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Our global conflict tracker warns of three conflict risks and welcomes one conflict resolution opportunity in May.
CrisisWatch identified deteriorations in nine countries in April.
We also assessed one improved situation.
Aside from the dozens of conflict situations we assess every month, we tracked significant developments in Benin, Indonesia and Moldova.
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Northern departments suffered several attacks attributed to jihadist groups despite authorities’ efforts to contain violence.
Attacks targeted civilians and military along Burkina Faso and Niger borders. Unidentified armed individuals 2 April killed four fishermen in Matéri commune, Atakora department near border with Burkina Faso. Unidentified gunmen overnight 3-4 April attempted to abduct civilians and steal cattle at Fulani camp near Porga commune (also Atakora); army intervened and reportedly forced assailants to flee, but some sources claim three civilians killed. Unidentified armed individuals overnight 15-16 April reportedly attacked military camp near Malanville city at Niger border in Alibori department; death toll unknown. Govt 12 April announced special recruitment of 5,000 soldiers to be deployed in northern areas affected by jihadist incursions.
Rwanda committed to providing military assistance to counter jihadist threat. President Talon 15 April met with his Rwandan counterpart, President Paul Kagame, in economic capital Cotonou; two leaders signed agreement for Rwandan military help in securing Benin’s borders, with Talon saying cooperation could include anything from “monitoring, coaching and training” missions to “joint deployment” of troops.
Amid sustained fighting between govt forces and jihadist groups countrywide, both sides conducted large-scale massacres of civilians, while govt continued to restrict fundamental freedoms as part of total war strategy.
Govt forces and jihadists carried out massacres of civilians. In North region, suspected soldiers around 20 April raided Karma and nearby villages in Yatenga province, reportedly killing at least 136 civilians. Both govt forces and jihadists launched suspected retaliatory attacks on civilians in Sahel region’s Séno province: military 4-6 April allegedly killed seven civilians in Dori town; and suspected Islamic State Sahel Province combatants overnight 6-7 April stormed Kourakou and Tondobi villages, leaving 31 and 13 civilians dead, respectively.
Fighting between govt forces and jihadists continued. As part of more offensive approach against jihadists, military in March-April reportedly conducted major operation against al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) positions notably in Sahel, North, Centre-North and Boucle du Mouhoun regions, with unclear results. Meanwhile in North region, JNIM combatants 15 April attacked military detachment and civilian auxiliaries (VDPs) near Aorema village, close to Ouahigouya town in Yatenga province, reportedly leaving at least eight soldiers and 32 VDPs dead; govt reported 50 assailants also killed. In Centre-East region, JNIM 10 April ambushed security forces near Zambanega village, Boulgou province; eight soldiers, three VDPs and ten militants reportedly killed. In East region, suspected jihadists 27 April killed 33 soldiers in attack on military detachment near Ouagarou town in Gnagna province, reportedly losing 40 of their own.
Authorities continued to restrict civic space as part of total war on jihadists. Among other measures aimed at boosting country’s military capabilities, interim president, Capt. Traoré, 7 April announced new civilian “watch and development committees” at local level, reportedly responsible for alerting authorities about any suspicious movements and acting for development of their communities; 13 April declared “general mobilisation”, giving authorities wide legal latitude to restrict rights and freedoms if deemed necessary to combat insecurity. Meanwhile, authorities 1 April expelled Burkina Faso correspondents for French newspapers Le Monde and Libération; move came after Libération confirmed video showing men executing children in military barracks as authentic.
Politically motivated violence continued, while relations with Rwanda improved further.
Political opposition continued to face harassment and violence. Locals 6 April discovered lifeless body of main opposition party National Congress for Freedom (CNL) activist, Gilbert Ndacayisaba, in Ngozi province (north); witnesses claimed Ndacayisaba had been under pressure from ruling party’s youth militia Imbonerakure to join their ranks. CNL was also subject to bureaucratic obstruction: party congress scheduled for 14 April was postponed after govt refused permission due to administrative error.
Burundi’s relations with Rwanda thawed further. Ruling party 2 April sent high-level delegation to Kigali to attend 35th anniversary celebration of Rwandan President Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF); visit marked new step toward reconciliation following series of high-level bilateral talks (see Rwanda).
In other important developments. Security forces 18 April discovered three bodies reportedly tied together in Cibitoke province (north west); locals said bodies might be those of anti-Kigali rebels from National Liberation Forces. Also in Cibitoke, locals 22 April found two bodies wearing army uniforms. Authorities 21 April detained former PM Alain Guillaume Bunyoni (2020-2022) on accusations of “undermining state security”; NGO Amnesty International 26 April welcomed “opportunity for the Burundian authorities to ensure accountability for serious human rights violations”, however expressed concern over “lack of transparency” around detention.
Amid sustained fighting between army and separatists, local authorities in Anglophone regions warned of renewed herder-farmer tensions; jihadist violence increased in Far North region.
Anglophone separatists and govt forces continued to engage in clashes. In North-West region (NW), army 4 April ambushed and killed three armed separatists in Bafut commune (Mezam division); separatist militia 27 April detonated IEDs in Bamenda city, with unknown number of casualties. In South West region (SW), suspected separatist combatants 5 April killed two soldiers in Mamfe city (Manyu division); govt forces 18 April killed two separatist fighters and arrested eight civilians suspected of working with separatists during raid in Mamfe.
Tensions between Nigerian pastoralists and Cameroonian farmers rose again. In NW, armed men 1-2 April abducted about 25 people and destroyed properties in Ako town (Donga-Mantung division) near border with Nigeria’s Taraba state; local officials blamed attack on Fulani herders from Nigeria, who have crossed border into Cameroon and clashed with local farmers in the past. Local authorities in neighbouring SW region had in March warned of similar incursions in Akwaya town (Manyu division).
Jihadists stepped up attacks in Far North region. Boko Haram militants overnight 5-6 April clashed with army and vigilantes in Malika and Kerawa localities (both Mayo-Sava division), leaving two militants dead; 16 April attacked Zeleved military post (Mayo-Tsanaga division), killing at least one soldier and displacing hundreds of civilians; 18 April killed at least one civilian and set houses ablaze in Mozogo town (Mayo-Tsanaga) before being pushed back by military. IED planted by Boko Haram 24 April killed six soldiers in Tchébé-Tchébé village (Mayo-Tsanaga).
Senate elections cemented one-party rule, media freedom remained under threat. After ruling party in March won all 70 Senate seats open for election, Biya 31 March appointed another 30 senators, with only five from opposition parties, meaning ruling party now holds 95% of Senate seats. Meanwhile, Cameroon Journalists’ Trade Union 8 April accused Maroua city (Far North region) mayor of threatening to kill journalists investigating corruption in road construction projects.
Amid persistent rebel violence, conflict in Sudan started affecting border region; emergence of self-defence militia increased risk of intercommunal tensions in south east.
Rebels sustained offensive notably in west and north east. In west, 3R rebel group, a member of Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), 4 April wounded three soldiers and seven Russian paramilitaries in Bossemptélé town (Ouham-Pendé prefecture). CPC fighters 7 April killed three soldiers and wounded another in ambush near Boda town, confirming rebels’ redeployment in Lobaye prefecture where they have not been present since 2021. In north-eastern Vakaga prefecture, CPC rebels 1 April wounded two artisanal miners 60km from Ouanda-Djallé town, while armed forces 16 April lost five soldiers in clash with pastoralists near Sikikédé locality. In neighbouring Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture, CPC 11 April killed two soldiers near border with Chad.
Conflict in Sudan affected dynamics in border region. After conflict erupted in neighbouring Sudan between Sudanese army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Vakaga prefecture (located along border) recorded increased presence of Sudanese militiamen. Notably, about 40 RSF fighters 25 April reportedly crossed into CAR near Amdafock village. Conflict hampered RSF’s capacity to protect border, offering greater latitude to CPC rebels smuggling weapons and men into CAR going forward. Meanwhile, 500 people fleeing violence in Sudan 26 April arrived in Amdafock.
New self-defence militia launched first attack against govt forces in south east. In Haut-Mbomou prefecture (south east), Azandé Ani Kpi Gbé militia, newly created to protect Zandé ethnic group (the majority locally) from Union for Peace (UPC) rebels, launched first attack on armed forces positions in Obo town, leading to population displacement. Intercommunal tensions could intensify in area, as Zandé militia is hostile to Muslim traders and Fulani herders it perceives as affiliated with UPC. Militia 22-23 April reportedly engaged in fighting with South Sudanese soldiers near Bambouti, leaving unknown number of people dead.
International NGO denounced democratic regression. NGO Human Rights Watch 4 April warned of “potential for human rights violations and the narrowing of democratic space and free expression” as President Touadéra continues to push for constitutional change that would let him run for third term in 2025.
Conflict in neighbouring Sudan sparked concern of regional destabilisation, and intercommunal violence resurged in southern regions.
Violent power struggle in Sudan raised risk of heightened instability in Chad. After fighting 15 April erupted in neighbouring Sudan between Sudanese army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, Chad same day closed shared border in attempt to reduce risk of movement of rebel groups and militias that might support either side. Defence ministry 19 April however announced 320 Sudanese soldiers had fled into Chad, while UN refugee agency around 21 April reported up to 20,000 people had found refuge in Chad since conflict started in Sudan. Influx raised concern about humanitarian crisis as World Food Programme 14 April announced it would from May onward not be able to feed hundreds of thousands of refugees already in Chad.
Intercommunal violence flared in country’s south. Suspected herders 8 April attacked Kagbé village (Mandoul region), leaving two people killed and six injured. Clashes between Fulani herders and Kodo farmers around 18 April left at least 22 people dead in several villages of Monts de Lam department (Logone Oriental region).
Govt entered diplomatic spat with Germany. Authorities 7 April expelled German ambassador to N’Djamena, citing latter’s “discourteous attitude” and actions “incompatible with diplomatic practice”; expulsion reportedly followed ambassador’s comments condemning authorities’ decision to allow interim president, Mahamat Déby, to run for permanent office in next election. In response, Germany 11 April expelled Chadian ambassador, and European Union next day condemned N’Djamena’s “hostile gesture”.
In other important developments. French media outlet RFI 15 April said committee in charge of organising constitutional referendum was expecting to hold vote on 19 Nov, though report cast doubt on timeline’s feasibility. Cabinet 24 April adopted electoral bill relating to organisation of referendum.
Authorities set date for local and regional elections, widely seen as warm-up for 2025 presidential election; govt took new steps to counter growing jihadist threat.
Political heavyweights continued to mobilise supporters in run-up to elections. In likely popularity test ahead of 2025 presidential election, former President Gbagbo 1 April met with youth representatives of his party in economic capital Abidjan. Authorities 19 April scheduled municipal and regional elections for 2 Sept. Several parties in following days disclosed lists of candidates, with President Ouattara’s Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace selecting 11 members of govt among 31 candidates for regional elections.
Jihadist expansion from Sahel region remained major concern. Ivorian and Burkinabe legislative branch presidents, respectively Adama Bictogo and Ousmane Bougouma, 4 April met on margins of continental conference of French-speaking Parliamentary Assembly in Abidjan to discuss security cooperation, confirming renewed dialogue between neighbours; Bougouma expressed “high expectations” regarding Ivorian support to Ouagadougou in fighting jihadists. Meanwhile, Ivorian National Security Council 12 April announced creation of two “transit sites” for Burkinabé refugees in border departments of Ouangolodougou (north) and Bouna (north east); initiative will allow security services to monitor influx and conduct identity checks as authorities fear militants could infiltrate country among displaced people.
ADF and CODECO attacks surged in eastern provinces, while full deployment of regional force coincided with lull in fighting between govt forces and M23 rebels in North Kivu.
ADF and CODECO attacks killed scores of civilians in Ituri and North-Kivu. UN humanitarian office 18 April said “persistent attacks” by armed groups in Ituri province’s Djugu, Irumu and Mambasa territories had killed around 150 civilians since early April. Most notably, Islamist militia Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 2-3 April killed 30 civilians in several attacks on border between Mambasa and Irumu, while CODECO coalition of mostly Lendu militias 13-14 April killed nearly 50 people in Banyali-Kilo sector, Djugu. Meanwhile in neighbouring North Kivu province, ADF 7-20 April killed at least 30 people and took multiple hostages in Beni and Lubero territories.
M23 continued to vacate positions as ECA force completed deployment. North Kivu experienced fragile lull in fighting between M23 rebels and govt forces as East African Community regional force early April completed deployment (see Uganda). Notably, Ugandan contingent late March-early April took control of Bunagana border town, Rutshuru city, and Kiwanja town after M23 withdrawal. Claims of M23 attacks on civilians however resurfaced. Local authorities in Rutshuru territory 26 April claimed M23 in previous days killed 60 civilians in Bwito area. Kenya 27 April replaced regional force commander amid rising tensions with Kinshasa over force’s mandate.
Tensions between Kinshasa and Kigali remained elevated. After President Tshisekedi 13 April excluded direct negotiations with M23, group same day responded that “there will also be no cantonment, disarmament and demobilisation until there is direct political dialogue”. Kagame 15 April blamed M23 crisis on colonial era border delineation, saying “a big part of Rwanda was left outside in eastern Congo and southwestern Uganda”. In response, Kinshasa blamed Kagame for “all the problems” in eastern provinces over last 20 years (see Rwanda).
In other important developments. Ahead of general elections scheduled for Dec 2023, prominent opposition presidential candidates 14 April pledged to work together and scheduled march for 13 May in capital Kinshasa to protest “chaotic electoral process”. Voter registration 25 April closed countrywide; election commission however mentioned possibility of additional registration drives in conflict-ridden territories.
Military delegation travelled to Ethiopia amid stepped-up regional engagement.
High-level delegation visited Ethiopia as Asmara sought to consolidate ties. Military delegation led by National Security Agency chief Abraha Kassa 3-5 April visited Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. Possibly seeking to demonstrate strong bilateral ties following Ethiopia’s peace deal in Tigray, Minister of Information Yemane Gebremeskel 5 April said Ethiopian military chief Birhanu Jula praised Eritrea’s support during Tigray war, saying it “can never be compensated”, while Abraha Kassa 5 April said Eritrea’s “aspirations” are for “durable peace” in Ethiopia. Trust-building visit could presage further Eritrean troop withdrawals from Tigray region, provided Asmara is satisfied with progress on disarmament of Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
Engagement with other regional actors continued. Delegation led by FM Osman Saleh and Presidential Adviser Yemane Gebreab 3 April arrived in South Sudanese capital, Juba, meeting with country’s President Salva Kiir. Sides reportedly focused on bilateral ties and regional developments amid worrying deterioration in Sudan (see Sudan), as well as Eritrea’s interest in promoting “peace and reconciliation among the people of South Sudan”. Same delegation 11 April met with Kenyan President William Ruto in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.
Violence spiked in Amhara over federal decision to dissolve regional paramilitaries, govt and Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) held peace talks, and Tigray-federal relations continued to improve.
Plans to disband regional paramilitary sparked deadly violence in Amhara region. Federal govt 6 April announced decision to dissolve regional special forces and integrate them into national army and police. Many in Amhara viewed move as threat to region amid concerns that PM Abiy allying with Oromo nationalists and strengthening ties with Tigray is isolating Amhara. Some special forces refused to comply with order, instead allying with Amhara nationalist militia known as Fano and clashing with federal soldiers in number of zones. Demonstrations also erupted, spreading throughout region, as protesters blocked roads, burned tires and chanted slogans against Abiy and ruling Prosperity Party. Abiy 9 April vowed to press ahead with plan as govt deployed troops, imposed curfew and cut off mobile internet services in parts of Amhara. Dozens were killed in unrest, which began to subside mid-April. Unidentified gunmen 27 April assassinated Girma Yeshitila, head of Prosperity Party’s Amhara branch, together with his entourage in North Shewa Zone; federal govt next day launched “decisive measures” to counter “extremist forces”.
Govt-OLA peace talks got under way in Tanzania. In positive step toward ending long-running OLA insurgency, PM Abiy 23 April announced peace talks with group starting 25 April in Tanzania; OLA same day confirmed news, saying federal govt had accepted its demands for third-party mediator. Fighting between security forces and OLA continued, however, and OLA continued kidnapping civilians.
Tigray’s leader named new cabinet as federal-Tigray relations improved further. Newly appointed leader of Tigray region’s Interim Regional Administration, Getachew Reda, 5 April unveiled 27-member cabinet to lead political transition. Cabinet is dominated by TPLF members, while military controls four posts; opposition Baytona for Greater Tigray Party took two positions amid frustration among Tigray opposition parties with excessive TPLF control. Meanwhile, Federal Ministry of Education delegation 6-7 April visited Tigray to discuss reopening region’s universities. National Rehabilitation Commission head Teshome Toga 14 April visited regional capital, Mekelle, to evaluate progress on disarmament. Prosperity Party VP Adem Farah 27 April led delegation to Mekelle.
No breakthrough in talks between transitional authorities and opposition parties; meanwhile, protests erupted against power shortages.
Fragile talks proceeded between govt and opposition parties. Following first round of talks in March as part of mediation led by religious leaders, PM Bernard Goumou and Forces Vives de Guinée (FVG) – large opposition coalition including outlawed National Front for the Defence of the Constitution, opposition leader Cellou Dallein Diallo’s party and deposed President Condé’s Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) – in April held several rounds of talks in capital Conakry but failed to make tangible progress to ease political crisis. FVG continued to demand release of detained opposition figures, lifting of protest ban and new national dialogue supervised by Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), while Goumou reportedly failed to secure strong support for talks from key officials linked to military govt. Collapse of talks could lead FVG to call for renewed street protests.
Spontaneous protests erupted over power shortages. Youths protesting power cuts late March-early April occupied roundabouts and clashed with police in several neighbourhoods of Kankan city – both an RPG stronghold and interim president Col. Doumbouya’s birthplace. Govt 2 April sent security reinforcements to restore order, and 5 April suspended governor of Kankan region. Court in Kankan 13 April sentenced 15 protesters to jail terms on charges of “participating in non-authorised gathering” and “destruction of public buildings”. Situation eased in following days, but Kankan and other cities could see new violence amid recurrent power shortages.
Major points of contention persisted between govt and opposition despite positive steps toward de-escalating tensions; resource conflict fuelled by drought continued in northern counties.
Opposition entered fragile talks with govt but called for new protests. Opposition leader Raila Odinga 2 March suspended anti-govt protests after President Ruto same day agreed to form bipartisan committee to review selection process for election commissioners. Country’s top prosecutor next day dropped charges of unlawful assembly levelled in March at several opposition lawmakers; govt however refused to engage on other opposition demands, including cost of living and audit of Aug 2022 election servers. In attempt to increase pressure, Odinga 13 April announced protests would resume after holy month of Ramadan, and 23 April scheduled protest for 2 May. Bilateral talks 20 April kicked off but Odinga’s coalition 25 April suspended participation amid disagreement over composition of negotiating delegations and topics to be discussed.
Violence over cattle and land resources continued in north amid historic drought. Cattle theft and banditry continued in Rift Valley despite military operation. Notably, raiders believed to be from Turkana county 6 April killed five people and injured another in Lami Nyeusi village in West Pokot county, also stealing goats.
In other important developments. President Ruto’s senior economic adviser David Ndii 8 April suggested govt might need to take further austerity measures to avoid debt default and stabilise economy; govt is struggling to pay public servants’ salaries and basic imports as debt service consumes over 60% of govt revenue. Ruto 4-5 April visited Rwandan capital Kigali for talks on eastern Democratic Republic of Congo with Rwandan counterpart Kagame (see DR Congo). Intergovernmental Authority on Development regional bloc 16 April appointed Ruto to mediate conflict in Sudan, along with South Sudanese and Djibouti counterparts (see Sudan).
Tensions continued to mount between transitional govt and coalition of northern armed groups signatory to 2015 Algiers peace accord, and Islamic State gained further ground in Ménaka region.
Relations between govt and Algiers Accord signatory groups deteriorated further. Army aircraft 5 April flew over Kidal city (Kidal region in north), headquarters of coalition of former rebel groups Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA); CMA responded with warning shots, and same day denounced ceasefire “violation” and “grave provocation”. In effort to reboot peace process, accord’s international mediation mechanism (led by Algeria) 9 April proposed meetings with interim govt 17 April, and with govt and signatory groups 24 April, which Bamako declined. Further stoking tensions, armed forces reported arresting on 23 April 12 “terrorists” in rare operation in Ménaka region (also north); CMA however claimed detainees were coalition members. Algerian FM Ahmed Attaf 27 April visited Bamako, held talks with interim president, Col. Goïta; in joint statement, leaders committed to reviving 2015 deal.
Islamic State pursued advance in Ménaka, violence continued in centre. Following weeks-long fighting with al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), Islamic State Sahel Province 11 April took control of Tidermène town (Ménaka), in effect encircling regional capital Ménaka and driving displacement. In Mopti region (centre), govt forces and allied Russia’s paramilitary Wagner Group elements 1 April reportedly killed nine civilians in Kourkanda-Peulh village; military claimed eight of those killed were jihadists. Suspected JNIM combatants 22 April launched suicide attacks in Sévaré town (also Mopti), leaving 10 civilians dead and over 60 wounded; military reportedly killed 28 assailants.
Tensions with UN resurfaced ahead of UN mission in Mali’s mandate renewal. UN Security Council members at 12 April meeting expressed concern about frozen peace process with northern armed groups and possible presidential election delay after Malian authorities in March indefinitely postponed constitutional referendum; ahead of vote on UN mission (MINUSMA)’s mandate renewal in June, UNSG Special Representative for Mali El-Ghassim Wane also urged Bamako to lift restrictions on MINUSMA operations. Meanwhile, as disinformation campaign sought to attribute 22 April attack to MINUSMA, angry mob 23 April assaulted and wounded two MINUSMA staff in Sévaré.
Relative calm persisted in northern Cabo Delgado province during rainy season and holy month of Ramadan; govt legalised local militia to help fight jihadists.
Islamic State insurgents staged limited number of attacks in Cabo Delgado. In first fatal attack since mid-March, Islamic State Mozambique Province (ISMP) 15 April assaulted two positions of govt forces and Local Forces (militias fighting alongside govt) around Miangalewa village in Muidumbe district; at least one Local Forces member was killed, despite Rwandan forces’ intervention. Attacks took place days after group of displaced people returned to Miangalewa, suggesting that holding territory and sustaining return of residents in Muidumbe will be significant challenge. Insurgents had been sighted in area in days prior to attack. Notably, Local Forces patrol 13 April encountered group of insurgents outside Litapata village, killing five; insurgents next day raided nearby Mandava village. Meanwhile, reports in April continued to emerge indicating that insurgent groups – sometimes numbering as many as 50 – are present along coast and trying to establish good relations with villagers, notably 19 April in Nazimoja village south of Mocímboa da Praia district capital, and around 20 April near Quiterajo and Ntoni villages (Macomia district); with new strategy, militants could secure durable support from communities, as national security forces are feared and distrusted.
Govt formalised relations with local militia fighting insurgents in Cabo Delgado. Council of Ministers 5 April approved decree providing legal authority to and regulating functioning of Local Forces in Cabo Delgado to help push back insurgents; step concludes legalisation process after parliament in late 2022 passed law recognising militia as govt-linked force. NGO Human Rights Watch 26 April expressed concern over partnership with “untrained and seemingly uncontrollable militia”, urged govt to prevent violations of international humanitarian laws.
Renamo called for exclusion of Mocímboa da Praia from municipal elections. Main opposition party Renamo continued to press electoral authorities to exclude Mocímboa da Praia district from municipal elections set for 11 Oct as voter registration 20 April started. With voting expected to be limited to municipal area of Mocímboa da Praia town due to security risks in rest of district, Renamo claims concentration of govt security forces in town could influence voter behaviour in ruling party’s favour.
President Bazoum reshuffled military leadership as small-scale jihadist violence persisted, notably in south east; high-level visits showcased Niger’s new role as Western countries’ preferred partner in the Sahel.
Low-level violence continued in Diffa region and returned to Agadez region. In likely effort to place men closer to him in command of military, Bazoum 1 April named new army chief of staff, while defence minister 13 April named new chief of gendarmerie. Meanwhile in Diffa region (south east), IEDs likely planted by Boko Haram faction Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) 9-15 April killed several soldiers and one civilian in Diffa and Bosso departments. Also in Diffa, rival Boko Haram faction (JAS) 15-17 April abducted at least three civilians in N’Guigmi department. In rare attack in northern Agadez region, unidentified gunmen 9 April ambushed gold convoy under military protection near Arlit town, leaving five soldiers dead and another five wounded.
Court sentenced civil society leader to prison. Court in capital Niamey 14 April sentenced coordinator of opposition coalition M62, Abdoulaye Seydou, to nine months in prison for “disseminating information that could disturb public order” after he accused armed forces of killing civilians.
High-level visits from Western actors continued. German defence minister and economic cooperation minister 12 April met with Nigerien counterparts in capital Niamey, said Niger would be “the focus of our future military engagement in the Sahel” as Berlin plans to withdraw from UN mission in Mali by May 2024. German parliament 28 April approved deployment of up to 60 troops to Niger as part of planned EU training mission.
Surges in criminal, herder-farmer and communal violence left hundreds of people dead across country, with particularly heavy toll among civilians.
North West, North Central saw resurgence of deadly attacks, with over 300 killed. In Benue state, armed groups 3-7 and 25 April launched multiple attacks on civilians in Apa, Guma and Otukpo areas, killing at least 149 people. Armed groups also conducted deadly raids in Kaduna state, with at least 41 people killed 12 and 15 April in Zango Kataf area. Meanwhile in Niger state, vigilantes around 13 April killed about 50 bandits in Kainji National Park. In Nasarawa state, herder-farmer violence 18 April left twelve people dead in Kokona area. In Plateau state, armed groups 22-26 April killed 13 people in Barkin-Ladi, Jos South and Riyom areas. Armed group 30 April killed 40 people, including six security operatives in Danko-Wasagu area, Kebbi state.
North East recorded persistent jihadist threat and significant communal violence. Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) 13 April killed ten people in Dogsa village, Yobe state; Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies same day warned ISWAP had started weaponising drones with a view to using them for attacks in Lake Chad basin. Troops 17-20 April killed 35 Boko Haram (JAS) fighters in Sambisa forest, Borno state. Meanwhile in Taraba state, clashes between Fulani and Kuteb ethnic groups in Ardo-Kola, Takum and Ussa areas 31 March-4 April left at least 32 people dead.
Kidnapping for ransom surged across country. In Zamfara state, gunmen 7 April kidnapped about 85 people, mostly children and women, in Tsafe area; 28 April released most of them after ransom payment. In Nasarawa state, gunmen same day abducted former deputy governor, Onje Gye-Wado, in Wamba area, releasing him few days later allegedly after ransom payment. In Rivers state, gunmen 17 April abducted senior lawyer and former Bar Association chairman Okey Wali in state capital Port Harcourt; released him two weeks later in unknown circumstances. Armed groups 25 April abducted at least 29 people in Federal Capital Territory.
Violence associated with Biafra agitation groups persisted in South East. Gunmen 6 and 21 April killed at least six policemen in Aboh Mbaise and Ngor Okpala area, Imo state. Separatist group Indigenous People of Biafra denied responsibility.
Tensions with DR Congo continued to run high, while Kigali offered military support to help Benin counter jihadist threat.
Kigali and Kinshasa continued to trade blame for conflict in eastern DR Congo. President Kagame 15 April blamed M23 crisis on colonial era border delineation, stating that “a big part of Rwanda was left outside in eastern Congo and southwestern Uganda”; also defended M23 rebels stating “these people continue to be denied their rights in Congo” and “the Congo problem, the regional problem, or the Rwanda problem is not M23”. In response, Kinshasa denounced “new provocation”, saying Kagame was responsible for “all the problems” in the east over last 20 years and “must never forget that [DR Congo] will defend every inch of territory”. Earlier in month, Kagame and Kenyan President Ruto 4 April pledged “to find a lasting solution to the conflict” in eastern DR Congo during Ruto’s visit to Rwanda (see DR Congo).
In other important developments. Kagame re-elected 2 April as chairman of ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). Burundi’s ruling party delegation same day attended RPF’s 35th anniversary ceremony in capital Kigali, confirming improved relations between neighbours (see Burundi). During visit to Benin, Kagame 15 April met with Beninese President Talon; two leaders signed agreement for Rwandan military help in securing Benin’s borders (see Benin).
Following announcement of phase two of offensive against al-Shabaab, central regions continued to be main theatre of operations; humanitarian situation remained dire amid extreme weather events and conflict.
Second phase of offensive against Al-Shabaab got off to slow start. After President Mohamud in March announced second phase of anti-Al-Shabaab offensive, progress in April remained limited in southern regions. In South West state, security forces 17 April recaptured several small villages north of Baidoa city in Bay region, including Adegeow and Tarabow. In Jubaland state, preparations continued with President Ahmed Madobe 10 April visiting recently recovered town of Janay Abdalle. Focus of operations remained country’s centre. In Galmudug state’s Galgaduud region, govt forces 7 April recaptured Galcad town and 15 April took control of Bud Bud village, which Al-Shabaab had controlled for over six years; reports suggested govt may aim to retake Ceel Buur, insurgents’ last remaining major city in area, and establish new front in western Hiraan region (Hirshabelle state). Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab continued to challenge govt’s efforts to project its authority. In Galgaduud, militants 19 April launched raid on military base near Bud Bud, and 22 April attacked Masagawaay village causing unconfirmed number of casualties.
Govt continued efforts to secure regional support for offensive’s second phase. After Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti in Feb agreed to support Somali forces in fighting Al-Shabaab, govt early April held second “front-line states” summit, with deliberations focused on detailing plans for joint regional offensive. Countries contributing to AU transition mission 27 April agreed on procedures for drawdown of 2,000 troops by 30 June as part of mission’s coordinated exit by Dec 2024.
UN Sec Gen highlighted humanitarian crisis amid prolonged drought. UN Sec Gen António Guterres 11-12 April visited Mogadishu and camp for internally displaced persons in Baidoa city (South West state), called for increased support for 2023 humanitarian response plan for Somalia as country grapples with effects of extreme weather events and conflict. Current rainy season expected to see below average rainfall for unprecedented sixth consecutive time, while flooding in Gedo and Bay regions (both south) between mid-March and mid-April displaced 140,000.
Fighting continued between govt forces and local clan militias in Las Anod, while mediators tried in vain to resolve standoff.
Fighting between govt forces and local clan militias continued. Renewed heavy fighting reported early April on outskirts of Las Anod town, Sool region, between Somaliland forces and Dhulbahante militias. After authorities late March said they will go on offensive in Las Anod, local reports in April suggested both sides attempting to recruit reinforcements. Meanwhile, Dhulbahante committee in Las Anod 10 April announced suspending traffic between Sool, Sanaag and Cayn region and Somaliland from 15 April; move would isolate Las Anod from major port of Berbera and impede traffic between Somaliland and Somalia.
Mediation efforts to resolve dispute made little progress. Over a dozen international partners 15 April held virtual call with Somaliland President Muse Bihi but failed to secure pledge to withdraw forces from Las Anod. Clan elders from southern Somalia, who had travelled to Garowe city (Somalia’s Puntland state) and Las Anod in March, 25 April arrived in Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa for consultations.
Appointment of envoys hinted at resumption of Somalia-Somaliland talks. Somalia President Mohamud 1 April appointed former Galmudug state president and federal interior minister, Abdikarim Hussein Guled, as special envoy for Somaliland to “ensure the unity and solidarity of the Somali people”. Bihi around 18 April reciprocated by naming former Somaliland FM Edna Adan as envoy to stalled Somaliland-Somalia talks.
South Sudan felt effects of Sudan crisis as economy suffered, refugee flows increased and Sudanese fighters crossed border; violence persisted and opposition forces formed new alliance.
Outbreak of fierce fighting in neighbouring Sudan had immediate knock-on effects. Fighting that erupted 15 April in Sudan (see Sudan) had significant implications for its southern neighbour. On economic front, conflicting reports emerged that clashes in Port Sudan between Sudan’s army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) damaged port and oil pipelines, threatening oil exports that make up 85% of South Sudanese govt’s revenue; South Sudanese pound, meanwhile, 15-22 April lost almost 10% of its value compared to USD. On security front, group of dislodged RSF fighters 19 April entered Renk county, Upper Nile state, prompting army same day to issue ultimatum for group to disarm or leave; incident demonstrated risk of conflict spillover. On humanitarian front, authorities in Renk county 24 April reported 10,000 refugees had crossed border as Sudanese fled fighting. Meanwhile, Intergovernmental Authority on Development 16 April appointed President Kiir, along with Kenyan and Djiboutian counterparts, to mediate conflict in Sudan.
Violence persisted in several states. In Jonglei state, armed youths 3 April reportedly killed two and stole 2,000 head of cattle in separate incidents in Wickol and Padiek areas; unknown gunmen 27 April attacked World Food Programme convoy. In Abyei Administrative Area, govt official 9 April reported alleged rebels loyal to Gen Stephen Buay Rolnyang, leader of South Sudan People’s Movement-Army, 7 April killed 11 Nuer youth in Rumamer county. In Central Equatoria state, unknown assailants 11 April killed four in Mangalla Payam area.
In other important developments. Armed groups and opposition entities not party to 2018 revitalised peace agreement 12 April signed Memorandum of Understanding in Sudanese capital Khartoum, forming new alliance dubbed South Sudan Federal Democratic Alliance; in statement issued same day, actors cited “need for united opposition” to “change the regime in Juba”. Meanwhile, Juba 2-3 April deployed around 345 additional soldiers to Democratic Republic of Congo as part of East African regional force’s fight with M23 rebel group.
Fighting erupted between army and paramilitary force, killing hundreds and triggering humanitarian crisis; conflict could slide into all-out war, drawing in new actors and spilling into neighbouring countries.
Deadly fighting broke out between rival security forces. Longstanding power struggle between Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who leads Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), and Mohamed “Hemedti” Hamdan Dagalo, who controls paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), 15 April descended into violent clashes in capital Khartoum, derailing transition toward restored civilian rule. Hostilities came amid rising tensions over negotiations to merge RSF into army, notably regarding timeline and leadership structure of integrated force. Fighting spread across country, notably to North, Central, West and South Darfur, North Kordofan, Kassala, Gedarif, Red Sea states. Army seized control of number of cities, including Kassala and Port Sudan in east, while RSF had upper hand in Darfur. In most other places, particularly Khartoum, momentum swung back and forth.
Fighting precipitated humanitarian crisis. Hostilities killed hundreds of civilians while millions in Khartoum remained trapped amid food, water and electricity shortages. Dozens of hospitals across Sudan shuttered due to fighting and dwindling supplies, while looting and vandalism were widespread. World Food Programme 16 April suspended operations after three employees were killed in North Darfur. As of 28 April, UN refugee agency estimated over 50,000 people had fled to neighbouring countries.
Mediation efforts failed to halt fighting. International actors called for end to hostilities, while Intergovernmental Authority on Development 16 April appointed Kenyan, South Sudanese and Djibouti presidents to broker ceasefire. Successive attempts to enforce humanitarian truces 18, 19, 21 April failed as foreign govts scrambled to evacuate citizens. U.S. and Saudi Arabia brokered 72-hour ceasefire starting 25 April, extended several times. With sides fighting on despite ceasefires, however, conflict risks descending into protracted civil war that draws in other armed groups and communal militias; in West Darfur state, there were indications tribal militias were already being drawn in. Risk of spillover into neighbouring countries or involvement of regional players also high, particularly due to presence of cross-border militias.
Far-reaching iron sheets corruption case resulted in arrest of govt officials; military reported progress against armed groups in eastern DR Congo.
Iron sheets corruption case continued to engulf govt. Authorities 4-18 April detained and charged Karamoja affairs minister, Mary Goretti Kitutu, her deputy Agnes Nandutu, and finance minister, Amos Lugoloobi, for allegedly diverting iron sheets that were part of $10mn relief package originally intended for locals in Karamoja sub-region. President Museveni 3 April pledged to “take political action” against govt officials found guilty of “theft”.
Authorities cracked down on Kenyan herders, causing tension with Nairobi. Ugandan forces 8 April conducted raid against Kenyan nationals suspected to be holding guns in Moroto district; Kenya claimed seven killed while Uganda confirmed one death and six injuries. Additionally, Ugandan military court around 12 April sentenced 32 Kenyan herders to 20-year prison terms for illegally possessing firearms; pastoralists from Kenya’s Turkana county often cross to Uganda during dry spell in search of water and pasture. Turkana officials 13 April protested sentence, saying there was “no fairness and justice for our people”.
Ugandan forces reported gains against M23 and ADF in eastern DR Congo. Ugandan forces 10 April said they had recovered three towns vacated by M23 rebels in Rutshuru territory since 1,000-strong contingent of East African Community regional force late March deployed to North Kivu (see DR Congo). Meanwhile, Uganda’s Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. Wilson Mbasu Mbadi, 6 April hailed achievements made by Uganda-DR Congo joint operations against Islamist militia Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in eastern DR Congo, saying “ADF is now scattered in smaller groups” and “can no longer come together”.
In other important developments. DR Congo nationals allegedly led by local chief from Ituri province’s Mahagi territory around 20 April entered Zombo district and claimed three Ugandan villages; Zombo and Mahadi officials in following days held talks, agreed to respect border demarcations.
Calls for postponement of upcoming general elections persisted, and authorities continued to criminalise dissent.
Controversy over constituency delimitation report cast doubt on 2023 vote. Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) party leader Douglas Mwonzora (opposition) 3 April said electoral commission’s constituency delimitation report would produce “unfair and un-credible elections”; statement comes after MDC-T in March filed Constitutional Court application seeking postponement of general elections scheduled for summer. Local advocacy group Election Resource Centre 12 April said suspending elections would threaten country’s democracy, and constitution provides that old boundaries apply if new delimitation report is completed less than six months before elections or deemed unconstitutional. President Mnangagwa 19 April vowed to proclaim election date in late May. Ruling party Zanu-PF second secretary Kembo Mohadi 20 April said party had reached agreements with traditional leaders to secure votes. Main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) deputy spokesperson Gift “Ostallos” Siziba few days later expressed concern about vote buying and exploitation of traditional leaders.
Opposition continued to face judicial harassment. Court 5 April sentenced CCC lawmaker and spokesperson, Fadzayi Mahere, to pay fine on charges of “communicating falsehoods”; however acquitted her of “promoting and inciting public violence”. NGO Amnesty International next day said sentence showed “escalating assault on freedom of expression”, 18 April lamented “rapidly shrinking civic space”, including criminalisation of dissent and targeting of political activists and human rights defenders. Mahere 26 April filed appeal. Court in Harare 28 April sentenced Transform Zimbabwe opposition party activist Jacob Ngarivhume to four years in prison (including one suspended) for “inciting public violence” in 2020.
Taliban battled Islamic State’s local branch and resistance groups, humanitarian appeal faced funding shortfall amid threat of famine, and Taliban pursued regional engagement.
Taliban continued crackdown on Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) and raids on resistance groups. After Taliban late March allegedly killed ISKP’s number two and group conducted suicide bombing in capital Kabul, Taliban 1 April announced it had imprisoned approximately 1,700 ISKP fighters and killed over 1,100 since its takeover in 2021. U.S. officials 25 April announced that Taliban had killed ISKP mastermind behind 2021 Kabul airport bombing, which claimed lives of estimated 170 Afghans and 13 American troops. Taliban security forces 11 April announced killing of two top Afghanistan Freedom Front commanders in raid in Parwan province (north). National Resistance Front (NRF) spokesman 8 April announced his resignation, hinting at group’s fragmentation. NRF leader Ahmad Massoud 24 April attended anti-Taliban leaders meeting in Austrian capital Vienna.
UN sounded alarm of famine amid serious lack of funding. World Food Programme during month reiterated warning that country is at highest risk of famine in quarter century and its food distributions will dramatically decrease in coming months before ceasing altogether in June unless new funds are pledged. Prospect of additional funding, however, diminished after Taliban authorities 5 April banned UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan from employing Afghan women, effectively extending NGO ban on female employment; UN warned that unless ban is lifted, it might be unable to continue operations, and UN Security Council 27 April unanimously condemned ban. Meanwhile, Ministry of Finance 9 April announced it had generated approximately $2.2bn in revenue in last fiscal year, increase of 37% from previous year, likely due to rise in exports.
Taliban remained active on diplomatic front amid tensions with Pakistan. Russia 3 April reopened its consulate in Balkh province (north). Taliban 16 April claimed Kazakhstan was ready to accept Taliban diplomats following meeting with Kazakhstan’s Deputy PM in Kabul. Taliban FM Amir Khan Muttaqi 13 April attended Fourth Meeting of Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan’s Neighbours in Uzbekistan’s Samarkand city, where China, Iran, Pakistan and Russia expressed concern over rising security threats in Afghanistan. Pakistani defence minister 13 April warned Pakistan would target Pakistani Taliban hideouts inside Afghanistan (see Pakistan).
Violent clashes continued between govt and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) supporters, while insecurity persisted in Rohingya refugee camps and Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Violence continued as BNP continued countrywide anti-govt campaign. BNP Sec-Gen 8 April urged Awami League govt to resign if it “wants to avoid conflicts”; in response, FM AK Abdul Momen ruled out dialogue ahead of Jan 2024 election. BNP continued anti-govt protests during month, notably staging sit-ins in 13 cities and around 650 other locations on 8 April to highlight ten-point demands, which include govt resignation and parliament’s dissolution; police and Awami League supporters same day clashed with protesters in Natore district, injuring scores. Suspected Awami League student supporters 7 April ransacked BNP office south of capital Dhaka. Assailants 13 April hacked to death BNP official in Chapainawabganj district in northwest. Dhaka court 13 April finalised corruption charges against BNP acting chairman Tarique Rahman and his wife. Following series of fires in Dhaka markets, PM Sheikh Hasina 15 April requested authorities investigate potential BNP involvement in attempt to “cripple the economy”.
Insecurity and food aid concerns persisted in Rohingya refugee camps. Security forces 11 and 14 April killed two Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) local commanders in Ukhiya camps. Residents blamed ARSA for 15 April killing of camp leader in Ukhiya. Border Guards 25 April announced record 22kg seizure of crystal methamphetamine in Cox’s Bazar area from Myanmar. Myanmar authorities 3 April said only 56,000 of 87,000 Rohingya who Bangladesh had proposed for repatriation had previously lived in Myanmar, heightening concerns Naypyitaw is unwilling to take back significant proportion of estimated 1.2mn Rohingya in Bangladesh. Washington 11 April announced $23.8mn in urgent aid to Rohingya refugees, amid World Food Programme’s funding shortfall.
Deadly clashes erupted between armed groups in Chittagong Hill Tracts. Authorities 7 April found bodies of eight members of Bawm ethnic minority – a Kuki-Chin subgroup – in Rawangchhari area; Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) claimed seven were its members and blamed rival group for deaths, as police believed victims were killed in gunfight previous day that forced 250 people to flee. KNF and United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF) 25 April reportedly clashed in Bandarban district.
China continued maritime presence in Japan’s territorial waters as sides held talks in Tokyo, where both aired grievances and pledged to establish hotline.
Chinese maritime presence continued, Japan protested China’s satellite launch. As of 27 April, Japan detected 103 Chinese vessels inside Japan’s contiguous zone during month, while 11 vessels were detected within Japan’s territorial sea. Japan 19 April protested China’s “extremely regrettable” actions to launch weather satellite despite risk of falling debris in East China Sea and for announcing no-fly zones in area.
Tokyo and Beijing held maritime talks. Japan and China 10 April held first in-person maritime talks in Japanese capital Tokyo since 2019. Japan underlined importance of peace in Taiwan Strait, urged Beijing to stop its coastguard ships entering Japanese waters, expressed concerns about Beijing’s military activity near Japan and its coordination with Russia, and protested against China’s construction of two new structures in East China Sea discovered last year. For their part, Chinese officials criticised Japan’s recent “negative moves” regarding East and South China Seas, disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, and Taiwan Strait and demanded Tokyo stop “all words and deeds” that violate China’s territorial sovereignty, undermine its maritime rights and interests, and meddle in Taiwan issue. In positive step, China and Japan made progress on setting up hotline to resolve maritime disputes; China pledged to speed up its use while Japanese media reports suggested hotline could begin operating as early as spring this year.
In other important developments. In joint statement, G7 18 April expressed concerns over situation of East and South China seas, and urged China to abstain from threats, coercion, intimidation, or use of force; China reacted harshly, accusing G7 of interfering in its internal affairs and issued demarche to Japan, which hosted G7 summit.
Tensions with China remained elevated over border dispute, while Maoists conducted deadly attack in centre.
Border dispute with China remained prominent as Beijing named disputed areas. China’s civil affairs ministry 2 April issued list of “standardised” names for 11 locations in areas claimed and administered by India as part of Arunachal Pradesh state (north east), marking Beijing’s third attempt since 2017 to rename places under Indian administration and control; govt 4 April rejected move “outright”. Home Minister Amit Shah 10 April visited Arunachal Pradesh to launch $585mn development scheme to bolster security of disputed border, in response to Chinese initiatives to develop villages along Line of Actual Control (LAC). After meeting Indian counterpart in New Delhi, Chinese defence minister 27 April remarked border was “stable overall”, while Indian statement said Beijing had eroded “entire basis” of relations.
Maoist violence continued in centre. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), Maoists 18 April attacked Legislative Assembly member in Bijapur district, who escaped unhurt; earlier same day, security forces killed Maoist and captured two during operation in Bijapur forests. Maoist IED 26 April killed ten security forces personnel and one civilian in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district. In Jharkhand state (east), Maoists declared 14-15 April shutdown after security forces killed five Maoists in Chatra district 3 April. Police 18 April arrested member of pro-Maoist organisation People’s Liberation Front of India from Jharkhand.
In other important developments. At 17 April India-Russia business dialogue in capital New Delhi and amid bilateral free trade agreement talks, FM S. Jaishankar said relations with Russia remained steady and suggested ties could expand further, reiterating that “we share a commitment to a multi-polar world” and “multi-polar Asia”.
Pakistan protested India’s plans to host G20 meeting in May in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), while militants conducted deadliest attack since 2021, raising prospect of further attacks around summit.
Tensions persisted between New Delhi and Islamabad ahead of G20 meeting. Pakistan 11 April expressed “strong indignation” over India’s plans to host G20 summit in J&K’s capital Srinagar on 10-12 May, claiming India hoped to divert attention from its suppression of Kashmiris and accusing India of “self-serving measures to perpetuate its illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir”; militants may seek to stage attacks before or during summit of tourism ministers to garner international attention and spoil govt’s ambition to demonstrate its claimed success in restoring peace and order in valley. In response to comments by former J&K governor Satya Pal Malik on 15 April that Feb 2019 Pulwama suicide attack was result of intelligence failures, Pakistani foreign ministry next day said “his disclosures demonstrate how the Indian leadership has habitually used the bogey of terrorism from Pakistan to advance false victimhood narrative and the Hindutva agenda clearly for domestic political gains”; remarks came as opposition lawmakers questioned status of inquiry into attack. Indian border security forces 9 April exchanged fire with Pakistani intruders, claiming to have killed one and arrested two in Poonch district near Line of Control.
Insecurity persisted in J&K as militants staged deadly attack. In deadliest attack since Oct 2021, militants 20 April assaulted army truck in southern Rajouri sector of Kashmir, killing five soldiers and wounding one; attack, for which militants appeared to use NATO ammunition left behind in Afghanistan, cast shadow over G20 meeting next month. Earlier, security forces claimed to have arrested Laskhar-e-Tayyaba sympathiser in Bandipore district on 5 April and two Laskhar-e-Tayyaba militants in Baramulla district on 11 April.
Separatist fighters in Papua region killed four Indonesian soldiers amid operation to liberate kidnapped New Zealand pilot.
Separatists launched deadly ambush on soldiers in Papua. Members of West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) – military wing of Free Papua Organisation – 16 April claimed ambush killed nine soldiers in remote, mountainous regency of Nduga, Papua province, where group in Feb kidnapped New Zealand pilot Philip Mehrtens. Indonesian armed forces 20 April confirmed that separatist attack on 36 military personnel searching for Mehrtens had killed four soldiers and wounded five, with one unaccounted for. Amnesty International 18 April expressed concern that military had raised operational status in Nduga to “combat alert”, citing heightened safety risks for civilians and pilot; Amnesty noted that “the potential for human rights violations with fatalities is also getting bigger”. In video released by TPNPB in late April, Mehrtens confirmed “I’m still alive – I am healthy”; TPNPB urged New Zealand to mediate and demanded security forces cease operations in region.
Security forces killed suspected jihadists in shootout in Sumatra. Counter-terrorism police 12 April killed two suspected militants of outlawed al-Qaeda-linked group Jemaah Islamiyah in gunfire exchange in Lampung province in southern Sumatra Island, part of broader crackdown on group amid reports that it is training and recruiting new members.
North Korea claimed successful solid fuel missile test and hinted at satellite launch, U.S. and South Korea boosted alliance with new accord, and Yellow Sea incident highlighted maritime tensions.
North Korea continued missile tests and indicated impending satellite launch. North Korea 13 April successfully carried out what it said was its first-ever flight test of solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Hwasong-18, marking potentially significant milestone in regime’s efforts to shield country’s missile forces from pre-emptive attack. Meanwhile, leader Kim Jong Un 18 April reaffirmed Pyongyang’s intention to launch what country calls “military reconnaissance satellite” in coming months, which is one of Kim’s five military priorities announced in Jan 2021. Kim’s remarks implied that satellite launch could be timed to coincide with U.S.-South Korea military drills in June marking 70th anniversary of alliance; statement followed North Korean claim on 5 March that it had developed powerful rocket engine that could guarantee successful satellite launch but satellite imagery suggested that construction work continues at main North Korean rocket launch site Sohae, likely ruling out imminent launch.
U.S. and South Korea boosted alliance with “Washington Declaration”. In first state visit to U.S., President Yoon met President Biden in Washington where pair 26 April unveiled new steps to bolster their alliance as 70th anniversary approaches: sides established new group to consult on nuclear planning akin to NATO mechanism, Biden reaffirmed commitment to extended deterrence and agreed to deploy nuclear submarine to south, and sides pledged to expand training and exercises; Yoon reaffirmed country's commitment to nuclear non-proliferation following comments earlier this year suggesting interest in seeking nuclear weapons. In response to G7 statement on 18 April that called for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear capabilities, North Korean FM Choi Son Hui 21 April insisted on permanence and non-negotiability of country’s nuclear deterrent.
South Korea responded to North Korean maritime incursion. South Korean navy vessel 15 April broadcast warnings and fired ten warning shots as North Korean patrol boat that crossed Northern Limit Line – de facto maritime border that Pyongyang refuses to recognise – near South Korea’s Baengnyeong Island in Yellow Sea, before North’s vessel retreated.
Regime launched deadly airstrikes as ethnic armed groups and resistance forces staged ambushes in north and southeast; authorities agreed to possible small-scale Rohingya repatriation and sentenced activists.
In north, regime airstrikes killed scores amid resistance ambushes. Continuing series of deadly airstrikes in late March, military 10 April bombed school in Chin National Defence Force (CNDF)-controlled Falam township, killing at least 11. Military next day conducted devastating air attacks during resistance ceremony in Kanbalu township, Sagaing region, killing at least 170, mostly civilians; UN human rights chief Volker Türk reiterated regime violations “may constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes”. Meanwhile, armed groups in Chin state stepped up lethal ambushes on military convoys: notably, Chin National Front 2 April attacked convoy between Falam and Hakha townships, inflicting casualties.
In southeast, heavy fighting resurged along Asian Highway, displacing thousands. People’s Defence Forces (PDF) and allied groups, including Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), late March began ambushes on regime outposts and along highway connecting to Thailand, claiming to have killed dozens of regime forces. Notably, KNLA-PDF “Cobra Column” 3-4 April inflicted heavy casualties in ambush on military truck and police station in Myawaddy. Fighting spread northward, as KNLA and resistance 5 April destroyed two Kayin State Border Guard outposts near Shwe Kokko town; clashes over subsequent week inflicted heavy casualties and forced 4,000 people to flee into Thailand.
Regime agreed to possible small-scale Rohingya repatriation, courts sentenced activists. Following months of negotiations, State Administration Council 3 April declared Myanmar would accept 1,100 Rohingya Muslim refugees and 30o Hindu refugees from Bangladesh; regime confirmed only 56,000 out of 87,000 refugees on list sent by Bangladesh (see Bangladesh). Meanwhile, court 6 April sentenced activist Wai Moe Naing to 34 years imprisonment and next day sentenced Kachin National Consultative Assembly leader Reverend Hkalam Samson to six years in prison.
Regime cemented ties to China and Russia. Senior Chinese official Wang Ning 2 April oversaw signing of agriculture, health and energy agreements with regime in capital Naypyitaw. Regime leader Min Aung Hlaing 3 April conferred honorary Thiri Pyanchi title on Russia’s deputy defence minister.
Constitutional crisis over Punjab election dispute fuelled tensions between govt and Supreme Court, while security forces ramped up operations against militants in north west.
Tensions mounted between govt and Supreme Court over Punjab polls. Supreme Court 4 April fixed Punjab provincial polls for 14 May, ruling that Election Commission’s decision last month to delay vote until 8 Oct was “unconstitutional”; former PM Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party welcomed ruling, while PM Sharif called it “mockery” of constitution and rejected order to prepare for polls. National Assembly during month repeatedly rejected govt bill to allocate election funds. Compounding dispute, President Alvi (PTI member) 9 April rejected govt bill to limit Supreme Court chief justice’s powers; parliament next day, however, adopted bill but before it was enacted into law on 21 April, Supreme Court headed by chief justice 13 April halted bill – marking first time in Pakistan’s legislative history that court blocked law yet to be enacted. Parliament 14 April passed another bill granting right of appeal in specific cases. Further deepening controversy, defence ministry 18 April urged court to permit nationwide elections on 8 Oct; Supreme Court next day dismissed request and warned govt of “serious consequences” if funds and security were not provided. Court 20 April asked major parties to reach consensus within week on date for nationwide elections but backed down on deadline 27 April after National Assembly speaker 26 April denounced judicial interference. PM Sharif 27 April won vote of confidence, strengthening govt’s position as negotiations same day began with PTI on election date.
Govt ramped up military operations against militants in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. National Security Council 7 April reportedly agreed to launch “all-out comprehensive operation” against “terrorism”. Notably, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, two military operations 5 and 15 April killed 18 militants in South Waziristan, leaving three soldiers dead. Gun battle with militants 9 April killed soldier in North Waziristan. Militants 23 April killed senior ex-army officer in Lakki Marwat district.
Relations remained strained with Kabul. Defence minister 12 April criticised Kabul’s failure in “stopping the use of their territory in attacks on Pakistan”, warning of resorting to “some measures wherever [terrorists] are”.
Sporadic violence and militant surrenders continued in south, while fighting persisted between Communist militants and military.
Insecurity persisted in Bangsomoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and adjacent areas. Police 12 April conducted law enforcement operation in Tulunan town, Cotabato province, killing five private militia members. In Sultan Kudarat province, IED 17 April wounded seven passengers in Isulan municipality bus terminal; armed forces same day said blast site evidence showed explosives were consistent with those used by Mindanao-based and Islamic State-inspired group Dawlah Islamiyah. Security forces 19 April killed one Dawlah Islamiyah member in Pagayawan town, Lanao del Sur province. Unidentified gunman 17 April killed Datu Salibo town councillor Demson Silongan. Two Moro Islamic Liberation Front commanders from 118 Base Command 19 April clashed in Dabenayan village, killing two civilians. Unidentified assailants same day killed Maguindanao Electric Cooperative manager in Datu Odin Sinsuat town, Maguindanao del Norte. Militant surrenders continued; notably, two Abu Sayyaf Group members 12 April surrendered to military in Zamboanga City.
Clashes continued between Communist rebels and military. Military operations and some militant ambushes by communist New People’s Army (NPA) in Mindanao Island in south, Visayas Islands in centre and Luzon Island in north killed at least 21 combatants and civilians; military in April claimed it had dismantled two of four remaining Communist fronts in Samar Island, rebels’ last bastion. Communist Party of the Philippines 20 April confirmed deaths of party leaders Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria-Tiamzon in Aug 2022 in Samar Island, Visayas; party disputed military report that both were killed in boat explosion during encounter with military forces, alleging couple was tortured, killed, and dumped on boat that later detonated.
U.S. and Philippines expanded defence cooperation and conducted largest-ever joint military drills, while tensions continued between Manila and Beijing.
U.S. and Philippines deepened defence ties amid large-scale exercises. Philippines 3 April announced location of four additional sites accessible to U.S. forces under Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement; three sites are situated in north, facing Taiwan. Announcement prompted local concern, as Cagayan provincial governor said U.S. presence could make areas a “magnet for an attack in case a war erupts”. U.S. and Philippines 11-28 April held 38th annual Balikatan exercises in largest-ever iteration and 11 April agreed to complete roadmap on delivery of U.S. defence assistance over next 5-10 years, and to finalise plans for combined maritime activities, including joint sails in SCS; pair also expressed concern over China’s land reclamation activities in Spratly Islands. USS Milius 10 April entered within 12 nautical miles of China-controlled Mischief Reef in Spratly Islands; U.S. Nimitz Carrier Strike Group 17 April operated in SCS en route to Thailand. Earlier, Japan 5 April revealed new guidelines to strengthen militaries of “like-minded countries”, with Philippines set to be among first beneficiaries, amid reports of possible U.S.-Japan-Philippines security framework.
Tensions persisted between Manila and Beijing amid regional diplomacy. China’s ambassador to Philippines 14 April said Philippines should oppose “Taiwan independence” rather than expanding U.S. access; Marcos 22 April met Chinese FM Qin Gang and pledged to “establish more lines of communication”. Philippine Coast Guard late month claimed more than 100 Chinese vessels were spotted nearby 18-24 April, and 28 April reported near collision between its patrol vessels and Chinese navy ship. Following his first official trip to China, Malaysian PM Anwar Ibrahim 3 April said Beijing expressed concern over Malaysian energy activities in SCS and next day stated Malaysia is prepared to negotiate with Beijing over dispute, prompting domestic political backlash. Malaysian foreign ministry 8 April clarified govt’s commitment to its own “sovereign rights and interests” in SCS. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 15 April met Vietnamese leader Nguyen Phu Trong in Vietnamese capital Hanoi in visit aimed at bolstering ties.
Govt engaged international lenders on economic recovery amid strikes against austerity, while govt’s new “anti-terrorism” powers provoked widespread opposition.
Govt discussed plans for economic recovery with international stakeholders. International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank 10-16 April held annual meetings in Washington, U.S., where govt and Central Bank officials met wide range of international lenders and development agencies. Finance ministers of Japan, India and France 13 April announced formation of committee of bilateral creditor govts to pursue debt restructuring negotiations with Sri Lanka; Japan said negotiation platform was open to all creditors and expressed hope China – Sri Lanka’s largest bilateral creditor – would join amid concern over its absence. Private bondholders met officials on reworking over $12bn in outstanding bonds.
Parliament approved IMF recovery plans amid strike action. Parliament 26-28 April debated and approved non-binding resolution to support implementation of IMF’s Extended Fund Facility; largest opposition party abstained. In response to possible strike action by teachers, President Wickremesinghe 19 April threatened to use emergency powers to declare education essential service, where strikes are banned, and initiate legal action against teachers; Wickremesinghe 17 April declared power, fuel, postal and health as essential public services.
Govt paused controversial Anti-Terrorism Act, following strong domestic and international reaction. Govt postponed bill’s introduction and promised consultation on legislation that would establish exceptionally broad definition of terrorism and grant executive and security agencies unprecedented powers of arrest and proscription; bill has been denounced as attack on democratic rights by international and national human rights groups and faced reported diplomatic backlash from Western govts. Tamil political parties 25 April organised one-day general strike in Tamil areas to protest bill as well as “Sinhalisation” of Muslim and Tamil-majority areas in north and east, amid increasing allegations of govt-supported land grabs.
In other important developments. U.S. State Dept 26 April sanctioned former navy commander W. Karannagoda for his alleged role in abduction and murder of 11 Tamil and Muslim men in final years of civil war. Country 21 April commemorated fourth anniversary of Easter Sunday suicide bombings amid widespread protests and senior Catholic officials criticising perceived lack of justice and proper investigation.
China launched three-day military drills in response to meeting between President Tsai and U.S. House Speaker, fuelling temporary uptick in tensions.
China launched military drills as President Tsai met Speaker McCarthy. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen 5 April met with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California, where both reaffirmed strong partnership between countries. In response, China 8-10 April held military exercises around Taiwan; notably, Taiwan 10 April recorded 91 Chinese military aircraft and 12 naval ships around island, with record high 54 aircraft crossing unofficial demarcation “median line”. China’s reaction was relatively muted in comparison to military drills held in response to Speaker Pelosi’s visit in Aug 2022. Chinese military activity continued during month: as of 28 April, Taiwan detected 548 Chinese military aircraft in its air defence identification zone (ADIZ) and recorded 148 sightings of Chinese vessels in surrounding waters. French Navy frigate 8-10 April and U.S. guided missile destroyer 16 April transited Taiwan Strait; U.S. Navy P8-A Poseidon patrol plane 28 April flew through strait.
China protested U.S. support for Taiwan, Europe debated its role. China 14 April announced sanctions on U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Michael McCaul for his recent visit to Taiwan. Beijing 19 April opposed Taiwan’s purchase of 400 Harpoon missiles from U.S. Following his state visit to China 5-8 April, French President Macron triggered controversy with remarks that France and Europe should not be drawn into conflict over Taiwan by U.S.; German FM Annalena Baerbock 13 April said conflict over Taiwan will have disastrous consequences and Europe cannot afford to be indifferent.
Former Taiwanese president concluded historic China visit, Taiwan's election campaigning picked up speed. Former Taiwanese President and opposition party Kuomintang member Ma Ying-Jeou 27 March-7 April visited China, becoming first former or current Taiwanese leader to visit mainland China since civil war; trip highlighted different approaches of Taiwan’s two main political parties with regards to cross-strait relations ahead of presidential election slated for Jan 2024. Meanwhile, Foxconn founder Terry Gou 18 April announced bid to become Kuomintang’s presidential candidate, while current Taiwan VP William Lai was officially confirmed as ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s candidate.
Militants in deep south stepped up attacks, casting shadow over dialogue process; meanwhile, country geared up for May general election that could oust establishment parties.
Security deteriorated in deep south amid surge in militant attacks. Militants escalated violence, including with platoon-strength assaults on defence outposts rarely attempted in recent years. In Yala province, some 20 insurgents 9 April attacked security outpost in Muang district with pipe bombs, grenades and small arms. In Narathiwat province, motorcycle gunmen 9 April killed Muslim defence volunteer in Tak Bai district; militants 13 April attacked security outpost in Sungai Padi district with pipe bombs and assault rifles, wounding three police officers. In Pattani province, IED attack 19 April wounded eight police officers in two-vehicle patrol in Saiburi district. Militants 14 April conducted near-simultaneous attacks in six locations across Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala, including: IED explosion on bridge in Muang; assault on security outpost in Reusoh district, Narathiwat; drive-by shooting on security outpost at Wat Chang railway station in Khok Pho district, Pattani; pipe bomb strike on ranger outpost in Raman district, Yala; and small arms assault on police at Cho Airong railway station, Narathiwat. Escalation comes after main separatist group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) had advised Malaysian facilitator, following sixth round of Peace Dialogue Process in Feb, that it was suspending participation in dialogue until new Thai govt enters office after May general election.
Preparation for May elections continued. Ahead of 14 May general election, main opposition party Pheu Thai and progressive Future Forward Party led public opinion polls, dampening prospects for establishment parties led by incumbent leaders PM Prayuth Chan-ocha and Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan; convincing victory for opposition parties will complicate efforts by establishment parties to form new govt to preserve political status quo.
Tensions with Azerbaijan continued to escalate as fresh fighting along border left seven dead; international efforts to restart stalled peace talks persisted.
Border skirmish killed seven, Azerbaijani soldiers detained after entering Armenia. Baku and Yerevan 11 April reported that renewed fighting on Armenian side of border close to Lachin road killed four Armenian and three Azerbaijani soldiers, with sides exchanging blame for incident; EU 12 April deplored “armed clashes”. Azerbaijani foreign ministry 13 April said Armenia had captured two Azerbaijani soldiers who entered Armenian territory and claimed video circulating on social media showed one soldier (who allegedly praised Azerbaijani troops for beheading Armenians and was later charged with killing Armenian citizen) was subjected to “torture and inhumane treatment” by civilians. EU 13 April, U.S. and UK embassies 14 April criticised “unacceptable” treatment; ombudsman 17 April denied mistreatment. Prosecutor’s office 11, 14 April charged soldiers with border trespassing and weapons smuggling, 17 April charged one with killing Armenian citizen. Meanwhile, tensions spiked over Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) after Azerbaijan installed checkpoint along Lachin Corridor (see Nagorno-Karabakh).
Foreign actors, notably U.S., worked hard to restart direct peace talks. U.S. officials 17 April travelled to Azerbaijani capital Baku, 18 April met Armenian officials in capital Yerevan as U.S. ramped up efforts to prompt resumption of negotiations; FMs late April arrived in U.S. for talks beginning 1 May. Meanwhile, PM Pashinyan 18 April restated Yerevan’s recognition of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and readiness to sign peace treaty, while emphasizing that both sides need to recognise other’s territorial integrity “without ambiguities” for durable peace; Azerbaijani President Aliyev same day reiterated demand that Armenia recognises that “Karabakh is Azerbaijan”, and said Armenians in NK should accept “Azerbaijani citizenship or find another place to live”.
Tensions with Armenia continued to escalate as fresh fighting along border left seven dead, international efforts to restart stalled peace talks persisted, and relations with Iran remained strained.
Border skirmish killed seven, Azerbaijani soldiers detained after entering Armenia. Baku and Yerevan 11 April reported that renewed fighting on Armenian side of border close to Lachin road killed four Armenian and three Azerbaijani soldiers, with sides exchanging blame for incident; EU 12 April deplored “armed clashes”. Foreign ministry 13 April said Armenia had captured two Azerbaijani soldiers who entered Armenian territory and claimed video circulating on social media showed one soldier (who allegedly praised Azerbaijani troops for beheading Armenians and was later charged with killing Armenian citizen) was subjected to “torture and inhumane treatment” by Armenian civilians. EU 13 April, U.S. and UK embassies 14 April criticised “unacceptable” treatment; Armenian ombudsman 17 April denied mistreatment. Armenian prosecutor’s office 11, 14 April charged soldiers with border trespassing and weapons smuggling, 17 April charged one with killing Armenian citizen. Meanwhile, tensions spiked over Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) after Azerbaijan installed checkpoint along Lachin Corridor (see Nagorno-Karabakh).
Foreign actors, notably U.S., worked hard to restart direct peace talks. U.S. officials 17 April travelled to capital Baku, 18 April met Armenian officials in their capital Yerevan as U.S. ramped up efforts to prompt resumption of negotiations; FMs late April arrived in U.S. for talks beginning 1 May. Meanwhile, Armenian PM Pashinyan 18 April restated Yerevan’s recognition of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and readiness to sign peace treaty, while emphasizing that both sides need to recognise other’s territorial integrity “without ambiguities” for durable peace; President Aliyev same day reiterated demand that Armenia recognises that “Karabakh is Azerbaijan”, and said Armenians in NK should accept “Azerbaijani citizenship or find another place to live”.
Tensions with Iran ran high. After Baku late March opened embassy in Israel’s capital Tel Aviv, Iranian Parliament 5 April issued statement criticising move. Authorities 6 April arrested six individuals suspected of working for “Iran’s secret service” to “overthrow” state, same day expelled four Iranian diplomats. Azerbaijani and Iranian FMs 7-8 April discussed disagreements and need to resolve them through dialogue, though situation remained tense.
Crackdown on opposition continued, and army conducted military exercises.
Exiled opposition leader called for access to political prisoners amid crackdown. Court in capital Minsk 7 April sentenced opposition politician and 2020 presidential candidate Valer Tsapkala to 17 years in prison in absentia. Another presidential candidate, Viktar Babaryka, sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment in 2021, was reportedly hospitalised late April; EU 27 April expressed concern, pointing to “traces of beatings”, while exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanousvkaya demanded diplomats be given access to political prisoners “to assess the conditions in which they are kept”.
Belarus held military exercises and asked Russia for security guarantees. Defence ministry 5 April announced three-day “tactical exercise” at Polish and Ukrainian borders, 19-22 April conducted further exercises to strengthen air defence, 22 April announced forces had completed training on Russian tactical nuclear missile systems. President Lukashenko 10 April asked Russia for security guarantees amid heightened tensions with West. Meanwhile, Canada 11 April expanded sanctions to include National Bank and eight other banks in Belarus due to its support for “Russia’s illegal invasion” of Ukraine.
Republic of Cyprus pursued initiative to expand EU involvement to reignite talks, while Turkish Cypriots expressed strong opposition; sides continued dialogue under UN auspices.
Republic of Cyprus President Christodoulides advanced proposal for active EU role. After Christodoulides visited Belgian capital Brussels in March to propose greater EU involvement in Cyprus issue, Greek Cypriot FM Kombos 2 April explained country is expecting Turkish Cypriots to make next move. Christodoulides 22 April said “everything depends on how Turkey will act” following elections in May (see Türkiye), adding that Ankara’s post-earthquake steps toward rapprochement with West and regional countries, if continued, would pave way for diplomacy over Cyprus. Meanwhile, Christodoulides 5 April visited Egypt to hold talks with President Sisi on Cyprus issue, bilateral ties and energy, signalling country’s desire to enhance regional engagement.
Turkish Cypriots voiced opposition to Christodoulides’ initiative. After foreign ministry of “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”) in March voiced opposition to EU involvement given bloc’s “partial attitude”, de facto FM Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu 5 April said “TRNC” would review diplomatic status of EU’s office in north as well as relations with bloc given EU has not recognised “TRNC”. After Republic of Cyprus and U.S. late March signed partnership deal for cooperation on maritime security and other issues, “TRNC” 1 April condemned deal, saying it served to strengthen armament of Republic of Cyprus. “TRNC” 8 April condemned U.S. for anchoring attack submarine in Republic of Cyprus; Türkiye next day reiterated calls for U.S. to reconsider policies that disrupt balance on island. “TRNC” 27 April condemned Greek Cypriot navigation advisory for drilling preparations in contested economic zone in eastern Mediterranean. Meanwhile, “TRNC” 1 April deepened cooperation with Türkiye by signing $500mn Financial and Economic Protocol, which includes financial aid as well as funds for new schools, health facilities and national disaster centre.
Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots continued UN-facilitated dialogue. Under auspices of UN peacekeeping force, Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot negotiators 11 April met as part of regular dialogue related to bicommunal Technical Committees and issues of shared concern; negotiators 27 April discussed future settlement prospects and Technical Committees.