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

siječnja 2024

Africa

Benin

Jihadist violence persisted and opposition warned President Talon against seeking third term in 2026 election.

Jihadist attacks persisted in north. Suspected al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) insurgents 1 Jan clashed with military in Tissoua locality, Alibori department, leading to death of five militants. Local sources also reported movement on 9 Jan of JNIM militants near Park W, Alibori. 

Tensions started to build ahead of 2026 general elections. Former president and leader of opposition party Les Démocrates Thomas Boni Yayi 1 Jan warned President Talon against attempting unconstitutional third term in 2026 and accused ruling party of planning to change constitution; govt denied claim. Constitutional Court 4 Jan called on National Assembly to amend electoral calendar for 2026 general elections, and MP from ruling coalition 26 Jan submitted constitutional amendment bill to parliament to revise electoral calendar. Les Démocrates and three other opposition parties 29 Jan held consultations in commercial capital, Cotonou, stated opposition to constitutional reform.

Burkina Faso

Ouagadougou announced withdrawal from West African regional bloc alongside Mali and Niger, dealing blow to regional integration; authorities claimed foiling coup attempt and Russian troop deployment continued.

Junta announced leaving ECOWAS, defying pressure to restore constitutional rule. Junta leaders of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger 28 Jan announced leaving ECOWAS, denouncing “inhumane” sanctions imposed by regional bloc following coups. ECOWAS immediately said three countries were “important members of the Community” and bloc “remains committed to finding a negotiated solution to the political impasse”; also said it had not yet received formal withdrawal notification.

Deployment of Russian troops accelerated. Contingent of about 100 Russian military personnel 24 Jan reportedly arrived in capital Ouagadougou in what appeared to be initial phase of 300-member force deployment.

Authorities continued to silence dissent amid report of coup plot. Authorities 18 Jan announced foiling coup attempt scheduled to take place 14 Jan, accused network of military officers, as well civilians and activists, of conspiring to destabilise institutions. Meanwhile, silencing of dissent continued. Notably, men in civilian clothes 24 Jan arrested lawyer and political activist Guy-Hervé Kam in capital Ouagadougou on undisclosed charges; his political movement accused transitional authorities of orchestrating “kidnapping”.

Govt forces and civilian auxiliaries continued to clash with jihadist militants. In Centre-North region, al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) militants 3 Jan attacked military base in Gabou town, Sanmatenga province, killing seventeen members of state-sponsored civilian militia (VDPs). In Sahel region, army 21 Jan reportedly killed prominent leader of Islamic State Sahel Province, Harouna Oulel, near Oueldi village, Oudalan province. NGO Human Rights Watch 25 Jan accused security forces of killing at least 60 civilians in drone strikes between Aug and Nov 2023, said attacks may amount to war crimes. Transitional President Capt. Traoré 5 and 10 Jan shared details about previously announced tax hikes on salaries and govt bonuses and benefit increases for VDPs; new taxes illustrate Ouagadougou’s financial difficulties, while prospect of better conditions for VDPs may backfire if authorities fail to fulfil promises.

Burundi

Diplomatic spat with Rwanda intensified with border closure, amid escalating rhetoric and reports of troop build-up along border; crisis is part of three-way tussle involving DR Congo

Burundi closed border with Rwanda amid escalating rhetoric. Interior Minister Martin Niteretse 11 Jan announced decision to suspend diplomatic relations and close all borders with Rwanda over Kigali’s alleged support for RED-Tabara rebels. Kigali immediately labelled move “unfortunate decision” that violates principles of East African Community (EAC) regional bloc, which 12 Jan called for “peaceful settlement” of dispute. SOS Médias Burundi 14 Jan reported arbitrary arrest of at least 38 Rwandan nationals in Mugina commune, and 58 others in Rugombo commune, both Cibitoke province, since 11 Jan; most of them were reportedly repatriated to Rwanda in following days. President Ndayishimiye 21 Jan said Rwandans are “prisoners of bad leaders”. Kigali next day denounced “inflammatory allegations aimed at sowing division among Rwandans”, and President Kagame 23 Jan vowed to “fight” to protect Rwanda. Gitega same day accused Rwanda of recruiting Burundian refugees in Rwanda to join RED-Tabara. In further sign of growing tension, SOS Médias Burundi 25 Jan reported increasing number of soldiers and ruling party youth wing (Imbonerakure) policing border with Rwanda (see Rwanda). 

Authorities intensified clampdown on main opposition party. Interior ministry 17 Jan sent letter to main opposition party, National Council for Freedom (CNL) – whose activities are currently suspended due to govt-orchestrated internal dispute – accusing it of collaborating with terrorist organisation and threatening “consequences”. Move came after CNL 2 Jan co-signed letter sent by platform of civil society and political groups to guarantors of 2003 Arusha agreement, urging them to support agreement’s continued application. 

In another important development. Former PM Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni 2 Jan reportedly lodged appeal after being sentenced late 2023 to life imprisonment on several charges including attempting to overthrow govt and threatening president’s life.

Cameroon

Govt continued military campaign to subdue independence-seeking Anglophone militias, while jihadists kept up attacks in Far North region. 

Security situation in Anglophone regions remained dire. Govt aircraft 10 Jan crashed in Kikaikelaki town, near Kumbo city, Bui division (North West region); exchange of fire followed between Anglophone separatist combatants and govt forces, with unknown casualties; military said aircraft suffered mechanical failure, while separatists claimed shooting it down. For first time since Dec 2019, govt 20 Jan said army 9 Jan killed separatist militia Ambazonia Defence Forces ground commander in clashes near Batibo town, Momo division (North West). Meanwhile, govt’s renewed attempt to crush weekly general strike called by separatists, dubbed “Monday ghost town”, ratcheted up tensions. Notably, separatists reportedly trying to enforce ghost town 15 Jan attacked police station and fired shots for hours in Nkwen neighbourhood of North West regional capital Bamenda. Fako Black Tar separatist militia overnight 29-30 Jan raided parts of South West regional capital Buea and killed at least two civilians, claiming residents did not comply with ghost town order. Separatist faction Interim Government of Ambazonia 29 Jan announced ending cooperation with UN agencies, putting humanitarian operations at risk. Biafra separatist militants from Nigeria 12 Jan reportedly attacked Cameroonian govt forces in Abana town, Bakassi Peninsula (South West).

Jihadist militants kept up attacks on military, civilians in Far North region. Boko Haram 1 Jan killed four Christians and abducted ten others celebrating New Year in Bargaram village, Logone-et-Chari division; in video posted online, militants vowed to avenge Palestinian victims of war in Gaza. Army 7-8 Jan repelled jihadist attack on military post in Zamga town and cleared three landmines near Djibrili town, both Mayo-Tsanaga division, while Boko Haram 20 Jan killed at least five civilians in two villages of Mayo-Tsanaga. Suspected Boko Haram gunmen 10 Jan abducted three staff members of international humanitarian organisation Première urgence in Yémé village, Mayo-Sava division. 

President Biya announced fuel price increase in bid to cut spending. In his end-of-year address, Biya 31 Dec announced further reduction of fuel subsidy in 2024; move could further increase cost of living and fuel popular discontent.

Central African Republic

Authorities appeared set to eliminate potential rivals before 2025 elections, while incidents involving explosive device attacks compounded already dire security situation. 

Authorities settled scores with potential dissidents and election rivals. Joint patrol of govt forces and Russian paramilitary Wagner Group 3 Jan arrested mayor of Baboua, Caprang Ephraim, and commander of north west defence zone, Col Modoua, in Nana-Mambéré prefecture; detentions may be related to inter-ethnic disputes within military, particularly over control of mineral resources. Court in capital Bangui 17 Jan sentenced in absentia former National Assembly speaker, Karim Meckassoua, to life imprisonment on charges of endangering state security and colluding with Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) rebels. 

President Touadéra continued hazardous push to diversify security partners. Around 150 people from pro-Russian civil society platform Initiative Committee for the Control and Investigation of the U.S. Actions 25 Jan demonstrated in front of U.S. Embassy in Bangui to demand withdrawal of U.S.-based private security company Bancroft Global Development; protest came after presidency in Dec confirmed military cooperation agreement between govt and Bancroft. Wagner’s reaction could turn into something more worrisome if Touadéra is not able to share duties and benefits among security partners. 

Security situation marked by resurgence of explosive device attacks. Improvised explosive device (IED), possibly linked to armed group Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R), 11 Jan killed three civilians and injured another in Bouar town (Nana-Mambéré prefecture). Another IED 15 Jan killed one UN peacekeeper and wounded another five in Mbindale village (Lim-Pendé prefecture). Meanwhile, Wagner elements 9 Jan attempted to shoot down unidentified object flying over their base in Ndélé town (Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture); local authorities next day imposed curfew and arrested ten civilians. Violent clashes between armed actors took place in various regions. Unity for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC) combatants 7 Jan attacked Azandé Ani Kpi Gbé (AAKG) ethnic militia in Obo town (Haut-Mbomou prefecture), resulting in at least three deaths. CPC elements 8 Jan attacked base hosting army and Wagner elements in Kabo town (Ouham-Fafa prefecture); fifteen rebels and four govt soldiers killed, and at least ten civilians wounded.

Chad

Transitional president maintained tight grip on power despite appointment of opposition leader as PM; authorities announced foiling destabilisation attempt, and pro-Sudanese armed forces hacking group targeted Chad

Opposition leader named PM, Deby endorsed as presidential candidate. Transitional President Gen Mahamat Déby 1 Jan appointed Succès Masra, founder of opposition party Les Transformateurs, as PM of transitional govt. Déby in following days asserted his authority, however. New govt formed 2 Jan kept key figures from previous govt while Masra secured only three ministries for his party. In likely bid to tighten control over Masra’s actions, Déby 8 Jan appointed Les Transformateurs defector, Moustapha Masri, as deputy head of his civilian cabinet. Ruling party Patriotic Salvation Movement of late President Idriss Déby 13 Jan nominated President Mahamat Déby as candidate for presidential election due to be held in Oct. 

Security situation remained precarious. Military 12 Jan announced foiling planned “insurrection” and arresting 80 armed officers, including alleged coordinator of insurrectional movement, Lt. Kouroumta Levana Guelemi; development might be related to interethnic struggles within national army. Almost 900 fighters from rebel coalition Union of Democratic Forces for Democracy 2 Jan gathered in Faya-Largeau city (Borkou province) with their president, Mahamat Nouri, to disarm as per 2022 Doha agreement, but govt’s inability to fund disarmament program could lead to tensions and further instability. Meanwhile, intercommunal conflicts continued in country’s centre and south; notably, clash between herders and farmers 6 Jan left one dead and unknown number injured in Abtouyour department (Guéra province). 

Cyberattack targeted Chad over stance on Sudan conflict. Pro-Sudanese armed forces hacking group, Anonymous Sudan, 10 Jan hit Chad’s internet infrastructure, causing hours-long internet blackout; group said attack was in retaliation for N’Djamena’s alleged support for paramilitary Rapid Support Force (RSF). Meanwhile, Chadian and Sudanese FMs 18 Jan met in Ugandan capital Kampala to discuss bilateral relations. 

In another important development. Déby 24 Jan met with Russian President Putin in Russia’s capital Moscow.

Comoros Islands

Post-election violence erupted as opposition contested President Assoumani’s re-election. 

Presidential election held 14 Jan despite boycott call by some opposition leaders accusing electoral commission of favouring ruling party. Electoral body 16 Jan declared incumbent President Azali Assoumani winner, giving him fourth five-year term. All five opposition candidates immediately cried foul, alleging ballot-stuffing and inconsistent results. Violent protests 17-18 Jan erupted in capital Moroni against Assoumani’s re-election; clashes between demonstrators and security forces left one person dead and at least 25 injured. Interior ministry 17 Jan imposed countrywide night-time curfew. Supreme Court 24 Jan confirmed Assoumani’s re-election.

Côte d’Ivoire

Main opposition party laid out plans for return to power in 2025, and govt affirmed American and Chinese diplomatic ties.

New PDCI leader promoted participatory and inclusive decision-making. Former Credit Suisse CEO, Tidjane Thiam, inaugurated 24 Jan as president of main opposition party Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI); Thiam mapped out party’s strategy to return to power in 2025, vowing to promote participatory decision-making to strengthen PDCI’s internal democracy, while calling for reform of Independent Electoral Commission. After launching membership campaign, party early Jan reportedly recruited nearly 4,000 new members.

Relations remained strong with Washington. During visit to Côte d’Ivoire, U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 23 Jan praised govt’s approach to security, notably making sure security forces understand “the needs, the concerns of communities”, as model for other countries. Earlier, Wall Street Journal newspaper 3 Jan reportedU.S. diplomats met with Ivorian officials to discuss possibility of setting up reconnaissance drone base in Côte d’Ivoire. 

In another important development. Govt 17 Jan also reaffirmed long-standing strategic partnership with China, as Chinese FM Wang Yi publicly thanked Abidjan for “firm support” on Taiwan issue.

Democratic Republic of Congo

President Tshisekedi inaugurated for new term as his coalition swept legislative and provincial elections; eastern provinces saw fierce M23 conflict and attacks on civilians by other groups. 

Tshisekedi sworn in as his coalition scored big in elections. Constitutional Court 9 Jan confirmed Tshisekedi’s victory in presidential election with 73% of vote, rejecting two legal challenges to provisional results. Tshisekedi sworn in 20 Jan after Moïse Katumbi and Martin Fayulu, second and third respectively in presidential contest, 18 Jan condemned decision but declined to call protests on inauguration day, citing security risks. Fayulu 20 Jan turned down Tshisekedi’s offer of official opposition spokesman position. Electoral commission (CENI) 14, 22 Jan published legislative and provincial election results, giving Tshisekedi’s coalition comfortable majorities. Earlier in month, CENI 5 Jan cancelled legislative and provincial elections results in two constituencies citing irregularities and disqualified 82 candidates for legislative, provincial and municipal elections over suspected fraud. 

M23 conflict persisted in North Kivu province. Pro-govt Wazalendo militia around 16 Jan clashed with M23 rebels on Karuba-Mushaki road in bid to capture Mushaki town (Masisi territory). After Wazalendo and army around 22 Jan launched offensive to take Mweso town (Masisi) from M23, bombing of civilian homes 25 Jan left at least nineteen dead. Fighting also reported in and around Sake town (Masisi), where bomb 27 Jan killed one civilian. Army drone strike 16 Jan killed two M23 commanders in Kitshanga town, which straddles Rutshuru and Masisi territories. Meanwhile, army 17 Jan claimed three Congolese soldiers killed or captured by Rwandan army previous day had crossed border “inadvertently” (see Rwanda). 

Other armed groups continued to wreak havoc in eastern provinces. In Ituri province, Islamic State-affiliated Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 8 and 12 Jan killed seven people in Irumu territory; 14 Jan killed eight in Mambasa territory. Group 23-30 Jan killed 26 in attacks across Beni territory (North Kivu). CODECO association of ethnic Lendu militias attacked Djugu territory settlements (Ituri), with eight people killed 1-2 Jan and three others 4 Jan. 

In another important development. Adam Chalwe, former leader of ex-president Joseph Kabila’s party, 6 Jan joined Alliance du Fleuve Congo, newly created politico-military group allied with M23.

Eritrea

President Isaias met with Somali counterpart amid heightened tensions over Ethiopia-Somaliland memorandum of understanding.

Ethiopia and Somaliland 1 Jan signed memorandum of understanding that would allow Ethiopia to develop naval base along coast of Somaliland; Hargeisa said deal includes recognition of Somaliland’s independence, though Addis Ababa’s commitment to this step appears tentative (see Ethiopia, Somaliland). Announcement ratcheted up regional tensions. Mogadishu, which views Somaliland as part of Somalia’s territory, 2 Jan called agreement an “act of aggression” and began rallying regional allies in order to exert pressure on Addis Ababa to halt deal (see Somalia). Notably, Somali President Mohamud 8 Jan met with President Isaias in capital Asmara. Mohamud next day claimed Isaias supported “the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Somalia”; Asmara issued no official statement but is widely expected to side with Mogadishu on issue amid deteriorating relations with Ethiopia. 

Guinea

Military govt granted pardon to alleged coup plotters, while international community voiced concern over media repression.  

Military officers pardoned of alleged coup attempt. Govt 2 Jan released video detailing coup attempt allegedly undertaken by two senior military officers at unclear date several months ago, which govt did not report at the time; pair admitted to attempting to overthrow transitional President Col. Doumbouya but were granted presidential pardon without official trial, amid lack of clarity over incident. 

Uncertainty around constitutional referendum persisted. Govt 23 Jan announced Doumbouya elevated to rank of general amid continuing doubts over domestic political future after he used 31 Dec New Year’s address to announce plans to hold constitutional referendum in 2024 as part of transition to civilian rule. Announcement came hours after deposed President Condé 31 Dec released video stating his intention to return to country and “re-establish democracy and constitutional order”. 

International community voiced concern over repressive govt tactics. After Dec crackdown on critical media, diplomats representing country’s most important partners in Conakry (including U.S., EU and China) 10 Jan expressed dissatisfaction with military govt’s restrictions on internet, social media and press; in response, govt in following days cited national security concerns and need to capture revenue generated by social media, while saying restrictions would end “very soon”. Media regulator, High Authority of Communication (HAC), 17 Jan suspended website Dépêche Guinée for nine months, and prohibited publishing director Abdoul Latif Diallo from “creating or providing his services to a news organisation” for six months. NGO Committee to Protect Journalists 31 Jan urged authorities to “immediately roll back the wave of censorship efforts unleashed on the press in recent months”.

Kenya

President Ruto threatened to defy courts, sparking fears of manipulation of judiciary, while sporadic attacks by Al-Shabaab, cattle-rustlers and criminal groups continued.

Ruto’s criticism of judiciary sparked concerns about independence of courts. President Ruto 2 Jan accused unnamed judges of “corruption” and working with opposition to impede govt’s policies, suggesting govt could defy judges’ orders; courts had put govt’s plans to raise taxes for projects including universal health coverage and affordable housing on hold citing unconstitutionality. Bar association Law Society of Kenya 12 Jan held countrywide protests denouncing attempt to intimidate judges. Chief Justice Martha Koome and Ruto 22 Jan met in Nairobi in bid to prevent further escalation; opposition leader Raila Odinga called meeting “irresponsible” accusing executive of holding judiciary “hostage”.

Al-Shabaab continued attacks near Somali border. Al-Shabaab 4 Jan attacked Kenyan military base in El-Waq town, just across border in Somalia’s Gedo region. Roadside bomb 15 Jan injured five police officers in Lafey town, Mandera county. Suspected Al-Shabaab explosive device 18 Jan killed police officer and injured four others near Bula Hawa border crossing in Mandera county.

Deadly cattle rustling and banditry persisted. Unidentified assailants 5 Jan killed three people attempting to retrieve stolen livestock in Elgeyo-Marakwet county. Suspected banditry attacks in Baringo county 8 Jan left three people dead on road from Marigat town to Chemoe village, and around 13 Jan killed another two people in Natan village.

In other important developments. Court 26 Jan blocked govt plan to deploy police to Haiti to lead UN-backed multinational mission, saying it was “unconstitutional, illegal and invalid” due to lack of “reciprocal arrangement” between Kenya and Haiti; govt same day vowed to appeal decision. Ruto 30 Jan said he would sort “paperwork” to push ahead with deployment.

Mozambique

Jihadist attacks surged in northern Cabo Delgado province, undermining govt’s claim of return to stability. 

Islamic State-affiliated militants intensified attacks in Cabo Delgado. Islamic State Mozambique Province (ISMP) from late Dec until 20 Jan carried out at least fourteen attacks, primarily in Mocímboa da Praia, Macomia and Muidumbe districts, leading to dozens of deaths and kidnappings. Notably, ISMP attack 5 Jan killed at least four people in Chimbanga village, Mocímboa da Praia. UN 22 Jan said attacks in Macomia and Muidumbe 26 Dec-17 Jan displaced 5,343 people amid reports of food shortages. ISMP 21 Jan reportedly occupied strategic Mucojo village in Macomia district, marking first significant settlement held by ISMP since it was expelled from Mbau town (Mocímboa da Praia) in Aug 2021; Mozambican troops abandoned their position after receiving threats from militants, amid reports suggesting deteriorating relations between Mucojo residents and military after troops mid Jan killed three civilians. ISMP explicitly linked series of attacks to Islamic State’s central command’s 4 Jan call for global offensive and 30 Jan said “preaching trip” was under way in northern Mozambique.

Attacks undermined govt’s claim that ISMP no longer poses threat. Bishop of Pemba diocese 2 Jan warned of “attitude of complacency” over situation in Cabo Delgado, while Denis Hurley Peace Institute of Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference 17 Jan accused Rwandan and Mozambican troops of preventing people from fleeing Mocímboa da Praia. Surge in attacks also heightened concerns that withdrawal of Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM), due to be completed by July, may be premature. Meanwhile international commission, announced late Nov by president of Islamic Council of Mozambique, in Jan began work to promote talks between govt and insurgents in Cabo Delgado. 

Political fallout from contested municipal elections continued. Attorney General 9 Jan dismissed request from main opposition party RENAMO to suspend Constitutional Council ruling that validated results of Oct local elections. Divisions also emerged within RENAMO after spokesperson 4 Jan announced current leader Ossufo Momade will be candidate in presidential election due to be held in Oct; others in party wished to wait for vote at party congress.

Nigeria

Islamic State affiliate claimed rare attack outside Lake Chad Basin; tide of kidnappings for ransom continued in and around Federal Capital Territory

Rare jihadist attack reported in central Nigeria amid continued violence in North East. Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) claimed first attack outside Lake Chad Basin since April 2022 with 2 Jan killing of four Christians in Nasarawa state’s Karu area, about 15km from federal capital Abuja; group vowed to attack non-Muslims anywhere to avenge Palestinians killed in Gaza. Meanwhile in north-eastern Borno state, Boko Haram 1 Jan killed twelve people in Gartamawa village, Chibok area, and 8 Jan attacked Gajiram town in Nganzai area, burning six people to death; two commercial vehicles 9 Jan ran over landmines along Ngala-Dikwa road in Ngala area, with eight people dead.In neighbouring Yobe state, suspected jihadist militants 5 Jan killed several people and set church ablaze in Kwari village, Geidam area.

Surge in kidnappings for ransom continued in and around Abuja. FCT’s Commissioner for Public Complaints, Dalhatu Ezekiel, 15 Jan urged federal govt to declare state of emergency in Federal Capital Territory (FCT) amid spate of kidnappings for ransom, including 2 Jan abduction of man and his six daughters in Bwari area. Similar attacks also took place in adjoining states. Notably in Kaduna state, armed groups 2-7 Jan killed at least 21 people and kidnapped 143 others in three villages of Kauru area and near Katari town in Kachia area, along Abuja-Kaduna highway. Gunmen 16 Jan also abducted seventeen residents of Tafa area, Niger state.

Criminal groups continued attacks and abductions in North West. In Katsina state, armed group 14 Jan stormed military camp in Nahuta town, Batsari area, forcing troops to flee; toll unknown. In Zamfara state, kidnappings for ransom 9-10 Jan targeted state’s finance ministry official and senior university lecturer in state capital Gusau. 

North Central saw several incidents of herder-farmer violence. Notably, gunmen 22-23 Jan killed at least 50 villagers in Plateau state, prompting 24-hour curfew and calls for authorities to curb herder-farmer violence. Suspected herders 31 Jan raided village in Agatu area, Benue state, killing at least nine people and kidnapping others.

Rwanda

Three-way tussle with Burundi and DR Congo intensified as Gitega closed border with northern neighbour amid escalating rhetoric, while Rwandan army shot Congolese soldier dead. 

Burundi closed border with Rwanda as both sides escalated rhetoric. Burundian govt 11 Jan announced suspending relations and closing all borders with Rwanda over Kigali’s alleged support for RED-Tabara rebels; Rwandan govt immediately labelled move “unfortunate decision” that violates principles of East African Community regional bloc, which 12 Jan called for “peaceful settlement” of dispute. Burundian President Ndayishimiye 21 Jan said Rwandans are “prisoners of bad leaders”. Kigali next day denounced “inflammatory allegations aimed at sowing division among Rwandans”, and President Kagame 23 Jan vowed to “fight” to protect Rwanda. Burundian govt same day accused Rwanda of recruiting Burundian refugees in Rwanda to join RED-Tabara, and late Jan reportedly increased number of soldiers and ruling party youth wing (Imbonerakure) policing border with Rwanda (see Burundi). 

Tensions with DR Congo led to deadly border incident. Army 16 Jan announced capturing two Congolese soldiers after they crossed into Rwandan territory near Rubavu town, and shooting another dead as he tries to open fire on Rwandan forces; Congolese army next day claimed trio had crossed border “inadvertently” and said it had referred to Regional Joint Verification Mechanism for repatriation of soldier’s body and release of other two. Congolese President Tshisekedi 30 Jan reiterated claims that M23 rebels are backed by Rwanda, referred to Kigali as “aggressor” which “occupies a portion of our territory” (see DR Congo).

Senegal

Top opposition leadersuffered major setbacks in presidential bids. 

Supreme Court 5 Jan upheld defamation conviction against opposition leader Ousmane Sonko and Constitutional Council hours later rejected his presidential candidate application. Constitutional Council 20 Jan released final list of twenty candidates for presidential election due in Feb, not including Ousmane Sonko and other opposition heavyweight Karim Wade, son of former president Abdoulaye Wade. Sonko 28 Jan endorsed Bassirou Diomaye Faye, imprisoned secretary-general of Sonko’s dissolved PASTEF party, as replacement candidate and called for his release.

Sierra Leone

Fallout from alleged coup attempt continued. 

Govt 2 Jan announced treason charges against twelve people for suspected involvement in alleged coup attempt in Nov 2023, and next day said former President Ernest Bai Koroma had also been charged with treason. Govt 8 Jan indicted 27 military personnel and sacked 48 others in connection with incident. Court 17 Jan granted Bai Koroma permission to travel abroad for medical treatment.

Somalia

Mogadishu reacted furiously to Ethiopia-Somaliland port deal; absent de-escalation, diplomatic row could weaken anti-Al-Shabaab campaign and further undermine regional stability.

Diplomatic row erupted over Ethiopia’s sea access deal. Govt rejected Ethiopia-Somaliland agreement signed 1 Jan, which grants Ethiopia sea access for naval facility via Somaliland, and potentially paves way for Ethiopia’s recognition of Somaliland’s independence (see Somaliland); Mogadishu 2 Jan denounced “act of aggression” violating Somalia’s sovereignty and recalled ambassador to Ethiopia for consultations. Thousands 3 Jan protested against agreement in capital Mogadishu, and President Mohamud 6 Jan signed bill nullifying deal. Govt mobilised support among international partners, with AU, Intergovernmental Authority on Development, EU, U.S. and others reiterating support for Somalia’s sovereignty. Mohamud also engaged regionally, travelling to Eritrea 8 Jan and to Qatar 22 Jan. Mogadishu 18 Jan rejected engagement with Ethiopia, saying “there is no space for mediation” until Addis Ababa retracts agreement. 

Operations against Al-Shabaab militants continued at slow pace. In Mudug region of Galmudug state (centre), security forces and Al-Shabaab 6 Jan clashed in Jeeh-jeeh area, and militants 24 Jan temporarily overran pro-govt clan militia position in Caad district. Airstrikes targeting militants in central states of Galmudug and Hirshabelle, including in Galhareeri 25 Jan, Cali Heyle 27 Jan, and Buq Aqable same day, showed govt’s reliance on international air support. Meanwhile, militants continued attacks, albeit at lower level; in Mogadishu, Al-Shabaab 11 Jan killed UN security guard in mortar attack targeting airport compound, and 16 Jan killed four people in suicide attack near Banadir regional administration. Suspected Al-Shabaab combatants 10 Jan also kidnapped several UN contractors after their helicopter crashed in Galmudug. Potential rupture in Somalia-Ethiopia relations would have significant consequences on security operations, given Somalia’s cooperation with Ethiopia against Al-Shabaab.

Puntland election cycle concluded peacefully with President Deni’s re-election. Puntland President Said Deni 8 Jan won second five-year term in indirect election; opposition largely accepted result despite alleging manipulation in selection of MPs who took part in vote; legislators representing Dhulbahante community participated in elections after SSC-Khatumo (self-declared administration for Dhulbahante in territory also claimed by Somaliland) vowed not to in Dec. Vote concluded peacefully, offering parties opportunity to move on from divisive episode.

Somaliland

In move that could revive election-related dispute, President Bihi refused to sign electoral laws; govt announced plan to give landlocked Ethiopia commercial and military access to sea, sparking domestic opposition and ratcheting up regional tensions. 

Electoral tensions re-emerged. President Bihi 22 Jan returned recently-approved electoral laws back to House of Elders over alleged procedural flaws, instead of signing them into law. Move re-ignited tensions and suspicions among opposition that Bihi does not want to hold presidential election by year’s end. Notably, opposition party Waddani same day vowed to “respond strongly and take swift action”. 

Deal with Addis Ababa sparked diplomatic crisis. Govt and Ethiopia 1 Jan signed Memorandum of Understanding for Addis Ababa to lease 20km stretch of Somaliland’s coastline to establish naval base and commercial maritime services; Hargeisa claimed Ethiopia would in return acknowledge Somaliland as sovereign state, which would make Addis Ababa first capital to recognise its independence from Somalia, while Ethiopia said it would conduct “in depth-assessment” of its position on the matter. Somaliland and Ethiopia’s army chiefs 9 Jan met in Addis Ababa to discuss military cooperation. Deal, which came days after Bihi and Somalia President Mohamud agreed to resume Somalia-Somaliland dialogue, caused international consternation. Notably, Mogadishu 2 Jan denounced “act of aggression”, vowed to defend Somalia’s territorial integrity by “any legal means” (see Somalia).

Domestic opposition to deal also emerged, auguring difficult implementation. Opposition called for more transparency over agreement, with Waddani party in days after announcement pointing to significant discrepancies between Ethiopia and Somaliland’s accounts of deal. Communities in western Somaliland (where naval base may be located), who hold historical grievances over perceived marginalisation by Isaaq (Somaliland’s largest clan), 6 Jan held demonstrations against potential transfer of land to Ethiopia. Police 6 Jan detained three journalists holding debate about agreement at TV station in capital Hargeisa. Meanwhile, defence minister 7 Jan resigned in protest at agreement, saying Ethiopia remained “number one enemy” and having Ethiopian troops stationed in Somaliland would be inappropriate.  

In another important development. Lull in fighting between govt and Dhulbahante clan militias in Sool region persisted.

South Sudan

Calls to postpone elections rose, intercommunal violence escalated in Warrap state and Abyei administrative area, as well as Jonglei state, and Sudan’s war drew closer to South Sudan. 

Calls to delay 2024 elections rose amid lack of preparedness. More voices called for extension of transitional govt’s mandate due to inadequate time to organise credible elections. Notably, South Sudan Opposition Alliance MP David De Dau 2 Jan proposed five-year extension. During meeting with UN envoy Nicholas Haysom, opposition leader Riek Machar 11 Jan maintained that his party Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in Opposition (SPLA-IO) will participate in polls only if key prerequisites, including census, constitution and unification of forces, are in place. 

President Kiir expelled Nuer leader as violence escalated in Abyei. Fighting between Twik Dinka from Warrap state and Ngok Dinka from disputed Abyei region continued to escalate. President Kiir 10-11 Jan met local officials amid mounting pressure, 16 Jan ordered expulsion of Nuer spiritual leader Gai Maciek from Warrap for aggravating violence; Maciek refused to leave, 18 Jan attacked cattle camp in Mayom county, killing fifteen and stealing 800 cattle. Twic youth and Maciek’s forces 27-28 Jan carried out attacks in Abyei, killing over 50, including two UN peacekeepers. 

Jonglei saw stepped-up intercommunal violence; army and opposition clashed in Unity. In breach of Jonglei State’s 2021 peace agreement, armed Murle youth from Greater Pibor Administrative Area 4 Jan attacked Dinka cattle camp in Duk county, killing 24 Dinka and stealing 7,000 cattle; gunmen 15 Jan killed Duk county chief in Poktap town. With Dinka mobilising for possible revenge attack, peace dialogue among Murle, Dinka and Nuer communities is at risk. Meanwhile, army-SPLA-IO skirmishes in Unity State 29 Jan injured at least two.

Alleged alliance between rebel general and Sudan’s paramilitary raised concern. Advances by Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) brought war closer to border with South Sudan (see Sudan). Unity State commander William Manyang Mayak 10 Jan claimed rebel general Stephen Buay and hundreds of Nuer fighters had allied with RSF and were planning attacks on oilfields, prompting army to deploy along border; Buay 30 Jan denied claims. 

Sudan

Paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) advanced south into Sennar, White and Blue Nile states, and began consolidating power in Darfur region; RSF leader’s diplomatic tour continued.

RSF advanced south and began consolidating power in Darfur. Following RSF’s Dec advance toward central-eastern Sudan and subsequent capture of Gezira state capital, army early Jan began arming civilians in Gezira; RSF 18 Jan threatened to continue offensives into eastern Gedarif, Kassala and Port Sudan states if civilian recruitment continues. In south, RSF early Jan surrounded Sennar city, Sennar state, and advanced toward White and Blue Nile states, triggering formation of new militias that support army. Meanwhile, RSF stepped up efforts to form civil administration and security structures in parts of Darfur region it controls. Notably, in West Darfur state it appointed new governor and pursued peace deals with local actors; in North Darfur state, it worked to de-escalate tensions with Darfuri armed groups, most of whom are Juba Peace Agreement signatories, and forged alliances to bolster security presence in state capital El Fasher. 

Fighting fuelled ethnic conflict in Kordofan region. In South Kordofan state, RSF 8 Jan attacked army position around Dilling town, leading to skirmishes with rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (al-Hilu) due to group’s ethnic affiliation with army; confrontation turned into ethnic-based conflict between non-Arab Nubian SPLM-N (al-Hilu) and RSF-affiliated Misseriya and Hawazma Arab militias. In West Kordofan state’s Babanusa town, RSF-army clashes 22-24 Jan reportedly killed and injured dozens.

Army stepped up offensives. Army renewed aerial offensives in capital Khartoum, as well as South Darfur and Gezira states; 27 Jan launched ground attacks in Khartoum’s north and south east amid offensive in sister city Omdurman. Addressing troops in Kassala state, Burhan 30 Jan announced shift in strategy, directing army and allies to launch full-scale offensive against RSF.

RSF leader continued diplomatic engagement. RSF leader Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti” continued regional tour, 18 Jan attended Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) summit in Uganda, prompting army 20 Jan to suspend Sudan’s membership in setback for IGAD mediation effort. Hemedti 2 Jan signed declaration with civilian coalition TAQADDUM, agreeing to ceasefire talks with army; army leader 5 Jan rejected declaration. 

Uganda

Human rights violations and repression of dissent continued, while govt kept up operations against Islamic State-affiliated rebels.

Civil society activists and opposition politicians remained under threat. Unidentified assailants 3 Jan stabbed prominent gay rights activist Steven Kabuye on outskirts of capital Kampala, leaving him in serious condition; fellow LGBTQ+ activists said homophobia and harassment have soared since draconian anti-LGBTQ law was enacted in May 2023. Police 18 Jan placed three opposition leaders under house arrest, including former presidential candidates Robert Kyagulanyi, alias ‘Bobi Wine’, and Kizza Besigye, ahead of planned protest demanding govt action to address deteriorating road conditions. In interview with French TV channel France 24 published 30 Jan, Wine called for “civil disobedience, a moral uprising, a revolution” against President Museveni.

Govt’s campaign against Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) continued. Museveni 9 Jan called on Islamic State-affiliated ADF rebels based in DR Congo (DRC) to surrender, and military 20 Jan reported killing three ADF combatants and rescuing eight hostages in Irumu territory, Ituri province in eastern DRC

In another important development. Museveni 5 Jan appointed three former govt-aligned legislators to leadership roles at electoral commission. Amid outcry from opposition, Museveni 17 Jan backtracked on two of these appointments prior to parliamentary confirmation hearings. 

Zimbabwe

Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa left Citizens Coalition for Change, claiming party had been hijacked by ruling ZANU-PF; economic climate drove migration. 

Widening rift between rival factions of main opposition party led to its implosion. Self-proclaimed secretary-general of main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), Sengezo Tshabangu – who triggered series of by-elections by recalling CCC elected officials – 15 Jan announced interim party leadership structure, challenging CCC president Nelson Chamisa’s hold on party. High Court 19 Jan ruled recalled CCC MPs and municipal councillors could not be candidates in next by-elections for six parliamentary seats due to be held 3 Feb. Chamisa 22 Jan accused unnamed members of CCC of “selling out”, and 25 Jan announced leaving “hijacked” party, reiterating Tshabangu’s rise is part of ploy by ruling party ZANU-PF party to infiltrate and divide CCC, and ultimately regain two-thirds majority in parliament. Meanwhile, court 30 Jan gave former opposition MP Job Sikhala two-year suspended sentence for allegedly inciting violence, but released him on bail after almost 600 days in pre-trial detention.

Gloomy economic outlook drove migration. Hike in passport application fees, effective 1 Jan, sparked rush for passports with long queues reported late Dec outside Harare’s passport office. Govt’s move is part of attempt to stem surge in migration amid lack of formal jobs and low prospects of economic recovery; govt data from 2022 reported 900,000 Zimbabwean emigrants, though number likely an undercount. 

Asia

Afghanistan

Islamic State’s local branch launched multiple attacks across country and in neighbouring Iran, while Taliban authorities made first arrest under draconian 2022 decree on women’s dress. 

After short pause, Islamic State resumed deadly attacks. In its first attack of 2024 following pause since mid Nov 2023, Islamic State Khorasan Province (IS-KP) 4 Jan beheaded Taliban member in Kunar province (north east). IS-KP 6 Jan conducted explosive strike in capital Kabul’s Dasht-e Barchi district, which killed two and injured over a dozen. Suicide explosion 14 Jan rocked office of provincial governor in Nimruz province (south west), killing three security guards; although unclaimed, it also bore hallmarks of IS-KP. Relatedly, IS-KP claimed twin bombings in Iran’s Kerman city that killed scores (see Iran). 

Taliban enforced conservative dress rules on women. Reports 2 Jan surfaced that Taliban authorities had arrested women in Kabul for violating religious hijab-wearing rules, marking first reported arrest for such violation since May 2022 decree enforcing rules; Taliban officials claimed women were detained and released on bail after male relatives had been informed. Meanwhile, crackdown on political space continued: reports indicated that Taliban authorities had arrested over dozen Hizb-ut-Tahrir members in Takhar province (north) as part of broader crackdown on group. 

Pakistan and Afghanistan took steps to repair ties, but bilateral tensions remained. Acting Deputy Defence Minister Shirin Akhund 3 Jan visited Pakistan for meetings with senior Pakistani officials. Pakistani politician Fazal-ur-Rehman 7 Jan visited Kabul; unconfirmed reports claimed Rehman was granted audience with Taliban emir, making him only the second foreign dignitary to meet Taliban leader in recent years. Talks followed months of tension between two countries over anti-Pakistan militants growing active in borderlands, but issue remains unresolved. 

Norway and UK engaged diplomatically with Taliban. Norway’s Chargé d’Affaires to Afghanistan Paul Klouman Bekken 9 Jan met Taliban’s Deputy FM for Political Affairs Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai. UK’s Chargé d’Affaires to Afghanistan Robert Dickson 12 Jan met Stanekzai; Dickson stated bilateral “engagement will be further enhanced in the future”.

Bangladesh

Ruling Awami League won fourth consecutive election marred by low turnout and boycott by main opposition party, while insecurity and hardship continued in Rohingya refugee camps. 

Awami League secured massive majority in largely uncontested election. Awami League 7 Jan secured 222 of 300 elected seats in national parliament, awarding PM Sheikh Hasina another five-year term that marks her fourth consecutive and fifth overall election victory; Awami League members who ran as “independent” won additional 61 seats. Poll, however, was uncompetitive as main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) boycotted vote following arrest of most of its party leaders since Oct. Officials claimed turnout was 42%, although many suspected real figure was as low as 28%. Voting on 7 Jan passed without major incident, although violence occurred between supporters of official Awami League candidates and those standing as independents. Potential arson on train in capital Dhaka 5 Jan killed four, which govt blamed on BNP, while police arrested Awami League youth leader after he 15 Jan allegedly hacked to death BNP supporter in Mymensingh city. After vote, U.S., UK and Canada said poll fell short of democratic standards, while India, China and Russia enthusiastically supported its outcome; threat of U.S. sanctions appeared to recede. Hasina now faces challenge of navigating crisis of declining foreign currency reserves and high inflation. While election marks major blow to BNP, party announced plans to hold “black flag” processions countrywide on 30 Jan to coincide with first session of new parliament; although party was able to reopen head office in Dhaka, Hasina before poll hinted at further crackdowns, including possible deregistration of party. 

Insecurity and hardship continued in Rohingya refugee camps. Newly-appointed FM Hasan Mahmud 14 Jan signalled support for proposed repatriation pilot project to return 3,000 refugees to Myanmar’s Rakhine state; heavy fighting in Rakhine, however, cast doubt over returns (see Myanmar). Meanwhile, police said armed and criminal violence 4-16 Jan killed four refugees. UN 23 Jan reported at least 569 Rohingya dead or missing in attempts to flee Bangladesh/Myanmar in 2023, highest toll since 2014. Following election, national newspapers displayed growing anti-Rohingya sentiment.

China/Japan

China maintained naval activity in East China Sea, while Japan strengthened defence posture amid regional threats. 

Beijing continued maritime presence. As of 28 Jan, Japan spotted 105 Chinese vessels in Japan’s contiguous zone, with six vessels detected in Japan’s territorial sea. Japan’s Coast Guard 11 Jan urged four Chinese vessels to leave its territorial waters, which marked first time Chinese coast guard ships entered such waters since 18 Dec. Japanese, South Korean and U.S. navies 16 Jan held three-day trilateral maritime exercise off South Korea’s Jeju Island to bolster regional security. 

Tokyo continued military build-up. Tokyo late Dec approved record increase in defence spending for 2024, accelerating deployment of long-range cruise missiles, amid perceived regional threats. Japan 18 Jan signed deal with U.S. to purchase up to 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles. Japan late Dec revised arms export guidelines to enable Patriot missile systems to be delivered to U.S. for onward transfer to Ukraine, prompting Russia to warn move could have “grave consequences” for bilateral relations.

India

Ethnic conflict in Manipur state in north east showed no sign of ending, security forces stepped up anti-Maoist operations in centre, and regional competition with China came into focus amid ongoing border dispute. 

Deadly attacks persisted in Manipur. Authorities 11 Jan recovered bodies of three people from Meitei community after four went missing previous day. Gunfight on border of Imphal West and Kangpokpi districts 17 Jan killed Meitei village volunteer; Meiteis 20-22 Jan held strike in protest. Armed assailants 17 Jan killed two police personnel in Moreh district, forcing state govt to ask central govt to send helicopters. Mob 17 Jan tried to attack police headquarters in Thoubal district, with three security forces personnel wounded from gunfire. Unidentified gunmen 18 Jan killed three Meitei men on Bishnupur-Churachandpur district border. Gunfight between armed Meiteis and Kuki tribals 27 Jan killed Kuki village defence volunteer in Kangkokpi district. Army chief 11 Jan said insurgent groups operating in Myanmar were seeking to cross into India to set up bases. 

Chhattisgarh state (centre) witnessed uptick in anti-Maoist operations. Shootout between Maoists and security forces 1 Jan killed six-month-old baby and injured mother in Bijapur district. Security forces 12 Jan killed Maoist commander in Bijapur. Security forces 20 Jan killed three Maoists, including two women, in Bijapur. Clashes 30 Jan killed three paramilitary soldiers. In state capital Raipur, Home Minister Amit Shah 21 Jan urged security forces to eradicate Maoism within three years. In Jharkland state (east), suspected Maoists 8 Jan set ablaze several vehicles near mine in Gumla district. 

Amid border dispute, strategic competition with China heightened in Indian Ocean. Army chief 11 Jan described situation along disputed “Line of Actual Control” as “stable but sensitive”, saying priority was to continue talks with Beijing and return to state quo ante before 2020 clashes. Indian media 14 Jan reported that Indian and Chinese forces had clashed on two occasions in 2022, which were previously undisclosed. In sign of strategic competition spilling into region, Maldives President Muizzu’s staff 14 Jan reaffirmed decision that Indian military personnel must leave country by 15 March; move followed Muizzu’s five-day state visit to China 7 Jan, where pair agreed to elevate ties.

India-Pakistan (Kashmir)

Militant activity remained at low ebb in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), while mandate of grassroots body of representatives expired as new regional elections remained in doubt. 

Militant attacks and security operations remained at low ebb due to winter. Security forces and militants 3 Jan engaged in gun battle in Kulgam district. Security forces 4 Jan arrested Hizbul Mujahideen militant from New Delhi. Security forces 5 Jan killed alleged Lashkar-e-Tayyaba militant in Shopian district. Authorities 21 Jan arrested juvenile harbouring militants. During annual press conference, India’s army chief 11 Jan claimed “increase in terrorism” in last five-six months in J&K’s Rajouri and Poonch districts, describing it as “one area our adversaries have been active in”; he claimed security forces killed 45 militants in last three years in area, while militants killed seven soldiers in Kashmir valley and twenty in Rajouri-Poonch area in same period. Security forces 27 Jan busted module of cross-border arms smuggling and arrested five militant associates in Kupwara district. 

Terms of grassroots political representatives expired. Mandate of 28,000 grassroots representatives elected in 2018 to first-ever three-tier system of representation in J&K officially ended on 9 Jan after completion of five-year term, bringing end to last semblance of political representation in region; calls continued for regional assembly election to be held this year, last of which was held in 2014, but no date has been set. 

Govt banned two separatist organisations. Ministry of Home Affairs 27 Dec declared Muslim League Jammu Kashmir “an unlawful association” for five years under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, accusing it of seeking to establish “Islamic rule in J&K”. Ministry 31 Dec declared Tehreek-e-Hurriyat unlawful for five years under same law, alleging “terror activities to fuel secessionism in J&K”. 

In other important developments. India’s Border Security Force 20 Jan seized consignment of arms and ammunition smuggled by drone, allegedly from Pakistan, in Punjab district. India 13 Jan protested UK High Commissioner to Islamabad’s visit to Pakistan-administered Kashmir, asserting “such infringement of India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unacceptable”. Pakistan’s FM 25 Jan claimed “credible evidence” of links between Indian agents and 2023 killings of two Pakistanis in Pakistan; India rejected allegation.

Korean Peninsula

Inter-Korean tensions escalated after North Korea fired artillery near South Korean island and formally dropped goal of unification, signalling Pyongyang’s intention to stoke tensions on peninsula in 2024. 

North and South Korea exchanged fire at sea, raising risk of major crisis. North Korea starting 5 Jan fired more than 200 rounds of artillery shells into seas around South Korean island of Yeonpyeong. In response, South Korea same day launched more than 400 artillery shells into same waters, having ordered civilians to seek shelter on island. Incident follows collapse in Nov 2023 of agreement reached at Sept 2018 inter-Korean summit, which had prohibited artillery fire in area, and may indicate North Korea’s intention to drastically raise tensions by manufacturing conditions for deadly clash in West Sea – scene of past deadly maritime escalations. 

North Korean leader took aim at reunification. Leader Kim Jong Un 15 Jan announced that Supreme People’s Assembly “newly legalised the policy of [North Korea] toward the south on the basis of putting an end to the nearly 80 year-long history of inter-Korean relations and recognising the two states both existing on the Korean peninsula”; Kim also called for reinforcement of land border with south, dissolved institutions dealing with inter-Korean relations, and urged constitutional revision to eliminate references such as “northern half” of peninsula. Moves mark most assertive measures against South Korea in recent years, likely aimed at countering Seoul’s soft power, exerting pressure on U.S. and south in election year and diminishing public resistance to war; steps nonetheless are reversible and align with Kim’s framework for reunification through federation – one state under two systems.

Pyongyang conducted weapons testing. 14 Jan tested solid-fuel hypersonic missile with intermediate range and 19 Jan conducted test of nuclear-capable underwater attack drone. North Korea 24, 28 and 30 Jan test fired cruise missiles into waters off western coast. 

Russia and North Korea continued engagement. North Korean FM Choe Son Hui 16 Jan met Russian President Putin in Russian capital Moscow in bid to "strengthen strategic and tactical cooperation". UK 22 Jan presented fresh evidence to UN indicating transfer of North Korean weapons to Russia for Ukraine war.

Myanmar

Regime remained on backfoot as ethnic armed groups in north expanded control before agreeing to another tenuous ceasefire, while Arakan Army made major gains in west; regime extended state of emergency for six months. 

Three Brotherhood Alliance seized territory in Shan State before partial ceasefire. After collapse of China-brokered peace talks on 23 Dec, heavy clashes continued between Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) – member of Three Brotherhood Alliance – and regime in Kokang Self-Administered Zone in northern Shan State, where MNDAA seized full control of Laukkai town as 2,400 soldiers 3 Jan surrendered. Brotherhood Alliance 6 Jan attacked Hopang and Pan Lone towns in regime-controlled part of Wa Self-Administered Division. Concurrently, Brotherhood member Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) clashed heavily with regime forces in bid to solidify its control in northern Shan State, capturing Kutkai town on 7 Jan; TNLA consolidated its position around Lashio, Kyaukme and Hsipaw towns. Following third round of China-brokered talks, regime and Brotherhood Alliance 11 Jan agreed to ceasefire in northern Shan State; TNLA, however, 13 Jan accused regime of launching airstrikes in Kyaukme and Mogoke townships. 

Arakan Army (AA) broadened its offensive in Rakhine. With 11 Jan ceasefire not applying to Rakhine theatre, AA (member of alliance) 15 Jan captured all of Paletwa township and detained regime brigadier-general before expanding operations further south, forcing battalion of regime soldiers to surrender in Minbya on 17 Jan, and seizing Pauktaw town, close to state capital Sittwe, on 24 Jan. 

Hostilities persisted in Kachin and Kayah states. After Kachin Independence Army (KIA) mid Dec captured two outposts in Kachin State from military and allied militia forces, KIA 3 Jan shot down regime Mi-17 transport helicopter near Laiza, killing six crew members. In Kayah, Karenni Nationalities Defence Force and other allied groups claimed to control more than 80% of state capital Loikaw. 

Regime extended state of emergency. Despite devastating battlefield losses and unprecedented nationalist criticism of regime leader Min Aung Hlaing, regime showed little sign of panic: Min Aung Hlaing 4 Jan announced plans to hold national census to improve voter list for general election. On eve of third anniversary of coup, regime 31 Jan extended state of emergency for six months.

Pakistan

Iran and Pakistan launched tit-for-tat cross-border strikes on alleged insurgents, militants continued deadly attacks in provinces along Afghan border and country prepared for 8 Feb general election. 

Iran launched cross-border strikes, prompting Pakistani retaliation. Dispute erupted after Iran 16 Jan launched cross-border strikes on village in Balochistan’s Panjgur district, claiming to target “strongholds” of Jaish al-Adl – anti-Iranian Baloch militant group. Pakistan claimed strike killed two children and recalled its ambassador in Tehran. Pakistan 18 Jan launched strikes on village near Iranian border city of Saravan, claiming to target Pakistani Baloch militants. De-escalating crisis, Tehran and Islamabad 29 Jan struck agreement on FM-level coordination mechanism and stationing military liaison officers at border. 

Militant attacks continued in provinces bordering Afghanistan, including on election candidates. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants 9 Jan killed six police constables and injured 28 in Bajaur district; militants next day shot dead three constables in Kohat district. Assailants 10 Jan shot dead election candidate in North Warizistan district. In Balochistan province, bomb 13 Jan killed five soldiers in Kech district. In Turbat town, assailants 25 Jan killed police constable in attack on election official’s office. Baloch militants 30 Jan killed four security personnel and two civilians in Mach city. Meanwhile, Interior Ministry 2 Jan said over 500,000 Afghans had been “repatriated” under ongoing forcible deportation drive. Head of Deobandi party Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam –Fazl (JUI-F) 8 Jan met senior Afghan Taliban officials and, reportedly, the Emir (see Afghanistan). 

Opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) faced setbacks ahead of 8 Feb elections. After former PM Imran Khan 26 Dec appealed to Supreme Court in bid to remove ban from public office ahead of polls, Khan’s main competitor Nawaz Sharif 8 Jan overcame last legal hurdle to contest polls after Supreme Court overturned lifetime ban. Supreme Court 13 Jan upheld Election Commission ruling that denied PTI its recognisable election symbol; PTI candidates will now contest election as independents. In further blow to PTI, special court 30 Jan sentenced Khan to ten years imprisonment in diplomatic cable case; Khan’s lawyers lodged appeal. In third conviction, court 31 Jan sentenced Khan to fourteen years imprisonment for illegally selling state gifts.

Papua New Guinea

Protests over surprise public sector wage cut sparked widespread rioting, killing at least 22 and forcing govt to declare state of emergency. 

Following unannounced docking of paycheques, which govt blamed on computer glitch, police and other civil servants 10 Jan declared strike and staged protest outside parliament in capital Port Moresby. Rioting and looting erupted throughout Port Moresby and Lae city, which observers blamed on opportunistic residents of poorer suburbs exploiting absence of police; unrest reportedly left 22 dead and caused extensive property damage. PM James Marape same day called in military and next day declared fourteen-day state of emergency, while suspending chief of police, who was reinstated 26 Jan. Marape 19 Jan announced cabinet reshuffle, facing prospect of no-confidence vote in Feb. Telecommunications Minister Timothy Masiu same day threatened social media shutdown over widespread misinformation around riots.

Philippines

Clan violence, rebel infighting and security operations continued in south, while security forces battled Communist insurgents.

Insecurity persisted in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). During reconciliation ceremony between members of Sinsuat clan in Cotabato city, shootout 3 Jan erupted between escorts of two prominent clan politicians. Bangsamoro regional police 15 Jan deployed personnel of elite Special Action Force in three towns in Lanao del Sur province and its provincial capital Marawi city to help local officials guard against clan wars and protect constituents from local terrorists. In Maguindanao del Sur province, armed men associated with Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) 105 and 106 Base Command 19 Jan clashed in Kulambog village, motivated by political rivalry. Security forces 26 Jan launched operations against jihadist group Daulah Islamiya in Lanao del Sur, killing nine militants – including two alleged suspects linked to deadly bombing in Marawi in Dec – and leaving four soldiers wounded. 

Clashes persisted between Communist rebels and military. Clashes between govt forces and Communists in Luzon Island (Sorsogon) in north, Mindanao Island (Agusan del Norte) in south and Visayas Islands (Negros and Samar) in centre killed at least nine combatants and civilians.

South China Sea

Amid mounting tensions, China and Philippines struck deal to improve maritime communication, while Manila sought to deepen military ties with Western partners. 

Beijing and Manila brokered communication agreement. China’s military 3 Jan launched two-day routine patrol in SCS, concurrently as USS Carl Vinson began drills with Philippine navy; Philippines military 4 Jan reported two Chinese navy vessels shadowed Philippine and U.S. ships. Philippine Coast Guard revealed video purportedly showing China’s Coast Guard harassing Philippine fishermen near Scarborough Shoal on 12 Jan; 27 Chinese maritime militia ships were spotted near Scarborough Shoal on 21 Jan. In rare move by regional leader, Philippines’ President Marcos Jr. 15 Jan congratulated winner of Taiwan’s presidential election and expressed hope for cooperation (see Taiwan Strait); China next day summoned Philippine ambassador, warned Manila “not to play with fire”. Philippine military chief 15 Jan announced intention to develop islands and reefs in SCS to make them habitable for troops, including enhanced provisions for troops stationed at grounded warship on Second Thomas Shoal. Philippine Defence Secretary Teodoro Jr. 17 Jan announced country was planning “more robust” military activities with U.S. and its allies in face of “more aggressive” China. In positive step, Manila and Beijing 19 Jan brokered agreement to enhance maritime communication in SCS, aiming to defuse tensions and manage differences around contested areas. 

Philippines deepened defence ties with Western partners. Philippines 11 Jan signed defence agreement with UK that could expedite Manila’s military modernisation through access to UK’s advanced weapons systems. German FM Annalena Baerbock 13 Jan met Marcos Jr. and FM Enrique Manalo and pledged €129mn assistance to coast guard, including additional drones for SCS operations; Baerbock expressed concern over China’s SCS activities. Philippines and Canada 19 Jan signed memorandum of understanding to enhance defence cooperation. 

Disputes between China and Vietnam came into focus. U.S.-based research organisation early Jan reported presence of Chinese coast guard ship 5901 near Vietnam’s oil exploration blocks at Vanguard Bank in SCS since early Dec. Vietnam 20 Jan asserted its claim over Paracel and Spratly Islands, prompting China 24 Jan to reiterate its own claims. Philippines and Vietnam 30 Jan agreed coast guard cooperation pact in SCS.

Sri Lanka

Govt began 2024 with raft of legislation to expand powers of surveillance and repression and advance its contested reconciliation agenda, while police crackdown on drugs led to tens of thousands of arrests. 

Govt moved to retain and expand surveillance powers. Parliament 24 Jan passed govt’s Online Safety Bill, despite uncertainty whether it included amendments required by earlier Supreme Court review; civil society and opposition parties criticised expansive powers law would afford state to regulate speech on social media, as opposition lawmaker labelled it “threat to our democracy”. Global tech and social media companies 16 Jan urged govt to withdraw bill. Govt 10 Jan presented to parliament proposed Anti-Terrorism Act, which was only modestly changed from version first introduced in early 2023 that was roundly criticised; Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) 19 Jan criticised new draft, while bill’s constitutionality was challenged in numerous Supreme Court petitions.

Govt sought to advance its reconciliation program amid opposition. Govt 1 Jan publicised text of legislation to establish Commission for Truth, Unity and Reconciliation amid near unanimous opposition from survivors’ groups and rights activists who view it as designed to win support at UN Human Rights Council. Parliament 9 Jan passed legislation to establish eleven-member “Office for National Unity and Reconciliation” despite opposition from most Tamil parliamentarians and many civil society groups. Police 4 Jan arrested and detained for eight days prominent Tamil woman campaigner seeking truth about enforced disappearance of her son, following protest against President Wickremesinghe’s visit to northern town of Vavuniya. 

Police faced criticism for heavy-handed drug crackdown. Public Security Minister Tiran Alles continued to champion police operation which to date has led to arrest of over 40,000 suspected of using or selling drugs and detention in prison or “rehabilitation” centres of more than 3,000; while popular among some parts of public, OHCHR 12 Jan criticised “heavily security-based response to country’s drug problem”. 

International creditors recognised economic progress. International Monetary Fund officials 19 Jan stated reforms had produced first signs of recovery but stressed importance of “sustaining the reform momentum”.

Taiwan Strait

Taiwan’s incumbent party won unprecedented third presidential term, as China downplayed result and refrained from significantly intensifying military activity around island.

Democratic Progress Party (DPP) won presidential election. Taiwan’s incumbent DPP secured historic third term in 13 Jan presidential poll, which elected William Lai as new president having emerged with 40% of vote; DPP, however, did not secure majority in Legislative Yuan as it won only 51 seats, while opposition Kuomintang won 52, likely reflecting voters’ frustration over domestic issues. In response, China same day dismissively stated election result “does not represent mainstream opinion in Taiwan” and reiterated commitment to complete national unification. Taiwan’s senior representative in U.S. 19 Jan described status quo as “neither unification, neither independence”; Chinese embassy 23 Jan responded that “independence forces are trying to stoke confrontation and antagonism”. 

China maintained military activity in Taiwan Strait. As of 29 Jan, Taiwan detected 318 Chinese military aircraft around island, of which 89 either crossed unofficial “median line” or were detected inside Taiwan’s air defence identification zone – approximately on par with activity in Dec; notably, over thirteen planes 27 Jan crossed “median line”. Taiwan spotted 132 Chinese navy vessels in surrounding waters. Taiwan reported significant increase in balloons from China crossing “median line”, tallying at least 22 in Jan compared to seven in Dec. Taiwan’s Defence Ministry 9 Jan issued nationwide emergency alert after China launched satellite which passed through Taiwan’s airspace. USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier 11 Jan deployed east of Taiwan; USS John Finn destroyer 24 Jan transited Taiwan Strait. 

U.S. maintained diplomatic support; Nauru severed ties with Taiwan. Senior U.S. delegation 14 Jan met with political leaders in Taiwan, expressing concern about stability in strait. U.S. House of Representatives 12 Jan passed “Taiwan Non-Discrimination Act of 2023” and “PROTECT Taiwan Act” aimed at advocating Taiwan’s membership of International Monetary Fund and countering Beijing’s efforts to exclude island from financial institutions. Meanwhile, Pacific nation Nauru 15 Jan severed ties and aligned with China, leaving Taiwan with just twelve states recognising it; Pacific island Tuvalu late Jan signalled it would review ties with Taiwan after its own election.

Thailand

Constitutional Court ruled Move Forward Party’s lèse-majesté stance unconstitutional, Court of Appeals handed activist 50-year prison sentence, and govt signalled talks with main southern separatist group may resume in Feb. 

Constitutional Court ruled on cases concerning future of Move Forward Party. After stunning victory in May 2023 general election, Move Forward Party’s leader Pita Limjareonrat was suspended from MP duties due to allegations he broke election law by holding shares in media company during election campaign. Constitutional Court 24 Jan ruled Pita did not violate election regulations. Constitutional Court 31 Jan ruled that Move Forward Party’s efforts to amend Section 112 of Criminal Code – the lèse-majesté law – violate constitution and must cease; verdict will likely trigger legal proceedings to dissolve party. 

Court sentenced activist to 50 years for lèse-majesté conviction. Court of Appeals in Chiang Rai 18 Jan found Mongkol “Busbas” Thirakot, a 30-year-old activist, guilty of eleven counts of lèse-majesté associated with 27 Facebook posts, for which he was sentenced to three years imprisonment on each count, which combined with earlier convictions marked record sentence of 50 years. Bangkok criminal court 17 Jan convicted attorney Arnon Nampa of lèse-majesté for three Facebook posts from Jan 2021, sentencing him to four years imprisonment. 

Govt signalled potential return to southern dialogue amid militant attacks. Deputy PM Somsak Thepsuthin 10 Jan met with Malaysia’s General Zulkifli Zainal Abidin, facilitator of peace dialogue with main southern separatist armed group Barisan Revolusi Nasional; talks have been in abeyance for almost one year but govt’s chief negotiator said he expected talks to resume in Feb. Meanwhile, four motorcycle-borne militants 10 Jan opened fire on Border Patrol Police (BPP) vehicle in Bannang Sata district, Yala province, injuring two officers. Militants next day ambushed BPP vehicle in Rueso district, Narathiwat province, killing lieutenant. IED attack 16 Jan damaged BPP vehicle in Sri Sakhon district, Narathiwat province, but caused no injuries.

Europe & Central Asia

Armenia

Baku and Yerevan continued bilateral work on peace treaty, but internationally mediated talks remained on hold. 

Baku and Yerevan exchanged draft peace treaty amid simmering tensions. Bilateral efforts on Armenia-Azerbaijan peace treaty continued, with Yerevan 4 Jan returning draft proposal to Baku. In interview that nearly derailed efforts, however, Azerbaijani President Aliyev 10 Jan said Baku could cease participation in talks should Yerevan refuse to compromise, notably regarding security measures along border; he also reiterated calls for Russian-supervised corridor connecting mainland with exclave Nakhchivan, threatened military action if Armenia continued to procure weapons or ever sought to reclaim Nagorno-Karabakh (see Armenian-Azerbaijani Conflict) and claimed “all of Zangezur” – alluding to southern Armenia – and other areas were historically Azerbaijani territory. PM Pashinyan 13 Jan decried “unacceptable territorial claims” but later softened stance, while EU 22 Jan threatened “severe consequences” if Armenia’s territorial integrity is violated. Sides 31 Jan held fresh talks on border delimitation but provided no details on what was discussed. 

Baku continued to reject foreign mediation as Russia sought greater role. Senior EU and U.S. officials mid Jan travelled to capital Yerevan for talks, but not to Azerbaijan amid speculation in Azerbaijani media about cooling relations with West over Baku’s takeover of Nagorno-Karabakh (see Azerbaijan). Russia, meanwhile, sought to reassert its dominant role in region. Notably, ruling party 16 Jan confirmed partial delivery of Russian weaponry to Armenia after two-year delay; Russian FM Lavrov 18 Jan touted Russian mediation in 2023, blamed West for acting as spoiler. 

In another important development. PM Pashinyan and his Georgian counterpart 26 Jan signed memorandum on “strategic partnership” in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi.

Armenian-Azerbaijani Conflict

Nagorno-Karabakh formally ceased to exist. 

Nagorno-Karabakh formally dissolved. Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) 1 Jan officially ceased to exist following Azerbaijan’s lightning military operation in Sept 2023 that ended three decades of de facto self-rule. In lengthy interview about conflict with Armenia (see Armenia, Azerbaijan), Azerbaijani President Aliyev 10 Jan threatened military action if Yerevan ever sought to reclaim enclave; he also announced govt’s goal is to return 140,000 Azerbaijani internally displaced people “to their ancestral lands by the end of 2026” and reiterated that “the Armenians of Karabakh… would live as Azerbaijani citizens” should they choose to return to region. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan 25 Jan extended pre-trial detention of fifteen members of former de facto authorities. 

France-Azerbaijan tensions persisted over latter’s Sept military operation. French Senate 17 Jan adopted non-binding resolution calling on govt to condemn Azerbaijan’s military takeover of NK and impose sanctions, and to demand guarantees for right of ethnic Armenian population to return to NK; Azerbaijan’s legislature next day responded with similar calls to impose sanctions on France. Parliament Assembly of the Council of Europe 24 Jan did not ratify credentials of Azerbaijani delegation, citing among other things concern about Baku’s Sept 2023 military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh, “which led to allegations of ‘ethnic cleansing’”.

Azerbaijan

Baku and Yerevan continued bilateral work on peace treaty, but internationally mediated talks remained on hold; tensions with EU rose ahead of 7 February presidential election. 

Baku and Yerevan exchanged draft peace treaty amid simmering tensions. Bilateral efforts on Armenia-Azerbaijan peace treaty continued, with Yerevan 4 Jan returning draft proposal to Baku. In interview that nearly derailed efforts, however, President Aliyev 10 Jan said Baku could cease participation in talks should Yerevan refuse to compromise, notably regarding security measures along border; he also reiterated calls for Russian-supervised corridor connecting mainland with exclave Nakhchivan, threatened military action if Armenia continued to procure weapons or ever sought to reclaim Nagorno-Karabakh (see Armenian-Azerbaijani Conflict) and claimed “all of Zangezur” – alluding to southern Armenia – and other areas were historically Azerbaijani territory. Armenian PM Pashinyan 13 Jan decried “unacceptable territorial claims” but later softened stance, while EU 22 Jan threatened “severe consequences” if Armenia’s territorial integrity is violated. Sides 31 Jan held fresh talks on border delimitation but provided no details on what was discussed. 

Baku continued to reject foreign mediation as Russia sought greater role. Senior EU and U.S. officials mid Jan travelled to capital Yerevan for talks, but not to Azerbaijan; EU Special Representative for South Caucasus Toivo Klaar 19 Jan cited Baku’s need to focus on Feb election, though Azerbaijani media suggested cooling relations with West over Baku’s takeover of Nagorno-Karabakh could be reason for not involving foreign mediators. Russia, meanwhile, sought to reassert its dominant role in region. Notably, Armenia’s ruling party 16 Jan confirmed partial delivery of Russian weaponry after two-year delay; Russian FM Lavrov 18 Jan touted Russian mediation in 2023, blamed West for acting as spoiler. 

In other important developments. Ahead of 7 Feb presidential poll, authorities 13 Jan arrested Elnara Gasimova in Baku for alleged people smuggling, tenth journalist detained in three months. Meanwhile, Parliament Assembly of the Council of Europe 24 Jan did not ratify credentials of Azerbaijani delegation, citing among other things concern about “free and fair elections”, “respect for human rights” and Baku’s military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Belarus

Authorities deepened crackdown, arresting over 200 people in lead-up to February elections; govt proposed new military doctrine. 

Authorities conducted mass raids as crackdown escalated. In lead-up to Feb parliamentary elections, Viasna human rights centre 23 Jan said authorities detained or interrogated scores for alleged “involvement in extremist groups”, including former political prisoners; as of 30 Jan, over 200 people “persecuted” amid ever-worsening crackdown. EU and U.S. 25 Jan decried “wave of repression”. 

Minsk announced monitors for Feb elections. Govt 5 Jan invited Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation and Commonwealth of Independent States – regional intergovernmental organisation comprising former Soviet republics – to observe 25 Feb polls, 8 Jan announced it would not invite Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe due to organisation’s “double standards”. Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya 12 Jan reiterated call to boycott elections. 

Minsk put forward updated national security doctrine. Lukashenko 16 Jan convened Security Council to discuss updated military doctrine draft, which for first time provides for use of nuclear weapons (Russia stationed tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus in 2023). Defence Minister Viktor Khrenin 19 Jan said weapons were “an important component” of doctrine’s overall focus on “preventive deterrence of potential adversaries”. Meanwhile, Lukashenko 29 Jan met with Russian President Putin 29 Jan in Russian city St. Petersburg to discuss ways to deepen alliance.

Cyprus

UN appointed new personal envoy, which could mark possible step toward eventual return to formal talks although sides clung to long-held positions. 

UN Sec Gen filled “personal envoy” role. UN Sec Gen António Guterres 5 Jan announced former Colombian FM Maria Angela Holguin Cuellar would fill UN “personal envoy” position, last appointed in 2017 and vacant since Oct 2021, after relevant parties gave their consent to appointment. Republic of Cyprus President Christodoulides same day welcomed appointment and said he was determined to resume formal talks based on UN resolutions. Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar cautioned that new negotiations could only begin if de facto Turkish Cypriot administration in north was given same international status as Republic of Cyprus, while both Ankara and “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”) clarified they approved appointment on condition that mandate does not exceed six months and focuses solely on exploring if there exists “common ground” for talks. Turkish Cypriot “FM” Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu 11 Jan rejected possibility of continuing negotiations from where they left off in failed 2017 summit, calling for new process based on rectifying unequal status of two sides. Cuellar 29-30 Jan visited Cyprus and met with various political and civil society actors, including leaders of two communities. Meanwhile, Christodoulides 27 Jan unveiled fourteen-point plan of measures and benefits for Turkish Cypriots; “TRNC’s” “PM” Ünal Üstel denounced plan as attempt to “fool Turkish Cypriots”. UN Security Council 30 Jan voted unanimously to renew mandate of UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for another twelve months. 

Arrest of Turkish Cypriot lawyer stoked controversy. Tatar 11 Jan said that late Dec arrest of lawyer Akan Kürşat in Italy, prompted by Republic of Cyprus police filing complaint over money laundering and embezzlement, was attempt to disrupt Cuellar’s work; Christodoulides 13 Jan denied any link between case and recent attempts at putting negotiations back on track.

Georgia

PM Garibashvili resigned from office, official in breakaway Abkhazia announced construction of Russian naval base in region could begin in 2024, and ruling party sought closer ties with China. 

PM Garibashvili tendered his resignation. PM Garibashvili 29 Jan resigned from his post, citing ruling Georgian Dream party’s “internal democratic principle of rotation” amid reports he will switch positions with party chairman, Irakli Kobakhidze; news came month after return to politics of party’s founder, Bidzina Ivanishvili. 

De facto Abkhaz official said work on Russian naval base could commence in 2024. During interview with Russian news agency RIA Novosti, breakaway Abkhazia region’s de facto Security Council secretary 12 Jan confirmed Moscow is preparing to build naval base in region, and that construction would likely begin in 2024; de facto president Aslan Bzhania in Oct 2023 had announced agreement with Moscow to construct base in Ochamchira town along Black Sea coast amid stepped-up Ukrainian attacks on its Black Sea Fleet in Russian-annexed Crimea. 

Tbilisi strengthened ties with China and Armenia. Kobakhidze 14-20 Jan led delegation to China, held meetings with senior officials to ensure “proper implementation” of 2023 Strategic Partnership Agreement; Chairman of the Parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee Nikoloz Samkharadze 15 Jan said delegation “received a promise of unwavering support from China” to support Georgia’s territorial integrity. Meanwhile, then-PM Garibashvili and his Armenian counterpart 26 Jan signed memorandum on “strategic partnership” in capital Tbilisi.

Kosovo

Pristina and Belgrade resolved license plate dispute in positive step toward normalisation, but sparred over currency; Kosovo Serbs in north launched petition to remove Albanian mayors from office. 

Normalisation process between Serbia and Kosovo saw progress and setback. Serbia 1 Jan enforced Dec decision allowing cars with Kosovo license plates to enter its territory, though insisted this did not equal recognition; in return, Kosovo 4 Jan ended requirement to cover Serb license plates with stickers. EU 7 Jan welcomed “positive step” toward normalisation. Simultaneously, EU 1 Jan opened visa-free travel to Schengen area for Kosovar citizens. Despite progress, Central Bank 17 Jan announced decision to suspend Serbian dinar beginning 1 Feb, after which Euro will be “only currency allowed” in Kosovo; Serbia 19 Jan condemned measure. EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajčák 30 Jan urged sides to step up normalisation efforts ahead of June 2024 EU parliamentary elections.

Kosovo Serbs launched petition to remove Albanian mayors from office in north. Hundreds of Kosovo Serbs from northern municipalities 17 Jan started petition to remove four Albanian mayors from office, who were elected in April 2023 municipal polls boycotted by local Serbs. Process began after Pristina issued administrative order in Sept 2023 allowing removal of mayors through petition process as first step toward holding new election. 

Germany bolstered NATO-led force. Germany 16 Jan increased troop contribution to NATO-led force KFOR from 80 to 300 soldiers, citing “worsening security”.

Kyrgyzstan

Efforts to crack down on independent media and civil society drew condemnation from human rights groups and UN. 

Authorities moved against several media outlets and over a dozen journalists. Law enforcement agents and security services 15 Jan searched offices of news agency 24.KG and detained outlet’s director and two chief editors, Makhinur Niyazova and Anton Lymar, for several hours on charges of “war propaganda”; Niyazova told reporters actions linked to outlet’s coverage of Ukraine war. Ministry of Interior next day searched several other independent media organisations and detained eleven journalists and media workers on charge of “calls for disobedience and mass riots”. 

Human rights groups warned of growing threat to freedom of expression. Eight international human rights groups 16 Jan said raids came amid “worsening campaign against free speech in Kyrgyzstan”; UN human rights office 20 Jan echoed warning, saying actions “appear to be part of a larger pattern of pressure against civil society activists, journalists and other critics of the authorities”. Days later, parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Legislation 23 Jan endorsed draft law on “foreign representatives”, prompting number of human rights organisations 25 Jan to issue statement urging parliament to reject “Russia-style ‘foreign-agents bill’”. 

In another important development. During visit to Tajik capital, Dushanbe, Türkiye’s FM hinted at imminent border deal between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (see Tajikistan).

Russia (Internal)