Tracking Conflict Worldwide
Outlook for This Month March 2015
Conflict Risk Alerts
Trends for Last Month February 2015
In February, the political crisis worsened in Yemen, whose territorial disintegration is in danger of accelerating, while in Bangladesh political violence threatens to further destabilise the country; Venezuela’s downward spiral also continued amid deep political polarisation. Deadly violence rose in Libya, where the prospects of a diplomatic solution to the internal conflict receded further; in Syria, where the regime and its allies initiated a major campaign against rebels in the south; and in areas affected by the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria and Niger. Serious fighting in Myanmar’s Kokang region undermined the ongoing peace talks, while a new peace deal for Ukraine was followed by major military defeat for the government in the east.
Yemen’s political crisis deepened in early February when the Huthis created a “revolutionary council” and associated bodies in a move clearly outside the constitution. Issuing a statement from Aden after escaping his Sanaa house arrest, former President Hadi rescinded his January resignation and rejected Huthi actions as a coup, raising fears of an acceleration of the conflict and territorial disintegration. Despite the limited ability of external actors to influence events (see our latest Conflict Alert), the best way of preventing the start of serious hostilities may now be for the Gulf Cooperation Council and the UN to sponsor emergency talks outside of Yemen between core stakeholders.
In Bangladesh an anti-corruption court issued an arrest warrant for the leader of the opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP), Khaleda Zia. If the warrant is executed, it could seriously escalate the political crisis that has seen over 100 killed in anti-government protests since early January. The crisis could gravely destabilise the country unless both the government and the BNP move urgently to reduce tensions (as explained in our new report). In Venezuela, Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma was arrested after the government claimed to have foiled yet another U.S.-backed opposition plot to overthrow President Maduro. Six people including a fourteen-year-old boy were killed allegedly during or after anti-government protests, prompting criticism of security forces.
Libya’s crisis took another turn for the worse as the Tobruk-Based House of Representatives withdrew from UN-sponsored talks aimed at reaching a diplomatic solution. But Libya’s rival authorities are evenly matched: to halt the slide toward all-out civil war and state collapse they must work toward a political solution (as we explain in our new report). Deepening political divisions and the resultant military clashes have facilitated the growth of jihadi armed groups. On 15 February, an Islamic State-affiliated armed group issued a video in which militants beheaded 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians. In response, Egypt launched aerial attacks on Derna and Sirte, reportedly killing scores of people. President Assad’s regime initiated a major campaign against rebels in southern Syria, aided by Iranian and Hizbollah forces. Their participation was openly reported by pro-regime media, and represents a major escalation by non-Syrian, pro-regime forces in this part of the country. The regime and its allies also attacked rebel-held towns north of Aleppo, paired with smaller escalations inside the city where UN envoy Staffan de Mistura has been trying to broker a “freeze” of fighting.
The Boko Haram insurgency in northern Nigeria continued to spread. Following deadly Boko Haram attacks in Niger’s Diffa region, Niger’s government scaled up its response, and with military help from Chad launched several counter-attacks and airstrikes. On 10 February, Niger’s parliament authorised the army to fight Boko Haram on Nigerian territory. In Nigeria, armed forces working with troops from neighbouring Chad and Cameroon reclaimed several towns near Lake Chad. The insurgents meanwhile stepped up suicide bomb attacks on several northern cities. The Nigerian military’s claim that its operations against Boko Haram left no troops available for election security prompted the Electoral Commission to postpone national polls, aggravating tensions at a time when election-related violence is already high and on the rise (see our recent blog post).
In Myanmar fierce fighting broke out in Kokang region in Shan state in early February as the ethnic Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), apparently assisted by other groups, attempted to seize control of Kokang capital Laukkai. The fighting, the most serious in the country since 2009, prompted at least 30,000 and possibly up to 100,000 people to flee across the border to China. It has created further difficulties for the peace process, now unlikely to progress further before the November elections. Ukraine suffered one of its heaviest defeats yet with the fall of a major military garrison at the strategic railway town of Debaltseve to rebels just days after the signing of a new peace deal in Minsk. The defeat further weakened President Poroshenko’s administration, as the country comes under increasing pressure from Russia and slips deeper into economic crisis.
Domestic opposition to President Nkurunziza’s potential third term increased: coalition of civil society organisations 4 Feb published warning letter to president; 11 Feb said his candidacy will lead to violence. Head of intelligence service Godefroid Niyombare dismissed 18 Feb, allegedly for warning president of risk of violence should he attempt third term, replaced with Etienne Ntakirutimana 24 Feb. Journalist Bob Rugurika, arrested 20 Jan, released 19 Feb, greeted by thousands of sympathisers in Bujumbura. Human Rights Watch 12 Feb accused security forces, ruling party youth wing “Imbonerakure” of 47 extrajudicial executions during 30 Dec-3 Jan clash with armed group in Cibitoke province near DRC border. Pro-govt demonstrations throughout country 28 Feb, organised by authorities.
Regional response to Boko Haram (BH) formulated amid ongoing attacks: international meeting on Joint Multinational Force (FMM) held 5-7 Feb in Yaoundé, regional joint multinational force of 8,700 soldiers announced, based in N’Djamena: Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) 16 Feb announced emergency aid of FCFA 50bn to joint Cameroon-Chad “Operation Logone 2015” force established late Jan to fight BH. Several clashes between BH, Cameroonian forces: deadliest BH attack killed 86 civilians and seven soldiers in Fotokol 4 Feb; five soldiers killed, seven wounded in 16 Feb BH ambush on Waza-Kousseri axis; 21 BH killed by armed forces in 21 Feb Tolkomari clashes. 25 Cameroonian hostages escaped BH 20 Feb. Two marches held early Feb demonstrating support for security forces; third, larger march in Yaoundé 28 Feb.
Central African Republic
Clashes between ex-Seleka and international forces in Bria left six ex-Seleka dead 10 Feb, civilian death toll unknown. Opposition to controversial Kenyan mediation process between some ex-Seleka and anti-balaka factions continued: UN 8 February called for end to Kenyan process; former Presidents Bozize and Djotodia signed “commitment declaration” 21 Feb agreeing to respect July 2014 ceasefire agreement. Sport Minister Armel Sayo, kidnapped 25 Jan, released 10 Feb. Month saw frequent robberies and attacks against NGOs in various towns. Transitional Council 16 Feb began constitution-drafting process.
Authorities stepped up response to Boko Haram (BH) regional attacks: troops crossed border 11 and 13 Feb to repel attacks on Gamboru, N Nigeria, and again 24 Feb; 207 BH and one Chadian soldier reported killed. BH 13 Feb launched first attack on Chadian territory, targeting Ngouboua near Nigerian border. Chad 16 Feb launched U.S.-backed counter-terrorism exercise, gathering troops from African and Western states. French FM Fabius 21 Feb met President Deby in N’Djamena to discuss fight against BH.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Following Jan violent protests, President Kabila 18 Feb promulgated amended version of controversial electoral law. Electoral Commission (CENI) 12 Feb published 2015-2016 electoral calendar, condemned by opposition for lack of consensus or realism. UN 13 Feb said it would not support FARDC military operations until controversial commanders in N Kivu replaced. President Kabila 16 Feb reaffirmed decision to launch unilateral military operations against FDLR rebels, operations began 24 Feb in S Kivu. Conflict between Bantu and pygmies flared in Manono district, N Katanga, leaving seven dead mid-Feb.
DRC and Rwandan officials 3 Feb met to accelerate repatriation of 718 former M23 rebels to DRC, no specific agenda agreed. Defence Minister early-Feb criticised UN Force Intervention Brigade troop-contributing countries South Africa and Tanzania for lack of intervention against FDLR, accused latter of collaborating with rebel group. FM Mushikiwabo 12 Feb criticised MONUSCO’s inaction on FDLR issue.
MP shot dead in Nairobi 7 Feb, along with two bodyguards and driver. Five suspected Mombasa Republican Council recruits arrested 25 Feb in Kisauni, Mombasa County. Mombasa’s Minaa mosque, closed by govt 19 Nov following police raid, reopened 12 Feb with interim imam and committee following settlement between govt officials and local Muslims.
Parliament 9 Feb approved PM Abdirashidi Ali Shamarke’s third proposed cabinet list, ending months of govt paralysis following ouster of former PM Abdiweli early Dec. Al-Shabaab attacks continued throughout country including: 25 killed, 40 wounded in 20 Feb suicide attack on Mogadishu hotel; mortar rounds fired at presidential compound in Mogadishu 26 Feb; two army bases in Lower Shabelle region attacked 10 Feb. Al-Shabaab 9 Feb killed MP Abdullahi Qayed Barre in Mogadishu, 15 Feb killed govt official. Joint AMISOM/Somali National Army (SNA) campaign against Al-Shabaab continued including 3 Feb Kenyan airstrikes against several Al-Shabaab camps in Yontoy, Lower Juba region. Puntland forces 13 Feb clashed with Al-Shabaab in Madashoor area, claimed sixteen militants killed. Puntland officials accused Somaliland of supporting Al-Shabaab factions in Golis mountains after Al-Shabaab 3 Feb attacked police station in Bossaso; 7 Feb attacked home of senior Pun land police official: Somaliland denied accusations. Clashes erupted 10 and 25 Feb between SNA and Sufi militia Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa (ASWJ) in Guriel, Galgaduug region, leaving at least fifteen dead. U.S. 24 Feb nominated first ambassador to Somalia since 1991, to be based in Nairobi.
Two wounded 17 Feb in Horu-Fadhi cillage, Togdheer, in clashes between Somaliland forces and clan militias loyal to self-declared administration of Khaatumo. Djibouti 23 Feb closed border with Somaliland after it received intelligence on possible Al-Shabaab attacks in region. President Silanyo 28 Feb reshuffled cabinet ahead of polls.