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Govt forces continued to battle jihadist insurgency in country’s north.
Military early Nov conducted operations targeting suspected Al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) and Islamic State Sahel Province (IS Sahel) militants around Boiffo village, Malanville commune, and Kompa town, Karimama commune (both Alibori department), with unknown casualties. Troops 9 Nov killed suspected JNIM guard near Porga town, Matéri commune, Atacora department, during counter-insurgency operation.
Amid widespread fighting between jihadists and govt forces, deadly attacks targeted civilians, leaving over 100 killed; Russian soldiers reportedly took charge of presidential protection.
Civilians remained at forefront of hostilities between govt and jihadist groups. In Centre-Nord region, unidentified gunmen around 5 Nov killed at least 70 and up to 100 people, mostly civilians, in Zaongo village (Namentenga province). EU 12 Nov and UN 15 Nov condemned massacre and urged Ouagadougou to open investigation and bring perpetrators to justice, and authorities 13 Nov announced investigation. Meanwhile, fierce fighting continued between jihadists and govt forces and allies. In Sahel region, al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) 26 Nov launched complex, simultaneous attacks on army base, army auxiliary positions and camps for internally displaced persons in and around Djibo town (Soum province); UN Human Rights Office 28 Nov said fighting left at least 40 civilians dead, while military claimed killing up to 400 assailants before repelling them. In East region, govt forces and VDPs 2, 6 Nov killed around 30 presumed JNIM militants in Yamba town (Gourma province) and Tipoli village (Gnagna province).
Forced conscription of civil society activists sparked outrage. Military govt 2 Nov issued order to conscript into army a dozen people, including journalists, civil society activists and opposition party members. Several local civil society organisations denounced move and rights group Human Rights Watch 8 Nov accused junta of using emergency law to punish critics and silence dissent. Administrative court 20 Nov rejected petition filed by three conscripts and confirmed conscription order.
Media reported Russia deployed small military contingent. French-language magazine Jeune Afrique and newspaper Le Monde reported Russian plane with about 20 Russian soldiers on board 10 Nov landed in capital Ouagadougou; soldiers were reportedly deployed to support army’s efforts against jihadist groups, but also to protect transitional President Capt. Traoré, pointing to fragility of his rule as military remains divided.
In another important development. As Malian forces early to mid-Nov launched offensive and eventually captured Kidal town (see Mali), Ouagadougou reportedly provided material support as part of close security cooperation between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.
Public prosecutors called for life imprisonment for former PM Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni, while govt troops engaged in DR Congo faced challenges.
Trial of former PM Bunyoni over alleged coup attempt ended. Supreme Court trial of Bunyoni 9 Nov concluded, with public prosecutors seeking life imprisonment on multiple charges including undermining national security for allegedly plotting coup against President Ndayishimiye in 2022; prosecutors also requested 30 years in prison for Bunyoni’s six co-defendants. Since Bunyoni’s arrest in April, human rights groups have called in vain for full judicial investigation into abuses committed by security forces during his time as security minister from 2015 to 2020.
Soldiers abandoned positions in DR Congo under pressure from M23. Amid renewed offensive by M23 armed group in North Kivu province (see DR Congo), Congolese civil society said Burundian troops deployed as part of East African Community regional force 22 Nov left Kitshanga town (which straddles Masisi and Rutshuru territories) and Mweso city (Masisi territory); military denied leaving Kitshanga. Meanwhile, M23 rebels 7 Nov accused Burundian troops of collaborating with Congolese armed forces and allied armed groups, including anti-Kigali Hutu-led Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, in eastern DR Congo; Gitega denied claim, which could strain relations with Rwanda after period of improvement. Radio France Internationale 17 Nov reported Gitega deployed at least four battalions of soldiers to North Kivu as part of bilateral agreement with Kinshasa.
Anglophone conflict took heavy toll on civilians, with over 30 killed in two major attacks; jihadist groups continued targeting civilians and govt forces’ positions in Far North.
Massacres highlighted civilians’ vulnerability amid Anglophone conflict. In South West region, unidentified gunmen overnight 6 Nov rampaged through Egbekaw neighbourhood of Mamfe town (Manyu division), setting houses ablaze and killing at least 25 civilians; day marked anniversary of President Biya’s rise to power (see below). In Francophone West region, near border with Anglophone North West, suspected armed separatists 21 Nov raided market in Bamenyam village (Bamboutos division), killing nine people, abducting at least ten and wounding two soldiers. UN condemned both attacks, urged govt to conduct investigations and hold perpetrators accountable. Meanwhile, fighting continued between Anglophone separatists and govt forces. In North West region, separatist combatants 8, 11 Nov clashed with army in regional capital Bamenda, leaving two soldiers dead; army 11 Nov raided separatist hideout in Nguri locality (Donga-Mantung division), killing six fighters including one commander; separatists 10 Nov attacked soldiers with rocket-propelled grenade in Belo town (Boyo division), killing three.
Jihadist groups kept up attacks on military, civilian targets in Far North region. Suspected Boko Haram (BH) combatants early to mid-Nov attacked several localities in Mayo-Sava, Mayo-Tsanaga and Logone-et-Chari divisions, with four civilians killed 12 Nov in Kolofata and Hile Alifa towns. Fighting between militants and govt forces continued. Suspected Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) elements 5 Nov attacked military post in Fotokol town (Logone-et-Chari), killing one soldier. BH-army clashes 9-13 Nov also left four dead in several areas of Mayo-Sava.
Ruling party celebrated President Biya’s 41st anniversary in office. Ruling party 6 Nov held rallies in several cities to celebrate Biya’s 41st anniversary in power, called on 90-year-old president to vie for eighth term in 2025 presidential election.
Former PM Guillaume Soro announced intention to end self-imposed exile; govt highlighted criminal convictions facing him.
Opposition party Generations and Peoples in Solidarity (GPS) claimed Ivorian authorities 3 Nov attempted to arrest party leader, former PM Guillaume Soro, at Istanbul airport in Türkiye; govt 6 Nov denied allegation. Soro 12 Nov announced intention to end self-imposed exile and return home, said he was back in Africa for first time in five years. In defiance of President Ouattara, who has taken firm stance against military takeovers in West Africa, Niger and Burkina Faso junta leaders 13, 21 Nov met with Soro in Niamey and Ouagadougou, respectively. Govt 23 Nov said Soro can return to Côte d’Ivoire “whenever he wants”, adding it was up to justice system to implement sentences handed down against him in 2020-2021, which include life imprisonment for “undermining state security” over accusations of plotting coup against Ouattara.
Distrust in electoral process continued to mar prospects for peaceful vote on 20 December; M23 rebels stepped up offensive, threatening key cities in North Kivu province.
Electoral preparations progressed haltingly as opposition discussed coalition. Constitutional Court 18 Nov validated all 26 presidential candidacies for 20 Dec election, and electoral campaign started next day. Six opposition candidates, including heavyweights Martin Fayulu and Denis Mukwege, 24 Nov filed complaint against head of electoral commission, Denis Kadima, and Interior Minister Peter Kazadi, accusing them of manipulating electoral process. EU 29 Nov cancelled election observation mission, citing security and technical reasons. Meanwhile, opposition representatives 13-17 Nov met in South Africa, and three candidates 19-20 Nov withdrew from presidential race to back Moïse Katumbi; neither Fayulu nor Mukwege followed suit.
M23 captured positions in east around North Kivu’s provincial capital Goma. Amid ongoing tensions between Kinshasa and Kigali (see Rwanda), Rwanda-backed M23 rebels continued offensive in North Kivu, with intense fighting in Masisi, Nyiragongo and Rutshuru territories. M23 from late Oct reoccupied most positions they had ceded to East African regional force and repelled army and loyal militias, formerly known as Wazalendo, on Sake-Kitshanga axis and Goma-Rutshuru axis. Notably, M23 14 Nov took control of Kishishe village, Rutshuru territory, 22 Nov captured Mweso city, Masisi territory. Clashes between M23 and army 26 Nov intensified around Kilolirwe village; several thousand households took refuge in Sake town, last stop before Goma. Responding to resurgent M23 threat, UN peacekeeping force (MONUSCO) 3 Nov launched operation with army to reinforce security around Goma; plans for mission’s withdrawal continued unhindered, as MONUSCO and govt 21 Nov agreed on timeline for complete disengagement. East African regional force, whose mandate is set to expire on 8 Dec, largely stayed out of fight. President Tshisekedi 17 Nov signed agreement on Southern African regional force, confirmed deployment “in the coming days”.
ADF continued to wreak havoc in eastern provinces. Islamic State-affiliated Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels 7 Nov killed at least 12 civilians in three localities of Irumu territory, Ituri province; 12 Nov reportedly slaughtered up to 42 people in Watalinga chiefdom, Beni territory, North Kivu.
Armed individuals broke former military ruler out of prison, sparking military purges and suggesting that President Doumbouya faces opposition from within armed forces.
High-level prison escape sparked manhunt. Armed men 4 Nov stormed prison in capital Conakry, freeing former strongman Moussa Dadis Camara and three close associates on trial since last year for 2009 Conakry stadium massacre; authorities said nine people, including two civilians, were killed during breakout. Security forces later same day recaptured Dadis and two other officials, who claimed incident was kidnapping rather than breakout. Govt 5 Nov said last escapee, former minister of presidential security Col. Claude Pivi, was still at large and accused his son of leading breakout. Security forces 6 Nov conducted intensive search for Pivi in Conakry neighbourhoods known to be sympathetic to deposed President Condé. Conakry stadium massacre trial resumed 13 Nov in Pivi’s absence.
Breakout led to purges in military, pointing to divisions within regime. Govt 5 Nov announced removal of over 60 soldiers, gendarmes, and prison officials suspected of involvement in prison breakout; also announced legal proceedings against some for abandonment of post and violation of orders. Breakout reportedly featured fighting between Special Forces, formerly led by interim President Col. Doumbouya, and Autonomous Battalion of Airborne Troops (BATA), of which Col. Pivi was once a member; both units reportedly also clashed in September 2021 during Doumbouya’s coup against Condé. Doumbouya 14 Nov sacked four senior military officers, next day appointed new head of BATA.
In other important developments. Justice Minister Charles Wright 20 Nov announced investigation into Condé for treason; Condé 22 Nov said Wright had “lost his bearings” due to Pivi’s escape.
Bipartisan talks produced report calling for reform to electoral commission and audit of last presidential elections; court extended suspension of police deployment to Haiti.
National Dialogue Committee (NDC) published final report. NDC, platform for bipartisan talks between governing Kenya Kwanza alliance and opposition Azimio la Umoja coalition on conduct of last year’s elections and other issues, 25 Nov published report calling for “restructuring and reconstitution” of electoral commission, audit of last presidential election and urged govt to review tax policy, rationalise public expenditure and expand social protection to reduce cost of living. President Ruto next day welcomed budget cut recommendations as “practical”. Meanwhile, High Court 28 Nov ruled that salary levy introduced by Ruto in June was illegal, dealing a blow to govt’s efforts to increase tax revenue; Azimio leader Kalonzo Musyoka same day welcomed “win for Azimio”.
Violent incidents continued, notably Al-Shabaab attacks near Somalia border. Suspected al-Shabaab combatants 25 Nov raided Marafa and Poromoko villages, Lamu county, killing one; 28 Nov attacked police post in Garissa county, injuring one officer. Meanwhile, suspected cattle rustlers from Turkana county same day raided Lochacha village, West Pokot county; resulting clashes killed six.
Parliament approved police deployment to Haiti, court extended suspension. Parliament 16 Nov approved police deployment as part of UN-backed mission to Haiti. High Court same day extended order to suspend deployment until 26 Jan 2024 pending ruling on petition questioning constitutionality of deployment.
In another important development. Authorities 28 Nov said flooding linked to weather phenomenon El Niño killed 120 people and displaced tens of thousands since Oct.
Political tensions escalated as opposition boycotted presidential election and rejected incumbent President Rajoelina’s win amid crackdown on protests; authorities accused army officers of inciting rebellion.
Opposition parties rejected results of presidential election held on 16 Nov. Electoral commission 25 Nov announced provisional results of presidential poll, with Rajoelina winning 59% of votes and turnout just over 46%. Collective of ten opposition candidates rejected results, claimed election saw lowest voter turnout on record at roughly 20%; at least one opposition candidate in following days lodged appeal with High Constitutional Court to have election annulled.
Security forces clashed with opposition protesters amid calls for election boycott. Ahead of election, police wielding tear gas and stun grenades 4 Nov dispersed opposition-led protest in Antananarivo, arresting 11 people and leaving around 20 injured. Security forces 8 Nov arrested opposition lawmaker Fetra Ralambozafimbololona at demonstration in Antananarivo, sparking violent clashes with protesters which left 16 people injured. President of National Assembly Christine Razanamahasoa 9 Nov endorsed opposition collective’s demand to postpone election and hold consultations on electoral rules, citing procedural irregularities and ongoing unrest. Interim govt next day condemned “attempted institutional coup” by Razanamahasoa. Collective of ten opposition candidates 13 Nov called on voters to boycott presidential election, denouncing “unbearable” actions of electoral commission, top court and incumbent President Rajoelina. Authorities imposed nightly curfew in capital Antananarivo on eve of presidential vote.
Army warned against destabilisation attempt after plot allegations. Country’s top prosecutor 28 Nov said two senior army officers had been detained and charged with “threatening state security” for allegedly inciting soldiers to mutiny ahead of election. Army next day warned against any attempt to destabilise country, said army committed to respecting election’s outcome.
In latest blow to 2015 peace agreement, army seized strategic town of Kidal from former separatist armed groups; fighting for control of vast northern region will likely continue in coming weeks.
Army captured formerly separatist armed groups’ stronghold of Kidal. After UN mission (MINUSMA) left Kidal base earlier than planned on 31 Oct, govt forces and Russian paramilitary Wagner Group 11-13 Nov clashed with members of Permanent Strategic Framework (CSP), coalition of armed groups signatory to 2015 Algiers Accord, around latter’s stronghold of Kidal; death toll unknown. Transitional President Col. Goïta 14 Nov announced army had seized Kidal town, celebrating major victory; Goïta’s speech was less triumphalist than expected, however, giving credence to idea that maintaining control of Kidal and upcoming campaign for rural areas in Kidal region, where CSP and jihadist groups remain implanted, may be more difficult. Govt forces 16 Nov claimed discovering mass grave in Kidal, accused CSP members of committing atrocities; CSP rejected allegation. Govt and Wagner forces continued to face criticism for impact of northern campaign on local populations. Notably, reports emerged that govt airstrikes 7 Nov killed civilians including children in Kidal town, and that govt forces and Wagner elements 12 Nov executed dozens of detainees in Tonka town, Timbuktu region. Lacking armoured protection or air cover during withdrawal, MINUSMA continued to suffer attacks: UN peacekeepers traveling from Kidal to Gao town 1-3 Nov encountered six explosive devices, leaving at least 37 injured. MINUSMA 18 Nov handed over Ansongo camp, Gao region, to Malian authorities.
Jihadist violence continued in centre and north. In northern Timbuktu region, Al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) 24 Nov launched simultaneous attacks on army positions in Niafunké and Goundam towns; JNIM claimed taking control of Niafunké camp and killing around 50 soldiers, while military said they repelled attacks. Meanwhile, conflict gave rise to intercommunal violence and abuses, notably in centre. Suspected Dan Na Ambassagou militiamen 2 Nov killed four Fulani pastoralists in Sévaré town, Mopti region. Malian and Wagner troops 7 Nov allegedly killed 12 people near Molodo and Diabaly towns, Ségou region.
Islamic State militants pushed toward southern districts of Cabo Delgado province, and opposition continued to reject October municipal elections’ results.
Islamic State militants moved south in Cabo Delgado province. Islamic State Mozambique Province (ISMP) combatants late Oct-early Nov moved into Cabo Delgado’s southern districts of Meluco and Quissanga, the latter for the first time in a year, leading army to fortify positions against potential attack on provincial capital Pemba. Move may have been forced by military operations in Catupa forest area straddling Mocímboa da Praia, Muidumbe and Macomia districts, or be part of ISMP efforts to recruit and rebuild strength, with reports of peaceful interactions with residents in Quissanga; concerns also grew that group may try to free militants imprisoned in Pemba or neighbouring Metuge district. Meanwhile, militants launched several attacks in northern districts, forcing thousands to flee. In Macomia, combatants 10 Nov attacked Novo Cabo Delgado village, killing three and wounding four including community militia members. In Muidumbe, militants 12 Nov killed four people in Lagoa Nguri area, and 16 Nov killed another two and took several hostages in Mapate village.
Opposition protests over contested municipal elections continued, with one killed. Strains between ruling FRELIMO and main opposition RENAMO parties remained high following electoral violence in wake of October municipal elections. Interior Minister Pascoal Ronda 1 Nov announced 149 people arrested during unrest. RENAMO in Nov continued demonstrations and boycott of parliament to denounce widespread irregularities during vote; police 16 Nov used live bullets to repress opposition protest in Angoche town, Nampula province, killing one and wounding several others. Constitutional Council 24 Nov proclaimed final results with FRELIMO winning 56 municipalities, RENAMO four, smaller opposition party one, and ordered re-vote in four others, set for 10 Dec; preliminary results announced late Oct by electoral commission gave FRELIMO 64 of 65 municipalities. RENAMO 27 Nov announced it would file extraordinary appeal to annul Constitutional Council’s judgment validating ballot, arguing it jeopardises fundamental rights.
Junta asked Togo for help to extract concessions from erstwhile partners as sanctions continued to cripple economy and state finances; jihadist threat remained elevated.
Ruling military turned to Togo to mediate with regional bloc. Military govt continued to grapple with economic crisis sparked in large part by West African regional bloc’s (ECOWAS) sanctions, and budget reduction of around 40% following withdrawal of much of country’s foreign aid. Authorities 31 Oct-4 Nov detained Central Bank of West African States local director in likely bid to pressure institution to lift economic and financial sanctions. Defence minister Gen. Salifou Mody 6 Nov asked Togolese President Gnassingbé to facilitate dialogue between Niger and ECOWAS and serve as guarantor of French withdrawal from Niger, which in Nov continued apace; Togo’s FM Robert Dussey said Lomé ready to “help as a facilitator”.
Govt denied rumours of large-scale jihadist attack amid persistent insecurity. Junta mid-Nov denied rumours of complex ambush on army convoy by Islamic State Sahel Province (IS Sahel) in Tissilatane area, along border with Mali; unconfirmed reports claimed as many as 200 soldiers killed. Smaller-scale incidents involving al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) and IS Sahel continued in Tillabery region (south west), where presumed JNIM fighters 10 Nov killed six civilians and abducted 11 more in Kakou village, Torodi department. Meanwhile in Diffa region (south east), JAS faction of Boko Haram 8 Nov killed three soldiers along Nigerian border near Abadam village, Diffa department. As part of close security cooperation between Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, Nigerien Air Force early Nov reportedly contributed to capture of Kidal town by Malian forces (see Mali); Niamey 15 Nov congratulated Bamako on “liberation of Kidal”.
In other important developments. In southern region of Maradi, herder-farmer violence 4 Nov killed three people in Danja village, Madarounfa department. Junta 25 Nov revoked 2015 law aimed at curbing migration to Europe, adding new twist to growing political tensions between Niger and EU countries.
Violence by diverse armed groups continued in many states, while ruling party consolidated power at state level.
Fighting between rival jihadist groups continued in North East. Clashes between Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) combatants 18 Nov left about 70 dead on Tumbum Ali Island in Marte area, Borno state; security sources said fighting escalated following influx of arms and fighters from Islamic State Sahel Province joining ISWAP. Two trucks loaded with ISWAP militants 26 Nov hit landmine in Marte area, leaving about 50 dead. Meanwhile, also in Borno, Boko Haram combatants 6 Nov killed at least 15 farmers in Mafa area, and ISWAP 18 Nov ambushed Yobe state governor’s convoy on Maiduguri-Damaturu highway, wounding six security personnel.
Armed groups killed and abducted scores in North West. In Sokoto state, gunmen 2-12 Nov attacked villages in Wurno, Rabah and Tangaza areas, killed at least 24 people and abducted unconfirmed number. In Katsina state, armed group 5 Nov attacked Muslim Maulud celebration in Musawa area, killing at least 20 people and abducting others. In Zamfara state, armed group 24 Nov abducted at least 100 people in four villages of Maru area, after residents failed to pay “tax” demanded by group.
Criminal violence and Biafra separatist unrest continued in South East. Abia state govt late Oct discovered over 70 bodies in Umunneochi area, said bodies must be those of kidnapping-for-ransom victims. Gunmen 17 Nov killed two police officers in Ebonyi state capital Abakaliki, 27 Nov killed another two in Ahiazu Mbaise area, Imo state; police blamed armed wing of Indigenous People of Biafra separatist group.
Ruling party consolidated power at state level. President Tinubu’s All Progressives Congress (APC) won two of three governorship elections held 11 Nov. APC also made major gains through election petitions: Appeal Court in capital Abuja 16-19 Nov annulled opposition’s victory in March 2023 governorship elections in Zamfara state, Kano and Plateau states; 23 Nov reversed election petition tribunal’s verdict sacking Nasarawa state APC governor, upholding his re-election. APC now controls 22 of country’s 36 states.
U.S. secured commitments from Kigali and Kinshasa to de-escalate tensions as Rwanda-backed M23 armed group made territorial gains in DR Congo.
U.S. said Kigali, Kinshasa agreed on de-escalation steps. U.S. govt 21 Nov said Intelligence Chief Avril Haines 19-20 Nov travelled to Rwanda and DR Congo, secured commitments from Kigali and Kinshasa to de-escalate tensions, although specific measures were not articulated publicly. Congolese army same day prohibited all soldiers, regardless of their ranks, from establishing or maintaining “any contact” with anti-Kigali Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda. Fighting in following days continued in North Kivu between M23 rebels and Congolese forces.
Kinshasa continued to accuse Kigali of incursions, support for M23 rebels. Earlier in month, DR Congo’s permanent representative at UN, Zénon Mukongo Ngay, 1 Nov said images captured by UN mission (MONUSCO) surveillance drones show columns of Rwandan soldiers crossing border to reinforce M23 rebel positions in Runyoni, Kibumba and Tshanzu localities in North Kivu province. Following request filed by Kinshasa in May, International Criminal Court 4 Nov confirmed it will conduct preliminary examination to “determine the advisability of opening a new investigation” into crimes committed by M23 and others in North Kivu since 2022.
Ahead of February 2024 election, Supreme Court foiled opposition leader Ousmane Sonko’s presidential bid.
Supreme Court 17 Nov overturned lower court’s ruling ordering opposition leader Ousmane Sonko’s reinstatement on voter roll, asked for case to be decided afresh by high court in capital Dakar. Sonko’s lawyer immediately deplored decision, said time is running short for Sonko to get sponsorship and submit candidacy for Feb 2024 presidential election. Separately, West African regional court same day rejected Sonko’s claim that state violated his human rights. Sonko’s PASTEF party 19 Nov designated its secretary-general and Sonko’s right-hand man, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, as its presidential candidate, likely to act as placeholder while Sonko is ineligible. Meanwhile, Sonko 14 Nov returned to prison after having spent weeks in hospital since launching hunger strike in mid-Oct. Local media 23 Nov reported Sonko had ended hunger strike.
Armed men attacked main military barracks and prison in capital Freetown; govt denounced coup attempt.
Unidentified gunmen 26 Nov launched assault on main military barracks in capital Freetown, seemingly attempting to access key armoury. During ensuing battle with security forces, assailants attacked detention centres, including Freetown Central Prison, from which 1,890 inmates were freed or abducted. Govt same day imposed nationwide curfew, said security forces repelled attack by “renegade soldiers”, while President Bio that evening announced most leaders of attack had been detained. As fragile calm returned to Freetown, govt 27 Nov said attack had left 20 people dead, including a dozen soldiers, and most inmates remained missing. Delegation of West African regional bloc ECOWAS same day arrived in country, expressed solidarity with govt and readiness to “deploy elements” upon request. Information Minister Chernoh Bah 28 Nov described incident as “attempted coup” and announced 13 military officers had been arrested. As night-time curfew remained in place, police same day published list of 34 people wanted in connection with incident, including current and former security forces members.
Election-related tensions persisted in Puntland even as state president appointed dialogue committee, offensive against Al-Shabaab remained largely on pause, and UN delayed drawdown of AU mission.
Amid election stalemate in Puntland state, opportunity for de-escalation emerged. Opposition in Puntland continued to accuse President Said Deni of attempting to manipulate upcoming parliamentary and presidential election process to his advantage, by determining rules of game with little consultation as Puntland moves from clan-based selection to universal suffrage. Group of Puntland clan elders 1 Nov argued for return to clan-based selection to ensure timely vote on 8 Jan 2024; but govt said it would not change path. Opposition 14 Nov announced parallel clan-based vote for 8 Jan. In local incident partially related to dispute, govt and opposition forces 7 Nov clashed in state capital Garowe, killing one civilian; UN 21 Nov called for restraint, expressed concern over recent mobilisation of forces in city. Parliament 26 Nov called for more time to resolve issues between govt and opposition, did not endorse electoral commission’s proposal to postpone elections to 25 Feb 2024. Deni 27 Nov appointed election negotiation committee, providing some hope for dialogue to break deadlock.
Govt offensive against Al-Shabaab remained on hold. Large-scale military operations against Al-Shabaab militants remained on pause due to heavy rain and troop rotation, as govt forces used time to regroup. Several small clashes reported, however, including in South West state. Notably, army 1-5 Nov engaged Al-Shabaab during clearing operations around Xuddur town, Bakool region, and late Nov conducted further operations in Bakool and Bay regions. In Galmudug state, main focus of recent efforts, govt forces 7 Nov captured small village of Barag Mohamud Daaud. Govt-allied clan militias continued attempt to clear militants from both banks of Shabelle river in Hirshabelle state. Al-Shabaab attacks also occurred at low frequency. Notably, two suicide attacks 3 and 13 Nov caused minimal damage in capital Mogadishu.
AU mission (ATMIS) drawdown official delayed. UN Security Council 15 Nov approved extension of ATMIS mandate until 30 June 2024, including postponing second phase of mission’s drawdown until 31 Dec 2023.
Inter-clan clashes pitted Dhulbahante militias against Isaaq sub-clan fighters in Sool region and parliament prepared for Nov 2024 elections.
Security situation remained precarious in Sool region. Dhulbahante clan militias 6-9 Nov clashed with fighters from Haber Jeclo sub-clan of Isaaq (Somaliland’s largest clan) at Buq-dharkayn town, 20km south of frontline of conflict between Somaliland govt and SSC-Khatumo state (new self-declared administration for Dhulbahante community) around Oog town, leading to unconfirmed number of deaths and capture of prisoners. Govt and SSC-Khatumo state accused each other of stoking violence and reinforced nearby positions. Deadly clashes 22 Nov resumed in Buq-dharkayn and Maygaale areas. Though fighting has mostly been on clan militia level, Somaliland pointed to involvement of Somalia’s Puntland state, while SSC-Khatumo called on Somali and international actors to pressure Somaliland President Bihi to cease hostilities. Ruling party’s deputy chairman, Hussein Aden Adde, 27 Nov reportedly defected to SSC-Khatumo. Meanwhile, self-declared administration continued lobbying to become member state of Somalia.
Electoral tensions remained low amid preparations for Nov 2024 vote. August agreement between Bihi and opposition to simultaneously hold political party and presidential elections on 13 November 2024 continued to hold. House of Elders 18 Nov agreed to form committee to review amendments to election law made by parliament.
President Gnassingbé carried out security reshuffle while court sentenced former top military official to prison, signalling potential divisions within military; jihadist threat persisted in north.
Former top military officer convicted amid security reshuffle. Gnassingbé 3 Nov appointed new head of his personal security team and made several changes to leadership of anti-jihadist operation deployed in country’s north, notably appointing new operation commander. Meanwhile, military court 7 Nov sentenced Maj. Gen. Abalo Kadangha, former armed forces chief of staff, to 20 years in prison for complicity in murder of Col. Bitala Madjoulba in May 2020. Trial and conviction came as a shock to many Togolese due to Kadangha’s high military rank and family ties with Gnassingbé; affair could be linked to inter-military rivalries, with murdered Col. Madjoulba being brother of newly appointed Security Minister Calixte Madjoulba.
Jihadist threat persisted along northern border with Burkina Faso. In northern Savanes region, Al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims 11 Nov claimed killing three soldiers and seizing their vehicle and weapons near Dapaong city, Tône prefecture.
Opposition MPs continued to boycott parliament over rights violations, and military captured suspected ADF commander.
Opposition boycott continued to paralyse parliament. Opposition leader in parliament, Mathias Mpuuga, 15 Nov said boycott of parliamentary plenary sessions launched in Oct would continue until govt addresses series of issues, including shrinking civic space and trial of civilians in military courts, also requested information on whereabouts of 18 supporters of opposition party National Unity Platform (NUP) who went missing two years ago. Parliament Speaker Anita Among 22 Nov barred boycotting MPs from other parliamentary activities including attending committee meetings; Mpuuga urged boycotting MPs to defy order, which came into force 28 Nov. State minister for internal affairs, Gen David Muhoozi, 29 Nov presented statement on human rights violations before parliament, said many of alleged missing persons have never been reported to police and some are fictitious.
Authorities continued to claim gains against Islamic State-affiliated militants. Military 2 Nov announced capture of Abdul Rashid Kyoto, also known as Njovu, said he was commander of Islamic State-affiliated Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) unit responsible for 17 Oct attack that left three dead, including two foreigners, in country’s west; Nakawa court 13 Nov charged Njovu with terrorism and murder. Congolese civilians continued to seek refuge in Uganda amid ADF attacks, with over 1,000 arriving mid-Nov in Bundibugyo district.
President Museveni lashed out at U.S., UK and UN. After U.S. 30 Oct excluded Uganda from African trade initiative over human rights violations, Museveni 5 Nov accused Washington of “underestimating the freedom fighters of Africa”. Museveni 15 Nov also condemned “interference in our internal affairs” after U.S. and UK early Nov issued security warning over situation in Uganda; same day accused UN of “conserving” terrorism in DR Congo.
Violent attacks on political leaders persisted, while recalls of some opposition MPs continued to fuel tensions.
Political violence targeted opposition, causing outrage. Gunmen 1 Nov abducted Takudzwa Ngadziore, MP from main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) in capital Harare, with legislator tortured and released later that day. Body of CCC activist Tapfumaneyi Masaya found 13 Nov, days after armed men abducted him in Harare; Masaya was campaigning for CCC candidate in parliamentary by-election scheduled for 9 Dec. U.S. embassy 14 Nov called for full investigation and end to political violence, while UN human rights office 17 Nov urged authorities to keep their pledge to investigate Masaya’s killing, hold perpetrators accountable in fair trials. High Court 28 Nov overturned lower court’s conviction of Job Sikhala, CCC deputy chairman, for obstructing justice; Sikhala, however, remained behind bars facing other charges.
Confusion over recalls of opposition MPs continued to fuel tensions. Political tensions ran high ahead of 9 Dec by-elections for several parliamentary seats won by CCC candidates in Aug elections; re-runs come after self-proclaimed secretary-general of CCC, Sengezo Tshabangu, in Oct recalled 15 members of National Assembly, claiming they were no longer party members, and High Court 4 Nov dismissed affected lawmakers’ request to be reinstated. Confusion persisted as Tshabangu 14 Nov recalled another 13 National Assembly members, with CCC lawyers saying new recalls contradict High Court order issued earlier same day temporarily blocking him from doing so. CCC throughout month continued to accuse ruling ZANU-PF party of orchestrating recalls.
Tensions mounted between Taliban and Pakistan as Islamabad forcibly deported hundreds of thousands of Afghans, while Islamic State’s local branch targeted ethnic minority Hazara community.
Tensions continued to rise with Pakistan amid Afghan exodus. Relations between Kabul and Islamabad continued to face strains as pair traded public criticism and Pakistan forcibly deported hundreds of thousands – and perhaps soon millions – of Afghans to Afghanistan ahead of harsh winter months, which could overwhelm Taliban authorities ill-prepared for massive influx amid one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises and as country reels from devastating earthquakes, economic challenges and sanctions. Some of those forced by Pakistan to cross border fled Taliban rule after group’s takeover in August 2021 and could risk Taliban reprisals (see Pakistan). After Pakistan’s caretaker PM stated that relations will improve when “a legitimate government is established in Kabul”, Taliban 17 Nov responded that ties will improve when “there is wise leadership in Pakistan”. Taliban-affiliated media during month continued to imply that Pakistan is supporting anti-Taliban armed groups inside Afghanistan.
Islamic State targeted ethnic minority Hazaras. Reeling from losses inflicted by security forces in recent months, Islamic State Khorsan Province (ISKP) maintained low-level activity, opting to target unarmed Hazara civilians whom group sees as soft target. Notably, ISKP 7 Nov targeted van in the Hazara enclave of Dasht-e Barchi in western neighbourhoods of Kabul, killing at least seven and wounding over dozen. Taliban intelligence forces 6 Nov reportedly targeted ISKP cell in Suki district, Kunar province (east).
Taliban convened high-level meeting to address economy and Pakistan ties. Taliban’s Emir 19 Nov held meeting with de facto cabinet in Kandahar city, which appeared to be primarily concerned with economic direction of govt as well as deteriorating relations with Pakistan; although exact details are unknown, such meetings are significant as key govt policies are often decided.
Govt crackdown on opposition continued ahead of Jan elections, protests by garment workers turned deadly and Rohingya refugees fled country amid dire conditions and rampant insecurity.
Govt continued pressure on opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). After security forces broke up BNP’s “grand rally” in capital Dhaka on 28 Oct, opposition claimed authorities subsequently arrested at least 13,200 activists and leaders. In response to crackdown, BNP organised series of “blockades” and “hartals” throughout Nov aimed at inflicting economic damage to pressure govt to give way to neutral govt ahead of vote, leading to confrontations between police and opposition supporters that killed paramilitary officer and several civilians. Ruling Awami League dispatched stick-wielding supporters to keep roads opens and employed harsh rhetoric: PM Sheikh Hasina 4 Nov instructed supporters “burn the hands of those who are out to set vehicles on fire”. U.S. ambassador Peter Haas 13 Nov sought political dialogue between main parties but govt rejected offer, claiming “the ship has sailed”. With BNP certain to boycott poll, Awami League is trying to entice or pressure wavering parties to participate and enhance election’s credibility.
Garment workers staged protests, leading to deadly clashes. Tens of thousands of garment workers starting late Oct demanded higher wages to meet rising living costs, forcing hundreds of factories to close; garment sector accounts for 80% of exports. Near-daily clashes between police and protestors killed four before protests 14 Nov ended amid police crackdowns, threats from employers and govt pressure.
Prospects of Rohingya refugee repatriation appeared dim. Resumption of heavy fighting in Myanmar’s Rakhine state mid-Nov dashed govt’s hopes for repatriation (see Myanmar). Rohingya continued to flee dire conditions in camps and pay people smugglers to flee across Bay of Bengal: five vessels carrying 866 people 14-19 Nov landed on Indonesia’s Aceh province after two months at sea. UN estimated over 3,500 refugees took the perilous journey in 2022, up from 700 year before.
Dialogue resumed in Chittagong Hill Tracts. Militant group Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) and govt’s Peace Establishment Committee 5 Nov held first face-to-face meeting and first dialogue since July ceasefire; KNF reiterated demands for greater autonomy ahead of further talks in Dec.
China and Japan continued maritime presence around disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in East China Sea, while their leaders held first direct talks in year.
China and Japan continued maritime presence around contested islands. As of 28 Nov, Japan spotted 98 Chinese navy vessels in Japan’s contiguous zone and twenty vessels in its territorial sea. Chinese Coast Guard 1 Nov reported that three Japanese vessels and several patrol boats “illegally” entered “territorial waters” near disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Chinese Coast Guard ships 1-5 Nov entered Japanese waters around Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands and four such vessels 9 Nov entered Japan’s territorial waters off islands, which prompted Tokyo to lodge protest with Beijing. Chinese Coast Guard 28 Nov reported that it warned off Japanese ships in waters surrounding islands.
China and Japan held high-level dialogue. Marking their first direct talks since Nov 2022, Chinese President Xi and Japanese PM Fumio Kishida 16 Nov met in U.S. city San Francisco on sidelines of APEC summit. Kishida expressed serious concerns about China’s frequent military activities near Japan, including cooperation with Russia, and reiterated importance of peace and stability in Taiwan Strait. Kishida also strongly urged China to remove buoy set up in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone in East China Sea. Chinese FM Wang Yi 9 Nov met sec gen of Japan’s National Security Secretariat Takeo Akiba ahead of Xi-Kishida meeting; Wang urged counterpart to translate intention to improve ties into concrete action. FMs of China, Japan and South Korea 24 Nov held trilateral meeting first time in four years.
Japan courted closer defence ties with partners. Kishida 11 Nov stated that with increasing military activities of China and Russia, Japan is in most severe and complex security environment since World War II. Japan and Philippines 4 Nov announced negotiations on deal to deploy troops on each other’s territory. Japan and UK 7 Nov reaffirmed their comment to strengthen security cooperation. During visit to Australia, VP of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party 13 Nov urged Japan, U.S. and Australia to unite against any forceful change to status quo; Aso proposed inclusion of Japan in AUKUS framework, suggesting “JAUKUS” alliance.
Instability and violence persisted in Manipur in far northeast, border talks with China continued, and Maoist militants targeted Chhattisgarh state poll.
In Manipur, militants targeted Indian security forces and Kuki community. Around 700 armed men 1 Nov attacked police camps in state capital Imphal and looted assault rifles, over 600 rounds of ammunition, and at least six vehicles. Meitei militant organisation People’s Liberation Army 16 Nov attempted to ambush Indian security forces in Tengnoupal district but Indian personnel escaped unhurt. Meitei militants 20 Nov killed two Kuki men in Kangpokpi district, raising death toll since outbreak of hostilities in May to at least 183 with more than 30 missing and thousands displaced. Meanwhile, Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum representing Kuki community 15 Nov declared “self-rule” in Tengnoupal, Kangpokpi and Churachandpur districts, citing demand for separate administration from Manipur govt that central govt has not addressed; body intends to instate separate chief minister and officials from community who were forced out of Imphal when hostilities began. In response, state police filed sedition case against tribal body, raising prospect of clashes between pair, particularly if central govt fails to heed body’s demands and replace state’s chief minister.
Military dialogue continued with China over border. After twentieth round of military talks between pair in Oct witnessed no progress, both sides early Nov reportedly began talks ahead of winter to rule out any incident as troop deployments are readjusted for harsh months ahead.
Maoist attacks continued in centre. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), bomb blast by Maoists 6 Nov injured two and killed one in Kanker district, one day ahead of state assembly elections. Bomb blast 17 Nov killed security forces member in Gariaband district during second phase of state assembly elections. State police of West Bengal (east) 18 Nov arrested two Maoists and recovered weapons in Murshidabad district.
Indian and Pakistani border forces exchanged heavy fire in violation of 2021 ceasefire amid uptick in militant infiltration attempts, while security operations in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) triggered deadly gun battles.
India and Pakistan exchanged fire, violating Line of Control ceasefire. After India claimed Pakistani border troops late Oct opened fire unprovoked in RS Pura and Arnia sectors of border in Jammu region, which led to exchange of heavy fire and shelling, Indian forces 9 Nov claimed Pakistani border troops opened fire again in Arnia and Ramgarh sectors of border in Jammu region. Move prompted Indian forces to retaliate, killing one Indian security forces member; gunfire marks another violation of ceasefire since 2003 agreement was renewed indefinitely in Feb 2021, which brings total violations in 2023 to six. New Delhi also claimed uptick in attempted infiltrations of militants from Pakistan in Rajouri and Poonch sector in Jammu region and Kupwara and Baramulla sectors in Kashmir region, which may further increase ahead of harsher winter weather; border troops 15 Nov killed two alleged infiltrators in Uri sector.
Security operations inside J&K triggered deadly clashes. Marking uptick in lethality, security forces 16-17 Nov killed five militants in two-day gun battle in Kulgam district and security operation 22-23 Nov left two LeT militants and five security personnel dead in Rajouri district. Earlier, security forces 1 Nov arrested four alleged militant associates of Laskhar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) in Baramulla district and 2 Nov arrested two alleged militant associates of Al-Badr militant outfit in Srinagar city. Security forces 9 Nov killed one militant of The Resistance Front in Shopian district; 17 Nov killed alleged militant in Rajouri.
High Court granted bail to imprisoned journalists. High Court of J&K 17 Nov granted bail to Fahad Shah, editor of news portal The Kashmir Walla imprisoned since Feb 2022 under anti-terrorism laws for publishing article in 2011; court quashed some charges, such as “abetting terrorism, waging war against the country and promoting enmity” under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Court 9 Nov granted bail to journalist Sajad Ahmad Dar, arrested in Jan 2022 under Public Safety Act.
North Korea successfully launched satellite and abrogated 2018 military agreement with South Korea, removing important safeguard against risk of cross-border clashes.
North Korea put satellite into orbit on third attempt of 2023. North Korea 21 Nov launched military reconnaissance satellite in country’s third launch attempt this year, following previous failures in May and Aug, and first since North Korean leader agreed with Russian President Putin in Sept to conduct unspecified collaboration in field of satellite launches; there is no evidence, however, that Russian help was determinative in launch. Pyongyang detonated first stage of rocket in mid-air to ensure it could not be retrieved from sea. If satellite will function as intended, it will provide north with upgraded surveillance of South Korean and U.S. militaries, although South Korea asserted scepticism of North’s technology.
Inter-Korean military deal collapsed, heightening conflict risks at border. In response to satellite launch, South Korea next day announced suspension of one-part of 2018 military agreement with Pyongyang – designed to ease bilateral tensions during period of diplomacy in 2018-19 – thus permitting Seoul to restore full aerial reconnaissance and surveillance along inter-Korean border. North Korea next day abrogated whole deal, accusing South of “frontal challenge to the spirit of the agreement”. Collapse of agreement heightens risk of accidental or deliberate cross-border clashes in coming months as North Korea is now likely to begin rebuilding border guard posts destroyed during 2018, bringing soldiers into closer contact; Pyongyang could redeploy soldiers to Kaesong Industrial Complex and tourism resort at Mount Kumgang, as well as step up drone activity near border and cross-border propaganda leafleting and loudspeaker broadcasts.
North Korea continued close engagement with Russia. North Korea’s minister of external economic relations Yun Jong Ho and Russia’s natural resources minister Alexander Kozlov 15 Nov met in North Korean capital Pyongyang to discuss implementation of agreements reached between leaders Kim Jong Un and Putin in Sept; Kozlov noted agreement on joint geological explorations in North Korea in search of gold, iron, and rare earth metal deposits, intention to increase Russia’s agricultural exports and bring bilateral trade back to pre-pandemic levels.
Military faced largest battlefield challenges since Feb 2021 coup as ethnic armed groups conducted attacks on multiple fronts; regime may step up brutal response, including indiscriminate bombings, in coming weeks.
Ethnic armed groups and resistance forces made major gains in north. After Three Brotherhood Alliance – comprising the three ethnic armed groups active in northern Shan State: Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Arakan Army (AA) – and allied resistance groups 27 Oct launched “Operation 1027”, in Nov their forces seized over 130 outposts from regime, inflicted casualties (including Brigadier-General) and major materiel losses on military, captured string of towns in China border area, and destroyed or secured important bridges and blocked major highways, constituting significant strategic, economic and psychological blows to military. Military responded with airstrikes and artillery, which failed to counter operation but caused civilian casualties and displaced some 82,000 in Shan state and 335,000 nationwide (bringing total number of civilians displaced since coup to over 2m). In sign of possibly greater inter-ethnic tensions to come, Shan State Progress Party 7 Nov clashed with TNLA in Muse Township, killing several.
Other groups took advantage on several fronts, threatening to overstretch military. In early Nov, one of largest ethnic armed groups – Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) – led assault together with people’s defence forces on north-western Kawlin town in Sagaing Region, which fell after several days of fighting. Additionally, resistance forces in Kayah State 11 Nov commenced “Operation 1111”, assaulting state capital Loikaw; they claimed to have shot down air force jet. Even more significantly, AA 13 Nov started series of attacks in Rakhine State, ending period of calm that followed informal ceasefire in Nov 2022. In western Myanmar, Chin forces 13 Nov attacked Rikhawdar town on India-Myanmar border, ultimately seizing it. For first time in decades, military will have to fight numerous, determined and well-armed opponents simultaneously in multiple theatres; it may double down on brutal efforts to reverse tide on battlefield, including scorched-earth tactics and indiscriminate bombing in coming weeks.
Authorities set Feb 2024 election date, deadly attacks continued in Afghan border provinces, and govt faced international rebuke for forcibly deporting hundreds of thousands of Afghans.
Apex election body set election date amid political jostling. After weeks of delay and finally compelled by Supreme Court, Election Commission 4 Nov announced election had been set for 8 Feb 2024; all political parties welcomed decision, although former PM Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) bemoaned unlevel playing field and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) accused caretaker govt of bias in favour of Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League. PTI continued to face significant crackdown, particularly in main political battleground Punjab province, as provincial authorities refused party permission to hold public gatherings. Khan, who remained in prison, submitted petitions to Supreme Court for post-arrest bail and to overturn indictment regarding misusing diplomatic cables; Islamabad High Court 21 Nov accepted Khan’s petition ruling out trial in prison. Open trial will resume 1 Dec but within prison premises, ostensibly on security grounds.
Militant attacks and military operations continued, primarily in Afghan border provinces. In one of most lethal attacks in recent months, Baloch militants 3 Nov killed fourteen soldiers in Balochistan province’s Gwadar district. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, bomb blast targeting police and military 3 Nov killed five civilians and soldier in Dera Ismail district, while militants 6 Nov killed two police constables. During military operation in Khyber district, militants 6 Nov killed four soldiers, including Lieutenant Colonel. In Punjab province, affiliate of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) 4 Nov assaulted Pakistan Air Force training base in Mianwali district, leaving all nine attackers dead.
Govt continued forcible deportation of Afghans en masse. Govt had reportedly forced more hundreds of thousands of Afghan nationals to Afghanistan (see Afghanistan). In attempt to justify policy, caretaker PM Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar blamed “illegal immigrants” for “spreading insecurity” and cited Taliban’s failure to take action against “anti-Pakistan terrorists”. International rights group Amnesty International 10 Nov condemned Pakistan’s use of Afghan refugees as “political pawn” and UN human rights chief 16 Nov expressed concern over reports of “ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests and detention, destruction of property and personnel belongings and extortion”.
Govt and Communist rebels struck deal to restart peace talks after six-year hiatus; insecurity continued in south amid local feuds and targeted killings.
Govt and communist militants agreed to reignite formal dialogue. Manila and National Democratic Front – umbrella organisation representing communist rebels, including main armed group New People’s Army (NPA) and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) – 23 Nov struck deal following engagement in Norwegian capital Oslo, agreeing in principle to restart peace talks to achieve “peaceful resolution of the armed conflict”; formal talks between pair broke down in Nov 2017 under then President Duterte. Meanwhile, fighting persisted between govt security forces and NPA in Luzon Island (Mindoro) in north and Visayas Islands (Negros and Samar) in centre, killing at least ten combatants and civilians during Nov.
Insecurity persisted in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). In Maguindanao del Sur province, armed men associated with Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) 118 Base Command and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) 7 Nov clashed in Tukanalipao village over existing feud; fighting lasted for days and injured six combatants as well as one civilian. In Basilan province, shooting attack 9 Nov killed member of Basilan Provincial Board near Sumisip District Hospital. In Sultan Kudarat province, gunmen 15 Nov killed school principal in ambush in Lambayong town. In Lanao del Sur and Sulu provinces, authorities 16 Nov arrested six suspected drug dealers and seized significant quantities of “shabu” (methamphetamines) during separate anti-drug operations. Bomb 25 Nov exploded in centre of Pikit town, wounding six Moro civilians.
Implementation of Bangsamoro peace deal progressed. President Marcos Jr. 14 Nov attended BARMM’s first local legislative general assembly, which he described as “historic” and “crucial to achieving our goal of achieving peace and progress” in region.
Tensions continued to mount between Philippines and China amid maritime incidents near flashpoints in South China Sea (SCS).
China sought to impede Philippines’ access to disputed shoal. Philippine frigate 1 Nov entered waters near Scarborough Shoal, prompting China’s navy to quickly dispatch warships and fighter jets to track and ward off vessel. As Philippines continued resupply mission to its grounded ship on Second Thomas Shoal – significant source of tension in recent months – Chinese and Philippine vessels 10 Nov engaged in another standoff near shoal as Chinese coast guard ships fired water cannon at Philippine boat; Manila accused China of “dangerously harassing” its ships. Manila 11 Nov announced China had deployed record 38 vessels near shoal, with eleven actively involved in intercepting Philippine boats. Philippine President Marcos Jr. 18 Nov met Chinese President Xi on sidelines of APEC summit in U.S., where former expressed concern over recent incidents. Marcos next day said SCS situation had become “more dire”, warning Beijing had “started to show interest” in building bases on reefs that were “closer and closer to the Philippine coastline”.
U.S. maintained support for Manila. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin 15 Nov met Philippine counterpart Gilberto Teodoro Jr; pair criticised China’s recent harassment of Philippine vessels and confirmed commitment to Mutual Defense Treaty. Meanwhile, U.S. navy 3 Nov conducted freedom of navigation operation near Spratly Islands, marking first such operation in six months, and 25 Nov near Paracel Islands, which China protested. Manila 21 Nov held joint air and maritime patrols with U.S. in its northernmost province near Taiwan Strait, and held patrols for first time with Australia 25-27 Nov, during which two Chinese fighter jets orbited Philippine patrol aircraft.
Manila sought closer defence ties with regional countries. Following talks in Philippine capital Manila between Marcos Jr. and Japanese PM Fumio Kishida, pair 4 Nov announced they will begin negotiations on deal to deploy troops on each other’s territory. Japan reached agreements with Malaysia and Vietnam to deepen security cooperation. Marcos Jr. 20 Nov said Philippines is approaching Malaysia and Vietnam to discuss separate SCS code of conduct, citing lack of progress in ASEAN-China negotiations.
President Wickremesinghe presented ambitious 2024 budget ahead of next year’s presidential polls, while Supreme Court ruled on former presidents’ economic mismanagement and anti-terrorism regulations.
Govt’s 2024 budget goals met with scepticism. Ahead of presidential elections set for late 2024, President Wickremesinghe 13 Nov presented to parliament 2024 budget. Extremely ambitious target of raising revenue by 47% was widely questioned given govt’s failure to make sufficient progress raising chronically low revenue, which fell about 15% below International Monetary Fund’s projections in 2023. Budget also boosts govt workers’ pay, increases state pensions and proposes new taxes and crackdown on tax avoidance.
Supreme Court issued landmark judgment on former presidents’ economic mismanagement. Supreme Court 14 Nov found former presidents Mahinda and Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and other top officials, responsible for economic mismanagement between 2019-2022, which violated public trust and Sri Lankans’ constitutional rights. Judgment brought no immediate legal repercussions, though opposition called for Rajapaksas to be barred from holding office in future. In another important ruling, Supreme Court 14 Nov ordered state to pay 1mn rupees ($3,000) to Muslim social media activist Ramzy Razeek, whose detention for five months on charges of breaching often-abused International Convention on Civil and Political Rights Act violated his fundamental rights.
Calls mounted for new 2019 Easter bombings investigation. In interview with ABC Australia, former Deputy Inspector General of Police and head of Criminal Investigation Dept Ravi Seneviratne 16 Nov for first time publicly accused intelligence agencies of actively interfering with police investigations into 2019 Easter bombings; Sri Lankan Catholic Church next day repeated calls for new, independent investigation. Separately, Supreme Court 13 Nov ruled as unconstitutional anti-terrorism regulations on “religious extremism” introduced in 2021 but never applied, designed to process hundreds of Muslims arrested following 2019 Easter suicide attacks.
Tamils held commemorations. Thousands of Tamils across north and east took part in annual ceremonies in week leading to “Great Heroes Day” on 27 Nov, commemorating those who died in struggle for independent state; police disrupted or blocked numerous local gatherings, with at least one organiser arrested under anti-terrorism law.
China continued military activity around island as presidents Biden and Xi discussed Taiwan face-to-face, while Beijing issued warning ahead of Taiwan’s Jan 2024 general elections.
Chinese military continued operations around island. As of 28 Nov, Taiwan spotted 324 Chinese military aircraft around island, of which at least 98 crossed unofficial “median line” or were detected in Taiwan’s de facto air defence identification zone. Taiwan reported 171 sightings of Chinese navy vessels in surrounding waters. China’s Shandong aircraft carrier group conducted exercises southeast of Taiwan and 8 Nov traversed Taiwan Strait. U.S. navy destroyer USS Rafael Peralta and Royal Canadian frigate HMCS Ottawa 1 Nov transited Taiwan Strait. Australian warship HMAS Toowomba 23 Nov passed Taiwan Strait.
U.S. and Chinese leaders held in-person meeting and discussed Taiwan. During meeting between U.S. President Biden and China’s President Xi on sidelines of APEC summit in U.S. city San Francisco, Xi 15 Nov stated that Taiwan is “most important and sensitive issue” in U.S.-China relations and called for Washington to stop arming Taiwan and support China’s peaceful unification, while Biden described talks as constructive and effective, and reiterated “one China” policy remained unchanged. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin 17 Nov said U.S. will continue to develop military ties with Taiwan amid resumed dialogue with China. Earlier, G7 FMs meeting in Japanese capital Tokyo 8 Nov concluded with joint statement reaffirming importance of peace and stability in Taiwan Strait and supporting Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organisations.
China warned Taiwan’s presidential candidates of consequences of independence. Ahead of Jan presidential and legislative polls, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office 15 Nov warned that “Taiwan independence” means war, adding that Beijing sees combination of incumbent Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)’s candidate Lai Ching-te and running mate Hsiao Bi-Khim – Taiwan’s de facto representative to U.S. – as “independence plus independence”. Taiwanese premier Chen Chien-jen 14 Nov claimed security agencies had detected China’s interference in upcoming elections. Attempts by Taiwan opposition parties Kuomintang (KMT) and Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) to run on joint ticket fell apart. Meanwhile, Taiwan’s President Tsai 30 Nov assessed Chinese invasion was unlikely as Beijing is overwhelmed with internal challenges.
Violence persisted in deep south, as govt appointed new head in dialogue with main southern separatist group.
Violence continued in southernmost provinces. In Narathiwat province, militants 3 Nov detonated 25kg IED targeting paramilitary rangers travelling in private vehicle in Tanyong Mas subdistrict, Rangae district. One ranger was killed 9 Nov after stepping on improvised mine in forested area of Tanyong Mas; militants 10 Nov fired small arms at security outpost in same subdistrict, causing no casualties. Authorities same day discovered and safely detonated IED in Bacho District, Narathiwat. Seven motorcycle-borne militants 12 Nov surrounded Muslim ranger officer, then on leave, who was travelling on motorcycle with his wife in Rueso district; they forced both to ground and shot officer more than ten times before fleeing. Media reports 27 Nov indicated that PM Srettha Thavisin appointed Chatchai Bangchuad, deputy sec gen of National Security Council, to lead govt’s delegation in dialogue with main militant group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN).
National politics remained in holding pattern. Since formation of Pheu Thai Party-led govt in Sept, national politics entered routine holding pattern marked by opposition focusing on criticising govt policy proposals, such as 10,000-baht digital wallet.
In other important developments. FM Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara 1 Nov visited Qatar to meet Iranian FM Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in efforts to secure release of 32 Thai hostages held in Gaza (see Israel-Palestine); Hamas 24-28 Nov released nineteen Thai hostages but thirteen Thais remain in captivity. As fighting spread across northern Myanmar (see Myanmar), some 260 Thais on 19 Nov were evacuated from Shan State to China’s Yunnan province; most are believed to have been victims of human trafficking, forced to work in scam call centres.
Armenia-Azerbaijan peace talks remained on hold amid latter’s cooling relations with EU and U.S., ties with Russia deteriorated further, and fears of border escalation simmered.
Peace talks with Azerbaijan remained on hold. Azerbaijan’s drift away from EU and U.S.-facilitated peace talks continued. Having twice cancelled participation in EU-mediated meetings in Oct, Baku 16 Nov withdrew from meeting between Azerbaijani and Armenian FMs slated for 20 Nov in Washington DC, criticising “one-sided and biased” remarks by Assistant Sec State James O’Brien; O’Brien earlier that day had spoken publicly about U.S. decision to pause bilateral cooperation with Azerbaijan until peace deal was reached with Armenia. Instead, Azerbaijan 21 Nov proposed direct negotiations with Armenia in “mutually acceptable” location. In meantime, Armenia 21 Nov returned sixth draft of peace treaty to Azerbaijan. Deputy PMs of Azerbaijan and Armenia 30 Nov held fifth meeting of border-delimitation commissions, agreed to “intensify” talks.
EU boosted support to Armenia, whose relations with Moscow kept worsening. EU High Representative Josep Borrell 13 Nov announced decision to expand EU Mission in Armenia with “more observers and more patrols” along border with Azerbaijan; Borrell also said EU would consider military support and visa liberalisation options for Armenia. Baku next day responded to “biased policy” by cancelling bilateral projects and visits to EU. French delivery of 50 armoured vehicles 13 Nov arrived in Armenia, which Azerbaijan same day “strongly” condemned. Meanwhile, Armenia 14 Nov announced it would skip Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization summit in Belarus amid deteriorating relations with Moscow; Kremlin next day said West was “obviously behind” decision.
Yerevan worried about potential border escalation. As fears of new escalation along border due to stalled talks persisted, Yerevan 18 Nov reported one soldier injured close to Azerbaijani exclave Nakhichevan. Yerevan next day hosted Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe summit, where PM Pashinyan reiterated desire for peace but warned Baku was preparing for “new armed aggression”.
Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on provisional measures for ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh (NK).
International Court of Justice announced provisional measures for NK. Following Armenia’s Oct submission to ICJ requesting provisional measures against Azerbaijan for what it calls “ethnic cleansing” in NK, ICJ 17 Nov published preliminary order: court decided that Azerbaijan should ensure free return and departure of ethnic Armenians from NK, along with protection of those who decide to stay; it also called on Azerbaijan to preserve their “registration, identity and private property documents”. ICJ ordered Azerbaijan to submit report to Court in two months. Baku same day welcomed decision, highlighting how court had “reconfirmed Azerbaijan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and rejected Armenia’s call for Azerbaijan to withdraw troops from NK, protect cultural sites and release all military and civilian detainees.
Azerbaijan handed out fifteen-year sentence for war crimes in first NK war. Baku court 7 Nov sentenced ethnic Armenian from NK Vagif Khachatryan, arrested in July while travelling along Lachin road to Armenia for medical treatment, to fifteen years in prison for alleged involvement in 1991 Meshali massacre; according to court, Armenian armed attack on Meshali village killed 25 Azerbaijanis, injured fourteen and forcibly expelled 358 people. Khachatryan has repeatedly denied all charges.
Armenia-Azerbaijan peace talks remained on hold amid latter’s cooling relations with EU and U.S., and fears of border escalation simmered.
Peace talks with Armenia remained on hold. Azerbaijan’s drift away from EU and U.S.-facilitated peace talks continued. Having twice cancelled participation in EU-mediated meetings in Oct, Baku 16 Nov withdrew from meeting between Azerbaijani and Armenian FMs slated for 20 Nov in Washington DC, criticising “one-sided and biased” remarks by Assistant Sec State James O’Brien; O’Brien earlier that day had spoken publicly about U.S. decision to pause bilateral cooperation with Azerbaijan until peace deal was reached with Armenia. Instead, Azerbaijan 21 Nov proposed direct negotiations with Armenia in “mutually acceptable” location. In meantime, Armenia 21 Nov returned sixth draft of peace treaty to Azerbaijan. Deputy PMs of Azerbaijan and Armenia 30 Nov held fifth meeting of border-delimitation commissions, agreed to “intensify” talks.
EU announced renewed support to Armenia, including along border with Azerbaijan. EU High Representative Josep Borrell 13 Nov announced decision to expand EU Mission in Armenia with “more observers and more patrols” along border with Azerbaijan; Borrell also said EU would consider military support and visa liberalisation options for Armenia. Baku next day responded to “biased policy” by cancelling bilateral projects and visits to EU. French delivery of 50 armoured vehicles 13 Nov arrived in Armenia, which Azerbaijan same day “strongly” condemned.
Yerevan worried about potential border escalation. As fears of new escalation along border due to stalled talks persisted, Yerevan 18 Nov reported one soldier injured close to Azerbaijani exclave Nakhichevan. Yerevan next day hosted Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe summit, where Armenian PM Pashinyan reiterated desire for peace but warned Baku was preparing for “new armed aggression”.
In other important developments. Authorities late Nov arrested four leaders of media channels AbzasNews and Kanal 13 TV over alleged cash smuggling and illegal property use; Govt 28 Nov summoned ambassadors of U.S., France and Germany, accusing them of “illegal contributions” to AbzasMedia, which U.S. next day rejected.
Govt continued opposition clampdown, Minsk hosted Russia-led military alliance summit, and tensions with Poland persisted.
Authorities continued stifling dissent. Human rights group Viasna 1 Nov reported media personality Larisa Gribaleva had been detained, though authorities same day released her. Maladechna court 3 Nov sentenced journalist Alyaksandr Mantsevich to four years’ imprisonment for “discrediting Belarus”. EU High Representative Josep Borrell 12 Nov warned of ever-deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus since disputed 2020 presidential election sparked crackdown, spotlighting over 40,000 arrests, 12,000 criminal cases and nearly 1,500 political prisoners. Meanwhile, President Lukashenko 20 Nov signed decree announcing parliamentary and local polls in Feb 2024, first nationwide elections since 2020. Authorities 28 Nov searched homes of opposition figures, as “preliminary stage” of election preparations.
Minsk hosted military alliance summit. Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization summit 23 Nov took place in capital Minsk, bringing together leaders from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan; Armenia’s leader did not attend amid deteriorating relations with Russia (see Armenia). During summit, Lukashenko defended hosting Russian tactical nuclear weapons as necessary response to NATO threat.
Minsk accused Warsaw of airspace violation. Foreign ministry 3 Nov summoned Polish Chargé d’affaires over alleged violation of its airspace day before.
UN-brokered understanding on buffer zone faced strains, while agreement on new UN envoy remained elusive.
Tensions resurfaced around buffer zone, undermining UN deal struck in Oct. After UN in early Oct brokered deal on road construction by Turkish Cypriots to connect Pile/Pyla village (located in UN buffer zone) to “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”), leader of “TRNC” Ersin Tatar 1 Nov met UN Deputy Sec Gen for Peace Operations, claiming Greek Cypriots had “started construction activities” in areas around village and requesting UN intervention. “TRNC” FM Tahsin Ertugruloglu same day argued such works breached UN-brokered mutual understanding and demanded cessation. Republic of Cyprus President Christodoulides 6 Nov reported that UN had “requested a short pause” in construction to deal with “TRNC” complaints and 11 Nov denied the works violated UN understanding, asserting that “TRNC” had effectively “backed away” from it. Republic of Cyprus 21 Nov ruled out renegotiating deal and called on UN to facilitate “swift resumption of work”. Republic of Cyprus 27 Nov claimed “serious ongoing violation of the buffer zone” in reference to installation by Turkish Cypriots of rotating camera and antenna on uninhabited house; TRNC said it was aimed at preventing illegal immigration. Christodoulides 28 Nov warned of consequences if status quo not restored after around 40 armed Turkish Cypriot soldiers were sighted in buffer zone previous day.
Search for agreement on UN envoy continued. After Greek Cypriot media late Oct reported that “TRNC” had rejected Julie Bishop, potential candidate to fill UN envoy role vacant since 2017, due to her Australian nationality, Christodoulides 11 Nov accused Türkiye of “making excuses” by not accepting her for coming from “Commonwealth country”. Tatar 15 Nov said “TRNC” was waiting for new envoy proposal; Christodoulides 20 Nov said he expected new choice imminently.
In another important development. International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and nearly 70 media organisations 14 Nov published report alleging dozens of Russian oligarchs used financial services in Republic of Cyprus to evade Western sanctions, including those imposed in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Feb 2022; Republic of Cyprus police subsequently opened criminal investigation.
European Commission recommended Georgia be granted long-awaited candidate status; Russian border guards killed Georgian civilian in breakaway South Ossetia.
European Commission recommended EU candidacy status for Georgia. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen 8 Nov announced that “Commission recommends that the (European) Council grants Georgia the status of a candidate country on the understanding that certain reforms steps are taken”; European Council will take formal decision in Dec 2023. Both PM Garibashvili and President Zourabichvili welcomed decision as thousands took to streets of capital Tbilisi to voice support for EU membership. Head of EU Delegation to Georgia, Paweł Herczyński, same day congratulated country but noted that candidate status is contingent on “fulfilling important steps”, including need to align Georgia’s foreign policy on Russia with EU.
Russian border guards killed Georgian civilian in South Ossetia. Russian troops 6 Nov shot dead Georgian civilian Tamaz Ginturi and detained another near line that separates breakaway South Ossetia from Georgia proper; de facto South Ossetian officials next day published statement claiming civilians had “illegally crossed” into breakaway region, “displayed an extreme level of aggression” and that Ginturi was killed “during the measures taken to detain the violators”. EU Monitoring Mission 6 Nov assembled officials from Georgia, Russia and breakaway South Ossetia, next day announced increased presence along separation line; de facto officials 9 Nov released second civilian.
France’s president sought to boost ties with Kazakhstan, and FMs from Central Asian countries attended G7 online meeting.
Macron sought to bolster cooperation. French President Macron 1 Nov met with President Tokayev in capital Astana during regional tour (see Uzbekistan) to “accelerate cooperation” in key sectors. Pair signed raft of agreements, including on transport engineering, agribusiness and pharmaceuticals; Macron also praised Astana for refusing “to be a vassal of any powers”. Days after Macron’s visit, Russian President Putin 9 Nov met with Tokayev in Astana to discuss bilateral cooperation, with Putin calling for stronger military ties. In interview broadcast 12 Nov, Russian FM Lavrov accused west of trying to “push” Moscow out of Central Asia.
G7 hosted Central Asian FMs for virtual meeting. During 7-8 Nov G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Japan, FMs from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan 8 Nov attended virtual session amid efforts by G7 to strengthen engagement with Ce