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.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Our monthly conflict tracker warns of four conflict risks and one conflict resolution opportunity in June.
CrisisWatch also highlights deteriorations in nine countries in May.
Last, our conflict tracker welcomes one improvement in May.
Aside from the scores of conflict situations we usually assess, we track notable developments in May in Benin, Brazil, Moldova, Rwanda and Togo.
Our CrisisWatch Digests for Ethiopia, Lebanon and Somalia offer a monthly one-page snapshot of conflict-related country trends in a clear, accessible format, using a map of the region to pinpoint developments:
View the May 2022 CrisisWatch Digest on Ethiopia here.
View the May 2022 CrisisWatch Digest on Lebanon here.
View the May 2022 CrisisWatch Digest on Somalia here.
Jihadists launched deadliest attack in months in East region and violence spread to previously unaffected towns, notably in Boucle du Mouhoun region; transitional govt faced criticism particularly over human rights record. In East region, presumed Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) militants 14 May ambushed civilian convoy in Kompienga province, killing 14 civilians and three VDPs; 19 May took control of Madjoari military camp (also Kompienga), killing 11 soldiers; 25 May launched deadliest attack in months, killing over 50 people near Madjoari village. Severe insecurity persisted in Sahel region (north): JNIM 7 May killed at least nine volunteers fighting alongside security forces and two civilians in ambush near Bambofa village (Seno province); suspected jihadists 13-14 May killed 13 volunteer fighters and at least 13 civilians in Guessel and Salmossi communes (Oudalan province). Also in Sahel, armed forces operation 26 May reportedly killed 12 jihadists, including local commander, in Tongomayel commune (Soum province). In Centre-North region, encounter between presumed JNIM militants and gendarmes 5 May left five gendarmes and eight militants dead in Ouanobian village (Sanmatenga province); unidentified jihadists next day killed three volunteer fighters in Boroum village (Namentenga province). In North region, presumed JNIM militants 5 May killed three soldiers, four volunteer fighters and two civilians in ambush in Loroum province. In Boucle du Mouhoun region (west), presumed JNIM militants 7-8 May attacked prison in Nouna town (Kossi province), freeing over 60 prisoners; govt forces claimed killing 40 JNIM militants 9 May after group ambushed them in Barani area, Kossi province. Meanwhile, thousands 1 May reportedly protested in capital Ouagadougou, denounced ruling junta’s ineffectiveness and encroachment on civil liberties. NGO Human Rights Watch 16 May reported govt forces and allied volunteer fighters committed 42 summary killings and 14 enforced disappearances between Sept 2021 and April 2022. Amid tensions over transition duration, West Africa regional bloc ECOWAS 17 May sent mission to country to assess security situation in response to transitional govt’s late April request.
Court sentenced a dozen opposition members to 15-year imprisonment, and military operations against rebels in eastern DR Congo continued. Harassment of political opposition continued. Ngozi tribunal 10 May sentenced 16 members of main opposition party National Congress for Freedom (CNL) to 15 years in prison on charges of “attempted murder” following late-April clashes with ruling party youth wing Imbonerakure in Ngozi province. NGO Human Rights Watch 18 May alleged Burundian intelligence services, police and ruling party members continue committing large-scale abuses, including extra-judicial killings, torture and arbitrary detention against political opponents, notably CNL members. Hundreds of Imbonerakure 15-22 May reportedly gathered at Vyizigiro stadium in Rumonge province to receive paramilitary training, potentially as part of new govt campaign to create military reserve force. Meanwhile, locals found bodies in Cibitoke province. Notably, forest guards 1 May found five bodies wearing Congolese army uniforms in Bukinanyana municipality; locals 8 May discovered bodies of three Rwandan rebels and one Burundian soldier in Mabayi commune. Country throughout month experienced nation-wide fuel shortage, particularly affecting public transport in major cities. In DR Congo’s South Kivu province, Congolese army 1 May clashed with Burundian soldiers and Imbonerakure allegedly trying to repatriate individuals wounded in fight against RED-Tabara (Tutsi-led group that opposes Burundi’s Hutu-dominated govt). President Ndayishimiye 10 May said he would welcome dialogue with RED-Tabara rebels should group ask for negotiations.
Anglophone separatists stepped up attacks on govt forces ahead of National Day, President Biya’s health sparked concerns, and Boko Haram violence continued in far north. Anglophone armed groups increased violent attacks in lead-up to 20 May National Day – which they see as key anniversary marking start of conflict when constitutional referendum abrogated West Cameroon (Anglophone) and East Cameroon (Francophone) federal states in 1972. Notably, separatists 4 May announced dusk-till-dawn travel bans on roads with surprise blockades in Meme and Manyu divisions (South West, SW); 9 May killed two Cameroonian soldiers in Jakiri town (North West, NW); 9 May killed two gendarmes through mine explosive in Alou town, Lebialem division (SW), and at least three soldiers through IED in Belo town (NW); 11 May killed two gendarmes and one soldier in Fonfuka town (NW); 20 May clashed with soldiers leaving unknown number of casualties in Ngoketunjia department division (NW); 22 May clashed with soldiers in Otou locality (SW) near Nigerian border, which left two soldiers wounded and at least four separatists dead. In Idenau locality (SW), alleged separatists 17 May also kidnapped 19 CDC plantation workers; army next day reportedly freed workers. Armed separatists 29 May clashed with civilians killing at least ten and wounding about a dozen others in Obonyi II village, Akwaya town (SW) near border with Nigeria. Army 30 May freed Senator Regina Mundi from armed separatist camp in Batibo (NW); both sides gave contradictory accounts of her release. President Paul Biya 19 May returned to capital Yaoundé after five-day private trip to Switzerland. Biya 20 May presided over National Day parade; likely concerned that public images of frail president could stir public opinion, national TV cut some scenes from broadcast. Hundreds of indigenous people 24 May protested against govt-ordered demolitions to make way for major hotel project in Douala city’s Dikolo neighbourhood. In Far North region, Boko Haram violence continued. Notably, insurgents 11 May left three civilians seriously injured in Moskata locality; 21 May killed civilian in Amchide locality near Nigerian border; 31 May killed at least three soldiers and four civilians in Hitaoua locality.
Violence between armed forces and rebel groups continued to run high, state of public finances raised alarm, and Bangui adopted Bitcoin as legal currency. Confrontations between army and armed groups continued at high intensity. Notably, army 8 May murdered civil servant and member of Popular Front for the Rebirth of Central African Republic (FPRC) rebel group and clashed with gunmen, leaving three dead in Ndélé town (Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture, centre). Clashes between army and rebel Union for Peace in CAR (UPC) 9 May left 14 dead including civilian in Bokolobo municipality (Ouaka prefecture, east), 12 May killed at least one soldier and six UPC rebels in Bokolobo (Ouaka). UPC leader 13 May claimed army, Wagner mercenaries and anti-balaka militia 9 May killed over 30 Fulani civilians in Bokolobo municipality (Ouaka). National army suffered significant losses this month. Two deadly clashes with UPC and FPRC killed five soldiers 11 May in Ouadda (Haute-Kotto) and eight soldiers 21 May in Nzako (Mbomou prefecture, south east). NGO Human Rights Watch 3 May published report accusing armed forces and Russian paramilitary of “serious human rights abuses” since 2019. Finance minister 3 May announced 40-60% cuts in ministerial budgets, citing alarming state of public finances; concerns mounted that govt may not be able to pay civil servants’ and military personnel’s salaries as early as July 2022 (with Jan 2023 tipping point), which could trigger social uprisings and lead soldiers to rise up or join rebellion. After Bangui’s 26 April adoption of Bitcoin as legal currency alongside CFA franc, Economic Monetary Community of Central Africa 6 May reminded that the use of cryptocurrencies is banned. Food security in CAR remained of concern throughout month after Cameroon late April suspended all exportations of key consumable goods, including rice, wheat flour and cereals. Parliamentary majority 26 May presented draft bill amending constitution to allow number of presidential mandates to go beyond two terms, paving way for third term for President Touadéra. Bangui’s Criminal Court 16-17 May held trial hearing against 82 members of Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) rebel coalition, including Gen Ludovic Ngaifei (former armed forces chief of staff) and Dieudonné Ndomaté (former minister and leader of anti-balaka faction); authorities 27 May acquitted Ndomaté, along with fifteen co-defendants.
Authorities postponed national dialogue indefinitely, anti-French protests turned violent in capital N’djamena and farmer-herder conflict left several dead in Moyen-Chari region. Cherif Mahamat Zene 1 May postponed national dialogue initially set for 10 May to allow armed groups reunited in Qatar’s capital Doha to reach pre-dialogue agreement; transitional authorities 6 May presented draft agreement to rebel groups. Move to delay national dialogue raised fears Transitional Military Council (CMT) might try to extend 18-month transition roadmap: major trade union Union des Syndicats du Tchad (UST) 1 May accused govt of not respecting social pact and country’s Bishops 2 May declared CMT’s promises had not engendered any improvements. Opposition coalition Wakit Tama 6 May condemned transitional govt’s “failure” to organise dialogue, called for countrywide protest. Hundreds 14 May gathered in capital N’Djamena and other cities to protest against transitional authorities and French involvement in Chadian politics; protesters reportedly attacked twelve gas stations from French company Total and other monuments, burnt French flag and raised Russian flag on top of some buildings. Authorities same day arrested five Wakit Tama leaders on vandalism charges, 16 May apprehended lawyer and Wakit Tama spokesperson Max Loalngar; trial set for 6 June. Order of lawyers 17 May went on strike to protest opposition leaders’ arrest; rebel groups in Doha 21 May demanded govt free Wakit Tama leaders (currently on hunger strike), claiming it was transitional authorities’ responsibility to ensure security around protest. As authorities did not authorise it, Wakit Tama cancelled march planned for 28 May. Meanwhile, intercommunal tensions flared in several localities. In Danamadjé locality (Grande Sido department, Moyen-Chari region), herder 15 May killed farmer and police same day fired on crowd gathered to seek revenge, which left four killed and dozen injured. In Kouri Bougoudi (Tibesti region), dispute involving local gold panners 24 May degenerated into intercommunal clashes involving Libyan fighters; incident left hundreds killed.
National Assembly speaker died in office, while West African bloc ECOWAS top military brass discussed expansion of jihadist threat toward Gulf of Guinea countries. National Assembly Speaker Amadou Soumahoro, close ally of President Ouattara, died 7 May; MPs 9 May selected most senior National Assembly VP Aminata Toungara to serve as acting speaker until election of new speaker on 7 June. Netherlands-based Charles Blé Goudé, youth minister under former President Gbagbo, 30 May recovered his passport from Ivorian authorities more than a year after his acquittal of crimes against humanity by International Criminal Court (ICC), vowed to return to Côte d’Ivoire. Chiefs of Defence Staff from Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member states 5-6 May met in Ghana’s capital Accra to discuss strategies against roving Sahelian jihadist militants, recommended to step up operational and logistical capacity of “frontline countries” in Sahel region and provide them with financial support to conduct joint military operations to contain jihadist attacks.
Regional tensions rose as Kinshasa accused Rwanda of backing M23 militia in East, CODECO rebel group killed scores in Ituri province, and approval of new electoral law sparked tensions. In North Kivu province, clashes 19 April erupted between M23 and army in Rutshuru territory, 25 May spread to Kibumba area (Nyiragongo territory), 20km north of North Kivu’s capital Goma, with rebels occupying several areas; M23 next day attacked Rumangabo military camp in Rutshuru territory. Kinshasa 25 May accused Rwanda of supporting M23; 28 May suspended all flights of Rwandan national airline RwandAir to DR Congo, designated M23 as terrorist group and excluded it from Nairobi process talks, which President Tshisekedi and regional leaders late April had initiated with 18 armed groups active in east, following resumption of M23 attacks. In Ituri province, Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) rebels launched several deadly attacks on civilians. Notably, CODECO 8 May killed about 60 civilians, mostly artisanal miners, near Mongwalu locality in gold-rich Banyali Kilo area, Djugu territory; next day attacked Loddha site for internally displaced persons near Fataki town, also Djugu, killing 15 people; 15 May also killed at least nine civilians at Kambi mine in Shaba village, Aru territory. Also in Ituri, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels around 11-12 May killed at least 30 civilians in Idohu village of Walese Vokutu chiefdom, Irumu territory. Uganda 17 May said troops deployed in eastern Congo in late 2021 to combat ADF would withdraw as planned on 31 May, later hinted at possible six-month extension; Kinshasa deemed retreat “premature” and called for talks, which reportedly started in late May. Meanwhile, former PM under President Kabila, Senator Augustin Matata Ponyo, 3 May announced presidential bid. Dieudonné Kaluba, president of Constitutional Court, which in late 2021 ruled it had no jurisdiction to try Matata over alleged embezzlement, relieved from duties same day. National Assembly, dominated by ruling Sacred Union coalition, 12 May adopted electoral law, rejecting multiple progressive reforms including guarantees against vote-buying and nepotism and measures to foster gender equality. Some opposition lawmakers, including from Kabila’s party, boycotted debates and vote.
Fighting between govt troops and Tigray forces erupted along Eritrea-Ethiopia border; Asmara continued diplomatic efforts to build alliances. Clashes between Tigray and Eritrean forces reported 8 May near Badme and Rama border areas, which Asmara has largely controlled since Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict started in Nov 2020; Eritrea 11 May reportedly started to strengthen positions in border areas by relocating some units from Western Tigray. Asmara 17 May said Tigray forces were advancing toward Eritrea with “support and blessing from the West”, vowed to defend Eritrean territory. Eritrean forces 28-29 May allegedly shelled Sheraro town in Tigray, killing one child and wounding 18 people; Tigray authorities 30 May claimed they had repelled Eritrean offensive launched 24 May, killing or wounding over 300 Eritrean soldiers including four commanders. Amid cooling relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia since latter declared ceasefire in Tigray in March, and Asmara’s ally President Farmajo’s electoral defeat in Somalia, isolated Eritrea increasingly sought to build new alliances. FM Osman Saleh and Presidential Adviser Yemane Gebreab early May led high-level delegation to South Sudan, meeting with President Salva Kiir 5 May and holding talks with Presidential Security Adviser Tut Gatluak next day. Same delegation 9 May met with Chad’s Transitional Military Council leader Mahamat Idriss Déby in N’Djamena.
Despite signs of renewed hostilities, Tigray leadership announced mass prisoner release in alleged bid to advance peace, and aid deliveries to Tigray significantly increased; authorities carried out mass arrests in Amhara region. Federal forces from early May reportedly increased presence in Western Tigray and ordered Amhara forces to vacate occupied area; westward movements of Tigray forces also reported. Meanwhile, clashes between Tigray and Eritrean forces 8 May erupted in Badme and Rama border areas, compelling Eritrea to relocate some forces stationed in Western Tigray starting 11 May; Eritrean forces 28-29 May allegedly shelled Sheraro town in Tigray, killing one child and wounding 18 people; Tigray authorities 30 May claimed they had repelled Eritrean offensive launched 24 May, killing or wounding over 300 Eritrean soldiers including four commanders. Meanwhile, Tigray leadership 20 May announced release of over 4,200 “prisoners of war” in hope that such “confidence building measures” might lead to “peaceful resolution” of conflict; federal govt 22 May claimed releasees were captured civilians, not soldiers. Meanwhile, assistance to region increased significantly. World Food Programme 20 May said 319 trucks of humanitarian aid had entered Tigray during week of 10-16 May; biggest convoy of aid since March ceasefire, consisting of 215 trucks, 27 May reportedly departed Afar region for Tigray. As part of crackdown against militia fighters, federal and allied Amhara authorities 23 May announced arrests of over 4,500 people in Amhara; detainees included former Amhara special forces commander Tefera Mamo, over 200 people suspected of colluding with Amhara militias known as Fano, and at least 19 media personnel; state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission 22 May said some arrests did not follow “basic human rights principles”. In Oromia region, conflict continued between federal and regional forces, and Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) in West Arsi, West Hararghe, Guji, West Shewa and North Shewa zones; at least 30 civilians killed during month. OLA 18 May claimed attack on military camp in Sululta town, 13km from capital Addis Ababa, said 16 soldiers killed. Military 21 May said it killed 44 OLA rebels and captured five in Worejarso district of North Shewa Zone.
Three-year timeline to elections sparked local outcry as rift widened between military authorities, on one hand, and political parties and civil society, on the other; ruling junta announced armed forces reforms. After interim President Col Doumbouya late April proposed to extend transition by 39 months, interim legislative body, National Transitional Council (CNT), 11 May approved slightly shorter 36-month timeline to elections. Revised timeline endorsed despite condemnation hours earlier by G58 umbrella group of opposition parties of Doumbouya’s “authoritarian governance” and alleged attempt to “confiscate power”. Meanwhile, National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC) civil society coalition immediately denounced CNT decision, threatened street protests. Ruling junta 13 May banned demonstrations; FNDC immediately said they “would not comply” with “illegal decision”, vowed to send complaint to UN Human Rights Office, which 30 May urged transitional authorities to revoke ban. Three-year transition to constitutional rule also prompted international reactions. UN Sec Gen Guterres 1 May urged junta to operate “swift transition”, while EU 4 May called for “truly inclusive dialogue” over roadmap to defuse tensions. Doumbouya 5 May appointed Lt Col Ismael Keita to lead military intelligence services with Lt Col Oumar Barou Yombouno as his deputy. Defence Minister Aboubacar Sidiki Camara 23 May unveiled military reforms with stated aim of improving working conditions of rank-and-file soldiers, combating clientelism and factionalism within armed forces. Public Prosecutor Charles Alphonse Wright 4 May announced investigations against former President Condé and 26 of his collaborators, including former PM Kassory Fofana, former Defence Minister Mohamed Diané and former National Assembly Speaker Amadou Damaro Camara, on charges of “murder, torture, kidnappings and rape” in relation to repression of anti-third term demonstrations in 2020.
In new sign of rising political instability, President Sissoco Embaló dissolved parliament in bid to strengthen his hand amid tensions within ruling coalition. Embaló 16 May dissolved parliament, accusing MPs of “corruption, harmful administration and embezzlement”; same day said “persistent and unresolvable” differences between National Assembly and other govt branches created “space for guerrilla politics and plotting” and scheduled early parliamentary elections for 18 Dec. After Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) new stabilisation mission late April arrived in Guinea-Bissau, head of former ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), Domingos Simões Pereira, 4 May suggested deployment amounts to “invasion”, lamented ECOWAS bought into Embaló’s narrative of coup plot following early Feb attack on govt palace.
Top presidential candidates picked running mates and authorities declared 30-day curfew in volatile Marsabit and Isiolo counties. Deputy President William Ruto 15 May chose MP Rigathi Gachagua as running mate for August presidential election, while Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga next day picked former Justice Minister Martha Karua, first woman candidate on major presidential ticket; Gachagua and Karua are both ethnic Kikuyus and are hoped to bring votes from populous Mount Kenya region. Latest Trends and Insights for Africa opinion poll released 18 May placed Odinga-Karua ticket ahead with 39% of votes compared to Ruto-Gachagua’s 35%; 14% of sample remained undecided. Campaign officially launched 29 May. Amid communal tensions over resources and land, compounded by prolonged drought, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i 2 May announced 30-day curfew in parts of Marsabit and Isiolo counties and deployment of security forces to crack down on illegal firearms; said security operation will also target rebel group Oromo Liberation Front militants, who reportedly uses Marsabit county as rear base for operations in neighbouring Ethiopia, and alleged criminals hiding in mines in Kom area of Isiolo county. Police 25 May reportedly recovered firearms and ammunition and arrested nine suspected members of “militia group” in Kom area; next day reportedly arrested four individuals and recovered weapons in Harondel and Bubisa areas in Marsabit county. In Turkana county (north west), suspected bandits 1 May attacked minibus in Kainuk town, injuring nine.
Transitional authorities continued to break off ties with traditional allies, negotiations with regional bloc ECOWAS over transition duration remained stalled, and jihadist violence decreased slightly across country. After deteriorating relations with Paris late April took inflammatory turn, govt 2 May withdrew from defence agreements signed with France, including those regulating Barkhane and Takuba forces. Govt 15 May announced withdrawal from regional G5 Sahel organisation, stated other members blocked Bamako from assuming rotating presidency in Feb under pressure from “extra-regional” state. Amid uncertainty over UN mission MINUSMA’s future, including mission’s ability to operate in context of Bamako’s growing hostility and absent Barkhane support, UN Sec Gen António Guterres 6 May called for mission’s mandate renewal in June and Germany 11 May announced increase of its MINUSMA personnel by 300 elements. As negotiations with Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) over transition duration remained stalled, Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé 4 May accepted Bamako’s request to facilitate negotiations with international community, including ECOWAS. Meanwhile, rapprochement with Russia continued. FM Abdoulaye Diop 20 May met in Russia’s capital Moscow with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, who announced further political, economic and security cooperation with Mali. Transitional govt faced domestic discontent. Dozens 10 May demonstrated in capital Bamako against “dictatorial regime”; counter-protest 13 May drew thousands in capital in support of transitional authorities. Influential imam Mahmoud Dicko 26 May criticised interim authorities’ “arrogance”. Govt 16 May said it had foiled coup plot night of 11-12 May, blamed Western-supported military personnel; next day arrested several military officers, including at least one colonel. Violence slightly decreased across country. Army 9 May announced recent operations in Mopti, Koulikoro, Ségou and Sikasso regions killed at least 56 jihadists; mid-month reported killing dozens of suspected al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) and JNIM-affiliated Ansarul Islam militants in Mopti’s Douentza district. Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants 14 May killed five members of 2015 Algiers peace agreement signatory group Imghad Tuareg Self-Defence Group and Allies (GATIA) in Anchawadi commune (Gao region). Unidentified assailants 19 May abducted three Italians and a Togolese in Sincina locality (Sikasso region in south).
Sustained attacks across far north Cabo Delgado province showed continued struggle to contain Islamist insurgency; militants targeted food supplies as hunger precipitated surrenders. Islamist militants early May launched series of attacks in Nangade district: one person killed and three wounded 1 May in and around Litingina town; several people reportedly beheaded 3 May in Muhia village near Tanzanian border and several others captured 8 May in fields around Rovuma village; food raid reported 10 May in Nova Familia village. Amid violence, Nangade-Mueda road temporarily closed 1 May, leaving Nangade town cut off from supplies. In Palma district, insurgents 6 May attacked Olumbe village, notably targeting foodstuffs; unconfirmed reports said joint Rwandan and Mozambican forces killed 20 insurgents while three Mozambican soldiers were also killed. Small squads of insurgents 17 May reportedly launched food raids on Palma’s Quifuque island. Meanwhile, Islamic State (ISIS) 9 May claimed killing three Mozambican soldiers in 7 May raid on Quiterajo military base in Macomia district, for first time attributing attack to “Mozambique Province”. Violence from mid-May intensified in Macomia as militants allegedly tried to make their way to Minhanha zone of Meluco district. Local sources reported insurgents 20 May beheaded between two and six people near Nova Zambézia and Nkoe villages north of Macomia town; ISIS 23 May claimed attacks, said four Mozambican soldiers killed, next day said militants 21 May also killed three people in nearby Nguida village. In Meluco district, suspected militants 26 May ambushed health officials near Muaguide village, leaving one missing, and ISIS 26 and 29 May claimed attacks on Pitolha and Namituco villages. Dozens of insurgents throughout month reportedly surrendered to authorities amid lack of food, including around 70 in Nangade district 15-17 May and 40 in Macomia district 17 May; others reportedly surrendered in Ibo and Muidumbe districts. Hunger also prompted insurgents to release captives, including three men and two women who arrived in Nangade town 7 May. Amid minimal return of displaced people in Cabo Delgado, authorities 12 May reported 3,700 people displaced by violence in late 2021 have returned to their home villages in neighbouring Niassa province.
Security forces kept up pressure on jihadist militants in south east and south west; President Bazoum reiterated commitment to security partnership with France despite vocal opposition. Nigerien military and regional allies continued security operations in Diffa region (south east). Notably, Nigerien elements of Multinational Joint Task Force 7 May killed ten members of Boko Haram in airstrike in N’Guigmi department. Govt 25 May said army previous night killed around 40 Boko Haram elements in fighting on Lake Chad islands in and around Diffa department. Meanwhile, jihadist violence persisted in Tillabery region (south west). Al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) militants 4 May publicly executed civilian for unknown reason in Kokoloukou village (Torodi department); suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants killed civilian in Firaw Koira village (Tera department); IED allegedly planted by ISGS 12 May killed two civilians in Sakoira commune (Tillabery department); and JNIM militants next day killed five people, including village chief, in Bolsi town (Torodi department). Also in Tillabery, army 24 May reported killing 65 jihadists in recent days in Torodi and Gotheye areas. Amid increasingly vocal opposition to redeployment of French Barkhane forces in Niger, President Bazoum 17 May met with French Ambassador to Niger Alexandre Garcia in capital Niamey, reaffirmed ties with France. In interview with French media outlet La Croix, Bazoum next day called for deeper and more effective Western involvement to combat jihadist groups in Sahel region. UN Sec Gen António Guterres 2-3 May visited Niger, met with Bazoum and called on international community to invest more in training and equipment for Nigerien army. After Court of Auditors in April pointed to dysfunctions and irregularities in conduct of govt operations, Nigerien Network for Budgetary Transparency and Analysis and other NGOs 11 May filed legal complaint over alleged loss of FCFA63bn (€95,7mn) in state funds due to embezzlement in recent years.
Armed groups’ violence continued in North West; jihadist group launched attacks outside core areas of operation; and separatists targeted security personnel and high-profile individuals in South East. In North West, criminal violence continued amid apparent lull in security forces operations. In Zamfara state, armed groups 6-18 May killed at least 75 people across Bakura, Maradun, Maru and Bukkuyum areas; armed group 30 May killed about 30 members of local vigilante group in Bungudu area; gunfight between rival armed groups 30-31 May killed about 44 in Shinkafi area. In Kaduna state, gunmen 17 May abducted about 30 people near Katari village on Abuja-Kaduna highway. In Kano state, gunmen same day killed six people at Karfi village in Takai area. In Katsina state, armed group 24 May killed at least 15 farmers at Gakurdi village in Jibia area. Meanwhile, in north-eastern Borno state, govt forces 14 May killed top Boko Haram commander, Abubakar Sarki, in Konduga area, and jihadist attacks persisted. Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) 3 May killed at least nine villagers in Chibok area; 21-22 May killed at least 32 people in Mudu village, Dikwa area. ISWAP also continued new campaign outside core areas of operation. Suspected ISWAP insurgents 10 May killed at least six soldiers and unconfirmed number of civilians in Takum area, Taraba state. In Niger state, ISWAP claimed 12 May ambush that killed four including three police in Suleja town near federal capital Abuja. In South East, deadly attacks, which authorities blamed on separatist group Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), continued. In Anambra state, gunmen overnight 15-16 May killed two soldiers near Onitsha city; 16 May killed four vigilantes in state capital Awka; 21 May beheaded Anambra state lawmaker Okechukwu Okoye; next day killed pregnant woman, her four children, and six others, all from northern states, in Orumba North area, heightening ethnic tensions; 30 May attacked state-owned radio station in Onitsha city. In Imo state, security forces 16 May repelled attack on house of traditional rulers’ council chairman, Emmanuel Okeke, killing six assailants. In Ebonyi state, gunmen 17 May attacked house of chairman of Ikwo area, Steve Orogwu, killing four.
Tensions ran high as Kigali and Kinshasa accused each other of supporting rebels in Great Lakes region. Authorities 23 May said Congolese military same day injured several Rwandan civilians in cross-border shelling in Musanze district (north), called for “urgent investigation” into incident by Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism – group of military experts from International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. Kinshasa 25 May accused Rwanda of supporting M23 rebels amid fighting between group and Congolese army in DR Congo’s North Kivu province (see DR Congo); Kigali next day denied claim. Congolese govt 28 May summoned Rwandan ambassador to Kinshasa, suspended all Rwandan national airline RwandAir flights to Congo. Congolese military 29 May claimed detaining two Rwandan soldiers in North Kivu; Kigali same day said Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels with support of Congolese army had kidnapped the two soldiers in border area; Congolese army immediately rejected claim. African Union (AU) chair, Senegalese President Macky Sall, 29 May called for dialogue between Rwanda and DR Congo. Meanwhile, Rwanda and Uganda mid-May signed agreement on military cooperation in bid to mend relations. Delegation of Rwandan soldiers and police officers 27 May travelled to Uganda to participate in 12th East African Community Armed Forces Field Training Exercise.
Prolonged electoral cycle concluded with presidential election and peaceful transfer of power; Al-Shabaab launched largest attack on African Union mission since 2019. Presidential vote, 15 months overdue, unfolded smoothly after contentious run-up. Former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud 15 May won presidential contest after defeating incumbent President Farmajo in third round of vote held in capital Mogadishu. Farmajo next day conceded defeat and congratulated Mohamud, urging support for incoming administration. Handover ceremony from Farmajo to Mohamud held 23 May in Mogadishu; UN Sec-Gen’s Special Representative for Somalia James Swan same day hailed peaceful transfer of power. In run-up to vote, unrest within member states pointed to high levels of discontent emerging from electoral cycle. After parallel elections in Gedo region in April resulted in two sets of MPs – one elected in Ceel Waaq city and politically aligned with Jubaland administration, and another elected in Garbaharey city and aligned with Farmajo administration – new Lower House Speaker Adan Madobe 7 May certified those from Ceel Waaq. Meanwhile, Puntland VP Ahmed Karash late April-early May replaced state officials and ministers close to Puntland President Said Deni, who had travelled to Mogadishu to run for president. In Galmudug state, Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a (ASWJ) militia fighters 13 May entered state capital Dhusamareb, clashing with state forces; ASWJ subsequently retreated, with local reports claiming up to 12 killed on both sides. Al-Shabaab 3 May launched large-scale offensive against AU Transition Mission (ATMIS) base in Ceel Baraf village, Middle Shabelle region, killing at least 30 Burundian peacekeepers; militants remained in control of outpost until 17 May. Al-Shabaab 15 May launched mortar attack on presidential election venue in Mogadishu, leaving no casualties. Meanwhile, U.S. administration 16 May announced it will return approximately 450 troops to Somalia, reversing his predecessor Donald Trump’s 2020 decision.
Dispute over timing of upcoming electoral cycle remained unresolved. President Bihi 9 May reiterated commitment to hold presidential election in Nov and said he would engage in consultations with other political stakeholders to address any arising challenges. Main opposition leader Abdirahman Irro next day warned he will stop recognising Bihi as president if election is postponed, vowed to confront any effort aimed at delaying vote and accused Bihi of interfering with electoral commission. Amid persisting disagreement over timetable for registration of political parties, new political association Barwaqo launched 7 May. Govt’s external engagements continued. Notably, Bihi 12 May met with U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Larry André and U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) Commander Gen Stephen Townsend in capital Hargeisa.
Cattle-related violence increased in Eastern Equatoria state and persisted in Unity state; security situation remained precarious in Abyei Administrative Area. Cattle-related violence surged in Eastern Equatoria state amid presence of ethnic Dinka herders from neighbouring Jonglei state. Notably, cattle raid 10 May reportedly left at least 20 people killed in Nimule locality, Magwi county. Following 14-15 May grassroots discussions with host community leaders, herders started moving back to Jonglei. In Jonglei state, attack by suspected cattle raiders from Pibor Administrative Area on cattle camp near Duk Padiet town 4 May left at least 13 people killed. UN mission in South Sudan 6 May said April outbreak of internecine fighting in southern Unity state’s Leer county left 181 people killed and 40,000 displaced. Renewed violence erupted as suspected armed youths from Unity state’s Mayendit and Koch counties 15-16 May launched cattle raids in Leer county; 28 people killed and 30 wounded. In Warrap state, Gogrial East county authorities 10 May said clashes between locals and youths from Unity state’s Mayom county 7-8 May left 21 dead and 22 injured in Gamdhang village. Meanwhile, fresh fighting reported 8-9 May between Ngok Dinka from Abyei Administrative Area (disputed between Sudan and South Sudan) and Twic Dinka from Warrap state in Malual-Aleu area in Abyei and several villages of Warrap state; several people reportedly killed. Following increased violence in Abyei area over past months, UN Security Council 12 May renewed mandate of UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) for six months; govt next day urged UNISFA to stabilise Abyei, threatened to deploy govt forces in area, a move that would likely lead to tensions with Sudan. During UNISFA-facilitated peace conference in Uganda between Dinka Ngok and Misseriya communities involved in Abyei conflict, community leaders 19 May signed peace accord. UN Security Council 26 May renewed arms embargo on South Sudan, as well as targeted sanctions including travel bans and asset freeze against individuals and entities for one year.
As tripartite initiative aimed at fostering intra-Sudanese talks on restoring civilian-led transition began slowly, authorities lifted state of emergency and released some prisoners; repression of protests continued and insecurity persisted in several areas. UN mission in Sudan, African Union (AU) and Intergovernmental Authority on Development 12 May launched indirect intra-Sudanese talks with view to establishing common grounds between parties. Tripartite mechanism officials in following days held informal meetings with parties to 2020 Juba Peace Agreement, civil society organisations and political groups, including factions of political coalition Forces for Freedom and Change. AU Special Envoy Mohamed El Hacen Lebatt 13 May said military-civilian talks would follow at later stage. Meanwhile, Coordinating Committee of Khartoum state’s Resistance Committees 11 May adopted charter calling for peaceful overthrow of military, rejecting 2019 Constitutional Declaration and any talks with military, including within tripartite mechanism framework; 15 May however held informal talks with mechanism officials. Anti-coup protesters throughout month continued to face security forces crackdown, reportedly leaving at least five killed and over 200 wounded in capital Khartoum and other cities. Sovereign Council 29 May lifted state of emergency imposed after Oct 2021 coup, citing need to create atmosphere conducive to “fruitful and meaningful dialogue”; authorities next day released dozens of political prisoners. Violence early May subsided in West Darfur after deadly clashes late April in Kreinik and El Geneina areas reportedly displaced tens of thousands. In South Darfur state, unidentified gunmen 7 May reportedly killed three in Kalma camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs); 12 May reportedly killed one in Otash IDP camp in state capital Nyala. Following increased violence over past months in Abyei area disputed between Sudan and South Sudan, UN Security Council 12 May renewed mandate of UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) for six months; during UNISFA-facilitated peace conference in Uganda between Dinka Ngok and Misseriya communities involved in Abyei conflict, community leaders 19 May signed peace accord. Meanwhile, alleged Ethiopian gunmen 16, 18 May reportedly killed three Sudanese farmers in cross-border attacks near Qalabat village in Gedaref state. Tribal clashes 23 May reportedly killed three in Kassala state, next day allegedly killed at least six in West Kordofan state.
Ruling party and opposition held roundtable discussion as part of President Suluhu Hassan’s appeasement policy. Hassan 9 May held talks with main opposition party Chadema Chairman Freeman Mbowe in Dar es Salaam city for second time this year; Hassan allegedly requested meeting between Chadema and ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party to set foundations for political dialogue on Chadema’s demands, including drafting of new constitution and creation of independent electoral commission. Hassan 20 May chaired first roundtable discussion between CCM and Chadema leaders in capital Dodoma. Meanwhile, Hassan 3 May ordered review of media law to “protect journalists and open more space for the freedom of expression and the media”. Tanzania and Uganda 6 May signed defence and security agreement, committing to intelligence sharing to ease protection of East African Crude Oil Pipeline project and strengthen regional security.
Jihadists launched first deadly attack in country, leaving eight soldiers killed. In northern Kpendjal prefecture near border with Burkina Faso, al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) 11 May attacked army post in Kpinkankandi village, killing eight soldiers and injuring a dozen more; military reportedly killed 15 assailants in response. Govt immediately blamed “terrorists” and JNIM late May claimed attack. EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell 11 May said attack “shows that the terrorist threat is spreading” to Gulf of Guinea countries, stressed need to “redouble efforts” to reverse trend.
Controversies over President Museveni’s son’s alleged political ambitions continued and protests over rising commodity prices erupted. Commander of Land Forces and President Museveni’s son Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba 2 May signalled presidential ambition in tweet saying he would “announce our political programme soon”. Member of Ugandan Law Society, Gawaya Tegulle, 6 May sued Kainerugaba – along with Chief of Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) Gen Wilson Mbadi and Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka – for violating constitutional ban on serving members of army engaging in political activities; Constitutional Court 9 May summoned defendants. Police 12 May placed opposition figure Kizza Besigye under house arrest in Kasangati town, Central Region, to prevent planned protest over skyrocketing commodity prices. In rare criticism of security forces by ruling party leader, Parliament Speaker Anita Among 17 May condemned brutal manner of arrest. Police 18 May withdrew from Besigye’s home, but 24 May arrested him as he addressed protest against soaring prices in capital Kampala; authorities next day charged Besigye with inciting violence. Security forces 3o May also detained six women protesting Besigye’s detention in Kampala. Museveni 22 May affirmed govt would not intervene to address commodity prices, including introducing food and fuel subsidies, despite fuel prices having risen nearly 20% in 2022. Kainerugaba 17 May said joint operation in eastern DR Congo would end as planned on 31 May before walking back statement to say future of operation depends on countries’ leaders; Congolese govt said withdrawal was “premature” and called for talks, which reportedly started in late May (see DR Congo). Uganda and Tanzania 6 May signed defence and security agreement paving way for intelligence sharing to ease protection of East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline traversing two countries.
Ruling party continued to use inflammatory rhetoric against opposition ahead of 2023 general elections; amid hyperinflation, freeze on bank lending prompted harsh opposition, forcing govt to backpedal. Opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa 1 May denied being in talks with President Mnangagwa with view to forming govt of national unity; statement came days after top presidential aide George Charamba claimed Chamisa wanted to defer elections currently scheduled for 2023 and join hands with “cross-party elites” in “pact of dictatorship”. Ruling party ZANU-PF Finance Secretary Patrick Chinamasa 16 May accused CCC leaders of working with U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, warned voting for CCC in 2023 elections would bring “war and instability”. CCC 7 May won seven of eight local council by-elections against ZANU-PF. Head of EU electoral mission in Zimbabwe, Elmar Brok, 20 May called for “genuine” electoral reforms ahead of 2023 poll to level electoral playing field. Meanwhile, Mnangagwa 7 May ordered banks to suspend lending services indefinitely in effort to curb speculation against rapidly devaluing local currency. Stakeholders in business sector, including Chamber of Commerce and Industry 9 May, harshly criticised move, warned it would encourage development of parallel banking system and jeopardise economic recovery. Central bank 10 May said bank lending freeze was temporary measure, 17 May lifted ban.
Taliban imposed further restrictions on women’s rights, opposition stepped up deadly attacks in north, and authorities engaged in regional de-escalation initiatives. After March decision banning girls’ access to secondary schools, govt 7 May announced new restrictions with “hijab” ruling requiring face veil for women when in vicinity of non-family male members; move immediately prompted Western condemnation, further complicating aid efforts. Some govt officials suggested ruling was necessary to appease hardliners, while Minister of Interior Sirajuddin Haqqani 17 May stated girls’ secondary education will resume shortly without stipulating timeline. Leaked decree 16 May also suggested govt had dissolved multiple commissions, including Independent Human Rights Commission. Meanwhile, UN 13 May warned that it will have to reduce number of Afghans it is helping from 38% to 8% due to lack of funding; UN human rights rapporteur in Afghanistan 14 May conducted visit to country 15-26 May, expressed concerns about “serious human rights challenges”, including severe restriction on women’s freedoms. Opposition continued to launch stepped-up attacks in north. Notably, violence early May rose in Panjshir province after video surfaced on social media of Taliban fighters dancing near mausoleum of senior resistance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud during Eid celebrations 1-2 May. While Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid 5 May distanced govt from these actions, by next day rumours had emerged of serious fighting between National Resistance Front (NRF) fighters and Taliban in Takhar, Panjshir, Badakhshan and Baghlan provinces. Govt initially denied reports, but over coming days sent significant reinforcements to north and began claiming victories over rebels. Recent fighting reinvigorated opposition, with High Resistance Council for Saving Afghanistan holding gathering condemning Taliban injustices and calling fighting in north “legitimate” without explicitly endorsing NRF. Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) continued attacks during month; notably, ISKP 8 May reportedly fired Katyusha rockets into Tajikistan. Regionally, tensions with neighbours eased somewhat. Pakistan 18 May participated in Taliban-hosted talks with Pakistan Taliban group (Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, TTP) (see Pakistan); Iran 12 May hosted Taliban delegation following another round of border clashes prompted by videos purporting to show mistreatment of Afghan refugees and Afghan immigrant stabbing three Iranian clerics in Mashhad city.
Tensions between ruling Awami League party and opposition persisted, authorities arrested dozens of suspected jihadist militants, and more Rohingyas refugees entered country. Political tensions between opposition and ruling party continued ahead of elections due by Dec 2023. Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Sec Gen Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir 8 May said “There’s no question of holding an election if the Awami League [AL] regime does not resign and power is handed over to a completely neutral government”. Ruling AL Gen Sec Obaidul Quader same day warned BNP they might cease to exist if they do not participate in election. Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal 10 May said making elections inclusive was not his institution’s job, main responsibility is “to conduct a fair and impartial election”. Authorities continued to arrest suspected jihadist militants. Notably, police 17 May detained 49 suspected members of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir in Chittagong city. Information Minister Hasan Mahmud 5 May accused NGO Reporters Without Borders of “continuously publishing reports against Bangladesh with malicious intent” after NGO 3 May published new World Press Freedom Index 2022 report ranking Bangladesh 162nd , lowest ranking among any South Asian country. Rohingya refugees continue to flee to Bangladesh from Myanmar amid concerns about Rohingya children’s rights. Police 11 May arrested 29 Rohingyas in Moulvibazar and Cox’s Bazar districts, who had entered Bangladesh from India through Kulaura border. FM Momen 17 May expressed concern about influx of Rohingyas across border with India and said “We have to engage more security forces to stop them”; Dhaka 21 May sent note verbale to New Delhi to halt entry of Rohingyas to Bangladesh. Meanwhile, NGO Human Rights Watch 11 May reported authorities were restricting Rohingyas freedom to move, work and study, said authorities 4-5 May temporarily detained 656 Rohingyas who had been celebrating Eid holidays outside Kutupalong camp. UN children agency UNICEF 1 May announced milestone of reaching first 10,000 children accessing learning centres across multiple Cox’s Bazar refugee camps; UNICEF is eventually due to support about 300,000 Rohingya refugee children.
China conducted series of maritime and aerial military drills and dispatched scores of vessels into Japan’s contiguous zone, while Tokyo stepped up overseas engagement. Chinese Liaoning aircraft carrier group comprising eight vessels 2 May sailed near main Okinawa island and transited Miyako Straits towards Philippine Sea, holding three-week-long naval drill and conducting some 300 plane and helicopter sorties; in response, Japan immediately dispatched aircraft carrier Izumo to monitor movements. Chinese navy 3 May released details of “realistic combat exercise” in East China Sea; navy also held sea and air drills 5-8 May to south east and south west of Taiwan (see Taiwan) and naval drills in Yellow Sea 15 May with largest destroyer Type 055 Lhasa. As of 19 May, 102 Chinese vessels had entered Japan’s contiguous zone, including eight identified in Japan’s territorial sea. China 13 May voiced discontent over EU-Japan joint statement mentioning dispute over Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Japan’s foreign ministry 20 May lodged protest against China’s unilateral gas field development in East China Sea. Japan 24 May scrambled jets as Russian and Chinese aircraft conducted joint area patrol near its airspace, coinciding with meeting same day of “Quad” countries, U.S., India and Australia in Japanese capital Tokyo; Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi called Russia-China action “provocative”. USS Ronald Reagan 17 May conducted joint exercises off Japanese coast with Japan’s maritime self-defence force. Meanwhile, Japan boosted international engagement during month with high-level overseas trips, highlighting Indo-Pacific regional stability and Ukraine crisis; notably, PM Fumio Kishida 29 April-6 May travelled to Europe and Southeast Asia 5 May, warning that “Ukraine may be East Asia tomorrow”; China next day accused Tokyo of “hyping up the so-called China threat”.
Military expressed both confidence and concern amid ongoing boundary dispute with China. Northern Army commander Lt Gen Upendra Dwivedi 6 May said situation along Line of Actual Control is “stable but it is in the state of heightened alert” to avoid repeat of April 2020 deadly clashes between Chinese and Indian forces, while citing regular hotline exchanges with Chinese counterparts and calibrated force deployment as ensuring “any misadventure by the adversary does not take place again”. Army chief Gen Manoj Pande 9 May said “China’s intent has been to keep the boundary issue alive” and said disengagement in areas such as Hot Springs, Depsang Plains and Demchok “can only be resolved through dialogue”; Pande also said Indian army’s intention “is to restore the status quo ante prior to April 2020”. Media reports 19 May indicated China had begun constructing second bridge across Pangong Lake in Eastern Ladakh, cutting distance between Chinese troops on north bank and eastern end of lake by around 150km. Meanwhile, authorities continued bulldozing houses and buildings in Muslim areas on pretext of illegal construction, notably in New Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area - site of anti-govt protests Dec 2019-March 2020. Local court in Varanasi city, Uttar Pradesh state (north), 16 May directed administration to prohibit entry to Gyanvapi Masjid complex, where idol of Hindu god was reportedly found; Supreme Court next day ordered area protection, allowed Muslims to pray there till case is concluded. Recent events sparked concerns that move is reminiscent of controversial demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 by Hindu right-wing activists. Media reports early month indicated security forces opened 20 new security camps to tackle Maoist insurgency in Chhattisgarh (centre) Jharkhand, Bihar (east), Maharashtra (west) and Telangana (south central) states in past six months. Rocket-propelled grenade 9 May hit intelligence wing headquarters of Punjab Police at night in Mohali, extension of Punjab state’s capital Chandigarh; Punjab police 13 May claimed pro-Khalistan militant outfit, Babbar Khalsa International, along with gangsters backed by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, carried out attack.
Tensions rose after release of report seen as favouring Hindu constituency in proposed revised electoral constituencies for Jammu and Kashmir (J&K); militant violence across J&K continued. Pakistan’s foreign ministry 25 May summoned Indian chargé d’affaires to condemn two consecutive life sentences on prominent Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik in terrorism funding case. Delimitation Commission tasked with carving out new constituencies in J&K 5 May submitted final report: proposes to give six assembly seats to Hindu-dominated Jammu region and one to Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, taking total number of assembly seats from 83 to 90; move would skew electoral balance in favour of Jammu and provide advantage for ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, electorally strong in Hindu-majority Jammu region. Kashmiri political parties unanimously condemned proposals, called commission biased and tool to disempower people of Kashmir. Pakistan’s foreign ministry 5 May conveyed categorical rejection of report. Meanwhile, militant attacks and counter-insurgency operations continued unabated in J&K. Notably, bomb blast 2 May injured two security forces personnel in Pulwama district; militants 7 May shot dead policeman in regional capital Srinagar; militants 13 May killed policeman in Pulwama district. Kashmir Tigers militants 12 May also entered govt office in Budgam district and shot dead Hindu revenue official. Following attack, Kashmiri govt employees protested, threatened to migrate again if govt does not provide them security and demanded transfers to Jammu region until security situation improved in Kashmir. Militant grenade attack on new liquor store 17 May killed one and injured three in Baramulla district; militant groups banned liquor stores in Kashmir valley in early 1990s, as they were seen as affront to local religious sentiments; security forces 19 May claimed to have arrested four alleged Lashkar-e-Tayyaba militants and associate linked to attack. Security forces 6 May killed three suspected Hizbul Mujahideen militants; 10 May killed two militants in Anantnag district; 11 and 13 May killed three suspected militants in Bandipora district. Security forces also claimed that a 22-year-old shopkeeper was killed 15 May during security operation in Shopian district; family members denied version, said police were “making up stories to save the personnel behind the cold-blooded murder”.
Pyongyang acknowledged COVID-19 outbreak for first time, and continued missile testing as concerns rose over possible nuclear test in coming weeks. U.S. and South Korea issued warnings through month of potential seventh North Korean nuclear test. U.S. State Dept 6 May warned satellite imagery showed nuclear test preparations underway, possibly linked to U.S. President Biden 20-22 May Seoul visit for first meeting with South Korean President Yoon, who was inaugurated 10 May. U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan 19 May said intelligence presents “genuine possibility” of “long-range missile test or a nuclear test or frankly both”. Seoul 13 May said North Korea appeared ready for first nuclear test, while saying ICBM test appeared “imminent”; risk remained by end of month of nuclear test taking place within next two weeks. Meanwhile, North Korea 12 May acknowledged COVID-19 outbreak for first time amid lockdowns in multiple cities, most importantly in capital Pyongyang; state media set death toll at 65 as of 20 May, with over 2.2mn cases; decision to publicly acknowledge outbreak may indicate first major COVID-19 crisis in Pyongyang or desire to solicit Chinese assistance. U.S. 12 May said it had no plans to share vaccines but would support “provision of critical humanitarian aid”; South Korea next day announced intention to provide vaccines. As of 27 May, North Korea had not responded to aid offers; China 16 May sent at least three planeloads of protective gear and medication. North Korea also continued controversial missile activity. South Korea 4 May reported North Korean ballistic missile launch. North Korea 7 May tested alleged submarine-launched ballistic missile; in response, Japan condemned launch as “absolutely unacceptable”. North Korea 12 May fired three missiles off east coast. As U.S. President Biden concluded five-day trip in region, North Korea 25 May launched three missiles, including presumed Hwasong-17 inter-continental ballistic missile; U.S. and South Korea same day replied by launching two missiles. On diplomatic front, China’s Korean Affairs envoy 1 May expressed disapproval of “actions by any party that could escalate tension.” U.S. 3 May signalled desire to push UN Security Council vote on boosting sanctions against North Korea and 11 May warned “silence and restraint have not worked”. U.S. brought forward new UN Security Council resolution; Russia and China 27 May however vetoed it.
National Unity Govt (NUG) accused pro-military groups of targeted killings against its members, hostilities rose in Kayah State, and U.S. and regional states urged progress on five-point consensus. Working committee of former ruling party, National League for Democracy, 10 May accused pro-military “death squads” of killing seven party members and seven supporters as of 5 May. Revenge attacks by resistance groups killed alleged death squad members during month; notably, resistance groups 10 May reportedly shot dead two death squad leaders in Tanintharyi and Mandalay regions. Fighting escalated in Hpruso Township, Kayah State, following relative lull through March-April. Regime forces 3 May allegedly fired indiscriminately into residential areas of villages along Demoso-Bawlakhe highway. Karenni Nationalities Defence Force next day retaliated with two attacks on military convoys on highway, reportedly killing three soldiers, and 7 May ambushed convoy heading to Bawlakhe town, reportedly killing at least 20 soldiers and destroying four vehicles. In Rakhine State, in sign of rising tensions with military, leader of ethnic armed group Arakan Army 6 May tweeted threat at head of military’s Western Command, said would “crush” forces if aggressive military stance, increased checkpoints and civilian harassment continued. At least nine armed groups by 9 May confirmed participation in peace talks proposed by State Administration Council Chairman Min Aung Hlaing in April; none of them however hold strong anti-military positions or are in active conflict with regime. Boat carrying around 90 ethnic Rohingya refugees from Rakhine State 21 May capsized en route to Malaysia, killing at least 17. Diplomatically, Min Aung Hlaing 2 May met Cambodian PM Hun Sen in first public meeting since late Jan; Cambodia called for “more speedy progress” on implementing five-point consensus agreed by Southeast Asia regional body ASEAN to address situation in Myanmar in April 2021. Myanmar remained key issue during 12-13 May U.S.-ASEAN summit with attendees pushing for five-point consensus implementation. Despite no formal invitation to summit, NUG FM Zin Mar Aung 12 May met with U.S. Assistant Sec of State Wendy Sherman and 14 May with Malaysian FM Abdullah Saifuddin. Myanmar regime 14 May objected to meetings and Myanmar-specific paragraph in U.S.-ASEAN summit communiqué.
Ruling alliance secured first place in local elections, which saw reports of localised clashes and opposition's claims of rigged vote. Local elections 13 May proceeded without any major incidents. National Human Rights Commission 13 May, however, noted that clashes between party cadres had disrupted voting in several districts. Local reports indicated police fire killed one in Katari, Udayapur district and another sustained bullet wounds after police opened fire in Bhimsen Thapa Rural municipality 13 May. Further clashes between police and party members also reportedly took place next day. Ruling Nepali Congress won 325 mayoral and 292 deputy mayoral posts across 753 total units contested in local elections. Opposition Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist, UML) came distant second among individual parties, winning 202 mayor and 234 deputy mayor posts; UML’s tally was much lower compared to last local polls in 2017 when it secured 294 mayoral and 331 deputy mayoral seats. Ruling alliance member Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) won 121 mayoral and 127 deputy mayoral seats, while two other coalition members — the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Socialist) and Janata Samajbadi Party — won 50 mayoral seats combined. UML 15 May accused ruling coalition of rigging elections, claiming governing parties manipulated vote; Election Commission officials same day dismissed claims as unsubstantiated.
Former PM Khan called off anti-govt march to capital Islamabad but warned of more protests; Pakistani Taliban and military temporarily halted hostilities but sporadic attacks continued. Khan 22 May announced protest march against U.S. “imported government”, which would reach Islamabad on 25 May and remain there till early elections announced and parliament dissolved. Govt 23 March banned march and police same day raided homes of opposition leaders in Punjab state, leading to officer being shot dead in one such raid. Police barriers on main communication routes from Punjab to Islamabad sparked clashes with Khan’s supporters. Govt deployed military in sensitive areas housing key govt buildings and diplomatic missions in Islamabad. After barriers in Islamabad were removed following Supreme Court’s directives 25 May, demonstrators continued to clash with police, leaving at least 30 officers injured; Khan same day abruptly called off protest. Denying reports that his decision resulted from negotiations with military, Khan 27 May justified move due to fear of “bloodshed”; yet he warned of resuming his “jihad” against govt unless authorities set date for early elections within six days. Meanwhile, amid deteriorating economic situation, govt 26 May increased fuel prices, a key demand from International Monetary Fund (IMF), with finance minister warning of default in the absence of IMF $6bn bailout package agreed in 2019. Govt same day passed key legislation, reversing Khan’s decision to use electronic voting machines in next general elections and restricting powers of controversial anti-corruption National Accountability Bureau. Pakistani Taliban militants (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, TTP) and military temporarily ceased hostilities for ten days to mark Eid religious holiday starting 3 May; Pakistani Taliban Govt 16 May agreed to temporarily extend ceasefire to 30 May. Sporadic incidents however occurred during latter part of month. Notably, two separate militant attacks 15 May killed three soldiers and five civilians in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, and 17 May killed one intelligence official in Peshawar city. Meanwhile, militants launched separate bomb attacks in Sindh province’s capital Karachi, killing two and injuring 18 others 12 and 16 May; banned nationalist outfit Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army claimed responsibility for attacks.
Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. elected as new president, Bangsamoro witnessed local electoral violence, and clashes between govt and militants continued in south. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. 9 May won presidential elections with over 80% turnout by wide margin, while Sara Duterte-Carpio — daughter of incumbent President Duterte — won vice presidency. Bangsamoro Interim Chief Minister Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim 13 May congratulated Marcos, assuring him of Bangsamoro govt’s continued “openness, cooperation and friendship”. Office of Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity same day assured next president would support peace agenda of outgoing Duterte administration; exchanges come amid stalled disarmament process, with several thousand Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters still scheduled to be disarmed. Election held relatively peacefully, although localised firefights, bombings and shootings were recorded in south. At least seven casualties and 30 injuries were reported in and around the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, while violence in some villages of Butig, Tuburan and Binidayan municipalities, Lanao del Sur province, necessitated repeat of election. Insecurity continued through month in Bangsamoro. Military 6 May clashed with suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) militants on outskirts of Isabela city, Basilan province, killing one militant; Special Forces intelligence team of Philippine army recovered high-grade explosives and IED components in aftermath of clash. In Sulu province, military 16 May clashed with alleged ASG militants of Radullan Sahiron faction in Indanan town, wounding three soldiers. In Maguindanao province, military 23 May launched offensive against militants in Shariff Saydona town, conducting airstrikes that killed at least one rebel. In Marawi city, Task Force Bangon Marawi 16 May said rehabilitation is 72% complete, inaugurated several unfinished infrastructure projects ahead of fifth anniversary of Marawi siege 23 May; UN Human Settlements Programme 19 May said one thousand houses have been turned over to internally displaced families. Meanwhile, clashes between armed forces and communist New People’s Army continued at lower levels from April; violence in Mindanao Island in south, Visayas Islands in centre and Luzon Island in north led to at least seven fatalities and three injuries among both combatants and civilians.
U.S. and Southeast Asia regional body ASEAN pledged deeper cooperation in South China Sea (SCS), while China imposed annual fishing ban. U.S. and ASEAN 12-13 May held summit in U.S. capital Washington D.C., during which they elevated relationship to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership; 14 May published Joint Vision Statement recognising “benefits of having the South China Sea as a sea of peace, stability, and prosperity” and committing “to advancing our cooperation in the maritime domain through ASEAN-led mechanisms”. U.S. 12 May announced $60mn assistance, with which U.S. Coast Guard will train and help ASEAN countries combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. China 1 May began annual fishing ban covering waters of South China Sea north of 12 degrees latitude until Aug 16, Bohai Sea and Yellow Sea until 1 Sept, and East China Sea until 16 Sept, citing marine conservation; move proceeded despite Vietnam 29 April protesting ban, which they see as “violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty and territorial jurisdiction”. According to 13 May Nikkei Asia report, Indonesia considered making Natuna Islands special economic zone, in move likely aimed both at attracting investment and increasing maritime security against expanding Chinese activities in area. Philippines 31 May filed diplomatic protest over Chinese fishing ban in SCS, condemning Chinese Coast Guard activities as “clear violations of the Philippine maritime jurisdiction”. Meanwhile, Chinese naval frigates early May held “high-intensity multi-subject combat training exercise” at unannounced sea area. China and ASEAN due to finalise code of conduct agreement at meeting planned for June. U.S. navy’s USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group 9 May conducted deterrence exercises in Philippine Sea. “Quad” leaders of U.S., Australia, India and Japan 24 May reaffirmed commitment to meet “challenges to the maritime rules-based order” in “East and South China Seas” and condemned “militarisation of disputed features”.
Deadly clashes erupted between pro- and anti-govt protesters, forcing PM Mahinda Rajapaksa to resign as country faced possible extended period of political stalemate and instability. Mahinda Rajapaksa 9 May resigned as PM after hundreds of his supporters violently attacked peaceful protesters stationed outside his official residence and at main “GotaGoGama” protest camp in capital Colombo; notably, pro-Mahinda supporters beat protesters and burned GotaGoGama site, injuring scores. Attack triggered large-scale counter-reprisals, first in Colombo and then across island, from groups aligned with anti-govt protest movement; anti-govt attackers 9-10 May torched over 100 houses and properties mostly owned by Rajapaksa family and ruling party members, resulting in eight killed and over 200 injured. Amid island-wide curfew next day, protests continued. In following days, police arrested scores for alleged role in violence, including activists reportedly not involved. President Rajapaksa 12 May appointed five-time prime minister and leader of United National Party Ranil Wickremasinghe as PM; protesters and political observers widely condemned move as Wickremasinghe seen as quintessential insider close to Rajapaksa family. Wickremasinghe 16 May told country “next couple of months will be the most difficult ones of our lives” and 19 May warned of risk of major food crisis in few months due to lack of fertiliser for current planting. Economic and humanitarian situation continued to deteriorate as foreign reserves remained near zero. Prices of essentials continued to rise rapidly, with official figures showing inflation at record 39 per cent and unofficial estimates indicating much higher increase; medicine grew increasingly scarce. Preliminary negotiations with International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank took place, with IMF virtual mission 9-23 May leading “discussions at the technical level”. World Bank 24 May announced no new financing “until an adequate macroeconomic policy framework is in place”. Wickremasinghe 25 May named finance minister, 31 May announced series of tax hikes. Wickremesinghe 29 May proposed series of major governance reforms granting more powers to parliament, as new cabinet - dominated by Rajapaksa supporters - 23 May discussed draft 21st amendment to constitution trimming president’s powers; draft fell short of including protesters and opposition’s demands to abolish executive presidency.
China continued incursions into Taiwan’s air defence zone and conducted rare breach of unofficial median line, while U.S. President Biden vowed to intervene in event of attack. Chinese aircraft continued incursions into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone through month, totalling 74 planes as of 19 May over 14 consecutive days; notably, 18 Chinese planes 6 May entered zone. Taiwanese defence authorities 5-8 May reported 31 aircraft sorties south east and south west of island, coinciding with Chinese Liaoning aircraft carrier group drill east of Taiwan, near Japan’s Okinawa islands. USS Port Royal 11 May transited Taiwan Strait in second such passage of U.S. vessel in two weeks. Taiwanese defence ministry same day reported rare crossing of Chinese attack helicopter over median line of strait. Taiwanese annual military exercises 17 May commenced simulating defence against possible Chinese invasion and incorporating lessons of Ukraine war. China continued to warn U.S. of rhetoric and actions supporting Taiwan. U.S. State Dept 5 May updated factsheet on its website without usual statement that U.S. “does not support Taiwan independence”; China urged U.S. to abide by “one-China principle”. Chinese Politburo official Yang Jiechi in 18 May phone call with U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan reiterated centrality of Taiwan issue in U.S.-China relations, warning recent U.S. actions have been “widely distant from its statements.” In notable statement during five-day trip to Asia, U.S. President Biden 23 May said U.S. was willing to intervene militarily to support Taiwan in event of attack; U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin same day confirmed “our One China policy has not changed” and that Biden’s statements reiterated “commitment…to help provide Taiwan the means to defend itself”. Chinese foreign ministry same day expressed “strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition” over statements. Chinese military 25 May announced second large-scale military exercise around island. Meanwhile, media reports 1 May indicated U.S. and U.K. officials had held talks on contingency planning over conflict in Taiwan for first time. Taiwanese FM Joseph Wu 13 May revealed increasing talks with NATO and potential for greater cooperation.
Truce in deep south between govt and Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) held as planned until late May, while Bangkok expanded defence partnership with Japan. In deep south, Ramadan Peace Initiative — agreement concluded 31 March between govt and main militant separatist group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) for reciprocal reduction of violence 3 April-14 May — held steady, with no attacks attributed to BRN or major operations by security forces during month. After truce expired 14 May, militants 26 May attacked marine police station in Tak Bai border town, Narathiwat province, with IEDs and small arms, wounding one police officer and two defence volunteers; authorities claimed drug traffickers and smugglers responsible for attack. BRN 1 May posted Hari Raya video marking end of Ramadan, criticised increased violence from Thai security forces and suggested Peace Dialogue Process did not conform to international standards; statements came in stark contrast to conciliatory tone expressed at meeting of Peace Dialogue Process working group 31 March-1 April. In Pattani province, in rare mass youth event, several thousand young Malay Muslim men 4 May attended youth event organised by Civil Society Assembling for Peace (CAP) at Wasukri Beach, Saiburi district, to celebrate end of Ramadan and take public oath to defend Pattani Malay culture and identity and “eliminate all forms of oppression”, with at least one BRN flag on display; young Malay Muslim women’s associations 10 May held similar event in Narathiwat province, attended by several thousand. Event organisers 17 May met secretary of Thai dialogue panel Lt Gen Thira Deawa in Pattani province, explaining oath had been mistranslated and that organisers did not authorise BRN flag display; Lt Gen Thira affirmed no legal action would be taken but urged organisers to inform authorities in advance of future events. Meanwhile, activists opposed to draft non-profit organisation bill 23 May began protest near Government House in capital Bangkok; critics say bill threatens civil society and free speech; police 30 May prevented hundreds opposed to draft bill from marching on Government House. PM Prayuth Chan-ocha 2 May met Japanese PM Fumio Kishida, signing agreement on mutual transfer of defence equipment and coordination on regional issues.
Anti-govt protests turned increasingly violent, and PM Nikol Pashinyan met Azerbaijani President Aliyev as part of efforts to launch border demarcation talks. Political situation grew increasingly tense as opposition parties from late April blocked centre of capital Yerevan and organised protests, with at times up to tens of thousands of protestors who demanded resignation of PM Pashinyan for alleged intention to lower “bar a little on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh”. In response, police from mid-May clashed with demonstrators, detained dozens; notably, authorities 30 May arrested over one hundred. Ombudsman 2 May and NGO Freedom House 13 May raised concerns about crackdown and urged police to refrain from using disproportionate force. Despite protests, Pashinyan during month declared intention to remain in office, including his deputy chief of staff 6 May, insisting 2021 election win for Pashinyan’s party confirmed his legitimacy. Meanwhile, FM Ararat Mirzoyan and Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov 12 May met with Russian mediation in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe to discuss main issues related to post-2020 war situation, including border problems and resumption of transport links; Russian deputy FM and deputy PM same day visited Yerevan to explore proceeding of talks on transportation routes. In first meeting since early April, Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Aliyev 22 May met in EU-facilitated talks in Belgian capital Brussels, agreed border demarcation teams would meet “in the coming days” (see Nagorno-Karabakh (NK)). Newly formed Armenian and Azerbaijani border commissions 24 May symbolically met at state border of two countries to launch commission’s work. With support of Russian peacekeepers deployed in NK, Baku 26 May handed over to Armenian side Armenian soldier detained in April at state border. Govt 28 May reported another Armenian soldier killed in shooting from Azerbaijani position at most problematic border area between Kelbajar and Gegharkunik, warned incident could disrupt plans for talks in Moscow; Baku next day denied encounter, accused Yerevan of attempting to disrupt normalisation process; Yerevan 30 May called on Russia, EU and relevant foreign organisations to condemn Baku’s attempts to disrupt border stability.
President Aliyev met Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan as part of efforts to launch border demarcation talks, and pardoned hundreds of prisoners to mark Independence Day. FM Jeyhun Bayramov and Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan 12 May met with Russian mediators in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe to discuss main issues related to post-2020 war situation, including border problems and resumption of transport links, as Russian deputy FM and deputy PM visited capital Yerevan to explore proceeding of talks on transportation routes. In first meeting since early April, PM Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Aliyev 22 May met in EU-facilitated talks in Belgian capital Brussels, agreed that border demarcation teams would meet “in the coming days” (see Nagorno-Karabakh (NK)). Newly formed Armenian and Azerbaijani border commissions 24 May symbolically met at state border of two countries to launch commission’s work, with reported plans to meet again soon for more detailed talks in Moscow and Brussels. With support of Russian peacekeepers deployed in NK, Baku 26 May handed over to Armenian side Armenian soldier detained in April at state border. Armenia 28 May reported another Armenian soldier killed in shooting from Azerbaijani position at most problematic border area between Kelbajar and Gegharkunik, warning incident could disrupt plans for talks in Moscow; Baku 29 May denied clash and accused Yerevan of attempting to disrupt normalisation process; Yerevan 30 May called on Russia, EU and relevant foreign organisations to condemn Baku’s attempts to disrupt stability along border. Meanwhile, President Aliyev 27 April pardoned 213 prisoners on occasion of Independence Day, including over 20 people identified as political prisoners by human rights activists; decree also applied to 19 people who were prosecuted following 10 July 2018 unrest in western city of Ganca, where two senior police officers were stabbed to death as police dispersed protest. U.S. embassy in Baku same day welcomed decree but urged govt to release remaining political prisoners.
Tensions persisted on Ukraine border amid military build-up, while govt signed into law death penalty for “terrorism”, which sparked concern over potential use against critics and opposition. Amid heightened geopolitical tensions around ongoing war in Ukraine (see Ukraine), govt 4 May announced start of military exercises with “significant numbers of military vehicles” at border with Ukraine; govt 22 May reportedly extended training until at least 28 May. Army chief 10 May announced deployment of special forces and military equipment to southern border, alleging presence of “20,000” Ukrainian forces at border. Ukrainian military 23 May said Belarus forces were “intensifying reconnaissance, additional units are being deployed in the border areas of the Homel region”. Earlier, President Lukashenko 5 May defended Russia’s invasion but said he felt war was dragging on longer than planned. Meanwhile, govt continued repression of political dissent. Lukashenko 18 May signed law making attempted acts of terrorism punishable with death penalty; law follows numerous media reports about activists allegedly sabotaging rail links to disrupt Russia’s war effort in Ukraine; U.S. same day expressed concern that govt could use “politically motivated charges of ‘extremism’ and ‘terrorism’ against many of the more than 1,100 political prisoners” and “tens of thousands more” who have been detained under such charges. Authorities 18 May began trial of political activist Mikalay Autukhovich in western city of Hrodna on charges of high treason, attempted power seizure and other crimes; 11 others faced similar charges. Western states and their allies during month imposed various sanctions and visa restrictions on over 2,600 citizens of Russia and Belarus. EU Parliament 19 May demanded that EU sanctions on Russia “must be strictly mirrored for Belarus”, condemned “crackdown” and accused govt of “assisting with Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine”.
Tensions over Varosha continued, while Republic of Cyprus and UK signed deal allowing Cypriots to develop properties in so-called UK “sovereign base areas”. Concerns flared among Greek Cypriots after video mid-month circulated allegedly showing bulldozer clearing another stretch of beach in fenced-off town of Varosha, under Turkish military control since 1974; Republic of Cyprus President Anastasiades 19 May said “I have been briefed officially from those monitoring developments there… we shall not leave this new provocation to go unnoticed, and we shall make all the necessary demarches”. Republic of Cyprus officials 9 May announced ground-breaking accord with UK which would enable thousands of Cypriots to develop properties in so-called “sovereign base areas” (3% of island) that the UK – owing to its colonial past – has held on island. Following resignation of Greek Cypriot chief negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis in April, govt 15 May appointed Menelaos Menelaou as replacement. In “TRNC”, three Turkish Cypriot political parties – the National Unity Party (UBP), Democratic Party (DP), and Rebirth Party (YDP) – late April formed new coalition govt, which failed on 1 May when coalition partners withdrew support; early general elections appear likely. Criticising Greek Cypriot efforts to bolster its defence capabilities, Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar 5 May said that Greek Cypriots were engaged in “an aggressive armament program and [were] preparing to shed blood”.
Political tensions over war in Ukraine remained elevated, notably in breakaway South Ossetia, where de facto govt scheduled and then postponed referendum on accession to Russia. Political situation throughout month remained tense as opposition continued to accuse leadership of not showing sufficient support to Ukraine, including by aligning more with Western allies on key positions related to Russia’s invasion. Tbilisi city court 16 May sentenced head of opposition TV channel Nika Gvaramia to three-and-a-half years imprisonment for abuse of power; Gvaramia rejected all charges as politically motivated. Local NGOs same day said bail or other softer punishment could replace prison term, while international human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch same day voiced concerns about ruling. In breakaway republic South Ossetia, following his defeat in second round of presidential elections 8 May, de facto President Anatoly Bibilov 14 May signed decree to hold referendum on joining Russia on 17 July. Election winner Alan Gagloev, who was inaugurated 24 May, reportedly learned about referendum from media reports; Gagloev can postpone vote for three months, but not recall decree. Gagloev 30 May issued decree that postpones referendum until consultations with Moscow are finalised; some senior Russian officials and important politicians during month publicly opposed referendum due to risks of destabilising Russia’s relations with Georgia. Situation along lines of separation with South Ossetia and breakaway Abkhazia remained calm; no reports during month of detentions or fence construction along lines of separation. Co-chairs of the Geneva International Discussions, UN Representative Cihan Sultanoğlu, Special Representative of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Chairperson-in-Office Viorel Moșanu, and EU Special Representative Toivo Klaar 30 May began trip to region; visit follows cancelled March talks and accusations from Russian diplomats late April that West was blocking Geneva discussions.
Germany urged govt and Serbia to resume dialogue as Pristina advanced membership bid for Council of Europe, prompting protest from Belgrade. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz 4 May held meetings in German capital Berlin with PM Kurti and Serbian President Vučić, urging both to resume dialogue for “regional stability”; EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajčák same day hosted trilateral talks with both leaders. Meanwhile, govt 12 May submitted membership bid to Council of Europe, Europe’s leading human rights body, with German and Montenegrian support. Vučić 6 May claimed bid “violates the Washington Agreement” — deal signed in Sept 2020 in presence of former U.S. President Trump in which Kosovo agreed to halt joining international organisations for one year — warning “our response will be stronger than they think” and will involve “diplomatic offensives” urging states to withdraw recognition of Kosovo’s independence; Serbian FM Nikola Selakovic 13 May claimed four countries had derecognised Kosovo, but FM Gervalla-Schwarz same day claimed that information is either “untrue or they have been working for a long time” on derecognition campaign. After temporary agreement for license plate dispute expired in April, EU-mediated talks between chief negotiators of Kosovo and Serbia 13 May ended without new agreement. Former president Hashim Thaçi and three others 12 May pleaded not guilty to war crime charges at Kosovo Specialist Chambers.
Uzbek troops killed three people along Kyrgyz-Uzbek border. Authorities 6 May said Uzbekistan’s troops opened fire previous day in western Jalal-Abad region near Ferghana Valley, killing three; Uzbekistan’s border service 6 May confirmed incident, said “border guards observed the smuggling of large quantities of goods” and were “forced to use weapons”. Acting FM Vladimir Vorov same day spoke on phone with Kyrgyz FM Jeenbek Kulubayev and stressed need to “avoid negative consequences in the border area” and “expand Kyrgyz-Uzbek cooperation”. Meanwhile, State Committee for National Security 4 May said authorities three days earlier detained 12 active members, including four leaders, of proscribed Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic group in Kerben town in Jalal-Abad region.
Amid fears of Ukraine war spillover, President Sandu sought to advance EU membership bid, while Western states signalled greater support for govt. Following meeting with President Sandu in capital Chisinau, European Council President Charles Michel 4 May pledged increased military support to country, vowed to “help Moldova strengthen its resilience and cope with the consequences of the spillover from Russia’s aggression in Ukraine”. Referring to incidents when de facto interior ministry of breakaway territory Transnistria 5 April reported attack on de facto security ministry allegedly involving grenade-launchers, Sandu said “we see no imminent risk right now” despite recent “provocations” in April in breakaway Transnistria; EU Parliament 5 May adopted resolution urging govt to be granted candidate status for admission to bloc; Sandu 18 May addressed EU Parliament, urging member states to support country’s membership bid. UN Sec Gen Antonio Guterres 9 May visited Chisinau, said country is Ukraine’s “most fragile neighbour”. U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines 10 May said Russia intends to establish land bridge from Crimean Peninsula to Transnistria. UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss 21 May called for Moldova to be “equipped to NATO standard”. Meanwhile, Moldovan authorities 24 May reportedly detained head of pro-Russian opposition party and former president Igor Dodon on corruption charges. De facto authorities in Transnistria 13 May reported that unidentified assailants targeted with Molotov cocktails oil depot and conscription office in de facto regional capital Tiraspol.
Conflict zone remained calm, while thousands of Armenian protesters rallied against PM Pashinyan’s perceived negotiating position with Azerbaijan over territory’s future. Amid rising prospect of renewed peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan following both leaders’ statements in April, situation in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict zone remained calm during month, with no reports of clashes, shootings or casualties. Thousands of protesters 28 May rallied in de facto capital Stepanakert in support of Armenian opposition, while raising concerns about Armenian PM Pashinyan’s plans to enter talks with Azerbaijan on NK with perceived low demands on status of entity (see Armenia); largest protest held in Armenian-populated areas of NK since 2020 war. On diplomatic front, Pashinyan during visit to Netherlands 11 May criticised Azerbaijan for not responding to proposal to start discussions of NK status; Azerbaijan 12 May rejected criticism. Azerbaijani President Aliyev 19 May accused Armenia of making excuses to avoid real talks and border demarcation process; Armenia same day rejected accusation. After FMs of both sides met in Tajik capital Dushanbe, Pashinyan and Aliyev 22 May met in EU-facilitated talk in Belgian capital Brussels, agreeing that border demarcation teams would meet “in the coming days” (see Armenia and Azerbaijan). Parties maintain different approaches to talks: Azerbaijan sees NK as domestic problem and wants Armenia to renounce territorial claims, while Armenia states its readiness to do so, providing Azerbaijan recognises that under revised NK’s status Armenians should be allowed to continue living in conflict zone.
Amid ongoing crackdown on anti-war protesters, Ukrainian forces continued cross-border shelling, and West and allies imposed more sanctions. Authorities continued heavy crackdown on dissent, charging dozens of citizens for propagating “fakes” about army. Notably, court in Moscow 18 May arrested in absentia founder of Conflict Intelligence Team; Russian human rights group OVD-Info mid-month reported 15,445 people have been detained at anti-war rallies since invasion. Russian human rights group Agora late month reported that 53 criminal cases have been opened in 27 regions for spreading false information about Russian army; by 22 May Russian courts had heard 2,029 administrative cases accused of discrediting the armed forces. Imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Nalvany 31 May said investigators brought new charges against him for “creating an extremist group”. Meanwhile, authorities reported continued shelling of border regions from Ukraine. Notably, governor of Kursk region 19 May said one person killed and several wounded from shelling in Tetkino village, marking second civilian death in border regions since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on 24 Feb (see Ukraine). Governor of Belgorod region 27 May reported one person killed in Zhuravlevka village in third reported civilian casualty on Russian territory since invasion of Ukraine began. In indication govt may be preparing for long war in Ukraine, Russian parliament 25 May approved bill to abolish age limit for military service, greatly expanding range of potential contract servicemen eligible to fight in war. During month, nine arson attacks targeted military conscription offices in various regions, bringing total of such attacks since Feb to at least 14. Western states and their allies during month imposed various sanctions and visa restrictions on over 2,600 citizens of Russia and Belarus in response to Russia’s war against Ukraine; Russian foreign ministry 21 May published list of 963 U.S. citizens banned from entering country. Russia 24 May imposed sanctions against 154 members of UK parliament’s House of Lords.
Anti-govt protests in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) turned violent amid clashes with police and govt security operation, which left at least nine civilians killed. Protests 14 May began in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO), as local leaders in Khorog, regional capital of GBAO demanded resignation of region’s governor Alisher Mirzonabot, probe into police killing of man that sparked unrest in Nov 2021, and end to alleged harassment and persecution by Tajik authorities. After govt refused demands, protesters 16 May announced start of demonstrations; clashes same day broke out in Khorog, leaving one protester dead and three police personnel wounded. Protesters next day marched toward Khorog’s central square, where en route police dispersed crowds using tear gas; authorities same day cut off internet access in region. After protesters 17 May blocked highway between Rushan district and Khorog and clashed with police, interior ministry next day announced “anti-terrorist operation” in region, which it said killed eight people and wounded eleven, with 70 protesters detained. Interior ministry 31 May announced security forces “neutralised” five more men from Rushon district. EU, UK, French, U.S. and German embassies in capital Dushanbe 19 May called on all parties to “refrain from excessive use of force and incitement to violence”. UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Affairs Fernand de Warenne 20 May criticised govt’s “harsh response” as “disproportionate and deeply disturbing”. Police said “internal clashes between criminal groups” 22 May killed informal leader of GBAO. NGO Human Rights Watch 26 May called on govt to “end abuses against protesters in the towns of Khorugh and Rushan”. Meanwhile, Islamic State (ISIS) reportedly claimed it had fired rockets from Khawaja Ghar district of Afghanistan’s Takhar province toward unspecified military targets in Tajikistan on 7 May; Tajik authorities, however, denied rocket attack and said gunfire had crossed border during battle between Taliban and ISIS fighters.
Authorities continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), arrested scores of suspected Islamic State operatives, and set strict conditions for new NATO bids amid Ukraine war. Operations – including drone strikes – continued in northern Iraq, northern Syria, as well as to lesser extent in Turkey’s south east throughout month. Turkish military continued operations against PKK in Metina, Avasin and Zap regions of northern Iraq as part of Operation Claw Lock launched 18 April (see Iraq). President Erdoğan 23 May announced new security operations along southern borders, although it remains unclear where they will concentrate (see Syria). Security units’ operations against Islamic State (ISIS) cells/operatives across country intensified during month; police detained more than 130 individuals with alleged ISIS links, mostly foreigners. Notably, police 16 May arrested three Syrians in south-eastern Şanlıurfa province, one of them reportedly planning to carry out suicide attack, 17 May arrested foreign national allegedly planning suicide attack in western Bursa province, and 24 May disrupted suicide plot by another foreign national in Istanbul city. Internationally, after Finland and Sweden during month announced intention to join NATO alliance amid Ukraine war, Ankara 13 May announced it would block requests unless both countries meet set of demands, including halting alleged support for PKK, extraditing individuals sought by Ankara and lifting arms export restrictions on Turkey. Erdoğan 13 May cited Ankara’s past decision to permit Greece’s re-entry into NATO as reason for caution with proposed accession by Finland and Sweden to alliance, saying “we do not want to make the same mistake again” due to “attitude Greece has adopted towards Turkey with NATO behind its back”. Referring to Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Erdoğan 23 May said “I will never agree to meet with him”; statement came after Mitsotakis in 17 May speech before U.S. Congress tacitly criticised Turkey for its actions in Aegean/East Mediterranean and asked U.S. not to supply Turkey with F-16 fighter jets; diplomatic tracks between Greece and Turkey on hold since mid-May. Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu 25 May visited Israel to meet his counterpart Yair Lapid; sides agreed to foster economic cooperation and carry on dialogue to normalise bilateral ties.
Russian forces made gains in east and captured last pocket of resistance in Mariupol in south, as Ukrainian forces advanced in north; hostilities could intensify, escalate or spread in coming weeks. Russian forces 23 May began advancing on Severodonetsk and Lysychansk cities from three directions to encircle Ukrainian troops and seize last territories in Luhansk region under Ukrainian control; 31 May took control of large proportion of Severodonetsk city, although Ukrainian forces still retained some areas. Elsewhere in east, Russian forces 7 May bombed school in front line village of Bilohorivka, killing around 60. Governor of Luhansk 8 May said Ukrainian troops had withdrawn from Popasna city, marking biggest Russian breakout across old contact line that had divided warring parties since 2014 conflict; Severskiy Donets River, which Russian forces 11 May failed to cross, formed much of northern front line. In south, Russian forces 3 May began attacking Azovstal steel plant in Donbas port city of Mariupol; by 19 May, nearly 1,730 Ukrainian troops had surrendered before being sent to camps in Russian-held territories where de facto authorities announced they would face “international tribunal.” Defeat gives Russia control of land corridor between Mariupol and major port city of Kherson; reports indicated deadly insurgent attacks however continued in Melitopol city, midway between Mariupol and Kherson. In north, Ukrainian forces launched successful counter-offensives. Notably, forces 2 May took control of Stariy Saltiv town; 15 May reached Russian border north of Kharkiv, winning city temporary reprieve from Russian artillery that continued sporadically. On humanitarian front, UN 10 May said there were credible reports that Ukrainian forces mistreated, tortured or abducted Russian soldiers; 20 May estimated total 6.7mn refugees and over 8mn internally displaced from war; U.S. senate 19 May passed $40 billion aid package. Ukrainian court 23 May handed life sentence to Russian soldier for killing civilian in first war crimes trial; sentenced two others 31 May. On diplomatic front, Russia and Ukraine 17 May signalled that peace talks reached standstill. EU leaders 30 May agreed to block over two-thirds of Russian oil imports.