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CrisisWatch

Tracking Conflict Worldwide

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 80 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.

October 2019

Global Overview

In October, Turkey launched a major offensive against Kurdish-led forces in Syria’s north east and, though fighting eased mid-month, it could escalate again in coming weeks. In Libya, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar stepped up airstrikes on forces allied to the UN-backed government and civilian targets. The Yemeni government and southern separatists have a precious opportunity in November to strike a deal and stem hostilities in the south. Political protests paralysed Lebanon and led to deadly violence in Iraq, Ethiopia and Guinea, as well as in the Andes region in Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador. Mexico’s government faced a political crisis following a series of high-profile violent incidents. The European Council’s widely-criticised decision not to open formal accession talks was a setback for North Macedonia. Sudan’s government and armed groups made headway in talks. In contrast, South Sudan’s peace deal could collapse and violence resume if President Salva Kiir makes good on his pledge to form a government by 12 November despite objections by rebel leader Riek Machar. Tensions rose in Mozambique as the opposition rejected election results and fighting intensified in the north. Security in both northern Burkina Faso and western Burundi deteriorated, and violence could escalate in eastern DR Congo as the army ramps up its new offensive against armed groups. Guinea-Bissau faced new instability as President José Mário Vaz dissolved the government, raising the risk of protests and violent repression by security forces around November’s presidential polls.

President & CEO
Rob_Malley

In his introduction to this month's edition of CrisisWatch, Crisis Group's conflict tracker, our President Robert Malley reflects on the diverse protests taking place in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia.

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Africa

Burkina Faso

Attacks against civilians and security forces – most attributed to jihadists – intensified in Centre-North region and continued in Sahel and North regions. In Centre-North region, jihadist Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM) allegedly staged more than ten attacks against civilians in several villages in Bam province in late Sept-early Oct, killing about twenty; notably, unidentified gunmen 1 Oct attacked Kargo village, Zimtanga commune, killing at least six. Unidentified gunmen 12 Oct killed two civilians in Zandraogo, Sanmatenga province; 22 Oct ambushed two military patrols in Barsalogho, Sanmatenga province, killing six soldiers; 20 Oct attacked Zoura, Bam province, reportedly killing eight. Residents of Bam province 5 Oct attempted to form coalition of self-defence groups. In Sahel region, jihadists continued to target strategic transport routes and infrastructure in alleged attempt to limit traffic in and out. In Soum province, military patrol 3 Oct detonated explosive on Djibo-Bourzanga axis, one soldier killed; suspected JNIM militants 4 Oct shot dead at least twenty artisanal gold miners in Dolmane near Madoudji village; suspected jihadists 28 Oct killed sixteen civilians in Pobé-Mengao. Security forces reportedly killed 39 assailants who ambushed gendarmerie patrol 7 Oct in Gorgadji area, Seno province. Suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants 11 Oct attacked mosque in Salmossi, Oudalan province, killing sixteen. Police of Markoye commune 17 Oct said they were relocating to provincial capital Gorom-Gorom due to insecurity. In North region, suspected jihadist militants 19 Oct attacked military outposts in Bahn, Loroum province and Yensé, Yatenga province, killing five soldiers; explosive device 23 Oct killed two soldiers in Banh. In Loroum province, unidentified gunmen 12 Oct killed four civilians in Samboulga; 7 Oct killed eight in Bouna. Authorities heightened security measures in all three regions mid-Oct: governors introduced 45-day nightly curfew in all four of Sahel region’s provinces and North region’s Loroum province, all under state of emergency. In East region, suspected jihadists 11 Oct attacked police station in Yamba, Gourma province and 17 Oct attacked police in Nadiagou, Kompienga province.

Mali

Protests against govt and international forces erupted in several cities, while suspected jihadist attacks continued in north and centre and intercommunal violence persisted in centre. Suspected jihadists 30 Sept struck bases of regional military force G5 Sahel in Mondoro and Boulikessi, Mopti region in centre; govt said 38 soldiers killed and dozens missing, and fifteen assailants killed. G5 Sahel 30 Sept blamed jihadist group Ansarul Islam, but jihadist coalition Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM) 6 Oct claimed attacks, saying it had killed 85 soldiers and abducted others. In early Oct, protesters demonstrated in capital Bamako, Sévaré in Mopti region, and Kayes in west, denouncing military’s lack of equipment and poor living conditions and demanding departure of foreign forces, in particular French and UN mission (MINUSMA). Protesters 12 Oct looted MINUSMA warehouse in Sévaré. Suspected jihadists continued attacks in north and centre. In Kidal region in north, MINUSMA vehicle 6 Oct detonated explosives near Aguelhoc, UN peacekeeper killed, and unidentified assailants 18 Oct attacked pro-govt armed groups in Aguelhok, killing six. In Gao region in north, suspected jihadists 23 Oct killed five members of Ganda Izo militia in Tassiga; unidentified gunmen 22 Oct clashed with pro-govt armed groups in Doro, at least fifteen killed including four civilians. In Mopti region in centre, unidentified gunmen 6 Oct attacked UN peacekeepers near Bandiagara, wounding one; 23 Oct killed gendarme in Douentza. French forces 17 Oct killed eight suspected members of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara in Liptako area in south east. Unidentified gunmen killed police officer and civilian in Ménaka city in east 24 Oct. Communal violence continued in centre. Suspected members of Dogon militia Dan Na Ambassagou 7 Oct attacked Fulani civilians near Petaka in Douentza circle, Mopti region, killing three. Suspected Fulani gunmen 6 Oct attacked Sogou and Berda in Koro circle, Mopti region, one Dogon killed.

Niger

Jihadist groups continued to attack civilians in south east near Nigeria and security forces in west near Mali. In south east, suspected members of Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province carried out several attacks in Diffa region: militants killed one civilian in Biri Boula 1 Oct; one civilian in Kaoure and two others in Kindjandi 6 Oct; killed fisherman near Koulgouliram 8 Oct. Suspected Boko Haram combatants 30 Oct attacked Blabrine military base in Diffa region, killing at least ten. In Tillabéri region’s Filingué department bordering Mali in west, suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants 8 Oct ambushed army patrol around Ekrafane, one soldier wounded and four militants reportedly killed; suspected jihadists 12 Oct ambushed gendarmerie patrol at Abarey market, five gendarmes killed. In Tillabéri region’s Say department near border with Burkina Faso, suspected jihadist militants 7 Oct killed gendarme in Bankata. In Dosso region in south west, suspected ISGS militants 6 Oct attacked military in Dogondoutchi department, killing two soldiers. Parliament 11 Oct extended state of emergency in Diffa region and parts of Tillabéri and Tahoua regions. Cabinet 4 Oct adopted new border control policy for 2019-2035 amid rising concerns over insecurity and irregular migration on southern border with Nigeria. EU mission (EUCAP) and International Organization for Migration 10 Oct launched construction of new centre in Birni N’Konni, Tahoua region near border with Nigeria to host permanent 250-strong border force. President Issoufou early Oct reiterated that he will not seek third term.

Burundi

Security forces clashed with armed militants in west near border with DR Congo (DRC), and authorities and ruling party continued to repress main opposition party National Congress for Freedom (CNL). In west, RED-TABARA rebels clashed with security forces in Musigati, Bubanza province 22 Oct, fighting reportedly left at least a dozen dead on each side; group same day temporarily abducted twenty civilians from Mpanda. Authorities 22 Oct arrested four journalists and their driver en route to report on clashes. Unidentified militants clashed with security forces and Imbonerakure, youth members of ruling party CNDD-FDD, night of 25-26 Oct in Bubanza and neighbouring Cibitoke province; four militants, three security force members and six Imbonerakure reportedly killed. Imbonerakure 4 Oct detained and handed over to police five CNL members in Rumonge, Rumonge province. Authorities arrested fourteen CNL activists in Busiga, Ngozi province 5 Oct after discovery of body of Imbonerakure. Court 8 Oct sentenced to life four Imbonerakure for Aug killing of CNL member. Police 9-17 Oct arrested five CNL members in several provinces. Clashes between Imbonerakure and CNL in Kirundo 10-16 Oct left four CNL and two Imbonerakure injured. CNL member 23 Oct found dead after Imbonerakure allegedly kidnapped him. Unidentified gunman late Oct attempted to kill local official prompting authorities to arrest at least 23 CNL in Bujumbura province. Executive secretary of coalition of opposition parties in exile CNARED-Giriteka visited country 5-11 Oct, met interior minister 7 Oct to prepare return of opposition politicians in exile. Burundi and Tanzania began to repatriate Burundian refugees from Tanzania despite rights groups’ claims that conditions not safe for return; some 600 refugees arrived in Gisuru, Ruyigi province 3 Oct. Burundi and Tanzania 12 Oct signed agreement allowing their police forces to conduct cross-border operations, including in refugee camps in Tanzania. Unidentified assailants 19 Oct kidnapped four Burundian refugees from Nduta camp; camp residents blamed Burundian police.

Cameroon

National dialogue on conflict in Anglophone areas failed to stem violence, Boko Haram (BH) continued attacks in Far North and intercommunal violence flared in south. Anglophone separatists boycotted national dialogue on Anglophone crisis in capital Yaoundé 30 Sept-4 Oct; amid calls by some Anglophone activists for return to federal state structure, resulting “conclusions” recommended special status for Anglophone regions under current decentralisation process. President Biya 3 Oct ordered release of 333 Anglophones, but not separatist leaders. Violence continued in Anglophone Northwest and Southwest regions: as Anglophones celebrated what they claim as their independence day 1 Oct, clashes between armed forces and separatists reportedly left at least nine dead. In Northwest, rival separatist groups clashed in Guzang 11 Oct leaving two dead. In regional capital Bamenda, suspected separatists 16-19 Oct killed two vigilantes and two security force members. In Southwest, separatists 14 Oct abducted four in Tiko. Army raid in Bombe Bakundu 18 Oct left seven dead. Army raids 22-26 Oct left at least six civilians and several separatists dead. In Far North, BH attacks 2-27 Oct left at least fourteen civilians and one soldier dead. In South region, killing of ethnic Bulu taxi driver 9 Oct by alleged ethnic Bamoun in Sangmelima triggered violence. Hundreds of ethnic Bulu, blaming other ethnic groups for insecurity, 9-10 Oct attacked shops owned by ethnic Bamouns and Bamilekes injuring about 100. In Garoua Boulaï in East region, security forces 24 Oct freed 22 people abducted by rebels from CAR and killed five abductors. Authorities 5 Oct released leader of opposition party Movement for the Renaissance of Cameroon (MRC) Maurice Kamto (arrested in Jan) and some 100 party members. During visit to country 23-25 Oct French FM Le Drian announced France would contribute some $70mn for implementation of national dialogue’s recommendations and $50mn to fight against BH.

Central African Republic

Violence between armed groups continued in north east, centre and south east, as President Touadéra sought to strengthen relations with Rwanda and Russia. In north east, clashes between armed groups Movement of Central African Liberators for Justice (MLCJ) and Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance (FPRC) in Am-Dafock, Vakaga prefecture 14 Oct left 21 FPRC and three MLCJ dead. In centre, anti-balaka militants and armed group Union for Peace in Central African Republic (UPC) clashed in Tagbara, Ouaka prefecture 3 Oct leaving six combatants dead. Raids by unidentified gunmen in Basse-Kotto and Ouaka prefectures 8 and 10 Oct left at least a dozen civilians dead. In far south east in Haut-Mbomou prefecture near border with South Sudan, UPC 15 Oct invaded Bambouti; night of 25-26 Oct attacked NGO vehicle leaving at least four people missing; 27 Oct reportedly clashed with Fulani herders leaving seven UPC fighters and unknown number of Fulani dead. UN mission (MINUSCA) 16 Oct announced conclusion of first phase of operation against armed group Return, Restitution and Rehabilitation (3R) in west to force it to comply with Feb peace deal. Hundreds protested in capital Bangui 29 Oct calling for arrest of former National Assembly President Karim Meckassoua accusing him of involvement in armed group violence in PK5 district. Over 1,300 army recruits graduated from basic training 16-17 Oct; 1,023 trained by army and EU training mission, 343 by army and Russian trainers. In Bouar in west, President Touadéra 16 Oct launched training of over 500 future members of special mixed security units to comprise soldiers and former armed group members. Touadéra 15 Oct received Rwandan President Kagame and signed agreements aimed at strengthening military and economic cooperation. Touadéra 23-24 Oct attended Africa-Russia summit in Sochi, Russia and asked Russian President Putin to increase his military support to CAR; 25 Oct said he would consider establishment of Russian military base in CAR.

Chad

In Tibesti region in north, fighting between govt forces and self-defence militia reportedly resumed and insecurity persisted in east. In Tibesti region, where clashes between armed forces and self-defence militia last flared Nov 2018, fighting allegedly re-erupted 3 Oct when army reportedly launched offensive on Arkinia village near Miski prompting counter-attack, authorities denied launching offensive. Clashes reportedly escalated mid-Oct near Yebbibou, number of casualties unknown. Defence minister and army chief 16-20 Oct met provincial authorities and traditional leaders in Borkou and Tibesti provinces and called on them to support govt. Former rebel group Movement for Democracy and Justice in Chad (MDJT) 16 Oct rescinded 2010 agreement it signed with govt denouncing “the massacre of civilians in the locality of Miski”. Several opposition parties called for ceasefire and dialogue. Self-defence militia 25 Oct claimed govt was preparing large-scale offensive. In east, prison uprising in Abéché, Ouaddaï province 7 Oct left at least two prisoners dead after security forces intervened. Gunmen night of 12-13 Oct entered prison in Guéréda, Wadi Fira province and shot dead two inmates. Unidentified gunman 27 Oct killed at least three in Djabalène, Dar Sila Province. Unidentified gunman 28 Oct killed soldier in Abéché, Ouaddaï province. In Lake Chad province in west, Boko Haram 30 Oct abducted three. Electoral commission president 3 Oct said elections would be held during first trimester of 2020. Déby 14 Oct signed decree suspending head of national television for broadcasting speech by founder of opposition movement-turned-party Les Transformateurs.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Violence persisted in Ituri in north east and North Kivu province in east, where fighting could escalate in coming weeks as army ramps up major offensive against armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). In Ituri province, following late Sept announcement by leader of armed group Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) that he was willing to lay down arms, he and some 500 CODECO fighters 6 Oct left their base and moved to near Jiba in Djugu territory with view to disarm. Despite ongoing peace talks with provincial authorities, CODECO continued to commit violent acts in Djugu territory: 13 Oct attacked armed forces leaving four dead; 25 Oct attacked two boats on Lake Albert leaving four dead. Security forces 26 Oct launched offensive against CODECO along Lake Albert. Clashes between Maï-Maï militia and armed forces 11 and 28 Oct left seventeen militiamen and three soldiers dead in Mambasa. In North Kivu province, armed groups Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS) and Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) 1-2 Oct attacked Nduma Defence of Congo-Renovated (NDC-R) militia in Rutshuru territory leaving three NDC-R and four civilians dead in several villages. ADF attacks in Beni territory 13 and 27 Oct left five civilians dead. Army 31 Oct said it had launched previous day major offensive against armed groups in Beni territory primarily ADF. In Lumumbashi in far south east, suspected Bakata Katanga militiamen and security forces clashed 11 Oct leaving at least five militiamen dead. Army chiefs of DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania 24-25 Oct met in Goma to discuss potential joint military operations against armed groups in east. Plane carrying presidential staff 10 Oct crashed in Sankuru province killing all passengers; supporters of Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party demonstrated in several cities and held party of former President Kabila responsible.

Rwanda

Violence briefly flared in north near DR Congo border leaving 33 dead. Armed assailants coming from strongholds of armed group Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) night of 4-5 Oct attacked Kinigi village in Musanze district in north leaving fourteen dead; security forces who pursued assailants killed nineteen attackers and captured five. Police arrested head of unregistered opposition party FDU-Inkingi, Victoire Ingabire, on suspicion of involvement in Kinigi attacks. Army chiefs of Rwanda, DR Congo (DRC), Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania 24-25 Oct met in DRC to discuss potential joint military operations against armed groups in eastern DRC. In Central African Republic (CAR), President Kagame and CAR President Touadéra 15 Oct signed agreements aimed at strengthening military and economic ties.

Eritrea

President Afwerki 2 Oct held talks with South Sudan delegation in Adi Halo, near capital Asmara, reiterating his support for govt of President Kiir.

Ethiopia

Protests against PM Abiy sparked violence that left over 70 dead, intercommunal attacks continued in several places, and tensions persisted between Ethiopia and Egypt over former’s construction of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on Blue Nile. In Oromia region, after ethnic Oromo activist recently critical of Abiy, Jawar Mohammed, accused security forces of trying to remove his security detail, hundreds of his supporters protested against Abiy in capital Addis Ababa and several other places. Security forces sought to disperse protesters and protests sparked inter-ethnic attacks, mostly by informal groups of Oromo; violence left at least 78 dead. In Afar region in east, ethnic Somali raiders 11-12 Oct reportedly killed sixteen ethnic Afar in Afambo woreda. In dispute over Ethiopia’s construction of GERD, both Ethiopia and Egypt increased hostile rhetoric; countries’ leaders met in Sochi, Russia during Russia-Africa summit 23-24 Oct and reiterated commitment to dialogue. U.S. invited Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan to talks in Washington 6 Nov. Following two-day visit of Sudanese delegation, Abiy and Sudanese PM Hamdok 11 Oct agreed on joint cross-border pipeline project. Abiy 11 Oct won Nobel Peace Prize in particular for his efforts to resolve his country’s conflict with Eritrea.

Kenya

Al-Shabaab threat persisted and relations between Kenya and Somalia remained tense. Police 1 Oct killed three and arrested seven Al-Shabaab militants in Mombasa suspected of planning attacks on 20 Oct national holiday celebrations. Suspected Al-Shabaab militants 12 Oct killed eleven police officers near Liboi, Garissa county near Somalia border. Police 26 Oct arrested two suspected Al-Shabaab militants in Liboi. Al-Shabaab 29 Oct launched attack on police station in Dadajabula, Wajir county which left two militants dead. Somalia 7 Oct filed complaint against Kenya at UN aviation agency after Kenyan-chartered aeroplane flew from capital Nairobi to Somali federal member state Jubaland without touching down in Somali capital Mogadishu, violating Somalia federal govt directive; Somalia 10 Oct accused Kenya of violating its sovereignty. International Court of Justice (ICJ) 17 Oct said postponed hearing of maritime dispute between Kenya and Somalia would take place June 2020, three months earlier than Kenya requested, and that there would be no further delays.

Somalia

Al-Shabaab maintained its insurgency, tensions persisted between federal govt and federal member states Jubaland and Galmudug, and between Somalia and Kenya. In Mogadishu, Al-Shabaab militants 13 Oct launched mortars at compounds of UN and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM); suspected Al-Shabaab 16 Oct killed three people; bombing 28 Oct killed at least two civilians. In south and centre, Al-Shabaab kept up attacks in Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, Bay and Hiraan regions, killing at least sixteen Somali and international soldiers and three civilians. Security forces 15-19 Oct reportedly killed several dozen Al-Shabaab militants in Gedo and Hiraan regions. Somali airstrikes 20 Oct left unknown number of militants dead in Lower Juba. U.S. airstrike 25 Oct killed three Islamic State (ISIS) militants; at least three civilians reported missing. Federal govt 7 Oct filed complaint against Kenya at UN aviation agency after Kenyan-chartered aeroplane few from Nairobi to Jubaland state capital Kismayo without touching down in Mogadishu, violating govt directive; federal govt 10 Oct accused Kenya of violating its sovereignty. Federal govt 11 Oct renewed ban on direct flights to Kismayo. Madobe 12 Oct called for dialogue with federal govt. After federal govt announced in Sept that it would form committee to oversee formation of Galmudug state administration and presidential election guidelines, Galmudug chief minister and head of Sufi paramilitary group Ahlu Sunnah Waa-Jama’a (ASWJ) 22 Oct announced parallel committee. ASWJ late Oct reportedly deployed fighters in and around Galmudug capital Dhusamareb, but returned to bases following 28 Oct meeting between Galmudug chief minister and interior minister. Following Kenya’s second request for delay, International Court of Justice 17 Oct postponed hearing of Kenya-Somalia maritime border dispute from 4-8 Nov to June 2020. U.S. 2 Oct announced re-establishment of its embassy in Somalia.

Somaliland

Dispute over composition of electoral commission (NEC) continued to block organisation of legislative and municipal elections. President Bihi, parliament’s upper house and all three political parties 13 Oct submitted for approval to parliament’s lower house their nominees for NEC. Opposition parties Waddani and Justice and Welfare Party 13 Oct suspended their participation in NEC in protest against Bihi’s choice of nominees. Head of EU delegation and Swedish ambassador to Somalia met Bihi and both opposition parties in bid to break deadlock 20-22 Oct, but failed to broker agreement. Bihi 6 Oct reportedly agreed to stop hostilities in Sanaag region against rebel soldiers loyal to Colonel Arre, who defected from Somaliland to Puntland in 2018. Unidentified assailants 22 Oct opened fire on govt vehicle in Awdal region. Police 7 Oct arrested head of private television station in capital Hargeisa. Armed group led by Suldaan Wabar 28 Oct attacked police station in Borama , no casualties reported.

South Sudan

If President Kiir follows through on pledge to form transitional govt at end of pre-transitional period 12 Nov despite objections by main rebel leader Riek Machar peace agreement could collapse and violence resume. Kiir and Machar met in capital Juba 20 Oct but failed to resolve outstanding issue of security arrangements. High-level UN Security Council delegation 20 Oct urged Kiir and Machar to speed up implementation of agreement and meet 12 Nov deadline to form govt. Kiir said govt would be formed by deadline, but Machar said he would not join govt in current conditions and demanded second extension of pre-transitional period citing failure to implement peace agreement, in particular reunification of security forces. Machar said that if parties form govt mid-Nov, “the ceasefire that we have been enjoying will be in jeopardy”. UN Security Council delegation later that day said there should be no further extension of pre-transitional period. Machar 21 Oct returned to Sudanese capital Khartoum; 30 Oct called for six-month extension of pre-transitional period. Unidentified assailants 13 Oct killed police officer in Jonglei state. Machar’s rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) 14 Oct reportedly killed trader in Southern Liech state. Unidentified gunmen 22 Oct ambushed police convoy in Southern Liech state, at least two assailants killed. In south west, clashes between govt forces and non-signatory rebel group National Salvation Front in Isebi, Yei River state left at least three aid workers and unknown number of soldiers and rebels dead. Panaguong clan attacked Panawur clan in Abieicok, Gok state 28 Oct leaving at least two dead. Kiir 14-21 Oct facilitated peace talks in Juba between Sudanese govt and Sudanese armed opposition groups; parties agreed to resume talks in Juba 21 Nov. UN Security Council 15 Oct extended mandate of UN peacekeeping mission in disputed Abyei region (UNISFA) on Sudan-South Sudan border until 15 Nov.

Sudan

Govt and armed opposition groups made some progress in peace talks, notably increasing humanitarian access in south, and agreed to reconvene late Nov. Tens of thousands demonstrated in capital Khartoum and other cities 21 Oct calling for dissolution of former ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and accountability for perpetrators of deadly 3 June attack on protesters; Hamdok same day appointed investigative committee. Govt and rebel groups opened peace talks in South Sudan’s capital Juba 14 Oct brokered by South Sudan’s President Kiir. Talks stumbled when rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu 16 Oct withdrew, accusing govt of violating ceasefire by bombing several areas in Khor Waral, South Kordofan state. Sovereign Council head General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan same day decreed nationwide ceasefire. SPLM-N rejoined talks 18 Oct and same day agreed with govt outline agenda. As part of confidence-building measures agreed in Sept, govt 18 Oct released 26 prisoners of war. Govt and rebel coalition 21 Oct agreed outline agenda for negotiations and agreed to allow humanitarians access to rebel-held areas. Parties 22 Oct agreed to resume talks in Juba 21 Nov. PM Hamdok early Oct called on UN to align withdrawal of UN-AU mission in Darfur (UNAMID) with peace talks citing Darfuri armed groups’ concerns that UNAMID’s withdrawal would leave civilians exposed to attack by militias; Hamdok 22 Oct requested UN extend UNAMID’s mandate by one year. Council of ministers 23 Oct granted World Food Programme access to hitherto off-limits areas of South Kordofan. Govt 10 Oct extended state of emergency by three months. Head of paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” 28 Oct said some 10,000 RSF soldiers who took part in Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen had returned. UN Security Council 15 Oct extended mandate of UN peacekeeping mission in disputed Abyei region (UNISFA) on Sudan-South Sudan border until 15 Nov; 31 Oct renewed UNAMID’s mandate for one year. Sudan and South Sudan 22 Oct signed agreement demarcating shared border.

Tanzania

Govt and Burundi began to repatriate Burundian refugees from Tanzania in spite of opposition from rights groups contending that conditions not safe for their return; some 600 refugees arrived in Gisuru in Burundi’s Ruyigi province 3 Oct. President Magufuli 11 Oct told Burundian refugees to return home and not to expect Tanzanian citizenship. Tanzania and Burundi 12 Oct signed agreement allowing their police forces to conduct cross-border operations, including in refugee camps in Tanzania. Unidentified assailants 19 Oct kidnapped four Burundian refugees from Nduta camp; camp residents blamed Burundian police.

Uganda

Authorities continued to repress opposition. In capital Kampala, authorities 2 Oct cancelled concert by musician-turned-opposition leader Bobi Wine to mark 9 Oct Independence Day claiming it was unable to provide security; 3 Oct arrested six Bobi Wine supporters; 8 Oct placed Bobi Wine under house arrest to prevent him from performing and surrounded venue preventing concert. Bobi Wine next day slipped past security forces surrounding his residence and travelled to Kampala, where he evaded arrest. Police dispersed gatherings of opposition party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), using live ammunition and tear gas in Butaleja and Busia 26 and 27 Oct. In north in Kotido district, raids by ethnic Turkana herders on ethnic Karamajong herders late Oct left unknown numbers dead. Army chiefs of
Uganda, DR Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania 24-25 Oct met in DRC to discuss potential joint military operations against armed groups in eastern DRC. President Museveni 14 Oct attended peace talks between Sudanese govt and Sudanese rebels in South Sudanese capital Juba; 23 Oct met Russian President Putin at Africa-Russia summit in Sochi, Russia and signed deal for Russia to maintain and upgrade Uganda’s military hardware.

Malawi

Protesters challenging President Mutharika’s May election win took to streets again and continued to clash with security forces and govt supporters. Following two-week ban on protests in Sept, demonstrations organised by NGO Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) continued in capital Lilongwe 1-4 Oct against electoral commission chairperson Jane Ansah, whom protesters hold responsible for alleged electoral fraud. Police 2 Oct handed over security during demonstrations to army. Mutharika 8 Oct held first rally in capital since disputed victory; rally sparked further violence between govt supporters and anti-govt protesters during which protesters stoned to death a police officer. Human rights campaigners 25 Oct staged demonstrations in Lilongwe demanding govt investigate allegations that police committed sexual violence against female protesters earlier in month. Following televised plea for peace by preacher Prophet Shephard Bushiri, opposition parties Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and United Transformation Movement (UTM) 3 Oct promised to respect constitutional court ruling on whether or not to uphold presidential results; govt refused to comment. High court registrar 19 Oct said constitutional court would hear case by 6 Dec and issue ruling by 20 Jan 2020. On his return from Russia-Africa summit in Sochi, Russia, Mutharika 26 Oct for first time called for opposition leaders and rights activists to engage in talks with govt to resolve crisis, warning that instability was keeping investors at bay.

Mozambique

Tensions rose as opposition party Renamo rejected victories of President Nyusi and ruling Frelimo party in 15 Oct presidential and parliamentary polls, and fighting intensified in north between militants and govt forces backed by Russian private security company. Violent incidents marred lead-up to polls: in Sofala province in centre unidentified assailants 3 Oct bus killed three bus passengers and same day killed one person at River Pungué. In Gaza province in south, five assailants, including four suspected police officers, 7 Oct killed local electoral observer; govt next day launched investigation. Polling 15 Oct took place relatively peacefully, but in Cabo Delgado province in north seven polling stations did not open due to risk of attack by militants. Renamo 19 Oct rejected preliminary results that indicated clear Frelimo victory and called for rerun; 29 Oct appealed Constitutional Council to annul results. EU election observers and U.S. embassy 19 Oct denounced irregularities in process and questioned validity of results. In Nhamatanda, Sofala province, gunmen 29 Oct shot dead two police officers and kidnapped two Frelimo zone secretaries. In Cabo Delgado province, militants 2 Oct kidnapped twenty in Nantodola village. Personnel of Russian private security company Wagner Group reportedly arrived in Cabo Delgado province 2 Oct with materiel including three attack helicopters; govt 3 Oct acknowledged Russia was providing military support, Russia 8 Oct denied presence of its soldiers in country. In first official confirmation of govt attack on militants, govt said soldiers 5 Oct killed nine militants some 30km from Mocimboa da Praia. Clashes between militants and govt forces alongside Russians in Mocimboa da Praia district 7 Oct left over 30 militants and two Russians dead. Militants’ ambush in Muidumbe district 27 Oct reportedly left twenty Mozambican soldiers and five Russians dead. Militants 31 Oct killed ten civilians near Mbau village.

South Africa

Following Aug-Sept xenophobic violence, foreign nationals 8 Oct began sit-in protest near office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cape Town demanding relocation out of South Africa; refugees and asylum seekers 20 Oct also protested outside UNHCR offices in Pretoria and Johannesburg. In Cape Town, police 30 Oct forcibly tried to disperse sit-in protest near UNHCR office, arresting about 100. Ramaphosa attended first Russia-Africa summit in Sochi, Russia 23-24 Oct; for first time two Russian nuclear-ready bombers on training mission landed in South Africa 23 Oct, left 28 Oct.

Eswatini

Security forces continued to clash with protesting civil servants. Civil servants protesting over salaries 2 Oct clashed with police in Manzini; clashes reportedly left over ten people injured including one trade union leader. Govt 2 Oct applied to industrial court in attempt to ban further strike action by National Public Service, Allied Workers Union and Swaziland National Association of Teachers, application pending end-month.

Zimbabwe

Police clamped down on main opposition party and teachers joined doctors in strike over public-sector wages. Doctors in state hospitals continued their strike begun early Sept despite govt’s 18 Oct offer of 100% raise in allowances; health officials demanded that govt peg their on-call allowances to intermarket bank rate of $1 to fourteen RTGS Zimbabwe dollars. Members of teachers’ union Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe 21 Oct began working two days a week as part of strike action demanding wages also be pegged to U.S. dollar interbank rates. Civil service union 31 Oct reported civil service was incapacitated and called on civil servants to prepare for protest march 6 Nov.

Côte d’Ivoire

Ahead of late 2020 presidential elections, former rebel leader and former national assembly speaker Guillaume Soro 14 Oct announced candidacy and govt continued to intimidate opponents through legal system. Electoral commission (appointed late Sept) 1 Oct chose Constitutional Council’s General Secretary Ibrahim Coulibaly Kuibiert as president, as opposition continued to criticise body for pro-govt bias; opposition coalition Together for Democracy and Sovereignty said eleven out of fifteen commission members favoured ruling party. No member of main opposition party Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI), which rejects new structure, is included in opposition’s quota. President Ouattara 10 Oct announced state visit to Soro’s stronghold Hambol region 27-30 Nov. Govt continued to pursue strategy of intimidation against opponents. Court in Bouaké (centre) 3 Oct sentenced PDCI’s vice-president Jacques Mangoua, arrested late Sept, to five years in prison for “possession of weapons of war without authorisation”; Mangoua’s supporters protested his incarceration in Bouaké 2 Oct. Soro’s diplomatic visa was cancelled before expiration date of 31 Oct. Soro said govt tried to arrest him in Valence, Spain early Oct; govt denied.

Gambia

Special adviser to President Barrow, Mai Ahmad Fatty, resigned 11 Oct amid tug of war between those who want Barrow to serve five-year mandate as stipulated in constitution and those who demand that he respect his election promise to step aside after three years.

Guinea

Security forces’ violent repression of protests against President Condé’s plan to run for third term left at least nine dead. Thousands demonstrated 14 Oct in capital Conakry and regional capitals Boké (west), Labé (centre) and Mamou (centre) against Condé’s alleged intention to change constitution so that he can seek third term in power; thousands demonstrated again in Conakry 24 Oct. Security forces tried forcibly to disperse demonstrators in Conakry, including with live ammunition, and protesters also clashed with security forces in opposition stronghold of Mamou. Govt 16 Oct said nine protesters killed since 14 Oct including eight in Conakry, while coalition of opposition groups National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC) 16 Oct said police had killed ten, wounded 70 and arrested 200 since 14 Oct. Security forces 14 Oct blocked access to houses of Sidya Touré, president of opposition party Union of Republican Forces, and Cellou Dalein Diallo, leader of largest opposition party Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea. Court in Kankan 18 Oct acquitted six FNDC figures arrested 14 Oct. Court in Conakry 22 Oct gave eight FNDC figures arrested 12 Oct jail terms ranging from six months to one year for inciting civil disobedience. Electoral commission president 14 Oct said legislative elections, originally scheduled for 2018, would take place 28 Dec; electoral commission 22 Oct postponed elections sine die, citing technical reasons. Security forces over several days arrested several hundred alleged West African migrants across country.

Guinea-Bissau

Ahead of 24 Nov presidential election, tensions mounted as President Vaz dissolved govt and tried to replace PM Gomes raising risk of protests and violent repression by security forces in coming weeks. Supreme Court 16 Oct approved twelve of nineteen would-be presidential candidates, including incumbent President Vaz and representatives of main political parties. Parliament 15 Oct approved PM Gomes’s program by narrow margin, but vote divided ruling coalition: notably Nuno Gomes Nabiam, presidential candidate and leader of Assembly of the People United (APU), voted against program. Tension rose over updating of electoral rolls. Nabiam 14 Oct said ruling party African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) used money earmarked for updating electoral rolls to finance its activities. Mission including representatives of African Union (AU), UN and regional bloc Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) visited capital Bissau 7 Oct, insisted on adherence to electoral schedule and said that previous rolls should be used in absence of agreement on revisions. PM Gomes 22 Oct said his former ally and opposition leader Umaru Sissoco Embalo, also presidential candidate, was preparing coup; recording of conversation between Sissoco and unidentified man about fomenting trouble circulated on social networks. Sissoco denied accusations. Police 26 Oct cracked down on opposition protest in Bissau calling for revision of electoral rolls and delay of presidential election, one person reportedly killed. President Vaz 28 Oct dissolved govt saying political situation was undermining normal functioning of state institutions and 29 Oct named Faustino Fudut Imbali (PM from 2000 to 2003) as PM, but incumbent PM Gomes refused to step down. ECOWAS same day rejected Vaz’s decision and insisted Gomes was still PM; UN, AU and Angola supported ECOWAS position.

Liberia

Police 10 Oct closed radio station critical of President Weah, Roots FM, accusing it of inciting violence, and used tear gas to disperse people protesting against move in capital Monrovia, reportedly arresting four. Central Bank Governor Nathaniel Patray resigned 24 Oct amid investigations over his alleged role in misallocation of state funds. Hundreds of students 15 Oct protested in capital Monrovia to demand govt pay teachers’ salary arrears; protest turned violent, several students reportedly injured.

Nigeria

Boko Haram (BH) factions maintained insurgency in north east despite military operations, and in north west banditry and other violence continued at lower intensity following peace efforts by state govts. In Borno state in north east, BH insurgents belonging both to Islamic State-allied faction Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and Abubakar Shekau-led faction kept up attacks on military and civilians. Notably, insurgents 3 Oct ambushed military convoy in Mauli-Borgozo area killing eleven soldiers. Next day insurgents stormed Milwa village, Chibok area killing two. Troops clashed with ISWAP 19 Oct near Jakana, about 40km from state capital Maiduguri; army said it killed seven fighters, Islamic State (ISIS) said insurgents killed ten soldiers. Shekau 13 Oct released video dismissing govt claim that some BH fighters had grown tired of fighting. In north west, state govts reported progress on peace efforts, but banditry and other violence continued albeit at lower intensity. In Zamfara state, bandits attacked communities in Anka, Maru, Gummi and Gusau areas throughout month, notably dozens of gunmen 3 Oct stormed Sunke village in Anka area killing nine soldiers. In Niger state, gunmen 9 Oct attacked three communities in Shiroro area, displacing over 1,200 residents. In Kaduna state, bandits 20 Oct attacked about seventeen villages in Igabi area killing at least three vigilantes; air force 4 Oct said it killed ten bandits in Birnin Gwari area. Islamic State (ISIS) 24 Oct said ISWAP fighters from neighbouring Niger killed several soldiers in 1 Oct attack in Sokoto state, but neither army nor any other source confirmed incident.

Asia

China/Japan

Speaking at Xiangshan security forum in Beijing 21 Oct, Chinese defence minister Wei Fenghe stated that disputed Diaoyu islands, which Japan also claims, are “inalienable parts of China’s territory”. Japan released its 2019 Defence White Papers late Sept, describing China as “strategic threat” ahead of North Korea, and accusing China of claiming seas and islands controlled by Japan; said China’s navy and air force had “expanded and intensified their activities in the surrounding sea areas and airspace of Japan, including the area surrounding the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu)”. Japanese PM Abe 23 Oct called for Beijing to take “positive action” on Japanese national detained in China in Sept, believed to have been accused of spying.

Korean Peninsula

Amid North Korean missile launches and continued inter-Korean tensions, U.S.-North Korean denuclearisation negotiations remained stalled with Pyongyang criticising U.S.’ approach to bilateral talks. U.S. and North Korea 5 Oct held working-level discussions in Swedish capital Stockholm, but Pyongyang broke off dialogue after a few hours claiming U.S.’ approach had not changed; North Korea’s chief negotiator Kim Myong-gil said U.S. would not “give up their old viewpoint and attitude” and negotiations had “not fulfilled our expectation”; U.S. reportedly also noted North Korean intransigence. Following speech by North Korea’s UN ambassador Kim Song at UN General Assembly 30 Sept, during which he accused U.S. of failing to attempt to implement June 2018 Joint Declaration issued by U.S. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, North Korean criticism of U.S. policy continued; ruling party Central Committee vice-chair Kim Yong-chol 26 Oct warned that only Trump-Kim relationship stopped two countries returning to hostile relations, while govt reiterated U.S. has until end of 2019 to change “hostile policy”. In continued inter-Korean tensions, Kim Jong-un 23 Oct demanded South Korea remove its facilities in Mount Kumgang tourist zone – not in use since 2008 killing of South Korean tourist by North Korean guard – during visit to site; South Korea 28 Oct offered talks to resolve issue, but next day reported that North Korea had rejected proposal, preferring to reach agreement by “means of exchanging documents”. North Korea 2 Oct tested what is thought to be new ballistic missile capable of being launched from a submarine, while South Korea 31 Oct said Pyongyang that day had fired two unidentified “projectiles” into East Sea/Sea of Japan.

Taiwan Strait

During 10 Oct speech marking National Day, President Tsai denounced “one country, two systems” formula proposed by Beijing for reunification, saying it has put Hong Kong on “brink of disorder” and represents threat to Taiwan. Foreign minister earlier described China as practicing “authoritarian expansionism” in the Pacific, citing planned Chinese military presence in two Pacific countries (Kiribati and Solomon Islands) that switched diplomatic allegiance to Beijing in Sept. Speaking at Xiangshan security forum in Beijing 21 Oct, Chinese defence minister Wei Fenghe stated that reunification with Taiwan is China’s “greatest national interest”.

Afghanistan

Amid stalled formal peace process, violence remained at high levels while electoral commission delayed results of Sept presidential elections. In continued fighting, Taliban 4 Oct attacked Kunduz City, killing at least ten soldiers and capturing outpost later re-taken by govt forces; The New York Times counted at least 383 pro-govt forces killed 20 Sep-24 Oct. High level of civilian casualties continued including govt airstrike 12 Oct killing at least eight civilians in Wardoj District, Badakhshan Province. Suicide bomber 18 Oct detonated during Friday prayers at mosque in Nangarhar Province, killing some 73 people, in attack Taliban blamed on Islamic State Khorasan Province. UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan 17 Oct reported 1,174 civilian deaths 1 July-30 Sept, highest quarterly number since UN began documentation in 2009, saying numbers driven by increased attacks by “anti-govt elements” as well as “aerial and search operations” by pro-govt forces. Formal peace process remained stalled following U.S. President Trump’s Sept decision to pause negotiations with Taliban, though informal efforts continued; Taliban delegation led by deputy leader Abdul Ghani Baradar 3 Oct met Pakistani FM Qureshi in Islamabad; U.S. Special Envoy Khalilzad was present in Islamabad at same time, with unconfirmed reports he met with delegation. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper 19 Oct travelled to Afghanistan to meet President Ghani and other govt officials, remarking “political agreement” remained “best way forward”. Khalilzad 22 Oct began trip to Brussels, Paris and Moscow to discuss peace process; in Moscow meeting with Russia, China and Pakistan 25 Oct, participants expressed support for “earliest resumption of negotiation process”. China reportedly offered to hold intra-Afghan talks in Beijing. Taliban reportedly reiterated willingness to resume formal negotiations while govt continued to express scepticism over Khalilzad’s efforts. Announcement of results from 28 Sept presidential elections, originally scheduled for 19 Oct, hampered by technical issues with new biometric voter system; electoral commission announced low preliminary turnout of 1.93mn, 27 Oct said preliminary results will be announced 14 Nov.

Bangladesh

Security forces continued to arrest alleged members of banned militant groups, while relations with India fed domestic tensions, and govt maintained hardline stance toward Rohingya refugees. In anti-militancy operations, police arrested three alleged Harakatul Jihad Bangladesh and four suspected Ansar-al-Islam (also known as Ansarullah Bangla Team) in Dhaka early Oct, and seven more in Narayanjang and Pabna districts 12 Oct; security forces arrested two alleged Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh militants. Following arrest of Hindu man in Bhola Island 19 Oct on charges of inciting religious hatred in social media post, thousands protested demanding his execution; police fired on demonstrators, killing four and injuring dozens, claiming crowd threw rocks at them. Bangladesh and India 5 Oct signed seven bilateral agreements during PM Hasina’s visit to New Delhi, including allowing India to use Chittagong and Mongla ports and withdraw water from Feni river; Hasina also raised concerns over situation of Bengalis in Indian state Assam, after Indian govt in Aug excluded almost 2mn people from National Register of citizens. Sec Gen of opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) called for Hasina to resign for “anti-state” agreements; police 12 Oct arrested 100 BNP leaders and activists protesting agreements. Border guards 17 Oct killed Indian soldier following disagreement over three Indian fishermen detained for allegedly entering Bangladeshi waters. Court 30 Oct jailed in absentia for three years BNP vice chair Giasudddin Quader Chowdhury for statements “conducive to public mischief” and “criminal conspiracy”, over 2018 speech where he said Hasina’s fate would be “worse” than her father, former President Mujib, assassinated in 1975. Hardline stance against Rohingya refugees from Myanmar continued; security forces 2 Oct arrested 45 Rohingyas for intruding into Bangladesh, first arrest of Rohingyas for infiltration, and 12 Oct killed refugee during alleged gunfight, accusing him of drug-trafficking; foreign ministry 15 Oct provided list of 50,000 refugees to Myanmar’s ambassador for verification and repatriation. Myanmar official 3 Oct confirmed govt rejected Chinese proposal to facilitate “go and see” visit for Rohingya refugees to Rakhine state ahead of potential repatriation.

India (non-Kashmir)

Clashes between security forces and Maoists continued. Militants 4 Oct killed two members of Jharkhand Jaguar security forces – special task force established in 2008 to tackle Maoist insurgency – during gunfight on border of Ranchi and Khunti districts, Jharkhand state (east); police 7 Oct arrested three suspected Maoists in Tilma village, Ranchi. In Chhattisgarh state (east), security forces claimed to have killed Maoist in clash in Dantewada district 8 Oct and another in Sukma district 15 Oct. In Kerala (south), police 28-29 Oct killed four suspected Maoists during clashes in Palakkad district.

Kashmir

Tensions remained high between India and Pakistan over former’s revoking of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) special constitutional status, and continued clashes across Line of Control (LoC, dividing Pakistan and Indian-administered Kashmir). New Delhi 31 Oct formally divided state into two federally-administered “union territories”, J&K and Ladakh. In continued clashes across LoC, Pakistani military sources claimed Indian fire killed soldier 10 Oct and three civilians 15 Oct. Spike in cross-LoC attacks 20 Oct with India claiming to have targeted three militant camps allegedly used for infiltration into India-administered Kashmir, reporting two soldiers killed by Pakistani fire, and claiming to have killed five Pakistani soldiers in retaliation; Pakistan claimed to have killed nine Indian soldiers. Pakistani PM Khan 8 Oct met with Chinese President Xi in Beijing in bid to gain support over Kashmir; joint statement declared China’s opposition to “any unilateral action that complicates the situation”, which should be resolved based on UN Charter, “relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements”. India criticised China for commenting on “internal affairs”; Xi and Indian PM Modi did not mention Kashmir during meeting in India 12 Oct. Within J&K, clashes continued including police claiming to have killed three militants in south 16 Oct. New Delhi began easing some restrictions including 10 Oct releasing three mid-level politicians and 14 Oct restoring some mobile phone connections, though other connections and internet services remained blocked. Govt re-blocked text messaging services hours later after militants killed truck driver in Shopian district; militants 29 Oct killed five migrant labourers in Kulgam district. National Conference party delegation 6 Oct met detained leaders Farooq Abdullah and son Omar; party’s provincial head said “mainstream leaders have to be released” to start political process with New Delhi. Delegation of 23 largely far-right European parliamentarians visited Kashmir in “private capacity” late Oct. In Pakistan-administered Kashmir, hundreds of supporters of pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front marched toward LoC intending to cross it, but were barred by govt; Khan stated anyone crossing LoC “will play into the Indian narrative” of terrorism.

Nepal

Following period of relative inactivity, govt security forces mounted pressure on Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) with 16 Oct arrest of 21 district-level leaders in Dang district following biggest Nepal Police raid on CPN to date. Security officials claimed CPN – led by hardline Maoist leader Netra Bikram Chand – planning to conduct attacks in leadup to 30 Nov local-level by-elections. National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) investigation concluded June death of CPN’s Sarlahi district-in-charge Kumar Paudel – described by security officials as being killed in police action – was extrajudicial in nature as it occurred after Paudel was taken into custody; NHRC recommended suspensions and filing of criminal charges against three police officials and urged investigations into govt officials including local mayor. Chinese President Xi’s 12-13 Oct state visit to Kathmandu included meeting with PM KP Oli and signing of over twenty agreements mostly related to infrastructure, development and trade; senior U.S. official expressed concern about Chinese influence in Nepal at 22 Oct Congressional hearing. Fears of Nepal Communist Party-led govt’s suppression of civil liberties grew with two musicians taken into custody for supposedly violating social norms.

Pakistan

Political tensions remained high, amid govt’s push for criminal prosecution of opposition, and concerns over terrorism financing. Authorities continued corruption probes into opposition leadership: National Accountability Bureau 11 Oct remanded former PM Sharif in custody on corruption charges. Jamaat Uleme-e-Islam (JUI) 27-31 Oct held protest “Azadi [Freedom] March” from Karachi to Islamabad, Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) participated, demanding PM’s resignation and new elections; position supported by other opposition parties including Pashtun nationalist Awami National Party and Baloch nationalist National Party. Amid concerns over terrorism financing, govt 10 Oct arrested four Laskhar-e-Tayyaba (renamed Jamaat-ud-Dawa) leaders on terrorism financing charges; however Financial Action Task Force 18 Oct declared govt had still taken insufficient steps to curb terrorism financing and money laundering, warning govt would be put on blacklist if sufficient progress not made by Feb 2020. Insecurity continued particularly in Balochistan province, including 15 Oct bomb in provincial capital Quetta that killed one and injured five police officers. Peshawar High Court 17 Oct declared law related to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) region – “Action (in Aid of Civil Power) Ordinance” which authorised military force and gave legal protection to military interment centres in KPK – and two similar 2011 regulations as unconstitutional, directing KPK’s police chief to take control of all internment centres within three days. Govt lodged appeal against rulings in Supreme Court. FM Qureshi 3 Oct met delegation led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of Taliban’s political office, in Islamabad, saying govt wanted U.S.-Taliban negotiations to resume; U.S. Envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad in Islamabad at same time, with unconfirmed reports he met with delegation.

Sri Lanka

As campaigning began for 16 Nov presidential elections, parliamentary committee 23 Oct released report on investigation into April ISIS-inspired bombings that criticised govt and security services. Report placed “greatest responsibility” for failure to stop attack on State Intelligence Service chief and criticising other top security officials, president and PM for “fail[ing] in their duties”; called for investigations into “whether those with vested interests did not act on intelligence so as to create chaos and instil fear” ahead of presidential election. Former defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, candidate for Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna and widely assumed to be front-runner, 15 Oct rejected claims that hundreds of Tamils disappeared after surrendering during civil war in May 2009 while he was defence secretary, and announced his govt would not honour commitments on reconciliation and accountability made by current govt at UN Human Rights Council; earlier, Gotabaya declared he would acquit and release all “war heroes” held on “baseless” charges during 9 Oct campaign rally. Amid concerns over increased political repression under a Gotabaya govt, several prominent NGOs and activist groups working on minority and human rights issues reported increased police surveillance and harassment. Sajith Premadasa, candidate for ruling United National Party, took increasingly nationalist position, called for death penalty for terrorists, 10 Oct vowed to appoint controversial former army commander Sarath Fonseka as defence minister and 27 Oct promised to protect army commander Shavendra Silva with his life. U.S. State Department officials told Congress 22 Oct that “serious and credible” allegations of war crimes by unit under Silva’s command in 2009 meant his Aug appointment “will significantly curtail bilateral cooperation”.

Indonesia

Tensions continued in Papua region following Sept unrest in which dozens of people were reported killed in clashes. Military 7 Oct reported more than 16,000 people had fled Wamena, where most deaths occurred, including some 11,4000 evacuated by military. National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas) 18 Oct called for investigation into deaths, and said number of killed higher than previously reported, including 43 in Wamena; Human Rights Watch early Oct called for govt to allow UN human rights officials access to region, and called for inquiry led by Komnas. Media 1 Oct reported that President Widodo said he was ready to meet with Papuan activists demanding independence referendum; one Papuan leader told Reuters talks would need international mediation. Police 11 Oct said they would investigate discovery of bodies of five villagers – three women and a teenage boy and girl – with bullet wounds in Nduga area, site of clashes between military and separatists since late 2018. Military reported three civilians killed by separatists in Hitadipa 18 Oct; West Papua National Liberation Army claimed victims were military personnel. Widodo visited Papua late Oct, opening new bridge in provincial capital Jayapura. At national level, Widodo’s appointment as defence minister of former general Prabowo Subianto, his rival during April presidential election, prompted concern over past accusations of human rights abuses against Subianto. Suspected ISIS supporter stabbed chief security minister Wiranto in Banten province, west of capital Jakarta 10 Oct; Wiranto operated on for his wounds; husband and wife arrested in connection with attack.

Myanmar

Insecurity continued in northern Shan state and Rakhine state in west, while govt held talks with ethnic armed groups based along Thai border. In Shan state, following end of military’s unilateral ceasefire in Sept, clashes continued between Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and military including TNLA 9 Oct ambush of convoy army trucks passing through Hseni town, killing three soldiers, injuring three others and seven civilians. In Rakhine State military and Arakan Army (AA) clashed regularly, with military deploying air and naval assets. Navy 1 Oct shelled village on Kaladan River in Kyauktaw township claiming AA fighters were taking refuge there; hit monastic school, injuring five. AA 26 Oct attacked ferry in northern Rakhine, abducting some 50 police, military and govt officials; several reported killed in military operation to release them; military 28 Oct reported fourteen rescued. Mandalay court 8 Oct charged six alleged AA members and supporters with terrorism offences following Sept police raid that uncovered explosives, detonators and communications equipment. Govt continued informal talks with Restoration Council of Shan State and Karen National Union, two largest ethnic armed groups along Thai border, with hopes it could lead to them resuming full participation in formal negotiations. Govt also held separate discussions with Kachin Independence Organisation, AA, TNLA and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, aiming to establish bilateral ceasefires. Court in Ngapudaw township, Ayeyarwady Region (south of Rakhine state), 4 Oct sentenced 21 Rohingya to two years imprisonment for attempting to travel from Rakhine to Yangon without permission, following single hearing and without legal representation for defendants; rights groups condemned trial as evidence of continued discrimination faced by Rohingya and lack of conditions for safe repatriation of refugees from Bangladesh. UN Special Rapporteur on situation of human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee 22 Oct reported it remains “unsafe for [Rohingya refugees] to return to Myanmar”, and called on UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to International Criminal Court. Bangladeshi govt maintained hardline stance against Rohingya refugees (see Bangladesh).

Philippines

Clashes continued between armed forces and militants, including Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Abu Sayyaf group in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in south, and communist rebels in several regions. In BARMM’s Maguindanao province, encounter between govt-aligned Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and BIFF faction under Abu Toraify reportedly killed seven MILF and four BIFF in Shariff Saidona town 4 Oct. Armed forces 6 Oct killed suspected BIFF member believed to be involved in 4 Oct clash at checkpoint in Pandag, Maguindanao. Armed forces and MILF 19 Oct launched operation to dislodge Toraify Group from Maguindanao-North Cotabato border; following operation, roadside bombing 24 Oct injured seven MILF members; ISIS claimed attack, announced three deaths. In BARMM’s Sulu province, armed forces killed suspected member of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and captured another after intense firefight 6 Oct in Sitio Kan Pataw, Talipao municipality. MILF reportedly continued to talk to two BIFF factions (under Kagi Karialan and Commander Bungos) but groups apparently remain unwilling to return to MILF or disband. Security on periphery of BARMM remained volatile; British national and his wife were kidnapped in Tukuran, Zamboanga del Sur province 4 Oct; ransom demand raised later in month, although no group claimed responsibility. Implementation of Bangsamoro peace process continued with meeting of peace implementing panels involving govt and MILF in Davao 19-20 Oct, while President Duterte mid-Oct named govt delegates to Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA)’s Intergovernmental-Relations body, expected to settle disputes between national and Bangsamoro govts; MILF appointed members months earlier. Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) reported it had decommissioned over 2,000 MILF combatants since early Sept. Clashes between govt and communist New People’s Army (NPA) occurred in several areas, including Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental, Quezon (centre), Sarangani (south), Isabela (north), and Las Navas, Samar island, as govt continued counter-insurgency efforts despite local peace dialogues; several NPA and govt forces reported killed.

South China Sea

Tensions over South China Sea (SCS) continued between China and Vietnam, and China and Philippines. Amid stand-off between Vietnam and China over oil exploration and fishing rights in disputed areas of SCS, Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong 15 Oct called for restraint. Chinese energy survey vessel and three escorting ships again spotted in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) same day, despite Vietnam’s previous calls for China to remove ship from area. Chinese Foreign Ministry 16 Oct called for dialogue to resolve “differences”; the Chinese vessels left Vietnamese waters 24 Oct. Earlier in month, Vietnam again accused China of preventing Vietnamese boat from fishing in its EEZ on 5 Oct, calling incident a violation of its sovereignty and jurisdiction. Philippines’ Foreign minister 2 Oct announced diplomatic protest after Chinese coast guard ships were seen near disputed island occupied by Philippines navy in South China Sea. Philippines early Oct reportedly invited Russian oil company Rosneft to explore for oil and gas in waters also claimed by Beijing. Speaking at Xiangshan security forum in Beijing 21 Oct, Chinese defence minister Wei Fenghe stated that SCS islands are “inalienable parts of China’s territory”. U.S., Philippine, and Japanese forces conducted military drills in Philippines; U.S. and Brunei militaries also held joint exercises.

Thailand

Deep south largely quiet in terms of insurgency-related violence and official peace-dialogue process between govt and MARA Patani (Patani Consultative Council), while febrile political environment continued at national level. Apparent suicide attempt 4 Oct by judge in Yala courtroom focused public attention on long-standing misgivings about impartiality of justice system in southernmost provinces; judge shot himself after delivering verdict acquitting five Malay-Muslim defendants of murder and “illegal association”, alleging political interference in case by his superiors. Four rangers suffered light injuries in roadside IED attack in Bannang Sata district, Yala 26 Oct. At national level, royal powers continued to increase, and pro-military govt continued efforts to paint opponents as disloyal to monarchy. Army general 3 Oct brought sedition charges against academic and seven opposition party leaders for discussing constitutional amendments at seminar in Pattani late Sept; 51 MPs of governing Phalang Pracharat Party 9 Oct filed complaints over opposition MPs’ “treasonous” acts, and demanded they be banned from parliament. PM Prayuth Chan-ocha used emergency powers to transfer command of two army regiments to King’s Guard, which reports directly to King Maha Vajiralongkorn; Future Forward Party noted objection to PM’s bypassing parliamentary approval for move. Palace 21 Oct announced that king stripped Royal Noble Consort Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi of military rank and royal titles for “disloyalty”. King subsequently purged at least six other palace officials. Digital Economy and Society Minister early Oct announced that police were on verge of “purging” anti-monarchy figures on social media, and ordered all internet cafes to track customer use of computers for 90 days.

Papua New Guinea

Preparations underway for referendum in autonomous region Bougainville scheduled for 23 Nov-7 Dec, when some 300,000 voters will choose between greater autonomy and independence. Vote, outcome of which will need to be ratified in national parliament, is part of 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement which ended decade of conflict on island over revenues from mining and its environmental impact. Referendum delayed twice in 2019 due to lack of funding.

Europe & Central Asia

Bosnia And Herzegovina

With formation of state-level govt still stalled twelve months after Oct 2018 elections, Bosnia’s international partners including U.S., EU and Turkey reiterated calls for members of tri-partite presidency to end deadlock. European Court of Human Rights 29 Oct ruled that govt must amend electoral law in line with 2010 Constitutional Court ruling to allow municipal elections in Mostar, which has not held vote since 2008.

Kosovo

Vetevendosje (“Self-Determination”) party won 6 Oct snap parliamentary elections with preliminary results giving it 25.9% of vote; Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) came second with 24.9%, and Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK, in govt for twelve years) third with 21.3%; voter turnout some 44%. Vetevendosje and LDK started coalition talks 10 Oct. EU Observation Mission said elections “well-administered and transparent”, but criticised “uneven playing field” and reports of intimidation in Serb-majority areas. Election commission 6 Oct suspended vote counting after officials reported health problems after opening ballot boxes containing votes cast in Serbia; Belgrade claimed allegations were attempt to ban ethnic Serb Srpska Lista party. During his confirmation hearing at European Parliament, new EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell stated that development of an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia will be priority for new European Commission, and announced that his first official visit will be to Pristina.

North Macedonia

European Council 18 Oct decided not to begin formal accession talks with North Macedonia (and Albania) following French veto, in move widely criticised for undermining EU influence and credibility in Western Balkans, and prompting frustration in Skopje, where it is feared rejection will weaken PM Zaev’s reformist govt. Amid calls from opponents for his resignation, PM Zaev 19 Oct called for snap elections, saying “we are victims of the EU’s historic mistake”, and that electorate will “decide the road we are going to take”; poll set for April 2020. European Parliament 24 Oct passed resolution calling decision a “strategic mistake” and called for European Council to unanimously back opening of accession talks at its next meeting. NATO Sec Gen Jens Stoltenberg 21 Oct confirmed North Macedonia’s NATO accession process “well on track”.

Armenia

Armenia’s year-long chairmanship of Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union ended with summit in Yerevan early Oct where member states, plus observers Iran and Singapore, finalised treaties on closer economic cooperation. PM Pashinyan welcomed resolution passed in U.S. House of Representatives 30 Oct recognising mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Empire in early twentieth century as genocide.

Azerbaijan

Dozens detained during opposition-organised protests in capital 8 and 19 Oct, prompting criticism of excessive police tactics and govt reshuffle. Umbrella opposition group National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF) 8 Oct organised demonstration in Baku calling for freedom of assembly, reportedly attended by several hundred people; authorities had sanctioned rally attended by up to 50 people; police reported seventeen protesters detained. NCDF 19 Oct organised unsanctioned protest in central Baku, calling for release of political prisoners and lower energy prices; before and during rally, police detained opposition leaders and some 300 protesters and forced others out of city centre. Amid reports that two opposition leaders were tortured by police, EU and U.S. embassy criticised excessive use of force by police – denied by govt – and called for investigation. Pro-govt news channel 20 Oct distributed leaked recording of conversations about protests between opposition member Gultekin Hajibeyli and EU and U.S. diplomats, prompting govt criticism of outside interference, and accusations that govt had violated Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Responding to anti-govt sentiment, President Aliyev 21 Oct dismissed two deputy PMs and called for all officials over the age of 70 to step down; also dismissed influential head of Presidential Administration Ramiz Mehdiyev; opposition called changes cosmetic. Aliyev also dismissed PM Mammadov 8 Oct, replacing him with economic adviser Ali Asadov.

Georgia

Tensions continue around separation line of breakaway republic South Ossetia following Aug crisis, with both sides reporting new problems mid-Oct. Geneva International Discussions (GID) participants meeting 8-9 Oct failed to reach agreement over contested Georgian police outpost in Tsnelisi village; armed South Ossetian security actors briefly held EU Monitoring Mission patrol in area of tensions 25 Oct. GID co-chairs also reiterated calls to reopen crossings, closure of which has led to reported food shortages and health problems for local ethnic Georgian population; one woman reportedly died 28 Oct due to lack of timely emergency support. Govt 15 Oct reported new attempts at borderisation along separation line; de facto South Ossetian authorities 16 Oct reported increased presence of armed police officers near Tsnelisi police outpost.

Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan)

Month saw relative calm in conflict zone, but harsher rhetoric between Baku and Yerevan amid signs of frustration over lack of progress in talks related to settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict. Both Azerbaijan and Armenia reported incidents involving civilians in Qazakh/Tavush section of international border: Azerbaijani State Border Service 2 Oct said Armenian military shot dead civilian in Qazakh district; Armenian Defence Ministry denied report, blaming Azerbaijani side for wounding Armenian civilian in Tavush area, and 3 Oct reported death of one Armenian soldier in same section of border. Baku and Yerevan exchanged harsh rhetoric and blame for lack of progress in talks, including Armenian foreign ministry early Oct blaming Azerbaijan’s “maximalist stance” as “main and essential threat to the peace process”. Azerbaijan and Armenian leaders continued personal interactions; Armenian PM Pashinyan and Azerbaijan’s President Aliyev clashed in speeches during Commonwealth of Independent States summit 11 Oct, but afterward discussed NK over dinner together. Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group co-chairs visited region 14-17 Oct to prepare possible meeting of Armenian and Azerbaijani FMs in margins of annual OSCE Ministerial Council early Dec.

Russia/North Caucasus

Police 2 Oct raided HQ of independent Dagestani newspaper Chernovik, in move criticised by international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders as “witch-hunt”; Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) also expressed concern. Search reportedly linked to investigation of reporter Abdulmumin Gadzhiyev, arrested in June on terrorism financing-related charges which Human Rights Watch has condemned as move to silence govt critics. Dagestan court 15 Oct extended Gadzhiyev’s pre-trial detention to 13 Nov. Human rights organisation Memorial expressed concern over fate of Chechen man Ramzan Shaikhayev, whose family reported he was abducted from his home outside Grozny 9 Sept, citing fears he may have been abducted by security services. In Ingushetia, authorities mid-Oct reportedly searched homes of three activists opposed to controversial land deal between Insughetia and Chechnya. Reports emerged of repressions in which Chechen govt officials were imprisoned in apparent purge that started with arrest of Argun mayor Ibragim Temirbayev.

Ukraine

Kyiv’s efforts to unlock long-stuck negotiation process with Russia-backed separatists prompted significant public backlash, but yielded tentative progress toward new Normandy summit and bilateral troop disengagement along front line, where security situation remained precarious. President Zelenskyy 1 Oct announced Kyiv had agreed to withdraw some troops from front line and signed on to so-called Steinmeier Formula for implementing the 2014-2015 Minsk agreements, opening door to long-awaited Normandy summit with Russia, Germany and France. Steinmeier Formula seeks to elide Kyiv and Russia/separatists’ disagreement on when “self-governing status” element of Minsk should take effect – after Ukrainian govt resumes control of its eastern border with Russia and holds elections under Ukrainian law (Kyiv’s vision) or before elections (Moscow and the separatists’ vision); Steinmeier stipulates special status and local elections must happen simultaneously. Domestic political opposition claim Steinmeier legitimises separatist regimes and amounts to surrender. Protesters gathered periodically with some 13,000 marching “against capitulation” 14 Oct; Kyiv attributed protests to communication failures. Disengagement did not proceed as planned 7 Oct; Kyiv blamed other side for ceasefire violations, while Russia and separatists blamed Kyiv’s inability to control armed far right, some of whom had begun an ongoing protest at one of the slated withdrawal zones, Zolote. Kyiv 14 Oct announced disengagement “postponed”; next day, Trilateral Contact Group parties cut short scheduled meeting involving discussion of plans to exchange prisoners and renew social services in separatist-held areas. Following controversial 27 Oct argument between Zelenskyy and right-wing activists in Zolote, national police announced activists had removed weapons from their front-line HQ. Sides announced start of disengagement at Zolote 29 Oct. Meanwhile, number of ceasefire violations well above Sept average. Ukrainian govt forces lost eight servicemen and one servicewoman (mostly due to sniper fire), while LDNR forces lost at least ten fighters; fourteen civilians injured 28 Sept - 30 Oct, all on separatist-held territory, eleven due to unexploded ordinances and mines. In positive news, Ukrainian authorities opened temporary bypass bridge at Stanytsia Luhanska, used by 10,000-12,000 people crossing front line daily.

Cyprus

UN continued efforts to rejuvenate stalled Cyprus reunification talks, while tensions grew over gas drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı 6 Oct expressed desire for tripartite meeting with UN Secretary-General and five-party conference with guarantor powers by year-end; Republic of Cyprus govt 12 Oct announced willingness to hold tripartite meeting with UN Secretary-General and Akıncı. Leaders agreed to UN Secretary-General Guterres’ proposal for informal tripartite meeting to be held in Berlin 25 Nov. Following 5 Oct arrival of Turkish drilling vessel Yavuz at area the Republic of Cyprus claims is within its Exclusive Economic Zone, govt demanded Turkey “immediately cease illegal actions” and threatened to issue international arrest warrants for workers on vessel. Two French frigates en route to Syria 12 Oct conducted naval manoeuvres with Republic of Cyprus military.

Northern Ireland (UK)

Amid uncertainty over UK’s planned departure from EU, assistant Northern Ireland police chief 16 Oct warned parliamentary committee that dissident republicans may use Brexit as “clarion call or rallying cry” and target any future “infrastructure”, while head of police 23 Oct warned of loyalist “public disorder” if proposed UK-EU deal threatens union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Spain

Tensions flared over issue of Catalonia independence, with hundreds injured as protesters clashed with police. Supreme court 14 Oct sentenced nine pro-independence Catalan leaders to prison terms of between nine and thirteen years for sedition and other offences related to Oct 2017 independence referendum deemed illegal by constitutional court, fining another three for disobedience. In response, thousands of protesters marched to Barcelona airport, and next day attempted to enter govt offices, leading to clashes with police. Estimated hundreds of thousands rallied in Barcelona 18 Oct, with further clashes with police. Over 600 injured in protests 14-20 Oct, including some 280 police; 130 reportedly arrested. Both pro- and anti-independence supporters staged mass demonstrations late Oct.

Turkey

Turkish military incursion into north east Syria increased tensions with Kurdish movement in Turkey and with allies, heightening concerns it could fuel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) insurgency and enable resurgence of Islamic State (ISIS) threat. Turkish forces 9 Oct launched “Operation Peace Spring” against Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG) in north east Syria, following phone call between President Erdoğan and U.S. President Trump, and U.S. announcement that it would remove its forces from border areas (see Syria). Stated goals of Turkish operation, conducted alongside Sunni rebel Syrian National Army proxies, included removing YPG from border area (some 30/32km by 440km), combatting “terrorists” and establishing “safe zone” for resettling Syrian refugees; ten Turkish soldiers reported killed in operation by end-Oct, and twenty civilians in Turkish border towns by YPG shelling/shooting. U.S. 15 Oct also briefly imposed sanctions calling for Ankara to halt incursion; Ankara and Washington 17 Oct agreed deal for Turkey to halt offensive for 120 hours to allow YPG forces to withdraw. Erdoğan and Russian President Putin 22 Oct reached agreement giving YPG forces until 29 Oct to withdraw 30km from border to create “safe zone”, with Russian and Syrian govt forces facilitating withdrawal of YPG fighters in border areas outside Turkish control; Turkish military with its Sunni rebel proxies now controls 140km along border from west of Tel Abyad to Ras al-Ayn. International community strongly condemned Turkish incursion, with several European states and Canada suspending arms exports. Military operations inside Turkey against PKK tapered off slightly following start of Syria incursion, while air and land operations against PKK in northern Iraq continued. Govt maintained efforts to criminalise Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) through ongoing detentions and arrests of HDP figures on terrorism-related charges, particularly around launch of Syria incursion which prompted HDP-organised protests. Police continued crackdown on suspected ISIS operatives. Erdoğan condemned U.S. House of Representatives resolution 30 Oct recognising early twentieth century mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Empire as genocide.

Kazakhstan

Amid ongoing tensions over continued political influence of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev, President Tokayev 21 Oct issued decree handing Nazarbayev more power: stipulates president must consult Nazarbayev before appointing chiefs of state institutions (including Committee for National Security (KNB)) and ministers. Decree came days after Nazarbayev 11 Oct gave interview on state television downplaying his influence and condemning “traitors” for stoking unrest. Police arrested more than three dozen people involved in attempted anti-govt protests in capital Nur-Sultan, Almaty and other cities 26 Oct against govt business ties with China and calling for release of political prisoners. Trial began 22 Oct of fourteen repatriated citizens accused of fighting with ISIS in Syria, facing charges including involvement in terrorist activities, recruitment and promoting terrorism; KNB earlier reported 595 citizens have been returned from Syria in 2019, including more than 400 children.

Kyrgyzstan

Trial began in absentia 15 Oct of former President Atambayev, whose Aug arrest led to deadly violence between his supporters and security forces, on charges of illegal release in 2013 of high-profile convicted criminal Aziz Batukayev, after he twice refused to attend; Atambayev denies charges.

Tajikistan

Supreme Court early Oct ruled that National Alliance of Tajikistan (PMT), group comprising several opposition movements and parties based in EU, is a terrorist and extremist organisation. Some 2,000 prisoners released late month in mass amnesty, including some sentenced for “liking online extremist posts”.

Turkmenistan

President Berdymukhammedov 1 Oct fired Interior Minister Isgender Mulikov, who had been accused of corruption and abuse of power.

Latin America & Caribbean

Bolivia

Amid concerns over legitimacy of general election results, govt faced mass protests, strikes and clashes between govt and opposition supporters that left several dead. Violent protests erupted in at least nine cities day after 20 Oct vote, which incumbent President Morales won amid concerns over vote-rigging and fraud, with opposition disputing results: thousands demonstrated in capital La Paz, while groups of Morales supporters and opponents clashed in various cities. Final results released 24 Oct showed Morales won 47.1% of vote thus avoiding second round, sparking more riots in La Paz and Santa Cruz de La Sierra, with police firing tear gas at crowds. Opposition candidate Carlos Mesa accused govt of “shameful and crude alteration of the result”, while EU and Organization American States (OAS) called for run-off. Govt supporters and opposition demonstrators clashed in various cities late month, including in La Paz where anti-govt protesters established road blocks; govt 30 Oct said two people died in clashes in Montero, Santa Cruz province. OAS 31 Oct began audit of results; Mesa rejected audit, saying he did not trust it.

Chile

Unrest rocked country as escalating anti-austerity protests led to incidents of looting and clashes between security forces and demonstrators, with some twenty people killed. Protests in capital Santiago against increased public transport prices turned violent 18 Oct as protesters threw stones, attacked police vehicles and burnt at least one bus, while anti-riot police used tear gas and batons against demonstrators. President Piñera declared state of emergency in capital, later extended to other cities as protests and clashes with police spread, increasingly focused on cost of living in general and inequality; curfews imposed in Santiago, Valparaíso, Coquimbo and Biobío. By 27 Oct some 20 people reported killed nationwide (including five people killed in Santiago garment factory reportedly torched by looters); National Institute for Human Rights reported 546 people suffered firearms injuries. Interior Minister said govt had deployed 10,500 police and soldiers. UN Human rights chief Bachelet 24 Oct announced “verification mission” to examine allegations of rights violations, with govt’s consent. Piñera 23 Oct announced 20% increase in basic pensions and proposal for state to finance expensive medical treatments. Over a million people reportedly joined peaceful rally in Santiago 25 Oct. State of emergency lifted 27 October; Piñera dismissed his cabinet, however protests and unrest continued. Govt 30 Oct pulled out of hosting Nov Apec trade forum and Dec UN climate change conference

Colombia

Political violence continued in lead-up to local elections, while attacks on community leaders by armed groups remained at high level. In 27 Oct local elections, ruling Democratic Centre party failed to make gains, with significant victories by left-leaning Green Party and local coalitions; former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) combatant won mayoral seat in Turbaco, Bolívar. Govt deployed 60,000 soldiers to guard polls amid concerns over possible violence, particularly longstanding conflict regions in Pacific, Bajo Cauca and near Venezuelan border; election day passed without violence, though reports of vote-buying in some areas prior to vote. Ahead of poll, violence included shooting of vehicle transporting mayoral candidate for Toledo, Norte de Santander (north east) 19 Oct; at least 22 mayoral candidates killed in year leading up to vote. Intimidation and violence against social leaders and activists continued, including by armed groups apparently seeking to use their land for illicit economic activity; three indigenous leaders assassinated in La Guajira (north), Nariño (south west) and Quindío (west) mid-Oct; FARC dissidents 29 Oct killed four members of Nasa indigenous guard and indigenous governor in Tacueyo reserve, Cauca (south west). UN 5 Oct reported threats by National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas and clashes between ELN and Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (country’s main drug trafficking group) displaced 47 families in Alto Baudó, Chocó (west). Congress 18 Oct approved funding of transitional justice mechanism Special Jurisdiction for Peace through 2020 despite controversy over the court. Head of UN mission 10 Oct told UN Security Council (UNSC) that demobilisation of FARC forces continued to demonstrate results; however UN reported 52 assassinations of former FARC combatants in 2019. UNSC 15 Oct reiterated “full and unanimous support” for implementation of 2016 peace deal but highlighted concerns over violence against political candidates, activists and demobilised FARC members. Govt 21 Oct issued decree requiring FARC to hand over economic proceeds from conflict by 31 Dec; although transfer agreed in 2016 accord, FARC called deadline “new attack on peace”.

Ecuador

Twelve days of mass protests sparked by President Moreno 3 Oct removing $1.3bn fuel subsidy shuttered much of country and, according to public prosecutor’s office, left some eight dead with over 1,500 injured and police arresting 1,192. Following removal of subsidy, demonstrators 3 Oct shut major roads in Quito and smaller cities, leading to some looting. Moreno 3 Oct declared state of emergency, while country’s largest indigenous movement Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) 5 Oct declared its own state of exception and announced permanent national mobilisation against govt. Govt 6 Oct temporarily moved capital to Guayaquil on coast. Moreno 7 Oct accused former President Correa and Venezuelan President Maduro of fomenting unrest with “destabilisation plan”. After another massive march in Quito on 9 Oct, organised by CONAIE and trade unions, Moreno returned to Quito and offered concrete dialogue process mediated by the UN and Catholic Church; Moreno 14 Oct repealed decree. CONAIE 23 Oct announced pause in talks, alleging govt “persecution” of its leaders. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights visited country 28 Oct-1 Nov to document potential rights abuses during protests, meeting with CONAIE and civil society groups.

Venezuela

Govt continued “National Dialogue” with minor opposition parties following Sept collapse of Norwegian-backed talks with main opposition, resuming participation in National Assembly (AN) ahead of elections due 2020, releasing some political prisoners and offering to negotiate changes to electoral authority. However, opposition dismissed initiative, with opposition MPs saying ruling-United Socialist Party of Venezuela and its allies (Patria Para Todos and Communist Party of Venezuela) had made no efforts to promote an agreement in parliament. Political violence continued; body of opposition political activist Edmundo Rada, a member of opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s Voluntad Popular party, found burnt and shot 18 Oct in outskirts of Caracas; Rada had been under police special forces’ surveillance; party leaders said they interpreted murder as political message. UN Human Rights Council 17 Oct controversially elected Venezuelan govt as member despite opponents of its candidacy arguing govt’s human rights record, and refusal to cooperate with Council’s fact-finding mission, made it unfit for membership. Eduardo Stein, joint special representative of UN refugee and migration agencies, said 4.5mn Venezuelans had left country since 2015, stating number could be higher when including those using illegal crossing points.

Guatemala

Political tensions continued over work of former anti-corruption body International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), whose mandate ended in Sept, and migration agreement with U.S.. Constitutional Court 7 Oct ordered injunction to immediately halt commission of inquiry set up by Congress late-Sept to probe alleged illegal or arbitrary acts by CICIG on grounds that Congress was usurping functions of Attorney General’s Office; President-elect Giammattei late Sept made statement criticising commission as “political show”. Congress dropped inquiry commission but 14 Oct launched Truth Commission to hold public hearings for people to report alleged CICIG abuses. Giammattei 3 Oct reiterated concern over lack of information on “Safe Third Country” agreement with U.S. which allows U.S. to transfer asylum cases to Guatemala while their cases are reviewed, and did not rule out repealing it when he takes office in Jan. U.S. 15 Oct warned govt must maintain agreement to benefit from proposed regional development plans, next day resumed some aid, focused on law enforcement and security. President Morales 2 Oct extended state of emergency in 22 municipalities, imposed in Sept following killing of three soldiers; Peasant Development Committee 17 Oct organised several protests across country rejecting extension.

Honduras

Civil unrest continued over allegations of President Hernández’s links to narco-trafficking. Around a thousand anti-govt protesters, summoned by opposition figures Salvador Nasralla and centre-left Liberal party president Luis Zelaya, marched in capital Tegucigalpa 9 Oct demanding Hernández’s resignation; police attacked demonstrators forcing them to disperse; earlier same day, over 6,000 supporters of ruling National Party marched in support of Hernández. Anti-govt groups spurred by allegations of Hernández’s links to drug trafficking; U.S. court 18 Oct found President’s brother guilty on four charges, including drug trafficking, with prosecutors alleging President Hernández protected him. Detained drug trafficker Nery Orlando López Sanabria – whose ledger, confiscated during June 2018 arrest, was used as evidence in Tony Hernández’s trial – murdered in maximum security prison “El Pozo” 26 Oct. Following verdict, Manuel Zelaya of left-wing Libre party called on supporters to protest indefinitely until Hernández resigns; opposition leaders including Nasralla, Luis Zelaya and Manuel Zelaya 19 Oct formed coalition to force President from office through continuous protests. Hernández 20 Oct called for peace; 7,000 govt sympathisers marched in Tegucigalpa same day. Debate over new penal code continued with rights groups concerned it will harden penalties against protesters and ease punishments for officials guilty of embezzlement; National Anti-corruption Council 16 Oct presented citizen initiative against legislation to Congress and organised protest against it in front of parliament. Following Sept asylum agreement with U.S., Washington 16 Oct announced restoration of some aid previously cut in April, focused on security and law enforcement.

El Salvador

Tensions continued between President Bukele and opposition-controlled Legislative Assembly over govt accusations against main opposition parties. Assembly 8 Oct created special commission to investigate Sept claims by govt official that opposition parties Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) and Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) may have been behind spike in homicides 20-21 Sept. Assembly 16 Oct appointed Apolonio Tobar as human rights Ombudsman; Bukele criticised appointment, noting that Attorney General’s Office has investigated Tobar on four occasions. Witness at trial of 426 MS-13 gang members on murder and weapons charges 11 Oct alleged gang negotiated deals with FMLN and ARENA around 2014 presidential and 2015 local elections in exchange for votes, and reported gang members paid military officers for sniper training. Following Sept asylum agreement with U.S., Washington 16 Oct announced restoration of some aid previously cut in April, focused on security and law enforcement; Bukele 28 Oct announced U.S. had extended Temporary Protected Status residency for 260,00 Salvadorans living in U.S. to 2021. Head of National Police announced 108 homicides 1-29 Oct, approx half that of same period 2018.

Nicaragua

Amid stalled political dialogue and increasing international pressure on govt, President Ortega’s govt continued harassment of anti-govt movements. Ortega 4 Oct claimed govt is gathering evidence of anti-govt protesters’ abuses to possibly present to International Criminal Court, despite Nicaragua not being party to Rome Statute; also said he would not return private TV station seized by police in Dec 2018 to owners, alleging their involvement in “failed coup attempt”. Opposition continued to denounce govt repression; sociologist and opposition activist Elvira Cuadra 8 Oct presented report claiming police and paramilitaries have killed 60 rural residents and political opponents in 2019. Ortega late Sept appeared to secure support of national police and Supreme Court, which on 26 Sept requested National Assembly remove from office former Court magistrate Rafael Solís, who left country in Jan denouncing Ortega’s repression of 2018 protests. International actors increased pressure on govt; Organization of American States high-level commission – which was denied entry to Nicaragua in Sept – met with opposition and exiles in El Salvador 1-3 Oct. Incoming EU foreign policy chief Borrell 7 Oct called Nicaragua’s crisis worse than Venezuela’s and called for sanctions, while EU Foreign Affairs Council 14 Oct adopted framework for targeted sanctions against officials involved in human rights violations; also passed resolution conditioning lifting of sanctions on full implementation of March 2019 agreements between govt and opposition, return of international rights bodies and govt-opposition pact on electoral reforms; Ortega 16 Oct criticised EU for aligning with U.S. and appointing Borrell. Economic deterioration continued.

Haiti

Deadly unrest and political deadlock continued despite international attempts to facilitate dialogue, with protesters and opposition parties demanding President Moïse’s resignation. Moïse 2 Oct announced creation of presidential dialogue committee in effort to resolve protracted crisis, but four of seven members resigned shortly after, saying negotiations were futile as Moïse is unwilling to leave power. Opposition rejected dialogue and 4 Oct established committee to set up transitional govt; coalition of 107 civil society organisations 11 Oct announced support for transition. Moïse 15 Oct held press conference reiterating openness to negotiations, but said he would only relinquish power through legal process such as elections (scheduled for 2022); opposition rejected overtures and called for more protests. Amid worsening fuel shortages, anti-govt protests and related violence continued including in capital Port-au-Prince, where one person was killed 17 Oct and one shot dead by police 20 Oct. Several hundred police and supporters 27 Oct demonstrated alongside anti-govt protesters in capital, demanding better salaries; two people killed: first reportedly shot by second, who was then beaten to death and burned by demonstrators. International community attempted to facilitate dialogue; Core Group (UN Sec Gen’s representative, ambassadors of U.S., EU, France, Canada, Brazil and Spain and Organization of American States’ representative) held meetings early Oct with opposition and business community; opposition 4 Oct held protests against interference by Core Group. Armed violence continued including murder of journalist Nehemie Joseph, found shot dead in his car in Mirebalais 10 Oct. UN’s Mission for Justice Support in Haiti mandate ended 15 Oct, replaced by political mission focused on political stability and governance.

Mexico

Govt faced political crisis following series of high profile violent events in Sinaloa (north), Michoacán (centre) and Guerrero (south) mid-Oct. National Guard and army officers 17 Oct detained Ovidio Guzmán, son of Joaquín Guzmán – alias “El Chapo” and former leader of Sinaloa Cartel currently imprisoned in U.S. – in Culiacán, Sinaloa; Sinaloa Cartel responded deploying crews of gunmen in city and attacked military forces, leading to eight deaths including one soldier. Authorities released Ovidio to prevent further escalation; amid criticism from media and opposition, govt admitted to poor planning of arrest. Elsewhere in country, alleged Jalisco Cartel New Generation gunmen 14 Oct killed thirteen police in attack in Aguililla, Michoacán. Fourteen alleged members of armed group and one soldier killed in clash outside Iguala, Guerrero 16 Oct; army said they were attacked first, National Human Rights Commission opened investigation into possible wrongdoing by state forces. President López Obrador 18 Oct stated govt’s security strategy working “very well”. Tensions continued over anti-corruption efforts; Supreme Court judge Eduardo Medina resigned 3 Oct due to federal investigation into suspicious financial movements in his bank accounts, while head of oil workers union Carlos Romero Deschamps, accused of embezzling funds from state oil company PEMEX, stepped down. Some observers lauded progress in anti-corruption while others accused govt of acting selectively, alleging several key govt officials also accused of corruption.

Middle East & North Africa

Israel/Palestine

Low-level violence continued between Palestinians and Israeli security forces at Gaza-Israel fence and Palestinian Authority (PA) took steps to ease financial crisis in West Bank. In Gaza-Israel fence area, clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian protesters 4 Oct left one protester dead; two rockets launched from Gaza hours later fell short of Israeli territory. Following 14 Oct meeting between Gaza-based Palestinian faction Islamic Jihad and Egyptian officials, Egypt released about 80 Islamic Jihad prisoners, most returned to Gaza. At southern end of strip Israel 17 Oct shot down drone near fence. Qatar 27 Oct began disbursing $7.5mn to Palestinians. Israeli jets 29 Oct downed drone over Gaza. In West Bank, amid deepening financial crisis, PA and Israel 3 Oct agreed to reactivate joint committees established under Paris Protocol (framework for Israeli-Palestinian economic relations) to discuss economic issues; after PA agreed to receive tax revenues collected by Israel in West Bank, which it had rejected since Feb, Israel 6 Oct transferred $428mn to PA. Israel continued to withhold portion of tax revenues which PA had earmarked for families of prisoners and martyrs. PA 7-11 Oct signed agreements with Egypt aimed at strengthening economic relations. PA 15 Oct said it would pay its employees salary arrears for April, May and June in coming days and pay those for July, Aug and Sept in coming months. PA President Abbas 16-17 Oct met Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in Saudi capital Riyadh and agreed to establish joint bodies to increase trade. Israeli security forces 18 Oct killed Palestinian wielding knife near Tulkarem. After PM Netanyahu failed to form coalition govt by 23 Oct deadline, Israeli President Rivlin that day mandated leader of Blue and White party Benny Gantz to form one instead. Lebanese army 13 Oct said Israeli drone had illegally entered its airspace; Lebanese civilian 23 Oct shot down Israeli drone within Lebanese territory.

Lebanon

Govt’s announcement of austerity measures sparked nationwide anti-govt protests which paralysed country and PM Hariri resigned. Govt 17 Oct announced austerity measures to address economic crisis, including tax on use of social media platform WhatsApp, prompting thousands to take to streets, first in capital Beirut and then across country; crowds complained of govt corruption and economic mismanagement and demanded that govt resign. In Beirut, police 17-18 Oct tried to disperse protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets, leaving several dozen protesters and police injured, and arrested at least 70 protesters. Two Syrians 18 Oct died in Beirut after building they were in near protests caught fire. In Tripoli, protesters 18 Oct attacked former MP attempting to join demonstration, prompting his bodyguards to open fire and reportedly kill two. Christian party Lebanese Forces 19 Oct resigned from govt citing latter’s lack of will to reform. Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah same day expressed support for protests, but opposed govt’s resignation. In strongholds of Hizbollah and Shiite Amal Movement in south, protesters attacked Hizbollah and Amal offices. Gunmen allegedly affiliated with Amal movement 19 and 20 Oct attacked protesters in Tyre and Nabatieh leaving several injured; Amal denied involvement. PM Hariri’s 21 Oct announcement of economic reform package to resolve crisis failed to appease demonstrators. Security forces 21 Oct blocked hundreds of purported Hizbollah and Amal supporters from reaching downtown Beirut; Hizbollah and Amal denied involvement. Hassan Nasrallah 25 Oct claimed protests were diverging from initial goals and serving political and external interests and announced withdrawal of Hizbollah supporters; in following days violence by Amal/Hizbollah supporters against protesters increased. PM Hariri resigned 29 Oct over differences concerning govt reshuffle and reform agenda. President Aoun next day requested govt to remain in place until new cabinet formed. In south, civilian 23 Oct shot down Israeli drone over Kfar Kila.

Syria

In north east, U.S. withdrew from front lines and Turkey launched offensive against Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG); Turkey-U.S. and Turkey-Russia deals calmed fighting mid-month, but clashes erupted late Oct between Turkish-backed rebels and govt forces; in Nov fighting between Turkish and Kurdish forces could rise again. U.S. forces’ 7 Oct withdrawal from positions near Turkish border prompted Turkey to launch offensive 9 Oct against YPG. Turkey took territory from YPG in 140km stretch from west of Tel Abyad to Ras al-Ayn; 120 civilians killed in fighting. Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) 13 Oct agreed to regime forces’ limited deployment in YPG-held areas to help repel Turkish incursion. Unconfirmed numbers of Islamic State (ISIS) fighters escaped detention. Turkey and U.S. 17 Oct announced Turkish ceasefire to allow YPG withdrawal with view to creating safe zone. In 22 Oct Turkey-Russia deal, Turkey gave YPG until 29 Oct to retreat 30km from Turkish border in 440km stretch between Manbij and Iraqi border under supervision of Russian and Syrian govt forces. U.S. 24 Oct said it would deploy in east to protect SDF-controlled oil fields. Russia 29 Oct said YPG had withdrawn from planned safe zone. Clashes between Syrian troops and Turkish-backed rebels near Ras al-Ayn in safe zone 29 Oct left six Syrian soldiers killed; Turkish-backed rebels same day said they had captured undisclosed number of govt troops near Ras al-Ayn. U.S. forces 31 Oct carried out patrol on Turkey-Syria border with SDF support near Qataniyah. In north west, Russian and Syrian govt forces continued attacks on rebels in Idlib de-escalation zone; notably Russian airstrike on Taftanaz airport 20 Oct killed nine fighters of jihadist group Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham. President Trump 27 Oct said U.S. operation previous night in Barisha, Idlib province led to death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi; ISIS confirmed death 31 Oct. UN-sponsored constitutional committee comprising representatives from govt, opposition and civil society opened first session in Geneva 30 Oct.

Iran

Iran-U.S. tensions remained high, relations between Iran and United Arab Emirates (UAE) continued to ease and unclaimed explosions damaged Iranian tanker in Red Sea. President Rouhani 13 Oct repeated that opening of Iran-U.S. negotiations depended on U.S. first lifting its sanctions on Iran and returning to nuclear deal. Govt 16 Oct denied that U.S. carried out cyber-attack on Iran in Sept as reported by Reuters. UAE 20 Oct unfroze $700mn of Iranian funds. On request of U.S. President Trump, Pakistan PM Khan 13 Oct visited Iran and 15 Oct Saudi Arabia in bid to ease tensions between two states; visits yielded no breakthrough. Iranian official 31 Oct announced Saudi Arabia had released nineteen Iranian fishermen, eleven detained since Dec 2018, eight since Jan. Two explosions 11 Oct damaged Iranian tanker in Red Sea off Saudi coast; FM Zarif 15 Oct said “one or a number of governments’’ had attacked tanker. Australia 5 Oct said Iranian authorities had released two of its citizens arrested for allegedly photographing “military and banned zones” and same day freed Iranian whom U.S. was trying to extradite. France 16 Oct said Iran was detaining French scholar Roland Marchal and urged his release; Iran has been detaining another French scholar with dual Iranian nationality since June.

Iraq

Anti-govt protests erupted in capital Baghdad and southern provinces leading to violent crackdown on protesters that left at least 250 dead and 8,000 wounded; violence and political instability could rise further in Nov. After demotion of iconic general stirred anger late Sept, protesters 1 Oct took to streets in Baghdad calling for jobs, improved public services and end to corruption. Security forces’ violent attempts to disperse protests, including with live ammunition, caused protests to swell and spread to southern provinces. Before unrest subsided 7 Oct clashes left 149 protesters and eight members of security forces dead. PM Mahdi 9 Oct announced measures including cabinet reshuffle, punishment of corrupt officials, job creation schemes and stipends for poor. Highest Shiite authority Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani 11 Oct denounced repression and called on govt to investigate; Mahdi next day launched commission of inquiry, which 22 Oct blamed security officials for losing control of forces; govt same day fired 44 army and police commanders. Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr 19 Oct expressed support for protests and called on govt to resign. Protesters 25 Oct returned to streets in Baghdad and southern provinces calling, among other things, for Mahdi to resign. Further clashes left scores killed and wounded; notably in Karbala, about 100km south of Baghdad, security forces 29 Oct sought to disperse crowds violently leaving at least fourteen dead. Explosion at weapons depot near Baghdad reportedly linked to Iran-backed paramilitaries 14 Oct injured twelve security force members. Unclaimed rocket strike on Baghdad’s Green Zone 30 Oct killed one soldier. U.S. 17 Oct renewed sanctions waiver allowing Iraq to continue importing Iranian energy for 120 more days. Islamic State attack in Salah al-Din province 21 Oct left two dead. U.S. 20 Oct said it would move forces it withdrew from Syria to western Iraq; Iraqi military 22 Oct said U.S. troops did not have permission to stay. In north, Turkish airstrikes 1-15 Oct left five PKK members dead.

Kuwait

U.S. 14 Oct approved sale of $281mn worth of military equipment to Kuwait.

Saudi Arabia

Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran eased partly thanks to third-party intervention by Iraq and Pakistan, and Saudi airstrikes against Huthis in Yemen reduced in intensity and scope. With Riyadh’s blessing, Iraq reportedly engaged Iran to reduce Saudi-Iran tensions. Pakistani PM Khan visited Iran and Saudi Arabia, 13 and 15 Oct respectively, in bid to ease tensions. FM Jubeir 21 Oct denied mediation efforts. Following 14 Sept suspected Iranian attacks on Saudi oil facilities, U.S. 11 Oct announced deployment of 3,000 military personnel and two Patriot missile batteries to Saudi Arabia. Govt 13 Oct denied involvement in 11 Oct attack on Iranian tanker in Red Sea off Saudi coast. Iranian official 31 Oct announced Saudi Arabia had released nineteen Iranian fishermen, eleven detained since Dec 2018, eight since Jan. Following Huthis’ 20 Sept unilateral cessation of cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia, Saudi airstrikes on Huthi-controlled territory reduced in frequency and geographic scope. Govt continued to mediate talks between Yemeni govt and United Arab Emirates-backed southern separatists in Jeddah and Riyadh; both sides closed in on agreement to form new, more inclusive govt and end hostilities in south (see Yemen). Russian President Putin 14 Oct visited Saudi Arabia for first time in twelve years; he discussed regional security with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman while trade delegates signed economic agreements worth $2bn.

Yemen

Saudi airstrikes against Iran-aligned Huthi forces in north reduced in intensity and scope, and Yemeni govt and southern separatists made headway in Saudi-mediated talks, creating opportunity to avoid further hostilities in south and pivot to national level peace talks. Saudi Arabia responded positively to Huthis’ Sept unilateral ceasefire, largely limiting airstrikes to front-line positions and, reportedly at Riyadh’s request, Yemeni govt 16 Oct allowed eight fuel shipments to enter Huthi-administered port of Hodeida. Saudi airstrike in Saada province in north 21 Oct killed five civilians. After Huthis’ unilateral prisoner release in Sept, Huthis 10 Oct proposed prisoner swap with govt, which has not yet responded. In south, sporadic fighting continued in Abyan and Shebwa governorates between govt forces and southern separatist groups including Southern Transitional Council (STC). But in Saudi capital Riyadh, negotiations to end rift between Saudi-backed Yemeni govt and UAE-backed STC advanced toward signing of so-called Riyadh Agreement (formerly known as Jeddah Agreement) that would see southerners gain equal representation with northerners in govt and place in future peace talks with Huthis. Govt repeatedly postponed signing ceremony due to differences over selection of interior and defence ministers, govt’s demand that UAE withdraw completely from south and request for security-first sequencing of implementation. Fighting between govt forces and STC escalated in Abyan province 31 Oct prompting parties to postpone signing of Riyadh Agreement without setting new date. Saudi forces progressively took control of Aden in south during month as UAE forces withdrew, completing withdrawal 30 Oct. Saudis brought in new troops and equipment 26 Oct. Huthi forces 29 Oct attacked convoy transporting defence minister in Marib province in centre, killing two soldiers.

United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates (UAE) took steps to improve relations with Iran, continued to withdraw military from Yemen and received visit by Russian President Putin. Iranian MP 20 Oct said UAE had unfrozen $700mn of Iranian funds. UAE forces continued to withdraw from south Yemen, 14 Oct handing over al-Anad international airport near Aden to Saudi forces and 30 Oct completing withdrawal from Aden. In Saudi-mediated negotiations in Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi-backed Yemeni govt and UAE-backed southern separatist group Southern Transitional Council (STC) came close to signing agreement that would see southerners gain equal representation with northerners in govt and place in future peace talks with Huthis. Russian President Putin 15 Oct visited Abu Dhabi for first time since 2007; Russian Direct Investment Fund said officials concluded deals worth over $1.3bn in energy, advanced technology and health sectors.

Algeria

Security forces’ harsh crackdown on protest movement appeared to ease late Oct, as govt continued to prepare for presidential election in Dec despite significant opposition. In capital Algiers and other major cities, tens of thousands continued to demonstrate every Friday, demanding army quit politics, purge of ruling elite, end to corruption, release of imprisoned opposition and civil society leaders and rejecting presidential election planned for 12 Dec. Police 4 Oct arrested five members of human rights organisation Rassemblement Action Jeunesse (RAJ) in Algiers; after sit-in protest in Algiers 10 Oct demanding their release, police arrested RAJ president Abdelwahab Fersaoui. Police 8 Oct for first time harassed and tried to stop students’ weekly demonstration in Algiers. Army chief of staff Gaïd Salah 15 Oct accused some protesters to be paid by dirty money. Hundreds protested at parliament building 13 Oct against proposed legal and fiscal framework for oil sector, which they said caretaker govt has no legitimacy to pass and gives privileges to foreign companies. Opposition parties criticised lack of opposition representation in electoral body created early Sept. Nineteen personalities including former FM Brahimi 15 Oct launched new dialogue initiative.

Egypt

After authorities cracked down on late Sept protests against President Sisi’s rule, govt took economic measures to relieve pressure on citizens. Authorities 1 Oct said they had put nearly 1.8mn people back onto food subsidy program and 4 Oct reduced fuel prices; measures reversed key austerity policies introduced in agreement with International Monetary Fund. Security forces 12 Oct arrested prominent pro-democracy activist Esraa Abdel-Fattah; prosecutor next day jailed her for fifteen days pending investigation on charges of collusion with terrorist organisation and spreading false news; she said she was tortured by police. Insecurity persisted in North Sinai. Bomb hit truck in Bir al-Abd 12 Oct killing at least nine civilians. Security forces 10 Oct reportedly killed militant who tried to blow himself up near al-Arish city. Shells hit two houses in Sheikh Zuweid 19 Oct, killing at least four civilians; media said army carried out strikes. Suspected Islamic State (ISIS) combatants 28 Oct killed policeman in Sheikh Zuweid. Police 29 Oct killed thirteen suspected militants in al-Arish city. Sisi 26 Oct extended nationwide state of emergency by three months. Tensions rose between Egypt and Ethiopia over latter’s construction of its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on Nile River; Egypt fears project will curtail its share of river water. After tripartite talks with Ethiopia and Sudan 4-5 Oct, Egyptian officials 5 Oct said negotiations had reached “deadlock” and 20 Oct said Ethiopia should agree to involvement of external mediator. Govt 22 Oct said it had accepted U.S. invitation to Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to meet in Washington. Sisi met Ethiopian PM Abiy in Russia during Africa-Russia summit 23-24 Oct and agreed to resume talks.

Libya

Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) intensified airstrikes on forces allied to UN-backed Govt of National Accord (GNA) and civilian targets as it pursued campaign to take capital Tripoli; UN kept up diplomatic efforts to push two sides’ international backers to support ceasefire. LNA stepped up air-strikes against GNA’s strategic sites, notably hitting Misrata airport 5 Oct and large weapons depot in Misrata 16 Oct. LNA denied targeting civilians after suspected LNA airstrike on horse-riding club in Janzur west of Tripoli 6 Oct wounded six; and strike near military intelligence camp in Tripoli’s Fornaj neighbourhood killed three girls 14 Oct. Unidentified gunmen 16 Oct killed two women and three children on road from Aziziya to capital Tripoli; LNA accused GNA-allied militias. GNA-backed offensive against LNA stronghold in Tarhunah, 60km south east of capital reportedly killed eleven LNA supporters 16 Oct. GNA 27 Oct launched attack on Haftar’s forces in southern Tripoli to regain positions lost mid-Oct, said it took eight LNA fighters prisoner. Germany hosted third UN-backed meeting of international stakeholders 21 Oct with view to holding international conference on Libya by end of year, but parties continued to disagree on right approach; UN pushed for minimum agreement on cessation of hostilities while some regional capitals demanded comprehensive political, military and financial plan. LNA 19 Oct expressed support for ongoing UN-backed talks, but said no political process would be possible without first eradicating militias in Tripoli.

Morocco

PM Othmani 9 Oct presented new govt of 23 ministers (reduced from 39), after King Mohammed VI urged cabinet reshuffle in July. Mohammed VI 16 Oct pardoned journalist Hajar Raissouni, sentenced late Sept to one year in jail for alleged abortion and sex outside marriage; her fiancé and doctor were also pardoned. Security forces 25 Oct arrested seven suspected members of Islamic State (ISIS)-linked cell in Casablanca and northern towns of Chefchaouen and Ouazzane.

Tunisia

In second round of presidential elections 13 Oct, constitutional law professor with no political affiliation Kaïs Saïed won with 72.7% of votes, beating media mogul Nabil Karoui. In light of Karoui’s incarceration, Saïed 5 Oct stopped campaigning to ensure level playing field and avoid cancellation of second round. Appeal court 9 Oct freed Karoui, giving him several days to campaign. Saïed sworn in as president 23 Oct. In legislative elections 6 Oct, Islamist-inspired party An-Nahda won most seats with 52 out of 217, ahead of Karoui’s liberal party Heart of Tunisia, which won 38, according to preliminary results. An-Nahda launched consultations with several parties represented in parliament and independent MPs to form majority in parliament and then govt. PM Chahed 29 Oct dismissed foreign affairs and defence ministers and secretary of state for diplomacy, reportedly after consultation with President Saïed. Unidentified assailant killed French tourist and injured soldier with knife in Bizerte in north 14 Oct. Security forces arrested suspect next day, his motivations remained unclear.

Western Sahara

UN Security Council renewed mandate of UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) for twelve months, as position of UN special envoy remained unfilled more than four months after former envoy Horst Köhler resigned. Initially UN Security Council members considered approving technical extension of MINURSO’s mandate for a few months, but France and U.S. 26 Oct presented resolution to extend it by one year, which Council passed 30 Oct. Morocco reportedly imposed series of preconditions for appointment, while Polisario Front independence movement allegedly threatened to suspend its participation in any diplomatic initiative until UN names new envoy.