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.
In Yemen, after intensifying their military campaign in Marib governorate in the past few weeks, the Huthis could soon launch an all-out offensive that might trigger mass displacement and cut off energy supplies.
Our monthly conflict tracker highlights deteriorations in nine countries and conflict areas in June.
The Taliban sustained their major offensive in Afghanistan, seizing more than 50 district centres, mostly in the north and north east, and killing hundreds of Afghan security forces personnel.
Tensions increased in Libya between rival armed coalitions, and the Islamic State launched its first attack since May 2020, killing six fighters aligned with Field Marshal Haftar.
Suspected jihadists carried out their deadliest attack in Burkina Faso since 2015, killing 160 and displacing thousands.
Peru’s closely contested presidential poll fuelled tensions as right-wing supporters rejected the official results, amid calls for the military to intervene.
Violent anti-monarchy protests broke out in Eswatini as demonstrators clashed with security forces, reportedly leaving scores dead.
We also noted two improvements. In Somalia, the federal government and member states agreed on a new schedule for the long-delayed elections, potentially paving the way for a resolution of the electoral crisis, while Somaliland successfully completed its first parliamentary elections in over fifteen years.
Aside from the 70+ conflict situations we regularly assess, we also tracked notable developments in: Brazil, Indonesia, Montenegro, Morocco and U.S.-Russia.
To accompany this month’s CrisisWatch, Interim President Richard Atwood looks at the dramatic turn of events in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, the danger of new fighting and its implications for Horn of Africa geopolitics.
U.S. and Russian presidents held face-to-face summit in Geneva, agreeing to continue arms control dialogue and return ambassadors. U.S. President Biden and Russia’s President Putin 16 June met in Swiss city Geneva for first face-to-face meeting since Biden took office to discuss diverse issues, including arms control, cybersecurity, Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan and Arctic; Biden described meeting as “good and positive” while Putin said sides “will begin consultations on the entire complex of interactions on the diplomatic track”. Sole document signed by both parties during summit related to strategic stability; sides committed to “principle that there can be no winners in a nuclear war”, with bilateral dialogue on arms control set to commence in due course. Leaders also agreed to return ambassadors to their respective posts. Separately, Moscow 18 June announced it would withdraw from Open Skies Treaty – multilateral accord permitting signatories to undertake non-military reconnaissance flights over other countries – on 18 Dec, stating that U.S. formal withdrawal from treaty in Nov 2020 “grossly violated the balance of interests, rights and obligations” of signatories.
Egypt and Sudan continued to increase pressure on Ethiopia to negotiate legally binding agreement on filling and operation of giant dam on Blue Nile river. Egypt and Sudan 9 June jointly called on Ethiopia to “seriously negotiate” agreement on filling and operation of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). In letter to UN Security Council, Cairo 11 June denounced Ethiopia’s plan to move ahead with second GERD filling despite lack of binding agreement and called on international community to redouble efforts to help reach peaceful settlement. Khartoum 14 June said it was willing to sign partial interim deal that would include all terms agreed on by all three parties and guarantees of continued negotiations. Arab League 15 June issued resolution calling for UN Security Council intervention to make all parties sign binding agreement; Ethiopian foreign ministry immediately rejected resolution and accused Cairo and Khartoum of attempting to “unnecessarily politicize” GERD negotiations. Sudanese FM Mariam Sadiq al-Mahdi 22 June reiterated call on UN Security Council to meet and discuss GERD. Sudan 27 June rejected Addis Ababa’s interim deal proposal to manage second filling, claiming it was “way to buy time” and negotiations on any such proposal should involve all parties under AU auspices.
Suspected jihadists launched deadliest attack in country since 2015, killing 160 and displacing thousands. In Sahel region, suspected jihadist militants overnight 4-5 June attacked Solhan village, Yagha province, killing over 160 and displacing over 7,000 in deadliest attack in six years; amid claims jihadists may have launched attack to seize gold mine outside Solhan town, Sahel region’s governor 6 June suspended all activities linked to gold mining in Yagha and Oudalan provinces. Al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) 8 June condemned massacre and denied involvement, while many blamed Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) for attack; govt 24 June pinned attack on JNIM affiliate, said majority of assailants were child soldiers. In Oudalan, suspected ISGS militants 4 June clashed with volunteers fighting alongside security forces (VDPs) in Markoye department, killing two VDPs; suspected jihadists 14 June killed at least 13 civilians in same area. In Centre-North region, suspected VDPs 2 June killed ethnic Fulani woman in Nasséré village, Bam province, and unidentified assailants 21 June ambushed police patrol on Barsalogo-Foubé axis, Sanmatenga province, killing at least 11. In North region, suspected JNIM-affiliated Katiba Macina or Ansarul Islam militants 4 June attacked VDP unit in Titao department, killing one VDP. Thousands 26 June demonstrated in Kaya city, Centre-North region and Titao town, North region, calling for state action against rising insecurity. National Reconciliation Minister Zéphirin Diabré 1 June announced govt opposition to negotiating with ISGS and JNIM but remained open to discussions on demobilisation and repatriation of Burkinabé jihadists operating overseas.
New transition president appointed PM and govt while army retained major influence over institutions; violence continued in north and centre. Following May military coup, Assimi Goïta formally sworn in as transition president 7 June. Goïta same day appointed opposition leader and former Minister Choguel Maiga as PM; 11 June nominated new govt comprising 28 members, including military officers retaining strategic ministries of defence, security and national reconciliation. Maiga 13 June held first Council of Ministers in capital Bamako, setting ambitious roadmap including elections to return civilians to power in Feb 2022. Main trade union National Workers’ Union of Mali 15 June threatened to resume protests if govt fails to adjust wage grids and harmonise benefits for public workers within next ten days. In response to coup, African Union 2 June suspended Mali’s membership, while Economic Community of West African States 19 June maintained Mali’s suspension. France 3 June said it would temporarily suspend joint military operations with Malian troops and 10 June announced end of Barkhane operation in Sahel. World Bank 4 June said it had temporarily paused payments to country. Meanwhile, jihadist violence continued in north and centre. Notably, Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) 1 June claimed killing five civilians on road between Gao city and Niger’s capital Niamey, and 3 June killed at least 11 people in Inkinbabane area, Ménaka region (north east). Car bomb attacks 21 June injured six French soldiers and four civilians in Gossi town, southern Timbuktu region (north), and 25 June injured 13 UN peacekeepers in Gao region (north). Jihadists same day attacked military outpost in Boni village, Mopti region (centre), killing at least six soldiers. Counter-insurgency operations continued. In Kidal region (north), French forces 5 June conducted operation near Aguelhok town in Tessalit district, killing presumed al-Qaeda-linked Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims militants, including senior commander Baye Ag Bakabo. Joint French-Nigerien operations in tri-border area between Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso dealt severe blow to ISGS, notably capturing ISGS figure Dadi Ould Chouaïb alias “Abu Dardar” 11 June. UN Security Council 29 June renewed UN mission (MINUSMA) until June 2022.
Suspected jihadists conducted series of attacks in south west, while joint French-Nigerien operations dealt major blow to Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS). In Tillabery region (south west), ISGS 2 June abducted two in Banibangou area, Ouallam department, and claimed killing two alleged govt informants in Tongo Tongo area (also Ouallam) on around 8 June. Presumed Al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) 4 June reportedly killed two soldiers in Torodi commune, Say department, and night of 6-7 June abducted two Chinese miners at gold-mining site in Mbanga town, Kollo department. Unidentified assailants 24 June reportedly killed 19 civilians in villages of Danga Zouani and Korombara, Ouallam department. Meanwhile, joint French-Nigerien operations in tri-border area between Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso dealt severe blow to ISGS; operations led to capture of several senior ISGS leaders, including Dadi Ould Chouaïb alias “Abu Dardar” 11 June, and killed Almahmoud Ag Baye alias “Ikaraye”, highest-ranking Tuareg leader within ISGS, and his brother 15 June. In Diffa region (south east), Islamic State in West Africa Province militants 5 June attacked gendarmerie post near Diffa city, wounding one gendarme. In Agadez region (centre north), suspected drug or arms traffickers 10 June stormed security post near Assamakka town, Arlit department, killing three members of security forces. Meanwhile, kidnappings and cattle theft continued in Maradi region (south-centre): unidentified gunmen 3 June abducted five civilians in Baban Rafi village, and 10 June killed three civilians and seized livestock in Dan Kouregaou village, both Madarounfa department. In capital Niamey, unidentified gunmen night of 11-12 June stormed residence of National Assembly President Seini Oumarou wielding AK-47 rifles, killing one guard; ISGS 22 June claimed responsibility for attack.
Authorities clashed with Kinyarwanda-speaking rebels near Rwandan border and unidentified assailants staged deadly ambush in centre. In Cibitoke province’s Mabayi commune, near Rwandan border, Kinyarwanda-speaking rebels 5 June ambushed armed forces, injuring four; armed forces next day killed eight rebels and wounded several others; authorities 11 June arrested 14 people, including two local chiefs and three members of ruling-party youth militia Imbonerakure for allegedly collaborating with Kinyarwanda-speaking armed group. In Muramvya province’s Rutegama commune in country’s centre, unidentified armed men 26 June reportedly killed at least 15 people and wounded nine in ambush on two vehicles. In Rumonge province, unidentified assailants 2, 7 and 28 June vandalised main opposition party National Congress for Freedom (CNL) offices in Muhuta commune; CNL accused ruling party CNDD-FDD. Ntahangwa court of appeal late June announced 32-year prison sentence for human rights activist Germain Rukuki reduced to one-year imprisonment; Rukuki had been detained since 2018. Meanwhile, govt 16 June lifted sanctions on Ikiriho website and BBC media outlet, respectively shut since Oct 2018 and March 2019; several media outlets however remain suspended including Radio Publique Africaine (RPA), Télé Renaissance, Inzamba and Voice of America. Head of EU delegation to Burundi 21 June met President Ndayishimiye in economic capital Bujumbura ahead of 24 June round of talks with govt, announced EU’s intent to start process of aid resumption after govt submitted satisfactory roadmap of reforms; EU had suspended direct financial aid to govt in 2016 over violations of Cotonou Agreement.
Separatists stepped up violent attacks in Anglophone regions, leaving dozens of soldiers killed; meanwhile, Far North region benefited from respite after death of Boko Haram leader. In North West region, Anglophone separatist 3 June launched IED attacks on military vehicles in Nkum and Kumbo towns in Bui division; 17 June attacked govt position in Guzang town, reportedly killing four soldiers; 19 June killed four state forces in Ngoketunjia division; 22 June launched IED attack on military vehicle in Balikumbat town, killing two. Meanwhile, armed forces 5 June killed seven civilians, apparently suspected of being separatists in Balikumbat town; 8 June allegedly killed two separatists and four civilians in North West capital Bamenda, and arrested separatist Gen Cobra in Mbatu village; 11 June killed woman allegedly linked with separatists in Nwa town. Military 15 June said 32-day military operation in Bui and Donga Mantung divisions killed three separatist leaders and several fighters. In South West region, after 5 June attack at Mabonji Gendarmerie Brigade, Meme Division which killed unconfirmed number of govt forces, separatists 13-19 June killed over a dozen military in series of attacks. Notably, separatists 14 June ambushed military vehicle in Eyumojock, killing at least four soldiers, same day attacked police station in Muea, Buea, injuring two policemen. In Ndian division, separatists 15 June abducted six civil servants; 18 June killed one. Separatists 18 June killed two state forces in Nguti town; 19 June killed one soldier during clash in Fako division. Separatists 26 June attacked govt building in Kumba city; 27 June launched IED against military convoy in Lebialem division; casualties unknown. In effort to support resolution of Anglophone crisis, U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 7 June announced visa restrictions on individuals “responsible for undermining its peaceful resolution”. In Far North, amid lull in attacks, Boko Haram (BH) 15 June confirmed death of BH faction (JAS) leader Abubakar Shekau during May clash with rival Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP); new leader Bakura Modu “Sahalaba” called on loyalists to resist, signalling further clashes with ISWAP likely.
Central African Republic
Govt forces and foreign allies faced mounting international scrutiny over alleged abuses, relations with France soured and deadly farmer-herder violence flared at border with Chad. Army, with Russian ally, pursued military offensive against rebel Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), who continued to harass govt and allied forces through indirect confrontation, including targeting supply trucks and using IEDs along roadsides. Army 28 June reportedly repelled attack by rebel group Union for Peace in Central Africa (UPC), which withdrew from CPC in April, on its positions in Alindao town, Basse-Kotto prefecture; seven killed. Meanwhile, govt troops and Russian paramilitaries faced international criticism for their conduct. Notably, report of UN Sec-Gen Guterres covering Feb-June developments 16 June decried abuses committed by armed groups, national army and “bilaterally deployed and other security personnel”; head of UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) Mankeur Ndiaye 23 June accused state forces of “recent widespread rights abuses” which “compromise any chance of establishing trust between citizens and their leaders”. Following legislative elections, President Touadéra 11 June appointed Finance Minister Henri-Marie Dondra as new PM; Dondra to replace Firmin Ngrébada, seen as key architect of country’s alliance with Moscow; Dondra 23 June formed new govt. France 8 June suspended military cooperation with govt and some €10mn in budgetary support over Bangui’s failure to set up political dialogue with opposition and “massive disinformation campaigns” against Paris. Attorney general next day confirmed he would prosecute French national arrested in May in capital Bangui on five counts including espionage, endangering state security and illegal possession of weapons. Following border clashes with Chad in May and N’Djamena’s announcement that it started to deploy reinforcements to areas bordering CAR on 31 May, both countries 1 June said they would set up “independent and impartial international commission of inquiry” to ascertain responsibilities. In deadliest farmer-herder violence in years, Chadian herders 10 June killed at least 15 civilians in Tiri village, Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture near border with Chad, prompting some 3,000 to flee; incident followed dispute same day between local farmer and Chadian herder, which left latter dead.
Amid calls for inclusive dialogue, interim authorities consolidated grip over transitional institutions. Group of former Chadian ministers and senior officials 5 June released joint appeal calling for national inclusive conference; citizen’s platform “Wakit Tama”, which has been at forefront of protest marches against Transitional Military Council (CMT), said it was open to constructive dialogue, but under certain conditions. While transitional authorities have not detailed planning concerning dialogue’s format or timeframe, they showed small signs of openness, notably 8 June granting opposition party Les Transformateurs authorisation to function as political party and 10 June releasing human rights activist Baradine Berdei who had been arrested in Jan for claiming on Facebook that late President Idriss Déby Itno was ill. In interview with weekly news magazine Jeune Afrique, CMT President Mahamat Déby 11-12 June confirmed commitment to hold elections within 18 months; Déby next day nominated 11-member committee responsible for appointing National Transition Council (CNT); CNT due to act as parliament for remainder of transition and draft new constitution. Wakit Tama immediately criticised nominations for lacking independence, and called for inclusive national dialogue within three months. Amid tensions between transitional authorities and some leaders of ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS), extraordinary party congress held 12-13 June; National Assembly President Haroun Kabadi chosen as party’s new sec gen. Meanwhile, international actors mobilised efforts to support peaceful transition. Notably, heads of state and govt of Economic Community of Central African States 4 June adopted “Declaration of Brazzaville”, urging Chadian actors to favour reconciliation and dialogue, called on CMT to organise elections within 18 months. Following clashes with Central African Republic (CAR) forces late May, CAR and Chad 1 June agreed to set up “independent and impartial” commission to ascertain responsibilities with view to strengthening border security and avoiding further clashes. Farmer-herder violence involving Chadian herders erupted in Central African Republic, near Chadian border (see CAR).
Democratic Republic of Congo
Amid ongoing political tensions, President Tshisekedi visited eastern region apologising for past human rights violations and criticising role of army and other institutions. Tshisekedi 12 June toured eastern provinces, which have been under martial law since late April, asked local population for forgiveness for human rights violations committed by security forces and armed groups and promised to prosecute those responsible for abuses; 20 June described army as “mafia” and denounced senators who 15 June voted against lifting immunity of Senator Augustin Matata Ponyo, PM under former President Kabila, accused of embezzlement of public funds. Meanwhile, armed violence continued. In Ituri province, armed group Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) 12 June clashed with armed forces in Ikpa-Bura locality, Djugu territory, reportedly leaving at least 11 CODECO militants and three soldiers dead; CODECO same day killed five in Guu village, also Djugu. Armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 25 June reportedly killed four and kidnapped several others between Boga and Bukiringi villages, and 27 June killed 14 civilians in Manzobe locality, all Irumu territory. In North Kivu’s Beni territory, ADF 4 June killed two in Ntoma village, and 10 June abducted dozens from Kisanga and Livano villages. In Beni town, authorities 27 June implemented curfew after several bombings 26-27 June reportedly injured two civilians. UN Group of Experts on DRC 10 June said they were unable to find “conclusive evidence of ISIL [Islamic State] command and control over ADF operations, nor of ISIL direct support” and said acts committed by armed forces in Ituri’s Djugu and Irumu territories “may constitute war crimes”. Meanwhile, following May confirmation of Tshisekedi’s former Chief of Staff Vital Kamerhe’s prison sentence for embezzlement, his party Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC) 10 June suspended its participation in Tshisekedi-allied Cap for Change (CACH) coalition; also called on 16 UNC deputies to suspend their activities in Sacred Union, Tshisekedi’s new majority coalition. Kamerhe’s conviction along with Senate’s vote against lifting Matata’s immunity could affect fragile coalition.
Govt continued to face accusations of war crimes in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Amid ongoing fighting in Tigray (see Ethiopia), Ethiopian govt 3 June said Eritrean forces had begun withdrawing. UN humanitarian agency early June accused Eritrean troops of blocking aid shipments in Tigray, notably stopping trucks belonging to NGO near Hawzien town, Eastern Tigray Zone. In letter to UN Security Council, Eritrean FM Osman Saleh 7 June blamed current conflict in Tigray on U.S. long-time support for Tigray’s leaders and accused U.S. President Biden of “stoking further conflict and destabilization” through “intimidation and interference” in region. During informal UN Security Council meeting on humanitarian situation in Tigray, UN Humanitarian Chief Mark Lowcock 15 June accused Eritrean forces of using starvation as weapon of war; Eritrean mission to UN next day denied allegations and accused Lowcock of making “repeated unsubstantiated allegations” about Eritrea’s role in Tigray conflict. UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Eritrea Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker 22 June said Eritrea had “effective control” of parts of Tigray.
Amid looming famine, Tigrayan forces made significant gains against federal troops in Tigray region; meanwhile, general elections held despite insecurity in several regions. Following large-scale counteroffensive against federal govt forces in Tigray regional state (north), Tigrayan forces 28 June reportedly entered regional capital Mekelle, allegedly prompting federal govt to declare “unilateral ceasefire” same day; federal govt said it had withdrawn its forces for humanitarian reasons. Tigrayan forces 29 June dismissed ceasefire as “joke”, vowed to “intensify struggle” until “enemies completely leave Tigray”; by month’s end, Tigrayan forces reportedly controlled most of region. Earlier in month, army airstrike 22 June reportedly killed dozens of civilians in Togoga village, drawing widespread condemnation; military 24 June said attack only struck Tigrayan forces. Unidentified gunmen 25 June killed three NGO Doctors Without Borders staff in central Tigray. UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock 4 June warned famine was imminent in Tigray and “hundreds of thousands” could die; 15 June said over 350,000 are already experiencing famine conditions and accused Eritrean forces of using starvation as weapon of war. African Union (AU) mid-June launched inquiry into alleged human rights violations in Tigray; govt 17 June urged AU to “immediately cease” inquiry, saying it had not agreed to it. Parliamentary and regional elections held 21 June, results expected 1 July; opposition accused local officials and militias of blocking opposition observers in Amhara and Southern Nations regional states; AU observer mission 23 June however said poll was “peaceful and credible”. Ahead of elections, govt 10 June postponed vote in Harari and Somali regional states to Sept, citing logistical issues; vote also not held in Tigray, parts of Oromia and most of Benishangul-Gumuz. Seven opposition parties 12-13 June alleged irregularities in electoral process. Meanwhile in Oromia, police 1-4 June reportedly killed 95 suspected Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) insurgents in Guji and Borana Zones. Opposition party Oromo Liberation Front 11 June alleged Eritrean troops had deployed in Oromia and Benishangul-Gumuz and called for their withdrawal. In disputed al-Fashaga area at border with Sudan, Ethiopian militia 5 June allegedly killed two Sudanese farmers; govt 8 June reportedly sent reinforcement to area, and Sudan 10 June mobilised additional troops.
President Kenyatta adopted confrontational stance toward judiciary, govt took steps to mend relations with Somalia, and Al-Shabaab launched further attacks in north east. Following High Court’s ruling in May that controversial attempt by Kenyatta and his de facto ally, opposition leader Raila Odinga, to amend constitution was illegal, Kenyatta 1 June accused judiciary of “testing constitutional limits” and attempting “to stop the will of the people”; govt next day formally appealed High Court’s ruling. Kenyatta 3 June refused to confirm appointment to various courts of six of 40 judges who had been awaiting his green light since 2019 to take up new positions. Ahead of 2022 general elections, four ruling Jubilee Party MPs 23 June declared support to Deputy President William Ruto; Ruto, himself a Jubilee member, has long been locked in power struggle with Kenyatta. Somalia 4 June accused Kenyan forces of killing civilians in two “indiscriminate airstrikes” in Somalia’s Gedo region, Jubaland state previous day. Govt 10 June lifted ban it had imposed in May on flights to and from Somalia, saying it hoped “goodwill measure” would lead to “full normalisation of bilateral relations”; Somalia 12 June offered to resume full diplomatic relations, which Nairobi 14 June accepted. Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab-related violence continued in north east; notably, police 5 June killed at least three suspected Al-Shabaab combatants in Boni forest and suspected militants 7-23 killed at least six people in Mandera county.
Federal govt and member states agreed on new schedule for long-delayed elections; Al-Shabaab attacks continued despite fresh assaults by army, and govt took steps to mend ties with Kenya amid ongoing tensions. Following late May agreement to hold parliamentary elections within 60 days, federal govt and member states 29 June adjusted timelines and scheduled elections for upper house for 25 July and for lower house between 10 Aug-10 Sept; both houses then due to convene 10 Oct to elect president. PM Roble 19 June finalised composition of state and federal election committees tasked with overseeing parliamentary poll. Some opposition presidential candidates continued to insist on removal of all 67 members that opposition bloc of 15 presidential candidates had flagged as biased late May, after Roble 5 June only dismissed 34. Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab continued to launch deadly attacks. In Mogadishu, Al-Shabaab suicide bombings killed at least two 5 June, and at least 15 army recruits 15 June. In Galmudug state (centre), Al-Shabaab 27 June launched car bomb attack on army base in Wisil town, reportedly leaving at least 17 soldiers and 13 civilians dead; 41 militants also killed. Army throughout June launched offensives against Al-Shabaab militants in centre and south, claiming to have killed hundreds by month’s end; notably, army reportedly killed 70 militants in Middle Shabelle region 3 June and another 50 in separate operations in Hiiran, Middle Shabelle and Lower Shabelle regions 11-13 June. In Bay region, army 9 June reportedly repelled Al-Shabaab attack on its positions in Deynunay village, killing 19 militants. In Lower Shabelle, blast at makeshift Al-Shabaab bomb factory 7 June reportedly killed over 60 militants in Alfoto village. Federal govt 4 June accused Kenyan forces of killing civilians in two “indiscriminate airstrikes” previous day in Gedo region, Jubaland state; govt same day said it would raise issue with AU Peace and Security Council and initiate procedures for establishing claims commission with AU. Kenya 10 June lifted ban on flights to and from Somalia it had imposed in May, said it hoped “goodwill measure” would lead to “full normalisation of bilateral relations”; Somalia 12 June offered to resume full diplomatic relations, which Kenya 14 June accepted.
Somaliland successfully concluded long-delayed elections process marking country’s first parliamentary polls in 16 years. Electoral commission 6 June announced opposition Waddani party had won 31 of 82 seats in House of Representatives in late May parliamentary poll, followed by ruling Kulmiye party with 30 seats and opposition Justice and Welfare Party (UCID) with 21 seats; Waddani and UCID same day formed parliamentary coalition, and 22 June nominated joint candidates for speaker and deputy speaker positions. Both parties also won combined total of 127 of 220 municipal races held in late May alongside parliamentary elections.
Intercommunal violence continued in centre and south while tensions persisted between govt and holdout rebel group in south. Clashes between ethnic Dinka sub-groups persisted in Lakes state (centre), reportedly killing at least 14 in Rumbek East county 12 June and at least another 24 in Cueibet county 21 June; cattle raids in Rumbek Centre county left at least four dead 2 June and at least another eight 26 June. Also in Lakes state, unidentified gunmen 7 June killed two humanitarian workers in Yirol West county, drawing widespread condemnation. In Eastern Equatoria state (south), intercommunal clashes 23 June killed at least five people in Ikotos county; cattle raid same day left at least four dead in Torit county. Meanwhile, in Central Equatoria state (south), holdout rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS) 3 June accused South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) aligned with President Kiir of killing four civilians in Lainya county 1 June; SSPDF next day denied responsibility, blaming NAS instead; latter 11 June claimed it had gathered evidence of “coordinated ethnic-based war crimes” by SSPDF. New round of talks between govt and NAS scheduled for 28 June-1 July in Italian capital Rome did not take place; NAS leader Thomas Cirillo conditioned resumption of talks on security guarantees for his delegates. Govt late June requested to postpone peace talks with factions of South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (coalition of non-signatory rebel groups) led by Paul Malong and Pagan Amum, initially scheduled for 1-4 July, to 10-18 July. Implementation of transitional security arrangements continued to stall, including over differences between Kiir and VP Machar on command structure of unified army; Kiir 8 June again directed official body monitoring peace deal implementation to mobilise necessary funds for graduating first batch of unified army. Head of UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan Nicholas Haysom 21 June lamented delays in formation of unified national army which he said was “critical element” to prevent relapse into conflict. UN Mission in South Sudan 14 June reported 444 civilians killed across country from Feb to May 2021, mainly by civil defence groups, SSPDF and NAS.
Tensions rose markedly over paramilitary Rapid Support Forces’ refusal to integrate into regular forces, with PM warning of “chaos” should security sector reform not proceed; protests erupted over end of fuel subsidies. Army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) early June fortified their respective positions in capital Khartoum, and Deputy Head of Sovereign Council and RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti” 4 June said he would not merge RSF with regular forces into single army as called for in Oct 2020 peace agreement. PM Hamdok 15 June warned failure to reform security sector may lead to “chaos” and “civil war” and 22 June called for comprehensive political settlement to “unify civil and military fronts” and address “national crisis”. Armed group signatories to Oct 2020 peace agreement throughout month expressed frustration at lack of progress in bringing their forces into military. UN Security Council 3 June extended transition assistance mission in Sudan’s mandate for one year. Amid spiralling inflation, govt 8 June scrapped fuel subsidies in line with International Monetary Fund (IMF) roadmap, prompting sharp price hike and setting off protests in Khartoum 9-10 June; authorities 26 June said they would cut govt spending and increase social spending; police 30 June fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters in Khartoum demanding govt’s resignation over IMF-backed reforms. IMF 29 June approved debt relief package of $1.4bn to Sudan; IMF and World Bank same day said Khartoum was eligible for further debt relief under Heavily Indebted Poor Countries, paving way for clearing 90% of Sudan’s $56bn external debt within next three years. Intercommunal violence in south reportedly killed at least 36 in South Darfur state 6 June, 12 in South Kordofan state 10-18 June, and at least another five in West Kordofan state 13-14 June. Govt 26 June pledged to hand over former officials indicted for war crimes in Darfur to International Criminal Court. Meanwhile, Ethiopian militia 5 June reportedly killed two Sudanese farmers in disputed al-Fashaga border zone; army 8 June said Ethiopia had deployed additional troops near border, and govt 10 June sent reinforcements to area. Tensions with Addis Ababa over Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam remained high (see Nile Waters).
Govt continued to take steps to curb COVID-19 pandemic and faced accusations of complacency toward Islamist insurgency in neighbouring Mozambique. Authorities early June applied for $571mn International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan to mitigate economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic; govt reportedly committed to abiding by IMF’s request to publish data on infections as pre-condition for loan. Presidency 17 June said Tanzania had requested COVID-19 vaccines from World Health Organization’s vaccine-sharing program COVAX. Ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi 15 June dismissed opposition and civil society’s renewed calls for constitutional reform to allow formation of independent electoral commission, citing competing priorities. Opposition party Chadema Vice Chairman Tundu Lissu, who has been living in exile in Belgium since 2020, 26 June said he had requested meeting with President Suluhu Hassan and was willing to return to Tanzania. Amid continued violence in neighbouring Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province at border with Tanzania, UN refugee agency 11 June said Tanzania had forcibly returned 9,600 displaced persons to Cabo Delgado since Jan, including 900 between 7 and 9 June (see also Mozambique).
Former army chief survived assassination attempt and President Museveni reshuffled military and cabinet. Unidentified assailants 1 June opened fire on vehicle of transport minister and former chief of defence forces, Gen Katumba Wamala, in capital Kampala, wounding him and killing his daughter and driver; assassination attempt believed to be related to behind-the-scenes battles among different political factions to succeed Museveni. Following re-election earlier this year, Museveni 8 June appointed 82-member cabinet including 12 former and serving military officers in alleged attempt to pave way for his son, Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, to take up senior govt position; Museveni also swapped long-time allies for junior ministers and appointed women as VP and PM. Museveni 24 June reshuffled military, appointing loyalists to top leadership positions and naming his son commander of land forces. Govt 8 June blacklisted or suspended six NGOs for alleged fraud. Relations with Rwanda remained tense: Rwandan army 12 June arrested Ugandan soldier for allegedly straying into Rwandan territory, before releasing him next day; Ugandan authorities 14 June sent protest note, claimed incident occurred on Ugandan soil. Amid record COVID-19 cases, Museveni 18 June imposed 42-day lockdown; in following days, police reportedly arrested in Kampala over 200 people who were carrying on their business activities despite lockdown measures.
Islamist militants continued to resist govt forces and launch deadly attacks against civilians in far north. In far north Cabo Delgado province, govt forces early June launched offensive against Islamist militants in Macomia district, with clashes reported near Messalo river, north of Quiterajo administrative post 1 June, and near Pangane village and south of Nacutuco village 4 June; number of casualties unknown. Also in Macomia, militants 4 and 19 June reportedly killed 14 civilians in Naunde and Novo Cabo Delgado villages; residents of Litamanda village accused govt forces of having killed at least seven civilians 12 June before beheading them to pin blame on militants. In Muidumbe district, govt forces 4 June reportedly foiled attempted Islamist militants’ raid on district capital Namacande. In Palma district, local vigilante group 12 June killed three Islamist militants; in retaliation, militants next day killed four people, including two minors in district capital Palma; govt forces 17 June reportedly raided Quitunda resettlement village in search of militants. Military 30 June said troops had killed around 150 militants and captured 39 others during encounters in Palma district 21-23 June. Meanwhile, UN refugee agency 11 June said some 70,000 people had fled Palma town since 24 March, bringing total number of displaced persons in Cabo Delgado to nearly 800,000; also said neighbouring Tanzania had forcibly returned 9,600 displaced persons to Cabo Delgado since Jan, including some 900 between 7 and 9 June. Southern Africa’s regional bloc SADC 23 June held Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Govt in Maputo and approved mandate for SADC’s Standby Force to be deployed in Cabo Delgado. Rwanda 24 June said that it will be deploying troops to Cabo Delgado. Renamo opposition party leader Ossufo Momade 13 June accused govt of violating peace agreement signed in 2019 by failing to integrate demobilised Renamo combatants into regular forces.
Anti-monarchy protests turned violent, reportedly leaving scores dead. Protests against monarchy and for “multi-party democracy” 20 June erupted in Manzini region and in following days spread to other regions and turned increasingly violent. Govt reportedly deployed army to major cities amid reports of looting and security forces firing bullets and tear gas at protesters, notably in executive capital Mbabane 28-29 June; dozens reportedly killed and hundreds wounded by month’s end. Govt 29 June denied social media reports that King Mswati III had fled country; same day imposed nationwide dusk-till-dawn curfew and ordered internet blackout.
Legal battles around chief justice position continued and infighting persisted within main opposition party. High Court 10 June dismissed contempt of court application filed in May against Chief Justice Luke Malaba for returning to work despite earlier ruling – which has been appealed – invalidating President Mnangagwa’s extension of his term. Seven former MPs from Nelson Chamisa-led faction (MDC-A) of main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change 4 June challenged their removal from National Assembly in 2020 – following their recall by rival MDC-T faction – before High Court. Douglas Mwonzora, leader of MDC-T faction, 11 June reportedly requested Mnangagwa to call off “divisive” by-elections for local councils and parliament – with seats left vacant after recalls of MDC-A officials in 2020; also reportedly proposed creation of “Parliamentary Dialogue Forum” platform between MDC-T and ruling ZANU-PF party. MDC-A 21 June said Mwonzora was “afraid of an election” and trying “to prolong his illegitimate union with ZANU-PF”. Bulawayo High Court mid-June granted bail to freelance journalist Jeffrey Moyo, who was detained in May following accusations of misrepresenting media accreditations of two foreign journalists to immigration authorities.
Former President Gbagbo returned from ten-year exile, sparking localised clashes between his supporters and security forces, and deadly attacks targeted military in north. Gbagbo 17 June landed in economic capital Abidjan, ending years-long exile in Europe, following his acquittal of crimes against humanity by International Criminal Court (ICC); ICC proceedings related to 2010-2011 electoral violence which pitted his supporters against those of current President Ouattara, and left over 3,000 dead. Various public figures welcomed Gbagbo at Abidjan airport, including senior representatives from his Ivoirian Popular Front (FPI) party, rival FPI faction leader Pascal Affi N’Guessan, and delegates from former President Bédié’s Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire; no govt representatives however attended welcoming ceremony. Gbagbo same day addressed his supporters at his 2010 presidential campaign headquarters in Abidjan’s Attoban neighbourhood, said he was “their soldier and would remain on duty”; commitment goes against Ouattara’s willingness to see Gbagbo retiring from politics. Clashes same day erupted between Gbagbo supporters celebrating his return and security forces in Abidjan; police used tear gas to disperse pro-Gbagbo supporters in Port-Bouët and Koumassi neighbourhoods, and FPI said security forces had arrested 40 party supporters. Gbagbo 20 June expressed “concerns over the perpetuation of violence”, called on govt to “give a chance to peace”; 27 June returned to his hometown Mama, where thousands of supporters had gathered to welcome him; next day decried ICC as “not serious”. Meanwhile, court 23 June sentenced in absentia former PM and rebel leader Guillaume Soro to life in prison on charges of plotting coup against Ouattara. Suspected jihadists launched attacks in north near border with Burkina Faso, killing one soldier in raid on military post in Tougbo town 7 June and three others in ambush on army patrol near Téhini town 12 June.
Authorities continued to restrict space for opposition and civil society, and violence erupted in north west. Several human rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch and International Federation for Human Rights, 1 June jointly denounced “lack of strong reaction” from international community, and France in particular, to “brutal repression” of opposition and civil society since 2019; govt three days later rejected report as biased. Conakry Court of Appeal 10 June sentenced prominent figure of civil society coalition National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC) Oumar Sylla, alias Foniké Mengué, to three years in prison on charges of “provocation of an unarmed gathering”, up from 11 months in first instance; FNDC was at forefront of 2019-2020 mobilisation against President Condé’s third term. In apparent appeasement effort, Condé 18 and 22 June pardoned four opposition and civil society figures – sentenced to prison for various crimes – after they presented public apologies. Amid tensions following discovery of gold mine near Gaoual town, Boké region in north west, clashes 22 June erupted between security forces and protesters denouncing authorities’ decision to close down mine, leaving two dead.
Govt shut down social media platform Twitter citing security concerns as country’s multiple violent conflicts continued. Federal govt 4 June ordered Internet providers to block access to social media platform Twitter; move came after Twitter suspended President Buhari’s account and removed post in which he vowed to “treat [Biafra secessionist groups] in the language they understand”. Numerous human rights groups protested shutdown as attempt to stifle free speech. In north west, armed groups continued attacks and mass abductions, killing over 250 and displacing thousands. In Kebbi state, 88 killed in Danko-Wasagu area 3 June and 102 kidnapped in Birnin Yauri town 17 June. In Zamfara state, at least 137 killed and over 100 abducted in Zurmi and Maru areas 6-10 June. In north east, Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) 6 June confirmed Boko Haram faction (JAS) leader Abubakar Shekau had killed himself in May, 26 June issued video of rival ISWAP and JAS fighters jointly pledging allegiance to Islamic State. ISWAP continued attacks in Borno state, notably on military base in Damboa area 15 June. Military 8 and 20 June repelled ISWAP attacks on Dikwa and Kumshe towns, killing at least six insurgents, 20 June killed over 20 others in Lambua forest. Herder-farmer-related violence flared in several states. Notably, gunmen 5-6 June killed at least 15 people in Igangan town in Oyo state, 6 June killed 27 in Agatu area of Benue state and 13 June killed 12 in Jos South area of Plateau state; residents and local authorities blamed attacks on herders. In south east, amid govt crackdown on outlawed separatist group Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its armed wing Eastern Security Network (ESN), govt 6 June reported killing IPOB/ESN’s “Number 1 killer-squad commander”, Dragon; 26 June reported destroying three ESN camps in Imo state. Attorney general late June said IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu was arrested abroad 27 June and brought back to Nigeria to face trial. In Niger Delta, armed group Niger Delta Avengers, dormant since 2017, 26 June announced it would resume attacks on petroleum installations.
Amid ongoing Japan-China tensions, Tokyo engaged in diplomatic tour to build common position on maritime threats in East and South China Seas. Regionally, Japanese Defence Minister jointly with Filipino Defence Minister 2 June expressed concerns over tensions in East and South China Seas and Chinese coast guard law. Japan and Australia 9 June also raised concerns over tensions in East and South China Seas and Chinese coast guard law as well as issue of peace and stability in Taiwan Strait; in response, Chinese officials same day said statement was malicious slander. Japan along with G7 leaders 13 June jointly confirmed concerns over tensions in East and South China Seas. At regional body ASEAN’s Defence Ministers Meeting Plus, Japan 16 June stressed importance of peace and stability across Taiwan Strait and called China’s coast guard law problematic in regard to international law. Meanwhile, Japanese Coast Guard 5 June reported that Chinese Coast Guard vessels sailed through contiguous areas around disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands for 112th day straight, setting new record, while 16 Chinese vessels entered territorial waters during month. Notably, two Chinese vessels entered and stayed in territorial waters for 42 hours between 20-21 June, longest duration so far this year. Four Chinese vessels 26 June entered territorial waters, reportedly tried to approach Japanese fishing boats before Japanese Coast Guard warned vessels away.
North Korea (DPRK) acknowledged severity of food insecurity amid COVID-19 pandemic, while U.S. reaffirmed readiness to continue dialogue. At ruling Korean Workers’ Party plenum 15-18 June, DPRK officials agreed policy to distribute food to general population as matter of urgency, likely indicating that long-running border closure is doing real harm to livelihoods. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un 29 June accused senior officials of having “caused a grave incident that has caused a great risk to people and the nation’s safety”. At plenum, during speech on “major changes taking place on the international political arena”, Kim Jong-un 17 June stated that North Korea should be ready for both “dialogue and confrontation” with U.S. administration; U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan 20 June called Kim Jong-un’s comments “interesting signal”. Following U.S.-South Korea summit in U.S. capital Washington 21 May, newly appointed U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim 19-23 June visited South Korean capital Seoul; 21 June met with South Korean and Japanese counterparts and took opportunity to reiterate Washington’s openness to unconditional talks with Pyongyang, saying that U.S. hopes North Korea “will respond positively to our outreach”. Kim Yo-jong, senior official and sister of Kim Jong-un, 22 June published statement in state media cautioning U.S. against misplaced hope of imminent breakthrough, view reiterated by North Korean FM Ri Son-gwon.
China stepped up intrusions of Taiwan’s aerial zone after relative decline in recent months, while COVID-19 crisis fuelled domestic and cross-strait tensions. Taiwanese defence ministry 15 June reported 28 Chinese military aircraft entering into Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ), marking sudden spike after numbers of aircraft had dipped between late April and early June. As of 28 June, total 43 Chinese aircraft had entered Taiwan’s ADIZ during month. Three U.S. senators 6 June briefly visited Taiwan’s capital Taipei by military plane; China 8 June called visit “very vicious political provocation”. At summit in UK, G7 leaders 13 June noted importance of peace and stability across Taiwan Strait for first time. Amid worsening outbreak of COVID-19, Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) faced widespread criticism for not securing enough vaccines, especially from opposition party Kuomintang (KMT). Japan 4 June donated 2.1 mn vaccines to Taiwan, while U.S. 20 June donated 2.5 mn; Chinese foreign ministry 21 June called on U.S. not to use vaccination programme support for “political manoeuvre or interference in China’s internal affairs” and Beijing continued to accuse DPP of politicising vaccine procurement by creating barriers to Chinese vaccines. Macau 16 June suspended operations of its representative office in Taiwan, as did Hong Kong in May without providing explanations. Staff working at Taiwan’s representative office in Hong Kong 20 June returned to Taiwan after city govt demanded representatives sign document recognising “One China” principle or leave country.
Taliban sustained major offensive, gaining additional district centres and killing over 500 Afghan security forces; deadly terror attacks targeted minority Hazara community. Taliban forced govt troops, police and militia to retreat from more than 50 districts, most in north and north east, throughout month; while Taliban often declined to occupy space, gains constitute significant loss in govt’s territorial standing, revealing structural weaknesses in Afghan security forces. Taliban 21 June also seized control of main border crossing with Tajikistan. In series of attacks, Taliban 2 June killed 40 govt forces in border area of Nangarhar (east); 4 June killed 11 security forces in Herat province (west); 5 June killed 26 security forces in Badakhshan (north east) and Badghis (north west); 9 June killed 21 soldiers in Badakhshan and Nimroz provinces (south west); 12 June killed 20 security forces in Ghor province (centre). Taliban 6 June also killed 17 security forces in truck bombing in Balkh province (north), and same day killed 28 security forces in another car bombing in Faryab province (north). In coming months, potential for Taliban to overrun provincial capitals is high. Meanwhile, a more organic form of popular resistance to Taliban emerged in several provinces, including Baghlan, Takhar and Badakhshan. Deadly terror attacks targeting ethnic Hazara minority persisted. In capital Kabul, bombings against civilians 1 and 3 June killed at least 14 and wounded 17 more in Hazara neighbourhoods. Unknown armed men 8 June attacked staff of international charity clearing land mines and attempted to single out Hazara employees, killing ten and injuring 16 in Baghlan Province (north). Additional attack on humanitarians 15 June killed at least five polio vaccinators in Nangarhar province (east). President Ghani 20 June announced replacement of army chief of staff, defence minister and interior minister amid rising casualties in Afghan security forces. Ghani, Vice President Saleh, top advisers and chief rival Abdullah 24-25 June visited U.S. capital Washington, met with U.S. President Biden and top U.S. officials to reaffirm commitments to fund and support Afghan govt and security forces.
Govt continued crackdown on critics under Digital Security Act, while concerns over relocation of Rohingya refugees to flood prone Bashan Char island persisted. Authorities continued to stifle dissent under Digital Security Act (DSA). Notably, counter-terrorism police 13 June pressed DSA charges against seven people alleging involvement in anti-govt activities; cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore, who had been released on bail in March, among those charged. NGO Transparency International 8 June reported that DSA used against at least 85 journalists since start of COVID-19 pandemic. Day before local elections, Awami League factions 20 June clashed in Ghazipur district, injuring ten people; clashes on election day also left two killed and two injured in Barisal district. In Chittagong city, counter-terrorism police 11 June arrested alleged member of banned Ansar al-Islam who recently returned from Syria where he had joined Islamic State in 2017. After four-day visit to Bangladesh, UN Refugee Agency senior representatives 2 June said Bashan Char had “some potential, though the human and protection elements of refugees living there must be fully considered”. Human Rights Watch report 7 June said Rohingya refugees had been moved to Bashan Char “without full informed consent”, urging donors to support refugees right to return to mainland; FM Momen same day responded: “If they have so much sympathy, let them take them back to their country”. In Noakhali District, police 10 June detained 12 Rohingya refugees, including four children, who had escaped Bashan Char. Human Rights Watch 15 June claimed UN refugee agency had shared refugees’ personal data with authorities, asserting practices were “contrary to the agency’s own policies and exposed refugees to further risk”. During meeting with senior UN officials in New York, FM Momen 17 June stressed importance of UN operations in Bashan Char; Bangladesh 18 June abstained from UN General Assembly resolution on Myanmar crisis as it did not recommend repatriation of Rohingya refugees. Police 12-14 June recovered bodies of six Rohingyas, including four children, who drowned in Naf River when boats overturned as they attempted to enter Bangladesh from Myanmar.
Reports revealed increased military build-up along disputed China-India border; meanwhile, Maoist violence persisted. Local media reports 2 June indicated Chinese military had for first time created combined air defence system for Chinese military responsible for border operations along disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC). Indian and Chinese diplomats 25 June agreed on bilateral mechanism to hold next round of military talks “at an early date to achieve complete disengagement from all the friction points” in Western Sector of LAC. Defense Minister Rajnath Singh 27 June arrived in Ladakh territory on three-day visit to carry out comprehensive review of India’s operational readiness along LAC. Reports same day emerged that India had redirected at least 50,000 additional troops and fighter jet squadrons to border with China in recent months, resulting in roughly 200,000 total Indian troops. Meanwhile, Singh 17 June inaugurated 12 roads in Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh, and Jammu and Kashmir regions, saying India is “capable of giving a befitting reply to those who show aggression towards us” and that roads would help secure India’s borders and aid movement of defence forces (see also Kashmir). Maoist violence continued. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), exchange of fire with security forces killed two Maoists in Kondagaon district; security forces 18 June killed Maoist in Bastar district; security forces 19 June killed two Maoists in Narayanpur district and one Maoist in Dantewada district 27 June. In Odisha state (east), security forces 11 June killed Maoist in Bargarh district. In Andhra Pradesh (south east), police 16 June killed six Maoists in Visakhapatnam district. Overall COVID-19 epidemic improved as number of cases began to decline and vaccination programme picked up speed, with authorities 21 June administering record 8.5mn doses in single day. To mark seven months of protests, thousands of farmers 26 June demonstrated nationwide demanding govt repeal controversial agriculture laws.
Amid ongoing tensions between Pakistan and India over Line of Control (LoC, dividing Pakistan and Indian-administered Kashmir), violence persisted in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). While visiting J&K, India’s army chief General Naravane 3 June said: “The onus of making sure that the ceasefire remains is on Pakistan”. Pakistani PM Imran Khan next day said Pakistan was ready to hold talks if New Delhi provided “a road map” for reversing 2019 actions that revoked J&K special constitutional status. Militant attacks continued in J&K. Militants 2 June shot dead ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician in Pulwama district’s Tral town; 17 June killed police officer in Srinagar city; 12 June killed two police officers in Baramulla district; 22 June killed police officer and civilian in Srinagar; 26 June killed one civilian and injured three in grenade attack on security forces; 28 June shot dead police officer, wife and daughter in Pulwama district. Grenade explosion at bus stand 6 June also injured seven people in Pulwama. Meanwhile, police 3 June killed detainee inside counter-insurgency police camp in Tral; police claimed detainee had attempted to take officer’s rifle; detainee’s mother alleged police tortured her son. Security forces 16 June killed suspected militant in Srinagar’s Nowgam area; 20 June killed three alleged militants in Baramulla district, and 25 June killed another suspected militant in Shopian district. Military bases put on high alert after 26 June twin explosions on air force station 14km from Pakistan border, in Jammu, which left two injured; drone attack suspected. In first meeting with pro-India J&K political parties since Aug 2019, Indian PM Modi 24 June said J&K assembly elections will be held after completing delimitation process; in response, opposition National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party called for restoration of J&K’s statehood before polls.
Supreme Court began hearings against President Bhandari’s decision to dissolve House of Representatives in May. Supreme Court’s Constitutional Bench 23 June began deliberations on over 30 petitions – including one by opposition Nepali Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba and backed by 146 MPs – challenging Bhandari’s dissolution of lower house of parliament on 22 May. Petitioners questioned Bhandari’s impartiality, claimed her disqualification of Deuba’s candidacy to lead govt in May was “extra-constitutional”, and characterised dissolution as encroachment on legislature’s jurisdiction. In written clarifications submitted to Court 17 June, Bhandari argued that decisions by Office of the President cannot come under judicial review, while PM KP Oli same day claimed that court cannot adjudicate political issue. Earlier, court itself faced criticism over composition of Constitutional Bench, prompting reshuffle by Chief Justice Cholendra Rana 6 June following accusations of conflicts of interest. Court 22 June delivered blow to Oli after annulling PM’s appointments of 20 ministers on 4 and 10 June, arguing that cabinet expansions contravened constitution given current govt’s caretaker status.
Political tensions heightened following controversial electoral reforms, while militant attacks and counter-insurgency operations continued. Despite opposition and Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) concerns, ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party 10 June introduced new electoral bill, which National Assembly same day endorsed. ECP 16 June issued objections to at least 45 amendments (out of 72) to electoral law, as it deemed some unconstitutional, and others could undermine free and fair elections. Opposition Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) leader 9 June questioned Supreme Court’s failure to protect judiciary during appeal of High Court judge who was removed from his post in 2018 after publicly accusing inter-services intelligence chief of interfering in corruption cases against former PM Nawaz Sharif; bar associations and councils 18 June called for independent high-level commission to look into allegations. Financial Action Task Force 25 June retained Pakistan on grey list for strategic deficiencies in counter-terrorism financing and anti-money laundering regimes. Meanwhile, militant attacks and counter-insurgency operations continued. Pakistani Taliban 3 June claimed killing two police officers in capital Islamabad. In Balochistan, counter-insurgency operation left soldier and two militants dead in Kharan district 11 June; bomb attack 14 June killed four soldiers guarding mine on Marget-Quetta road. Militant attacks 17 June killed soldier in Turbat district, five soldiers in Sibi district 25 June and one soldier in Kech district 28 June. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, bomb attack 2 June killed soldier in South Waziristan district; security operations left two soldiers and four alleged Pakistani Taliban militants dead in North Waziristan 19-20 June; and militants 9 June killed two police officers in Mardan district. In Lahore city, car bomb explosion 23 June killed at least three and injured 21, including children. In Karachi city, gunman 16 June killed Jamaat-e-Islami leader; armed assailants next day injured PTI leader Isa Khan and killed his wife. Internationally, PM Imran Khan 4 June warned “Taliban feel they have won the war” ever since U.S. announced date for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. FM Qureshi 14 June urged Afghan leaders to ensure peace process succeed, emphasised Pakistan’s stake in process and denied Pakistani support to any Taliban faction.
COVID-19 crisis continued to worsen as economy faced growing strains, while EU and UN voiced concerns over govt’s abuse of rule of law. Amid worsening COVID-19 epidemic, govt faced growing accusations of limiting access to coronavirus tests to prevent full knowledge on gravity of health situation and failing to report accurately on death rate, which reached new daily highs during month. Notably, eight members of independent expert panel 8 June called for immediate probe into failings of vaccination programme. Economic concerns persisted as COVID-19 spread among workers in garment and other export industries and Central Bank governor 28 June announced steps to restrict use of dwindling foreign reserves on non-essential imports; energy minister 11 June announced sharp spike in fuel prices, prompting protest in southern town of Ambalangoda 15 June. European Parliament 10 June passed resolution highlighting govt’s abuse of Prevention of Terrorism Act, which permits arrests without warrant and detention without charge for up to 18 months, and failure to adhere to international conventions required to retain EU trade benefits; urged EU Commission to consider withdrawing Sri Lanka’s special trade status; Sri Lanka foreign ministry 14 June rejected allegations of abuse and renewed promise to “revisit provisions” of Terrorism Act. UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet 21 June expressed concerns over govt’s continued misuse and expansion of Terrorism Act, policies targeting Tamils and Muslims, and “continuing series” of deaths in police custody. In widely criticised decision, President Rajapaksa 24 June pardoned Duminda Silva, former ruling-party legislator convicted of 2011 murder of political rival; also pardoned 16 Tamils convicted under Terrorism Act. Bar Association of Sri Lanka 10 June raised concerns with inspector general of police about his 7 June directive calling on police to step up social media monitoring. In rare judicial rebuke of govt, Court of Appeal 16 June approved bail of former senior-most police investigator Shani Abeysekera detained in what was widely seen as retribution for investigations into previous alleged abuses by Rajapaksa-led govt.
Low-level armed violence persisted in Papua amid arrests of pro-independence activists; concerns rose about spread of COVID-19. United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) leader Benny Wenda 2 June said govt had cut off internet in Papua to “conceal its crackdown on the peaceful liberation movement”, also said ULMWP leader in hiding and two of his relatives had been arrested. In Papua province, low-level armed violence continued. In Ilaga district, Puncak regency, unknown armed assailants 3 June killed construction worker near Kibogolome village, same day killed three people and injured three others in Nipuralome village. NGO International Coalition for Papua 24 June reported that military 4 June killed indigenous Papuan in Wamena town, Jayawijaya regency. Authorities 25 June reported that dozens of armed assailants previous day opened fire on construction workers in central Yahukimo regency, killing at least four people; separatist armed group West Papua Liberation Army claimed responsibility for killings. Arrests of activists continued. In Merauke district, authorities 9 June arrested Manuel Metemko, pro-independence activist from NGO West Papua National Committee (KNPB), for allegedly spreading fake news on Facebook about Catholic Church leaders; Metemko faces charges under Electronic Information and Transaction Law which carries up to six years imprisonment. Police 18 June also reportedly arrested 32 members of NGO West Papua National Committee in Napua district, Jayawijaya; all detainees released next day. Amid rumours of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination plans, protesters 27 June demonstrated against alleged programme at Freeport mine in Tembaggapura district, Mimika regency; authorities reportedly violently dispersed protesters, leaving one injured, and arrested 20. Localised violence erupted in Elelim district as pro-regent supporters 29 June set fire to govt offices and residential buildings, and blocked roads, reportedly in protest at Constitutional Court’s decision requesting new local polls and preventing current regent from running in regional election. Meanwhile, Indonesian Red Cross 29 June said surge in COVID-19 cases across country had left Indonesia “on the edge of a COVID-19 catastrophe”. U.S. and Indonesia 25 June agreed plans for maritime training centre on Indonesia’s Batam Island in Singapore Strait (see South China Sea).
Tatmadaw continued to struggle to contain acts of resistance amid intense fighting with civil defence groups and ethnic armed groups across country. Targeted assassinations of alleged supporters of junta increased in June, with several dozen people killed, including local administrators appointed by regime and alleged state informants; with security forces unable to stop killings, armed defence groups mobilised in support of military. Soldiers 22 June attacked resistance forces in downtown Mandalay, leaving several killed on both sides; regime next day intercepted large weapons shipment allegedly destined for Mandalay resistance. Meanwhile, People’s Defence Forces and other civilian militias continued to battle Tatmadaw nationwide. Chinland Defence Force (CDF) 6 June staged several deadly ambushes, claiming killing of up to 50 soldiers in Mindat township and 17 soldiers in Thantlang township. Clashes between junta and civilian militias continued in Sagaing Region; heaviest fighting took place in Kayah State, which led to looming humanitarian disaster. Local defence force and Tatmadaw 15 June agreed temporary ceasefire; 14-day ceasefire also struck between CDF and military from 20 June. In Kachin State and Sagaing Region, wave of fresh fighting between ethnic armed groups and Tatmadaw erupted during month. In far northern Kachin State, Kachin Independence Organisation 1 June fired mortars on Putao Airport. In Kayin State, ethnic armed groups and local defence force 1-2 June clashed together with Tatmadaw troops and members of Karen Border Guard Force near border town of Myawaddy; about 600 civilians fled into Thailand; Tatmadaw shell 2 June hit temporary refugee camp in Thailand, injuring two civilians and Thai soldier. During virtual press conference – which junta blocked by shutting down internet – National Unity Government 5 June presented Rohingya policy providing for equal rights for Rohingya and inviting Rohingya to join opposition to dictatorship. Junta 10 June announced corruption charges against deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior National League for Democracy figures; Suu Kyi 7 June appeared in court to face raft of charges. For first time since Feb military coup, delegation from regional organisation ASEAN 4-5 June visited country. G7 leaders 11-13 June condemned Feb coup.
Low-level violence continued in south between militant groups and security forces. In Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao in south, clashes between insurgents and security forces took place at relatively low levels throughout month. Clashes between govt security forces and suspected elements of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) 20 June killed three militants in Linantangan village, Maguindanao province. Military operations against elements of Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) continued. Clashes between Abu Sayyaf members and military 6 June killed one militant on Basilan island; military 13 June clashed with remnants of Sawadjaan-linked ASG network, killing three, including brother of current ASG leader Mundi Sawadjaan. Clash 23 June left ASG militant dead in Patikul village in Sulu province. Meanwhile, clashes between armed forces and communist New People’s Army continued at similar levels as May: violence in Luzon in north, Visayas in centre, and Mindanao in south left at least ten combatants and civilians dead and three injured throughout month.
South China Sea
Regional defence ministers expressed support for legally binding code of conduct in South China Sea (SCS), while tensions persisted between China and claimant parties. During Defence Minister’s Meeting Plus of South East Asia regional organisation ASEAN and partner countries, U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin 16 June highlighted China’s “unlawful behaviour” in SCS, while Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe said that “China is determined to safeguard the country’s core interests”. ASEAN ministers 16 June underlined in declaration need for “early conclusion of an effective and substantive [Code of Conduct]”. During visit to Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell 3 June said EU supports “ASEAN-led process towards an effective and legally binding Code of Conduct” for SCS. China National Radio 10 June reported that Chinese Army Rocket Force had recently conducted exercises involving “carrier killer” DF-26 ballistic missiles. Following late May flight of 16 Chinese Air Force planes within 110km of Malaysia’s Sarawak state, near Malaysian-administered Luconia Shoals, Kuala Lumpur dispatched pair of combat aircraft to identify and intercept Chinese aircraft and 1 June said it would summon China’s envoy; Chinese embassy in Kuala Lumpur 1 June insisted aircraft were on “routine flight training” manoeuvre, while Malaysian FM Hishammuddin Hussein called Chinese action “breach of the Malaysian airspace and sovereignty”. U.S. Navy 10 June reported that guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur and Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Ballarat 6-11 June held exercises in SCS. U.S. and Indonesia 25 June agreed plans for maritime training centre on Indonesia’s Batam Island in Singapore Strait.
Parliament considered series of constitutional amendments as protesters commemorated end of absolute monarchy in 1932; violence persisted in deep south. Parliament 22-24 June reopened debate on 13 draft constitutional amendment bills, one of which involves stripping appointed senate of power to participate in PM selection process. One bill 24 June passed first reading; bill proposes to raise number of constituency MPs and to restore simpler method for selecting party-list MPs. Parliamentary Legal Advisory Committee President Dr. Sukit Atthopakorn 19 June rejected one draft amendment calling for establishment of Constitution Drafting Assembly, said it contradicted Constitutional Court ruling that referendum would be required before drafting assembly could be formed. Meanwhile, thousands of pro-democracy protesters 24 June commemorated anniversary of 1932 coup, staging rallies at Government House, parliament, Democracy Monument and other locations in capital Bangkok; coup had brought end to absolute monarchy. After late May establishment of subcommittees to supervise and enforce social media laws, digital economy and society ministry 2 June announced court order for Facebook and internet service providers which blocks or removes eight accounts that govt has accused of spreading “fake news”; said accounts had been critical of govt and monarchy. Criminal Court 1 June granted bail to pro-democracy protest leaders Anon Nampa and Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, as well as activist Chukiat “Justin” Saengwong, who face multiple charges including lèse-majesté, sedition and illegal assembly. In the deep south, violence continued. Combined police-military force 21 June raided resort in Yaring district, Pattani province, after receiving reports that small number of insurgents were hiding there; operation left two gunmen dead and injured bystander.
Europe & Central Asia
Ankara and Athens held leader summit in Brussels, while maritime tensions in Aegean sea continued. Greek PM Mitsotakis and Turkish President Erdoğan 14 June held private meeting in Brussels where they agreed to mutually recognise COVID-19 certificates and reaffirmed their commitment to 25 economic cooperation measures. Erdoğan also revealed that he and Mitsotakis agreed to communicate over direct line “without involving others”. Despite positive diplomatic steps, maritime tensions continued. Greek Coast Guard HQ 12-13 June announced two collision incidents of Turkish and Greek Coast Guard vessels east and south of Greece’s Lesbos island; Turkish Coast Guard claimed collision was result of pushback operation against group of irregular migrants by Greek vessel and occurred within Turkish territorial waters. Greece carried out military exercises on land and at sea, including in south west of Greece’s Crete island 15-16 June and around Crete 28 May-11 June; 21 June issued advisory announcement for aeronautical exercises south of Greek islands Kastellorizo/Meis, scheduled for 29 June. Turkish defence ministry protested, claiming violation of agreement not to carry out exercises during tourist season, and 22 June announced military exercises between 15 June-15 September in response. European leaders discussed relations with Turkey during 24-25 June European Council summit; in its conclusions, Council supported de-escalation and dialogue in Eastern Mediterranean; Turkish ministry of foreign affairs 25 June responded that lack of progress on positive agenda was “delaying tactic” by some member states in order “to postpone concrete decisions”, such as modernisation of EU-Turkey customs union.
EU- and U.S.-led Kosovo-Serbia dialogue resumed in Brussels. EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajčák and U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary and Special Representative for Western Balkans Matthew Palmer 1 June concluded two-day visit to Kosovo; envoys met with PM Kurti, President Osmani and opposition representatives. In press conference, Palmer stressed that “it is up to the sides to agree on parameters” of dialogue. During joint visit to Serbia, EU and U.S. envoys 3 June met with President Vučić and PM Ana Brnabić; Brnabić declared that dialogue with Kosovo was priority and Vučić same day commented he believed in “compromise solution”. Belgrade-Pristina dialogue 15 June resumed in Belgium’s capital Brussels. After meeting, Vučić accused Kurti of “complete lack of responsibility” because Kurti allegedly demanded recognition of Kosovo and refused to discuss 2013 deal to establish Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo; Kurti defined meeting as “constructive”, while noting Vučić refused his new proposals on issues related to free trade, peace treaty, and mutual recognition and reciprocity. In letter to Kurti publicised 28 June, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “We want to see Kosovo advance more quickly on its European path” and urged next dialogue meeting with Serbia to take place “as soon as possible”.
Parliament passed resolution prohibiting Srebrenica genocide denial and dismissed justice minister, creating rift within ruling coalition. Parliament 17 June passed resolution condemning June 1995 Srebrenica genocide and banning its denial; same day dismissed Minister of Justice Vladimir Leposavić for doubting International Criminal Tribunal’s classification of Srebrenica events as genocide. Ruling coalition faced internal strains as largest coalition partner pro-Serbian Democratic Front 17 June announced boycott of parliament, accusing govt of cooperating with opposition Democratic Party of Socialists during vote. Governing coalition member Democratic Montenegro party backed current govt and PM, rejecting call for new parliamentary elections. Serbian President Vučić mid-June responded to developments, saying: “We expected them from all those who would like to weaken Serbia, but we did not expect it from those who were always closest to us”. Meanwhile, Council of Europe report 3 June warned of increasing ethnic divisions and hate speech in Montenegro.
Acting PM Pashinyan won snap parliamentary elections, while diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving weeks-long military standoff on border with Azerbaijan continued. Acting PM Nikol Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party 20 June took on main rivals Armenia Alliance bloc, led by former President Robert Kocharyan, in snap parliamentary elections dominated by bellicose rhetoric and political polarisation; Civil Contract party emerged victorious with 53.91% of votes (amounting to 71 seats) while Armenia Alliance won 21.09% (29 seats). Armenia Alliance bloc 22 June suggested they would soon submit to Constitutional Court report that proves existence of electoral violations; Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) election observers 21 June noted that elections were “competitive and generally well-managed”. Following escalation of border tensions since mid-May with Azerbaijan, diplomatic efforts continued in attempt to resolve border standoff. Russian, Armenian and Azerbaijani representatives 2 June met in Moscow to discuss de-escalation. Pashinyan 15 June proposed that all troops withdraw from frontier to end military standoff and start talks on demarcation of border under supervision of international observers; OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs offered to facilitate negotiations. Series of border incidents further fuelled tensions with Baku. Azerbaijan 2 June reported that about 40 Armenian soldiers 1 June crossed into Azerbaijan’s Kelbajar district; Armenia denied report as “disinformation”. Mine blast in Kelbajar district on Armenian border 4 June killed three Azerbaijani civilians; Azerbaijan 8 June detained and later released Armenian soldier in Lachin district, as alleged member of “reconnaissance-sabotage group”, which Armenian defence ministry denied; Azerbaijan reported shelling in Kelbajar district; Armenia 10 June reported that Azerbaijani Armed Forces tried to carry out engineering work in border area of Armenian Gegharkunik region. Azerbaijan and Armenia 26-27 accused each other of ceasefire violations in several sections of frontier but no casualties were reported.
Diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving weeks-long military standoff on border with Armenia continued, while govt bolstered ties with Turkey. Following significant escalation in border tensions with Armenia in May, Russian, Armenian and Azerbaijani representatives 2 June met in Moscow to discuss de-escalation. Armenian acting PM Pashinyan 15 June proposed that all troops withdraw from frontier to end military standoff and start talks on demarcation of border; Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Minsk Group co-chairs offered to facilitate negotiations. Series of border incidents further fuelled tensions with Yerevan. Govt 2 June reported that group of about 40 Armenian soldiers 1 June crossed into Kelbajar district; Armenia denied reports as “disinformation.” Mine blast in Kelbajar district on Armenian border 4 June killed three Azerbaijani civilians; govt 8 June detained and later released Armenian soldier in Lachin district, on claims he was member of “reconnaissance-sabotage group” which was denied by Armenia; govt reported shelling in Kelbajar district. Armenian defence ministry 10 June reported that Azerbaijani Armed Forces tried to carry out engineering work in border area of Armenian Gegharkunik region. During visit to Shusha city in Nagorno-Karabakh, Turkish President Erdoğan and President Aliyev 15 June signed milestone joint declaration that introduces regular joint sessions between Turkish and Azerbaijani security councils, bolsters military cooperation, includes roadmap for consolidation of diaspora relations and expresses formal support for Turkish position on Armenian genocide issue; Armenian MFA 15 June denounced joint visit to Shusha as “provocation against regional peace and security”.
Discord surfaced between govt and opposition, threatening implementation of April agreement, while govt and breakaway territories engaged in meetings to resolve issues. Discord and political rivalry between govt and opposition challenged implementation of EU- and U.S.-brokered April agreement that ended months-long political standoff. Notably, opposition MPs – most of whom rejoined parliament late April – 9 June opposed ruling Georgian Dream party’s draft bill on amnesty, which includes protection for police officers charged with “abuse of power” during June 2019 unrest when thousands protested in capital Tbilisi after Russian MP addressed session in parliament building from seat of Georgian parliament speaker and spoke in Russian. Ruling party MPs in turn 11 June voted down alternative law proposed by opposition parties. Meanwhile, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) co-chairs, EU and UN 6-10 June held discussions on humanitarian and security issues with officials from breakaway territories and govt in capital Tbilisi, South Ossetia’s de facto capital Tskhinvali, Abkhazia’s de facto capital Sukhumi and Russian capital Moscow. Georgian representatives raised imprisonment of four Georgian citizens in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, while South Ossetian representatives raised continued discontent with police outpost established in 2019 at Ossetian village of Tsnelisi area at line of separation. OSCE Sec Gen Helga Schmid 14-16 June visited Georgia, including Tsitsagiantkari village at line of separation with South Ossetia, and took part in 100th Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism meeting. Fifty-third round of Geneva International Discussions 29 June began; Georgian delegation sought to raise issue of Georgian detainees in breakaway territories while South Ossetian and Abkhazian sides concentrated on non-use of force agreement.
In spite of ongoing border tensions, Azerbaijan exchanged Armenian detainees in return for mine maps from Armenia. Following mediation efforts by Georgian, U.S., EU and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe representatives as well as commander of Russian peacekeeping mission, Azerbaijan 12 June released 15 Armenian detainees in exchange for maps delivered from Yerevan that indicated sites of landmine clusters in Agdam district. Armenian Acting PM Pashinyan 12 June praised handover of Armenian prisoners as “start of a new process” and added that Armenia had provided Azerbaijan with some mine maps back in Dec 2020 “in order to create a constructive atmosphere”. Azerbaijan’s State Security Service and Prosecutor-General’s Office 7 June confirmed that 13 Armenian soldiers were charged with crossing into Azerbaijan and terrorism; 10 June announced criminal cases against 26 more Armenian soldiers had been submitted to court in Azerbaijan. Series of incidents on state border continued to fuel tensions, including deadly mine blast and shelling (see Armenia and Azerbaijan). During Turkish President Erdoğan's visit to Shusha city, Erdoğan and Azerbaijani President Aliyev 15 June signed milestone joint declaration on bilateral tries (see Azerbaijan); Aliyev and Erdoğan also confirmed that declaration bolstered military cooperation, and contained “very clear” statements on importance of transport corridors between two countries and opening of consulate in Shusha; Armenian MFA 15 June denounced joint visit to Shusha as “provocation against regional peace and security”. Meanwhile, protesters in Nagorno-Karabakh 21 and 22 June demanded resignation of de facto President Arayik Harutyunyan following reports that he was seen at office of Armenia’s ruling Civil Contract party on Armenia’s parliamentary election day held on 20 June. Following protests, Harutyunyan remarked that “a snap election will be held in a reasonable time frame” but that he would not stand in elections and would quit politics.
U.S. expressed support for imprisoned opposition figure Alexei Navalny, while parliament continued to introduce restrictions on foreign organisations operating in country. At 16 June summit between Moscow and Washington (see U.S.-Russia), U.S. President Biden warned President Putin of “devastating” consequences should opposition figure Alexei Navalny die in prison. U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan 20 June said U.S. was “preparing another package of sanctions” related to poisoning of Navalny. Lower chamber of parliament 16 June adopted law criminalising activities of foreign non-governmental organisations as well as participation in and fundraising for such activities. Ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for 19 Sept, ruling United Russia party 19 June revealed candidates for its federal list, which include Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and FM Sergei Lavrov. In North Caucasus, Head of Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov 23 June told Putin that international terrorism in Chechnya has been “completely and forever” eradicated; according to Kadyrov, “security issues are no longer relevant” and main issues now are economic and social development. Kadyrov, who has been head of republic since 2007, 26 June declared that he had agreed to run for new term after receiving Putin’s endorsement.
U.S. and Russian presidents held face-to-face summit in Geneva, agreeing to continue arms control dialogue and return ambassadors. U.S. President Biden and Russia’s President Putin 16 June met in Swiss city Geneva for first face-to-face meeting since Biden took office to discuss diverse issues, including arms control, cybersecurity, Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan and Arctic; Biden described meeting as “good and positive” while Putin said sides “will begin consultations on the entire complex of interactions on the diplomatic track”. Sole document signed by both parties during summit related to strategic stability; sides committed to “principle that there can be no winners in a nuclear war”, with bilateral dialogue on arms control set to commence in due course. Leaders also agreed to return ambassadors to their respective posts. Separately, Moscow 18 June announced it would withdraw from Open Skies Treaty – multilateral accord permitting signatories to undertake non-military reconnaissance flights over other countries – on 18 Dec, stating that U.S. formal withdrawal from treaty in Nov 2020 “grossly violated the balance of interests, rights and obligations” of signatories.
Western countries announced additional sanctions on govt, while opposition called for greater international pressure. After authorities forcibly diverted passenger aircraft in May and arrested Belarusian critic, U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 3 June announced termination of business dealings with nine state-owned enterprises. EU ambassadors 4 June agreed to ban Belarusian airlines from using EU airspace or airports. U.S., UK, Canada and EU 21 June announced sanctions, including asset freeze and travel bans, and in joint statement said: “We are united in calling for the regime to end its repressive practices against its own people”. Govt 28 June suspended participation in EU’s Eastern Partnership initiative; EU Council President Charles Michel same day said decision “will escalate tensions further”. U.S. 29 June prohibited sale of passenger flight tickets between U.S. and Belarus. Opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya 8 June urged international states to impose tougher sanctions on govt, saying: “We can block the regime economically so that it won’t be possible to pay the police and the military”. President Lukashenka 8 June signed into law amendments to criminal code that strengthen punishment for criticising govt or participating in anti-govt rallies. Court in capital Minsk 10 June sentenced four individuals associated with presidential campaign of opposition figure Viktor Babaryka to five years’ imprisonment for their alleged role in anti-govt protests last year.
Deadly combat continued in Donbas as President Zelenskyy reinvigorated bid for NATO membership and U.S. reaffirmed support for Minsk diplomatic process. In Donbas conflict zone, live fire 19 and 27 June injured civilian while killing two Ukrainian servicemen and injuring six during month, according to official and media reports. At least one Russia-backed fighter was killed by live fire, while sides traded accusations over deaths of additional nine fighters, as well as over the cause of five injuries. In joint communiqué following 14 June NATO summit, member states reiterated their 2008 pledge to issue Georgia and Ukraine Membership Action Plans, but provided no timeline; President Zelenskyy 18 June told Western news outlets that he wanted “yes or no” on NATO membership, and “clear dates”. Following 16 June Geneva summit with Russia’s President Putin, U.S. President Joe Biden said he and his counterpart “agreed to pursue diplomacy related to the Minsk agreement”; Putin separately stated that Biden had apparently deemed agreements “the basis for conflict regulation”, noting that this contradicted Kyiv’s recent statements about need for alternate approach. U.S. Deputy Sec State Victoria Nuland reiterated U.S. support for Minsk agreements in 17 June interview, saying U.S. would examine possibilities for greater involvement in peace process following consultations with Kyiv. Ukraine’s Security and Defence Council 18 June announced that govt was imposing sanctions on businessman Dmytro Firtash in connection with his titanium business, which officials say supplies raw materials used by Russian military. Russia’s defence ministry 23 June announced that maritime patrol had fired warning shots at British military vessel 19km from Crimean Peninsula in Black Sea, which UK denied; Ukrainian FM Dmytro Kuleba called incident “clear proof” that Russia’s “occupation and militarization of Crimea pose a lasting threat to Ukraine and allies”. U.S. and Ukraine-led Sea Breeze naval exercise 28 June began in Black Sea.
Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders agreed to open border crossings, while UN continued diplomatic engagement with Cypriot parties in hope of scheduling new international conference. In show of goodwill, Republic of Cyprus President Anastasiades and “TRNC” President Ersin Tatar 2 June confirmed agreement on reopening all crossing points on island from 4 June onward; crossings between north and south had been essentially closed since Feb 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. Anastasiades and Tatar 22 June held separate meetings with U.N. Special Envoy on Cyprus Dispute Jane Holl Lute as part of efforts to search for common ground and assess prospects for second 5+1 conference. Tensions at sea continued, notably when Turkish Coast Guard 22 June blocked and reportedly boarded Greek Cypriot fishing boat off Dipkarpaz town (north-eastern part of Cyprus). Turkey issued numerous advisories for military drills, including in area south of Dipkarpaz 1-18 June, in Gulf of Morphou (northern part of Cyprus) on 23 June and south of Dipkarpaz 1-16 July. Following 30 May parliamentary elections in Republic of Cyprus — which saw ruling Democratic Rally party claim 27.8% of the votes, marking party’s worst election result in 40 years — Tatar 1 June noted hardline forces favouring unitary state were gaining ground in south. At 24-25 June summit, European Council said it remained “fully committed to the comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem on the basis of a bicommunal, bi-zonal federation with political equality”; Turkish ministry of foreign affairs 25 June responded that it is impossible for EU “to make a positive contribution to the Cyprus issue” as long as bloc “ignores Turkish Cypriots and disregards their equal rights”.
Authorities continued to restrict pro-Kurdish opposition, and arrested over 200 Islamic State suspects; meanwhile, military operations targeting Kurdish militants in neighbourhood continued. Govt efforts to delegitimise pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) persisted. Constitutional Court 21 June accepted indictment seeking closure of party; 843-page indictment, among other aspects, demands that 451 party members be banned from politics for period of five years. Lone gunman 17 June stormed HDP provincial office in Izmir city and opened fire at employees, killing one; Erdoğan 21 June condemned attack. In near neighbourhood, Ankara continued efforts to curtail Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) presence, which increasingly drew in Peshmerga forces and fuelled intra-Kurdish friction in northern Iraq (see Iraq). Notably, Turkey 5 June carried out drone strikes near Makhmur camp in northern Iraq with Turkish officials claiming it functions as “incubator” for militants, reportedly killing three civilians. PKK attack same day killed five Peshmerga forces in Iraq’s Dohuk area. President Erdoğan 6 June claimed that Turkish security forces “neutralised” Selman Bozkır, one of PKK’s high-ranking members in northern Iraq. Ankara also blamed “PKK/YPG” for 12 June missile attack on hospital in Syria’s Afrin city, and same day retaliated against what it called “PKK/YPG” targets in Tal Rifat (see Syria). Meanwhile, Turkish security units continued to carry out operations against Islamic State (ISIS); police detained over 200 individuals for their alleged ISIS links, including Syrians and Iraqis. Presidents Erdoğan and Biden 14 June met on sidelines of NATO summit held in Belgian capital Brussels; Erdoğan characterised talks with Biden as “productive and sincere” while Biden said meeting was “very good”. European leaders discussed relations with Turkey during 24-25 June European Council summit, agreeing to continue offering financial support for Syrian refugees and host communities in Turkey.
Amid ongoing tensions with Tajikistan, sides struck new agreement to stabilise border. Following deadliest fighting on Kyrgyz-Tajik border in years in April, authorities 4 June announced they bolstered border security presence after observing that Tajikistan had violated past agreements by installing container and deploying military personnel and equipment on unmarked border segment in Kyrgyz’s Chon-Alai district in southern Osh region; Tajik officials same day dismissed concerns. Kyrgyz and Tajik officials 5 June struck new nine-point agreement, including provisions to withdraw troops and military equipment and relocate respective border posts 3km from border; Kyrgyz authorities next day withdrew reinforcements after reporting that Tajik side had removed container. Heads of Tajikistan’s northern Sughd region and Kyrgyzstan’s southern Batken region 16 June held meeting to discuss border issues, reportedly forging agreement on water distribution. Meanwhile, group of Kyrgyz lawyers and activists 6 June requested International Criminal Court initiate investigation into Tajikistan’s military conduct during recent escalation; Kyrgyz govt 15 June criticised application, stating that “such initiatives can harm the political and diplomatic solution of the issue”. During 28-29 June official visit to Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe, President Japarov described late-April military escalation as “heavy test” for both countries. Meanwhile, around 50 protesters 30 June gathered in capital Bishkek in opposition to controversial bill that could establish govt watchdog to monitor posting of online content; activists complained bill violates freedom of speech.
Amid ongoing tensions with Kyrgyzstan, sides struck new agreement to stabilise border; concerns rose over border security with Afghanistan. Following deadliest fighting on Kyrgyz-Tajik border in years in April, Kyrgyz authorities 4 June announced they had bolstered border security presence after observing that Tajikistan had violated past agreements by installing container and deploying military personnel and equipment on unmarked segment of border in Kyrgyz’s Chon-Alai district in southern Osh region; Tajik officials same day dismissed concerns. Kyrgyz and Tajik officials 5 June struck new nine-point agreement, including provisions to withdraw troops and military equipment from border and relocate respective border posts 3km from border; Kyrgyz authorities next day withdrew reinforcements after reporting that Tajik side removed container. Heads of Tajikistan’s northern Sughd region and Kyrgyzstan’s southern Batken region 16 June held meeting to discuss border issues, reportedly forging agreement on water distribution. During 28-29 June official visit to capital Dushanbe, Kyrgyzstan President Japarov described late-April military escalation as “heavy test” for both countries. Meanwhile, Head of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region Yodgor Fayzov 21 June convened meeting with military and law enforcement officials on border situation with Afghanistan where conflict had been escalating in recent weeks (see Afghanistan); highlighted risk of possible refugee influx of between 5,000 to 10,000 people and ongoing border insecurity due to presence of extremist groups along border. Border service revealed that 17 Afghan soldiers 27 June crossed border into Tajikistan, as they were fleeing Taliban operations in Afghanistan’s Balkh province, while media reports late June said Taliban offensive had pushed over 130 Afghan soldiers to cross border over to Tajikistan.
Authorities made series of arrests of suspected extremists, and concerns rose over border security with Afghanistan. Authorities 15 June apprehended group allegedly planning terrorist attacks in Syria. Police next day detained 20 people in Mirzaobod and Yangier districts of eastern Sirdaryo region suspected of distributing “extremist materials” on social media, reportedly confiscating weapons and literature. Authorities 17 June detained six suspected members of proscribed Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir in Urgut district in south-eastern region of Samarkand. Meanwhile, authorities confirmed that 53 Afghan troops and allied militia fighters 23 June crossed border into Uzbekistan to flee stepped-up Taliban offensive (see Afghanistan); also said that after questioning, Afghan pro-govt forces were allowed back into their country. Authorities mid-June announced military drills along border. UN Special Envoy on Afghanistan Deborah Lyons 22 June warned about potential security repercussions of worsening Afghan conflict on “many other countries, near and far".
Latin America & Caribbean
Bomb attack at military base injured dozens and helicopter carrying President Duque struck by bullets; National Strike Committee suspended weekly protests. Car bomb 15 June exploded inside military base in Cúcuta city, Norte de Santander department (north east near Venezuelan border), wounding 36 soldiers; Defence Minister Diego Molano Aponte same day blamed National Liberation Army (ELN) or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissident factions for attack; ELN next day denied involvement. Unidentified assailants 25 June shot at helicopter transporting Duque and other govt officials to Cúcuta; no casualties reported. Suspected armed groups 27 June killed nine including four police officers in spate of attacks across country. Meanwhile, thousands 2 June marched in capital Bogotá and other cities, renewing calls for reform in security, health and education sectors. Majority of rural protesters and some urban demonstrators early June complied with National Strike Committee’s decision to start lifting or loosening blockades in good-will gesture amid stalled talks with govt; blockades however remained in Valle de Cauca department and its capital Cali, in west along Pacific coast. National Strike Committee 6 June pulled out of negotiations with govt, accusing it of delaying talks, while President Duque same day announced plan to reform police, largely made up of institutional changes already under way; Committee 15 June suspended weekly demonstrations, announced it would turn focus on convening local public assemblies and building political consensus, and convened next protest for 20 July. Govt 18 June amended decree on right to peaceful protest to exclude roadblocks, said use of force to remove them legitimate. During Inter-American Commission on Human Rights visit 8-10 June to assess human rights situation in context of protests, local NGOs Temblores and Indepaz reported 69 people killed during protests, including 41 by police; govt confirmed total of 19 deaths, with only four resulting from police brutality. Colombia 21 June reached 100,000 COVID-19 deaths amid peak in cases and warnings of risk of medical supply shortages.
Mainstream opposition participation in upcoming elections increasingly likely; situation at Colombian border remained tense. Main opposition parties, including mainstream opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s Voluntad Popular (VP), reportedly assessing fielding some candidates in regional and local elections scheduled for Nov. VP delegation 21-25 June met with U.S. officials in U.S. capital Washington D.C. to discuss Guaidó’s efforts to establish dialogue with President Maduro; also visited Brussels and Paris 28-29 June. U.S., EU and Canada 25 June jointly said they would review sanctions policies if govt and opposition able to make “meaningful progress” toward transparent elections. Govt 28 June said they would no longer appoint so-called “protectors”, ruling-party supporters who de facto exercise same functions as elected official in opposition-led states. National Electoral Council 29 June said it would allow opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable – which had secured majority in National Assembly in 2015 – to run in next elections. Spanish newspaper El País and Venezuelan website Armando.info 13 June alleged vast international network had allowed Venezuela to escape U.S. oil sanctions. Second international donors’ conference for Venezuela 17 June raised over $1.5mn in grants and loans to help Venezuelan refugees and migrants; donation pledges up by 45% compared to last year. UN High Commissioner for Refugees 19 June said Venezuela is world’s second country most affected by forced displacement with over 5mn displaced. Displaced civilians reportedly started to return home in Apure state at border with Colombia, where armed forces have been fighting against dissident faction of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) known as 10th Front since March. Defence Minister Gen Padrino López 1 June said eight Venezuelan soldiers who had been abducted in April by 10th Front in Apure had been rescued; independent sources however attributed their return to negotiation. NGO Fundaredes 21 June and others in following days said FARC dissidents 15 June killed six indigenous civilians in Apure. Amid slow and erratic COVID-19 vaccination program, govt 10 June blamed U.S. “blockade” for $10mn shortfall in Venezuela’s payments to World Health Organization’s COVAX vaccine-sharing program; U.S. Treasury 17 June issued new guidance to ease COVID-19-related transactions despite sanctions.
Tensions ran high over management of COVID-19 pandemic as country surpassed 500,000 deaths. President Bolsonaro 9 June said COVID-19 vaccines “are still in an experimental phase”, 17 June alleged infection produces stronger immunity than vaccination, and 24 June questioned efficacy of Brazil’s most common vaccine Coronavax. Thousands 19 June protested in all 26 states and capital Brasilia against Bolsonaro’s COVID-19 policies, as country same day reached half a million deaths. Health ministry’s employee Luís Ricardo Fernandes 25 June testified before Senate parliamentary commission investigating govt’s handling of COVID-19 pandemic, denounced irregularities in purchase of Indian vaccine Covaxin. Commission’s head Senator Omar Aziz late June reported mounting evidence that govt had committed “crimes against life”. Several opposition parties 30 June submitted “super impeachment request” against Bolsonaro to parliament’s lower house, accusing him of committing over 20 crimes in COVID-19 management; protests same day erupted in several cities including Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, Recife and Sao Paulo. Opposition senator 28 June filed formal criminal complaint at Supreme Court against Bolsonaro for alleged irregularities in Covaxin deal. Superior Military Court’s President 17 June warned opposition’s attacks against president could result in “actions outside the Constitution”, paving way for military courts to try civilians.
Deadly brawl opposed members of two rival gangs in country’s most notorious prison. Brawl between members of 18th Street gang and rival MS-13 gang 17 June broke out at La Tolva high-security prison east of capital Tegucigalpa, leaving at least five inmates killed and 39 people injured, including prison guards; prisons have been under military control since late 2019. Unidentified gunmen 7 June killed member of Garifuna indigenous community in Comayagua city (centre), bringing to six number of Garifuna people killed in 2021. Govt continued to face accusations of mismanagement of COVID-19 pandemic. National Anticorruption Council (CNA) 14 June said only two of seven mobile hospitals purchased in 2020 to treat COVID-19 patients have become operational, denounced “paved roads for the corrupt”; CNA has submitted to prosecutors 14 reports on irregularities in mobile hospitals’ purchase since 2020. Police 18 June fired tear gas to disperse peaceful protesters demanding reconstruction of levees washed away by hurricanes in 2020 in San Pedro Sula city’s neighbourhood Chamelecón (north). Some 32 civil society groups 16 June formed national movement against tax-free Special Zones of Economic Development (ZEDEs), arguing they do not produce employment and could lead to displacement of vulnerable populations; 22 June organised small protest against ZEDEs in Tegucigalpa. U.S. development agency Administrator Samantha Power 13 June visited Honduras, announced nearly $24mn in aid to address root causes of migration.
Govt shut down anti-corruption body, fuelling further tensions with international partners. Govt 4 June pulled out of 2019 anti-corruption agreement with Organization of American States (OAS) that created International Commission against Impunity in El Salvador (CICIES); govt said move resulted from OAS hiring as adviser former mayor of country’s capital San Salvador, Ernesto Muyshondt, currently investigated for paying gangs in exchange for votes in 2014 presidential election. Police same day detained Muyshondt, and attorney general 24 June charged him and five others with “illicit association” and “electoral fraud”. U.S. Special Envoy for Northern Triangle Ricardo Zúñiga 4 June “regretted” govt’s decision to shut down CICIES, while OAS Sec-Gen Luis Almagro 7 June accused President Bukele of having used CICIES as tool “to investigate actions of opposition politicians”. In world premiere, Legislative Assembly 8 June approved Bukele’s proposal to make cryptocurrency Bitcoin legal tender. International Monetary Fund 10 June said move raised “macroeconomic, financial and legal issues”; Central American Bank for Economic Integration 14 June said it will provide technical assistance to govt for Bitcoin implementation; World Bank 16 June denied support to govt citing “environmental and transparency shortcomings” of bitcoin. U.S. development agency Administrator Samantha Power 14 June visited country, reiterated “U.S. concerns on democratic governance”, but announced $115mn in aid to address root causes of migration.
Govt launched unprecedented wave of arrests of political and business representatives ahead of Nov general elections. Authorities 1-2 June charged prominent opposition presidential hopeful Cristiana Chamorro with “money laundering” and “ideological falseness” and placed her under house arrest. In following days, police launched wave of arrests of opposition politicians, businessmen and journalists under controversial “Treason Law” passed in Dec 2020; at least 20, including four other presidential hopefuls, detained by month’s end. As of 25 June, three journalists (including head of independent news outlet Confidencial and Cristiana Chamorro’s brother, Carlos Fernando Chamorro) and a former ruling-party official now in opposition had fled into exile. Spate of arrests sparked international outcry. U.S. Treasury 9 June sanctioned four more public officials for “supporting [President] Ortega’s efforts to undermine democracy, human rights, and the economy”. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell 10 June firmly condemned spate of detentions, and Organization of American States’ Permanent Council 15 June approved widely-backed resolution condemning arrests and calling for “immediate release of all political prisoners”. U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee 22 June approved “Renacer Act”, calling for greater international pressure to ensure fair elections in Nicaragua.
Authorities postponed controversial constitutional referendum, while gang violence displaced thousands in capital Port-au-Prince. Authorities 7 June postponed 27 June constitutional referendum, citing logistical impediment due to COVID-19 pandemic; move came after several international partners in recent weeks withdrew support for controversial vote. President Moïse 16 June issued decree giving Independent Advisory Committee 45 extra days to finalise new draft of constitution, and authorities late June scheduled referendum, presidential and legislative elections for 26 Sept. Organization of American States (OAS) mission 8 June arrived in Haiti for three-day visit to facilitate political dialogue with view to holding free and fair elections; mission officials same day met with Moïse and in following days with more than 50 politicians and civil society representatives; opposition party Democratic and Popular Sector declined to speak to mission, denouncing OAS for allegedly “supporting” Moïse. Meanwhile, members of G9 gang alliance 3-6 June raided several police stations in search of weapons in southern neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince, killing several police officers. UN humanitarian office 22 June reported 13,600 displaced since 1 June due to increasing levels of violence in several Port-au-Prince neighbourhoods. At border with Dominican Republic, Haitian police officer 7 June shot one civilian dead and wounded another while attempting to stop them from entering Dominican territory. Meanwhile, Haiti as of 8 June had yet to receive COVID-19 vaccines amid surge in cases. Three Port-au-Prince hospitals 2 June announced COVID-19 wards are full; fourth hospital 16 June followed suit.
Legislative elections marked setback for ruling party amid ongoing violence by criminal groups. Ruling MORENA party 6 June lost absolute majority in lower house of Congress; together with allied Ecologist Green Party and Labour Party, MORENA still holds more than 50% of seats. President López Obrador 8 June said he would negotiate with Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to secure constitutional changes in electoral law, energy sector and security, which require two-thirds majority; 16 June said he would seek constitutional reform to formally incorporate National Guard into armed forces before 2023. MORENA also secured majority of municipalities, and won 11 out of 15 governorships, thus becoming country’s primary political force at state level. Violent incidents continued in lead-up to elections, including ambush that killed five people transporting voting materials in Chiapas state (south) 5 June. Consultancy firm Etellekt 21 June reported total of 102 politicians, including 36 candidates, killed since Sept 2020. In days following vote, demonstrators contested results on grounds of alleged electoral fraud and vote-buying notably in Tlaxcala state (centre), where MORENA won most mayorships previously held by PRI. Meanwhile, federal judge 15 June sentenced former mayor of Chínipas city (Chihuahua state in north), Schultz Alcaraz, to eight years in prison after Alcaraz admitted to having abetted assassination of journalist Miroslava Breach in 2017. In Tamaulipas state (north), unidentified gunmen 19 June killed at least 18 people among whom four drug lords in Reynosa city near U.S. border. In Zacatecas state (north), suspected shootout between two rival drug cartels 24-25 June killed 18. U.S. VP Kamala Harris 6-8 June visited Guatemala and Mexico on her first trip abroad since taking office, met with López Obrador in capital Mexico City; both sides agreed to continue to jointly address root causes of migration from Central America. Harris 25 June visited U.S.-Mexico border.
Tight presidential runoff vote fuelled electoral crisis as right-wing supporters rejected results, alleging fraud, and some called for military to step in. Following 6 June presidential polls, right-wing Popular Force presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori next day alleged wide-scale fraud and irregularities; 9 June demanded electoral authorities nullify 200,000 votes. Organization of American States 11 June said its electoral observation mission had “not detected serious irregularities”. Fujimori supporters 12 and 15 June protested in capital Lima calling for annulment of contested ballots. National Office of Electoral Processes 15 June declared vote count complete, said left-wing Free Peru party candidate and political newcomer Pedro Castillo had won 50.12% of votes – about 44,000 more than Fujimori; Castillo same day claimed victory. Hundreds of retired officers mid-June sent letter to leaders of armed forces demanding they do not accept Castillo as new president and supporting Fujimori’s claims of fraud; President Sagasti next day condemned letter, said it was being investigated by Attorney General’s Office. Supporters of both candidates 19 and 26 June protested in Lima, with Fujimori’s followers denouncing fraud and Castillo’s supporters calling on electoral authorities to confirm his election. One of four magistrates in National Jury of Elections (JNE), responsible for resolving all legal challenges and officially declaring winner of presidential vote, 23 June quit amid disagreements with other JNE officials over requests to nullify votes; replacement sworn in 26 June.
Middle East & North Africa
Israeli forces launched wave of arrests inside Israel and suppressed Palestinian protests in West Bank amid attacks by settlers; ceasefire between Israel and Hamas faced strains. Following May deadly fighting between Israel and Gaza-based Palestinian factions that triggered widespread violence across Israel and West Bank, Israeli forces sought to restore security in what Palestinian activists claimed was attempt to suppress protests. Israel 3 June concluded operation that led to arrest of 2,142 citizens, 90% of them Palestinian. Israeli border police 5 June detained journalist Givara Budeiri, releasing her after four hours; International Press Institute director Barbara Trionfi same day slammed arrest. Israeli police 6 June detained twins Muna and Mohammed El-Kurd over their activism against removal of families from East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah; police same day clashed with protesters outside station before Muna’s release. In Jerusalem, Israeli-run municipality 7 June issued demolition orders to residents of al-Bustan area in Silwan neighbourhood, giving some 1,500 Palestinian residents 21 days to evacuate and demolish their houses; court hearing on matter postponed until 7 Aug. Thousands of Israelis 15 June rallied in nationalist march around Jerusalem’s Old City chanting “death to Arabs”. While attempting to suppress protest, Israeli police injured over 30 Palestinian protesters. Citing marches, Hamas 15 June flew incendiary balloons into southern Israel; Israel 15-17 June struck Hamas military compounds in Gaza in first strikes since ceasefire, leaving no casualties. In Gaza, Egyptian delegation 3 June arrived to aid reconstruction plans. In West Bank, Israeli settlers 8 June shot and mutilated Palestinian man after setting fire to Palestinian-owned land in al-Rihiya village, south of Hebron city; settlers fired live bullets at Palestinians attempting to extinguish fire. Israeli forces 11 June shot and killed four Palestinian residents protesting illegal settler outpost in Beita town. Palestinian security forces 24 June killed prominent activist Nizar Banat, outspoken critic against Palestinian Authority’s (PA) security coordination with Israel, leading to protests throughout West Bank against PA, which police repressed. In Gaza, Egyptian delegation 3 June arrived to aid reconstruction plans. New Israeli govt led by ultra-nationalist Naftali Bennett 13 June sworn in following power-sharing agreement between eight opposition parties, ousting Benjamin Netanyahu as PM.
Political infighting continued to stall govt formation while Lebanese pound fell to record low amid worsening economic crisis. Amid ongoing stalemate over govt formation, President Aoun 2 June released statement criticising PM-designate Saad Hariri’s “continuous evading of responsibilities” that “constitutes a persistent violation of the constitution and national accord”; Hariri same day hit back stating presidency is held “hostage to the personal ambitions” of Jibran Bassil, Aoun’s son-in-law and leader of Christian group Free Patriotic Movement. Economic crisis and living conditions continued to deteriorate. Protesters 2 June blocked main roads in capital Beirut to protest economic situation after court previous day suspended Central Bank decree that allowed withdrawal at better rate than fixed exchange rate; suspension reversed next day. Lebanese pound 13 June hit low of 15,300 to dollar on black market, marking lowest rate since March. Workers 17 June held general strike to protest economic situation and political stalemate, accompanied by roadblocks in Beirut and other cities; Energy Minister Raymond Ghajar same day stated petrol subsidy is poised to end. Ministry of economy and trade 18 June raised price of subsidised bread for fifth time in one year. Lebanese pound 26 June dropped further to 18,000 to dollar, prompting new roadblocks and minor riots in Tripoli and Sidon cities as well as other locations. Energy ministry 29 June raised fuel prices. Meanwhile, international stakeholders maintained pressure. France 17 June convened virtual donor conference over concerns about pressure of economic crisis on Lebanese Armed Forces, with French defence ministry calling for “increased commitment and coordination from everyone”. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell 19 June berated govt stalemate as putting country on edge of “financial collapse”, warning EU response could include targeted sanctions; Borrell next day pinned “strong mistrust” as root of crisis.
Clashes erupted in Manbij area in north east, Russian strikes in Idlib province resumed, and suspected ISIS militants killed dozens in central desert. In north east, following 31 May-1 June clashes between Kurdish security forces and predominantly Arab residents protesting mandatory conscription in Manbij area that left at least eight dead, Kurdish civilian administration 2 June agreed to suspend conscription, release protesters and investigate shootings after meeting with local tribes’ elders same day; latter 7 June issued 17 requests, including permanent end to conscription. In Hasakah province, also in north east, landmine 9 June struck Russian military convoy in al-Asadiyah village, killing one soldier. In Idlib province in north west, March 2020 ceasefire continued to hold despite reported clashes, artillery shelling and Russian airstrikes in countryside throughout month that killed at least 31; notably, in Jabal al Zawyeh area, regime artillery and Russian airstrikes reportedly killed 13 civilians and militants affiliated with jihadist rebel group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) 10 June, and at least another nine 17 June. In Daraa province in south west, unidentified gunmen 1-23 June reportedly killed eight former rebels who had enrolled in or struck reconciliation deals with govt forces while landmine killed at least four govt soldiers. In Aleppo province, missile strikes 12 June reportedly targeted hospital in Afrin town, killing at least 13 people; some observers suspected Russia while Turkey blamed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). In central desert, Russia continued air raids against suspected Islamic State (ISIS) targets throughout month, reportedly killing dozens; suspected ISIS militants 3-5 June reportedly killed 23 govt troops and Iran-linked fighters in separate attacks. Israel 8 June reportedly launched airstrikes on govt troops and allied militia fighters in capital Damascus, killing at least 11. U.S. 27 June announced airstrikes in Iraq and Syria targeting “facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups”; Iran’s foreign affairs ministry immediately criticised action and unidentified assailants 28 June fired rockets at U.S. base in Deir Ez-Zor province. Ahead of 10 July UN Security Council vote to renew cross-border aid mandate, World Health Organization 25 June warned failure to renew mandate could trigger new “humanitarian catastrophe”.
Sixth round of nuclear talks made progress while UN temporary inspections agreement into nuclear sites expired with unclear next steps; Ebrahim Raisi elected president. Following sixth round of indirect U.S.-Iran negotiations in Austrian capital Vienna held 12-20 June, Iran’s lead negotiator Abbas Araghchi 20 June announced “we are closer to an agreement than ever” while U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan same day remarked there remained “a fair distance to travel”; it remains to be seen if agreement will emerge in remaining five weeks of Rouhani administration. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi 7 June briefed board of governors, emphasising Iran’s lack of cooperation on addressing safeguards concerns at four undeclared nuclear sites. Arrangement concluded in Feb on facilitating continued IAEA monitoring of Iranian nuclear activity expired 24 June; IAEA next day called for “immediate response” on status of technical understanding, but Tehran had yet to agree on extension by end of month. Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant 21 June underwent electricity shutdown due to “technical problem”; Iranian media 23 June reported “an act of sabotage” against building owned by the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran. Regarding sanctions, U.S. Treasury 10 June blacklisted “members of smuggling network” allegedly linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards-Quds Force and Huthis in Yemen and same day removed sanctions on five individuals and entities, citing “verified change in behaviour or status”. Treasury 17 June published COVID-19-related general licenses clarifying scope of humanitarian transactions with Iran. U.S. Justice Dept 22 June announced seizure of 33 websites linked to Iranian media. Following passage of two Iranian vessels late May suspectedly bound for Venezuela, U.S. State Dept 10 June warned Tehran against transfering weapons or illicit materials to Caracas. Meanwhile, ahead of presidential election 18 June, three of seven candidates pulled out of race; electoral authorities 19 June announced victory for judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi who won 61.9% of vote, with voter turnout at 48.8% - lowest in Islamic Republic’s history; Raisi will take office as Iran’s eighth president 3 August.
Amid ongoing calls to resolve targeted killings of activists, rocket attacks continued to target U.S.-led coalition and skirmishes broke out between Kurdish factions. Rocket attacks against U.S.-led coalition forces persisted. Armed group 6 June launched rocket at Baghdad international airport base hosting coalition forces; U.S. troops same day shot down two drones above Ain al-Asad airbase, Anbar province. Three drones 9 June struck Balad airbase, Salahaddin province; rockets same day struck capital Baghdad, with no casualties reported. Iraqi armed forces 16 June shot down two explosives-laden drones over Baghdad military facilities. Rocket 20 June struck Ain al-Asad airbase, with no casualties reported. After pro-Iran armed groups linked to paramilitary coalition Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) vowed to increase attacks on coalition forces following 26 May arrest of Anbar PMF commander Qasim Muslih suspected of involvement in killings of activists, authorities 9 June released Muslih, citing lack of evidence, in possible sign of govt’s desire to avoid confrontation with PMF. PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi 12 June met protesters in Nasiriyah city, stating “the assault on [activists] comes as part of a battle waged by the state against corruption”. Protesters 20 June staged sit-in in front of Karbala court, Erbil city, demanding govt accountability for May killing of anti-corruption activist Ihab al-Wazni. Meanwhile, tensions rose between Kurdish factions amid Turkish attacks on Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Ankara 5 June used drones to strike PKK forces near camp for internally displaced south of Erbil, killing at least three civilians; Turkish drone 13 June targeted PKK vehicle in Sulaymaniyah province, killing three militants and civilian driver. Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) during month established outposts closer to PKK areas; PKK 5 June launched missile at KRG convoy in Amedi district, killing at least one Peshmerga member; PKK 8 June launched rocket at border area of Zakho district, killing one Peshmerga member. Elsewhere, Iraqi military 14 June launched new operation against Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Jazeera region and Anbar, western Nineveh and Salahaddin provinces. U.S. 27 June announced airstrikes in Iraq and Syria targeting “facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups”; Iran’s foreign affairs ministry criticised action.
Huthis continued cross-border attacks. Saudi-led coalition 6, 10, 14, 17, 20 June claimed it intercepted explosive-laden Huthi drones targeting city of Khamis Mushait. Alleged Huthi drone 13 June fell on school in Aseer province, no casualties. Huthis next day said they launched drone at Abha airport. Saudi air defences 19 June intercepted 17 Huthi drones launched toward kingdom. Saudi-led coalition 23 June announced destruction of four Huthi drones targeting Saudi territory. Huthis 25 June claimed to have targeted King Khalid air base in Khamis Mushait with drone. Huthis 27 June announced launch of five ballistic missile and five drones at multiple targets. Meanwhile, U.S. Sec Def Lloyd Austin 2 June reportedly informed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of U.S. administration’s decision to withdraw anti-missile systems from Saudi Arabia; Saudi officials 21 June said this does not affect kingdom’s capacity to defend itself.
Huthis reinvigorated offensive in Marib governorate, raising prospect of all-out summer offensive in coming month, while nationwide ceasefire talks remained stalled. In north, after brief lull in fighting in first half of June between Huthis and govt-aligned forces, hostilities 19 June escalated in Marib governorate, with Huthis stepping up drone and missile attacks in Marib and across border in Saudi Arabia; fighting fuelled fears that Huthis may launch long-anticipated offensive to coincide with summer dust storms that limit Saudi-led coalition's airstrike capacity. Huthis’ seizure of Marib city and surrounding oil and gas facilities could trigger mass displacement and cut off 90% of country’s petroleum gas supply. Huthis claimed Saudi-led coalition 5, 18, 21 June carried out airstrikes in Marib and Saada governorates while Saudi air defences 19 June intercepted 17 Huthi drones launched toward kingdom (see Saudi Arabia). Meanwhile, ceasefire negotiations remain deadlocked. Omani mediation delegation 5-11 June travelled to capital Sanaa to meet Huthi leaders to discuss UN-backed ceasefire initiative. Huthis maintained position on unilateral reopening of Hodeida port and Sanaa air-port as pre-condition for ceasefire talks and demanded withdrawal of foreign forces from Yemen. Saudi and Hadi govts insisted issues be treated as package, as discussed in 2020. Outgoing UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths in his last UN Security Council briefing 15 June painted “bleak picture” of conflict and expressed hope Omani mediation process will “bear fruit”. In sign of growing U.S. frustration with lack of progress, U.S. Envoy for Yemen Timothy Lenderking 17 June blamed Huthis for failed ceasefire talks. Meetings between govt and Southern Transitional Council (STC) in Saudi capital Riyadh on implementation of 2019 Riyadh Agreement stalled. STC 18 June suspended participation, citing govt intransigence; STC 21 June denied rejecting Riyadh Agreement and said it agreed to Hadi govt’s return to southern city Aden as soon as possible. STC 26 June said it would end all communication with parties to Riyadh Agreement. Protests in south occurred throughout month, including in Aden and Taiz city, amid water and electricity shortages and ongoing depreciation of Yemeni riyal.
Legislative elections marred by repression and lowest voter turnout since country’s independence. Legislative elections called by President Tebboune with view to bolstering his legitimacy and extinguishing long-running Hirak protest movement held 12 June amid calls for boycott; voter turnout lowest since country’s independence at 23%. Constitutional Council 23 June announced final results, with ruling party National Liberation Front (FLN) winning 98 out of 407 seats in parliament’s lower house followed by independent candidates (84 seats), Islamist party Movement of Society for Peace (65 seats) and FLN’s traditional ally National Democratic Rally (58 seats). Violent incidents reported on election day in several localities of Kabylia province, including clashes between youth and police in Bejaïa and Bouïra cities. Tebboune 30 June named Finance Minister Ayman Benabderrahmane as new PM, asking him to form new govt. Ahead of vote, authorities continued to step up repression, notably preventing 4 and 11 June Hirak protests in capital Algiers. Hirak 4 June launched online campaign to call for liberation of political prisoners, and NGO National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees 21 June recorded 261 “prisoners of conscience” across country, up from around 200 late May and 66 mid-April. Presidential decree 10 June widened Penal Code’s definition of acts of terrorism to include any acts “undermining the integrity of the national territory”, opening new avenue for prosecution of Hirak activists. Authorities same day arrested prominent Hirak figure Karim Tabbou and journalists Ihsane El Kadi and Khaled Drareni, released them after 24 hours. Authorities 13 June cancelled France-based TV channel France 24’s accreditation citing “clear and repeated hostility toward our country and its institutions”. Govt 7 June scheduled local elections for Sept.
Nile waters crisis with Ethiopia started to shake up domestic politics, and jihadist attacks regained intensity in Sinai Peninsula. Various opposition figures tried to use diplomatic impasse over Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD, see also Nile Waters) to challenge President Sisi’s rule. Left-wing and Nasserist opposition groups, along with public personalities 1 June launched new coalition with view to “defending Egypt’s water rights”, notably calling for binding agreement with Ethiopia. Spain-based businessman Mohamed Ali 9 June – whose online videos accusing Sisi of corruption triggered wave of anti-govt protests in 2019 – called on Egyptians to take to the streets 10 July and carry out “Nile Revolution”. In response to rising pressure, authorities continued to clamp down on dissent. Family of former Egyptian Ambassador Yahia Najm, who has criticised govt’s handling of GERD crisis, 6 June said authorities arrested Najm late May. In Sinai Peninsula, jihadists stepped up attacks against army and civilians. Islamic State-affiliated Sinai Province (SP) 3 June infiltrated army camp south of Sheikh Zuweid town, wounding at least four soldiers, and next day ambushed army patrol in same area, reportedly killing or wounding four. IEDs 4 June killed or wounded passengers of pro-army militia vehicle south of Rafah town, and killed intelligence officer in Northern Sinai. Suspected SP combatants 8 June kidnapped five civilians near Bir al-Abd town. IEDs 15-17 June reportedly targeted army convoy and bulldozers in Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid areas; death toll unknown. Meanwhile, army 14 June killed senior SP official Abdullah Bariq al-Awassi south of Rafah
Tensions between rival armed coalitions rose and Islamic State staged first attack in a year; at Berlin conference, Libyan govt and foreign states renewed calls for elections in Dec and foreign forces withdrawal. Forces loyal to now dissolved UN-backed Govt of National Accord (GNA) 5 June held military ceremony in Misrata city (west) to mark first anniversary of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s defeat in capital Tripoli; Haftar’s Arab Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF) held their own military parade in Benghazi city (east) late May to mark seventh anniversary of launch of their “Dignity Operation”. High-level Turkish delegation 12 June visited Tripoli and condemned parade by “putschist Haftar”, prompting pro-ALAF MPs to denounce violation of Libyan sovereignty and triggering brawl in House of Representatives 14 June. Following months-long delay, PM Dabaiba 20 June said strategic road linking Misrata to Sirte city (centre) had reopened in line with Oct 2020 ceasefire provisions, which ALAF same day denied; 5+5 Joint Military Commission – comprising military officers loyal to GNA and others affiliated with ALAF – next day postponed reopening. In first Islamic State (ISIS) attack since May 2020, suicide bombing 6 June and explosive device 14 June killed six ALAF-aligned fighters in Sebha area (south). ALAF 17 June said it had launched counter-terrorism operation in south west and 19 June closed Essen border crossing with Algeria, prompting Presidency Council to same day ban military movements unless approved. Unidentified gunmen 3 June abducted NGO Libyan Red Crescent official Mansour al-Maghrabi in Ajdabiya city (east). At international conference co-sponsored by UN in Germany’s capital Berlin, new interim national unity govt and foreign stakeholders 23 June renewed calls to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in Dec in line with UN roadmap, and for “all foreign forces and mercenaries” to withdraw “without delay” despite reservations from Turkey, whose forces are deployed in Libya. Ahead of 1 July deadline set by UN to clarify electoral roadmap and enact necessary legislation for Dec elections, delegates of UN-backed Libyan Political Dialogue Forum 28 June-1 July met in Switzerland in bid to break deadlock in negotiations.
Tensions remained high between Morocco and Spain over Western Sahara. European Parliament 10 June approved resolution condemning Rabat’s use of migrants, including unaccompanied minors, as tool of political pressure on Spain; Moroccan authorities in May had let thousands of migrants enter Spanish enclave of Ceuta in apparent protest at hospitalisation in Spain of Polisario Front independence movement leader Brahim Ghali. Moroccan FM Nasser Bourita 9 June accused Spain of “europeanising bilateral crisis”. Ahead of holiday season, Rabat early June launched annual transit plan for its diaspora; scheme excludes all sea links via Spain, inflicting considerable economic damage on several Spanish transportation companies.
Violent protests erupted on outskirts of capital Tunis over alleged police brutality and price hikes, while attempts to solve political crisis remained stalled. Protesters 8-16 June clashed with police in several underprivileged peri-urban areas of Tunis, notably Sidi Hassine neighbourhood, after man died in police custody 8 June and video showing police stripping and beating 15-year-old circulated on social media next day. UN human rights office in Tunisia 14 June expressed concern over “serious and repeated violations” by police since early 2021 and some 100 civil society activists 18 June demonstrated in Tunis against police brutality. Amid continued economic crisis, some 2,000 people, mainly supporters of opposition Free Destourian Party (fuelled by nostalgia for former President Ben Ali), 5 June protested in Tunis against govt’s decision to scrap state subsidies on some basic commodities in exchange for International Monetary Fund’s aid package; scuffles reported between protesters and police. Meanwhile, relations soured between President Saïed and main trade union and political power broker UGTT after Saïed 15 June turned down UGTT’s national dialogue initiative, instead calling for dialogue over constitutional reform and electoral code; UGTT 18 June alleged Saïed was seeking dismissal of PM Mechichi prior to national dialogue and wanted to restore presidential system. Court of Cassation 15 June ordered release of media mogul and former presidential candidate Nabil Karoui after over six months in pre-trial detention on charges of money laundering and tax evasion
Polisario Front independence movement leader testified before Spanish court and left country for Algeria. Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali 1 June testified before Spain’s High Court to answer accusations against him of alleged crimes, including torture and genocide; court allowed him to leave Spain where he had been treated for COVID-19 since April. Ghali overnight 1-2 June returned to Algeria and received President Tebboune’s visit in military hospital; in interview with French newspaper Le Point, Tebboune 3 June attacked Rabat and reiterated his full support to Polisario Front.