to be ratified in the face of opposition in both countries, unblocks Greek opposition to Macedonia joining the European Union and NATO.
Relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea, hostile since the 1998-2000 border war, began to thaw. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy’s pledge to cede contested territory and initial talks opened the door to greater neighbourliness and regional stability. In another boon for the region, South Sudan’s warring leaders, President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar, signed an initial framework agreement to enact a ceasefire, work toward a new transitional government and, with Sudan, secure the oil fields. We welcomed this best, and only, hope for a breakthrough and urged other African leaders to lend it cautious support.
In apparent extrajudicial killing, Criminal Investigation Service agent 1 June shot dead suspected criminal; interior ministry same day confirmed killing and condemned agent. Human Rights Watch 6 June urged govt to investigate “grave right’s abuses” by security forces.
Insecurity persisted in north and east. In Soum province, Sahel region in north, unidentified gunmen 3 June kidnapped pastor and his family in Belehoro village, released them 7 June in Mali. Teacher kidnapped during attack by Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) in Bouro village, Soum province 12 April released 11 June. In east, unidentified assailants 16 June launched three simultaneous attacks against security forces in Kompienga and Koulpelogo provinces, East and Centre-East regions, one police and one assailant killed. Authorities early June released list of 146 wanted people, suspected to belong to jihadist group Ansarul Islam. Trial of 84 people accused of masterminding 2015 attempted coup resumed 29 June after new suspension 12 June, court started to question defendants. Civil society activist Naïm Touré arrested 14 June after he accused govt of neglecting gendarme wounded in May; Touré charged 19 June with inciting rebellion and disturbing public order. President Kaboré 24 June said he would run for re-election in 2020.
Following constitutional referendum in May, President Nkurunziza 7 June enacted new constitution which would potentially allow him to stay in power until 2034 and during ceremony made surprise announcement that he would not run in 2020 election. EU, U.S. and Belgium welcomed announcement and called on govt to improve governance and open political space. Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa free trade area late May decided not to hold its summit in capital Bujumbura 1-10 June as planned, but in Zambia in July, reportedly because some delegates were uncomfortable with Burundian govt’s actions. Authorities 22 June arrested four French nationals and senior Burundian official Donatien Ndayishimiye for fraud; all four French released and left country 30 June, Ndayishimiye remained in prison end month.
Conflict continued in Anglophone area (Southwest and Northwest regions) leaving at least 22 civilians, fourteen military and unknown number of militants dead, as Boko Haram (BH) slightly increased attacks in Far North region, killing at least sixteen people. In Anglophone regions in west, separatist militants continued to attack security forces, abduct officials and expand territorial control in rural areas, as security forces continued burning houses and villages. Notably, militants killed military officer in Bamenda, capital of Northwest region 8 June and police officer in Mamfe, Southwest 9 June. Militants abducted police officer on Njinikom-Belo road, Northwest 6 June and water company manager in Ekona, Southwest 9 June. In Buea, capital of Southwest region, militants abducted police commissioner 11 June; military 18 June raided militants’ camp in Masuma, Southwest, freeing police commissioner and three other captives and reportedly killing several separatists. Clashes in Bamenda 21-23 June left soldier, policeman and several militants dead. Three militants killed 26 June in fighting with security forces in Belo, six others and gendarme 28 June in Mbengwi, Northwest. Militants blocked road between Buea and Kumba in Southwest from 15 June; military dislodged them a week later after several attempts. Conflict appeared to spread into Francophone area; suspected Anglophone militants attacked gendarmerie brigades in Babadjou, West region 27 June and Mungo, Littoral region 30 June. UN high commissioner for human rights 20 June said govt had denied Human Rights Council access to Anglophone regions; EU same day called on govt to allow access to UN bodies and International Committee of the Red Cross. In Far North, insurgents 1 June killed head of community defence group in Talla-Massali, Mayo Tsanaga department. BH attack on Djalengo, Diamaré 8 June left ten villagers and two BH dead. BH killed man in Alladjiri, Mayo Sava 12 June. Double suicide bombing killed child in Limani, Mayo Sava. BH killed two in Tchika, Logone et Chari 17 June. Suspected BH killed three civilians, abducted woman at Goulfo, Logone et Chari 26 June and killed civilian in Zanga 30 June. President Biya mid-June requested parliament to postpone elections of municipal councillors, mayors and MPs from Oct to mid-2019 citing logistical challenges; if approved, only presidential vote will take place in Oct.
Violence involving armed groups, army and UN peacekeepers continued, especially in centre. In Bambari in centre, ex-Seleka faction Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC) and community defence militia clashed 6-7 June; unidentified gunmen attacked UN mission (MINUSCA) patrol between town centre and airfield 10 June, killing one Burundian peacekeeper. Alleged UPC same day fired on army convoy accompanied by peacekeepers near Bambari while en route from Grimari to Bangassou in south, injuring two soldiers and Russian instructor. In west, alleged Siriri militia attacked MINUSCA patrol in Dilapoko village, Mambéré-Kadéï prefecture 3 June, killing Tanzanian peacekeeper. France, U.S. and UK 14 June opposed request by CAR that UN exempt from 2013 arms embargo delivery of weapons from China, including anti-aircraft weapons, armoured vehicles, machine guns, tear gas and ammunition; MINUSCA and EU mission training CAR security forces had supported delivery. France and U.S. saw no threat of air attack that could justify govt obtaining anti-aircraft weapons, while UK expressed concern over transit of weapons through Cameroon without escort. International Criminal Court 8 June on appeal overturned former Congolese VP Bemba’s conviction for war crimes committed by his forces in CAR in 2002-2003.
Communal violence and social unrest continued. Clash between herders and farmers in Bendona in south 13 June left at least one person dead. Inter-communal fighting in Tourane in east 15 June left eight dead. Civil servants maintained strike demanding full payment of salaries as allowances withheld since Jan. Judicial sector continued strike until 25 June after attempted killing of lawyer in Doba in south in May. In response to strikers’ demands that authorities arrest and try Doba’s former governor, Adam Nouky Charfadine, with two men responsible for assault, govt 6 June removed Charfadine from office and all three arrested 14 June and condemned to five years in prison. President Déby 18 June replaced infrastructure and higher education ministers appointed in April without giving reasons.
Police 22 June arrested leaders of three opposition parties during protest against constitutional referendum scheduled for 30 July. Govt’s proposed constitutional amendments, which would allow President Azali Assoumani to run for second consecutive term, has incited citizens to hold regular anti-govt protests since referendum was announced in late April. Opposition Juwa Party member Ahmed el-Barwane arrested on undisclosed charges 1 June and sentenced to six months in prison.
In run-up to regional and municipal elections planned for Sept, opposition platform Together for Democracy and Sovereignty called on voters to boycott 18-24 June registration process citing electoral commission’s lack of legitimacy. President Ouattara early June said constitution allowed him to run for third term in 2020 election; opposition said his candidacy would violate constitution. Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire, member of ruling coalition, 17 June said it would not form coalition with president’s party Rally of the Republicans before 2020 presidential election.
Preparations for Dec elections continued more or less on track and International Criminal Court (ICC) acquitted former VP Jean-Pierre Bemba. Parliament 8 June voted to amend voter registration law so that Congolese overseas will not be able to register and vote. Lay movement of Catholic Church 14 June called on President Kabila to state publicly whether he intended to run for third term and on electoral commission to address number of issues before 30 June, calling on population to take matter into their own hands if deadline not met. At first major public meeting in capital Kinshasa of opposition leader Moïse Katumbi’s Together for Change platform 9 June, Katumbi from exile via Skype reiterated he will return soon to lodge his candidacy and emphasised need for single opposition candidate. Authorities briefly held Katumbi at Brussels airport for travelling with falsified passport; Congolese prosecutor opened investigation into matter 18 June. ICC 8 June acquitted Jean-Pierre Bemba, leader of opposition party Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), arrested in May 2008 and sentenced in June 2016 to eighteen years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by his forces in Central African Republic in 2002-2003. Other opposition leaders, especially leader of Union for the Congolese Nation Vital Kamerhe, welcomed Bemba’s possible return to political scene. U.S. 21 June said it had placed visa bans on several senior officials for corruption tied to electoral process, without publishing names, to underline need for peaceful transfer of power. MLC Senator Mongulu Tapangane appointed to constitutional court 21 June. Armed group and criminal violence continued in east at low level. World Health Organization 26 June said Ebola outbreak had been “largely contained” with 55 cases reported, of which 38 confirmed (last confirmed case 6 June) and 28 deaths.
Ethiopian govt 14 June said Djibouti had pardoned 45 Ethiopian prisoners as good-will gesture. Following reports that Dubai-based port operator DP World would seek out-of-court settlement with Djibouti govt, which it accuses of illegally taking back control of Doraleh port in Feb, DP World 16 June said it was committed to legal process via International Court of Arbitration.
Initial steps toward rapprochement with Ethiopia opened opportunity to advance talks in July. Ethiopian PM Abiy 5 June said his govt would accept 2002 ruling of Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission that sought to end 1998-2000 war and concede to Eritrea Badme town and other small territories on border held up till present by Ethiopian troops. Announcement met international approval, but local communities in border areas and Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), ethnic Tigrayan party in Ethiopian ruling coalition, criticised move. Eritrean President Afwerki 20 June said he would send delegation to Addis Ababa and Eritrean FM Osman Saleh held talks with Abiy 26 June.
Talks between Ethiopia and Eritrea over contested border opened opportunity to advance rapprochement, as ethnic violence continued in several areas. PM Abiy 5 June said govt would accept 2002 ruling of Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission that sought to end 1998-2000 war and concede to Eritrea Badme town and other small territories on border held up till present by Ethiopian troops. Announcement met international approval, but local communities in border areas and Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), ethnic Tigrayan party in ruling coalition, criticised move. Eritrean President Afwerki 20 June said he would send delegation to Addis Ababa and Eritrean FM Osman Saleh held talks with Abiy 26 June. Govt 30 June said it had submitted to parliament proposal to remove from list of terrorist organisations three rebel groups: Oromo Liberation Front, Ogaden National Liberation Front and Ginbot 7. Ethnic violence continued in several areas. In Hawassa, capital of Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) regional state, violence sparked by ethnic Sidama demands for their own state left at least ten people dead. Ethnic Guji and Gedeo early June clashed on border between SNNP and Oromia regional states reportedly leaving several dead. In Somali regional state, local state paramilitaries known as Liyu police clashed with residents protesting against rule of state president Abdi Iley. Tens of thousands gathered in central Addis Ababa in support of Abiy 23 June, but grenade attack at rally left two people dead and scores wounded; 30 people detained over suspected links to attack. Abiy met Egyptian President Sisi in Cairo 10 June; both expressed commitment to resolving dispute over potential impact of Ethiopia’s dam on Egypt’s Nile waters. Egypt next day released 32 Ethiopian prisoners. Following Abiy’s visit to United Arab Emirates (UAE) in May, UAE delegation in Addis 16 June pledged $3bn to govt in direct aid and investments.
Police fired live ammunition to disperse 18 June protest in Faraba Banta village, about 50km south of capital Banjul, against sand mining, killing three protesters. Next day police said five police officers and six civilians had been arrested; police officers charged with murder 28 June. Police chief Landing Kinteh resigned 21 June. President Barrow 21 June appointed commission of inquiry to investigate incident. Barrow 29 June reshuffled govt, appointed former FM and leader of his United Democratic Party, Ousainou Darboe, as new VP.
Amid ongoing standoff between govt and opposition over results of Feb local polls, PM Fofana (appointed late May) early June met with leader of main opposition party Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea, Cellou Dalein Diallo: Fofana called for dialogue between govt and opposition and Diallo agreed to work together for peace. Court clerks launched indefinite strike 8 June to demand better working conditions; justice minister 14 June suspended five movement leaders.
Parliament 19 June approved govt’s electoral calendar and plan to consolidate public finances. National Union of Workers went on strike 19-21 June to demand better salaries for civil servants.
Al-Shabaab maintained insurgency in east and north east. Six officers of special police unit General Service Unit killed 8 June when their vehicle detonated land mine at Liboi, Garissa county in east next to Somalia border. Eight security personnel killed 18 June when their vehicle hit explosive device in Bojigaras area of Wajir county in north east.
Ahead of 29 July presidential election, intercommunal violence continued in centre and suspected jihadist attacks continued in centre and north. In Mopti region in centre, after two more armed groups claiming to be community defence forces emerged in May, Dogon ethnic militia 23 June allegedly killed at least 22 Fulani civilians in attack on Koumaga village. Fulani associations accused army of executing 25 Fulani civilians 13 June in Mopti region, govt opened investigation. UN mission (MINUSMA) 26 June said army had killed twelve civilians 19 May in Boulikessi after unidentified attacker killed soldier. In centre and north, attacks continued on national and international forces and on civilians. In Mopti region, unidentified assailants ambushed army convoy 9 June, killing two soldiers; alleged jihadists same day clashed with army in Boni, three soldiers and thirteen assailants reportedly killed; unidentified gunmen reportedly killed gendarme in Toguéré-Toumbé 18 June; explosive device same day killed four civilians near Dialloubé. Car bombing at headquarters of G5 Sahel force in Sévaré, Mopti region 29 June set off gun battle; two soldiers, one civilian and two attackers killed; al-Qaeda-linked Group to Support Muslims and Islam claimed attack. In north, assailants shelled MINUSMA camps in Timbuktu and Kidal regions 2 and 12 June respectively. Counter-insurgency operations continued: in Ménaka region in east, Platform coalition member Self-Defence Group of Imrad Tuareg and Allies and mainly ethnic Dossaak Movement for the Salvation of Azawad early June reportedly fought with combatants allegedly linked to Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) in Akabar area, nine ISGS reportedly killed. In Mopti region, army mid-June reportedly killed ten suspected militants in Karakine; following crackdown on suspected jihadists and allegedly allied ethnic militias, govt 19 June said soldiers had been involved in extrajudicial killings. In run-up to presidential vote, security forces 2 June dispersed banned opposition protest, at least 25 people injured. Ruling party and opposition met 7 June and next day another protest held peacefully.
In Cabo Delgado province in north, suspected Islamist militants – known locally as both Ahlu Sunna wal Jama'a and Al-Shabaab – increased rate of attacks on villages, carrying out at least seven, mainly in Macomia and Quissanga districts, and killing at least 39 people. Notably, in Naunde village, Macomia 5 June attackers armed with machetes beheaded local Islamic leader and burned homes, cars and cattle; in raid on Namaluco village, Quissanga district 6 June, attackers beheaded three people, shot dead three others and burned over 100 houses. In latest attack, on Litandacua village, Macomia 19 June, militants killed five people. In response, interior minister 9 June announced establishment of army command centres in Macomia and Quissanga districts. President Nyusi 25 June said security forces had arrested several suspects in connection with attacks. U.S. mid-June “strongly advised” its citizens to consider leaving Palma district and UK 12 June warned against all but essential travel to Palma, Mocimboa de Praia and Macomia districts. U.S. petroleum company Anadarko began evacuating staff from liquefied natural gas plant on Afungi peninsula, Palma district. Parliament 20 June postponed special session, scheduled for 21-22 June, to consider amendments to electoral laws that would dictate running of Oct municipal elections and advance decentralisation; ruling Frelimo party reportedly asked armed opposition Renamo to commit to disarm its militants by 10 Oct vote as precondition for holding special parliamentary session.
In far north, near borders with Chad and Libya, reported heavily armed Chadian bandits in seventeen vehicles, suspected of preying on artisanal gold mining operations, clashed with security forces 8-10 June, two soldiers reportedly killed; army with support of French and U.S. forces reportedly pursued bandits as they fled and reportedly crossed into Libya. Three Boko Haram suicide bombers (two female and one male) 4 June launched attacks on Quranic school in Diffa town in south east, killing at least nine. Govt 18 June renewed state of emergency in Diffa region in south east and Tillabery and Tahoua regions in west for three months. During President Issoufou’s visit to France 4 June, French media and NGOs denounced ongoing detention of 26 civil society leaders, “deterioration in civil liberties” and “authoritarian drift”; Issoufou called opposition activists “putschists”, vowed not to change constitution to seek third term in 2021.
Attacks linked to herder-farmer conflict escalated mostly in central-northern states, while Boko Haram (BH) violence in north east and bandit-related clashes in north west continued, resulting in over 400 killed in total. Suspected herders 3 June killed seven and abducted woman in Mbachom, Benue state; 22 June killed 21 in Dowayan village, Demsa area, Adamawa state; attacks and reprisals 21-24 June killed over 200 in Barkin Ladi area, Plateau state. Herder-farmer clash 5 June in Nasarawa local govt area, Nasarawa state, left eleven dead. In north east, security forces reported gains in fight against BH: army 1 June destroyed BH camp in Yaridiri forest, Yobe state; army alongside Cameroonian troops killed ten BH at Ngelkona, Borno state 2 June and at least 23 BH around Lake Chad 11 June; air force 15 June killed dozens of insurgents in Sambisa forest, Borno state. BH continued attacks in Borno state: male suicide bomber 11 June detonated explosives at prayer site in Maiduguri, killing two; two suicide bombings and rocket-propelled grenades, which militants fired into crowds gathered at scene of bombings, 16 June killed at least 31 in Damboa; two female suicide bombers attacked market inside military barracks on outskirts of Maiduguri, killing at least nine. In north west, cattle-rustling gang 1 June attacked Zanuka village, Zamfara state, killing 23; bandits clashed with local vigilantes 9 June at Dan Tasango village, Sokoto state, thirteen killed; bandits 12 June killed at least ten people in attacks on four villages in Birnin Magaji area, Zamfara state; police 29 June found 23 unidentified corpses inside forest in Zurmi area, Zamfara state. In other communal violence, gunmen 1 June killed seven in Okpareke, Kogi state, reportedly in continuation of long-running communal feud; unidentified gunmen 1 June killed at least three in Kura Falls, Plateau state; communities in Izzi area, Ebonyi state and Yala area, Cross River state, clashed 19 June, eleven killed, over 7,000 displaced.
Govt released at least 80 associates of rebel leader Pasteur Ntumi in capital Brazzaville 26 June as per Dec 2017 ceasefire agreement, most believed to be ex-combatants.
Fighting between semi-autonomous Puntland region in north and neighbouring Somaliland over disputed territories spread and risk remains high of further escalation in July; elsewhere Al-Shabaab continued attacks on national and international forces and govt officials. Following clashes at Tukaraq town in contested Sool region in May, both Puntland and Somaliland continued to mass forces near town. Tempo of artillery and mortar shelling around town appeared to increase from 22 June. Puntland forces reportedly attacked police stations run by Somaliland soldiers in Las Anod, capital of Sool region some 50km west of Tukaraq 24 June triggering heavy fighting. Leaders on both sides stepped up inflammatory rhetoric. Confrontations also escalated in Las Anod between Somaliland forces and anti-Somaliland protesters, military reportedly injured two unarmed women 14 June. Al-Shabaab militants 9 June launched mortars and shot at U.S. Special Forces near Jamaame, Jubaland region in south, killing one. In ambush near Mogadishu 5 June, Al-Shabaab killed two MPs from semi-autonomous Hirshabelle state and several bodyguards. Two Burundian soldiers in AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) killed 26 June when their convoy hit explosive device on outskirts of Balad city, about 30km north of Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab reportedly forced govt troops out of Muqokori, 300km north of Mogadishu, and retook town 2 June; Al-Shabaab claimed it killed 47 soldiers. Army radio 27 June reported that Al-Shabaab leader Sheikh Ahmed Diriye had died from illness; Al-Shabaab denied death. National Security Council chaired by president and PM and bringing together all federal member states met in Baidoa 4-5 June and agreed on transitional plan following AMISOM’s planned exit by Dec 2020, electoral system for 2020 vote and revenue sharing. Ethiopian PM Abiy visited Mogadishu 16 June; both govts agreed to deepen cooperation on security and development, including investing jointly in four of Somalia’s ports.
Fighting between Somaliland and neighbouring Puntland, semi-autonomous region of Somalia, over disputed territories spread and risk remains high of further escalation in July. Following clashes at Tukaraq town in contested Sool region in May, both Puntland and Somaliland continued to mass forces near town. Tempo of artillery and mortar shelling around town appeared to increase from 22 June. Puntland forces reportedly attacked police stations run by Somaliland soldiers in Las Anod, capital of Sool region some 50km west of Tukaraq 24 June triggering heavy fighting. Leaders on both sides stepped up inflammatory rhetoric. Confrontations also escalated in Las Anod between Somaliland forces and anti-Somaliland protesters, military reportedly injured two unarmed women 14 June.
President Kiir and former first VP turned rebel leader Riek Machar signed framework agreement in Sudanese capital Khartoum 27 June, including ceasefire to take effect 30 June, opening opportunity in July to work out comprehensive peace deal. Parties agreed to sign further agreement in next two weeks on composition of new transitional unity govt to rule for three years until general elections. They also agreed to work with Sudan to improve security in oil fields. Kiir and Machar met in Addis Ababa 20 June for first time since fighting re-erupted in 2016. Govt 22 June said Machar could not be part of govt, but that rebel representative could. S Sudan and Sudan 26 June agreed on plan to increase S Sudan’s oil output through rehabilitation of oil infrastructure. Unidentified gunmen ambushed humanitarian convoy between Yei and Lasu in west 26 June, killing Bangladeshi UN peacekeeper.
Sporadic fighting continued between govt forces and Sudanese Liberation Army faction led by Abdel Wahid (SLA-AW) in Jebel Marra region of Central Darfur. Govt reportedly mobilised up to 2,000-strong force of Rapid Support Forces militia and Sudan Armed Forces to retake positions from SLA-AW in Jebel Marra raising possibility of more fighting in coming months. Amid ongoing drawdown of UN-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix 11 June proposed to close all UNAMID bases within two years but reinforce and expand mission’s presence in Jebel Marra. Govt 7 June also advocated for UNAMID drawdown, arguing it is able to provide security and stability there. UN Security Council 29 June voted to extend current UNAMID mandate until 13 July citing insecurity. Ahead of general elections in 2020, Sudan Council of Ministers 10 June approved draft election law reducing number of seats in parliament from 450 to 300 and increasing subnational state representation from two MPs to three; draft to be ratified by National Assembly in Oct. Former opposition party, now member of National Consensus Govt, Popular Congress Party 16 June said law did not reflect opinions of consensus govt. Following talks hosted by President Bashir in Khartoum, S Sudanese President Kiir and his former first VP turned rebel leader Riek Machar signed framework peace agreement 27 June (see South Sudan).
In latest high-profile killing, unidentified attackers shot dead MP Ibrahim Abiriga and his bodyguard in capital Kampala 8 June, sparking public anger at govt and security forces; residents of Abiriga’s Arua municipality accused govt of complicity. In Arua, crowds of mourners 10 June seized Abiriga’s coffin from funeral car and vandalised tents and chairs for vigil; security forces dispersed crowds with teargas and live ammunition. President Museveni 10 June condemned murder and framed it as attack on ruling party. Military arrested General Kale Kayihura, Inspector General of Police (IGP) from 2005 till his sacking in March, and four senior police officers 13 June and some 40 others in following days; charges as yet undisclosed but arrests reportedly in connection with organised crime and 2017 killing of assistant IGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi.
Explosion at election rally in southern city of Bulawayo 23 June apparently targeting President Mnangagwa killed two and wounded over 40; Mnangagwa unharmed but both VPs sustained small injuries. Mnangagwa called for unity and promised attack would not derail electoral process. Representatives of ruling party, leading opposition party Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) and other parties 26 June signed peace pledge, promising to eschew violence and hate speech. Mnangagwa 27 June said he suspected G40 group, which supported former first lady Grace Mugabe, to be behind attack. Thousands of MDC-T supporters 5 June marched to election commission offices in capital Harare with list of demands for upcoming election. Mnangagwa, MDC-T leader Nelson Chamisa, deputy of former President Mugabe Joice Mujuru and leader of MDC-T splinter faction Thokozani Khupe 14 June registered as presidential candidates.
Govt 7 June announced unanticipated, historic eight-day ceasefire coming into effect 12 June; Taliban followed suit 9 June announcing ceasefire starting 14 June, on eve of Eid al Fitr marking end of Ramadan; ceasefires overlapped 15-17 June, resulting in dramatic drop in violence and mass celebrations across country, with Taliban fighters entering cities and govt officials visiting Taliban-controlled areas. Notwithstanding ceasefire, continuation of intense Taliban campaign against security forces (ANDSF) led to high casualties particularly among ANDSF, with reported near-record 1,000 casualties among combatants and civilians during second week of June; violence resumed at lower intensity at end of ceasefire as Taliban resumed operations 17 June; President Ghani 30 June ordered resumption of military operations against Taliban. Taliban continued expanding territory by surrounding or overrunning urban centres, including Purchaman district in western Farah province (4 June); and Kohistan district centre in northern Faryab province (12 June). In south, Taliban raided district centres of Andar and Muqur, Ghazni province 10 and 12 June, and Chora district, Uruzgan province 29 May. Major incidents include 9 June coordinated Taliban attack that killed 70 ANDSF in Kunduz and Sar-e Pul (north), Herat (west), and Kandahar (south); dozens killed 11 June in Taliban attacks in Logar and Paktia (southeast) and Wardak (centre); 50 ANDSF killed in two overnight Taliban attacks in Badghis and Farah provinces (west) 20 June. Attacks claimed by Islamic State (IS-KP) included eight killed in suicide bombing against religious leaders 4 June and thirteen govt employees killed in suicide bombing 13 June, both in Kabul; in Jalalabad, at least 44 killed in two IS-KP attacks on crowds celebrating ceasefire 16-17 June. Resignation of two cabinet ministers during month interpreted as reshuffle ahead of 2019 presidential elections. Govt’s High Peace Council 4 June convened hundreds of clerics to issue fatwa declaring Taliban’s fight religiously illegitimate as part of govt efforts to put “religious pressure” on insurgents; Taliban rejected fatwa. Amid reports of thaw in relations with Pakistan, latter’s army chief of staff visited Kabul 12 June for talks on Islamabad’s role in peace process.
Awami League (AL) govt escalated its anti-narcotics drive; police and paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) force reported to have killed over 147 and arrested over 21,000 since operations began in May, amid allegations of extra-judicial killings and denial of due process. Critics also allege operations deliberately exempted influential patrons of drug dealers, including prominent AL parliamentarians and police officers. Fatalities included AL Municipal Councillor Akramul Haque in Teknaf, killed by RAB soldiers in Cox’s Bazar 27 May; cabinet minister Obaidul Quader 2 June defended killing saying “mistakes” happen during such operations. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein 6 June called for immediate halt to human rights violations. Court 28 May granted imprisoned opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) leader Khaleda Zia bail in two criminal cases against her; govt filed successful petitions with Supreme Court to reject bail. Zia’s doctors claimed she may have suffered a stroke in prison 5 June; Zia’s lawyer 13 June urged govt to release her on parole on humanitarian grounds; law minister ruled out release. BNP 18 June decided to resume street protests calling for Zia’s release. Militants 11 June shot dead Shahjahan Bachchu, secular writer and publisher, in Munshiganj district, Dhaka division (centre). Concerns grew over conditions in camps accommodating over 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar with beginning of seasonal heavy rains (see Myanmar). Rohingya community leader and critic of militant Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) Arif Ullah hacked to death in camp near Cox’s Bazar 18 June.
Amid ongoing concerns over govt crackdown on opposition parties and politicians, Transparency International Cambodia 20 June announced it will not monitor 29 July general elections, joining two other election NGOs who earlier decided against monitoring polls. Asian Network for Free Elections 14 June released report from May pre-election assessment saying elections will be neither free nor fair, citing inter alia intimidation of voters and lack of protection of civil and political rights. Govt 27 June said 50,000 observers, including from China, Myanmar and Singapore, will monitor polls. U.S. 12 June imposed sanctions on Hing Bun Hieng, commander of PM Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit, citing unit’s involvement in violence against unarmed Cambodians dating back to 1997. Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe visited Cambodia 17-20 June, pledged over $1mn military aid; countries agreed to increase military cooperation and conduct visit by Chinese navy in 2019. Prosecutor 20 June summoned exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy to face charge of lèse-majesté for 6 June Facebook post in which he claimed that a recent letter from King Norodom Sihamoni was written under duress.
China and Japan 8 June officially opened hotline for preventing accidental clashes at sea and in air, 30 days after their May agreement to create Maritime and Aerial Communication Mechanism.
Two security officials killed 7 June in encounter with suspected Maoist rebels in Kharsawan district, Jharkhand state; six security personnel killed 24 June by landmine on border of Latehar and Garhwa districts. In Chhattisgarh state, police 8 June shot dead suspected Maoist commander in Bijapur district; and three suspected Maoists killed 15 June in encounter with police in Sukma district.
Clashes continued between Pakistani and Indian militaries across Line of Control (LoC) despite late May ceasefire agreement, with cross-LoC firing reportedly killing two Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers and injuring seven civilians 3 June. Firing across Working Boundary also killed two women and wounded over twenty in Pakistan’s Sialkot district same day. At least four BSF soldiers killed in cross-LoC firing in Samba district 13 June; Pakistan denied involvement, blamed India for firing first. Unrest continued in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, with five civilians, nine security personnel and over twenty alleged militants reportedly killed in clashes during Ramadan despite Indian central and state govts’ decision to observe ceasefire for holy month, which ended 14 June. Military vehicle 1 June crushed and killed protester in Srinagar; security forces fired tear gas and bullets to disperse mourners next day. Three gunmen 14 June killed prominent journalist and newspaper Editor Shujaat Bukhari in Srinagar, along with two bodyguards; police 28 June accused Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) militants of carrying out attack. Police claimed to have killed two militants in Bandipora 18 June and three Jaish-e-Mohammed militants in Tral 19 June. Police 22 June reported four militants, one policeman and one civilian killed in clashes in Anantnag district in south Kashmir. Security forces 29 June claimed to have killed militant in Kupwara district. Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party 19 June withdrew from People’s Democratic Party (PDP)-led coalition govt in Kashmir, forcing resignation of PDP Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti; govt 20 June imposed “governor’s rule” (New Delhi’s direct control). UN Commission on Human Rights 14 June released its first report on alleged rights violations and abuses on both sides of LoC in Kashmir, urged establishment of UN commission of inquiry to investigate alleged human rights violations July 2016-April 2018 and criticised controversial Public Safety Act enacted in 1978.
Regional and local elections took place across entire country 27 June, with thousands of police and military deployed for security; official results expected 9 July. In Papua province, three civilians reported killed and one child injured 25 June by separatist fighters who fired at plane carrying security personnel and election materials to remote Nduga district; three people including two police reported killed by alleged separatists firing on boats carrying voters and officials on election day. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein 19 June expressed concern that govt had not honoured its invitation for him to visit Papua and West Papua provinces. Court 22 June sentenced Islamic cleric Aman Abdurrahman to death for inciting several deadly terrorist attacks, including two in Jakarta in 2016 and attack on church in East Kalimantan in 2017. Leading figure in Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) militant network, Abdurrahman was accused of organising attacks from jail; also believed to have masterminded Surabaya church bombings in May that left over 30 people dead. Authorities mid-June reported over 100 suspects arrested over Surabaya attacks, with some killed allegedly while trying to resist arrest. Addressing Shangri-La Dialogue Asia security summit, defence minister proposed regional strategy to fight terrorism in Indo-Pacific.
North Korea leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump held historic bilateral summit in Singapore 12 June, issuing joint statement incorporating mutual commitment to establishing new relations, building peace and stability regime on Korean peninsula, and recovery and repatriation of remains of American prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action in North Korea; and reaffirmation from Pyongyang of 27 April Panmunjom Declaration commitment to work toward “complete denuclearization” of peninsula; U.S. also committed to provide security guarantees to Pyongyang. In press conference following summit, Trump pledged that U.S. would suspend annual military exercises with South Korea; Seoul reportedly not forewarned of move, prompting concerns over alliance coordination; U.S. VP Pence and White House later gave reassurances that U.S. military would continue to train with South Korean counterparts and conduct military drills, but not large-scale joint exercises, which Trump called “war games”. Some commentators criticised vagueness of summit statement, lack of concrete commitments. Nevertheless, Beijing 12 June called for UN Security Council to review sanctions regime; Russia also called for sanctions relief; U.S. and South Korea 18 June suspended planning for annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise; and Seoul 20 June cancelled three-day Taeguk command-post exercise scheduled for late June. After meeting with South Korean and Japanese diplomats and Chinese President Xi, U.S. Sec State Mike Pompeo said countries agreed to keep UN sanctions in place until denuclearisation is complete. Kim Jong-un arrived in Beijing 19 June for his third visit to China since March, and first official one. Pyongyang and Seoul 14 June held first high-level military talks since December 2007; agreed to restore cross-border communication lines, implement 2004 agreement to prevent unexpected clashes in West Sea, and discussed withdrawal of heavy weapons from border area. In contrast with diplomatic progress, 38 North website cited 21 June satellite imagery showing North Korea making rapid upgrades to its Yongbyon nuclear facility, while NBC news 30 June quoted U.S. officials saying Pyongyang had stepped up enriched uranium production at several secret sites in recent months.
EU, Canada and U.S. ambassadors 1 June urged govt to hold credible and transparent presidential election. Election commission 8 June announced election date as 23 Sept and invited observers from eight countries, EU and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Exiled former President Nasheed 29 June relinquished his presidential candidacy with opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which next day announced MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solid as its presidential candidate. Court 13 June sentenced former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and two former Supreme Court (SC) judges Abdulla Saeed and Ali Hameed to nineteen months’ jail for obstruction of justice for refusing to hand over mobile phones as evidence to police. Govt 28 June appointed Ahmed Abdulla Didi new chief justice. Indian govt 14 June expressed “deep dismay” at convictions.
Conflict in Kachin and Shan states eased somewhat due to onset of monsoon. Data compiled by UN humanitarian agency 1 June showed over 60,000 people temporarily displaced by fighting in Kachin and Shan states between Jan 2017 and May 2018, with most subsequently returning to their areas of origin; 103,000 people remaining in camps in Shan and Kachin states as result of conflict that resumed in 2011. Concerns over conditions of Rohingya refugees in camps in Bangladesh grew with beginning of seasonal heavy rains, which caused flooding, landslides and logistical challenges, and several fatalities from mudslides. UN refugee agency said some 200,000 out of 720,000 refugees “at risk” need to be relocated to safer areas. Still no refugee returns through official system, however small number of Rohingya reported to be returning informally to Rakhine state. Govt 6 June signed memorandum of understanding with UN refugee and development agencies on cooperation on repatriation of refugees from Bangladesh. President’s office 31 May announced that govt would establish three-member Independent Commission of Enquiry to investigate alleged human rights violations in northern Rakhine state, commission to include an international personality and assisted by national and international legal and technical experts. International Criminal Court (ICC) began discussions on possible investigation into alleged deportation of Rohingya to Bangladesh, gave Myanmar 27 July deadline to provide observations on the legal and factual aspects of the case for jurisdiction. UN Special Envoy for Myanmar Christine Burgener visited 12-22 June, met with state counsellor and commander-in-chief, visited Rakhine; then travelled to Thailand, China, Bangladesh. European Council 25 June decided to impose sanctions on seven Myanmar military officials over rights violations against Rohingya. Facebook 7 June announced it would ban several “hardline” monks and designated radical race and religion protection group, Ma Ba Tha, as a “hate organization.”
PM KP Oli continued regional diplomacy with 19-24 June visit to China where he met Chinese President Xi Jinping and signed agreements on improving cross-border connectivity including through a new railway network. Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum-Nepal (SSF-N), fourth largest party overall and second largest Madhesi party in parliament, joined govt 1 June with Chair Upendra Yadav appointed defence minister, giving ruling coalition over two-thirds parliamentary majority. Some leaders of Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJP-N), largest Madhesi party in parliament, also expressed openness to joining govt but senior leader Rajendra Mahato outlined need for constitutional amendments as precondition and criticised SSF-N for weakening Madhesi movement. Home Ministry 7 June decision to closely monitor national and international NGOs and cancelling registrations of those engaged in “political activities” criticised by activists and civil society for undermining free speech. Similar concerns raised following cancellation of a talk show on state-run Nepal TV reportedly at direction of Information Minister Gokul Baskota following questions about his property holdings on the show. Govt request − citing completion of peace process − for closure of UN Department of Political Affairs (DPA) liaison office criticised by some for being poorly communicated; request was accompanied by concurrent accusatory media reports about office’s role; DPA 14 June announced office to close within three months.
Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) social movement continued actions calling for Pashtuns’ rights; two PTM activists killed and dozens injured 3 June at rally in Wana, administrative centre of South Waziristan, allegedly by members of military-backed Afghanistan-oriented militant group. Curfew imposed after killings prompted clashes; military 4 June reportedly killed man for defying curfew and arrested 80; curfew lifted 8 June after tribal jirga mediated agreement under which PTM agreed to halt public activities until after Eid (16 June); district magistrate 9 June banned all rallies and protests for one month without district administration approval. South Waziristan authorities rejected PTM’s demand that members of state-backed militant group which includes former members of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) be barred from main market in Wana. North Waziristan govt 7 June expelled PTM leader Mohsin Dawar from district for three months on public peace grounds; Peshawar High Court 14 June struck down expulsion order. Police 6 June arrested 37 PTM activists for criticising army during Islamabad rally. Former Supreme Court Justice Nasir-ul Mulk 1 June took office as PM of interim govt to oversee 25 July elections. In ongoing insecurity, roadside bomb 7 June killed three people including two police in Lower Dir, KPK; militant attacks killed two soldiers 23 June and another soldier 24 June in North Waziristan. U.S. drone 13 June killed TTP leader Maulana Fazlullah and four senior commanders in Kunar province, Afghanistan; TTP 23 June announced former chief Baitullah Mehsud’s deputy, Noor Wali Mehsud, new leader. Three soldiers and five alleged attackers killed in cross-border militant attack in North Waziristan 15 June. Three paramilitary Frontier Corps soldiers killed in clash with unidentified militants in Balochistan provincial capital Quetta 16 June. TTP same day allegedly killed paramilitary soldier and two civilians in city’s outskirts. Prominent journalist and critic of military Gul Bukhari briefly abducted from home in Lahore 5 June. Largest English-language newspaper Dawn 19 June claimed it had faced disruption and harassment from security officials since mid-May. Journalist and rights activist Marvi Sirmed’s house ransacked 19 June, laptops, phones, passports taken; Human Rights Commission of Pakistan condemned attempt to intimidate her.
Supporters of defeated candidate in 2017 election for governor of Southern Highlands province (centre), set fire to commercial plane, government buildings and governor’s home 14 June in protests at failure of court challenge relating to election result. UN 14 June evacuated staff in Mendi, capital of Southern Highlands, same day. 300 to 400 armed protesters 16-17 June marched on Mendi, calling for resignation of PM O’Neill. O’Neill 15 June declared nine-month state of emergency in province, suspending provincial govt for duration. Govt 23 June deployed 440 soldiers to Southern Highlands and neighbouring Hela province to calm situation.
Ahead of bicameral conference committee hearings (scheduled 9-15 July) to reconcile differences between House and Senate versions of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), for Duterte to sign it into law 23 July, concerns remained over difficulties in finding agreement over significant differences between the two versions, including inter alia on banning of political dynasties, extent of regional powers and tax collection. At conference on BBL 6 June, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) continued to voice concerns about House and Senate versions of BBL, which omit provisions contained in version submitted mid-2017 by Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC, chaired by MILF). Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said stakeholders need to manage expectations and recognise need to comply with constitutional parameters. Duterte 17 June said Moros should give govt more time if BBL fails to pass in July; also said national govt would not seek to claim untapped oil reserves in Maguindanao, estimated at $1bn. Communist National Democratic Front (NDF) rebel Political Adviser José María Sison released statement 28 June saying his movement was abandoning talks with Duterte govt, said it would prepare to resume negotiations under a new administration. Peace talks had been scheduled to resume in Norway late June, before govt decided mid-June to postpone for three months, citing need to allow for public consultations on draft agreements. Duterte spokesman 21 June confirmed govt had suspended all backchannel talks with NDF. Hostilities continued between military and communist New People’s Army (NPA) forces, including in Mindanao and northern Luzon. Army troops 25 June killed six policemen, wounded nine, in “friendly fire” incident on Samar Island; police were hunting communist guerrillas at time of incident. Military clashed with Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Maute Group fighters in Lanao del Sur province mid-June, in operation targeting Abu Dar, who govt believes to be new “emir” of ISIS in South East Asia; 19 June reported it had destroyed Maute Group camp in Tubaran, near Marawi City; more than 11,000 people reportedly displaced by fighting, at least five suspected fighters reported killed. Govt 22 June raised bounty on Abu Dar to $112,600. Military assault on ISIS-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) bomb factory in Liguasan, Maguindanao, 10 June resulted in fifteen suspected BIFF militants killed; thousands of families displaced.
Addressing Shangri-La Dialogue Asia security summit in Singapore 2 June, U.S. Sec Defense Mattis outlined U.S. “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy”, consisting of expanded maritime security support for U.S. partners; helping regional navies become more interoperable with U.S. Navy; strengthening governance through defence engagements; and private sector-led development. Mattis said U.S. wants to work with regional multilateral institutions, particularly ASEAN; that new U.S. national security and defence strategies emphasise Indo-Pacific; said cooperation with China is “welcome wherever possible”. Mattis criticised China’s militarisation of features in disputed Spratly archipelago. Also addressing Shangri-La Dialogue, China for first time publicly acknowledged that it was basing weapons and military personnel on disputed features it controls in Paracel and Spratly Islands, which it said are Chinese territory. Chinese military representative said Mattis’s comments were “irresponsible” and that U.S. was the one militarising, citing U.S. air and naval passages within twelve nautical miles of Chinese-controlled territory. U.S. 5 June flew two B-52 bombers over disputed Scarborough Shoal near Philippines; China sent ships and aircraft, said U.S. “stirring up trouble”. Reuters 3 June reported U.S. considering stepping up its naval operations near disputed features. U.S. held annual Malabar naval exercise with India and Japan 7-16 June off coast of Guam and in Philippine Sea. Biennial U.S. Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercises began 27 June without China after U.S. late May rescinded China’s invitation to participate. Citing satellite imagery dated 8 June, ImageSat International reported that China had redeployed surface-to-air missile systems to Woody (Yongxing) Island in Paracels. PLA navy 15 June carried out missile drills in South China Sea (SCS). UK and French defence ministers 3 June said they would send more naval ships through SCS to assert right to freedom of navigation. Meeting with Sec Defense Mattis in Beijing 27 June, President Xi Jinping reasserted that China would not give up any of its territorial claims in SCS; also called for deepening military-to-military ties.