CrisisWatch

Tracking Conflict Worldwide

CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, an early warning tool designed to help prevent deadly violence. It keeps decision-makers up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises every month, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace. In addition, CrisisWatch monitors over 50 situations (“standby monitoring”) to offer timely information if developments indicate a drift toward violence or instability. Entries dating back to 2003 provide easily searchable conflict histories.

Global Overview

Outlook for This Month October 2017

Conflict Risk Alerts

Resolution Opportunities

Trends for Last Month September 2017

Improved Situations

Conflict in Focus

In Asia, the continuing security crackdown in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State prompted over half a million Rohingya civilians to flee, and North Korea conducted its largest nuclear test to date. At least 50 people were killed in Ethiopia in clashes between ethnic Somalis and Oromos, while Cameroon’s increasingly violent standoff between the government and minority Anglophones risks worsening. The main political players in Kenya locked horns over an upcoming rerun of the August presidential vote, and in both Iraq and Spain confrontation mounted over contested independence referendums. El Salvador saw a spike in murders blamed on criminal gangs. In positive news, secessionist rebels and pro-unity factions in Mali agreed to stop fighting, and Colombia’s second guerrilla group signed a ceasefire agreement with the government.

CrisisWatch Digests

Over 500,000 Rohingya civilians have fled Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State, where the military’s violent and disproportionate response to the late August attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) has prompted one of the fastest-growing refugee crises since the Second World War. Tens of thousands of Rohingya and members of other groups have also been internally displaced by the ARSA attacks and the ensuing crackdown, which has targeted Rohingyas with systematic burnings of their villages, abuses and killings. The government has blocked access for the UN and most international aid agencies to the area. Crisis Group has warned that the crisis could derail Myanmar’s transition, deepen radicalisation and destabilise the region. The path to stability lies not in a military response but in a political solution that addresses the longstanding challenges in Rakhine State and recognises the concerns of all groups.

North Korea conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test on 3 September, inflaming regional and international tensions and providing another indication of its determination to push forward with its military nuclear and missile programs. Aggressive rhetoric between Pyongyang and Washington continued to intensify, with President Trump telling the UN General Assembly that he would “totally destroy” North Korea if it threatens the U.S. or its allies. Crisis Group has argued that the nuclear test should spur the U.S., China and South Korea to redouble their efforts to craft a common diplomatic approach.

The struggle of Cameroon’s minority Anglophones against the central government reached greater levels of violence, including new deadly clashes between security forces and protestors on 22 September, more arson attacks and the use of homemade bombs. As Crisis Group has argued, to achieve a lasting solution the government needs to acknowledge Anglophones’ grievances and push on with decentralising power. If it does not take action, violence could be worse in October; already on 1 October at least eight protestors were killed.

In Kenya, tensions and uncertainty grew after the Supreme Court on 1 September annulled August’s presidential election result, which gave victory to President Kenyatta, and ordered a rerun. The opposition rejected the ruling party’s proposed changes to the electoral law and commission, threatening to call nationwide protests and boycott the new vote, set for 26 October. As Crisis Group has explained, a credible, peaceful vote will require government and opposition to compromise, especially on changes to the commission, and more effective, non-partisan management of protests by the security forces. In Ethiopia, at least 50 people were killed and reportedly some 55,000 displaced by fresh clashes between ethnic Somalis and Oromos in disputed areas in the south and east along the border between the two groups’ regional states.

Good news from Mali where the rebel Coalition of Azawad Movements, fighting for the secession of the north, and a coalition of armed groups supporting national unity known as the Platform, agreed to halt clashes and release prisoners, among other measures. The deal creates breathing space to push forward the stalled implementation of the wider 2015 Algiers peace pact, but the process remains fragile, with jihadists continuing to launch deadly attacks on the army and UN peacekeepers.

As Crisis Group warned, Iraqi Kurdistan’s determination to hold a referendum on independence from Iraq on 25 September – in which over 92 per cent voted in favour – exacerbated tensions with central government in Baghdad and within the region. Manifesting its ire, Baghdad two days later banned international flights to and from Iraqi Kurdistan. Political tensions spiralled ahead of an independence referendum organised by the regional government of Catalonia in north-east Spain, which the Spanish government declared illegal. Over 800 people were injured as police tried to block voting on 1 October. Despite efforts to prevent the referendum, the Catalan government reported that 43 per cent of the electorate voted, 90 per cent of them favouring independence.

In El Salvador, 40 murders on 23 September marked the country’s highest death toll in a day this year; nearly 200 people were reported killed that week. Police blamed the violence on fighting between criminal gangs.

There was cause for optimism in Colombia, where the government and the National Liberation Army (ELN), the country’s second main guerrilla group, announced a temporary ceasefire starting on 1 October. ELN attacks nevertheless continued in Arauca province, and the government has warned that peace negotiations with the “highly radical, ideological” ELN will be difficult. Meanwhile, the leader of the Gulf Clan, Colombia’s largest drug-trafficking organisation, reportedly offered to surrender the group to the judicial system and, under the right conditions, cease its involvement in illegal activities.

Colombia

Govt and National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group 4 Sept announced bilateral ceasefire from 1 Oct-12 Jan 2018, while month also saw Gulf Clan leader offer to surrender group to judicial system. Under govt-ELN agreement, latter committed to cease kidnappings, end child recruitment and stop placing landmines; govt to take steps to protect human rights defenders, assess humanitarian situation of jailed ELN fighters, and move forward in negotiations on broader social participation in peace process. Second UN mission, which began work 26 Sept, will monitor ceasefire. Ceasefire announcement came ahead of visit by Pope Francis 6-10 Sept in which he expressed support for peace process. Govt negotiator Juan Camilo Restrepo 12 Sept told Reuters peace negotiations with “highly radical, ideological” ELN would be more difficult than with FARC. ELN attacks continued in Arauca province on Venezuela border, killing two civilians and a policeman, while appearing to decrease elsewhere. Police operation 31 Aug killed number two of Gulf Clan (aka Gaitanistas), alias Gavilán, in north west. President Santos 5 Sept said group leader alias Otoniel had offered to surrender group to judicial system and, under right conditions, group would cease its involvement in illegal activities. Santos said attorney general and justice ministry studying legal options and viability of group’s proposal. Killing of individual police officers continued but on lesser scale: two police officers killed by Gulf Clan since Otoniel’s announcement. Reports emerged of divisions within FARC over who should lead new political party. FARC dissidents continued violent attacks, killing two civilians in Guaviare 15 and 20 Sept; defence ministry 28 Sept announced dissident leader alias Euclides Mora killed in air force operation in Guaviare. FARC’s formal declaration of $332mn assets in Aug showed significant holdings, especially land, in hands of dissident groups, including in four of five wealthiest fronts (40th, 1st, 7th and 62nd fronts).

El Salvador

Spate of 40 murders on 23 Sept marked highest daily death toll of 2017; police blamed killings on fighting between criminal gangs. Authorities reported almost 200 people killed 21-28 Sept, including three police and two military personnel. Govt announced special measures and stronger military presence in capital in response to recent wave of police killings; new measures include faster trials, isolation in high security prisons, aid for families affected. Online magazine Factum late Aug published investigation detailing activities by alleged death squads inside police, suspected of killings, sexual abuse and extortion. Religious and academic institutions 5 Sept briefed Inter American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) and officials in Mexico City on allegations of excessive use of force by security forces. One CIDH commissioner said figures on clashes between police and gangs hid “many extrajudicial killings”; govt denied. Two law enforcement operations made gains against MS-13 gang: police 7 Sept carried out Operación Tecana detaining around 100 including six police; attorney general’s offices from three Northern Triangle countries 12 Sept carried out simultaneous operations against MS-13, several hundred detained. U.S. President Trump’s 5 Sept announcement that policy deferring deportation of children of undocumented migrants will end early 2018 prompted concerns over impact on humanitarian situation.

Guatemala