CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.
CrisisWatch warns of two conflict risks in June.
Our monthly conflict tracker highlights deteriorations in fourteen countries and conflict areas in May.
We also noted an improvement in Venezuela. President Maduro made several gestures signalling a possible willingness to negotiate with rivals, providing a rare opportunity to temper the country’s protracted political crisis.
Aside from the 70+ conflict situations we regularly assess, we also tracked notable developments in: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, the Maldives, Morocco and Peru.
In his monthly take ahead of CrisisWatch, Interim President Richard Atwood looks at recent diplomacy in the Middle East and prospects for assuaging two of the rivalries that have fuelled Arab wars over the past decade.
Jihadist violence continued to run high; meanwhile, govt attempted to convince former President Compaoré to return to country to face justice. Jihadist violence continued in Sahel region reflecting broader security deterioration in tri-border area between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso: in Oudalan’s Tin-Akoff department, presumed Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants 4 May attacked Menzourou village, killing eight including members of Kel Essouk Tuareg community; unidentified assailants 13-14 May attacked Wassakoré village, killing at least three, and attackers 18-19 May killed at least 15 civilians in Adjarara village. Also in Oudalan, several ISGS members 13 May reported killed in Déou department. In Seno province, unknown attackers 11 May killed eight civilians in Wiboria village. In Soum province, armed assailants 30 May attacked soldiers and volunteers fighting alongside security forces (VDPs) in Kelbo department, killing two VDPs. In East region, presumed Al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) militants 3 May attacked Kodyel village, Komandjari province, killing at least 30 people, including two VDPs, and displacing over 4,400. In North region, govt early May conducted airstrikes targeting suspected jihadists around Koumbri and Sollé departments. Meanwhile, in Centre-North region, unidentified militants 18 May attacked VDPs in Firka locality, Pissila department, leaving four VDPs missing. During official visit to Côte d’Ivoire, Zéphirin Diabré, minister in charge of national reconciliation, 5 May met former Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré in first such high-level meeting since Compaoré’s exile in 2014, to discuss his return to Ouagadougou for judgement on complicity in 1987 murder of former President Sankara, key step for govt in national reconciliation process. Ivorian Defence Minister Téné Birahima Ouattara 10 May met President Kaboré in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou to discuss counter-terrorism efforts.
Series of grenade attacks killed at least two and wounded scores; meanwhile, AU and UN missions downscaled in-country monitoring presence. Unidentified assailants launched five grenade attacks against bus stations and public markets during rush hour in capital Bujumbura 25 May and in Muramvya city 27 May, leaving at least two dead and at least 57 injured; police killed one attacker and arrested five suspects. Govt called violence “terrorism”; motives behind attacks still unclear. In Muramvya province, unidentified armed men 9 May killed at least eight and injured five; police by next day had arrested 32 individuals, including 25 former military officers. Ntahangwa High Court 7 May sentenced former opposition MP Fabien Banciryanino to one-year imprisonment for “rebellion and attack on the internal security of the state” after criticising former President Nkurunziza’s “Supreme Guide of Patriotism”; sentence lighter than requested by prosecution. AU Peace and Security Council 7 May announced decision to shut down Human Rights Observers and Military Experts Mission in Burundi by 31 May, and to remove country from agenda citing “significant progress” in political and security situation. UN Sec-Gen Special Envoy’s Office also due to close on 31 May. In neighbouring DR Congo’s South Kivu province ruling party CNDD-FDD youth wing Imbonerakure 19 May clashed with Maï-Maï militiamen aligned with Burundian armed group RED-Tabara in Uvira territory. Rwandan govt 24 May claimed to have killed two National Liberation Front (FLN) rebels crossing the border from Burundi; Gitega denied presence of armed groups hostile to Rwanda on Burundian soil.
Violent attacks between govt forces and separatists continued in Anglophone regions; jihadist violence persisted in Far North. In Njikwa town, North West region (NW), armed forces 6 May burnt homes reportedly killing at least one civilian; 9 May killed separatist in Nwa subdivision; 16 May killed 14 suspected separatists in Bambalang and Tadu villages. In apparent revenge killing for IED which reportedly killed two soldiers 15 May, armed forces 18 May burnt over 50 civilian homes near Kumbo, leaving two dead. Separatists 2 May kidnapped four council workers in Kumbo and 25 May attacked Lassin security post killing five soldiers. In South West region, armed forces 11 May killed separatist commander ‘Njayoh’ in Mbonge town; 14 May killed eight suspected separatists near Buea and in Konye. Separatists 1 May executed two soldiers in Bodam village, Akwaya; 15 May attacked police station in Muea, reportedly firing rocket-propelled grenade; casualties unknown. Separatist carried out other attacks in regions, including with IEDs on 26 May with unclear casualty figures. Govt 10 May held emergency security meeting over increasing use of IEDs by separatists. Defence Minister Beti Assomo said insurgents resorting to IEDs due to dwindling numbers and firepower. Assomo said at least 24 troops and civilians killed by IEDs within first week of May. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 4 May raised Anglophone conflict with French FM Jean-Yves Le Drian at G7 Ministerial Summit in London. In Far North, Boko Haram (BH) continued to launch attacks. BH 9 May killed one civilian in Talla-Massali village, Mayo-Tsanaga division; 15 May killed two civilians in Sanda Wadjiri village, Mayo Sava division; 17 May killed one civilian in Kerawa village in Kolofata town, Mayo-Sava department. BH mid-May released gruesome execution video threatening armed forces in French, first time BH used the language in public threats. Meanwhile, armed forces 4 May killed at least six BH in Soueram village, Logone-et-Chari division, and 16 May killed four BH in Goldavi village, Mayo-Mosokota division. Unconfirmed reports surfaced suggesting BH leader Abubakar Shekau 19 May had blown himself up or was seriously wounded in attempt to kill himself to avoid capture in clash between BH and the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) in north-eastern Nigeria.
Govt forces along with foreign allies continued to gain ground against rebels, remaining rounds of legislative polls held without major incidents, and border tensions with N’djamena flared. Army, with Rwandan and Russian support, pursued military offensive against rebel Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), taking back at least 25 towns and villages previously under rebel control for several years; notably, armed forces 9 May regained control of Bakouma town in Mbomou prefecture, under rebel control since 2013. CPC rebels 17 May reportedly killed at least 17 civilians in Grevaï village, Nana-Gribizi prefecture; also, CPC continued to harass govt and allied forces through indirect confrontation, including using IEDs along roadsides, with at least seven incidents reported by month’s end. Clashes between rebels from Union for Peace in Central Africa (UPC), which withdrew from CPC in April, and suspected Russian paramilitaries 15-16 May reportedly killed at least 20 civilians in Boyo village, Ouaka prefecture. French media Radio France Internationale 3 May reported it had seen confidential UN peacekeeping force (MINUSCA) reports documenting abuses by Russian combatants against civilians, including 26 extrajudicial executions between Jan and April 2021. Govt same day cast doubt on accuracy of report but said it would establish commission of inquiry to investigate alleged abuses while Russia immediately denounced “fake news”. Tensions with Chad rose as N’Djamena 30 May said CAR soldiers attacked Chadian military post at border, leaving six soldiers dead, and accused Bangui of “war crime” that would “not go unpunished”; CAR next day said “exchanges of fire” at border had left casualties on both sides, suggested joint investigation. Meanwhile, 90 of 140 total MPs, most affiliated with ruling party United Hearts Movement (MCU), 3 May took up their seats in National Assembly, and 5 May elected MCU Secretary General Simplice Mathieu Sarandji as National Assembly president. Authorities 23 May held parliamentary elections in about 50 remaining constituencies where elections had been postponed due to insecurity; electoral commission 30 May announced MCU had won 11 new seats, bringing total to 36, far from absolute majority in National Assembly.
As rebels went into retreat, interim authorities consolidated their rule amid repression of opposition protesters; border tensions with Bangui flared. Army early May said it had defeated Libya-based Chad rebel group Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) after violent clashes in Nokou area, Kanem province (centre); authorities 9 May announced victory and presented 156 FACT combatants to media, but armed group same day said they were unaware fighting had ended. Meanwhile, Transitional Military Council (CMT) 2 May named transitional govt headed by PM Pahimi Padacke, with 40 members including some opposition. Announcement sparked widespread discontent. Opposition and civil society platform Wakit Tama 8 May protested against military govt throughout country, defying ban on protests; police fired tear gas and arrested at least 15 in capital N’Djamena and 13 in Moundou city. New march 19 March poorly attended in N’Djamena and southern provinces, reportedly due to major police and military presence at various assembly points; authorities 19 May arrested and later released dozens across country, including Parti Réformiste leader Yacine Abderahmane Sakine, allegedly tortured while in custody. Students 20-21 May continued protests, notably attacking delegation led by Higher Education Minister Lydie Beassemnda at N’Djamena University. Meanwhile, international community remained divided over condemnation of CMT; AU Peace and Security Council 14 May called for civilian-led transition and transition not to be extended beyond eighteen months; called on authorities to hold inclusive national dialogue, and to urgently review national transitional charter to achieve better civil-military balance; AU however appeared to accept that CMT will stay in place for duration of transition. EU Parliament 20 May passed resolution condemning “military seizure of power” and called for “unhindered and speedy return to constitutional order”. In south east, intercommunal violence continued as farmer-herder clashes 17 May left three dead in Mouraye town, Salamat province. In South, N’djamena 30 May said Central African Republic (CAR) soldiers same day attacked Chadian military post at border, leaving six soldiers dead, accused Bangui of “war crime” and warned it would “not go unpunished”; CAR next day said “exchanges of fire” at border had left casualties on both sides, suggested joint investigation.
Tensions emerged as civil society activists called for justice amid negotiations on conditions for former President Gbagbo’s return. Gbagbo’s Ivoirian Popular Front (FPI) and top govt officials continued to discuss conditions for Gbagbo’s possible return as early as June following his acquittal on charges of crimes against humanity at International Criminal Court; Security Minister Vagondo Diomandé 3 May confirmed setting-up of technical committees to work out details of possible agreement. Civil society activists 10 May took to streets in economic capital Abidjan to call for justice for victims of 2010-2011 post-election violence and arrest of Gbagbo upon his return. Authorities mid-May banned FPI and civil society demonstrations due to take place simultaneously in Abidjan 15 May, said move aimed at avoiding violent clashes between Gbagbo’s followers and civil society activists opposed to his return. FPI 31 May said Gbagbo would return to Côte d’Ivoire 17 June. Meanwhile, Liberia 6 May dispatched high-level delegation to Abidjan after Ivorian govt blamed “Liberian mercenaries” for attacking military barracks in Abobo district north of Abidjan late April; Liberian FM Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah, who headed delegation, said his country would not serve as rear base for any destabilisation attempt targeting Côte d’Ivoire. Following two jihadist incursions in Côte d’Ivoire’s north over past year, Defence Minister Téné Birahima Ouattara 9-11 May travelled to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mali, agreed with counterparts to step up security cooperation. PM Patrick Achi mid-May received medical treatment in France after he collapsed at his residence in Abidjan, sparking speculations about his health; Achi was appointed PM in March following death of two PMs in less than eight months.
Amid ongoing violence in east, authorities started implementing “state of siege” in North Kivu and Ituri provinces as military took over from civil authorities. As part of “state of siege” in east, President Tshisekedi 4 May ordered military and police officers to take over from civilian authorities in North Kivu and Ituri provinces starting 6 May for initial period of 30 days; in controversial move, appointed Lt Gen Constant Ndima as North Kivu governor, despite UN accusation that he committed serious crimes in Ituri during 1999-2003 war, and Lt Gen Jon Luboya, former intelligence commander of Rwanda-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy, as governor of Ituri. Armed group violence continued in east. In North Kivu’s Beni region, unidentified armed men 1 and 18 May killed two imams, who had allegedly spoken out against violence in name of religion. Presumed rebels affiliated with Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 10 May killed peacekeeper during attack on MONUSCO’s Kiliya base. Authorities 12 May announced creation of joint-operations centre with Uganda in Beni and 17 May struck agreement with Kampala to share intelligence on ADF rebels; move prompted several politicians to criticise Tshisekedi for what they called invitation to foreign armies without parliament agreement. In Ituri, armed forces early-May launched offensive against Patriotic and Integrationist Front of Congo (FPIC), notably causing 15,000 civilians to flee Nyakunde locality and killing nine FPIC militia. Meanwhile, in Mambasa territory, ADF 11 May killed at least 29 in Ngaka locality and 11-16 May killed 21 across Bangole groupement, Babila Babombi chiefdom. In Irumu territory, ADF 30-31 May killed over 50 in Boga and Tchabi villages. Tshisekedi continued efforts to consolidate power as his allies 6 May ousted governor of Tanganyika province, brother of former President Kabila, for mismanagement of province; 12 May announced intention to run for second term. In capital Kinshasa, celebrations for Islamic Eid al-Fitr holiday turned deadly: rival Muslim factions 13 May clashed, leaving police officer dead. Rwandan President Kagame 17 May denied crimes committed by Rwandan troops in eastern DR Congo between 1993-2003 despite 2010 UN Mapping Report detailing crimes.
Govt forces accused of blocking aid access to Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Amid ongoing Tigray conflict (see Ethiopia), Tigray’s interim govt and humanitarian workers, among others, late April-early May accused Eritrean soldiers of blocking movement of humanitarian aid and workers in Tigray region; UN Sec-Gen’s Office 12 May said “blockades by military forces” were impeding humanitarian access in rural areas; govt in following days denied allegation. Ethiopian Federal Attorney General 21 May admitted involvement of Eritrean troops in Axum massacre in Nov 2020, said Eritrean forces then killed 110 civilians. Aid workers 25 May claimed Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers previous night forcibly detained around 500 internally displaced persons in four camps in Shire town, northern Tigray; Asmara immediately dismissed claim as Tigray People’s Liberation Front propaganda. U.S. Horn of Africa Special Envoy Jeffrey Feltman 6 May met with President Isaias in capital Asmara, emphasised imperative for Eritrean troops to withdraw from Ethiopia and risk of Tigray conflict sparking regional escalation. U.S. State Dept 23 May imposed visa restrictions on Eritrean and Ethiopian former and current govt and security forces officials for “undermining resolution” of Tigray crisis and 27 May warned of further action if “those stoking the conflict fail to reverse course”. Amid ongoing Sudan-Ethiopia tensions over disputed Al-Fashqa border zone, Isaias 4-5 May travelled to Sudan’s capital Khartoum, met with General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of Sudan’s ruling Sovereign Council, and Sudanese PM Abdallah Hamdok; visit comes after Khartoum earlier this year accused Eritrea of interfering in border dispute in support of Ethiopia.
Authorities faced further international pressure to end war in Tigray and new accusations of human rights violations in centre, and slightly postponed general elections to 21 June. Amid continued fighting between Tigray’s and federal govt’s forces in Tigray regional state in north, U.S. State Dept 23 May imposed restrictions on economic and security assistance to Ethiopia over alleged human rights abuses, and visa limitations for current and former Ethiopian and Eritrean officials accused of undermining efforts to stem violence; Addis Ababa next day denounced “attempt by U.S. to meddle in its internal affairs” and thousands of pro-govt protesters 30 May rallied against sanctions in capital. UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock 25 May warned of “serious risk of famine” in Tigray, said humanitarian access had deteriorated since March with aid operations being “attacked, obstructed or delayed”. Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers overnight 24-25 May reportedly beat up and detained over 500 IDPs in four camps in Tigray’s Shire town, 27 May reportedly released most of them following international pressure. Authorities 6 May designated former ruling party Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) insurgent group as terrorist organisations. In Oromia regional state in centre, govt-appointed Human Rights Commission 6 May voiced “serious concern” over arbitrary detentions across region, accused authorities of committing “grave violations of human rights”. News magazine Addis Standard 12 May accused local security forces of having recently extrajudicially executed suspected OLA member in Dembi Dollo town. Suspected OLA insurgents 22 May reportedly killed seven in West Guji Zone. Electoral commission 20 May postponed already delayed general elections, due 5 June, to 21 June, citing logistical issues. EU 3 May said it had cancelled deployment of its electoral observation mission, citing disagreements with govt over mission’s independence. Meanwhile, Ethiopian militiamen mid-May reportedly clashed with Sudanese forces in Eastern Gallabat area of disputed Al-Fashqa border zone, where latter reportedly seized five settlements controlled by Ethiopia since 1995. Tensions ran high between Ethiopia,Sudan and Egypt amid reports Addis Ababa had started second filling of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (see Nile Waters).
COVID-19 restrictions sparked unrest. COVID-19-related ban on collective night prayers during last days of Ramadan 3-6 May sparked violent protests in Siguiri, Kankan and Kérouané cities, Kankan region (east), with demonstrators burning tyres and storming administrative buildings; security forces overnight 5-6 May reportedly killed one demonstrator in Kérouané.
Court dealt major blow to President Kenyatta’s attempt to amend constitution, while Al-Shabaab continued to stage attacks in north east. High Court 13 May ruled controversial attempt by President Kenyatta and de facto ally, opposition leader Raila Odinga, to amend constitution was illegal, warned civil proceedings may be instituted against Kenyatta for breaching constitution; constitutional amendment backers, Kenyatta and electoral commission late May separately appealed ruling. Move widely seen as bolstering position of Deputy President William Ruto, whose allies have opposed constitutional changes and who could vie with Odinga for presidency in 2022 elections. In further blow to Kenyatta, ruling Jubilee Party 18 May lost three parliamentary by-elections to opposition in Kiambu and Kisii counties; in Kiambu’s Juja town, police and Jubilee supporters same day clashed with opposition People’s Empowerment Party supporters over alleged voter fraud. Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab-related violence continued in north east and east. Notably, in Lamu county, suspected Al-Shabaab explosive devices killed two people near Ishakani village 3 May and at least three soldiers in Baure area 18 May; in Wajir county, police 12 May killed two suspected Al-Shabaab militants in Tarbaj area; in Mandera county, suspected militants 21 May ambushed police patrol in Banisa area, killing three. Following Qatar-mediated talks, Somalia 6 May said it had restored diplomatic relations with Kenya, which had been severed since Dec 2020 over Nairobi’s alleged interference in Somali affairs. However, Kenya 10 May suspended all commercial flights to and from Somalia for three months in response to Somalia’s refusal to resume khat stimulant imports.
Amid rising social discontent, military junta staged another coup; jihadist violence persisted in north and centre. Following series of strikes paralysing country, PM Ouane 14 May offered resignation to President N’Daw, who immediately reappointed him to form more inclusive cabinet. After interim govt 24 May appointed new cabinet ministers, military junta immediately arrested N’Daw and Ouane. Colonel Assimi Goïta, transition’s VP, next day announced that N’Daw and Ouane had violated transition’s charter by appointing new cabinet without consulting him and would be stripped of their powers; N’Daw and Ouane next day resigned. Goïta 27 May declared himself country’s transitional president and authorities released N’Daw and Ouane; Constitutional Court next day declared Goïta as interim president. Mali’s main international partners, including regional bloc ECOWAS, AU, EU, France and U.S., condemned junta’s action, while France and U.S. said they would consider sanctions; UN Security Council 26 May unanimously issued condemnation but stopped short of referring to “coup d’état” or including coercive measures; ECOWAS 30 May suspended Mali’s membership but did not impose new sanctions as it did after last year’s coup, instead called for civilian PM, respect of transition’s deadline and formation of inclusive govt. Meanwhile, in north, suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants 2 May amputated hands and feet of three alleged robbers in Ansongo district, Gao region, nearly first time jihadists used such punishment since 2012 to apply Sharia law; move apparently aimed at bolstering group’s legitimacy as effective security alternative to state authorities. Few days later, al-Qaeda-linked Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) 5 May released video of French journalist kidnapped 8 April near Gao city, urging French authorities to secure his release. In Kidal region (north), truck carrying gold miners 8 May struck IED near Tessalit district, killing two; truck 19 May struck IED on road to Ntillit village, Gao district, killing 16. In Mopti region (centre), presumed JNIM-affiliated Katiba Macina militants 4 May attacked Ndobougou and Kounti-Marka villages, Djenné district, killing three. Also in Mopti, Malian army vehicle 7 May struck IED, which JNIM reportedly planted, in Douentza district, killing three soldiers.
Islamist insurgents continued to launch deadly attacks in far north despite ongoing counter-insurgency efforts. In far north Cabo Delgado province, insurgents targeted internally displaced persons fleeing violence by boat, reportedly killing at least seven and kidnapping at least 40 off the coast of Macomia district 3 May. In Nangade district, local militiamen 7 May clashed with insurgents in and around Ngalonga village, killing at least five, and 22 May killed five more insurgents in Chacamba village. In Palma district, insurgents 10 May killed three civilians and took others hostage in Olumbe village; armed forces 22-23 May reportedly thwarted insurgents’ attempt to capture Olumbe. Govt forces 21 May clashed with insurgents in and around strategic town of Diaca, Mocimboa da Praia district, allegedly driving them out of locality; 22-23 May reportedly took control of Muidumbe district capital Namacande, which had been under insurgents’ control since late 2020. NGO Amnesty International 13 May said rescue operation conducted by South African private military company Dyck Advisory Group (DAG) during siege of Palma town in March was marred by racial discrimination, with white contractors evacuated ahead of black locals; DAG same day denied allegations. Southern Africa regional bloc SADC 27 May held extraordinary double troika summit to discuss deployment of regional force in Cabo Delgado but deferred decision to deploy force to next meeting scheduled for 20 June. Meanwhile, André Matsangaíssa Júnior, former senior member of Renamo Military Junta (JMR), armed dissident faction of opposition Renamo party, 3 May said JMR leader Mariano Nhongo would soon surrender; three JMR members mid-May defected in Manica province, claimed JMR forces in stronghold of Gorongosa, Sofala province, much reduced with only seven people left in their ranks. Nyusi 16 May said disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of former armed opposition movement Renamo forces would not be concluded by Aug as expected due to lack of funds.
Jihadist violence continued, particularly in south-western Tillabery region, where deadly attacks on civilians triggered mass displacement. In Tillabery region, heavily armed Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants 4 May attacked military outpost in Intoussan village, Banibangou department, killing at least 16 soldiers and four civilians; jihadists 13 May stormed Fatio village, Tera department, killing five civilians. UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs 17 May reported over 100 civilians killed since early May in Intoussan and Anzourou villages, and over 11,000 from Anzourou area fled following rising attacks against civilians. In neighbouring Tahoua region, presumed ISGS militants 1 May fired at farmers, killing two near Agando village, Tillia department; militants same day ambushed National Guard patrol, killing 16 soldiers in Agando. In Diffa city (south east), Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) fighters 28 May killed four security forces, and four civilians, with at least six attackers dead. Meanwhile, intercommunal tensions persisted. Notably, Zarma groups 4 May killed several Fulani in Banibangou department, Tillabery region. Accusations of serious abuses by Nigerian security forces persisted. International NGO Human Rights Watch 5 May reported that security forces extrajudicially killed at least 185 people since Oct 2019, urged President Bazoum to prioritise seeking justice over abuses. During official visit to Niger, head of Chadian Transitional Military Council General Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno 10 May met Bazoum, who on 24 April was appointed as special mediator for Chadian crisis, to discuss future of both countries; also visited G5-affiliated Chadian battalion stationed in Tera city, Tillabery (see Chad). In Arlit (north), civil society groups 9 May issued letter to Bazoum raising concerns about 31 March closure of Akouta uranium mine, including lack of compensation for mine’s 800 subcontractors, and health and environmental risks of burying 20mn cubic metres of radioactive waste.
Overall security situation deteriorated further notably due to violent escalation in South East. In South East, suspected members of Eastern Security Network, armed wing of outlawed separatist group Indigenous People of Biafra 6-30 May killed at least 25 security personnel, mostly police officers, in Ebonyi, Anambra, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Abia states; 30 May allegedly assassinated prominent northern politician, Ahmed Gulak, in Imo state. Herder-farmer violence displaced thousands in several states and left about 60 people killed in Bali area of Taraba state 13-16 May; at least 14 killed in Jos South area of Plateau state 23 May; and about 55 killed in Katsina-Ala and Ado areas of Benue state 27 and 30 May. Attacks and abductions continued in North West. In Kaduna state, gunmen 19 May attacked two villages, killing 11. In Katsina state, gunmen 8 May killed 11 in Safana area, 10 May abducted 45 in Jibia area and 18 May abducted 21 in Batsari area. In Niger state, armed groups 5 May killed eight and abducted over 100 in Shadadi town; 30 May abducted about 200 children in Rafi area; and next day killed at least 15 in Mariga area. In Sokoto state, armed groups 21-23 May killed 25 in Sabon Birni, Isah and Rabah areas. In Zamfara state, armed groups 22 May killed 19 farmers and two police officers across Gusau, Maradun and Zurmi areas; 24-25 May, killed 20 in Bungudu area. Meanwhile, several media organisations 20 May reported Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram faction (JAS), had blown himself up or was seriously wounded in attempt to kill himself to escape capture by rival group Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) in Borno state (north east); move followed major ISWAP offensive on Shekau’s Sambisa forest stronghold and seizure of territories formerly under his control. ISWAP also attacked military base in Borno’s Ajiri town 2-3 May; fighting killed five soldiers, 15 members of Civilian Joint Task Force and at least six civilians. Military killed at least 59 insurgents throughout month, including at least 40 in Konduga area mid-month.
Rhetoric among parties grew harsher ahead of Addis Ababa’s second filling of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Ethiopian foreign ministry 4 May denounced “unwarranted, provocative and increasingly bellicose propaganda” by Sudan; statement followed Khartoum’s late-April warning that Ethiopia’s disavowal of past border treaties compromised country’s sovereignty over Benishangul-Gumuz region where GERD is located. Amid growing concerns that GERD’s second filling between June and Aug could escalate dispute, U.S. Horn of Africa Special Envoy Jeffrey Feltman 4-13 May travelled to region, called for immediate resumption of AU-led tripartite negotiations. In meeting with Feltman in Cairo, Egyptian President Sisi 5 May said Ethiopian dam was “existential” threat, warned Cairo would not accept anyone “harming its water interests”. Ethiopian foreign ministry 20 May warned Addis Ababa would “not tolerate any move” aimed at disrupting GERD’s second filling. Khartoum 25 May claimed Addis Ababa had begun second filling early May; Ethiopian Water Minister Seleshi Bekele same day denied allegations as “deliberately misleading”. In possible warning to Addis Ababa and preparation for possible escalation of tensions, Sudan and Egypt 26-31 May held third joint military exercise since Nov 2020.
Election-related tensions subsided, Al-Shabaab attacks continued, and federal govt resumed relations with Kenya. Parliament’s lower house 1 May unanimously voted to repeal controversial resolution it passed in April to extend President Farmajo’s term by two years amid election deadlock, after move prompted deadly clashes between pro-opposition and pro-Farmajo factions of security forces in capital Mogadishu. Farmajo same day entrusted PM Roble with election preparations. Roble and pro-opposition troops 5 May reached agreement for latter to return to their barracks within 48 hours, in exchange of which they would not be penalised. Federal govt and member states 22 May resumed national consultative council (NCC) talks on electoral framework, 27 May agreed to hold parliamentary elections within 60 days. AU Commission 7 May appointed former Ghanaian President John Mahama as High Representative to Somalia to mediate electoral crisis; Mahama 20 May however stepped down after Mogadishu expressed reservations over his perceived ties with Kenya. Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab continued to launch deadly attacks. Notably, suicide attack 9 May killed six police officers and one civilian at Waberi police station in Mogadishu, and suspected Al-Shabaab explosive device 21 May killed three people on outskirts of capital. In Hiraan region in centre, security forces reportedly killed at least seven suspected Al-Shabaab militants near Mahas district 9 May and another six in Buloburte district 22 May. In Middle Shabelle region (also centre), security forces 29 May reportedly killed 37 suspected Al-Shabaab militants in Galka-Harare area, and regained control of several villages. Local Macawisley militia 19 May clashed with Hirshabelle state police in state capital Jowhar; ten people killed. After Qatari mediation, Somalia 6 May said it had restored diplomatic relations with Kenya, which had been severed since Dec 2020. However, Mogadishu in following days rejected Kenya’s attempts to resume khat stimulant exports to Somalia, prompting Nairobi to suspend all non-medical and humanitarian flights to and from Somalia for three months.
Amid opposition’s concerns over electoral process, parliamentary and local elections held without major incidents in late May. Opposition Justice and Welfare Party (UCID) and Waddani party 3 May denounced recent arrest of several of their candidates, accused authorities of confiscating voter ID cards from citizens, and called on President Bihi to end “abuses” in electoral process. Authorities 9 May dropped electoral fraud and treason charges against five UCID and Waddani candidates, and Bihi next day said he had reached agreement with leaders of both parties, electoral commission and members of Supreme Court on length of campaign and dispute resolution mechanisms. Unidentified gunmen 23 May fired at opposition offices in Las Anod town, Sool region in east, reportedly injuring at least two. No major incidents reported on election day 31 May.
Renewed escalation of intercommunal violence in east left 150 dead, and holdout rebel group suspended participation in peace talks amid clashes in south; meanwhile, govt made some progress in implementing 2018 peace deal. In Greater Pibor Administrative Area in east, renewed intercommunal clashes between ethnic Lou Nuer and Dinka on one side and ethnic Murle on the other 10-17 May killed over 150 in Gumuruk area. UN Mission in South Sudan 16 May expressed “deep concern” over “fresh escalation of violence”. UN Security Council 11 May extended mandate of UN peacekeeping force in disputed Abyei region (north) between South Sudan and Sudan, until Nov; intercommunal violence 16 May killed at least 11 people in Abyei’s Dungoup village. Meanwhile, holdout rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS) 6 May suspended its participation in new round of peace talks with govt scheduled for 8-12 May, accusing govt of involvement in April alleged assassination of Gen Abraham Wana Yoane, military chief of rebel group allied to NAS. In Central Equatoria state in south, suspected NAS combatants reportedly killed five civilians in Payawa village 12 May and four security forces in Gabada village next day. In Western Equatoria state (also south), President Kiir-aligned South Sudan People’s Defence Forces 14-15 May repelled attack by suspected NAS on their barracks in Maridi county; five reportedly killed. Kiir 10 May signed long-delayed decree reconstituting Transitional National Legislative Assembly to include former rebel opposition groups, paving way for completion of key steps of peace process including constitutional review and preparation for elections; move came after Troika states, Canada, France, Germany and EU 5 May jointly urged Kiir and presidency’s five VPs to take steps to bolster transition. Implementation of transitional security arrangements however continued to lag behind schedule and official body monitoring peace deal implementation, including unification of armed groups into single army, 20 May warned former rebel fighters were abandoning cantonment and training sites due to lack of food and medicine, jeopardising goal to graduate first batch of unified army by month’s end. UN Security Council 28 May extended arms embargo on South Sudan for one year.
Govt made strides toward clearing its debt arrears, security forces cracked down on peaceful protesters, and tensions with Ethiopia remained high. International Monetary Fund 10 May announced it had approved financing plan that would allow Sudan to clear its debt arrears with international financing body. At investment and financing conference in France, govt 17-18 May secured several assurances of debt cancellation and new loans including from France, Germany and Norway. PM Hamdok 19 May said Sudan had fulfilled all conditions for debt forgiveness, which would pave way for Khartoum to regain access to international financing.Security forces 11 May opened fire and killed two protesters gathered outside army headquarters in capital Khartoum to commemorate 2019 massacre of over a hundred anti-Transitional Military Council sit-inners. Hamdok immediately condemned killings and army 16 May handed over seven soldiers suspected of involvement to Public Prosecutor. Sovereign Council member Aisha Musa 22 May announced resignation, accused transitional authorities of leading Sudan to “more killing, injustice, poverty and suffering”. Amid delays in implementation of Oct 2020 peace deal with rebel coalition Sudanese Revolutionary Front, UN assistance mission in Sudan 20 May voiced “great concern” over slow pace of unification of armed forces. Govt and rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North faction led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu – who demurred on signing Oct 2020 agreement – 26 May returned to talks in South Sudan’s capital Juba with view to bringing rebel group into transitional govt. Meanwhile, army 19 May reportedly clashed with Ethiopian militia in Eastern Gallabat area of disputed Al-Fashqa border zone, seizing five settlements controlled by Ethiopia since 1995. In apparent warning to Addis Ababa and preparation for possible escalation amid stalled negotiations on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on Blue Nile river, Sudan 26-31 May held third joint military exercise with Egypt since Nov 2020 (see Nile Waters). UN Security Council 11 May extended mandate of UN peacekeeping force in disputed Abyei area at border with South Sudan until Nov, requesting UN Sec-Gen Guterres establish viable exit strategy by Oct; ethnic Misseriya gunmen 16 May reportedly killed at least 11 people in Abyei’s Dungoup village.
President Suluhu Hassan continued to distance herself from predecessor Magufuli’s policies and took steps to improve relations with neighbours. In departure from COVID-19 scepticism during late President Mafuguli’s era, Hassan 7 Mayurged Tanzanians to wear masks to prevent spread of virus. Committee of experts established in April to advise govt on measures to curb pandemic 17 May presented 19 recommendations, notably calling on govt to release data on COVID-19 cases and join World Health Organization’s COVAX vaccine-sharing program. Hassan throughout month reshuffled key positions in effort to revamp public service, notably appointing new directors of public prosecutions and police. Hassan took steps to improve relationship with neighbours. Notably, Hassan 4-5 May visited Kenya, signed $1bn gas pipeline deal with counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta and promised tax and business reformsto make it easier for Kenyan investors to operate in Tanzania.
President Museveni sworn in for sixth term amid massive military deployment in and around capital Kampala. In run-up to Museveni’s inauguration 12 May, security forces early May arrested at least 41 people for allegedly planning to disrupt ceremony and 10 May surrounded homes of opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) leader Bobi Wine and Forum for Democratic Change leader Kizza Besigye in Kampala. In inaugural address, Museveni accused western govts of interfering in domestic affairs of African nations to serve their own interests. In contentious parliament speaker election setting two of Museveni’s National Resistance Movement MPs against each other, Jacob Oulanyah 24 May defeated incumbent Rebecca Kadaga. Meanwhile, DR Congo’s govt 12 May announced joint operation with Ugandan army against armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in eastern DR Congo, days after Congolese President Tshisekedi introduced martial law in North Kivu and Ituri provinces to stem rising violence; Ugandan military 17 May said both countries had agreed to share intelligence and coordinate anti-ADF operations (see DR Congo). International Criminal Court 6 Maysentenced former commander of rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army Dominic Ongwen to 25 years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in northern Uganda in early 2000s.
Standoff emerged between High Court and President Mnangagwa, and intra-party violence erupted within both ruling party and opposition. Following constitutional amendments passed by parliament in April, Mnangagwa 11 May extended term of Chief Justice Luke Malaba, who was scheduled to retire mid-May, by five years. High Court 15 May ruled extension invalid, saying incumbent judges cannot benefit from term extension under Zimbabwe’s constitution. Govt 17 May appealed ruling before Supreme Court, and Malaba 23 May returned to work, saying appeal suspended High Court order; human rights lawyers 25 May filed High Court application seeking Malaba’s arrest on charges of contempt of court. Meanwhile, rival factions of ruling party ZANU-PF 8 May clashed in Makonde district, Mashonaland West province; police subsequently arrested four, who were granted bail 13 May. Violence next day erupted during meeting of Douglas Mwonzora-led faction of main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) in capital Harare; MDC-T 10 May said supporters of rival faction, Nelson Chamisa-led MDC-A, had stabbed and injured five MDC-T members, which MDC-A denied. Meanwhile, High Court 5 May granted bail to MDC-A MP Joana Mamombe and youth leader Cecilia Chimbiri; both women under detention since March on charges of violating COVID-19 restrictions.
Taliban intensified coordinated assaults on Afghan military positions, with govt forces losing more district centres; terror attacks killed over 100 civilians. Deadly Taliban attacks escalated in nature and intensity throughout month as part of annual Spring offensive, especially from 1 May – start of symbolic U.S./NATO troop withdrawal. Notably, Taliban 2 May attacked security post, killing 12 security forces in Badakhshan province (north east); 3 May seized positions around Helmand’s capital (south) with 18 security forces killed or wounded; 4 May killed nine security forces in Baghlan province (north), followed by the surrender of 100 more on 6 May; 4 May killed 20 soldiers in Farah province (south west); and 7-8 May killed 23 soldiers in Ghazni and Wardak provinces (centre). Taliban offensive led to militants gaining control of district centres in Laghman, Wardak and Baghlan by end of month. Month also saw heavy toll on civilians: triple bombing 8 May targeted school in Hazara neighbourhood in capital Kabul, killing at least 90 civilians, mostly women and girls, and wounding 240 more; govt blamed Taliban for attack but group denied responsibility. IEDs on bus 10 May killed 11 civilians in Zabul province (South); bomb 14 May exploded in mosque, killing 12 civilians in capital Kabul, Islamic State later claimed responsibility for attack. Roadside bomb 16 May also killed three civilians in Ghanzi province (East). Large Uzbek ethnic community in Faryab province (north) demonstrated angrily against govt’s attempt to appoint new governor with no ties to province or Uzbek community. U.S. and UK continued high-level diplomatic efforts to support peace process by engaging with senior Pakistani officials and Taliban representatives; moves resulted in resumption of Taliban-govt peace discussions in Qatar’s capital Doha 13 and 24 May and statement of willingness from Taliban to attend high-level peace conference in Turkey in future, with conditions. Australia withdrew embassy from Kabul amid increasing international concerns about security environment.
Political tensions continued in aftermath of anti-India unrest, and authorities revealed rise in number of Rohingyas attempting to enter Bangladesh since 1 Feb coup in Myanmar. Protesters in capital Dhaka 3 May called for release of student leaders arrested for protesting March visit of Indian PM Modi; delegation of six Hefazat-e-Islam leaders next day met with Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal to request release of activists detained following anti-India protests, also asked for ongoing arrests to stop. Police 15 May arrested Jamaat-e-Islami leader and former member of parliament on charges of instigating Hefazat-sponsored violence during anti-Modi protests in Chittagong city. Following charges filed by health ministry, senior journalist Rozina Islam 17 May arrested for violating Official Secrets Act; Islam, who had been reporting on institutional corruption and COVID-19, released on bail 22 May; local and international rights organisations called for all charges to be dropped. Nationalist Party (BNP) opposition leader and former PM Khaleda Zia 3 May hospitalised for post-COVID-19 health complications; law minister 9 May rejected Zia’s demand to seek medical treatment abroad. Paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion 2 May arrested four alleged members of banned Ansar al-Islam in Khulna district. Counter-terrorism police 4 May arrested two alleged members of banned New Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh; also in Dhaka, authorities 2, 5 and 20 May detained at least six alleged Ansar al-Islam members, and 19 May arrested alleged Hizb ut-Tahrir member in Cox’s Bazar district. High profile Islamist preacher 26 May arrested for inciting militancy. Border security officials 2 May said number of Rohingyas refugees trying to enter country more than tripled since 1 Feb military coup in Myanmar, revealed they had pushed back some 133 Rohingyas to Myanmar this year, including over 100 in March-April. State minister for foreign affairs 17 May stated around 20,000 Rohingyas so far relocated to Bhasan Char, low-lying flood-prone island in Bay of Bengal; during UN High Commissioner for Refugees officials’ inspection of island, several thousand Rohingyas 31 May staged protest against dire living conditions.
Tensions continued between Japan and China over contested island chain in East China Sea. At foreign minister G7 meeting in UK, Japanese FM Motegi 4 May raised “grave concerns” over Chinese attempts to change status quo in East and South China Seas. Defence Minister Kishi 20 May said Japan must increase defence capabilities, citing China’s increased capabilities. Draft Japanese defence white paper 13 May referred to Chinese patrols in zone around Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands as “violation of international law” and stated that stability of Taiwan Strait was important to Japan’s security; in response, China 14 May lodged diplomatic complaint. Japanese govt identified 104 Chinese coast guard vessels in contiguous zone and ten in territorial sea of Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands during month; Japan 16 May reported three Chinese navy vessels sailing through Miyako Strait. Japanese, U.S. and French military forces 11-17 May attended first joint exercise on Japanese territory; Australia 15 May participated in expanded naval exercise in East China Sea.
COVID-19 crisis continued to grip country as Maoist violence persisted in centre and west, and tens of thousands of farmers marked six months of protest movement. Country continued to reel under COVID-19 crisis as official tallies surpassed 300,000 deaths and 25mn cases, with unofficial cases and mortality rate possibly reaching far greater numbers; hundreds of corpses mid-month were spotted floating in river Ganges and washing up on embankments in various northern states. Maoist violence persisted. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), Maoists 11 May killed police constable in Sukma district, and next day killed civilian suspected of being police informer in Narayanpur district; IED 18 May killed police head constable in Bijapur district. Police 14 May killed Maoist in Dantewada district; exchanges of fire between police and Maoists 17 May killed three suspected Maoists in Sukma district; police 22 and 31 May killed Maoist in Dantewada district. In Maharashtra state (west), security forces 13 May killed two Maoists and 21 May killed 13 Maoists in Gadchiroli district. Ahead of six-month anniversary of farmer protests on 26 May, leaders of protest movement 21 May called on PM Modi to resume talks on their key demands, threatening intensification of protests if govt declines to engage; tens of thousands of farmers 26 May demonstrated across country. At border dispute with China, reports 10 May surfaced that China had equipped troops on Indian border with modified truck-mounted rocket, affording military greater mobility and flexibility. Indian army chief general 20 May said India will continue enhanced troop presence along border until de-escalation takes place and denied that talks with Beijing had reached impasse, saying trust had increased following disengagement deal in Feb.
Pakistan and India traded blame for breaking ceasefire along Line of Control (LoC, dividing Pakistan and Indian-administered Kashmir); militant attacks continued in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Pakistan and India held each other responsible for first violation of 25 Feb agreement reaffirming support for 2003 ceasefire along Kashmir’s LoC and international border; Pakistani PM Imran Khan 30 May said normalising ties with India would be “major betrayal” to people of Kashmir. According to Indian Border Security (BSF), Pakistan troops 3 May opened fire along international border in J&K’s Samba district; Pakistan’s foreign ministry same day lodged protest with India over BSF troops crossing and firing mortars along LoC in Sialkot’s Charwa Sector; no casualties reported on either side. India’s BSF 6 May killed alleged intruder and 18 May arrested another in alleged infiltration attempt across international border in Samba district. India 15 May accused Islamabad of using drones to deliver weapons into J&K. UN General Assembly President Volkan Bozkır 27 May said India and Pakistan should “refrain” from altering status of Kashmir; Indian foreign ministry next day called remarks “misleading and prejudiced”. Counter-insurgency operations and militant attacks continued in J&K throughout month. Security forces 4 and 6 May killed five suspected militants in Baramulla and Shopian districts in separate incidents; 11 and 17 May killed five alleged militants in separate incidents in Anantnag district and on outskirts of regional capital Srinagar. Grenade attack 7 May wounded three paramilitary soldiers and civilian in Srinagar. Kashmiri separatist leader and Tehreek-i-Hurriyat chairman Muhammad Ashraf Khan Sehrai 5 May died in custody; Sehrai, 78, had been jailed since his arrest in July 2020 under Public Safety Act; umbrella group of separatist parties, All Parties Hurriyat Conference, 5 May accused prison authorities of denying him timely medical assistance; police 15 May detained two of Sehrai’s sons in Srinagar after participants at his funeral in Kupwara district raised pro-separatist slogans on 6 May. Amid COVID-19 spread, local authorities 6 May requested doctors no longer speak with media, and directed oxygen manufacturing units to stop deliveries to NGOs and private users on account of shortages in hospitals.
Following series of violent attacks, authorities signalled major crackdown on Papuan separatists with deployment of more military troops to country’s easternmost region. Following last month’s series of deadly attacks in Papua’s Puncak district, and designation of Papuan armed groups as “terrorists”, military 6 May announced deployment of 400 additional troops to Papua; United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) leader Benny Wenda 4 May claimed deployment was part of “biggest military operation in West Papua since the late 1970s” amid reports of internet shutdown and displacement of locals. Chief Security Minister Mahfud MD 19 May said armed assailants previous day killed two Indonesian soldiers in Dekai district in Yahukimo regency and injured four others in separate attack in Serambakon district in Bintang regency. Police 9 May arrested spokesperson for West Papua National Committee Victor Yeimo in Papua’s provincial capital Jayapura for his alleged role in August 2019 protests and prior statement calling for referendum on independence; NGO Human Rights Watch 12 May called on authorities to “drop politically motivated treason charges and unconditionally release” Yeimo; over 30 civil society groups, including Amnesty International, 19 May also demanded his immediate release.
Pyongyang lambasted U.S. diplomacy following President Biden’s critical statement, while U.S. and South Korean leaders pledged to strengthen ties to guarantee regional security. In response to U.S. President Biden’s statement late April to U.S. Congress characterising North Korea’s (DPRK) nuclear program as a threat, North Korean foreign ministry 1-2 May said Biden had made “big blunder” and called U.S. diplomacy “spurious signboard” to “cover up its hostile acts”. At G7 meeting in UK, U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken and South Korean FM Chung Eui-yong 3 May reaffirmed their alliance’s role in Indo-Pacific peace and security, while Blinken said DPRK needs to take opportunity to engage diplomatically to move forward toward denuclearisation of Korean Peninsula. Chinese Envoy to UN Zhang Jun same day expressed hopes that U.S. review of North Korea policy will place more emphasis on dialogue, rather than on provocative and confrontational actions. South Korean President Moon 20-23 May visited Washington D.C. for meeting with President Biden to reaffirm security and economic ties; after summit, Biden said both leaders remained “deeply concerned” about ongoing nuclear threat from DPRK and announced appointment of new envoy to open diplomatic channels with Pyongyang. Moon same day announced joint decision with U.S. to end flight range guidelines signed in 1979 limiting Seoul’s missile development program, and called denuclearisation of Korean Peninsula “matter of survival”, affirming that main aim of meeting was to bring North Korea back on “path of dialogue”; Pyongyang 31 May criticised U.S. for ending restrictions on South Korea’s missile development, warning it could lead to “instable situation”. Chinese FM Wang Yi 28 May met North Korean Ambassador Ri Ryong-nam in China’s capital Beijing where pair pledged to “strengthen coordination and cooperation”. South Korean police 6 May raided office of anti-North Korea activist group that had stated it had released balloons into North carrying dollar bills and leaflets denouncing Pyongyang.
Terror attack targeted former President Mohamed Nasheed. Alleged Muslim extremists 6 May detonated homemade explosive outside home of former president and current parliament speaker, Mohamed Nasheed, in capital Malé, critically wounding Nasheed, two of his bodyguards and two bystanders; Nasheed 13 May flown to Germany for further medical treatment; police by 21 May had arrested four suspects. While attack has yet to be claimed, Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party reportedly said religious extremists and political interests could be involved.
Civil disobedience actions continued as Tatmadaw and civil defence groups clashed, opposition govt launched armed wing and fighting persisted between ethnic armed groups and military. Strikes against coup and other civil disobedience activities continued across country; protests launched daily, with most small-scale and brief in order to avoid crackdowns from security forces. Amid ongoing arrests of anti-coup supporters, country witnessed fewer protest-related killings, although at least 68 reported during month. Spate of bombings and unclaimed arson attacks continued in Yangon, Mandalay and other cities, and at least dozen local govt officials reported killed. Armed clashes between military and locally organised civil defence groups persisted throughout May in north west Myanmar, including Chin State and Sagaing, Magway and Mandalay regions, as well as Kayah State in south east, killing dozens of military troops and police and enabling civil defence groups to seize assault weapons. In Mindat town, in southern Chin State, Chin Defence Force 12-14 May ambushed military vehicles; junta 13 May responded by imposing martial law in township and 15 May unleashed artillery barrage and airborne assault, re-taking town and forcing thousands of townspeople to flee. National Unity Government, which was set up in April in opposition to junta, 5 May announced founding of armed wing – People’s Defence Force – in attempt to unify resistance groups, specifically locally organised defence forces and disparate groups of several hundred protesters undergoing military training in areas controlled by ethnic armed groups. In northern Shan State, armed groups Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and Ta-ang National Liberation Army 4-5 May staged joint attacks on military base in Kutkai township, seizing large cache of weapons. In Kachin State, military 8 May retook key communications base in Momauk township from Kachin Independence Army (KIO) armed group; KIO 4 May attacked police station in Mansi township, killing head of police force and injuring station chief. In Kayin State, Karen National Union (KNU) armed group continued attacks on military outposts, while junta continued artillery barrages and airstrikes on KNU targets – including civilian areas. G7 foreign ministers 5 May issued communiqué condemning military coup in “strongest terms”, committing to tightening sanctions on regime and preventing sale of weapons to junta.
President Bhandari dissolved lower house of parliament for second time in six months and announced elections for mid-November, sparking widespread criticism that move undermines 2015 constitution. PM KP Oli 10 May lost vote of confidence, prompting Bhandari same day to call on opposition parties to form new majority govt within three days; after failure of parties to secure majority, Bhandari 13 May reappointed Oli as premier. Following political maneuvering among opposition parties in House of Representatives, 149 MPs from Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) and dissenting factions of Janata Samajbadi Party and Unified Marxist-Leninist parties 21 May presented signatures to Bhandari requesting that head of Nepali Congress party Sher Bahadur Deuba be appointed PM; later same day, Oli also presented his candidacy, claiming support of 153 parliamentarians, including several backing Deuba. After declaring that she could not appoint either candidate due to insufficient support, Bhandari 21 May dissolved parliament for second time since Dec 2020. Bhandari’s ongoing support for Oli – who had consistently sought elections in recent months – was widely criticised as undermining 2015 constitution; 146 MPs 24 May filed joint petition at Supreme Court challenging dissolution of parliament’s lower chamber and demanding its reinstatement.
Political tensions continued to run high, and militants killed more than a dozen security forces in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Opposition remained divided over results of last month’s by-election in Karachi city, where Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) rejected victory of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) despite 8 May vote recount. PML-N and PPP however same day jointly opposed presidential ordinance authorising Election Commission to procure electronic voting machines and enable overseas Pakistanis to vote in 2023 parliamentary elections. Tensions between ruling party and opposition increased when govt 8 May refused to allow opposition PML-N leader Shahbaz Sharif to leave for UK for medical treatment, despite previous day’s decision by Lahore High Court to allow for one-time visit. Following Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan’s violent April anti-govt protests, Punjab counter-terrorism authorities 8 May registered four cases against senior TLP leaders for instigating new protests to oust French ambassador. In response to European Parliament’s resolution condemning blasphemy laws in late April, govt 3 May agreed to introduce new legislation to address rights issues in line with EU agreements. Militant attacks in May left more than a dozen security forces dead. In Balochistan province, road bomb blast 3 May killed two police officers in Arawan district; Pakistani Taliban 5 May killed four soldiers in cross-border attack in Zhob district; 8 May killed three soldiers in Quetta and Turbat districts; drive-by shooting 10 May killed two police in Mastung district. Seven killed in 21 May bomb explosion at Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam’s Palestine solidarity rally in Chaman town. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistani Taliban attack 4 May left two soldiers dead in Bajaur district. Operation against Pakistani Taliban in North Wazirstan district 5 May killed four soldiers and two militants, while one soldier killed in cross-border militant attack 22 May; militants 9 May also killed police in Lakki Marwat district. Afghan President Ghani 11 May accused Pakistan of “operating an organised system of support” for Taliban and said “question of peace or hostility is now in Pakistani hands”; Pakistan 14 May summoned Afghan ambassador reportedly to protest comments.
Low-level violence persisted in south between militant groups and security forces, while military clashed with communist rebels in centre, south and north. In Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in south, low-level violence between insurgents and security forces continued throughout May, while communal violence and clan conflict reduced. In Maguindanao, suspected combatants of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) 9 May fought with military near town market of Datu Paglas; elements of BIFF 12 and 16 May clashed again with military. In town of Piagapo, in Lanao del Sur province, Islamic State (ISIS)-linked rebels 6 May clashed with armed forces, killing one rebel and injuring three. In Sulu province, clashes between elements of ISIS-linked Abu Sayyaf Group and army 14 May killed three rebels and injured one soldier. Bangsamoro Transition Authority continued parliamentary sessions and 19 May passed Education Code, third element of priority legislation. Clashes between communist New People’s Army and armed forces throughout May continued at relatively lower levels than April in Visayas Islands in centre, Mindanao Island in south and Luzon Island in north, killing at least 12 combatants and civilians; clashes mainly resulted from security forces’ operations or rebel ambushes. In south, implementation of peace agreement with Moro Islamic Liberation Front remained delayed as main focus was on fighting COVID-19; govt 19 May launched Bangsamoro Normalization Trust Fund.
Tensions persisted between Philippines and China over Chinese maritime presence at disputed reef in South China Sea (SCS). Following heated exchanges in April over incursion by Chinese vessels at disputed Whitsun Reef, Philippines 3 May confirmed it had lodged diplomatic protest over Chinese Coast Guard harassment of Philippine Coast Guard ships 24-25 April; Philippines 29 May confirmed it had filed 100 protest notes against China’s maritime presence in SCS since 2016. Philippine FM Teodoro Locsin 3 May tweeted that Chinese vessels should leave Manila’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Manila 5 May rejected annual summer fishing ban imposed by China in northern SCS. Philippine Navy 12 May reported that 287 Chinese maritime militia vessels were in Philippine waters as of 9 May. At 27th Southeast Asia Regional Group (ASEAN)-China Senior Officials’ Consultation, Philippine Acting Undersecretary for Bilateral Relations and ASEAN Affairs Elizabeth Buensuceso 18 May called on member states and China to comply with 1982 UN Convention on Law of Sea and to uphold 2002 Declaration on Conduct of Parties. Meanwhile, Chinese Navy 2 May said that its Shandong aircraft carrier task group conducted routine training exercises in SCS. U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur 20 May conducted Freedom of Navigation operation in vicinity of Paracel Islands; Beijing same day said U.S. warship had illegally entered its territorial waters. Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga 11 May said Japan “strongly opposes” China’s growing maritime assertiveness in region during phone call with Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 27 May spoke with Vietnam’s FM Bui Thanh Son, affirming “shared commitment to protecting and preserving the rules-based order in the South China Sea”.
Amid rapidly worsening COVID-19 crisis, country marked twelfth anniversary of end of civil war while parliament approved controversial govt bill on Colombo megaproject. Authorities prevented public commemorations in northern and eastern provinces to mark 12 years since end of civil war on 18 May; police same day arrested ten Tamil activists under Prevention of Terrorism Act for holding commemoration in eastern Batticaloa district. Well-known memorial to civilian Tamil dead in Mullivaikkal 13 May discovered vandalised while under army control. Tamil MPs, local officials and members of diaspora in Canada, UK and other European countries 18 May also recognised “Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day”, while PM Rajapaksa same day promised parliament that govt would never “betray” “war heroes” who sacrificed their lives to defeat terrorism. Govt next day held 12th National War Heroes’ Day events attended by President Rajapaksa and other govt and military officials. Parliament 20 May approved by nearly two-thirds majority govt’s landmark bill to establish legal and administrative framework for Chinese-built Colombo Port City megaproject, which provides for unprecedented legal autonomy to Port City Commission; opposition and civil society had previously expressed criticisms that project will facilitate money laundering and further increase Chinese influence over Sri Lankan economy and politics. Law 18 May rushed through parliament after speaker same day announced Supreme Court due to assess constitutionality of more than two dozen of bill’s provisions, following numerous petitions; govt immediately introduced amended bill after removing controversial provisions. Meanwhile, country faced rapidly worsening COVID-19 situation as hospital capacity appeared to reach its limit during month, and delays along with shortages in COVID-19 testing limited govt’s ability to track and control disease, fuelling criticism of govt’s handling of crisis. Public and health officials also protested politicised distribution of scarce vaccines.
Cross-strait tensions decreased as Taipei focused on containing COVID-19 outbreak. Taiwanese defence ministry claimed at least 28 Chinese military aircraft entered its Air Defence Identification Zone during month. U.S. guided-missile destroyer Curtis Wilbur 18 May transited through Taiwan Strait; in response, China 19 May accused U.S. of threatening Strait’s peace and stability. Taiwan saw worst COVID-19 outbreak since start of pandemic during May. Chinese officials 17 May offered Chinese vaccines to Taiwan, blaming ruling Taiwanese Democratic Progressive Party for creating “political obstacles” that prevented vaccines from arriving; Taiwan 18 May called offer “false sympathy” and President Tsai Ing-wen 27 May said China interfered with Taiwan’s efforts to procure vaccines from Germany’s BioNTech. Despite growing international support throughout month for Taiwan’s participation in 74th World Health Assembly 24-31 May, Taiwan not invited by end of month; Taipei 24 May criticised alleged “indifference” from World Health Organization. At G7 foreign ministers summit in UK, participants 5 May opposed “any unilateral actions that could escalate tensions” in Taiwan Strait; in response, China next day condemned statement as gross interference in internal affairs. Hong Kong authorities 18 May halted operations at its representative office in Taiwan.
Protesters held small-scale pro-democracy rallies and maintained online activism, while sporadic violence continued in deep south. Around 200 protesters with Restart Democracy (ReDem) group 2 May marched from Victory Monument to Criminal Court in capital Bangkok to protest no-bail imprisonments of protest leaders and others; protesters dispersed later same day but police clashed in evening with stragglers, firing rubber bullets; police arrested one of two ReDem leaders, Hathairat Kaewseekram, to whom Appeals Court 10 May granted bail. Core leader of Ratsadon pro-democracy group Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak 1 May transferred from prison to hospital after 46 days on hunger strike; authorities 11 May granted him bail. Authorities 6 May released on bail prominent protest leader Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul who faces charges that include lèse-majesté and sedition. Resurgent COVID-19 cases throughout month saw anti-govt movement turn to social media platforms. Protesters 2 May established Facebook page entitled “Let’s Move Abroad”, which gained several hundred thousand followers; Digital Economy and Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakhamanusorn 4 May said his ministry was monitoring Facebook page. Violence in deep south continued. In Yala province, security forces 4 May clashed with suspected insurgents in Krong Pinang district as they attempted to arrest suspected militant, leaving one ranger and two insurgents dead. In Narathiwat province, ranger patrol 11 May clashed with suspected militants in Bacho district, arresting two and killing one. Authorities 18 May found that 28 assault rifles were missing from armoury in Muang district, Narathiwat.
In most significant escalation since Autumn 2020 war, border tensions with Azerbaijan turned deadly; meanwhile, preparations for 20 June snap elections proceeded. Border tensions rose throughout month. Armenia 12-13 May reported advance of three Azerbaijani military groups in areas close to southern section of its state border, between Azerbaijani-controlled Kelbajar region and Armenian-controlled southern provinces of Syunik and Gegharkunik; Yerevan 27 May claimed up to 1,000 soldiers entered its territory, while Baku countered that new military positions were inside Azerbaijan. In most significant escalation and crisis since ceasefire that ended 2020 Autumn war, Armenian defence ministry 25 May said fighting with Azerbaijani forces along border of Armenia’s eastern Gegharkunik district killed one Armenian soldier; Baku same day said death had “nothing to do with the Azerbaijani side”. Azerbaijani defence ministry 27 May reported detention of six Armenian soldiers after their alleged attempt to cross to Kelbajar district; Yerevan same day said detention took place in its controlled territory. Azerbaijan defence ministry 28 May reported one Azerbaijani soldier wounded in exchange of fire with Armenian military at central location of state border with Azerbaijan’s exclave Nakhchivan; Yerevan denied involvement. After trip to border area, Armenian PM Pashinyan 27 May called on Azerbaijan to create demilitarised zone monitored by international observers or peacekeepers; Armenian FM Ara Ayvazyan same day announced his resignation over disagreements with PM. Prior to escalation, Armenia and Azerbaijan 12-18 May joined Russian-mediated talks aimed at demarcating border. Moscow 18 May proposed establishment of joint demarcation commission to look into border issues. Meanwhile, with political campaigning already under way in recent months, President Sarkissian 10 May signed official decree enabling snap parliamentary elections, scheduled for 20 June. After announcing candidacy, former president Robert Kocharyan (also former leader of de facto Nagorno-Karabakh) 9 May held mass rally in capital Yerevan, during which he claimed to be sole candidate able to guarantee Nagorno-Karabakh’s future. Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe 19 May officially opened observation mission in Yerevan.
In most significant escalation since Autumn 2020 war, border tensions with Armenia turned deadly. Armenia 12-13 May reported advance of three Azerbaijani military groups in areas close to southern section of its state border, between Azerbaijani-controlled Kelbajar region and Armenian-controlled southern provinces of Syunik and Gegharkunik; Yerevan 27 May claimed up to 1,000 soldiers entered its territory while Baku countered that new military positions were inside Azerbaijan. In most significant escalation and crisis since ceasefire that ended 2020 Autumn war, Armenian defence ministry 25 May said fighting with Azerbaijani forces along border of Armenia’s eastern Gegharkunik district killed one Armenian soldier; Baku same day said death had “nothing to do with the Azerbaijani side”. Azerbaijani defence ministry 27 May reported detention of six Armenian soldiers after their alleged attempt to cross to Kelbajar district; Yerevan same day said detention took place in its controlled territory. Azerbaijan defence ministry 28 May reported one Azerbaijani soldier wounded in exchange of fire with Armenian military at central location of state border with Azerbaijan’s exclave Nakhchivan; Yerevan denied involvement. After trip to border area, Pashinyan 27 May called on Azerbaijan to create demilitarised zone monitored by international observers or peacekeepers. Prior to escalation, Armenia and Azerbaijan 12-18 May joined Russian-mediated talks aimed at demarcating border. Moscow 18 May proposed establishment of joint demarcation commission to look into border issues. Separately, President Ilham Aliyev 7 May signed decree declaring recently controlled city of Shusha inside Nagorno-Karabakh territory as Azerbaijan’s cultural capital.
Amid ongoing repression of opposition and independent media, authorities sparked international condemnation after forcibly diverting passenger flight to arrest critic. Authorities 23 May scrambled fighter jet to forcibly divert passenger flight headed for Lithuania to land in capital Minsk, citing bomb threat; upon landing, security forces detained opposition activist and journalist Raman Pratasevich, sparking international outcry and condemnation from U.S., NATO, UK and EU and its member states, among others; in response, EU heads of state 24 May imposed new sanctions on President Lukashenka’s govt while U.S. 28 May announced forthcoming sanctions. Russia’s refusal to allow flights bypassing Belarus to enter its airspace fuelled speculation that Moscow might be mulling ban in support of Minsk that would risk escalating incident into larger East-West standoff; President Putin’s spokesman 28 May said Russian air traffic controllers were working to resolve what was technical issue. Meanwhile, Chyhunachny district court 4 May sentenced four associates of exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya to six-and-a-half years imprisonment for role in organising 2020-2021 anti-govt protests. Authorities targeted independent media, arresting and, in numerous instances, sentencing journalists to prison terms. Notably, police 19 May raided office of well-known independent news site Tut.by and homes of several of site’s editors, accusing organisation of avoiding tax; Tsikhanouskaya 18 May called arrests “planned attack on our journalists & media” while U.S. State Dept same day said raids were “systematic effort to stifle independent voices and punish journalists”. Opposition continued efforts to rally international support. Tsikhanouskaya 6 May called on U.S. to “use its diplomacy to further isolate Lukashenko” and 9 May urged Finland to take lead in initiating roundtable talks between govt and civil society.
International body implementing Dayton Peace Accord appointed new high representative. Steering Board of Peace Implementation Council, international body established to oversee implementation of 1995 Dayton Peace Accord, 27 May named German politician Christian Schmidt as high representative with term starting 1 August; Russia dissented from decision and its embassy same day said Schmidt would not be legitimate without UN Security Council approval; Republika Srpska also denied legitimacy of appointment.
President Anastasiades urged Turkish Cypriots to abandon two-state solution while Republic of Cyprus held parliamentary elections. Following late April 5+1 informal meeting between UN, leaders of two Cypriot communities and three guarantor powers Greece, Turkey and UK, gap between positions of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots remained wide in terms of desired outcome for Cyprus settlement. Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar 27 May reacted harshly to conditions put forth by Republic of Cyprus President Anastasiades during his visit to Brussels, which included that Turkish Cypriots should abandon their two-state solution proposition. In parliamentary elections held in Republic of Cyprus 30 May, ruling conservative DISY party emerged in first place but fell short of outright majority. UN Special Envoy for Cyprus Jane Hall Lute, due to visit Greek capital Athens, Turkish capital Ankara and Republic of Cyprus capital Nicosia next month to seek common ground for new round of talks.
Greek and Turkish foreign ministers held second meeting on regional dialogue while both parties resumed new round of military talks. Following talks in Greek capital Athens between Greek FM Nikos Dendias and Turkish FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, sides 31 May announced steps to deepen commercial ties through 25 economic cooperation programs; Greek and Turkish leaders now due to meet on sidelines of NATO summit in June. Ahead of meeting with Turkish counterpart, Greek FM Dendias 14 May said: “We have to find a way to resolve issues with Turkey. And if we cannot find a solution, at least we could find a way to manage our differences”. Turkish and Greek military delegations held videoconference on confidence-building measures 26-27 May; sides could not agree on new measures or recommit to old ones, but announced they would hold next round of military-to-military talks in Turkish capital Ankara in coming months. Maritime tensions persisted. Athens issued advisories for live-fire exercises in disputed waters south-east of Katpathos 14-21 May, prompting Ankara to state that Greece did not have jurisdiction to make such announcements. Starting on 25 May, Turkey carried out large-scale military drill in Aegean and eastern Mediterranean with participation of more than 25,000 personnel. U.S. and Greek air forces 28 May began joint exercises. Turkey and Greece continued diplomatic engagement in region. Notably, Turkish and Egyptian diplomats 5-6 May held talks in Egyptian capital Cairo for first time in eight years; sides discussed Eastern Mediterranean and other regional issues. Greek FM Dendias 18 May visited Israel, Palestinian territories and Jordan, as well as Egypt 20 May.