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
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CrisisWatch highlights three conflict risks and one resolution opportunity in May.
Our monthly conflict tracker warns of deteriorations in 14 countries and conflict areas in April.
We also note improvements in Georgia, where EU- and U.S.-facilitated talks ended the months-long political crisis, and in Tanzania, where newly inaugurated President Suluhu signalled her willingness to open up the political space.
Aside from the 70+ conflict situations we regularly follow, we have also tracked notable developments in: Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Indonesia, Jordan, Moldova, the Nile Waters, Northern Ireland and Saudi Arabia.
In his Interim President’s Take on this month’s CrisisWatch, Richard Atwood looks at what Somalia’s political crisis and Chadian President’s Idriss Déby’s death mean for Africa’s struggles against Islamist militancy.
Protests against President Talon’s re-election bid turned deadly. Ahead of 11 April presidential election, opposition supporters 5-11 April took to streets in country’s centre, set up roadblocks on main axes in alleged attempt to prevent election material from reaching polling stations; protesters denounced Talon’s re-election bid despite earlier pledge to serve only one term, and accused him of sidelining opponents after most opposition candidates were barred from running. Amid reports of vandalism and looting, security forces 8 April opened fire on protesters, reportedly killing two in Savè town and one in Bantè town. Main coalition of opposition parties 10 April called on their supporters to boycott poll. Vote 11 April reportedly saw low turnout at around 25%, and electoral commission 13 April announced Talon’s re-election with over 86% of votes. Protests immediately broke out, with clashes between security forces and protesters reportedly leaving one dead in capital Cotonou and one in Kandi town (north) 14 April. U.S. embassy same day urged govt to “respect fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and peaceful assembly”, citing “allegations of politically motivated arrests”; also called on govt “to consult with all stakeholders […] to ensure that future elections are competitive and inclusive”. Authorities 15 April detained constitutional expert Joël Aïvo, who had been barred from running in presidential election, near Cotonou for allegedly instigating election-related violence. NGO ODHP late April said authorities had arrested over 100 people since protests started; U.S. State Dept 23 April expressed “concern” over “numerous arrests of opposition political leaders”.
Jihadist violence persisted in several regions, with clashes between competing jihadist groups reported in north and spike in attacks against security forces in north and east. In Sahel region (north), al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) and JNIM-affiliated Katiba Macina 3-5 April clashed with Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants in Déou village, Oudalan province, leaving at least four ISGS killed; incidents followed similar confrontations which significantly weakened ISGS’s positions in Sahel in recent months. Also in Oudalan province, suspected ISGS combatants 8 April ambushed two vehicles on Markoye-Tokabango road, killing two civilians; raid likely motivated by group’s need for supplies. In Seno province, unidentified gunmen 26 April killed at least 18 civilians in several villages of Seytenga department, and ISGS militants 14 April killed at least ten volunteers fighting alongside security forces (VDPs) in Bouloye Siguidi village, Gorgadji department. VDPs also targeted in Centre-North region. Notably, suspected ISGS militants 1 April killed six VDPs in Dou village, Sanmatenga province, and suspected JNIM militants 6 April killed another in Koulwoko village, Namentenga province. Violence resumed in North region in late March-early April, including 7 April abduction of two miners by suspected Katiba Macina militants in Boussourdou area, Yatenga province. In East region, violence increased in Gourma province. After series of JNIM attacks on VPDs and civilians in Tanwalbougou area late March, suspected JNIM militants 5 April killed three gendarmes and four VDPs in ambush in Lopiengou village. In neighbouring Tapoa province, JNIM 27 April claimed previous day ambush of anti-poaching patrol in Arly National Park, which left three foreigners dead. Meanwhile, Ouagadougou military court 13 April indicted former President Compaoré, who has been living in exile in Côte d’Ivoire since 2014, for complicity in 1987 assassination of former President Sankara; national reconciliation minister, Zéphirin Diabré, had in March called for justice in Sankara case as step toward national reconciliation.
Govt continued diplomatic offensive as part of effort to alleviate country’s isolation; clampdown on opposition and civil society persisted. Authorities 2 April lifted June 2019 ban on independent NGO PARCEM in apparent move to respond to EU’s demands for improvements in human rights and media freedom. Govt and EU 9 April held second round of negotiations on normalising relations, including lifting EU sanctions and resuming direct financial support; EU invited Burundian FM Albert Shingiro for European tour, which started 26 April. Amid rapprochement with Rwanda, govt 2 April welcomed Kigali’s late March decision to suspend three Burundian radio stations, which had been operating from Kigali since 2015 political crisis in Burundi, said move showed “dialogue [with country] was not in vain”. AU Peace and Security Council 27 April met to discuss possible shutdown of Human Rights Observers and Military Experts Mission in Burundi; decision expected early May. Meanwhile, authorities continued to harass opposition and civil society. In Rumonge province, authorities 11 April arrested opposition party Union for National Progress youth leader over accusations of hosting unauthorised gathering and 14 April arrested civilian for allegedly cooperating with rebel group. Authorities 13 April decried as biased U.S. State Dept’s annual report on human rights, published late March, which recorded at least 205 extrajudicial killings in Burundi in 2020 and highlighted “widespread impunity for govt and ruling party officials and for their supporters and proxies”. Main opposition party National Congress for Freedom (CNL) next day called on govt to release 15 CNL members who have been imprisoned for almost a year on accusations of threatening security around May 2020 general elections. Former Defence Minister Maj. Gen. Cyrille Ndayirukiye 24 April died in Gitega prison, where he was serving life sentence for allegedly playing central role in 2015 coup attempt. Authorities 26 April released first 3,000 of over 5,000 detainees who were granted presidential amnesty in March in bid to alleviate prison overcrowding.
Sporadic fighting continued between govt forces and separatist militias in Anglophone regions, while jihadists continued attacks in Far North. Anglophone separatists staged several improvised explosive devices (IED) attacks in west, notably injuring three elite army unit officials on Kumbo-Ndop axis in North West region (NW) 10 April, and killing unspecified number of soldiers in Ikiliwindi village in South West region (SW) 17 April, Bafut and Kumbo towns (both NW) 24-25 April. Govt forces killed separatist commanders, including General “Blink” in Bambelle village (SW) 11 April and General “Idi Amin Dada” in Guneku village (NW) 16 April; govt forces 19 April arrested General “Cobra” and four other separatists in NW capital Bamenda. Anglophone conflict continued to take high toll on civilians. Notably, separatists 4 April kidnapped 12 civilians in Ikiliwindi village (SW), and govt forces 18 April killed five individuals believed to be civilians in Mile 90 area along Bamenda-Bali road (NW). In francophone West region, Anglophone separatists 29 April reportedly entered Galim village and killed four soldiers. Leaders of Anglophone separatist group Ambazonia Governing Council and Nigerian separatist group Indigenous People of Biafra 9 April announced alliance. U.S.-based civil society organisations 6 April called on U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken to name special envoy for Anglophone regions. UN Sec-Gen Guterres 12 April said sexual violence has been used “as a cruel tactic of war” in Anglophone regions, citing alleged rape of 24 women during military operation in Feb 2020. Meanwhile, Boko Haram (BH) launched attacks in Far North region. Notably, soldiers 16 April repelled BH attack on army camp in Soueram village, Logone-et-Chari division near Lake Chad, killing at least four. In Mayo-Sava division, BH 3 April killed two civilians in Godjimdele village and 13 April killed three others near Kolofata town. 55 ex-BH members – 11 women, 12 men and 32 children – 8 April joined Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration centre in regional capital Maroua.
Govt forces continued to gain ground against rebels, prompting major armed group to announce withdrawal from coalition. Army, with support from Rwanda and Russia, continued military operation against rebel Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), notably regaining control of Niem town in Nana-Mambéré prefecture 7 April, strategic commercial hub Kaga-Bandoro in Nana-Gribizi prefecture 10 April, and Kabo town in Ouham prefecture 15 April; some towns had been under rebel control for several years. CPC rebels throughout month continued to ambush security forces, notably killing three soldiers near Birao town, Vakaga prefecture, 16 April; Arab Missiria militia reportedly involved in ambush. In ongoing violence against humanitarian workers, CPC 7 April briefly detained NGO World Vision staff in Bocaranga area, Ouham-Pendé prefecture. UN refugee agency 20 April said violence had displaced over 2,000 people into neighbouring Chad over previous week. CPC member Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation 2 April said its leader Sidiki Abbas had died 25 March from injuries sustained in Nov 2020; govt had previously claimed to have killed him in Dec 2020. Ali Darassa, leader of armed group Union for Peace in Central Africa, 5 April announced withdrawal from CPC, renewed commitment to Feb 2019 peace deal; govt 7 April excluded resuming negotiations with Darassa. Meanwhile, govt 8 April requested National Assembly lift parliamentary immunity of four opposition MPs over alleged links to CPC. Ahead of national dialogue expected first half of May, govt 19 April launched consultation process with opposition in capital Bangui; main opposition coalition COD-2020 25 April said it would boycott consultations and dialogue, called for inclusive process involving armed groups. Head of UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) Mankeur Ndiaye 5 April discussed situation in CAR with Russian Deputy FM Mikhail Bogdanov, after UN experts late March alleged “grave human rights abuses” by Russian paramilitaries, raising questions over MINUSCA’s failure to prevent abuses. Thousands, mostly ruling-party supporters, 15 April protested in Bangui after Ndiaye 9 April said solution to conflict was not military and called for dialogue.
President Déby killed amid rebel advance toward capital N’Djamena; fighting could escalate in coming weeks. On presidential election day, Libya-based Chadian rebel group Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) 11 April attacked Zouarké border post, Tibesti region (north), in bid to advance toward N’Djamena and depose Déby. Armed forces 15 April launched airstrikes against rebels in Zouarké area, but FACT next day said it had seized garrison town of Gouri in north. Armed forces 17 April clashed with FACT in Mao area, Kanem region (centre), allegedly killing 300 rebels and detaining 150 more, and later claimed to have halted rebels’ advance. Military 20 April said Déby had died same day from wounds sustained during clashes with rebels near Mao town; Déby’s death came day after provisional election results projected his re-election with 79% of vote. Military immediately suspended constitution, formed Transitional Military Council (CMT) and named Déby’s son, Mahamat Idriss Déby, as CMT president. CMT 21 April published Transitional Charter providing that parliament and govt will remain in place until national transitional council and transitional govt are formed. Most international actors called for return to constitutional order, with AU 22 April urging military to “hand over political power to civilian authorities”, but French FM Jean-Yves le Drian same day recognised military council, citing “exceptional security reasons”. FACT 25 April said it was ready to observe ceasefire and discuss political settlement; CMT same day rejected talks. Renewed fighting reported in Kanem region 27-28 April, with FACT reportedly entering Nokou town 29 April; military 30 April said it had repelled attack. CMT 26 April appointed presidential runner-up in 11 April election, Albert Pahimi Padacké, as civilian interim PM. Protest in N’Djamena calling for return to civilian rule next day turned violent, leaving at least six killed and over 700 arrested. Meanwhile in Lake Chad region, suspected Boko Haram combatants 27 April attacked military camp in Litri locality; clashes reportedly killed at least ten soldiers, 64 jihadists and five civilians. Intercommunal violence continued to rage, notably in Salamat region where herder-farmer clashes 14-15 April left over 100 killed around Ambarit village.
President Ouattara formed new govt without opposition and gave green light for former President Gbagbo’s return. PM Patrick Achi 6 April formed new cabinet comprising 41 members and no opposition representative; members of Ouattara’s inner circle appointed to strategic portfolios, including his brother Téné Birahima Ouattara as defence minister. MPs 14 April elected executive secretary of ruling party Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace, Adama Bictogo, as National Assembly VP; Bictogo to lead Assembly until Speaker Amadou Soumahoro returns from sick leave. After International Criminal Court late March confirmed acquittal of former President Gbagbo and former Youth Minister Charles Blé Goudé on charges of crimes against humanity, govt and Gbagbo’s party reportedly started negotiating conditions of their return. President Ouattara 7 April said both of them were “free to return home whenever they wish”, remained silent on possible amnesty for Gbagbo and Blé Goudé, who remain under prison sentences in Côte d’Ivoire. Govt spokesperson Amadou Coulibaly same day said govt had no intention of jailing Gbagbo upon his return. Six supporters of Gbagbo, including former party officials, 30 April returned to Côte d’Ivoire after ten years in exile in Ghana; return reportedly follows agreement between UN refugee agency and govt. In further appeasement measure, Abidjan prosecutor Richard Adou same day said judge 28-29 April had ordered release of 100 individuals incarcerated for their alleged role in violence around 2020 presidential election. Meanwhile, court in Abidjan 15 April sentenced former warlord Amadé Ouérémi to life imprisonment for having allegedly supervised massacre of hundreds of people in Duékoué city (west) during 2011 post-electoral violence; during trial, Ouérémi accused two current senior army officers of responsibility for killings.
Amid rising insecurity and deadly violence, President Tshisekedi declared “state of siege” in eastern provinces; new coalition govt formed. Tshisekedi 30 April declared “state of siege” in North Kivu and Ituri provinces in east, vowed to “swiftly end insecurity” as move could pave way for military operation in coming weeks. Earlier in month, demonstrations against govt and UN mission (MONUSCO) turned into intercommunal clashes in North Kivu. Notably, protesters 11 April killed two ethnic Kumu in provincial capital Goma; clashes between Kumu and Nande communities 12-13 April left at least 15 dead in Goma and Nyiragongo territory. Elsewhere in North Kivu, armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 23-24 April killed 11 civilians in Beni territory; security forces 30 April used tear gas to disperse protesters who had been camping outside Beni’s town hall for several days, demanding MONUSCO’s departure. In Ituri, armed group Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) 6-16 April killed at least 29 people and kidnapped 36 in Djugu territory. In neighbouring Irumu territory, suspected ADF 4 April kidnapped at least 20 in Mungwanga village and 11-13 April killed 23 across several villages in Bayali-Tchabi chiefdom; coalition of CODECO and Patriotic and Integrationist Front of Congo (FPIC) 20 April killed at least ten in Nyara village. Ituri’s interior minister 18 April warned about possible return of proxy wars between regional actors in Ituri, blaming “rebels from Uganda” for rise in violence. UN Children’s Fund 26 April recorded over 1.6mn displaced and 2.8mn in need of emergency assistance in Ituri, warned about “recent surge in armed and inter-community violence”. Following two months of negotiations, PM Sama Lukonde 12 April presented new cabinet of 57 members; cabinet includes political forces who supported Tshisekedi in forming new Sacred Union coalition after end of his coalition with former President Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC). 138 MPs – all FCC defectors – 14 April denounced Tshisekedi’s control of all key ministries and underrepresentation of certain provinces, and threatened to block new govt’s inauguration; National Assembly 26 April however endorsed new govt.
President Guelleh re-elected for fifth term in landslide vote amid opposition boycott. Electoral authorities 10 April announced incumbent President Guelleh won previous day’s presidential election with 98% of vote; main opposition parties boycotted vote, and sole other candidate, Zakaria Ismael Farah, reportedly garnered less than 5,000 votes. Guelleh 15 April discussed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam with Egyptian President Sisi, said dispute threatens region’s security and stability (see Nile Waters). Somalia 22 April accused Djibouti of “sinister campaigns aimed at derailing political process in Somalia” by allegedly trying to influence outcome of same day AU Peace and Security Council meeting on Somalia’s political crisis (see Somalia).
Authorities acknowledged troops’ presence in Ethiopia’s Tigray region amid mounting international pressure for military withdrawal. As fighting continued between forces of Ethiopia’s federal govt and Tigray (see Ethiopia), Ethiopian FM Demeke Mekonnen 3 April said Eritrean troops had “started to evacuate” from Tigray. NGO Amnesty International 14 April reported Eritrean troops 12 April had deliberately opened fire on civilians in Tigray’s Adwa town, killing at least three and injuring at least 19. In statement to UN Security Council, UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock 15 April said UN had seen no proof of Eritrean withdrawal from Tigray more than two weeks after Addis Ababa made that commitment; U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield same day mentioned “credible reports” that Eritrean troops were “re-uniforming as Ethiopian military”. In first acknowledgment by Eritrean official since conflict started, Eritrean Ambassador to UN Sophia Tesfamariam 16 April acknowledged troops’ presence in Tigray and pledged to withdraw, however repeated Addis Ababa’s narrative that Eritrean troops have only been active in Ethiopia-Eritrea border area. U.S. State Dept 21 April confirmed there was no evidence of Eritrean troops’ withdrawal, reiterated calls for immediate military departure. Meanwhile, pro-Tigray forces Tigray Media House 5 April published interview with 16-year-old Eritrean prisoner of war who said Eritrean troops were sent to Tigray in late 2020 to recapture historic border town of Badme, at centre of 20-year Eritrean-Ethiopian conflict, and other territories.
Intercommunal clashes escalated in several regions, leaving hundreds dead; govt faced mounting international scrutiny over war in Tigray. In Amhara regional state in north, intercommunal clashes between ethnic Oromo and ethnic Amhara resumed, reportedly leaving up to 200 people dead in Oromia Zone, including Ataye town, 16 April; violence prompted protests across region demanding end to mass killings. In disputed area between Afar and Somali regional states in east, clashes between ethnic Afar on one side and ethnic Somali-Issa paramilitaries and militias on the other 2-6 April killed at least 100 people; after initially trading blame for violence, both regional govts 8 April reportedly reached “agreement to immediately resolve” conflict and allow federal govt to investigate clashes. In Oromia regional state in centre, security forces early April reportedly killed 119 suspected Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) insurgents in western Oromia area; suspected OLA fighters late April reportedly killed at least 20 ethnic Amhara in Jimma Zone and another 15 in Horo-Guduru Wollega Zone. In Benishangul-Gumuz regional state in north west, govt-appointed Human Rights Commission 21 April said unidentified armed group had by 19 April established “near-full control” over Sedal district in Kamashi Zone; earlier in month, unidentified gunmen 1 April reportedly killed seven civilians in Mandura district. Amid continued fighting between Tigray’s and federal govt’s forces in Tigray regional state in north, authorities 3 April said Eritrean troops had started withdrawing; UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock 15 April however said UN had seen no proof of Eritrean withdrawal. NGO Amnesty International 14 April said Eritrean soldiers 12 April had opened fire on civilians in Adwa town, killing at least three. NGO World Peace Foundation 6 April accused govt, Eritrean and Amhara regional forces in Tigray of “committing starvation crimes on large scale”, warning of risk of famine; UN Security Council 22 April expressed “deep concern” over reported rights abuses and sexual violence in Tigray, urged “unfettered humanitarian access” to region. New round of talks with Sudan and Egypt over filling and operation of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on Blue Nile river faltered 6 June, prompting further regional tensions (see Nile Waters).
Govt continued to face international scrutiny over human rights record and deadly clashes erupted between gold miners and security forces. Human rights concerns over treatment of opponents continued to emerge. In its annual report, NGO Amnesty International 7 April denounced “human rights violations” in Guinea during previous year, including unlawful killings and arbitrary arrests of opponents, in context of 2020 constitutional referendum and presidential election. AU body African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights mid-April said country’s “legislations restricting fundamental freedoms […] are used against political opponents and human rights defenders”, denounced systematic crackdown on protests. In trial of members of civil society platform National Front for the Defence of the Constitution for alleged involvement in March 2020 deadly electoral violence in N’Zérékoré town (south east), court 9 April sentenced two defendants to ten years in prison, notably on charges of “complicity in murder” and “criminal conspiracy”; all other defendants sentenced to one-year imprisonment on charges of “incitation and participation in illegal protests”. Gold miners and security forces 17 April clashed in Kouroussa town (east), reportedly leaving two dead. Ebola outbreak sparked tensions in east. In sign of growing distrust toward authorities, elderly women early April blocked entrance of medical personnel into Gbakalaye village after cases were detected in area, increasing risk of contaminations.
Political jockeying continued ahead of 2022 general elections. Deputy President William Ruto, locked in power struggle with President Kenyatta, late March-early April reportedly met at least 23 governors in bid to garner support for his 2022 presidential run; mid-April reportedly met some 48 MPs from 11 counties in Mount Kenya area, Rift Valley province and Nairobi, who laid out conditions for supporting him. In rare public comment on his relationship with Kenyatta, Ruto 15 April said he had been subjected to “humiliation” while working as deputy president. Meanwhile, Kenyatta continued to strengthen coalition One Kenya Alliance (OKA) formed late March with four opposition parties, casting doubt on Kenyatta’s support for presidential bid of opposition leader and de facto ally Raila Odinga; OKA members 20 April agreed to take steps to widen coalition. Amid concerns electoral commission may not be ready in time for 2022 election, Kenyatta 14 April declared available four commissioner posts left vacant since 2018; 26 April appointed seven-member panel in charge of selecting commissioners. High Court 8 April suspended for 30 days govt’s late March order to close Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps, host to over 400,000 refugees mostly from South Sudan and Somalia, within four months; govt 29 April announced it would shut down both camps by June 2022; govt and UN refugee agency to form joint team to finalise and implement roadmap toward camps’ closure. Khartoum 22 April accused Kenya of “sinister campaigns aimed at derailing political process in Somalia” by allegedly trying to influence outcome of same day AU Peace and Security Council meeting on Somalia’s political crisis (see Somalia).
Jihadist violence continued unabated in centre and north, and interim authorities announced electoral calendar. In Mopti region (centre), suspected al-Qaeda-linked Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) militants 2 and 6 April raided military positions in Diafarabé and Konna towns, leaving at least four soldiers dead and 21 injured; armed forces reportedly killed 22 militants. JNIM-affiliated Katiba Macina and Bambara communal “Donso” militiamen clashed throughout month in Mopti’s Djenné district, leaving dozens dead on both sides. In Ségou region (also centre), Katiba Macina and Donso militia 16 April announced permanent ceasefire in Niono district; deal builds on March temporary ceasefire that ended five-month jihadist siege on Farabougou village and has significantly reduced tensions in Niono. Also in Niono, Malian and French armed forces 26 April launched airstrikes in Alatona area, reportedly killing 26 suspected jihadists. In Kidal region (north), JNIM 2 April launched sophisticated attack on UN mission (MINUSMA) base in Aguelhok town, Tessalit district, killing four peacekeepers and wounding 16; over 40 assailants also killed; suspected jihadists 25 April launched rocket attack on military base in Tessalit town, wounding three MINUSMA peacekeepers. Meanwhile, Chadian troops deployed since March as part of G5 Sahel force started to engage insurgents in Gao region (also north), killing at least 20 Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants in Fitili and Tin Ajer areas (both Ansongo district) 3-4 April. NGO Human Rights Watch 20 April said Malian soldiers had killed 34 civilians and disappeared at least 16 people during counter-insurgency operations in Mopti region between Oct and March. Unidentified gunmen 13 April shot dead Sidi Brahim Ould Sidati, leader of ex-rebel Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) – signatory to 2015 Algiers peace agreement – in capital Bamako. Interim govt 15 April disclosed electoral agenda in line with transition timeline, scheduling constitutional referendum for Oct, and presidential and parliamentary elections for Feb 2022.
Govt forces claimed they had regained Cabo Delgado’s Palma town from Islamist insurgents. In far north Cabo Delgado province, govt forces supported by South African private military company early April clashed with insurgents in and around Palma district capital, under insurgent control since late March. Military 4 April said town was now “safe” after armed forces cleared last neighbourhood. Authorities mid-April said 41 insurgents and dozens of civilians, including up to 12 foreigners, killed since attack started 24 March, amid widespread destruction and looting of nearly $1mn from Palma banks, while International Organization for Migration late April said violence in Palma had displaced over 30,000 people. Renewed clashes in and around Palma town 20-23 April left at least nine civilians dead. Also in Palma district, insurgents 2 April launched attack outside site of French oil and gas company Total liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant on Afungi peninsula, clashed with govt forces; attack came amid Total’s full staff withdrawal from Afungi; Total 26 April said it was declaring “force majeure” allowing it to suspend LNG project without fulfilling contractual obligations. In Macomia district near border with Muidumbe district, insurgents 8 April looted Novo Cabo Delgado village, clashed with local militia; three insurgents and one militia member killed. Southern Africa regional bloc SADC extraordinary double troika summit of heads of state and govt 8 April agreed to send technical mission to Cabo Delgado to draw up plan for security support package; mission deployed 15-21 April reportedly recommended to send 3,000-strong regional force to far north; extraordinary troika summit of SADC Organ, due to take place on 29 April to discuss proposal, postponed sine die. Meanwhile, leader of Renamo Military Junta (JMR), armed dissident faction of opposition Renamo party, 8 April threatened to make governance of six northern and central provinces “impossible” if govt continued to ignore JMR’s demands for reintegration of fighters. General Commander of police force Bernadino Rafael 14 April ordered police to “relentlessly and professionally” pursue JMR members who did not join demobilisation process.
Jihadists continued to target civilians in south west, fuelling intercommunal tensions, and stepped up attacks on security forces in south east; President Bazoum took office and formed cabinet. In Tillabery region (south west), Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) 4 April set several schools on fire in Torodi commune and 17 April killed 19 ethnic Zarma civilians in Gaigorou village near Ayorou town. In Diffa region (south east), Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) 1 April claimed same day IED attack on army vehicle near Mainé-Soroa town. Suspected ISWAP combatants 3 April attacked army camp near Ngagam displacement site killing four soldiers, and 15 April stormed Mainé-Soroa gendarmerie station, killing two. ISWAP attacks on Nigerian Damasak town at border with Niger 14-16 April displaced up to 65,000 people, including hundreds across border into Niger; jihadist threat could intensify in Diffa in coming months as ISWAP’s activity in Nigeria’s Borno state spreads toward Komadougou Yobé River, which marks border with Niger (see Nigeria). National Human Rights Commission 2 April called for independent inquiry into allegations that Chadian soldiers recently deployed as part of G5 Sahel force sexually abused two women and one child in Tera department, Tillabery region; govt next day said it had arrested suspected soldiers. President Bazoum took office 2 April, next day appointed former President Issoufou’s chief of staff, Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou, as PM; Mahamadou’s considerable influence within ruling Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism could help Bazoum broaden his support base within party. Mahamadou 7 April formed govt of 33 ministers including five women, with two opposition parties that supported Bazoum’s candidacy securing nine ministries; most strategic portfolios handed to Issoufou-era heavyweights. Meanwhile, lack of information on late-March heavy gunfire near presidential palace in capital Niamey sparked rumours of fake news. Notably, supporters of runner-up in presidential election Mahamane Ousmane, who still refuses to acknowledge Bazoum’s victory, 1 April accused govt of having fabricated coup attempt to divert attention from opposition demonstrations.
Country’s multiple violent conflicts further escalated, notably in Borno and Zamfara states, leaving hundreds killed and tens of thousands displaced. In North East, jihadists stepped up attacks as Ramadan started 12 April. Notably, Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) 10-14 April launched three attacks on Damasak town, Borno state, killing at least 20 civilians and displacing about 65,000. Boko Haram combatants from Abubakar Shekau-led faction (JAS) 9 April killed at least 11 civilians in Hong area, Adamawa state, with 5,000 more displaced. ISWAP 23-28 April seized strategic Geidam town, Yobe state, 26 April overran army camp in Mainok town, Borno state, killing about 33 soldiers. Herder-farmer and intercommunal violence rose in several states. Notably, gunmen killed at least 17 farmers in Guma area, Benue state, 23-24 April; 14 farmers in Doma and Keana areas, Nasarawa state, 24-27 April; 19 herders in Awkuzu town, Anambra state, 26 April. Violence involving Fulani traders and vigilantes, followed by armed attacks on villages 19-22 April left at least 83 killed in Maru, Bakura and Maradun areas of Zamfara state. Local militia 8 April killed 11 soldiers amid intercommunal violence in Konshisha area, Benue state. In North West and North Centre, kidnappings for ransom and other violence ran high. In Niger state, gunmen 31 March-1 April killed at least 14, including six soldiers, in Shiroro area, 21 April attacked military camp in Munya area, and 24 April kidnapped 35 in Shiroro and Munya areas. In Kaduna state, gunmen 20-22 April abducted 100 in Chikun and Kajuru areas, later killing at least five of them. In South East and South South, gunmen stepped up attacks on security personnel and facilities, but also ethnic Hausa and Fulani northerners, killing 13 northerners in Enugu and Imo states 29 March-3 April, and freeing over 1,800 inmates at Owerri prison in Imo state 5 April. Authorities blamed Eastern Security Network (ESN), armed wing of outlawed separatist group Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), and security forces 24 April raided ESN headquarters in Awomama town, Imo state, killing 11 including senior commanders. IPOB immediately promised “hell” to those involved.
Tensions continued to mount among Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt ahead of Addis Ababa’s planned second unilateral filling of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in coming months. In apparent warning to Addis Ababa and preparation for possible escalation of inter-state tensions, Sudan and Egypt 31 March-5 April held second joint military exercise since Nov 2020. New round of talks among Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan on filling and operation of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on Blue Nile river broke down 6 April. Cairo same day denounced Ethiopia’s “lack of political will to negotiate in good faith”, while Khartoum vowed to “consider all possible options to protect its security”, denouncing Addis Ababa’s rejection of its proposal for quadripartite mediation by AU, EU, UN and U.S. to break deadlock in AU-led negotiations. Ethiopia’s water minister Seleshi Bekele 7 April said Addis Ababa would proceed with second filling of dam during forthcoming rainy season between June and Sept. Sudan and Egypt 10 April declined Ethiopia’s offer to share data about second filling, reiterating need for legally binding agreement on dam’s operation. Sudan 12 April and Egypt next day called on UN Security Council to encourage Ethiopia to refrain from filling GERD unilaterally before parties reach agreement. Sudanese PM Abdallah Hamdok 13 April called for closed-door meeting with Egyptian and Ethiopian counterparts in bid to break deadlock; Ethiopia 21 April declined Hamdok’s proposal, same day proposed AU-sponsored meeting to end stalemate. Following Hamdok’s 5 April meeting with U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken and Egyptian FM Sameh Shoukry’s 12 April meeting with Russian FM Sergey Lavrov, Ethiopian FM Demeke Mekonnen 15 April denounced “politicising and internationalising” of dispute. Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasir Abbas 23 April said Sudan may sue Ethiopia in international courts if it goes ahead with plan to fill GERD unilaterally.
Amid stalled electoral process, extension of president’s term triggered deadly clashes in capital Mogadishu, and violence could escalate in May; Al-Shabaab attacks continued. Following constitutional expiration of President Farmajo’s mandate in Feb, new round of national consultative council (NCC) talks on electoral framework between federal govt and member states collapsed 7 April. Parliament’s lower house 12 April passed controversial resolution to extend Farmajo’s term by two years. Speaker of Parliament’s upper house immediately said vote was unconstitutional, called on international community to intervene “before it gets out of hand”. Farmajo next day signed measure into law, drawing widespread criticism. Notably, in joint statement, UN Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), AU and others 14 April expressed “deep concern” over term extension and rising tensions, and UN Security Council 23 April urged all parties “to reject violence and resume dialogue”. Pro-opposition soldiers 25 April mutinied and entered Mogadishu, clashed with forces loyal to Farmajo, leaving at least two dozen dead; 60,000 to 100,000 people reportedly displaced. UNSOM and international partners 27 April “strongly condemned outbreak of violence”, said army’s fragmentation along clan lines could distract it from combating Al-Shabaab. After key allies came out against term extension, Farmajo 28 April announced he would ask Parliament to reverse it and pledged to renew dialogue with member states over elections; Puntland state immediately said it would not attend new talks unless invited by international community. Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab attacks continued mainly in Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, Lower Juba and Bay regions, and Mogadishu. Notably, Al-Shabaab 3 April claimed it had killed 67 govt troops in same day twin attacks on Awdhigle and Bariire army bases, Lower Shabelle; army said attacks left 76 militants and nine soldiers dead. In Middle Shabelle, army 13 April said it had killed 25 militants in Gamboole village. In Mogadishu, suspected Al-Shabaab suicide bombings killed five civilians 3 April and at least seven 28 April; mortar attack targeting presidential palace 21 April reportedly killed another three. Minibus 14 April triggered suspected Al-Shabaab landmine on Mogadishu-Balcad axis, leaving at least 14 civilians dead.
Intercommunal clashes left over a dozen dead in Sool region in east, and authorities arrested opposition candidates ahead of parliamentary and local elections scheduled for May. In Sool region, clan fighting in Dhabar-Dalol area 16-18 April left up to 17 dead; violence follows late March deadly clan fighting over disputed territory near Shidan town, Sanaag region along border with Somalia’s Puntland state. Ahead of 31 May parliamentary and local elections, authorities 24 April arrested several opposition candidates from Justice and Welfare Party and Waddani party on undisclosed charges. Electoral commission 26 April said candidates enjoy immunity during election period and cannot be arrested. Govt 15 April expressed “concerns” over political crisis in Somalia, labelled President Farmajo’s leadership as “dictatorship”; same day urged UN to engage more directly with Somaliland as distinct national entity. President Bihi 28 April blamed Somalia’s govt for Mogadishu clashes (see Somalia).
President Kiir took steps to consolidate his power and sideline potential rivals, and intercommunal violence persisted in centre. Amid calls for Kiir to step down, latter 10 and 16 April reshuffled key political and security positions, notably replacing Presidential Affairs Minister Nhial Deng Nhial, army chief Gen Johnson Juma Okot, external intelligence chief Gen Thomas Duoth and Deputy Defence Minister Gen Malek Reuben Riak with perceived hardliners and loyalists. Presidential Press Secretary Ateny Wek Ateny 14 April announced general elections initially scheduled for 2022 would be postponed to June 2023 due to delays in implementation of transitional agenda, drawing immediate criticism from VP Riek Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition. Meanwhile, clashes erupted between Dinka sub-ethnic groups in Lakes state (centre), leaving at least 14 dead in Rumbek North county 7-9 April; 23 killed in Rumbek East county 17-18 April; eight dead in Cueibet county 21 April; and at least 13 more in Yirol West county next day. In Unity state (also centre), suspected armed youths from neighbouring Warrap state 4 April killed at least 18 people in cattle raid in Mayom county. UN Panel of Experts 26 April warned of risk of renewed war amid widening political, military and ethnic divisions. Following late March-early April spate of deadly attacks against commercial truck drivers on South Sudan’s main trade routes with Kenya and Uganda, truckers from two neighbouring countries 3 April went on strike over insecurity, temporarily halting imports and triggering brief trade crisis. Uganda drivers 10 April resumed work after govt deployed military forces along roads to provide additional security. Holdout rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS), which govt accused of carrying out ambushes on trucks, 1 April denied responsibility, blaming govt-affiliated forces. Unidentified assailants 20 April reportedly assaulted Gen Abraham Wana Yoane, military chief of holdout splinter rebel group South Sudan National Movement for Change/Army (SSNMC/A), allied to NAS leader Thomas Cirillo, in Ugandan capital Kampala; Yoane 22 April died from his injuries and SSNMC/A same day claimed govt was responsible.
Intercommunal violence flared up in West Darfur, leaving over 100 dead and tens of thousands displaced; tensions persisted with Ethiopia. Arab and Masalit tribes 3-8 April clashed in and around West Darfur state capital el-Geneina, leaving at least 125 dead and reportedly displacing tens of thousands; fighting reportedly drawing in militia fighters from both sides arriving from other parts of Darfur and neighbouring Chad. High-level delegation led by Sovereign Council head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan 12 April arrived in el-Geneina for two-day visit in attempt to mediate between two sides; Masalit tribe representatives 15 April rejected mediation outcome, accused members of paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of supporting recurrent attacks on Masalit tribespeople by Chadian gunmen. West Darfur governor 20 April declared el-Geneina disaster zone, requested humanitarian support from govt. In South Kordofan state, intercommunal clashes late April reportedly left “large number” dead in el-Hamid district. Meanwhile, tensions persisted with Ethiopia over disputed Al-Fashqa border zone. Authorities 3 April temporarily closed Gallabat-Metema border crossing after Ethiopian militia 1 April reportedly attacked Sudanese customs officers, and army 9 April said it had taken control of 95% of Al-Fashqa. Authorities 12 April reportedly handed over to Addis Ababa 61 Ethiopian troops taken prisoner in disputed area since conflict started in Dec 2020; Addis Ababa 21 April denied released prisoners were soldiers. After latest round of talks on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on Blue Nile river faltered 6 April, govt 23 April said it may sue Ethiopia before international courts if Addis Ababa fills GERD unilaterally in coming months (see Nile Waters). In apparent warning to Addis Ababa and preparation for possible escalation, Sudan 31 March-5 April had held second joint military exercise with Egypt since Nov 2020. UN Security Council 26 April discussed Sudan’s request to replace Ethiopian peacekeepers deployed as part of UN peacekeeping mission in disputed Abyei area at border with South Sudan; Khartoum cited security concerns in light of growing bilateral tensions. Authorities 19 April officially repealed Israel boycott law, paving way for normalisation of relations, which Sudan agreed to in Jan as part of U.S.-brokered deal.
Newly-inaugurated President Suluhu Hassan distanced herself from predecessor Magufuli’s policies, signalling possible willingness to open up political space going forward. In stark departure from late President Magufuli, Hassan 6 April said it was “not proper to ignore” COVID-19 and vowed to establish task force to advise govt on measures to curb pandemic. After Hassan 6 April said media banned under Magufuli should be allowed to operate, govt next day said only online television channels would benefit from measure. Hassan took steps to improve relationship and trade with regional partners, notably hosting Kenyan delegation in largest city Dar es Salaam 10 April and committing to strengthening relationship with neighbouring country. In first visit abroad since taking office, Hassan next day travelled to Uganda, signed agreements with President Museveni paving way for construction of pipeline between two countries. Meanwhile, chairperson of main opposition Chadema party Freeman Mbowe 11 April called on Hassan and govt to revise constitution to limit presidential terms and powers, saying current constitution gives “someone the chance to be dictator or king”. Chadema’s vice chairperson and 2020 presidential candidate Tundu Lissu – who fled country after 2020 general elections – 24 April listed six conditions for his return, including assurances from govt on his safety and pardoning of political prisoners.
Govt faced mounting international pressure to end crackdown on dissent and improve democratic credentials. UN human rights expert panel 13 April urged govt to “immediately stop the brutal crackdown on its political opponents”, called for investigation into “allegations of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrest and detention, enforced disappearance, torture and ill treatment” in lead-up to and after general elections held in Jan. FM Sam Kutesa same day denied security forces’ involvement in abductions, said authorities would launch investigations and prosecute anyone suspected of wrongdoings. Meanwhile, U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 16 April announced visa restrictions on Ugandans “believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process” during recent electoral process. Govt immediately decried move as “unfortunate”, while opposition leader Bobi Wine 19 April welcomed sanctions and called on other countries to follow suit. In north, ethnic Karimojong cattle raiders 2 April attacked Nalemupal village, Moroto district, killing seven-year-old and injuring two other persons.
Authorities continued to clamp down on opposition and civil society and parliament voted on controversial constitutional amendments consolidating President Mnangagwa’s hold on power. Magistrate Court in capital Harare 6 April sentenced Makomborero Haruzivishe, member of Nelson Chamisa-led faction (MDC-A) of main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change, to 14 months in prison for allegedly “inciting violence” and “resisting arrest” during anti-govt protest in Feb 2020; police same day reportedly disrupted MDC-A press conference and lashed out at people gathered outside court, leaving one journalist injured and five people arrested. Harare Magistrate Court 13 April denied MDC-A MP Joana Mamombe and MDC-A youth leader Cecilia Chimbiri bail for third time since they were detained in early March on charges of violating COVID-19 regulations; trial set for 5 May. Authorities 26 April arrested MDC-A Youth Assembly Chairperson Obey Sithole on allegations of “criminal nuisance” for allegedly participating in demonstration earlier in month. High Court 28 April quashed charges of “communicating false information prejudicial to the state” levelled against investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, saying law used to arrest him in Jan no longer existed. Meanwhile, High Court 14 April nullified March expulsion of six MDC-A MPs from Parliament, ruling that competing MDC faction MP who initiated procedure did not have authority to do so. Mnangagwa throughout month pushed through Parliament raft of constitutional amendments paving way for him to handpick his vice presidents and senior judges including chief justice, deputy chief justice and judge president of the High Court; move comes as position of second VP currently left vacant following resignation of VP Kembo Mohadi last month. Chamisa 21 April denounced “dictatorial amendment to the constitution”. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 15 April urged Mnangagwa to implement reforms to advance constitutional rights and freedoms, and to “embrace inclusive national dialogue” to resolve country’s socio-economic and political crises.
Taliban attacks continued at high intensity amid signs group could be gearing up for May offensive, while U.S. announced full troop withdrawal by 11 Sept 2021. Taliban continued daily violent attacks in several key areas suggesting preparation for large-scale offensive in coming months, likely after 1 May – date on which U.S. forces are supposed to withdraw according to Feb 2020 deal. In Kunduz province (north), significant Taliban attacks 6, 11, 14 April killed ten police officers on outskirts of Kunduz city, and attacks in border town of Imam Saheb district 6 and 15 April killed at least seven security personnel and as many as eight Taliban militants. In Sar-e Pul province (north), Taliban attacks 9 and 11 April killed five security forces, marking unusually high level of violence in province. In Zabul province (south), Taliban attack involving car bomb 15 April killed ten soldiers on military base in Shahjoy district. In Balkh province (north), Taliban attacks 13 and 22 April killed 18 soldiers and eight more were taken as prisoners. In Qarabagh district in Ghazni province (centre), fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban displaced around 650 families. In Logar province (east), car bomb 30 April killed at least 27 people and injured over 100. Targeted killings continued across country, although attacks decreased in capital Kabul throughout month; notably, gunmen 18 April killed Afghan Air Force member and 21 April killed university security guard in Mazar-e Sharif city (north). In Kandahar province (south), insider attack at security outpost 11 April killed eight police officers. In major announcement, U.S. President Biden 14 April said U.S. will start evacuating remaining troops from 1 May and intends to fully withdraw from Afghanistan by 11 Sept 2021. Responding to leaked reports, Taliban 13 April rejected U.S.-proposed summit on Afghan Peace Process in Turkey on 24 April on basis that they refuse to attend any Afghan peace summit until all foreign forces are pulled out of Afghanistan; Ankara later confirmed summit postponed. U.S. continued to support diplomatic efforts and rally regional and international consensus to pressure Taliban to remain engaged in talks.
Tensions continued to run high following anti-India unrest in March, as authorities arrested dozens of protest leaders and activists; election-related violence persisted. Following last month’s deadly protests by Islamist groups and student activists against Indian PM Modi’s visit, PM Hasina 4 April said Hefazat-e-Islam is disgrace to name of Islam and blamed oppositionBangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami for inciting violence. Further clashes between police and Hefazat-e-Islam supporters 2 April left at least 20 injured, including several police officers. Since last month’s protests, authorities arrested over 100 Hefazat leaders and activists, including Joint Secretary General Mamunul Haque on 17 April in capital Dhaka. Hefazat-e-Islam Acting Amir Januyed Babunagri 2 and 19 April asked govt to stop harassing and arresting Hefazat leaders. Violent clashes between Awami League factions over upcoming municipality elections persisted: clashes 1, 8 and 14 April left two killed and at least 24 injured in Pabna, Kustia and Madaripur districts. Meanwhile, govt continued to use Digital Security Act to stifle critics. Teenager 1 April faced court after govt supporter filed charges against him for making video mocking PM Hasina and Modi; ruling Awami League leader 18 April lodged case against civil society activist. Counter-terrorism police in Dhaka 10 April arrested Rezaul Haque, acting amir of banned Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen. International concerns over relocation of Rohingya refugees continued. Fire at market near Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar district 2 April killed three and destroyed at least 20 shops. Diplomats from EU, U.S., UK and others 3 April visited Bhasan Char, low-lying flood-prone island in Bay of Bengal, to assess facilities for Rohingya refugees. Following March visit to inspect safety, UN 16 April urged govt to move refugees in “gradual and phased manner”. FM Momen same day told reporters he would demand 10% of funds raised by humanitarian agencies for Rohingyas in Bangladesh if they refused to provide services to refugees in Bhasan Char.
Amid ongoing Japan-China tensions, Tokyo deepened international security ties. Chinese carrier group 3 April reportedly spotted passing international waterway between Japan’s Okinawa and Miyako islands. In phone conversation with Chinese FM Wang Yi, Japanese FM Toshimitsu Motegi 6 April expressed “strong concern” over recent Chinese incursions into Japan’s territorial waters while Chinese counterpart urged Japan to steer clear of “internal issues.” In reassertion of its claim over disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, China’s Coast Guard 25 April publicised its patrol within territorial waters of islands and China’s ministry of natural resources next day published topographic maps of islands. Japanese PM Suga 26 April voiced “grave concerns” over China’s aggressive actions in surrounding waters during call with Indian PM Modi. Tokyo next day published annual diplomatic assessment, expressing strong concern over Chinese military activities; Beijing same day protested. In sign of deepening ties with Germany, Japan 13 April held high-level security dialogue with Berlin, proposed holding joint naval drills when German frigate visits Asia later in year. Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force 15 April announced nationwide exercises for first time in 30 years to boost deterrence and Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi 23 April confirmed military exercises with U.S. and France 11-17 May in Japan’s south west. Suga and U.S. President Biden 17 April met in Washington D.C., committed alliance to face up to challenges posed by China and oppose coercion in South and East China Seas; Chinese MFA same day rejected statement; Suga 20 April told Parliament statement “does not presuppose military involvement at all”.
Maoists launched deadliest ambush in four years, deadly COVID-19 wave engulfed country, and govt and China held new round of talks on disputed border. In deadliest and most daring attack on security forces since 2017, hundreds of Maoist insurgents 3 April ambushed security patrol in Chhattisgarh state (centre), killing 22 security forces personnel and injuring over 30 others; attack prompted govt to step up counter-insurgency operations in region. Maoist violence also continued elsewhere, including in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand states. Notably, in Maharashtra state (west), Maoists 3 April killed local official in Gadchiroli district. In Chhattisgarh state, Maoists 16 April attacked road workers in Sukma district, killing employee. In Odisha state (east), security forces 23 April killed Maoist in Kalahandi district. In Jharkhand state (east), Maoists 23 April shot dead civilian in West Singhbhum district. Meanwhile, COVID-19 infections reached alarming proportions as health ministry 24 April reported over 345,000 cases in previous 24 hours, with total of at least 200,000 deaths so far. In many cities, including capital New Delhi, govt and private hospitals faced shortage of oxygen, and cremation grounds were extended to accommodate increase in deaths; Modi govt throughout month faced criticism for having allowed – despite COVID-19 concerns – recent political rallies and weeks-long Hindu festival Kumbh Mela which attracts millions of pilgrims from across country. China-India border talks stalled over sequencing of border troop withdrawal. Indian and Chinese military officials 9 April met in eastern Ladakh province for 11th round of talks on disengagement along Line of Actual Control (LAC), two months after 10th round; MFA previous day stated India “would like to see disengagement in the remaining areas”. Talks made no progress as Chinese side reportedly proposed to first “deescalate” troops, meaning to pull back troops who sit behind the front lines, while Indian side proposed to “disengage” front-line troops from additional areas from border. Referring to border crisis, Indian Ambassador to China Vikram Misri 15 April said it was “inadvisable” to “sweep this situation under the carpet and characterise it as just a minor issue and a matter of perspective”.
Ceasefire continued to hold along Line of Control (LoC, dividing Pakistan and Indian-administered Kashmir), while insecurity persisted inside Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). India-Pakistan relations seemed to ease as details on backchannel talks emerged and both sides respected LoC ceasefire. After Islamabad 31 March announced resumption of trade ties with India, suspended since Aug 2019, Pakistan’s PM Khan 1 April backtracked and 4 April said there would be “no normalisation of relations with India until it reversed its illegal actions” in J&K. Media report 23 April indicated Pakistan expects India to take first step in creating “enabling environment” for dialogue, for example by releasing political prisoners, easing movement, or reducing military presence. United Arab Emirates (UAE) 14 April confirmed for first time their mediation role in Feb agreement in which India and Pakistan pledged to respect ceasefire along LoC. U.S. National Intelligence Council 7 April warned India and Pakistan may stumble into large-scale war neither side wants, “especially following a terrorist attack that the Indian government judges to be significant”. Inside J&K, attack on ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader 1 April killed one police officer. Security forces next day killed three militants in Pulwama district, including two allegedly involved in BJP leader attack. Anti-India protests erupted in response to operation, injuring at least four civilians. Militants 9 April shot dead soldier in Anantnag district. Security forces 11 April killed five militants in Anantnag and Shopian districts. Militants same day killed civilian in Budgam district. Police 13 April arrested two alleged militants and three alleged militant sympathisers in Kupwara district; authorities next day arrested alleged militant and three alleged sympathisers in Kulgram district, and alleged militant in Budgam district 24 April. Police 15-16 April arrested and fired female special police officer for “glorifying terrorism” and “obstructing” security operation in Kulgram district, and arrested teacher in Bandipora district for allegedly supporting Laskhar-e-Tayyaba group. J&K police chief Vijay Kumar early April advised journalists to avoid live media coverage of security operations against militants or protests; J&K’s press club responded that “any such attack on press freedom and journalism is highly distressful”.
Amid series of deadly attacks in Papua’s Puncak district, govt designated Papuan separatist armed groups as “terrorists”. Armed assailants 8-9 April killed two teachers and set on fire three schools in Juluokma village in Beoga sub-district, Puncak district; authorities said attackers belonged to separatist armed group West Papua Liberation Army. Authorities 14-15 April evacuated 35 civilians, including teachers and health workers, from Beoga to Timika city, Mimika district, while security forces launched Operation Nemangkawi to find those responsible for violence. In subsequent days, suspected armed separatists 25-26 April killedregional intelligence officer Brigadier General I Gusti Putu Danny Karya Nugraha during shoot-out in Puncak district; President Joko Widodo 26 April declared “there is no place for armed groups in Papua” and ordered arrests of all separatists. Govt 29 April announcedcategorisation of “organisations and people in Papua who commit mass violence” as “terrorists”; NGO Amnesty International next day expressed concern that terrorist designation “only increases the potential for even further human rights violations.”
Amid concerns over North Korea (DPRK) economic situation, Japan and U.S. committed to working toward denuclearisation of peninsula. As concerns persisted over suspected economic and COVID-19 crises, DPRK leader Kim Jong-un 6 April acknowledged country was facing “worst-ever situation” during meeting of Workers’ Party’s secretaries in capital Pyongyang and urged members to carry out new five-year economic plan as decided at party congress in Jan. Kim Jong-un 9 April called on country to prepare for another “arduous march” — phrase commonly used to describe country’s struggle with famine in 1990s. Meanwhile, U.S., South Korea and Japan 2 April met in U.S. for high-level security summit to discuss cooperation on addressing North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs; in joint statement reaffirmed “concerted trilateral cooperation towards denuclearization”, and agreed on need for full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea. South Korean exit polls in election for key mayoral posts – including in capital Seoul and in port of Busan – 7 April showed landslide victory for main opposition People Power Party, as Progressive Democratic party of President Moon suffered crushing defeat amid string of political scandals. After official poll results, South Korean PM Chung 16 April resigned and President Moon same day reshuffled cabinet and appointed new PM. South Korean court 21 April upheld Japan’s state immunity and dismissed lawsuit submitted by group of South Korean “comfort women” forced to work as sex slaves during Japanese occupation, contradicting Jan ruling in separate case that ordered Tokyo to compensate 12 victims.
Security forces continued brutal crackdown on anti-coup protesters and civilians, escalating their counter-insurgency practices, as resistance groups launched sporadic deadly attacks on military. Pro-democracy protesters demanding end to military rule continued rallies nationwide, notably in Yangon, Mandalay and many other towns and cities; police and military responded with deadly force, including by opening fire on protesters; death toll of security crackdown since 1 Feb surpassed 750 people. In major attack, military 9 April assaulted multiple protest camps in Bago town, using for first time mortars and rifle grenades, killing at least 80 civilians. Resistance groups in several parts of country targeted military convoys, as well as ward and village-tractgeneral administration offices. Notably, resistance forces 9 April ambushed military convoy in Tamu, Sagaing region, killing three soldiers; in Chin State, resistance fighters 27 April killed at least 16 soldiers in fighting in Mindat town. State media 9 April announced that military tribunal in North Okkalapa had sentenced to death 19 protesters who allegedly attacked military in March. Opponents of junta 16 April announced creation of National Unity Government. In northern Shan State, military 7-8 April met with leaders of armed groups United Wa State Army and Shan State Progress Party in effort to bolster ceasefires. In Kachin State, Kachin Independence Army (KIA) 8 April ambushed military convoy in rural part of Mogaung township; military same day fired artillery at Laiza town, headquarters of KIA and its civilian wing. Militants associated with Three Brotherhood Alliance (consisting of Arakan Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and Ta’ang National Liberation Army) 10 April attacked police station outside of Lashio, killing at least 14 policemen, making it first attack since late March decision to re-evaluate unilateral ceasefire. Unidentified attackers 27 April fired rockets at military bases in country’s centre. International pressure continued. UK 1 April imposed sanctions on conglomerate Myanmar Economic Corporation; EU 19 April imposed sanctions on junta; U.S. 21 April added two state-owned enterprises to sanctions list. Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing 25 April attended summit of regional bloc ASEAN, agreeing five-point statement calling for cessation of violence and dialogue.
Ruling party and opposition continued competing efforts to secure majority in parliament; meanwhile, govt faced criticism for handling of COVID-19 pandemic. Prospects of potential vote of no-confidence against PM KP Oli continued to linger with opposition Nepali Congress — which has 61 seats in 275-member House of Representatives — 2 April announcing decision to seek Oli’s resignation and form new govt under its own leadership; Nepali Congress, however, had yet to follow through on its decision by late April, leading to claims from observers that some of its leaders would prefer holding early elections instead. Ruling Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist or UML), accelerated its outreach to opposition Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP) — the fourth largest party holding 32 seats in parliament — including by offering to release detained JSP cadres in exchange for party joining the UML govt; potential UML-JSP coalition govt would likely render any no-confidence motion against Oli unsuccessful. Capital Kathmandu 29 April entered another strict lockdown following sharp uptick in COVID-19 infections, which increased 1,000% 15-30 April, leading to widespread criticism of govt for lack of precautionary measures and preparedness despite earlier appeals from ministry of health and population officials.
Deadly unrest erupted after political-religious group launched nationwide protests against ruling party; militant attacks continued at high intensity. Ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) govt faced its most serious security crisis during its two-and-a-half years in power amid violent protests throughout country. Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) chief Saad Hussain Rizvi 11 April announced countrywide protests planned for 20 April in protest at govt’s failure to abide by Nov 2020 agreement to deport French ambassador over cartoons deemed blasphemous; authorities next day arrested Rizvi in Lahore city. Arrest triggered violent protests, killing four police officers and injuring at least 100; TLP claimed three supporters killed. Govt 15 April banned TLP under anti-terrorismlaw. Protests ended after govt 20 April accepted most TLP demands, including discussing French ambassador’s expulsion in Parliament, and releasing detained leaders and activists. PTI parliamentarian 20 April introduced resolution in Parliament. Yet, opposition parties’ rejection of the proposal to form special parliamentary committee to discuss issue risks renewed TLP protests. Unity among Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), 11-party opposition alliance including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), further fragmented after five PDM parties 3 April opted to form separate opposition block in senate. PTI candidate 11 April lost by large margin to PML-N’s candidate for seat in Punjab’s Sialkot district. Militant attacks and security operations continued. Notably, Pakistani Taliban suicide car attack on hotel in Balochistan’s capital Quetta 21 April killed five and wounded scores; attack possibly targeted visiting Chinese ambassador staying in hotel. Bomb blast 28 April killed police officer in Balochistan’s Qilla Abdullah district; earlier, bomb blast at football tournament 13 April injured at least 14 civilians in Hub district. Security forces 3 and 4 April claimed to have killed two Pakistani Taliban militants in North Waziristan, and Pakistani Taliban militant 13 April in South Waziristan district. Police 11 April claimed killing previous night high-profile Pakistani Taliban militant in Rawalpindi city, Punjab province. Internationally, Russian FM Sergei Lavrov 7-8 April met with PM Khan, Army Chief Javed Bajwa and FM Mahmood Qureshi; agreed on deepening defence and counter-terrorism cooperation.
Low-level violence continued in south between militant groups and security forces. In Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in south, clashes between insurgents and security forces took place at relatively low levels throughout month. In Cotabato City, explosion 1 April injured two civilians while six Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters combatants 17 April surrendered to govt; in Marawi in Lanao del Sur province, security forces 12 April exchanged fire with leader of jihadist organisation Daulah Islamiyah; in town of Datu Salibo in Maguindanao province, joint police and military operation 14 April resulted in killing of leader of crime group; in Tipo-Tipo municipality on Basilan island, IED 12 April injured two persons; in Patikul town in Sulu province, clash 22 April killed three militants, including Egyptian foreign fighter. Smaller cohorts of Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Abu Sayyaf Group 10 April surrendered to govt in Sulu province. Meanwhile, clashes between communist New People’s Army and armed forces continued in Luzon in north, Visayas in centre and Mindanao in south, although at lower level of violence compared to March. At least 20 combatants and civilians killed throughout month. Internationally, the dispute between Manila and Beijing over Chinese military incursion at disputed Whitsun Reef continued (see South China Sea).
Heated exchanges continued between Philippines and China over Chinese maritime presence at disputed reef in South China Sea (SCS). Following late March diplomatic protest over continued presence of some 200 Chinese vessels at disputed Whitsun Reef, Filipino FM Teodoro Locsin 2 April met Chinese FM Wang Yi in Nanping city in China; Wang said China is willing to work with Philippines to fully abide by 2002 Declaration on Conduct of Parties. Filipino Secretary of Defence Delfin Lorenzana next day demanded that Chinese ships at Whitsun Reef “get out”; in response, Chinese embassy in Manila reiterated assertion that Chinese fishermen have traditionally fished at reef; Filipino MFA 5 April denounced Chinese embassy’s attempt to promote “clearly false narrative of China’s expansive and illegitimate claims”. U.S. Sec State Blinken 8 April spoke with Filipino FM Locsin about Whitsun Reef and again affirmed Mutual Defence Treaty applied to SCS. U.S. and Philippine armed forces 12 April commenced annual two-week “Balikatan” joint military exercises. Philippines 12 April summoned Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian to convey Manila’s dismay over “illegal lingering presence” of Chinese ships at Whitsun Reef, after which “both sides affirmed the use of peaceful settlement of disputes”; 14, 21 April filed further diplomatic protests concerning disputed reef. President Duterte 19 April said in public address that he would send navy ships to SCS to “stake a claim” to resources. EU 24 April issued statement noting presence of Chinese vessels at Whitsun Reef, opposed “unilateral actions that could undermine regional stability”. Filipino coast guard 26 April deployed numerous vessels for training in SCS; in response, Beijing 28 April protested; Lorenzana same day said China has “no authority” to prevent drills. Meanwhile, U.S. military activity in region continued: aircraft carrier strike group USS Theodore Roosevelt 6-7 April conducted exercises with Malaysian navy in SCS; U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt then 9 April carried out exercises with USS Makin Islandamphibious group; China’s MFA 9 April called on U.S. to stop “inciting quarrels and sowing discord”.
Country commemorated deadly 2019 Easter attacks as authorities furthered “anti-extremism” agenda; meanwhile, govt bill on Colombo mega project sparked legal challenges. As country marked second anniversary of Islamic State (ISIS)-inspired Easter suicide bombings that killed over 260 people, govt continued to pursue “anti-extremism” agenda. Activists 8 April filed lawsuit challenging constitutionality of new “deradicalisation” regulations introduced in March that allow extended detention without charge. Govt 10 April formally proscribed 11 “extremist” groups, including range of local Salafi groups and Muslim charity funded by two suicide bombers of April 2019 attacks. Attorney general 20 April indicted 16 Muslim men detained without trial for almost two years for their alleged involvement in Dec 2018 vandalism of Buddhist statues in town of Mawanella. Police 24 April arrested Rishad Bathiudeen, Muslim legislator and leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Party, in connection with 2019 bombings. Cabinet 28 April approved ban on burqas and other religious face-coverings on “national security” grounds. Catholic Cardinal and Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Ranjith 18 April claimed Easter attacks were “politically driven”, and the victims “attacked not by religious extremism, but by a group that exploited it […] to strengthen their political power.” Opposition MPs 20 April alleged govt was covering up evidence indicating contacts between military intelligence officials loyal to President Rajapaksa, then in opposition, and bombers before Easter attacks. PM Rajapaksa 9 April introduced legally unprecedented resolution in Parliament to implement recommendations of presidential commission on “political victimisation” to dismiss ongoing murder, corruption and other criminal cases against Rajapaksa family members and loyalists and to prosecute investigators, prosecutors and witnesses. Meanwhile, govt 8 April introduced bill granting unprecedented legal autonomy to Colombo port city, its multi-billion-dollar flagship economic project financed by Chinese company; more than dozen organisations and opposition parties challenged bill in lawsuits filed at Supreme Court. Former minister and ruling party MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe told court on 20 April bill would create “a haven for money laundering” and 15 April criticised project for establishing “Chinese colony”; Rajapakshe alleged President Rajapaksa next day threatened him for his criticisms.
Amid intense Chinese military activities, U.S. bolstered its diplomatic support for Taipei. Ten Chinese military aircrafts 5 April conducted simultaneous military exercises west and east of Taiwan; Chinese navy same day said such drills would become regular. Taiwanese defence ministry claimed series of Chinese military aircraft entered Air Defence Identification Zone throughout month; it noted that China 12 April dispatched 25 military aircraft in largest ever incursion since Sept 2020. Other reported Chinese incursions included two J-16 fighter jets, one KJ-500 airborne plane and one Y-8 reconnaissance plane 6 April; 15 Chinese aircraft, including 12 fighters 7 April; two Y-8 anti-submarine warfare planes 8 April; four J-16 fighter jets and one Y-8 anti-submarine warfare plane 13 April; two J-16 fighter jets 15 April; and five J-16 fighter jets, two Y-8 anti-submarine warfare planes 20 April. Taiwanese FM Joseph Wu 7 April said island will defend itself “to the very last day” if attacked; China 14 April reiterated it prefers peaceful reunification and all options including military force remain. Meanwhile, U.S. continued military activity in region. John S. McCain guided missile destroyer 7 April conducted “routine” transit of Taiwan Strait; China next day protested passage. On diplomatic front, U.S. 9 April issued new guidelines to enable U.S. officials to meet freely with Taiwanese officials; in response, China 13 April told U.S. to stop “playing with fire”. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 11 April concerned at China’s “increasingly aggressive actions” against Taiwan, warned it would be “serious mistake” to try to change status quo by force; U.S. President Biden 13 April sent unofficial delegation of three former senior officials to Taiwan in “personal signal” of support. Media reports 20 April indicated that U.S. administration set to approve its first weapons sales to Taiwan. Australian defence minister 25 April said conflict over Taiwan cannot be discounted.
Pro-democracy activists held protests throughout month on smaller scale, while violence continued in deep south. Pro-democracy protest movement continued activities throughout month in capital Bangkok and other cities, calling for release of jailed 22 protest leaders, amendment of lèse-majesté law and reform of monarchy; resurgent COVID-19 cases throughout month ensured turnout at protests remained in lower, double-digit figures. Leaderless rallies earlier in month descended into violent clashes between protesters and police. Two prominent protest leaders in detention remained on hunger strike; at least 83 people have been summoned by police on lèse-majesté charges since law was revived in Nov. Core leader of National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship Jatuporn Prompan 4 April launched group called “People United” at rally in Bangkok, seeking ouster of PM Prayuth Chan-ocha. Violence in deep south continued. In Pattani province, clash between militants and police 6 April killed Muslim religious leader in Khok Pho district; six assailants 12 April seized two Muslim assistant village chiefs before setting fire to road-repair work site in Thung Yang Daeng district; two cell towers, CCTV camera, tires and security post 13-14 April were set alight in Yarang and Thepa districts. In Bacho district, Narathiwat province, marine outpost 13 April was targeted by pipe bomb. Militants 22 April threw IED at defence volunteer outpost in Yi-ngo district, Narathiwat; in ensuing gun battle, police killed one militant and arrested two others. In Sai Buri district, Pattani, motorcycle-borne gunmen opened fire on pickup truck, forcing it off the road and setting it alight, killing driver and two passengers.
Tensions persisted with Azerbaijan, PM Pashinyan resigned ahead of June elections, and U.S. President Biden recognised 1915 Armenian genocide. PM Pashinyan 7 April asked Russian President Putin for help in releasing dozens of prisoners of war captured by Azerbaijan during and after the military escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) in late 2020. Govt next day said that it expected group of prisoners of war to be repatriated to its capital Yerevan from Azerbaijan’s capital Baku; transport plane however arrived empty, prompting authorities 9 April to accuse Azerbaijan of violating terms of Russian-brokered Nov 2020 agreement (see Nagorno-Karabakh). Azerbaijani President Aliyev 12 April opened new Military Trophy Park in Baku, displaying installations of Armenian trenches and soldiers in NK, prompting public outcry in Armenia. Meanwhile, PM Pashinyan 14 April told Parliament that govt was considering possible expansion of existing Russian military base in Gyumri town amid concern over attempts by Azerbaijan and Turkey to take over some parts of region; Armenian chief of general staff next day discussed expansion of Russian troops to Armenia’s south with Russian counterparts during visit to Moscow. Domestically, judge 6 April dropped criminal case against former President Robert Kocharyan and co-defendants over deadly crackdown on protesters in 2008; Constitutional Court found that basis on which they were prosecuted in Criminal Code was “invalid”. Pashinyan 25 April resigned as PM as part of preparations for elections anticipated for 20 June. U.S. President Joe Biden 24 April became first U.S. president to formally recognise 1915 Armenian genocide; Pashinyan said Biden “honoured the memory” of those who died.
Tensions persisted with Armenia over repatriation of prisoners of war from Azerbaijan. Armenian Deputy PM Tigran Avinian 9 April accused Baku of violating terms of Russian-brokered Nov ceasefire by refusing to free Armenian soldiers and civilians captured during Autumn 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict. In response, FM Ceyhun Bayramov 9 April stated that Baku had no more prisoners or detainees, and all of those detained in Azerbaijan were Armenian terrorists (see Nagorno-Karabakh). President Aliyev 12 April opened new Military Trophy Park in centre of capital Baku, displaying installations of Armenian trenches and soldiers in NK, prompting public outcry in Armenia; Council of Europe commissioner for human rights 27 April raised concerns over park and called on Aliyev “to take a firm stance against any rhetoric or actions which lead to triggering animosity or hatred”; Baku same day rebuffed statement.
Opposition leader called for greater international support while President Lukashenka claimed assassination attempt and U.S.-backed coup plot. Following low ebb of opposition protests in recent months, opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya 20 April described level of repression in Belarus as “unprecedented” and called on EU to be “faster and braver” in its actions against govt. In sign of possible splintering of opposition unity, former diplomat Pavel Latushko 8 April announced separate political party. Lukashenka 17 April claimed assassination attempt was being prepared against him and his two sons as well as military coup by “a group of foreign secret services, probably the CIA and the FBI” and approved “by the top political leadership” in U.S.; Russian security services same day reported they detained two individuals allegedly planning military coup in Belarus. Chair of Central Election Commission 27 April said referendum on constitutional amendments promised by Lukashenka likely to take place in early 2022.
Political tensions grew after memo promoting country’s partition circulated publicly. Leaked memo advocating partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina along ethnic lines 12 April surfaced in Slovenian press; memo allegedly originated from office of Slovenian PM Janez Janša and was reportedly sent to EU Council President Charles Michel in Feb; in response, Janša and Slovenian President Borut Pahor 12 April denied role in writing memo. EU delegation in Bosnia and Herzegovina 15 April said EU “unequivocally committed to the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity” of country. In response to leak, Bakir Izetbegović, leader of largest Bosniak political party, Party of Democratic Action, 20 April told media he was “not sure that there would be no war”. Leader of Republika Srpska entity Milorand Dodik same day announced initiative to formally discuss country’s future with Croat and Bosniak counterparts; proposal followed videos previous days from Dodik calling for “peaceful break-up” of country. International partners expressed opposition to leaked memo’s proposals. U.S. ambassador to country 28 April warned that “sanctions for destabilizing the[Dayton Peace Agreement]and for corruption are on the table” while German FM Heiko Mass 22 April said redrawing borders “is not only unrealistic, but it is dangerous to even initiate this discussion”.
Informal five-plus-one talks commenced in Geneva, ending without breakthrough but with sides expressing willingness to continue dialogue in near future. Leaders of two Cypriot communities, UN and three guarantor powers Greece, Turkey and UK 27-29 April met in Swiss city Geneva for informal talks. Meeting concluded without bridging differences between Greek Cypriot delegation, which favours bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, and Turkish Cypriot delegation, which seeks two-state solution; following talks, UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres 29 April concluded: “We have not yet found enough common grounds to allow for the resumption of formal negotiations”, but announced that sides voiced willingness to hold further informal talks in coming months. Ahead of meeting, thousands of protesters from both Cypriot communities 24 April rallied in support of reunification. Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar 25 April said “only realistic solution” is one “based on the sovereign equality of two states living side by side”. Meanwhile, Greek and Turkish sides exchanged fiery rhetoric. Turkish President Erdoğan 14 April said if “rights of Northern Cyprus are usurped” then Turkey will intervene as “our ships are ready to sail”. Turkish FM Mevlut Çavuşoğlu next day said negotiating federation, which Turkey has done for past five decades, is waste of time and impossibility; remarks followed Greek PM Mitsotakis’s comments last month that “Turkish aggression against Cyprus undermines Ankara’s European course and essentially the very resumption of talks on resolving the Cyprus issue”.
Ankara hosted high-level Greek delegation for talks on regional disputes while maritime tensions continued between Turkey and Greece. In first visit by Greek minister in over two years, Greek FM Nikos Dendias 15 April met his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Çavuşoğlu in Turkish capital Ankara for talks on contentious issues dividing NATO allies, including Cyprus, demilitarisation of Aegean islands and other issues. Outcome of meeting proved positive as sides confirmed resumption of political consultations, exploratory talks and military-to-military contacts on confidence-building measures; Dendias also invited Çavuşoglu to Greek capital Athens with prospect of preparing leaders’ meeting between Greek PM Mitsotakis and Turkish President Erdoğan. Post-meeting press conference, however, descended into heated exchange as FMs traded accusations of blame, highlighting potential for dialogue derailing. Meanwhile, maritime tensions continued between Turkish and Greek sides. Greek chief of staff 3 April asserted right to expand Greek territorial waters, prompting Turkish minister of defence to call comments “provocative”. Athens issued navigational advisory for military drills until 21 April in areas south of Greek island Rhodes; Ankara responded with own advisory, claiming jurisdiction over same maritime area. Athens 17-18 April issued advisory for energy exploration by French research vessel accompanied by Greek frigate in areas south of Greek island Crete, delimited under both Turkish-Libyan and Greek-Egyptian maritime deals; Ankara said Turkish military frigate deployed to area pushed back vessel. Mitsotakis and Dendias 6 April visited Libya, requesting annulment of Dec 2019 Turkish-Libyan maritime deal. Libyan PM Abdul Hamid Dbeibah 12 April visited Ankara, reaffirming validity of maritime deal; Turkish officials during month reiterated intention to embark on energy exploration activities in areas claimed under Turkish-Libyan deal.
Govt and opposition reached deal to end months-long political crisis following EU- and U.S.-facilitated talks. Ruling Georgia Dream party and most opposition parties 19 April signed EU- and U.S.-brokered agreement to end political deadlock that followed contested parliamentary election in Oct 2020; deal, which formally ends months-long opposition boycott of parliament, includes plans for electoral and judicial reforms, and could lead to release of jailed opposition members. Most opposition MPs 27 April joined parliament; meanwhile, one activist backing opposition movement same day released from prison following presidential pardon. In de facto entity Abkhazia, Georgian State Security Service 7 April found bodies of four Georgian residents of Gali district who had attempted to swim across Inguri river between Abkhazia and Georgia-controlled villages; crossing points have been largely closed since March 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. Following public criticism after incident, govt 14 April announced lifting of requirement for people entering Georgia from Abkhazia to enter five-day mandatory quarantine, as of 19 April.
Parliament endorsed Vjosa Osmani as new president while EU and U.S. continued to call for normalisation talks with Serbia. Parliament 4 April elected Vetëvendosje party candidate Vjosa Osmani as new president, with 71 votes in favour out of 120; vote was boycotted by two opposition parties and ethnic Serb community party; in response, President Osmani said that peace with Serbia “would be achieved only when we see remorse and an apology.” In congratulatory letter to Osmani, U.S. President Biden 20 April urged Kosovo institutions to prioritise dialogue with Serbia, underscoring that “normalisation of relations with Serbia is essential for Kosovo to realise its potential and fully integrate into Euro-Atlantic institutions”. German FM Heiko Maas 23 April called on Serbia and Kosovo to resume talks on normalising bilateral relations. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell 27 April expressed hope that Serbia and Kosovo will resume normalisation talks on 11 May; PM Kurti next day rejected offer after meeting with senior EU officials, including Borrell and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, in Brussels 27-28 April.
Deadliest fighting in years erupted on Kyrgyz-Tajik border, killing dozens and displacing thousands, while voters endorsed constitutional amendments to strengthen presidential powers. Local residents in Kyrgyzstan’s southern Batken region and Tajikistan’s northern Sughd region 28 April clashed and pelted stones at each other, injuring many on both sides; incident reportedly related to ongoing dispute over water facility both sides claim. Kyrgyz police in Batken next day reported that gunfire from Tajik side of border targeted military unit in Kok-Tash village, while Tajikistan’s border guards same day claimed Kyrgyz military personnel opened fire on border units; sides 29 April agreed to ceasefire. Kyrgyz authorities reported 34 people dead, including three civilians, while Tajikistan reported 15 dead, including six border guards; fighting reportedly injured scores more and displaced thousands. Prior to fighting, foreign ministry 26 April summoned Tajik ambassador to protest Tajik authorities’ decision previous day to briefly detain two Kyrgyz men near disputed border in southern Batken region. Earlier in month, following last month’s breakthrough deal with Uzbekistan to resolve longstanding border disputes, local villagers in Kara-Suu district, Osh oblast, mid-month began protests over subsequent days in opposition to transferring land to Uzbekistan as part of deal. Earlier in month, voters 11 April participated in referendum on constitutional amendments that include greater powers for president and reducing number of lawmakers from 120 to 90; of 36.7% of eligible voters who cast votes, 79% approved new amendments. Country 11 April also held local elections; around 50 supporters of several parties same day gathered near Central Election Commission building in capital Bishkek to express dissatisfaction with results.
Amid ongoing political tensions, President Maia Sandu called for parliamentary elections in July; meanwhile, news reports revealed Russian military activity in Transnistria. Following 31 March vote by deputies of Socialist Party led by ex-President Dodon and Pentru Moldova platform to impose state of emergency until 30 May, Constitutional Court 28 April stated decision violated the law, clearing way for snap elections. In response, Dodon same day criticised court decision and called for “political response to usurpers who want to set up external control”. Maia Sandu 28 April dissolved parliament and scheduled early elections for 11 July; since her Nov 2020 victory as president over her main political rival Dodon, Sandu had been unable to nominate PM supporting her. Polls 21 April showed “The Action and Solidarity” party (which backs current president) ahead of Dodon-led Socialists. Meanwhile, amid growing tensions between Kyiv and Moscow (see Ukraine), Russian soldiers carried out up to seven military drills in country’s breakaway region of Transnistria in April. Ukrainian judge Mykola Chaus, wanted for bribery in Ukraine, 3 April was abducted in capital Chisinau, causing tensions in country’s relations with Kyiv.
Russian-brokered ceasefire held in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict zone amid tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over release of prisoners of war. Situation inside NK conflict zone remained mostly stable throughout month with minor incidents: car 4 April reportedly stoned on Goris-Kapan road in south of Armenia where Azerbaijani, Russian and Armenian forces operate; at southern section of line of separation, two local farmers 12 April said tractor was shot from Azerbaijani military position, prompting involvement by Russian peacekeepers; residential outskirts of NK capital Stepanakert 21 April faced gunfire from Azerbaijani positions close to Azerbaijan’s Shusha city. Both Baku and Stepanakert continued to report civilians and soldiers injured in mine-related incidents in NK conflict zone; mine explosion 26 April injured two Russian peacekeepers inside NK. On diplomatic front, Armenian PM Pashinyan 7 April met Russian President Putin in Russian capital Moscow to discuss post-war issues and assist in release of dozens of prisoners of war captured by Azerbaijan during conflict; Putin next day spoke with Azerbaijani President Aliyev on phone about past agreements. Russian govt 9 April dispatched plane to Azerbaijani capital Baku for transportation of Armenian prisoners of war and detainees to Armenia, but plane same day arrived in Armenian capital Yerevan empty. In response, Armenian Deputy PM Tigran Avinian 9 April accused Azerbaijan of violating terms of Russian-brokered ceasefire by refusing to free Armenian soldiers and civilians captured during conflict; Azerbaijani FM Ceyhun Bayramov same day stated that Baku had no more prisoners or detainees, and all of those detained in Azerbaijan were Armenian terrorists. Head of Russian peacekeeping mission 10 April in short comment to Armenian reporter announced that there was no plan to bring prisoners and detainees from Baku. EU Committee of Ministers 28 April called on Azerbaijan to release Armenian captives.
Violent unrest erupted in capital Belfast and other cities against backdrop of rising unionist anger over controversial Northern Ireland Protocol. Unrest 2-9 April broke out across several cities, reportedly leaving at least 90 police officers injured; violence erupted amid rising discontent within unionist community over Northern Ireland Protocol – provision of UK-EU “Brexit” agreement in effect since 1 Jan 2020 that created regulatory border in Irish Sea – as well as anger over Public Prosecution Service’s late March decision not to prosecute Sinn Fein politicians who attended funeral last summer in violation of COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings. Notably, groups of predominantly youths 2 April assaulted police officers, injuring 12 in Londonderry city; next day highjacked and set alight three vehicles and threw over 30 petrol bombs at police in Newtownabbey town. In capital Belfast, authorities 2 April arrested eight individuals, including 13-year-old boy, after youth groups attacked police officers in historically loyalist area. Group mostly encompassing youths 7 April highjacked and set bus on fire at intersectional area between nationalist and unionist communities; 8 April threw petrol bombs at police officers who deployed water cannons for first time in six years. First Minister Arlene Foster 7 April condemned violence, stating actions “do not represent unionism or loyalism”. Loyalist Communities Council, umbrella group representing paramilitary groups, 9 April said there had been “spectacular collective failure” to understand scale and nature of unionist and loyalist anger and called for new protocol to be negotiated. In letter to UK PM Boris Johnson, four former Northern Ireland secretaries of state voiced concerns over violence and risk that situation could “fall over” unless UK govt took urgent action. Following letter signed by 21 Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) representatives 27 April expressing no confidence in Arlene Foster, Foster 28 April announced intention to step down as DUP leader and first minister in May and June, respectively.
Nationwide rallies in support of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny resurged; meanwhile, in North Caucasus, authorities killed suspected Islamist militant. Authorities continued to apply pressure to opposition supporters throughout April. Prosecutor’s Office 16 April demanded Navalny’s headquarters and linked organisations be listed as extremist organisations. Police 21 April detained scores of opposition supporters, including over 1,400 people in more than 60 cities, after protesters same day rallied in capital Moscow and other regions in support of Navalny. Moscow’s chief prosecutor 26 April suspended activities of organisations backing Navalny. Navalny 23 April announced end of hunger strike amid medical concerns over his health. In North Caucasus, law enforcement officers in Ingushetia 28 April killed suspected militant with links to Aslan Byutukayev, Chechen commander of Islamic State (ISIS), who was killed by law enforcement in Chechnya in Jan. Amid military build-up at border with Ukraine’s east, federal security service 29 April reported it detained 16 supporters of Ukrainian radical group in nine cities for allegedly preparing armed attacks (see Ukraine). In his annual address to Federal Assembly, President Putin 21 April reiterated proposal for meeting between permanent member of UN Security Council to discuss “issues related to strategic weapons and ensuring global stability”.
Deadliest fighting in years erupted on Kyrgyz-Tajik border, killing dozens and displacing thousands. Local residents in Kyrgyzstan’s southern Batken region and Tajikistan’s northern Sughd region 28 April clashed and pelted stones at each other, injuring many on both sides; incident reportedly related to ongoing dispute over water facility both sides claim. Kyrgyz police in Batken next day reported that gunfire from Tajik side of border targeted military unit in Kok-Tash village, while Tajikistan’s border guards same day claimed Kyrgyz military personnel opened fire on border units; sides 29 April agreed to ceasefire. Tajik authorities reported 15 dead, including six border guards and Kyrgyzstan reported 34 people dead, including three civilians; fighting reportedly injured scores more and displaced thousands. Earlier in month during visit to Vorukh city, Tajik enclave situated inside Kyrgyzstan’s southernmost Batken province, President Rahmon 9 April said talks on delimitation and demarcation of border with Kyrgyzstan have taken place since 2002 and govt had never considered swapping Vorukh for other land; visit and remarks followed reported proposal by senior Kyrgyz official to exchange Vorukh for other land in Batken region that sparked domestic criticism. Russia 1 April resumed regular flights with Tajikistan, paving way for return of Tajik migrants to Russia. Tajik and Russian militaries 19-23 April held joint exercises involving some 50,000 troops.
Military operations continued against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in south-eastern Turkey and northern Iraq, killing eight soldiers. Turkish military 25 April announced new land and air operation against the PKK in northern Iraq’s Dohuk area and 29 April in rural areas of Turkish south-eastern provinces of Şırnak and Hakkari. Fighting in rural Siirt in south east 9 April killed one soldier; rocket attack in Hakkâri province 30 April killed another. Rocket attack attributed to paramilitary coalition Popular Mobilisation Front 14 April targeted Turkish military base in Bashiqa in northern Iraq, killing one Turkish soldier; clashes late month in northern Iraq killed four soldiers, and helicopter accident 30 April left one soldier dead (see Iraq). Govt continued efforts to criminalise pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP); court 2 April sentenced HDP MP Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu to two years and six months imprisonment on terrorist propaganda charges, and 6 April sentenced HDP deputy mayor of Kars to six years and ten months imprisonment for “membership of a terrorist organization”; court case to ban the HDP and 600 of its members is ongoing. Security forces continued operations against Islamic State (ISIS) operatives; police throughout month detained over 80 individuals for alleged links to ISIS. Meanwhile, U.S. sanctions on Ankara for its acquisition of S-400 Russian air defence system 7 April came into force. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken and Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu in 12 April phone call discussed bilateral issues, including Turkey’s role as mediator in planned Afghan peace talks (see Afghanistan). Erdoğan 26 April denounced U.S. President Biden’s 24 April decision to recognise Armenian genocide, calling decision “groundless and unfair”. Ankara 15 April hosted high-level Greek delegation for first time in over two years to discuss regional issues (see Eastern Mediterranean).