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.
The latest edition of Crisis Group’s monthly conflict tracker highlights deteriorations in August in seven countries – the majority of them in Africa and Latin America – as well as improved situations in Sudan, Ukraine and Guyana.
In Mali, a military coup forced President Keïta to resign after months of mass protests. The transition ushers in a period of uncertainty, with military leaders advancing a three-year timeline to return to civilian rule.
In Colombia, the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a dramatic rise in violence as armed groups, which seek to exploit the health crisis to extend control over territories and attract new recruits, launched a series of attacks against civilians, leaving dozens dead.
A massive explosion in Lebanon’s capital Beirut, which killed at least 190 people, fuelled violent anti-government protests and prompted Prime Minister Diab’s government to resign.
Looking ahead to September, CrisisWatch warns of four conflict risks:
Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea could face major pre-electoral violence as both countries head to the polls in October. With announcements in August that both President Ouattara and President Condé will likely run for a controversial third term, tensions are running high.
In Eastern Ukraine, while the Donbas ceasefire largely held in August, Donetsk’s de facto leadership threatened a new escalation.
Meanwhile, U.S. pressure to reimpose all pre-nuclear deal sanctions on Iran by 20 September risks significantly escalating tensions.
In his introduction to this month’s edition of CrisisWatch, our President Robert Malley reflects on the risk of violence in a number of upcoming African elections.
Jihadist groups carried out several attacks mainly against civilians in east and north, in apparent strategic shift away from usual targeting of govt forces. Security situation remained precarious in East region, with several deadly attacks on civilians following late-July raids on schools in Tapoa province. Notably, in Gourma province, unidentified gunmen 1 Aug killed four and abducted two in Ougarou village, and 7 Aug stormed cattle market in Namoungou village, killing around 20 civilians; amid counter-insurgency operation in Namoungou area, army convoy 12 Aug detonated explosive device, four soldiers wounded. In north, explosive device 1 Aug killed six children and wounded four others in Bembela village, Yatenga province in North region; IED likely planted by Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) or Islamic State (ISIS) militants. Grand Imam of Djibo, Souaibou Cissé, was found dead 15 Aug after unidentified gunmen 11 Aug kidnapped him near Gaskindé town, Soum province in Sahel region. Unidentified assailants 22 Aug ambushed security forces convoy in Barsalogho area, Sanmatenga province in Centre-North region, killing at least three. In Boucle du Mouhoun region in west, unidentified assailants night of 11-12 Aug stormed camp hosting volunteers fighting alongside security forces in Barani commune, Kossi province, killing civilian. France 15 Aug designated area along southern border with Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire as “red zone”, highest level of security risk, which now covers entirety of country’s border areas. UN Humanitarian Agency (OCHA) 18 Aug said country now registers over 1mn displaced persons, fourfold increase in one year, and 2.9mn people need humanitarian assistance, twice as many as same period last year. Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Programme 21 Aug said more than 3.2mn people in Burkina Faso are facing acute food shortage due to conflict and COVID-19, 50% rise since March.
President Ndayishimiye continued to take steps to consolidate his rule and turned hostile toward neighbouring Rwanda. In session boycotted by main opposition party National Congress for Freedom (CNL), National Assembly 7 Aug elected new bureau: ruling party CNDD-FDD hardliner Daniel Gélase Ndabirabe appointed as president. Crackdown on opposition and civil society continued. CNDD-FDD youth wing Imbonerakure 11 Aug arrested two CNL members in Mabayi commune, Cibitoke province, for allegedly vandalising CNDD-FDD property, and next day detained CNL member in Kanyosha commune, Bujumbura Rural province, on grounds of “insult to the head of state”. Suspected Imbonerakure 15 Aug threw grenade at house in Bukemba commune, Rutana province, killing four; CNL representatives said attack was targeted at party member. Police 25 Aug detained two CNL members in Kanyosha commune for allegedly belonging to armed group. Kayanza High Court 9 Aug sentenced three young individuals to 30 years in prison on charges of “attack and conspiracy against the head of state” after they allegedly threw rocks at president’s convoy in Kayanza province 5 Aug; civil society immediately denounced “politically motivated” decision in run-up to 24 Aug communal elections. Suspected members of Burundian rebel group Red-Tabara crossing from neighbouring DR Congo 23 Aug reportedly killed 11 civilians in Bugarama commune, Rumonge province; security forces killed five assailants. After Rwandan President Kagame in recent months stated willingness to improve relations with Burundi, Ndayishimiye 6 Aug said Burundi does not want relations with “hypocrite state” holding Burundian refugees hostage; statement follows late-July claim by five Burundian refugees that Rwanda is preventing their repatriation. Rwandan govt 12 Aug said it is ready to facilitate refugee returns but Burundi unwilling to mend ties. First group of 500 refugees returned to Burundi 27 Aug. Military intelligence chiefs from Rwanda and Burundi 26 Aug met at Nemba border post in Rwanda, agreed to cooperate on border security; first high-level meeting between neighbours since 2015.
Violence continued unabated in Anglophone South West and North West regions, while jihadists inflicted heavy toll on civilians in Far North. Amid persistent conflict between separatists and military in North West, unidentified assailants 7 Aug killed local aid worker in Batibo town. Separatists same day beheaded woman they accused of collaborating with military in regional capital Bamenda and 10 Aug killed member of vigilante group in Bamunka village. Security forces 13 Aug killed suspected separatist and unidentified individual in Kumbo area. In South West, suspected Anglophone separatists 11 Aug beheaded woman they accused of collaborating with military in Muyuka locality; amid wide circulation of beheading video on social media, NGO Human Rights Watch 14 Aug called on UN Security Council to impose targeted sanctions on separatists. In following days, soldiers reportedly retaliated by killing about seven individuals and arresting about 200 in Muyuka area. Unidentified gunmen 27 Aug reportedly abducted 15 in Ekok town. Authorities mid-Aug acknowledged about 130 former separatist combatants recently escaped from Disarmament, Demobilisation and Rehabilitation centres in Bamenda and South West capital Buea due to poor living conditions and unmet promises. Anglophone detainee in pre-trial detention since 2017 died 5 Aug in capital Yaoundé, sparking outcry from human rights activists and separatist leaders, with NGO Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa same day calling on govt “not to subject inmates to any form of inhumane and degrading treatment”. In Far North, jihadist attacks inflicted heavy toll on civilians. Suspected Boko Haram (BH) combatants night of 1-2 Aug attacked Nguetchéwé IDP camp, Mayo-Tsanaga division, killing at least 17 and forcing 1,500 to flee. UN High Commissioner for Refugees 4 Aug warned of “significant increase in violent incidents” in Far North. BH attacks continued 5-23 Aug, reportedly killing at least nine civilians. Army 9-10 Aug repelled BH attacks on three IDP camps in Mayo-Sava division, killing one militant. After security forces 11 Aug left their position in Kordo village, also Mayo-Sava, following opening of new military base in nearby Grea village 6 Aug, up to 6,000 civilians fearing rise in insecurity fled Kordo in following days.
Armed groups maintained attacks in several areas in attempt to disrupt preparations for general elections scheduled for Dec. Armed group Union for Peace in Central African Republic (UPC) leader Ali Darassa 1 Aug disengaged from agreement reached with govt in July, in which he committed to facilitate electoral preparations in areas under his control and initiate disarmament, demobilisation, rehabilitation and reintegration program, and renounce alliance reached in June with other Fulani-dominated armed group Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R). In following days, UPC launched attacks against electoral officials. In Ouaka prefecture in centre, UPC 12 Aug assaulted election registration officers in Ippy town. In Haut-Mbomou prefecture in south east, UPC 16 Aug abducted two election registration officers and seven members of medical team in Mboki town; govt 18 Aug said all hostages had been released; UPC mid-Aug reportedly ambushed and killed trader on Obo-Bambouti axis. 3R also continued to target civilians in charge of electoral preparations. In Ouham-Pendé prefecture in north west, suspected 3R elements 2 Aug ambushed electoral registration officials on Bozoum-Bouar axis; 3R leader Sidiki Abbas 16 Aug ordered cessation of electoral enrolment and departure of electoral officers from Bouar city and Koui area; UN mission (MINUSCA) and armed forces next day reportedly ousted 3R from Koui town. UN Security Council 5 Aug imposed sanctions, including travel ban and asset freeze on Abbas, citing involvement in killing civilians and arms trafficking. In Haute-Kotto prefecture in east, armed group Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance 24-28 Aug reportedly expelled electoral officers from Nzacko and Yalinga towns. Meanwhile, clashes between anti-balaka Ayoloma group and armed forces 2 Aug left six anti-balaka dead in Grimari city, Ouaka prefecture. Armed group Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) carried out wave of kidnappings in Haut-Mbomou prefecture, reportedly killing two hostages and kidnapping seven locals in Birho village 1-2 Aug, and several others in following days; LRA reportedly freed all hostages 10 Aug after 8 Aug meeting with MINUSCA.
Jihadist threat in Lake Chad region and violence in neighbouring Sudan fuelled population displacement. International Organization for Migration reported about 20,000 people 8-20 Aug fled their villages in Lake Chad region in west amid fears of renewed Boko Haram (BH) attacks and as a result of floods, totalling 360,000 persons currently displaced in region. President Déby 8 Aug said BH will long remain threat in Lake Chad basin and acknowledged Multinational Joint Task Force – which includes troops from Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Benin, and Nigeria – is struggling to retain control of area, citing coordination challenges. UN High Commissioner for Refugees 11 Aug said late-July spate of violence in neighbouring Sudan’s Darfur province brought over 2,500 refugees to eastern Chad; Déby 20 Aug met Sudan’s Sovereign Council Chair Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan in Chadian city of Am-Djarass to discuss reinforcement of security cooperation along mutual border. Meanwhile, herder-farmer clashes 12 Aug left four dead and 24 wounded in Banga-Dormon village, Tandjilé region in south west. In alleged effort to improve relations with key ethnic communities ahead of 2021 general elections, Déby 7 Aug reintegrated former Defence Minister Mahamat Nour Abdelkerim into army, 10 Aug pardoned three imprisoned former rebel leaders. In ceremony 11 Aug, Déby was granted title of Marshal following National Assembly June decision to honour him for his leadership in recent operation against jihadist groups in Lake Chad basin; opposition and civil society immediately denounced move amid persistent jihadist threat, COVID-19 and economic challenges. Govt 17 Aug announced two-week extension of COVID-19-related curfew in N’Djamena and several other provinces.
Deadly protests erupted across country after President Ouattara announced his candidacy in presidential election scheduled for Oct, raising risk of all-out violence in coming weeks. In reversal of previous commitment to leave power, Ouattara 6 Aug said he will run for third term in presidential election scheduled for 31 Oct, citing “duty” and “case of force majeure” after his designated successor and ruling-party candidate Amadou Gon Coulibaly died last month. Opposition unanimously denounced move, with prominent opponent in exile Guillaume Soro 8 Aug accusing Ouattara of violating two-term constitutional limit; Ouattara argues his first two mandates do not count under new constitution adopted in 2016. Move sparked small-scale protests 7-10 Aug in economic capital Abidjan; despite govt 12 Aug ban on demonstrations, protests 12-13 Aug intensified in Abidjan and elsewhere, leaving at least six dead and over 100 wounded across country; notably, clashes between ethnic Malinké supporters of Ouattara and Baoulé supporters of former President Bédié’s Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) killed four and injured at least 90 in Daoukro city in centre east. Govt 14 Aug said security forces in past few days arrested 68 on charges of “disrupting public order, incitement to revolt and violence against law enforcement”, and vowed to take protest instigators to court. NGO Amnesty International 18 Aug denounced “alarming resurgence of the use of unofficial ‘law enforcement’ agents” in protests. UN Sec-Gen Guterres same day urged all parties “to resolve their differences through dialogue” before elections. Govt 19 Aug banned all demonstrations until 15 Sept, but Ouattara’s nomination ceremony 22 Aug sparked renewed protests in Abidjan, Gagnoa city and Bonoua town. Several politicians late Aug submitted presidential candidacies to electoral commission, including Bédié, former PM Affi N’Guessan, and ex-Ouattara Ministers Marcel Amon-Tanoh and Albert Mabri Toikeuse; supporters of former President Gbagbo, in Belgium following his 2019 acquittal of crimes against humanity by ICC, and Soro also submitted their candidacies despite electoral commission earlier in Aug barring both of them from entering presidential race.
Armed groups continued to carry out deadly attacks in eastern provinces. Armed group Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) 1 Aug signed unilateral commitment to end hostilities in Walendu-Pitsi sector, Djugu territory in Ituri province. However, attacks continued in Ituri. Armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 5 Aug killed three civilians and took several hostages in Kyamata locality, Irumu territory. Suspected CODECO 9 Aug killed 19 civilians in simultaneous attacks on three villages in Djugu territory, 16 Aug killed three civilians in ambush on Mungwalu-Dala axis, Irumu territory, and next day killed at least three civilians in Penge village, Djugu territory. In neighbouring North Kivu province’s Beni territory, ADF reportedly killed at least 40, mostly civilians, in several attacks 13-28 Aug. Also in North Kivu, clashes between factions of armed group Nduma Defence of Congo-Renovated (NDC-R) 1 Aug left 16 dead in Kaseke village, Walikale territory; NDC-R faction commander 17 Aug surrendered to army in Kashuga village, Masisi territory, along with 485 combatants. UN Joint Human Rights Office 5 Aug noted threefold increase in killings by armed groups in DRC in first six months of 2020 compared with same period last year. Amid persistent tensions within ruling coalition between President Tshisekedi and his predecessor Joseph Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC), both sides mid-Aug removed some members deemed “too radical” in coalition agreement monitoring committee, resulting in sidelining of Tshisekedi’s former ally Vital Kamerhe’s Union for the Congolese Nation. Situation remained tense in border areas. Ugandan sailors 5-6 Aug reportedly briefly captured 39 Congolese fishermen on Lake Edward on common border. Following mediation from regional bloc Southern African Development Community, Congolese govt 6 Aug announced retreat of Zambian troops from Tanganyika province; clashes between armies had erupted in March after Zambian troops reportedly occupied two Congolese villages. Burundian rebel group Red-Tabara based in DRC 23 Aug reportedly killed 11 civilians in Burundi’s Rumonge province (see Burundi).
Concerns persisted over food insecurity amid COVID-19 pandemic. UK-based human rights group Eritrea Focus 3 Aug accused govt of using COVID-19 to increase hardship for population by imposing prolonged lockdown and rejecting international medical aid, called on UN to intervene to stop “deliberate starvation and death of Eritrean people”. Govt 13 Aug reportedly began releasing prisoners in bid to limit spread of virus in overcrowded prisons, excluding political prisoners.
Security forces violently suppressed protests in Oromia region and Southern Nations region, while tensions persisted between federal govt and Tigray region over Tigray’s planned elections. In Oromia region in centre, unrest sparked by June killing of popular Oromo musician continued. Demonstrations 17 Aug broke out against detention since late June of two prominent Oromo opposition leaders; security forces violently suppressed protests reportedly killing at least 40 people 17-24 Aug. Amid major cracks in Oromia’s ruling establishment, Oromia branch of ruling Prosperity Party 9 Aug suspended party membership of Defence Minister Lemma Megersa and two other senior officials; as part of cabinet shake-up, PM Abiy 18 Aug replaced Lemma as defence minister. In Southern Nations region, protests 9 Aug erupted in Wolayta zone’s capital Sodo following same day arrest of local officials and activists seeking regional statehood for Wolayta ethnic group; security forces 9-12 Aug killed at least 21 protesters in Sodo and other towns in Wolayta; Southern Nations branch of Prosperity Party 28 Aug replaced Wolayta zone administrator. Also in Southern Nations, clashes between ethnic Konso and Ale late Aug reportedly left at least a dozen dead. In Somali region in east, protests 17 Aug broke out in Degehabur city following police killing of youth previous week; police reportedly arrested “scores” of protesters. Political tensions persisted as Tigray region pressed ahead with preparations for regional elections scheduled for 9 Sept in defiance of federal govt’s COVID-19-related postponement of polls. Despite PM Abiy ruling out military intervention in July, Tigray in apparent show of force early Aug staged several military parades in regional capital Mekelle and other towns. Speaker of federal parliament’s upper house early Aug said govt will be forced to take “necessary and proportional measures” if Tigray’s ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front fails to halt electoral preparations. Tigray authorities reportedly detained throughout month at least 300 ethnic Amhara who refused to register for polls, and thousands of Amhara reportedly fled region. Talks continued between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (see Nile Waters).
Political tensions deepened after ruling coalition nominated President Condé to run for re-election despite year-long protest movement against third term, raising risk of violent escalation ahead of vote scheduled for Oct. Democratic Coalition for Change in Continuity, comprising ruling party Rally for the Guinean People and its allies, 6 Aug nominated Condé to run for third term in presidential election scheduled for 18 Oct. Coalition of opposition parties and civil society groups National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC), which over past year has led mobilisation against Condé’s third term, immediately condemned move. Amid rising fears of political unrest, Muslim leaders 7 Aug urged all parties to favour peace over violence; capital Conakry Archbishop Vincent Koulibaly 15 Aug reiterated plea and called for dialogue between stakeholders. U.S. embassy 17 Aug called on all sides to “refrain from violence … and engage in dialogue” and urged authorities to investigate all protest-related deaths since 2019. UN, African Union and regional body Economic Community of West African States representatives mid-Aug reportedly met with senior officials from ruling party, FNDC and electoral commission in Conakry in attempt to mediate between parties. FNDC 24 Aug announced resumption of protests in early Sept. Meanwhile, several opposition figures, including former allies of Condé, announced plans to run for election, while opposition party Union of Democrats for the Renaissance of Guinea 27 Aug said it will not participate, citing anomalies in voter registration. Condé 31 Aug confirmed he will seek third term. Court in Conakry 27 Aug acquitted FNDC activist Oumar Sylla alias Foniké Mengué of charges of “dissemination of false information”; Sylla was arrested in April after he called for protests and accused govt of killings, torture and arbitrary detention.
UN condemned stifling of dissent amid persistent standoff between govt and opposition. At UN Security Council meeting 10 Aug, Special Representative and Head of UN peacebuilding mission in Guinea-Bissau Rosine Sori-Coulibaly said “political crisis and parliamentary paralysis” since late-2019 presidential election has left country in fragile state, with “arbitrary arrests, intimidation and detention” of opponents, journalists and civil society leaders contributing to “hostile” atmosphere of mistrust; Sori-Coulibaly also warned that mandate of UN mission in Guinea-Bissau – which involves restoring political stability – will unlikely be fulfilled before it expires in Dec, and urged President Embaló to implement reforms outlined in 2016 Conakry agreement, which comprises constitutional revision aimed at establishing better checks and balances. At same meeting, UN Office on Drugs and Crime Executive Director Ghada Fathi Waly warned against resurgence of transatlantic cocaine trafficking in Guinea-Bissau, urged for coordinated response to make sure 2019 anti-trafficking achievements, including security operations which led to seizure of roughly 3 tonnes of cocaine, were not carried out in vain. Regional body Economic Community of West African States mission in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB) 27 Aug started to withdraw its troops from country; withdrawal due to be completed by Dec 2020.
Disputed revenue-sharing bill laid bare political fissures while anti-govt protests erupted following corruption allegations. In senate, President Kenyatta failed to push through revision of formula to determine share of national revenues received by counties; proposed revision, which would have benefited his ethnic Kikuyu base, voted against on several occasions by group of 25 senators including allies of Deputy President William Ruto. Ahead of 17 Aug vote, police briefly arrested three senators opposed to revised formula, prompting outcry and sparking small-scale protests 17-18 Aug in Samburu and Kakamega counties; senate speaker refused to call vote and appointed 12-member committee to break stalemate. Media reports mid-Aug alleged misappropriation by govt officials and business leaders of up to $400mn earmarked for COVID-19 response, sparking public outrage; hundreds of anti-corruption protesters gathered 21-25 Aug in capital Nairobi and Mombasa, Nakuru and Kisumu cities, police used teargas to disperse them and arrested at least a dozen. Kenyatta 26 Aug extended COVID-19-related curfew for another 30 days. In border area between Isiolo and Garissa counties in centre, clashes between ethnic Borana and Somali herders 4 Aug left two dead and four others seriously injured. Police 31 Aug shot dead suspected Al-Shabaab militant in southern Kwale county, amid significant decrease of Al-Shabaab activity, with no deadly attack reported in Aug.
Authorities pursued efforts to remove from power remnants of former President Mutharika’s rule. Amid corruption investigations into Mutharika and several prominent figures linked to his presidency, police 6 Aug arrested former Local Govt and Rural Development Minister Ben Phiri over allegations of fraud and money laundering. Authorities mid-Aug froze bank accounts belonging to Mutharika, his wife, former presidential security aide Norman Chisale and another of Mutharika’s close collaborators. Supreme Court of Appeal 20 Aug dismissed Chisale’s 9 Aug application for injunction against further arrests, which he filed after police in July arrested him three times on different charges; Chisale, suspected of involvement in 2015 killing of national anti-corruption body’s former Director of Corporate Affairs Issa Njauju, remained on remand in capital Lilongwe prison after High Court 28 Aug denied him bail. In national address 8 Aug, President Chakwera vowed to introduce legislation to scale back presidential powers, notably that of appointing senior officials across executive, legislative and judicial branches. Amid surge in COVID-19 cases, authorities 9 Aug ordered bars and churches to close and banned most public gatherings; opposition leader in parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa 11 Aug condemned “harsh and unrealistic” measures; police in Chikwawa town in Southern region 13 Aug arrested 145 for allegedly failing to wear masks in public places; Chakwera 14 Aug pardoned 499 prisoners to reduce risk of COVID-19 spreading in congested prisons; authorities 27 Aug said Lilongwe airport would reopen 1 Sept and schools would start reopening 7 Sept.
Following mass anti-govt protests since June, military coup forced President Keïta to resign; violence continued at lower intensity in centre and north. After reports emerged 18 Aug of early morning shots in Kati and N’Tominkorobougou military bases near capital Bamako, army convoys moved from Kati to Bamako, and soldiers arrested several senior govt officials, including Keïta and PM Boubou Cissé. Keïta stepped down in televised address following night. Group of senior military officers calling themselves National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), led by army colonel Assimi Goita, next day claimed responsibility. Coalition of opposition and civil society groups M5-RFP, which has been at forefront of anti-Keïta protests since June under leadership of prominent Imam Mahmoud Dicko 20 Aug said they were ready to work with CNSP. Thousands of opposition supporters next day celebrated Keïta’s removal in Bamako. Amid widespread international condemnation of coup, delegation of regional body Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) 22-24 Aug met CNSP, Keïta and Cissé in Bamako to mediate transition back to civilian rule; talks failed to yield agreement after CNSP reportedly pushed for three-year military-led transition. CNSP 27 Aug released Keïta. ECOWAS next day demanded immediate civilian-led transition and elections within one year; France 30 Aug said CNSP’s three-year transition proposal was “out of question”, calling for quick return to civilian rule; discussions on format of transition still ongoing late Aug amid tensions between CNSP and M5-RFP. Prior to coup, thousands protested against Keïta in Bamako 11 Aug, and again on day of coup 18 Aug. Meanwhile, violence persisted at lower intensity in centre and north. In Ségou region in centre, suspected jihadists 2 Aug killed at least five soldiers in simultaneous attacks on army base and convoy in Niono circle. In neighbouring Mopti region, explosive devices 21-22 Aug killed two gendarmes and four soldiers in Bandiagara and Koro areas; suspected jihadists 27 Aug ambushed soldiers on Konna-Douentza axis, killing four. In town of Gao in north, clashes between ethnic Songhaï and Arab communities 17 Aug left two dead; unidentified assailant 30 Aug reportedly killed Arab trader.
Islamist militants seized major port town in far north after intense fighting. In Cabo Delgado province in far north, Islamist militants 5-11 Aug launched series of coordinated attacks in and around port town and district capital of Mocímboa da Praia in third such offensive since March, forcing security forces to withdraw and seizing town 11 Aug. Offensive left dozens dead on both sides: Islamic State (ISIS) said twin attacks against two army barracks in Mocímboa da Praia city 6 Aug left some 50 soldiers dead or injured; govt same day said it had repelled both attacks, killing 16 militants; insurgents 10 Aug killed at least 55 soldiers in ambush in Awasse area near Mocímboa da Praia city. Elsewhere in Mocímboa da Praia district, suspected militants late Aug beheaded seven and kidnapped several others on Nhonge island. In neighbouring Macomia district, suspected Islamist militants 8 Aug killed five civilians in Litamanda village. Security forces continued to face accusations of excessive use of force and unlawful killings; in one incident on 13 Aug, they reportedly sank boat carrying displaced persons from Nkomangano village to Nhongue island, killing 40. Regional bloc Southern African Development Community 17 Aug committed to providing support to Mozambique against jihadist insurgency in Cabo Delgado. Govt and French oil and gas company Total 24 Aug reached agreement over security of latter’s natural gas projects in Cabo Delgado. Suspected members of Renamo Military Junta, dissident faction of opposition party Renamo, 30 Aug attacked civilian bus on Muxunguè-Rio Save axis in Sofala province in centre; no casualties reported. Unidentified assailants 23 Aug threw Molotov cocktails at offices of two local independent newspapers in capital Maputo.
Suspected jihadists targeted foreign humanitarian workers near capital Niamey, while counter-insurgency operations continued in south east. In first jihadist attack in Tillabery region’s Kollo department, suspected Islamic State militants 9 Aug killed eight including six French humanitarian workers and two Nigeriens in Kouré National Park, 60km east of Niamey; French prosecutors 10 Aug opened investigation into attack and France 12 Aug designated whole country except Niamey as red zone, highest level of security risk; Niger’s national security council same day extended state of emergency to entire Tillabery region except Niamey, and govt 18 Aug said security forces had arrested one suspect amid ongoing security operations in area. In Diffa region in south east, security forces 17 Aug carried out cross-border operation into Nigeria and freed eleven civilians, whom Boko Haram combatants had kidnapped 11-12 Aug in two villages of Gueskerou commune. Misappropriation of defence funds involving senior state officials, first revealed in Feb, continued to spark controversy. Confidential govt audit of defence spending leaked early Aug alleged over $137mn of public money have been lost to corruption in govt procurement of defence material since 2011.
Jihadist and criminal violence continued in north east and north west, and herder-farmer tensions persisted in many states. In Borno state in north east, Boko Haram (BH) and BH faction Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) attacks continued despite airstrikes by govt forces, which left dozens of insurgents killed 11-17 Aug notably on Lake Chad islands and in Sambisa forest. Suicide bomber 2 Aug killed herself and two others in Konduga town. Suspected ISWAP 10 Aug reportedly killed 13 civilians and several soldiers in Magumeri and Kukawa towns. After ISWAP 18 Aug again attacked Kukawa town, local sources reported they took hundreds hostage, while military said troops thwarted attack, killing eight insurgents and losing three soldiers. In Nasarawa state, near capital Abuja, troops 26 Aug raided camp of little-known Islamist group Darul Salam in Toto area; military reported over 400 group members surrendered, and troops seized artisanal explosive device-making factory and assault weapons. In north west, security operations against armed groups killed at least 25 and curbed attacks in some areas; but raids on villages continued, particularly in southern Kaduna state, leaving 33 killed in Zango Kataf area 6-8 Aug, and 11 others in Zango Kataf, Kajuru and Kachia areas 16-19 Aug. In Katsina state, gunmen 9 Aug abducted several women in Kurfi area. In Niger state, armed group 12 Aug killed 15 civilians in Ukuru village, Mariga area. Concerns over jihadist groups forging links with armed groups in North West continued. Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command Africa 5 Aug warned against “al-Qaeda starting to make some inroads” there. Amid persistent tensions between herders and farmers and other communal violence in many states, prominent Fulani herders’ group 13 Aug accused community vigilantes of killing 68 Fulani civilians in Kebbi state 29 April-11 Aug, warned “large conflict” was looming. In alleged fallout from long-running chieftaincy-related dispute, gunmen 10 Aug killed at least 13 in Edikwu village, Benue state.
Comprehensive agreement on filling and operation of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on Blue Nile River remained elusive despite stop-start negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan. Following 3 Aug resumption of tripartite negotiations between water ministers under African Union auspices, Sudan and Egypt next day suspended participation in protest at Ethiopia’s proposal to negotiate agreement only on filling of dam, instead of comprehensive agreement on filling and operation, and later to negotiate separate treaty on Blue Nile water allocation. Negotiations 10 Aug resumed but Sudan immediately requested talks be further postponed for a week to conduct internal consultations. Egyptian PM Mostafa Madbouly and senior Sudanese officials in Khartoum 15 Aug renewed calls for legally binding agreement on filling and operation of GERD including dispute resolution mechanism. All three water ministers resumed negotiations few days later. Ethiopia and Sudan 25 Aug vowed to make “all efforts” to reach deal but latter 28 Aug said talks had again stalled. U.S. Sec State Pompeo late Aug approved plan to halt some U.S. aid to Ethiopia, reportedly in effort to mediate agreement.
President Kagame’s recent efforts to improve relations with neighbouring Burundi continued despite setback. After five Burundian refugees in Rwanda late July sent letter to Burundian President Ndayishimiye claiming Rwanda was preventing them from returning to their home country, Ndayishimiye 6 Aug said Burundi does not want relations with “hypocrite state” holding Burundian refugees hostage. Rwandan FM Vincent Biruta 12 Aug said govt is ready to facilitate refugee returns but Burundi is unwilling to mend ties. First group of 500 refugees 27 Aug returned to Burundi. Military intelligence chiefs from Rwanda and Burundi 26 Aug met at Nemba border post in Rwanda, agreed to cooperate on border security; first high-level meeting between neighbours since 2015.
Al-Shabaab launched deadly attacks in capital Mogadishu and rural areas, while frictions heightened between federal govt and member states Jubaland and Puntland over organisation of elections. In Mogadishu, Al-Shabaab suicide bombings 3 Aug killed at least three including two security guards and 8 Aug killed eight soldiers. Inside Mogadishu’s central prison, Al-Shabaab inmates 10 Aug attempted to break free using smuggled weapons; shoot-out between inmates and prison guards backed up by security forces killed 15 inmates and four prison guards; one Al-Shabaab inmate reportedly managed to escape and killed two civilians outside prison. Al-Shabaab attack on Mogadishu hotel 16 Aug left at least 16 dead, mostly civilians. In south and centre, suspected Al-Shabaab attacks 2-23 Aug killed at least 42 security personnel, officials and civilians in Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, Bay, Gedo, Hiraan and Mudug regions. Security forces 2-29 Aug reported over 80 suspected Al-Shabaab militants killed in Lower Juba, Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, Gedo and Bay regions. Security forces 14 Aug rescued 33 children from Al-Shabaab camp in Lower Shabelle region. U.S. Africa Command said three U.S. airstrikes 20-25 Aug killed eight Al-Shabaab militants in Lower Shabelle and Middle Juba regions. In Puntland in north, security operation 20-21 Aug left at least ten Al-Shabaab militants and two soldiers dead in Bari region. President Farmajo and heads of federal member states Galmudug, Hirshabelle and South West mid-Aug signed agreement reiterating July commitment to hold Nov 2020 parliamentary and Feb 2021 presidential elections on time and settling on indirect electoral model instead of “one person, one vote” polls; presidents of Puntland and Jubaland states boycotted meeting, accusing Farmajo of failing to deliver on previous commitments on elections, and 21 Aug jointly distanced themselves from agreement; 27 Aug however said they would soon attend meeting with Farmajo in Mogadishu to discuss 2020-2021 polls.
Electoral commission ruled out holding elections this year while Somaliland’s nascent relationship with Taiwan prompted opposition from Somalia and China. Electoral commission (NEC) 15 Aug said legislative and local elections – last held in 2005 and 2012 respectively – could not be held in 2020 as agreed in July by ruling Kulmiye and opposition parties Justice and Welfare Party and Waddani; NEC, ruling and opposition parties 23 Aug then agreed to hold polls in May 2021. In Awdal region in west, Gadabursi clan mid-Aug threatened to boycott parliamentary polls if their representation in House of Representatives is not increased; after Supreme Court 26 July ruled out revising seat allocation ratio, and authorities next day reportedly denied Gadabursi clan leader entry from Ethiopia into Somaliland, hundreds same day took to streets in Awdal’s capital Borama; security forces reportedly opened fire on protesters, leaving at least one injured. After Taiwan and Somaliland – both of which seek international recognition – in July agreed to establish diplomatic relations, high-level Chinese delegation early Aug met President Bihi in capital Hargeisa; Bihi reportedly rejected Chinese offer to cut ties with Taipei in exchange for development package and Chinese liaison office. Taiwan 17 Aug opened representation office in Hargeisa; Mogadishu next day condemned Taiwan’s “reckless attempts to infringe on the sovereignty” of Somalia “and violate its territorial integrity”; Hargeisa next day warned Mogadishu to refrain from “groundless and uninformed statements”. Meanwhile, talks with Somalia over Somaliland’s claim to sovereignty continued to experience delays.
Govt and former rebel opposition groups reached wider agreement on local power-sharing while disarmament campaign sparked deadly violence in centre. Following months-long deadlock, President Kiir, former rebel leader turned VP Riek Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO), South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) and Other Political Parties (OPP) 10 Aug signed agreement on power sharing at state and county levels; deal, which complements June agreement on appointment of state governors, allocates seats on state cabinets, state legislatures, county commissions, and county councils. Kiir and Machar however remain at loggerheads over latter’s pick for governor of contested Upper Nile state. In centre, govt-led disarmament campaign in Kiir’s stronghold Warrap state 8-9 Aug triggered clashes between security forces and ethnic Dinka militias refusing to disarm, leaving at least 148 dead on both sides in Tonj East County; UN mission 11 Aug dispatched peacekeeping patrol to area, next day said it had set up temporary base in Tonj town to deter further violence. In south, rebel group National Salvation Front (NAS), which refused to be part of Sept 2018 peace agreement, 5 Aug reportedly attacked army base in Gorom Payam, 15km outside capital Juba; NAS claimed eleven soldiers killed. NAS 13 Aug said it had repelled same day attack by Kiir-aligned South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) and Machar’s SPLA-IO on its positions outside Kajo Keji town, Central Equatoria state; four reportedly killed on both sides. NAS 19 Aug killed six bodyguards of VP James Wani in Lobonok County, also Central Equatoria. Intercommunal violence persisted. In Lakes state in centre, intercommunal clash between Nyang and Amothnhom youth 5 Aug left at least six dead in Rumbek Central County. Kiir 13 Aug declared state of emergency in Jonglei state and Greater Pibor Administrative Area in east, citing recent violence between local ethnic Dinka and Nuer on one side, and ethnic Murle on the other, and rainy season-related floods. Govt and Sudan 26 Aug vowed to settle dispute over contested Abyei region.
Govt and some rebel groups struck landmark peace agreement; intercommunal violence in urban and rural areas continued. Following year-long negotiations in South Sudanese capital Juba, rebel coalition Sudanese Revolutionary Front and Sudan Liberation Movement/Army faction led by Minni Minnawi 31 Aug signed peace agreement with govt. Agreement provides for redistribution of economic and political powers in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states and integration of rebel fighters into military. Faction of rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu withdrew from peace talks 20 Aug, and holdout armed opposition Sudan Liberation Movement/Army faction led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur refused to take part. Intercommunal clashes persisted in south, west and east. In South Darfur state, unidentified gunmen 1-2 Aug attacked several villages in Kass locality and clashed with Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Boronga village, killing unknown number and displacing some 3,000. In Kassala state, clashes between Zaghawas and Halfawis 1 Aug left two dead in New Halfa area. In Red Sea state’s capital Port Sudan, clashes between Nuba and Beni Amer tribes 9-12 Aug left at least 34 dead; authorities imposed curfew 9-17 Aug and govt 13 Aug deployed over 100 RSF paramilitary to stamp out violence, at least 85 arrested. On first anniversary of constitutional declaration establishing three-year transitional period, hundreds of thousands 17 Aug took to streets in capital Khartoum and other urban areas to protest delayed implementation of transitional agenda; police fired tear gas to disperse protesters and detained dozens. Sudan continued start-stop negotiations with Egypt and Ethiopia over filling and operation of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (see Nile Waters). Sovereign Council Chair Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Chadian President Déby 20 Aug met in Chad to discuss reinforcement of security cooperation along mutual border. U.S. Sec State Mike Pompeo 25 Aug visited Sudan, met with PM Hamdok and Sovereign Council chair to discuss normalisation of Sudan’s ties with Israel and support to Sudan’s transition, including removal of country from U.S. State Sponsor of Terrorism list. Govt and South Sudan 26 Aug vowed to settle dispute over Abyei region in south.
Authorities continued to restrict press freedom and civil rights and harass opposition ahead of general elections scheduled for Oct. Authorities 10 Aug banned local media from publishing or broadcasting foreign outlets’ contents without govt permission, prompting criticism from press freedom organisations. Prominent rights organisation Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) 18 Aug suspended its operations, citing incessant intimidation and meddling in its activities by security forces, after police previous day reportedly briefly detained its national coordinator and THRDC’s bank accounts were reportedly frozen mid-Aug after organisation failed to submit to authorities contracts signed with foreign donors. National anti-corruption body 11 Aug questioned main opposition party Chadema chairperson Freeman Mbowe over alleged misuse of party funds. After Chadema 4 Aug nominated vice-chairperson and former MP Tundu Lissu as party’s presidential candidate, unidentified assailants 13 Aug set Chadema’s offices on fire in Arusha city in north ahead of Lissu’s arrival. Chadema and opposition party Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT) 28 Aug alleged widespread irregularities and “unfair” disqualifications in enrolment of their candidates for parliamentary and local council elections and asked electoral commission to reinstate them.
Ahead of 2021 general elections, President Museveni continued to use legal means to harass key challengers. In Hoima town, police 14 Aug detained Joseph Kabuleta, who previously said he would run for president in 2021, and charged him with flouting COVID-19 restrictions; Kabuleta same day released on police bond. Police 15 Aug arrested 17 officials of presidential hopeful and former Security Minister Henry Tumukunde’s Renew Uganda platform in Wakiso district, 18 Aug briefly detained Tumukunde in Buikwe district for allegedly flouting COVID-19 restrictions, and same day summoned him for questioning over allegations he held political meetings with army veterans. Former president of opposition party Forum for Democratic Change Kizza Besigye 19 Aug said he would not run for president in 2021 elections and instead pursue “plan B” to remove Museveni from office “through fighting”, hinting at possibility of military coup. Army 28 Aug said there is “no chance” for coup or fighting in Uganda.
President Mnangagwa stepped up hostile rhetoric against opposition and civil society as crackdown on dissent continued unabated. After security forces forcefully thwarted planned anti-govt protest in capital Harare 31 July, Mnangagwa in national address 4 Aug condemned “machinations” of “terrorist opposition groupings” backed by “foreign detractors”, and threatened to “flush out … bad apples”. South African President Ramaphosa 6 Aug appointed two special envoys to Zimbabwe to “engage” parties and “identify possible ways in which South Africa can assist Zimbabwe”; special envoys 10 Aug met Mnangagwa in Harare, same day cancelled meeting with Nelson Chamisa’s faction of main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-A), reportedly at govt’s request. MDC-A 10 Aug said at least 30 senior party figures had fled their homes since thwarted protest, citing “fears of being abducted, tortured or detained” by police. Zimbabwe’s Catholic bishops 16 Aug condemned govt’s corruption and human rights abuses; govt immediately denounced “evil message” intended to stoke “genocide”. MDC-A next day called on regional bloc Southern African Development Community to “urgently intervene” to resolve “governance and legitimacy crisis”. Courts denied bail to prominent investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono 6 and 24 Aug, and to opposition leader Jacob Ngarivhume 21 Aug, both arrested ahead of protest on charges of inciting violence; court 18 Aug barred prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa from further representing Chin’ono and called for lawyer to be charged with contempt of court over accusations that she commented on court case. Police 21 Aug arrested MDC-A vice-chairman and MP Job Sikhala, who went into hiding late July, on accusations of inciting violence. In joint statement, seven countries including U.S., UK and Germany 28 Aug warned govt against using COVID-19 to crack down on dissent, expressed concern over deteriorating political, economic and health situation. U.S. 5 Aug imposed financial sanctions on prominent businessman and Mnangagwa ally Kudakwashe Regimond Tagwirei and his energy company over corruption allegations.
Intra-Afghan dialogue remained delayed while violence persisted across country. Following 3 Aug end of Eid holiday ceasefire between Taliban and govt, several attacks occurred, which govt blamed on Taliban but militants did not claim: militants 8 Aug attacked govt base on outskirts of Ghazni city (south east), killing seven Afghan security forces and wounding at least 12, while ten militants died during attack; militant suicide attack in Farah city (south west) on vehicle of deputy provincial police chief killed four police officers and wounded 15 people 12 Aug. Fighting intensified in northern regions, where Taliban did claim several attacks, including one on govt-sponsored militia in Takhar province (north east), killing nine militia members. Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-KP) 2-3 Aug carried out major coordinated attack on prison in Jalalabad city, Nangarhar (east), leading to 29 deaths and escape of hundreds of prisoners; although IS-KP claimed attack, govt officials blamed Taliban, who strenuously denied accusation. Attacks on activists and politicians increased: notably, in capital Kabul, unidentified attackers 15 Aug attempted to assassinate MP, women’s rights activist and member of govt’s intra-Afghan team Fawzia Koofi; bomb 19 Aug killed ministerial official involved in Doha meetings between govt and Taliban. Despite international hopes intra-Afghan dialogue could begin in Aug, peace process remained delayed amid Taliban violence and govt blocking release of final several-hundred prisoners; President Ghani convened 7-9 Aug Loya Jirga (traditional assembly of influential figures) in Kabul over issue of final several hundred prisoners, with govt claiming prisoners guilty of crimes including terrorist attacks and drug trafficking; Jirga 9 Aug voted to release prisoners amid concerns of Australia and France, both of which reportedly oppose release of several prisoners accused of killing their citizens. Domestic political stasis continued with tensions between Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah over appointments including positions in newly-created High Council of National Reconciliation; Ghani reportedly objected to Abdullah’s nomination of Minister of Economy Mustafa Mastoor for position of State Minister for Peace. Ghani 29 Aug named some 40 individuals to council, but Abdullah 31 Aug said president did not have authority to appoint people to body, which he heads.
Amid ongoing govt crackdown on critics, security operations continued against alleged members of banned militant groups. Police continued to detain people under controversial Digital Security Act over social media posts critical of govt, in cases mainly filed by ruling Awami League (AL) supporters: police 2 Aug opened investigation against journalist in Chittagong over critical comments about an AL parliamentarian; police 3 Aug detained three people in Thakurgaon district for criticising PM Hasina and allegedly spreading misinformation, and 6 Aug arrested one person in Jhenaidah district after AL activist accused individual of using abusive language about PM’s brother Sheikh Kamal, assassinated in 1975; paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) 9 Aug detained man in Sylhet district for insulting PM and security agencies. In continued anti-militancy efforts, anti-terrorism police 5 Aug arrested suspected member of Ansar al-Islam in Jhenaidah district and police 11 Aug arrested five alleged Neo-Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh members in Sylhet district, accusing them of planning an attack on a Hazrat Shahjalal shrine in Sylhet before Eid holiday. In north, mass flooding continued; since floods began late June in Jamalpur, Kurigram, Gaibandha and other districts, 6mn people affected, over 100 killed and thousands of villages submerged. Police 2 Aug suspended 21 officers following 31 July killing of retired army officer at police checkpoint in Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong district.
Tensions continued between Japan and China over contested island chain in East China Sea. Japanese coast guard 3 Aug reported no Chinese vessels seen near disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands due to Typhoon Hagupit, ending 111 consecutive days of continuous presence since April; Japanese Defence Minister Taro Kono 4 Aug said military would support coast guard over island dispute and “act firmly when necessary” and 18 Aug reportedly told Chinese ambassador to Japan that China should refrain from military activities around islands. Japanese PM Shinzo Abe 28 Aug announced his resignation over health issues. Some 60 lawmakers from ruling Liberal Democratic Party in Japan 17 Aug formed pressure group to urge govt actions to control islands. Kono and U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper 29 Aug met at U.S. military base in Guam, agreeing to “oppose countries unilaterally changing the status quo by force” in South and East China seas. Amid arrest of activists in Hong Kong under controversial new security law, Japanese govt 11 Aug voiced concerns over territory and said it was important for Hong Kong to “develop democratically and in a stable manner”; Beijing same day called on Japan to “stop interfering in China’s internal affairs”.
In symbolic victory for PM Modi’s Hindu nationalist project, construction of Hindu temple began at long-disputed site. In Uttar Pradesh, PM Modi 5 Aug formally launched construction of Hindu temple at location in Ayodhya, long contested by Hindus and Muslims with dispute triggering some of India’s deadliest Hindu-Muslim violence in recent decades; in speech same day, Modi said Hindu god Ram’s birthplace had “finally” been “liberated” and India was “creating a glorious chapter in history”. In response to derogatory Facebook post about prophet Muhammad by nephew of local Indian National Congress politician in Bangalore, hundreds of Muslims 12 Aug took to streets; police opened fire on protesters, killing at least three, and arrested some 200. Wall Street Journal 14 Aug alleged that Facebook had failed to remove hate speech posted by at least one member of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and at least three other “Hindu nationalist individuals and groups” due to fear of harming business prospects in India. Meanwhile, anti-Maoist operations and Maoist violence continued: in Chhattisgarh (centre), security operations 5-30 Aug killed seven Maoists in Bijapur, Kanker, Sukma and Dhamtari districts; suspected Maoists 23-31 Aug killed two police officers in Bijapur district. In Andhra Pradesh (south east), Maoist landmine 3 Aug killed two civilians in Visakhapatnam district. In Maharashtra (west), Maoists 14 Aug shot and killed police officer in Gadchiroli district; security forces 26 Aug shot and killed Maoist in Gadchiroli district. India and China continued talks on disengagement of troops at disputed border: military officials met 2 and 8 Aug, and diplomats 20 Aug agreed “to resolve outstanding issues” related to disengagement “in an expeditious manner”, but India 31 Aug accused China of “provocative military movements” to change the status quo on Line of Actual Control, adding it took measures to “thwart Chinese intentions to unilaterally change the facts on the ground”; China same day denied accusation. COVID-19 cases continued to soar with total number of cases 23 Aug surpassing 3 mn; by end of month India had world’s third-highest caseload and third-highest death toll.
Militant attacks persisted inside Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) while clashes continued across Line of Control (LoC, dividing Pakistan and Indian-administered Kashmir). Militant attacks remained frequent in J&K, including on members of ruling-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP): in Kulgram district, militants killed local BJP officials 4 and 6 Aug; militants 9 Aug shot BJP member in Budgam district, who died next day. Following attacks, several BJP members reportedly resigned; police officer 10 Aug said some 400 officials moved to secure accommodation elsewhere. Security forces 10 Aug detained two suspected militants in Sopore district and three more in Kupwara district next day; one soldier and two militants 12 Aug killed in clash in Pulwama district. Militants 14 Aug killed two police officers on outskirts of Srinagar, and next day killed civilian in Pulwama district. Militants 17 Aug attacked security post in Baramulla district, killing two paramilitary soldiers and police officer; 29 Aug attacked security forces at checkpoint in Panthachowk on outskirts of Srinagar, which left one policeman and three militants dead. Meanwhile, New Delhi 4 Aug imposed curfew on eve of first anniversary commemorating revocation of Article 370, which afforded Kashmir autonomous status. New Delhi 6 Aug appointed senior BJP leader Manoj Sinha as J&K lieutenant governor; Indian PM Modi 15 Aug said elections would be held in territory after finalisation of new electoral constituencies. New Delhi 18 Aug claimed security situation had improved and ordered withdrawal of 10,000 paramilitary personnel deployed in region since Aug 2019. All Kashmiri mainstream parties 22 Aug signed joint declaration vowing to “collectively fight to restore the special status of J&K as guaranteed under the constitution”. Meanwhile, cross-LoC fire between India and Pakistan continued: New Delhi accused Pakistan of cross-LoC fire that injured six civilians 7 Aug, including man who died 13 Aug. Islamabad claimed Indian fire responsible for killing woman and injuring nine civilians 7 Aug, and injuring two civilians 12 Aug. Pakistani PM Khan 5 Aug addressed Pakistan-administered Kashmir’s legislature calling India’s 5 Aug 2019 actions in J&K, which revoked its special constitutional status, “illegal and unilateral” and reiterated support for UN-mandated plebiscite in territory.
Security forces continued operations against suspected separatists in Papua while Islamic militant group launched attacks in Central Sulawesi. In Papua province, security forces 16 Aug raided house in Mimika, killing senior WPLA commander Hengkin Wanmang; WPLA 17 Aug said group would retaliate; WPLA subsequently claimed killing several security force members. Papuan activists 15 Aug demonstrated in several provinces against 1962 New York agreement which led to transfer of rule over West Papua from Netherlands to Indonesia. In West Papua province, death in custody of brother-in-law of popular Papuan singer and Indonesian democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician Edo Kondologit sparked hundreds 31 Aug to demonstrate at Sorong city police station demanding investigation. In Central Sulawesi province, suspected Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT) militants 8 Aug kidnapped two farmers in Poso, reportedly killing one; later that day opened fire on vehicle of medical workers and robbed them. Also in Poso, police 11 Aug found body of retired military officer allegedly killed by MIT. Counter-terror unit Densus 88 11-12 Aug arrested at least 20 suspected terrorists with alleged links to MIT and Islamic State-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah in West Java, Jakarta and Riau. Company of 150 soldiers 15 Aug arrived in Central Sulawesi to support Operation Tinombala in hunting down MIT militants. Govt continued to press ahead with controversial job creation bill; National Human Rights Commission 13 Aug called on President Joko Widodo and parliament to end discussions of bill, saying it could potentially violate environmental and labour protections; thousands 14 and 25 Aug demonstrated against bill in capital Jakarta.
U.S. and South Korea carried out annual joint-military exercises, while Pyongyang’s economic struggles continued amid spread of COVID-19 and mass flooding. As dispute between Seoul and Washington over sharing cost of maintaining 28,500 U.S. troops on Korean Peninsula still unresolved, U.S. and South Korea 18-28 Aug held annual joint military drills; exercises smaller than previous years with U.S.-based troops unable to join due to COVID-19 restrictions on travel; North Korea unusually quiet during drills. Amid widely suspected COVID-19 epidemic, North Korea 14 Aug lifted lockdown, imposed in July, on border city of Kaesong following accusation North Korean defector who swam back from South Korea in July imported virus. Pyongyang also faced major damages from floods that began 1 Aug during monsoon season. Amid floods affecting harvest and COVID-19 causing halt to nearly all trade with China due to closing of borders, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un 20 Aug admitted to failure of govt’s economic policy during meeting of ruling party officials; hours later, South Korean media reported Kim had given responsibility for relations with Seoul and Washington to Kim Yo-jong, top official and Kim’s sister. Reuters 3 Aug reported confidential UN document stated several countries believe Pyongyang has developed “miniaturised nuclear devices” for ballistic missiles. International concerns over suspected North Korean cyberattacks continued; Israel 12 Aug said it had prevented cyberattack by Pyongyang-linked hackers on its defence industry, though a cybersecurity firm said attack had been successful. In South Korea, civil society and conservative groups, including over 50,000 protestors rallying in downtown Seoul 15 Aug, continued to accuse President Moon’s govt of authoritarian practices and violations of democratic rights, including passing new laws without due process and invading privacy; criticism among minority voices also continued over alleged election fraud during April general election. Meanwhile, Seoul 22 Aug announced new restrictions on gatherings and events following its second COVID-19 outbreak.
Amid ongoing fighting between Arakan Army (AA) and security forces, fourth “Panglong-21” Union Peace Conference took place in capital Naypyitaw. Violence continued across Rakhine state where unexploded ordnance and landmine 1-3 Aug killed three youths in Rathedaung and Ann townships. AA attacks against security forces 2-3 Aug caused several casualties in Rathedaung and Buthidaung townships; AA claimed killing “more than 20” and capturing six. Military shelling in first half of Aug reportedly injured ten villagers in Kyauktaw, Minbya and Rathedaung townships. Military 7 Aug arrested alleged AA fighter who later died in custody, body showed signs of torture. Unidentified gunmen 12 Aug killed head of Kyauktaw township police. AA 18 Aug reportedly abducted two Buddhist monks and two novice monks in Mrauk-U township. Military 24 Aug announced extension of its nationwide COVID-19 ceasefire until end-September, but continued to exclude Rakhine State. Fighting appeared to have eased in Rakhine after 16 Aug, when first local transmission of COVID-19 for many weeks detected in regional state; some 250 cases recorded by end of month, and night-time curfew and stay-at-home orders imposed across Rakhine 26 Aug. In Naypyitaw, representatives of govt and ten signatory armed groups of Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement 19-21 Aug took part in fourth “Panglong-21” Union Peace Conference, first session in over two years; conference agreed on 20 “principles” with regard to ceasefire agreement, including some vague language on a future federal arrangement; govt’s exclusion of AA from conference due to its designation as terrorist organisation prompted six allied armed groups to boycott talks. Ahead of Nov general elections, electoral authorities began vetting candidate applications; between 11 and 16 Aug district-level election commissions rejected applications of six Rohingya due to alleged failure to prove citizenship status of their parents.
External and internal political pressures on ruling communist party eased following thaw in relations with India and halt in intra-party tensions. PM KP Oli 15 Aug called Indian PM Narendra Modi to mark India’s Independence Day and, in first conversation between two leaders since border dispute began in May, mentioned looking forward to “meaningful cooperation” with New Delhi. Technical-level bilateral channels also reopened following 17 Aug eighth meeting of Nepal-India Oversight Mechanism (tasked in 2016 to oversee implementation of bilateral developmental projects) with Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi and India’s Ambassador to Nepal Vinay Mohan Kwatra; following discussions, foreign ministry officials proposed convening Boundary Working Group - joint entity formed by two govts in 2014 - which could pave way for formal dialogue on ongoing border row. Indian officials 20 Aug reportedly ruled out discussing contested territory along Nepal’s north-western border at Working Group level, instead preferring to address it between respective foreign secretaries. Meanwhile, leadership tensions within Nepal Communist Party (NCP) eased after internal task force formed by co-chairs Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal 22 Aug recommended Oli continuing as PM – with imminent cabinet reshuffle – while Dahal serves as party’s executive chair. NCP’s haphazard COVID-19 response continued to elicit widespread criticism with provincial-level officials accusing Oli’s govt of undermining transition to federalism after he 17 Aug empowered district administrators – instead of provincial leaders – with greater authority to tackle pandemic.
Tensions continued over govt use of anti-corruption cases to silence political opponents, while deadly militant violence persisted. Following Supreme Court’s July criticism of ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s use of anti-corruption National Accountability Bureau (NAB), tensions remained high over body; NAB brought corruption cases against former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) PM Abbasi on 6 Aug and former President and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chair Zardari on 10 Aug; Mayam Nawaz, daughter of former PM Sharif, and PML-N members 11 Aug protested against targeting of PML-N leaders outside NAB office in Lahore city, leading to clashes with police and arrest of 50 members. Amid concerns over attacks on press, group of prominent female journalists 12 Aug issued statement holding govt supporters responsible for “vicious online attacks” and threats, including “sexual and physical violence”. Police 16 Aug arrested paramilitary soldier accused of killing university student on 13 Aug in Kech district, Balochistan province. Militant attacks persisted: in Balochistan, bomb blast 10 Aug killed at least five and wounded 22 others in Chaman city and grenade attack 12 Aug killed child and injured six civilians in Quetta city; in Sindh’s capital Karachi, grenade attack on rally of political party Jamaat-i-Islami 5 Aug killed an activist and wounded dozens, and unidentified gunmen 14 Aug killed police officer, fifth police casualty in city since mid-July. Internationally, tensions increased with Afghanistan following 30 July clash between Afghan and Pakistani security forces after Islamabad closed Chaman border, leaving at least three dead, and raising concerns among govt officials about their desire to play key role in Afghan peace process; foreign ministry 13 Aug rejected Kabul’s complaints over building of fence on border; govt also reportedly held Kabul and New Delhi responsible for splinter groups Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and Hizbul Ahrar 16 Aug merging with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan; group allegedly agreed to focus on targeting govt’s military, paramilitary and police forces. Following concerns Saudi Arabia may withdraw $3bn loan, army chief Bajwa 17 Aug visited Riyadh. Despite rising COVID-19 cases, govt 10 Aug began lifting restrictions on public transport and entertainment venues.
In south, clashes persisted but at reduced level of violence, while authorities’ focus on COVID-19 continued to delay implementation of peace agreement. In Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in south, clan feuds continued: clash between warring clans involving Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members 3 Aug displaced around hundred villagers at boundary of Datu Montawal and Pagalungan; armed groups from Moro side and indigenous Teduray natives 15 Aug conducted peace dialogue, defusing tensions over land in South Upi municipality; peace dialogue 18 Aug pacified warring commanders of 105th MILF base command in Shariff Aguak municipality; community feud involving MILF members 19 Aug erupted in Kalingalan and Nabalawag municipalities in Midsayap, and then pacified following intervention of BARMM Special Geographic Area caretaker and members of ceasefire committee. Govt drug enforcement raid 16 Aug killed village councillor of Northern Kabuntalan. Clashes continued between security forces and elements of Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu province. Twin bombings in Jolo 24 Aug killed 15 and injured 74; perpetrators alleged to be Indonesian suicide bombers affiliated with Hatib Sawadjaan’s Islamic State-linked faction. Also in south, implementation of ceasefire between govt and MILF remained delayed as govt and interim govt concentrated efforts on preventing spread of COVID-19; countrywide cases continued to rise to over 217,000, with average of 5,500 new cases daily throughout month - double the daily average in July. Govt’s focus on halting contagion also continued to hinder efforts to rehabilitate Marawi city. Suspected Ansara Khilafa Philippines insurgents 9 Aug clashed with police operatives in Polomolok town, in South Cotabato, killing four insurgents and injuring one. Clashes continued throughout month between communist New People’s Army and armed forces in Visayas in centre, Mindanao in south, and Luzon in north at relatively decreased levels in comparison with July, killing at least 15 combatants and civilians and injuring 13 in total throughout month.
Tensions continued between China and U.S., while Malaysia rejected China’s claims to historic rights in SCS. Chinese People’s Liberation Army 25 July to 2 Aug conducted live-fire drills in north-western SCS off Leizhou Peninsula. Following U.S. Sec State Mike Pompeo’s July statement that China’s claims in SCS were “unlawful”, U.S. continued sizable military presence and operations in SCS: U.S. 11 Aug deployed two B-2 bombers to military base on Diego Garcia island in Indian Ocean; U.S. Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group 14 Aug conducted maritime air defence operations in SCS. U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper 6 Aug spoke with Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe for 90 minutes; Pentagon same day confirmed that Esper had “expressed concern about [Chinese military’s] destabilising activity in the vicinity of Taiwan and the South China Sea, and called on [China] to honour international obligations.” Malaysia 29 July issued note verbale to UN rejecting “China’s claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction”, move follows Chinese opposition to Malaysian 12 Dec 2019 note to UN that sought to establish limits of Malaysia’s continental shelf in northern part of SCS pursuant to UN Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Philippine’s Navy Chief Vice Admiral Giovanni Bacordo 19 Aug stated that Chinese navy was attempting to provoke Philippines and urged Philippines’ President Duterte to file diplomatic protest to Beijing over presence of two Chinese survey ships at Reed Bank, in north-eastern SCS. Manila 20 Aug filed diplomatic protest with China over Chinese coast guard’s “illegal confiscation” of Filipino fishermen’s fishing equipment in May. China 26 Aug test-fired two missiles – DF-21D and DF-26B – from its mainland into SCS. U.S. 26 Aug imposed sanctions on 24 Chinese companies involved in building artificial islands in SCS. Malaysia 27 Aug filed note verbale at UN that rejected Philippines’ claim over Kalayaan/Spratleys island group and state of Sabah.
Ruling party Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) won resounding victory in parliamentary elections, paving way for unbridled executive powers for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and increasingly Sinhala nationalist policies. Following peaceful campaign, 5 Aug legislative elections resulted in ruling party SLPP securing 145 of 225 seats in parliament, enough – together with allied parties – to achieve two-thirds majority SLPP sought in order to amend constitution and unshackle presidential powers. In prominent Buddhist temple near capital Colombo, Mahinda Rajapaksa was sworn in as PM 9 Aug. Mahinda and Gotabaya 12 Aug announced new cabinet and state ministers, giving portfolios to themselves and to three other family members; other appointees included Gotabaya’s personal lawyer as justice minister and retired admiral as foreign secretary. Cabinet 19 Aug approved repealing 19th amendment to constitution, which limits presidential powers, and established committee under justice ministry to draft replacement. In speech at opening of new parliament, Gotabaya 20 Aug promised that once 19th amendment had been replaced, govt would draft new constitution in which “priority will be given to the concept of one country, one law for all the people” and which will allow govt to make decisions freely without being influenced by “extremists”. Former Director of Police Criminal Investigations Department Shani Abeysekara remanded in custody 20 Aug accused of fabricating evidence in 2015 murder conviction; Abeysekara’s arrest widely seen as retribution for his key role investigating major criminal cases implicating senior officials in 2005-2015 Rajapaksa govt. Joint letter to Sri Lanka govt from six UN Special Rapporteurs sent in June and publicised 25 Aug expressed “grave concern over the seemingly arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention” of Muslim lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah, in “what may be a reprisal for his legal work and human rights advocacy”. President 24 Aug appointed four prominent Buddhist monks to join all-Sinhalese task force on archaeological heritage in multi-ethnic eastern province. Foreign Secretary Adm. Jayantha Colombage announced Sri Lanka will adopt “India first approach” in its foreign policy and would “not do anything harmful to India’s strategic security interests”, despite China’s increasing influence in Sri Lanka.
Cross-strait tensions continued between Taiwan and China amid visit to Taiwan by highest U.S. official in four decades. U.S. health chief Alex Azar met with President Tsai during 9-12 Aug visit to Taipei, in most senior visit by American official since break of Washington-Taipei ties in 1979; Azar lent support to Taiwan’s participation in global health forums like the World Health Organization and oversaw signing of first bilateral memorandum of understanding on health cooperation including vaccine development and infectious disease control; in lead up to visit, Chinese foreign ministry 7 Aug urged U.S. to “stop official ties with Taiwan” and said Beijing “will take firm countermeasures”. U.S. Sec State Mike Pompeo 10 Aug criticised China’s objections to Azar’s visit as sign of “weakness.” During visit, Chinese J-10 and J-11 fighter jets 10 Aug crossed median line in Taiwan Strait, with Taipei scrambling planes in response, while Chinese military 13 Aug reported it had carried out further drills during Azar’s visit, both in Taiwan Strait and to the north and south of Taiwan. Taiwanese defence ministry 10 Aug said it had tracked Chinese planes with radars from surface-to-air missiles for first time. U.S. destroyers 18 and 30 Aug transited Taiwan Strait. Taipei 13 Aug proposed 10% increase to defence spending to $15.4bn in 2021 and next day reportedly finalised purchase from U.S. of 66 F-16 fighter jets. Taiwanese govt 19 Aug said hackers linked to Beijing attacked at least ten govt agencies since 2018 in attempt to steal data.