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.
Central African RepublicSomaliaYemen
CrisisWatch warns of three conflict risks in March.
A deadlocked electoral process in Somalia could fuel more violence after deadly clashes erupted between security forces and opposition supporters in February.
Following heavy fighting in the Central African Republic between the army and a rebel coalition, runoff and re-run elections on 14 March could prove to be a dramatic flashpoint.
The Huthis’ intensified offensive in Yemen’s Marib governorate could trigger further mass displacement, aggravating the humanitarian crisis, and spark renewed armed conflict in the south and along the Red Sea coast.
Looking back to February, our monthly conflict tracker highlights deteriorations in eight countries and conflict areas.
In Myanmar, following the 1 February military coup which set off the biggest political crisis in a generation, police crackdowns on pro-democracy mass protests killed dozens.Haiti’s constitutional crisis took a deadly turn after security forces violently suppressed opposition protests calling on President Moïse to step down.
In Nigeria, armed groups abducted hundreds in the north west, while intercommunal tensions ran high in the south as the farmer-herder conflict continued to rage.
CrisisWatch also highlights an improved situation in Libya. In an unexpected breakthrough, Libyan representatives at UN-led talks elected a unified transitional leadership to guide the fractured country to general elections in December.
In his introduction to this month’s CrisisWatch, Crisis Group's Interim President Richard Atwood weighs what's needed to avert even greater humanitarian disasters in the ongoing wars in Yemen and Ethiopia's Tigray region.
Post-election violence flared as opposition rejected victory of ruling-party candidate Mohamed Bazoum in 21 Feb presidential runoff. Second round of presidential election between ruling-party candidate Bazoum and former President Mahamane Ousmane 21 Feb disrupted by deadly incident in Dargol commune, Tillabery region (near Mali border) as landmine killed seven poll workers. Electoral commission 23 Feb announced provisional results, saying Bazoum won with 55.75% of vote. Ousmane same day rejected results, citing electoral fraud, and his supporters immediately took to streets in capital Niamey; police fired tear gas to disperse protesters who reportedly ransacked at least one police station and several shops. In Dosso city, about 100km south of Niamey, protesters same day reportedly burnt down political party premises. Ousmane 24 Feb claimed victory with 50.3% of vote, reiterating that fraud had been committed “pretty much everywhere” and prompting protesters to confront security forces in Niamey’s central market area and south-western town of Kollo. Govt 25 Feb said two died in post-election violence and 468 were arrested; also accused opposition figure Hama Amadou, who was barred from running in presidential election, of being “main person responsible” for unrest; after Amadou next day turned himself in to police in Niamey, police detained him over these allegations. Regional body ECOWAS and UN 25 Feb jointly condemned post-election violence and called on all actors to exercise restraint. Meanwhile in Tillabery region (south west), jihadist activity continued albeit at lower intensity than in Jan: suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants 5 Feb seized livestock in Kailou Kouara village, Ouallam department. In Maradi region (south), unidentified gunmen conducted series of attack in Guidan-Roumdji department: 5 Feb attacked Guilbadi village, killing at least one and wounding four others; 8 Feb killed student and seized livestock in Dan Mani village, and same day shot three dead in Gaja village. G5 Sahel summit 15-16 Feb held in Chad’s capital N’Djamena; French President Macron announced France would not downsize military forces in Sahel until at least mid-2022, called for “civilian surge” to complement military efforts, and continued to oppose dialogue with jihadist leaders.
Security forces’ deadly crackdown on protesters caused outrage. In joint statement, NGO Amnesty International and Angolan rights group OMUNGA 2 Feb confirmed security forces had killed at least ten people during heavy crackdown on protesters in Cafunfo mining town, Luanda Norte province, since 30 Jan, said unconfirmed reports revealed high number of activists still unaccounted for, and called for prompt investigation; meanwhile, opposition parties UNITA and CASA-CE joined calls for investigation into killings. Police chief Paulo de Almeida late Jan-early Feb said security forces 30 Jan foiled armed attack on Cafunfo police station by secessionist group Lunda Tchokwe Protectorate Movement (LTPM), leaving six dead and 20 injured; LTMP president, José Mateus Zecamutchima, however maintained police went on “shooting spree” against unarmed protesters 30 Jan, leaving at least 25 dead and many missing. Authorities 9 Feb detained Zecamutchima on charges of rebellion; his lawyers 26 Feb raised concern about absence of due process
Govt forces launched large-scale offensive against Islamist insurgents in far north Cabo Delgado province, and authorities announced death of newly-appointed armed forces chief of staff. Govt forces and their allies 5 Feb launched offensive in Muidumbe and Mocimboa da Praia districts in bid to retake port town and district capital Mocimboa da Praia, which has been under insurgents’ control since Aug 2020. Notably, armed forces 8-11 Feb conducted helicopter strikes on insurgent positions along Messalo River, which marks border between Muidumbe and Mocimboa da Praia, death toll unknown. Insurgents mid-month started to resist govt’s offensive, notably attacking security forces in Diaca and Roma villages, Mocimboa da Praia, 15-16 Feb, and wounding soldier in raid on armed forces base in Xitaxi locality, Muidumbe, 16 Feb. In Palma district, aid convoys 2 and 6 Feb reached district capital Palma amid reports of food shortages; military escorted convoys along Nangade-Palma axis, which insurgents have recently targeted in attempt to cut off Palma from supply routes. Also in Palma, insurgents 19 Feb attacked administrative post of Quionga on border with Tanzania, killing four, and 26 Feb killed six in nearby Quirinde village. In Nangade district, insurgents 22-25 Feb killed nine civilians in three villages; govt forces 25 Feb pursued insurgents near Luneque village, killing six. NGO Médecins sans Frontières early Feb returned to Macomia district after eight-month suspension of its activities due to insecurity. President Nyusi 3 Feb offered amnesty to Islamist insurgents, promising there will be no retaliation against those who surrender. Govt 8 Feb announced death of armed forces chief of staff, General Eugenio Mussa, less than three weeks after his appointment; Mussa reportedly died of COVID-19. Govt 12 Feb said Southern African Development Community extraordinary summit on Cabo Delgado insurgency, cancelled in Jan due to COVID-19, will take place in “May or June”. Authorities 16 Feb expelled British journalist Tom Bowker after six years reporting on Mozambique; movefollows late-Jan withdrawal of his accreditation. Meanwhile,Paulo Filipe Nguirande,chief of staff of Renamo Military Junta, armed dissident faction of opposition Renamo party, 12 Feb demobilised in Gorongosa district, Sofala province (centre).
Authorities continued to repress opposition and civil society. In capital Harare, authorities 1 Feb arrested MP Joana Mamombe, a member of Nelson Chamisa-led faction of main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-A), and two female MDC-A youth leaders, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova, during anti-govt protest; Mamombe and Chimbiri later charged with “obstructing or hindering police officer performing duty during [COVID-19] lockdown”, while Marova was released without charge; High Court 9 Feb granted Mamombe and Chimbiri bail.High Court 1 Feb granted bail to Job Sikhala, MDC-A vice chairman who was arrested in Jan on charges of “publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the state”; 19 Feb granted bail to student activist Allan Moyo, who was arrested in Dec 2020 for allegedly inciting violence. Authorities 20 Feb arrested 12 MDC-A members at gunpoint for allegedly breaching COVID-19 regulations in Chinhoyi city, Mashonaland West province; all 12 released on bail 22 Feb.Meanwhile, MDC-A 6 Feb called on armed forces to “rein in some of its rogue elements” amid allegations that soldiers killed civilian and assaulted many others for allegedly violating COVID-19 regulations in Midlands province in recent weeks. UN Human Rights Office 12 Feb expressed “concern” after NGO Human Right Watch previous day accused govt of using COVID-19 to crack down on journalists and opposition. UK 1 Feb imposed sanctions, including travel ban and asset freeze, on four security chiefs over allegations of human rights violations, notably crackdown on anti-govt protesters and opposition, since 2017. EU 19 Feb renewed arms embargo against Zimbabwe and asset freeze against state-owned company Zimbabwe Defence Industries for one year, citing “need to investigate the role of security force actors in human rights abuses”.
Preparations for legislative elections scheduled for 6 March moved forward, while supporters of former President Gbagbo stepped up pressure for his return. Ahead of March election, govt Ombudsman Adama Tounkara toured western and central constituencies – where opposition enforced electoral boycott in Oct 2020 presidential election – to call for reconciliation and unity; Reconciliation Minister Kouadio Konan Bertin 11 Feb called for peaceful election. Candidates 18 Feb signed code of good conduct, pledging to stay away from violence and hate speech; campaign started 26 Feb. Opposition remained divided in two main camps: on one hand, platform Together for Democracy and Sovereignty (EDS), close to Gbagbo, along with Henri Konan Bédié’s Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire, and on the other, Pascal Affi N’Guessan’s branch of Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) with Albert Mabri Toikeuse’s Union for Democracy and Peace in Côte d’Ivoire. Meanwhile, Assoa Adou, sec gen of Gbagbo’s FPI wing, 11 Feb urged govt to create conditions for Gbagbo’s return in “reasonable timeframe”; govt has maintained Gbagbo’s return is conditioned by proceedings at International Criminal Court, where prosecution’s appeal of his 2019 acquittal of crimes against humanity is still pending. Bertin mid-Feb said he would soon visit Ghana and Europe to meet pro-Gbagbo cadres living in exile, including former Gbagbo Minister Charles Blé Goudé, and possibly Gbagbo himself; Assoa Adou 24 Feb said Gbagbo would return to Côte d’Ivoire mid-March. PM Hamed Bakayoko 18 Feb flew to France to receive treatment for “chronic fatigue”. Head of French foreign intelligence agency Bernard Emié 1 Feb warned Sahel-based jihadist groups aimed to spread to and target Côte d’Ivoire govt 3 Feb said army had been put on high alert.
India and Pakistan pledged to respect ceasefire agreement along Line of Control (LoC, dividing Pakistan and Indian-administered Kashmir); militant attacks continued in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). India and Pakistan’s directors general of military operations 25 Feb agreed to observe immediately all agreements and ceasefire along LoC; U.S. State Dept same day welcomed agreement, expressed support for direct India-Pakistan dialogue; Indian army northern commander 27 Feb said agreement would have no bearing on counter-terrorism operations in region. Earlier in month, Pakistan claimed Indian fire 2 Feb injured four, and India said Pakistani cross-LoC fire 3 Feb killed soldier in Rajouri district. Indian border forces 8 Feb claimed to have killed Pakistani intruder along international border in Jammu, 10 Feb said they killed another intruder near LoC. In briefing to foreign representatives visiting J&K, senior Indian army officials 18 Feb accused Islamabad of helping terrorists infiltrate across LoC by organising training camps; Pakistani FM 15 Feb said such “guided tours” are intended to divert international community’s attention away from India’s “egregious human rights violations”. Meanwhile, militant attacks continued at high intensity in J&K: militants 6 Feb injured paramilitary soldier in Chanapora area; son of Hindu restaurant owner 17 Feb shot and wounded in regional capital Srinagar, died 28 Feb. Encounter between militants and security forces 18-19 Feb killed one police in Budgam district. Security forces 19 Feb killed three militants in Shopian district; militants same day gunned down two police in Srinagar. In light of attacks, inspector general of Kashmir police 21 Feb directed an increase in security deployment at all vital locations in area. Security forces 24 Feb killed two militants in Anantnag district. Previously, police 13 Feb arrested militant allegedly responsible for killing three Bharatiya Janata Party workers in Kulgram district last year; security forces next day claimed to have foiled terrorist plot planned on anniversary of 2019 Pulwama attack which killed scores of Indian security personnel. J&K police chief same day disclosed arrests of two militant commanders on 6 and 13 Feb. High speed internet services, previously shut down on 4 Aug 2019, 5 Feb restored in J&K.
Opposition groups staged protest calling for reform and release of political prisoners. Following 11 Feb EU Parliament resolution citing “worrying deterioration in general situation of human rights and crackdown on civil society organisations”, opposition groups 28 Feb held demonstrations in several cities including Aqtobe, Oral, Almaty and capital Nur-Sultan calling for political reforms and release of political prisoners; authorities detained at least 50 protesters in Almaty city.
Amid enduring political crisis, civil society created coalition to address tensions and mainstream opposition remained divided over strategy. Large group of civil society organisations, including NGOs, religious bodies, trade unions and country’s main business union Fedecámaras 5 Feb launched platform Foro Cívico Nacional (FNC) in bid to establish counterweight to both govt and opposition, and contribute to solving social and political crisis. FCN’s intention to seek partial, sectoral agreements with govt on economic and humanitarian relief sparked heated debate in opposition circles, with some arguing that approach undermines possibility of full-scale negotiation on “re-institutionalisation”. Mainstream opposition leader Juan Guaidó 3 Feb rejected idea of participating in regional elections due this year, even as some parties that compose mainstream opposition prepared to take part; National Assembly next day set up committee in charge of processing applications for new National Electoral Council, expected to be appointed in early April. In positive step, govt and Guaidó-led opposition, in collaboration with Pan American Health Organization and UN children’s fund (UNICEF), 11 Feb agreed to cooperate to purchase and distribute COVID-19 vaccines for 6mn people; opposition health policy advisers and govt representatives subsequently met to discuss distribution and oversight, and created joint technical team. Following two-week visit to Venezuela, UN special rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures and human rights, Alena Douhan, 12 Feb urged U.S., EU and other states to drop sanctions, citing “dramatic” effects on population. Guaidó-led opposition same day accused Douhan of falling into President Maduro’s “propaganda”, said economic collapse began before imposition of economic sanctions. EU Council 22 Feb imposed sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, on 19 high-level officials accused of undermining democracy or violating human rights; in response, govt 24 Feb declared head of EU delegation in Caracas Isabel Brilhante “persona non grata”, giving her 72 hours to leave country. EU next day responded with reciprocal measure. Colombian President Duque 8 Feb granted ten-year protection status to about 1mn undocumented Venezuelan migrants, allowing them to work and to access health and education services.
Death of female student in police custody sparked protests, while tensions mounted over drug trafficking accusations against President Hernández. Nursing student Keyla Martínez overnight 6-7 Feb died in police custody hours after police arrested her in Intibucá department’s capital La Esperanza (west) for allegedly breaching COVID-19 curfew; police initially said Martínez had committed suicide but Attorney General’s Office 9 Feb said forensic tests found “strong indications” of homicide. Protests against police brutality and gender-based violence, and calling for justice, 8-10 Feb erupted in several cities; in capital Tegucigalpa, police reportedly detained five protesters, and in La Esperanza, protesters set police station’s main gate on fire and clashed with police. In joint statement, EU delegation and UN Office in Honduras 11 Feb called for immediate investigation into Martínez’s death. Meanwhile, U.S. prosecutors 5 Feb confirmed Hernández under U.S. investigation for allegedly using Honduran security forces to protect drug traffickers as part of plan “to use drug trafficking to help assert power”; Hernández 8 Feb denied accusations. Eight U.S. Congress members 23 Feb introduced bill to sanction Hernández and cut military aid to Honduras in light of accusations. Several civil society, private sector and lawyers associations, as well as opposition representatives, next day asked Hernández to resign and called for protests 26 Feb; police that day fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters in capital Tegucigalpa. Ahead of primary elections set for 14 March and general elections in Nov, Congress by month’s end had not yet approved new electoral law setting rules and guidelines for electoral process. Appeals Court 17 Feb authorised Attorney General’s Office to press embezzlement of public funds and money laundering charges against Tegucigalpa mayor and presidential precandidate Nasry ‘Tito’ Asfura.
Political violence ran high in lead-up to legislative, gubernatorial and municipal elections set for 6 June, as several candidates killed. Unidentified assailants killed Leobardo Ramos Lázaro, mayor of Santa María Chahuites town, Oaxaca state (south) 4 Feb; Juan Gilberto Ortiz Parra, ruling party National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) precandidate for mayor of Úrsulo Galván town, Veracruz state (south) 11 Feb; Gladys Merlín Castro, former mayor of Cosoleacaque town, also Veracruz state, and her daughter, Karla Merlín, MORENA precandidate for Cosoleacaque mayor 15 Feb. Amid growing anger over President Obrador’s backing of ruling party candidate for southern Guerrero state governor, Félix Salgado Macedonio, who is accused of rape, protesters for and against Salgado’s candidacy 24 Feb clashed in Iguala city, leaving at least one injured. Other criminal violence also high. In Jalisco state (centre), police 11 Feb found 18 plastic bags containing human remains on outskirts of state capital Guadalajara; unidentified gunmen 27 Feb opened fire on home in Tonala municipality near Guadalajara, killing at least 11. In Veracruz state, unidentified gunmen 12 Feb attacked municipal police patrol in Córdoba city, killing three. In Chihuahua state (north), unidentified assailants 14 Feb ambushed alleged members of criminal group in Villa Coronado town, killing five. Tamaulipas state (north) Attorney General 2 Feb said 12 officers belonging to elite police unit had been arrested and charged with homicide of 19 mostly Guatemalan migrants whose bodies were found late Jan near U.S. border. Attorney General’s Office 23 Feb asked Congress to strip Tamaulipas governor Francisco Garcia Cabeza de Vaca of immunity to prosecute him for alleged ties to organised crime and money laundering. U.S. authorities late Feb detained wife of jailed Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán on suspicion of drug trafficking. U.S. administration mid-Feb said it will gradually allow into U.S. tens of thousands of asylum seekers currently forced to wait in Mexico for their immigration court hearings as a result of former U.S. President Trump’s immigration policy; 19 Feb admitted first group of asylum seekers into U.S.
International Criminal Court (ICC) opened door to potential probe into alleged war crimes, Israel continued de facto annexation of West Bank, and Palestinian factions prepared for elections. In major decision, ICC 5 Feb ruled it has jurisdiction to investigate war crimes that may have been committed in occupied Palestinian territories; U.S. same day expressed “serious concerns” about ICC ruling while PM Netanyahu 6 Feb called it “pure antisemitism”. In West Bank, Israeli forces 1, 3 Feb demolished Bedouin Humsah al Fouqa village for second time, displacing over 130 inhabitants. NGO Jewish National Fund 11 Feb shifted policy, authorising official and direct purchase of West Bank land to expand existing Israeli settlements in Area C or adjacent areas. Israeli settler 5 Feb shot dead Palestinian man near Ras Karkar village. Ahead of Palestinian legislative and presidential elections scheduled for 22 May and 31 July, respectively, representatives of fourteen Palestinian factions at meeting in Egyptian capital Cairo 7-9 Feb agreed to form unity govt following elections; Palestinian Authority President Abbas also formed “electoral court” with jurisdiction over electoral process. To unify party, senior Fatah official 11 Feb attempted to convince imprisoned popular leader Marwan Barghouti not to run for president. Central Elections Committee 17 Feb announced 2.6mn voters (93%) registered to vote in West Bank and Gaza, excluding Jerusalem residents. After Abbas 20 Feb issued decree on public freedoms, Hamas 25 Feb released 45 Fatah-affiliated prisoners. In Gaza, authorities 17 Feb received shipment of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine after Israeli authorities delayed shipment. Egypt 9 Feb opened Rafah border crossing with Gaza indefinitely. Hamas 19 Feb held internal leadership elections. Meanwhile, Israel’s political parties 4 Feb completed electoral slates ahead of 23 March elections. Netanyahu 8 Feb pleaded not guilty in corruption trial. Israel and Syria 18 Feb concluded Russian-mediated prisoner exchange, involving release of Israeli woman and two Syrian shepherds. Israel 3, 15 and 28 Feb reportedly launched airstrikes in southern Syria (see Syria). After explosion 25-26 Feb hit Israeli-owned cargo ship in Gulf of Oman, causing material damage, Defence Minister Benny Gantz 27 Feb suggested “likelihood” of Iranian involvement.
Lebanon Govt formation efforts remained stalled while gunmen killed prominent activist and Hizbollah critic, raising fears of wave of political assassinations. Govt formation remained at standstill amid gulf between PM-designate Hariri and President Aoun on cabinet proposed by Hariri in Dec; leaked list of candidates 17 Feb showed individuals with no political background and some listed without having been consulted. During 9 Feb visit to capital Beirut, Qatari FM Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani raised “comprehensive economic program to support Lebanon” once govt formation completed. Amid French-led efforts to establish new govt, Hariri and French President Macron 10 Feb met to discuss situation. Unidentified assailants 3 Feb allegedly abducted Shiite political activist and Hizbollah critic Lokman Slim near Srifa, southern Lebanon; Slim next day found dead from gunshot wounds near Sidon. Following death, activists and supporters of Slim warned of return to 2004-2013 era of political assassinations while many blamed Hizbollah, which 4 Feb condemned killing; Aoun same day called for investigation. Meanwhile, Lebanese army by 4 Feb arrested 30 demonstrators in Tripoli city on riot charges for alleged role in Jan unrest. Court of cassation 18 Feb dismissed Judge Fadi Sawan in charge of investigation into deadly Beirut port blast last Aug; families of victims 18-19 Feb protested decision outside Palace of Justice. Govt 14 Feb began rolling out COVID-19 vaccinations; concerns over fairness of distribution 23 Feb surfaced amid reports of lawmakers receiving preferential access to vaccinations, prompting World Bank to warn it would suspend COVID-19 support if violation of terms of agreement confirmed. UN Security Council 20 Feb extended funding for special tribunal investigating 2005 assassination of Lebanon’s former PM Rafik Hariri. Hizbollah 1 Feb claimed it downed Israeli drone, ten days after Israel claimed it shot down drone that allegedly entered its airspace from Lebanon.