CrisisWatch is our early warning and global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.
South China Sea
In August, deadly clashes in Yemen between southern separatists and forces aligned with the internationally-recognised government dimmed prospects for ending the war. Suspected Israeli drone strikes on Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Lebanon ramped up regional tensions. Fighting intensified in Libya’s south, north west Syria, and Myanmar’s northern Shan State, and in Colombia senior FARC leaders returned to armed struggle. Security in El Salvador improved, but murder rates climbed in Mexico. In Asia, tensions rose in the South China Sea, clashes erupted in Indonesia over the treatment of Papuans, and India’s change to Kashmir’s status could fuel violence. Presidential polls in Somalia’s Jubaland state deepened divisions, intercommunal attacks rose in eastern Chad, and violence in Cameroon’s Anglophone west could increase in the coming month. Repression intensified in Burundi, authorities cracked down on protesters in Zimbabwe, and friction between opposition protesters and Malawi’s security forces could rise in September. In Europe, tensions rose between Georgia and breakaway region South Ossetia, while in Kyrgyzstan political rivalry led to a shoot-out. On a positive note, Sudan’s protagonists agreed on structures to rule until elections, Mozambique’s warring parties officially ended hostilities, dialogue initiatives reduced violence in Mali’s centre, and talks to end the U.S.-Taliban conflict in Afghanistan could lead to a framework agreement in the coming weeks.
In his introduction to this month's edition of CrisisWatch, Crisis Group's conflict tracker, our President Robert Malley reflects on signs of hope in Afghanistan and Sudan, and on dangerous new developments in southern Yemen.
In Yemen, southern separatists aligned with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) seized the city of Aden from the Saudi-backed internationally-recognised government of President Hadi on 10 August. The fighting left at least 40 dead. Violence could escalate in coming weeks as the two factions seek to gain the upper hand. To prevent this rivalry becoming a civil war within a civil war, Saudi Arabia, alongside the UAE and the UN special envoy, should mediate an end to the fighting, including by placing the southern question on the agenda of UN-led talks.
Suspected Israeli drone strikes on Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Lebanon sparked outrage in both countries and further strained Baghdad’s policy of neutrality amid U.S.-Iran tensions. Fighting intensified in north-western Syria as pro-government forces advanced into rebel-held Idlib, targeting the Turkish military. In Libya, the war dragged on in and around Tripoli between armed groups aligned with the UN-backed government and those supporting Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA). Hostilities escalated in the south, where clashes between militias aligned with the main rivals left over 100 dead.
In Colombia, three senior former FARC rebel commanders, including the group’s former chief negotiator, announced their return to armed struggle, becoming the highest ranking guerrillas to have reneged on the 2016 peace deal. El Salvador recorded its lowest monthly murder rate this century, but Mexico’s homicide rate continued to soar; 2019 is on course to become its deadliest year on record.
Fighting escalated in Myanmar’s northern Shan State, as an alliance of ethnic armed groups launched coordinated attacks on strategic targets, including on a military academy, killing about fifteen. Tensions grew in the South China Sea as both Vietnam and the Philippines protested Chinese incursions into disputed waters, while a U.S. warship sailed near Chinese-claimed islands, angering Beijing. India revoked Kashmir’s special constitutional status, deployed tens of thousands of troops, arrested Kashmiri politicians and put the region under lockdown. Its moves raised the risk that violence erupts, both within the region and between India and neighbouring Pakistan in coming months. In Indonesia’s Papua region, large demonstrations against mistreatment of Papuans resulted in violent clashes with security forces.
Presidential polls in Somalia’s Jubaland federal state deepened political divisions, as opposition candidates barred from running and the federal government in Mogadishu rejected the incumbent’s victory. Communal violence in eastern Chad left about 100 dead and prompted the government to impose a state of emergency. A military court in Cameroon handed down life sentences to ten Anglophone separatist leaders, sparking a rise in clashes in the Anglophone regions. Violence could escalate further in September if separatists seek to impose by force a promised lockdown.
As Zimbabwe’s economic crisis deepened, the security forces cracked down on protests, while the frequency of attacks on opposition members and activists rose. In Malawi, protesters continued to push their claim that President Mutharika won re-election through fraud; violence between protesters and security forces could rise in September if the Constitutional Court dismisses the opposition’s case to overturn the result. As Burundi’s 2020 presidential elections approach, the government and ruling party’s youth wing stepped up repression of the main opposition party, arresting and assaulting its members, killing one.
Tensions rose markedly between Georgia and its breakaway region of South Ossetia as Russian and de facto South Ossetian border guards resumed efforts to build a fence along the line between Georgia and South Ossetia. In response, Georgia began building police stations in contested areas. Meanwhile, in Kyrgyzstan, supporters of former President Atambayev took up arms to resist special forces’ attempts to arrest him, killing one.
Conflict resolution efforts took fragile steps forward in several corners of the globe. In Sudan, the ruling military council and opposition coalition signed a landmark constitutional declaration and power-sharing accord, beginning a three-year transitional period until elections. Mozambique’s former armed opposition group Renamo signed a peace deal with the government, formally ending decades of hostilities. Communal and militant violence fell in Mali’s centre, thanks in part to a growing number of local dialogue initiatives. Finally, the U.S. and Afghanistan’s Taliban made progress in talks and could announce a deal in September. But the conflict continued to exact an excruciatingly high toll on civilians.
Supreme Court 15 Aug handed fourteen-year prison sentence to former transport minister Augusto da Silva Tomas for corruption. Govt 21 Aug hosted, and jointly mediated with DR Congo, talks between Rwandan President Kagame and Ugandan President Museveni in capital Luanda following months of Rwanda-Uganda tensions; two leaders same day agreed to de-escalate tensions and re-open common border.
Month saw continued insecurity in north and east, especially in Sahel, Boucle du Mouhoun and East regions, including deadliest attack against security forces since rise of jihadist insurgency. In Sahel region in north, unidentified gunmen 15 Aug ambushed police on Djibo-Mentao road in Soum province, killing three. Also in Soum, suspected jihadists 19 Aug killed 24 soldiers at military outpost in Koutougou; main opposition party Union for Progress and Change (UPC) next day called on govt to step down. Suspected jihadist militants 25 Aug detonated explosives that destroyed bridge in Bangaharia, Soum province. In Centre-North region, four unidentified attackers on motorbikes 27 Aug killed three civilians in Kourao, Bam province. In Boucle du Mouhoun region in north, bomb killed four soldiers in Toéni, Sourou province overnight 13-14 Aug. In East region, suspected jihadists 4 Aug attacked two churches in Tialboanga, Tapoa province, killing three civilians. Lawyers of Gen Gilbert Diendéré, former chief of staff of former President Compaoré on trial for 2015 attempted coup, 8 Aug made final plea for acquittal; prosecutors sought life sentence. In Centre-East region, some 100 local residents 8 Aug staged attack on Turkish-owned Youga gold mine after security guard killed local man illegally panning for gold previous day, prompting security forces to intervene.
As 2020 elections loomed, govt and ruling party’s youth wing intensified repression of opposition, arresting and assaulting members of opposition party National Congress for Freedom (CNL), leaving one dead. Fighting between CNL members and supporters of ruling party National Council for the Defence of Democracy–Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) in Buhinyuza, Muyinga province night of 2 Aug left five CNL members injured. CNDD-FDD youth wing Imbonerakure 9 Aug “arrested” and handed over to police thirteen CNL members preparing to open party office in Butaganzwa, Ruyigi province. Police 13 Aug arrested four CNL members in Bwambarangwe, Kirundo province. Imbonerakure 13 Aug attacked CNL members in Gasorwe, Muyinga province leaving four injured; 18 Aug attacked opening of CNL office in Muha, Bujumbura Mairie province leaving ten people injured; night of 18-19 Aug ambushed CNL members in Rugari, Muyinga province killing one. Clashes broke out 25 Aug between Imbonerakure and CNL members in Mbimbi, Bujumbura province leaving five Imbonerakure injured; one died of injuries next day. Coalition of opposition parties and individual politicians in exile CNARED Giriteka 4 Aug announced it would participate in 2020 elections and called on govt to engage in dialogue with internal and external opposition. Govt 16 Aug said politicians in exile could return, but those under arrest warrants would be brought to justice. President Nkurunziza 20 Aug reiterated his intention not to run in 2020 elections. Govt 25 Aug signed agreement with Tanzania to start repatriating in Oct some 200,000 Burundian refugees from Tanzania, who fled there following violence in 2015. UN refugee agency 28 Aug described conditions in Burundi as unfavourable for return.
Court’s sentencing of ten Anglophone separatist leaders to life in prison sparked rise in clashes in Anglophone areas, and separatists could intensify violence in Sept to enforce planned economic lockdown; Boko Haram (BH) continued attacks in Far North. In Northwest region, separatists 4 Aug ambushed security forces at Alabukum reportedly killing six. Security forces 7 Aug reportedly killed six civilians in Njinikom. In regional capital Bamenda, fighting 12-18 Aug left at least fifteen dead including ten civilians and five soldiers. After Yaoundé military tribunal 20 Aug handed down life sentences to ten Anglophone separatist leaders, fighting erupted in Bamenda between separatists and security forces, leaving at least two dead. Separatists same day called for three-week “lockdown” in Anglophone regions starting 26 Aug, prompting thousands to flee Anglophone regions; from 26 Aug businesses remained closed and inhabitants stayed at home. Clashes between security forces and separatists 24-25 Aug reportedly left at least 40 dead in Ndop, Bafu, Kumbo, Bamenda in Northwest, and Mamfe and Kumba in Southwest. In Southwest region, security forces 9 Aug clashed with separatists killing unspecified number. Separatists 16 Aug abducted two Catholic priests in Kumbo, releasing them two days later; 21 Aug abducted sixteen civilians, releasing them next day. Security forces searching homes killed seven civilians in Mautu and Banga Bakundu 11-15 Aug. In Francophone Littoral region, separatists 4 Aug killed one soldier and one civilian in Penda-Mboko. Cardinal Tumi 3 Aug advocated for federalism as only solution to Anglophone crisis. Meetings between PM Dion Ngute and organisers of Anglophone General Conference led by Cardinal Tumi 16 and 29 Aug bore no progress toward conference. In Far North, BH attacks on villages and clashes with security forces 1-20 Aug left ten civilians, six soldiers and five militants dead. BH 20 Aug abducted a dozen bus passengers and later reportedly killed four near Dabanga; 22 Aug abducted three children in Krawa-Maffa. BH militants 27 Aug killed two near Amtchoukouli; 30 Aug abducted a dozen near Kolafata. Suspected Nigerian pirates 15 Aug kidnapped seventeen seamen off coast of Douala. Court 8 Aug sentenced 41 activists of opposition Movement for the Renaissance of Cameroon to six months in prison for involvement in protests following Oct presidential elections.
Amid slow implementation of Feb peace agreement, low-level armed group violence and banditry continued especially in centre. In north west, suspected members of Return, Restitution and Rehabilitation (3R) armed group 5 Aug shot and killed youth in Sarki, Ouham Pende province. In east, suspected fighters from armed group Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance 17 Aug killed three in Bria, Haute-Kotto prefecture. In west, anti-balaka militants 19 Aug reportedly killed two Fulani civilians in Boda, Lobaye prefecture. Parties to Feb peace agreement 23-24 Aug met in capital Bangui to stake stock of implementation: UN envoy to CAR Mankeur N’Diaye threatened sanctions against those who breached agreement. Leader of rebel group Patriotic Movement for the Central African Republic (MPC) Mahamat al-Khatim 27 Aug resigned from his position as special adviser in charge of special mixed security units in centre-north zone. Russia 14 and 18 Aug handed over weapons and ammunition to army. Kwa Na Kwa (KNK), party of former President Bozizé in exile in Uganda after Seleka rebel coalition ousted him from power in 2013, 12 Aug said it would leave presidential majority to stand as opposition party in 2020 elections with Bozizé as presidential candidate.
Intercommunal violence escalated in Ouaddaï and Dar Sila provinces in east leaving several dozen dead and prompting govt to impose state of emergency and close borders with Sudan, Central African Republic (CAR) and Libya, while Boko Haram (BH) continued attacks in west. In Ouaddai province, clashes between nomadic Arab herders and ethnic Ouaddaï farmers in Hamra and Chakoya early Aug left at least 37 dead. In Dar Sila province, clashes between ethnic Dadjo and Mouro in Arata and Sésabané 8-9 Aug left several dozen dead. Govt 19 Aug declared 21-day state of emergency (20 Aug-10 Sept) in Ouaddaï and Dar Sila provinces in east and Tibesti province in north where army continued to confront illegal gold miners; next day announced deployment to three provinces of 5,000 soldiers and closed borders with Sudan, CAR and Libya. Unidentified gunmen 24 Aug attacked Gamba, Mayo-Kebbi East province killing three villagers and abducting one. In south, violence between farmers and herders 26 Aug left eleven dead in Koumogo, Moyen-Chari province. President Déby 26-27 Aug reshuffled security sector. Following presidential decree in July unseating Ouaddaï province’s traditional leader for mismanagement of intercommunal violence, Déby 6 Aug signed decree appointing new leader. Police force’s attempt to remove deposed leader’s family from his residence in Abéché 15 Aug met resistance; hundreds next day demonstrated at palace. In Lake Chad province in west, BH female suicide bomber night of 13-14 Aug detonated explosive vest killing four civilians and one soldier in Kaiga-Kindjiria. In capital N’Djamena, police 11 Aug used tear gas to disperse supporters of opposition movement-turned-party Les Transformateurs. Following meeting with Déby, opposition parties 15 Aug submitted list of representatives to be included in National Framework for Political Dialogue (CNDP), platform comprising ruling majority, opposition and civil society to discuss conduct of elections; Déby next day signed decree appointing CNDP members.
Opposition leaders signalled support for former President Bédié, strengthening his challenge to President Ouattara’s party in 2020 elections. Following lower house of parliament’s approval late July, senate 2 Aug adopted bill to reform composition of electoral commission. Three opposition parties – Bédié’s Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire-African Democratic Rally (PDCI-RDA), Vox Populi and Guillaume Soro’s Rally for Côte d’Ivoire (RACI) – same day filed petition at Constitutional Council to repeal bill, claiming it does not guarantee commission’s independence. Constitutional Council 5 Aug rejected petition. Next day bill enacted into law. Civil society and opposition parties, including PDCI-RDA and Popular Ivorian Front (FPI), party founded by former President Gbagbo, said they would boycott new electoral commission. Following late July meeting between former Presidents Bédié and Gbagbo in Brussels, Bédié 1 Aug said that in coming weeks he intended to form opposition platform to challenge Ouattara’s party in 2020 elections. Youth movement Pan-African Congress for Justice and People’s Equality (COJEP) 18 Aug elected as president former youth leader Charles Blé Goudé, former Gbagbo ally whom International Criminal Court acquitted of crimes against humanity during civil war. After PDCI-RDA delegation went to The Hague and met Goudé, latter 21 Aug said COJEP would join opposition platform. Human rights NGO Amnesty International 6 Aug said govt crackdown on dissent had led to arrest of fourteen activists in 2019 and called on authorities to end attacks against civil society activists and opposition members.
President Tshisekedi formed coalition govt with former President Kabila’s alliance seven months since taking office, armed group violence persisted in east, and Ebola virus spread to South Kivu province. PM Ilunkamba 26 Aug announced coalition govt with Tshisekedi’s Heading for Change alliance filling 23 ministerial posts and Kabila’s Common Front for Congo coalition taking 42. Platform of protestant churches and Catholic Church 9 Aug said that almost 2 million people had signed petition urging electoral commission to organise local polls; 16 Aug delivered petition to presidency. In Beni territory, North Kivu province in east, armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 4 Aug killed five civilians; 6 Aug killed two and kidnapped two dozen. Attack by unidentified gunmen 7 Aug in Mbau, about 20km north of Beni, left six civilians dead, prompting some 5,000 to protest insecurity. ADF killed two civilians and one soldier in Mbau 18 Aug sparking more protests in several cities; security forces’ efforts to suppress protests left three demonstrators dead and at least 74 arrested. In Ituri province in north east, army 7 Aug clashed with unidentified gunmen killing at least seven in Djugu territory. Unidentified gunmen 19 Aug ambushed and killed three in Irumu territory. Clashes between army and Ngudjolo militiamen 23 Aug left twenty militiamen and two soldiers dead in Djugu territory. ADF 23 Aug abducted 106 in Irumu territory. In South Kivu, attacks by armed groups in Fizi territory 27-29 Aug left seven civilians dead. During summit of regional bloc Southern African Development Community (SADC) in Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam, Tshisekedi 17 Aug called on other countries to help reduce insecurity in east and proposed creation of regional coalition to eradicate armed groups in east. Ebola virus spread to third province after Ituri and North Kivu, as authorities 16 Aug confirmed first two cases in South Kivu province, one of which died 14 Aug.
Following celebrations marking 25th anniversary of Sawa Military Training Centre and launch of compulsory military service 1-4 Aug, President Isaias early Aug confirmed govt would maintain program.
Amid ongoing violence, govt expressed determination to hold general elections in May 2020 as scheduled. Parliament 30 July again postponed village and district elections and polls for Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa city councils, saying they would be held alongside 2020 parliamentary and regional elections. PM Abiy 1 Aug said govt would hold general elections in May 2020 as scheduled. Executive Committee of ruling coalition Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) 9 Aug confirmed election timeline, and said coalition’s four member parties would consider merging into one and invite five affiliated regional parties to join. Parliament 24 Aug passed new electoral bill, after 57 opposition parties previous day said EPRDF, which controls all seats in parliament, had ignored their amendments; new bill notably raised number of signatures required to register national parties from 1,500 to 10,000 and to register regional parties from 750 to 4,000. Electoral board 29 Aug said it would hold referendum on creation of Sidama federal state 13 Nov, after Sidama activists clashed with police over delay in July. Unidentified gunmen 8 Aug reportedly killed seven civilians in Gumbi Bordede district of Oromia regional state. Police 5 Aug arrested unknown number of people suspected of plotting to free from prison former president of eastern Somali regional state Abdi Mohammed Omer, arrested in Aug 2018 for inciting violence. Police 9 Aug arrested journalist Mesganaw Getachew on terrorism charges. Clashes between herders in south 14 Aug left at least two Ethiopians and one Kenyan dead.
Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou 5 Aug announced release of three former army officers employed as hitmen by former President Jammeh after they confessed to Truth and Reconciliation Commission late July, prompting objections from victims and families; Tambadou argued that release was due to lack of legal proceedings to justify further imprisonment.
Political camps supporting and opposing constitutional change so that President Condé can run for third term continued to mobilise, and authorities cracked down on opposition and civil society. Condé’s Party of Unity and Progress and its allies 2 Aug formed Coalition for the Defence of a New Constitution to build support for constitutional change. Opposition alliance Bloc Against Alpha Condé 21 Aug joined opposition movement National Front for the Defence of the Constitution as part of platform dubbed Fight against a Third Mandate. Authorities 2 Aug arrested leader of opposition Liberal Bloc, Faya Millimono, on defamation charges, even though he had retracted his accusation that Justice Minister Fofana was a former rebel, prompting his lawyers to call detention “excessive”; authorities 10 Aug released Millimono but said charges would proceed to court. In capital Conakry, court 19-21 Aug put CEO of LynxFM radio, Souleymane Diallo, and host of its phone-in program, Boubacar Alghassimou Diallo, under judicial monitoring after radio station broadcast accusations of embezzlement against govt official; dozens of journalists 26 Aug protested against “state’s harassment of private media” in front of offices of High Authority for Communication.
After electoral commission 10 July announced that presidential elections would take place 24 Nov, several candidates came forward. Opposition party Movement for a Democratic Alternative G-15 (MADEM G-15) 9 Aug elected former PM Sissoco Embaló as its candidate. After conducting primaries 23 Aug, African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) same day announced leader Domingos Simões Pereira as its official candidate, who pledged to leave PAIGC if elected. Incumbent President Vaz did not take part in MADEM G-15’s primaries and 29 Aug officially announced his independent candidacy for second term. Govt 16 Aug announced process to update electoral rolls and include around 24,000 disenfranchised voters, which MADEM G-15 called “omen for electoral fraud”. Opposition Party for Social Renewal (PRS) same day announced court action for injunction of review process due to “lack of legal framework”.
Al-Shabaab continued attacks in north and east as tensions persisted between Kenya and Somalia over maritime border dispute and communal violence continued especially in north. Al-Shabaab militants 7 Aug carried out attack on Hulugho village, Garissa county in east destroying communication mast. In Mandera county in north east, Al-Shabaab attack on Fino village 15 Aug left two dead; suspected Al-Shabaab militants 20 Aug destroyed communication mast in Kheira Ali village and clashed with police reservists, one reservist missing. Police 30 Aug shot and killed suspected Al-Shabaab militant in Ngombeni, Kwale county. Parliament 6 Aug tabled motion to push govt to explore options to resolve maritime border dispute with Somalia and protect Kenya’s territorial integrity: proposed options included resolving issue bilaterally with Somalia, turning to dispute resolution mechanisms under aegis of African Union (AU) or regional blocs Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and East African Community (EAC) or, as last resort, deploying security forces to border. Somalia 21 Aug rejected AU’s offer to mediate between it and Kenya and expressed confidence in International Court of Justice hearing set for 9-13 Sept. Clashes between herders and farmers 12 Aug left two dead in Mariakani, Kilifi county in east. Clashes between herders in southern Ethiopia 14 Aug left at least two Ethiopians and one Kenyan dead. In north, suspected ethnic Borana 25 Aug attacked ethnic Gabra in Forole and Sabareh, Marsabit county near Ethiopian border leaving at least twelve dead. AU 21 Aug endorsed Kenya for non-permanent seat on UN Security Council for 2021-2022.
Opposition election win continued to fuel violence. After victory of opposition candidate Darius Dillon in 31 July by-election in Montserrado county triggered clashes that day between supporters of ruling Congress for Democratic Change and opposition coalition, clashes flared again 17 Aug and ruling party supporters assaulted opposition candidate Telia Urey. Justice ministry and police same day launched investigation. UN and regional bloc Economic Community of West African States 19 Aug deplored violence. U.S. and EU member states France, Germany, Ireland, Sweden and UK 20 Aug condemned electoral violence and attacks on opposition candidate.
Govt continued to deploy security forces and use judicial process in efforts to contain protests against President Mutharika’s May re-election and alleged electoral fraud; tensions and violence could rise in Sept if Constitutional Court rules against opposition’s application for results to be overturned. High Court 6 Aug dismissed Attorney General’s petition to ban opposition demonstration that NGO Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) had called for that day; several thousand protested countrywide, demanding resignation of electoral commission chairperson Jane Ansah, whom protesters accuse of mismanaging election. In places protesters clashed with police. Constitutional Court 8 Aug began hearing opposition’s case to have election results overturned; 23 Aug adjourned until 3 Sept. Unidentified attackers 15 Aug threw petrol bombs at home of HRDC chairman Timothy Mtambo, who was unharmed. Same day HRDC accused three officials of ruling Democratic Progressive Party of orchestrating attack, officials denied responsibility. Mutharika 21 Aug ordered army and police to prevent protests that HRDC planned to organise at airports and borders 26-30 Aug. In response to petition from Malawi Revenue Authority, High Court 23 Aug banned protesters from blocking airports and border crossings. HRDC said it would abide by ruling, but late Aug warned it would organise protests 5 Sept. Soldiers 28 Aug deployed on streets of capital Lilongwe as Supreme Court of Appeal approved 14-day nationwide ban on protests, preventing protesters from gathering for planned three-day protest 28-30 Aug.
Violence in centre fell as local peace initiatives proliferated, but jihadist groups and militias continued to attack civilians and military in centre and north. PM Cissé continued initiatives to end violence in centre; 3 Aug oversaw signing of peace agreement between Fulani and Dogon militias in Macina circle, Ségou region. Several other villages organised dialogues and reached peace agreements with help of govt and civil society. Notably, thanks to mediation of civil society group Faso Dambe Ton, jihadist group Katiba Macina early Aug agreed to lift siege on Toguere Coumbé in Tenenkou circle, Mopti region. Fulani, Dogon and Dafing militias in Ouenkoro in Bankass circle, Mopti region, 16 Aug signed peace agreement following mediation by Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. In Mopti region in centre, two army trucks detonated mine on Diougani-Dinangourou road in Koro circle 5 Aug, leaving two soldiers and one civilian dead; jihadist Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM) claimed ambush on Hombori-Boni road 21 Aug that left five soldiers dead. Also in Mopti region, unidentified gunmen 23 Aug reportedly attacked Tagari Dogon in Koro circle, killing two civilians. In Ségou region in centre, unidentified gunmen 6 Aug killed one gendarme in ambush. In north, International Committee of the Red Cross 6 Aug said it would temporarily suspend its operations in Tombouctou area due to growing insecurity. Commission organising national political dialogue continued consultations with civil society, political parties and religious leaders, but UN panel of experts 7 Aug warned dialogue could delay further implementation of 2015 Algiers accord. Sympathisers of prominent Muslim leader Mahmoud Dicko 1 Aug announced creation of new movement to influence religious and political life. UN Security Council 29 Aug renewed until 31 Aug 2020 sanctions regime against individuals and entities derailing peace process.
Govt signed peace agreement with former armed opposition group Renamo formally ending hostilities, while in far north suspected Islamist militants continued to kill civilians. After Renamo fighters began to disarm late July, President Nyusi and Renamo leader Ossufo Momade 1 Aug signed agreement to mark official end to hostilities that raged between 1977 and 1992 and rekindled between 2013 and 2016; agreement follows previous deals signed in 1992 and 2015. Leaders 6 Aug signed agreement pledging to keep peace during Oct general elections. Renamo 16 Aug said police and supporters of ruling party Frelimo had since 8 Aug assaulted dozens of Renamo members in Tete, Zambezia, Inhambane and Gaza provinces. Mariano Nhongo, head of Renamo dissident faction Renamo Military Junta, declared himself Renamo leader 19 Aug, said that govt was “on collision course” with his faction if it remained in contact with Renamo leader Momade. Nhongo 28 Aug said elections would not take place and anyone calling for them would be killed. In Cabo Delgado in north, suspected Islamist militants 1 Aug burnt village near Macomia, causing no casualties; Islamic State (ISIS) reportedly claimed attack. Militants 23 Aug killed two near Machava, Nangade district and same day attacked Nangade town, killing three. Militants 27 Aug beheaded two civilians near Quelimane village, Mocimboa da Praia district; same day beheaded four fishermen along Pangane-Macotuco road and one near Simbolongo village in Macomia district. Unidentified assailants 26 Aug killed one in Ulo village, Mocimboa da Praia. Police 24 Aug arrested man in Mocimboa da Praia district for links with insurgents. Unidentified gunmen 26 Aug killed Louis Baziga head of Rwandan diaspora in Mozambique near capital Maputo. Attorney General 9 Aug charged twenty people in connection with govt’s attempt to hide $2bn debt, including son of former President Guebuza, in power when govt made debt deals.
Violence against civilians continued in south east and west despite decrease in attacks against security forces. In Diffa region in south east, abductions of women, traders and traditional chiefs continued. Four soldiers killed when their vehicle detonated mine near Bosso 10 Aug. Boko Haram 23 Aug reportedly killed twelve civilians in Lamana, Gueskero district, Diffa region. In Tillabery region in west, tensions remained high despite decrease in jihadist attacks. Media 18 Aug alleged Malian ex-rebel Coalition of Azawad Movements (CMA) had facilitated 1 July attack against military camp in Inates close to Malian border claimed by Islamic State in the Greater Sahara; CMA denied accusations.
Boko Haram (BH) kept up attacks in north east, banditry persisted in north west, standoff continued between govt and Shia Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), and Biafra separatists threatened more attacks on ethnic Igbo leaders. In north-eastern Borno state, clashes continued between security forces and BH as insurgents attacked civilian and military targets closer to state capital, Maiduguri. Air force 9 Aug said it destroyed major BH base at Izza. Insurgents, mostly from BH faction Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), 10 Aug attacked army base in Gubio, killed four soldiers and at least six civilians, lost eleven fighters; ambushed soldiers in Mogula 17 Aug killing four and in Dikwa area 20 Aug killing five; 22 Aug razed govt buildings in Gubio and Magumeri areas; 30 Aug killed at least three soldiers on Monguno-Maiduguri highway, army said troops killed “countless” insurgents. In north west, Zamfara state govt continued peace talks between bandits and communities, but violence continued. In adjoining Katsina state, bandits 18 Aug attacked four villages in Jibia, Danmusa and Safana areas, killed seventeen civilians; 26-27 Aug sacked Wurma community abducting about 50. In Kaduna state, gunmen 29 Aug attacked Kiri, killing eight. In central Benue state, feud between ethnic Ikurav and Shitile left nine dead 17 Aug. Court 5 Aug approved request by IMN leader Sheikh Zakzaky and wife to travel to India for medical care, but arrangement collapsed after Zakzaky in India 15 Aug protested against Nigerian and Indian govts restricting his movement and denying him access to trusted doctors. Authorities detained Zakzaky and wife on their return 16 Aug. Invoking govt’s 30 July ban on group, federal police 30 Aug ordered special team to dismantle all IMN structures and arrest group’s leaders. Members of separatist group Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in Nuremberg, Germany 17 Aug assaulted Senator Ike Ekweremadu at Igbo community event. IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu 18 Aug offered reward to anyone who provides information that could enable attacks on ‘‘treacherous’’ Igbo leaders.
NGO Global Witness 6 Aug accused President Sassou-Nguesso’s son Denis of embezzling more than $50mn from treasury.
President Kagame and Ugandan President Museveni signed agreement to normalise bilateral relations. Kagame and Museveni 21 Aug signed deal in Angolan capital Luanda agreeing to respect each other’s sovereignty, refrain from destabilising actions, respect rights and freedoms of other’s citizens and resume cross-border activities. Uganda 22 Aug blocked access to Rwandan news sites citing national security concerns, prompting Rwanda next day to block Ugandan news sites; Rwanda later that day said govts had agreed to restore access. Following 31 July Ebola-related death in DR Congo near Rwandan border, Rwanda reportedly briefly closed border next day; Rwanda denied closure.
Tensions continued following electoral violence. Court 8 Aug handed down prison sentences to 23 members of opposition party All People’s Congress (APC) for vandalism during 30 July clashes between APC supporters and those of ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), clashes triggered after electoral commission called off parliamentary by-election in Hamilton, about 20km from capital Freetown, citing irregularities. Authorities 15 Aug arrested APC politician Kashor Cole; 20 Aug arrested former mayor of capital Freetown Herbert Williams, for suspected involvement in Hamilton clashes. Electoral commission 25 Aug cancelled results of 24 Aug rerun in Hamilton after unidentified assailants ransacked polling station on election day. Amid reports of opposition victory, APC 26 Aug called cancellation “highest degree of provocation and injustice” and accused SLPP of orchestrating attack, pointing to complicity of police, who reportedly stood by during ransack and illegally arrested head of opposition’s polling staff.
Jubaland state’s presidential elections heightened tensions within Jubaland and between its administration and federal govt, tensions persisted between federal govt and Kenya, and Al-Shabaab maintained insurgency. In run-up to presidential elections in federal member state Jubaland in south, candidates barred from running 8 Aug formed parallel electoral commission accusing official electoral commission (JIBEC) of favouring incumbent President Madobe. JIBEC 12 Aug appointed assembly tasked with electing president; parallel electoral commission next day appointed its own assembly. Jubaland forces supported by Kenyan soldiers in African Union (AU) mission (AMISOM) 19 Aug blocked Ethiopian military aeroplane from landing in state capital Kismayo. Under pressure from UN envoy James Swan and other internationals, JIBEC briefly reopened candidate registration and delayed vote till 22 Aug. Under tight security, assembly 22 Aug re-elected Madobe. Parallel assembly same day elected Abdirashid Mohamed Hidig. Federal govt rejected both results. Madobe 25 Aug discussed how to move forward with two opposition candidates. Federal govt 29 Aug said flights to and from Kismayo would first need to land in Mogadishu, prompting hundreds to demonstrate against it in Kismayo. Police in Mogadishu 31 Aug arrested Jubaland security minister. Federal govt 21 Aug rejected AU’s offer to mediate between it and Kenya over disputed maritime border, expressing confidence in International Court of Justice hearing set for 9-13 Sept. Al-Shabaab continued to clash with security forces in south, especially in Lower Shabelle region. In Mogadishu, security forces 16 Aug killed four militants attempting to kill official; bombing 25 Aug left one dead. In Lower Shabelle, security forces 6 Aug captured Awdheegle town from Al-Shabaab; 11 Aug clashed with militants in Sham, reportedly killing at least seventeen and injuring spokesperson Ali Dhere who allegedly died 16 Aug; 25 Aug fought militants in Sablale, reportedly killing at least eighteen. Al-Shabaab attacks on military bases in Lower and Middle Shabelle 13-21 Aug reportedly left dozens of militants, at least seven soldiers and two civilians dead. Unclaimed airstrikes in Lower Shabelle and Middle Juba 5 and 16 Aug reportedly killed dozens of militants. U.S. airstrike near Qunyo Barrow, Lower Shabelle 20 Aug killed one militant. President Farmajo 22 Aug replaced security chiefs, including heads of army, police and intelligence agency.
Electoral commission 8 Aug postponed parliamentary and municipal elections due 12 Dec, without setting new date. After all three political parties late July agreed to increase number of electoral commission members to resolve political impasse and advance preparations for polls, parliament 17 Aug rejected proposal. Opposition party Waddani next day withdrew from agreement. President Bihi 26 Aug said electoral commission would remain seven-member body until elections, after which members would be increased to nine. During visit to Mina, Saudi Arabia, Bihi 12 Aug informally met senior officials from Somalia federal govt including FM. Puntland President Deni 17 Aug said he would be open to talks with Somaliland on contested Sanaag and Sool regions; 25 Aug offered to host Somalia-Somaliland talks in state capital Garowe. In Sanaag region, clan violence 12 Aug left at least five civilians dead in El Afwein town; Puntland militia 20 Aug attacked convoy of Somaliland officials in Hadaftimo town, unconfirmed number of casualties. In Sool region, armed group supporting creation of Khatumo state 5 Aug attacked police station in regional capital Lasanod; security forces 18 Aug killed at least one person during search for illegal weapons, sparking protests 20-21 Aug, repression of which reportedly left at least three dead. Elders mediating between govt and Colonel Arre, who defected from Somaliland to Puntland in 2018, 11 Aug said Arre had agreed to cease hostilities and start talks with govt; 25 Aug announced suspension of talks between govt and Arre following remark by chief of army that Arre deserved death penalty.
In capital Pretoria, taxi drivers 27 Aug clashed with alleged drug dealers resulting in deadly shooting of one taxi driver. Next day taxi drivers led protests in central business district calling on govt to tackle problem of drug dealers; protests turned into riots with participants looting and setting alight several foreign-owned shops, police fired rubber bullets to disperse rioters and arrested eighteen. Group of Nigerians, angered by looting of shops some of which were Nigerian-owned, 29 Aug protested at Nigerian high commission.
Implementation of Sept 2018 peace agreement continued to stall ahead of Nov deadline to form unity govt. President Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar failed to agree on conditions for face-to-face negotiations on implementation of peace agreement. Regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) 21 Aug convened parties to peace deal – including Machar but not Kiir – in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for talks aimed at accelerating implementation, but did not reach breakthrough on points of contention. Main rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition 31 July-5 Aug clashed with Cie-Wau clan in Maiwut town, Upper Nile state in north resulting in unknown number of civilian casualties and some 10,000 displaced. Fighters suspected to belong to National Salvation Front rebel group 1 Aug clashed with security forces in Kicak village, Imatong state in south leaving at least two civilians dead. Security forces 20-28 Aug clashed with rebel group South Sudan United Front in Wanh-Achien and Raja, Lol state in north west reportedly leaving several soldiers and eleven rebels dead. Kiir in Juba 14 Aug consulted head of Sudanese armed group Justice and Equality Movement on South Sudan’s potential role in mediating peace between Sudanese parties. Kiir 17 Aug attended signing of Sudanese transitional govt agreement in Khartoum and announced intention to continue efforts to broker peace between Sudanese govt and armed groups. Kiir 19 Aug reshuffled govt, including FM. Former Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) Sec Gen Pagan Amum 30 Aug unveiled new opposition group Real Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (R-SPLM). Holdout opposition groups South Sudan National Democratic Alliance (SSNDA), R-SPLM and South Sudan United Front/Army (SSUF/A) formed alliance in The Hague, Netherlands.
Ruling military council and opposition coalition signed landmark constitutional declaration to govern power structures for three-year transitional period until elections. Following 17 July political agreement, Transitional Military Council (TMC) and opposition coalition Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) 4 Aug reached constitutional agreement and held formal signing ceremony 17 Aug, prompting thousands to celebrate in capital Khartoum. Agreement outlines military and civilians’ share of positions in sovereign council, which will oversee formation of council of ministers and legislative council; FFC to appoint 67% of legislative council, and all positions in council of ministers bar interior and defence ministers, to be appointed by TMC. Rebel alliance Sudan Revolutionary Front same day rejected constitutional declaration. FFC-nominated economist Abdalla Hamdok 21 Aug sworn in as PM of transitional govt, and TMC head General Abdel-Fattah Burhan as chairman of Sovereign Council. TMC 8 Aug annulled death sentence issued in 2014 against leader of rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North Malik Agar. During countrywide protests 1 Aug against alleged killing of protesters by paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in North Kordofan’s capital el-Obeid 29 July, unidentified armed actors killed at least four protesters in Omdurman near Khartoum. TMC 2 Aug said it had arrested seven RSF members for 29 July killings. Court 19 Aug opened corruption trial of ousted President Bashir, 31 Aug indicted him on corruption charges and for illegal possession of foreign funds, and denied request for bail. Hearing adjourned to 7 Sept. U.S. 7 Aug said it was not ready to remove Sudan from list of state sponsors of terrorism; 15 Aug imposed visa ban on former head of National Intelligence and Security Services Salah Gosh, barring him from entering U.S.. Intercommunal clashes in Port Sudan, capital of Red Sea state 21-26 Aug reportedly left 37 dead. Sovereign council 25 Aug dismissed provincial governor and head of security services, deployed troops and declared state of emergency in Port Sudan. Clashes between farmers and herders in North Darfur state left three civilians dead 11 Aug. Amid economic crisis, Sudan received financial and food aid from regional partners: notably, Saudi Arabia 30 July transferred $250mn as part of aid package announced in April.
Authorities continued to use judicial process to silence critical voices. Following arrest of prominent investigative journalist Erick Kabendera late July on pretext of investigating his Tanzanian citizenship, court 5 Aug charged him with money laundering, tax evasion and organised crime; court 30 Aug adjourned his trial until 12 Sept. Police 8 Aug arrested journalist for allegedly cyberbullying his wife, released him on bail next day; 22 Aug jailed another journalist for report on police abuse of prisoners, which authorities deemed false, and released him on bail two days later; 24 Aug arrested journalist reporting on meeting of opposition party Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT) and three ACT members, two days later released all four on bail. U.S. and UK 9 Aug jointly called on govt to respect press freedom. Govt 25 Aug signed agreement with Burundi to start repatriating in Oct some 200,000 Burundian refugees from Tanzania. UN refugee agency 28 Aug described conditions in Burundi as unfavourable for return.
President Museveni and Rwandan President Kagame signed agreement to normalise relations, as govt continued to crack down on opposition. Museveni and Kagame 21 Aug signed agreement in Angolan capital Luanda committing to improve relations. Uganda 22 Aug blocked access to Rwandan news sites citing national security concerns, Rwanda next day blocked Ugandan news sites; Rwanda later that day said both governments had agreed to restore access. Court 2 Aug sentenced prominent academic to eighteen months’ prison for criticising Museveni, she has already served nine months. Musician-turned-opposition leader Bobi Wine 6 Aug appeared in court on treason charge for alleged involvement in stoning of Museveni’s motorcade during election rally in 2018; court charged Bobi Wine with intention to “annoy, alarm or ridicule” Museveni.
Amid deepening economic crisis, govt cracked down on protests against corruption and inflation while attacks and abductions of opposition members and activists increased. Govt 15 Aug banned demonstration that main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had called for next day in capital Harare to protest against corruption, unemployment, shortages of power and fuel and inflation. High Court 16 Aug rejected MDC’s appeal against ban. Amid confusion over whether MDC had cancelled demonstration, police reportedly assaulted and fired water cannon at MDC supporters in streets and arrested at least 80, drawing widespread international condemnation. Govt 18 Aug banned MDC protest planned for next day in Bulawayo, and 19 Aug deployed hundreds of police and soldiers to enforce ban. Police 22 Aug arrested MDC National Organising Secretary Amos Chibaya for failing to stop 16 Aug protest; court 26 Aug released him on bail. Attacks on activists and opposition members increased with nineteen abductions recorded in Aug. Notably, unidentified attackers 13 Aug assaulted and held overnight rights activist Tatenda Mombeyarara in Chitungwiza and separately MDC member Blessing Kanotunga in Mufakose, and 21 Aug assaulted and held overnight political satirist Samantha Kureya in Harare. Govt 25 Aug denied involvement. Police 23 Aug arrested eight teachers’ union officials protesting in Harare for higher pay, their lawyer, and journalist filming arrest; court released them on bail next day. Court 21 Aug charged former VP Mphoko with abuse of office, released him on bail same day. Amid economic deterioration, govt 23 Aug offered to raise public sector wages by 76%, confederation of unions, Civil Service APEX Council, 28 Aug accepted rise after initially rejecting it. Tanzanian President Magufuli, current chairman of regional bloc Southern African Development Community, 18 Aug called on U.S. and EU to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe. U.S. 1 Aug placed retired Major General Anselem Sanyatwe, now ambassador to Tanzania, on sanctions list for his role as commander of security unit that shot civilians in Harare in Aug 2018.
U.S.-Taliban talks in Doha (Qatar) continued to progress, entering possible final round ahead of potential framework agreement in coming month, while insurgent attacks struck Kabul. In Doha, U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad 21 Aug met with Taliban representatives in potentially last round of talks ahead of framework agreement; followed 3-12 Aug round, which reportedly concluded with both sides agreeing near-final text; Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid called discussions “long and useful” without providing details. U.S. President Trump 29 Aug announced U.S. would reduce troops to 8,600 as first step. Insurgent attacks continued, particularly in Kabul, despite lull around Eid holiday 11-14 Aug: Taliban 2 Aug targeted police checkpoint in Daykundi province, killing at least ten policemen; in west Kabul, Taliban car bomb 7 Aug exploded in majority Shia neighbourhood, killing fourteen. Islamic State-Khorasan Province 16 Aug carried out deadliest bombing in Kabul this year, killing at least 80 at Shia Hazara wedding; President Ghani called bombing “barbaric”, Taliban condemned attack. In Jalalabad city, during celebrations of independence anniversary, ten unclaimed explosions 19 Aug injured dozens; U.S. military 21 Aug reported two soldiers killed in combat in Faryab province, increasing U.S. combat-related deaths in 2019 to fourteen – highest since 2014. In Chahardara area, Herat province, Taliban 27 Aug killed fourteen pro-govt militiamen; in western Baghdis province, militants same day attacked army checkpoint, killing eight soldiers. Govt 30 Aug announced at least 28 Taliban killed in clashes with Afghan forces in north-east Takhar province. Taliban 31 Aug staged offensive on provincial capital Kunduz, reportedly killing twenty soldiers and five civilians before security forces repelled militants. UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan 3 Aug said 1,500 civilian casualties in July, highest monthly number since 2017, with over half caused by bombings. Taliban 6 Aug denounced election planned on 28 Sept as “sham” and pledged to disturb process. NGO Amnesty International 28 Aug reported human rights activists under intensifying attack from both authorities and armed groups since 2014.
Security forces continued anti-militancy operations while attempt at repatriating Rohingya refugees to Myanmar stalled. Amid regional tensions over Indian govt’s 5 Aug decision to change constitutional status of Kashmir (see Kashmir), Bangladeshi security officials implied events could encourage militancy in Bangladesh; head of paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) 9 Aug warned security forces would take “strict legal actions” against those creating unrest. RAB 7 Aug arrested suspected member of banned Hizb ut-Tahrir in Dhaka and next day, police arrested five suspected members of Wolf Pack, faction of militant Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, in Dhaka alleging they were preparing attack on police officers. UN Committee Against Torture 9 Aug issued its concluding observations on country’s record, expressing concern over allegations of enforced disappearances, custodial deaths and widespread use of torture by security forces; recommended govt to set up independent enquiry into allegations of RAB abuses. As part of repatriation efforts, govt 15 Aug said it was ready to return some 3,450 refugees (approved by Myanmar from list of over 22,000 sent by govt late-July); however no refugees turned up on 22 Aug, day repatriation due to begin, amid Rohingya concerns over security, rights and access to services if they return to Myanmar.
Chinese Premier Li said after 20-22 Aug trilateral meeting in Beijing with Japan and South Korea that cooperation is “important safeguard and catalyst for region” and countries must “defend regional peace and stability”. Washington Post 21 Aug reported Japan building “wall” of defensive installations, including missile bases, on Ryuku archipelago.
Clashes between security forces and Maoists continued: in Chhattisgarh state (east), special forces 3 Aug killed seven suspected Maoist rebels in raid on jungle camp in Rajnandgaon district. In Lakhisarai district, Bihar state (north east), militants 20 Aug killed two civilians, including former Maoist leader, suspected of being “police informers”. In Telangana state (centre), police 21 Aug killed one insurgent in gunfight in Bhadradri Kothagudem district.
Indian govt revoked Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) special constitutional status, arrested J&K politicians and put Muslim-majority region under lockdown, raising tensions with Pakistan and risking new violence along Line of Control (LoC, dividing Pakistan and Indian-administered Kashmir) and within J&K. Fulfilling 2019 electoral promise to ultra-nationalist Hindu constituency, Indian PM Modi 5 Aug revoked Kashmir’s autonomous status under constitutional article 370, including article 35-A which gave permanent residents sole rights to own property within J&K and employment with local government. Lower house of Parliament 6 Aug passed Kashmir Reorganisation Bill dividing J&K into two territories (J&K and Ladakh) and downgrading status from state to Union Territories, J&K having legislature with limited powers, Ladakh having no legislature. Indian govt 2-5 Aug deployed tens of thousands of additional troops in J&K, imposed communication blackout and detained around 300 Kashmiri politicians, including former Kashmiri Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti. Despite crackdown, 10,000 people 9 Aug protested and clashed with police in Srinagar. In Baramulla district, militant 21 Aug fired on police, killing one officer before being killed. Communication blackout remained throughout J&K end month. BBC 29 Aug published report alleging beatings and torture of civilians by security forces. On day of 5 Aug announcement, Pakistani govt called decision “unlawful and destabilising”, with PM Khan next day raising concerns over possible ethnic cleansing in J&K and India using militant attacks as pretext for “conventional war”; 7 Aug downgraded diplomatic relations with India and suspended bilateral trade. UN Sec-Gen Guterres 8 Aug called on “all parties to refrain” from steps affecting J&K’s status and to exercise “maximum restraint”; UN Security Council 16 Aug held closed door consultative meeting on J&K, first in over 50 years, prompting India’s criticism of “international interference”. In cross-LoC clashes, India 3 Aug claimed to have killed five to seven Pakistani commandos during failed Pakistani incursion; Islamabad 15 Aug said four soldiers died by Indian firing and claimed to have killed five Indian soldiers same day and six 20 Aug.
Tensions worsened in Papua amid large-scale demonstrations against the discriminatory treatment of Papuan students that turned violent with clashes between protesters and security forces. Local residents 15 Aug attacked Papuan students in Malang who were protesting without police permission in support of West Papua independence. Next day in Surabaya, ahead of Indonesia’s 17 Aug Independence Day, an angry mob threatened and harassed Papuan students outside their dormitory, after locals claimed they destroyed national flag; police reportedly did not intervene but instead fired tear gas and arrested 43 students 17 Aug over flag issue, released them next day. In response to incidents, protesters 19 Aug began demonstrations in Manokwari, Sorong and Timika (Papua), some turned violent with local parliament building in Manokwari burnt down. Authorities deployed thousands of security personnel to region since 19 Aug; police 21 Aug said they arrested 45 people during protests in Timika, releasing eleven soon after. Information ministry 21 Aug temporarily cut internet access in Papua. Demonstrations 23 Aug turned violent when gunfight broke out between authorities and protesters in Wamena, one protester killed by police. Clashes continued 28 Aug, police reported one soldier and two civilians killed in Deiyai regency, while pro-independence activists claimed six protesters shot dead by police. Next day, protesters in Jayapura reportedly set fire to several govt buildings and damaged businesses. President “Jokowi” Widodo 29 Aug called for calm, while Coordinating Minister for Security affairs General Wiranto said the govt would not entertain demands for referendum on independence. Suspected Islamist militant 17 Aug attacked police officer with sickle in Surabaya, East Java; police shot suspect and took him into custody. Counter-terror unit Densus 88 arrested six suspects with alleged ties to Islamic State-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah during 22-24 Aug raids in East Java. Widodo 26 Aug announced plans to move country’s capital from Jakarta to new city on Kalimantan province on Borneo.
Amid North Korea testing projectiles throughout month, U.S. President Trump received letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un stating willingness to resume talks, and tensions could now ease following end of U.S.-South Korea military drills. Trump 10 Aug said Kim in letter expressed willingness to meet once exercises ended, raising possibility of U.S.-North Korea talks around UN General Assembly in Sept, though North Korean attendance at assembly currently uncertain. Trump 25 Aug in meeting with Japanese PM Abe signalled his objection to joint military drills between U.S. and South Korea, describing them as “complete waste of money”. North Korea 2, 6, 10, 16 and 24 Aug launched salvos of short range missiles; however South Korea and Trump played down launches. Missiles reportedly fired in response to 5-23 Aug U.S.-South Korea joint military drills and South Korea’s 2020-2024 defence plan, unveiled 14 Aug, which adds over 7% in year-on-year defence spending; plan will see construction of large-deck landing ship capable of hosting up to twenty F-35B fighter aircraft. North Korea failed to respond to South Korea to claim body of man who drowned in Imjin River and floated into South Korean territory 31 July, highlighting breakdown of bilateral ties.
Fighting significantly escalated in northern Shan State as militant groups combined to attack strategic targets. Joint force of Arakan Army (AA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) 15 Aug launched raids on several targets in Shan State and fired rockets at Myanmar’s elite defence academy in Mandalay region, killing nine soldiers, three police and three civilians, and destroying bridge on main route from Mandalay to Chinese border at Muse; groups 17 Aug launched series of coordinated attacks around northern Shan State capital Lashio, including firing on vehicle of local philanthropic association travelling to help civilians trapped by fighting, killing one member of group; clashes also around the strategic town of Kutkai. Military 31 Aug extended unilateral ceasefire in Kachin and Shan, originally announced in Dec 2018, until 21 Sept. AA attacks on security forces in Rakhine state continued, including early Aug ambush on military at Bangladesh border, killing deputy battalion commander; AA 20 Aug attack on convoy killed police captain and wounded four officers. Tensions continued over issue of repatriation of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh; though Bangladesh 15 Aug said it was ready to return some 3,450 refugees from 22 Aug – approved by Myanmar from list of over 22,000 sent by Bangladeshi govt late-July – no Rohingya refugees willing to repatriate, amid concerns over security, rights and access to services if they return to Myanmar. UN Fact-Finding Mission 5 Aug released report detailing Myanmar military’s business interests and calling for targeted sanctions and arms embargoes, concluding that revenue earned from domestic and foreign business deals substantially enhances military’s ability to carry out “gross violations of human rights with impunity”; Mission also condemned military’s use of “sexual and gender-based violence to terrorise and punish ethnic minorities” in report released 22 Aug.
Concerns over ruling-Nepal Communist Party (NCP)’s restrictions on political space continued amid new bill curtailing autonomy of govt’s media regulatory body. PM Oli-led govt 27 Aug tabled legislation on media body, despite previously committing to revising controversial proposal widely criticised after its registration in parliament in May; concerns remain that journalists could be heavily fined or imprisoned for violating regulations under new law. Activists also criticised govt for allegedly targeting individuals for their political beliefs following arrest of three journalists over last two months for their ties to hardline Communist Party of Nepal. Human rights groups expressed concerns about govt attempting to maintain close scrutiny on critics after three activists received intimidating calls from police 4 Aug. Opposition parties 27 Aug criticised govt for attempting to establish direct PM oversight into budgets of constitutionally-mandated institutions. Oli also faced internal pressures within NCP due to factional disputes involving two senior leaders and former PMs Jhalanath Khanal and Madhav Kumar, over their positions within party; dispute reportedly linked to Oli’s position within NCP vis-à-vis his fellow co-chair and former Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal. NCP 26 Aug prohibited leaders from criticising party, drawing further criticism of handling of internal disputes.
Political tensions between govt and opposition continued amid arrests of opposition leaders on corruption charges, while militant attacks remained at a high-level. Opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) 1 Aug attempted no confidence vote to oust Senate speaker and govt ally Sadiq Sanjrani but fourteen defections in opposition-dominated Senate led to defeat of motion. Amid PPP and PML-N mutual suspicions that other party caused defeat, Hasil Bizenjo – both parties’ joint candidate for Senate leader – accused Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt. General Hamid of engineering defections; local Gujranwala court 2 Aug summoned Bizenjo for accusing ISI of interfering in defections. Authorities stepped up corruption probes on opposition leaders: National Accountability Bureau 7 Aug detained former PML-N finance minister Miftah Ismail and next day arrested former PM Sharif Nawaz’s daughter Mariam Nawaz on corruption charges. Militant attacks continued, mainly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province and Balochistan’s capital Quetta: in KPK’s North Waziristan tribal district, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants 2 Aug killed four soldiers; in Bajaur tribal district, unclaimed bomb blast 5 Aug killed two soldiers; and in Upper Dir district, TTP 18 Aug killed five civilians in bomb attack. In Quetta, unclaimed explosion 2 Aug targeted Shia Hazaras in market, killing one; unknown group 16 Aug detonated bomb in mosque frequented by Afghan Taliban supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada, killing four including his brother; next day, unknown gunman killed another Afghan prayer leader. In Daraban Kalan area in South Waziristan, TTP gunmen 24 Aug killed two in gas station. PM Khan 19 Aug gave three-year extension to Army Chief Bajwa, set to retire 29 Nov, alluding to tensions with India and potential U.S. agreement with Afghan Taliban as justifications; opposition Awami National Party called decision “payback” that risked politicisation of institution.
Security forces continued to clash with Abu Sayyaf militants and communist rebels. Suspected Abu Sayyaf militants 12 Aug killed two soldiers and one child during ambush in Mindanao province. Abu Sayyaf militants 19 Aug wounded two police officers during ambush in Sulu. In continued anti-militant operations, police 15 Aug arrested suspected Abu Sayyaf member in Pasay City. President Duterte 8 Aug said he had ordered recruitment and training of up to 10,000 elite special forces to combat threat of terrorism, which he claimed “is getting bigger”. Suspected communist New People’s Army (NPA) members 15 Aug killed two pro-govt militiamen in Abra province. Military 18 Aug arrested three NPA rebels and seized manufacturing site of explosive devices in Negros Occidental. Duterte 27 Aug in speech urged military to end communist insurgency, “serving notice” there will be “a little trouble” in coming months. Philippines 9 and 19 Aug filed diplomatic protests with China over maritime disputes (see South China Sea).