CrisisWatch

Tracking Conflict Worldwide

CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.

January 2023

Africa

Benin

Sporadic jihadist violence continued in north as country held peaceful legislative elections.

Suspected jihadist violence persisted in northern departments. In Atakora department near border with Burkina Faso, unidentified gunmen 1 Jan kidnapped four people in Matéri commune; suspected al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) combatants 14 Jan reportedly gave five-day ultimatum to residents of Niéhoun-Daloga village in Matéri commune to leave, prompting army to conduct operation to clear area of jihadist presence. In Alibori department near border with Niger, improvised explosive device 1 Jan reportedly killed two civilians in Karimama commune.

Pro-govt parties won peaceful parliamentary elections. Constitutional Court 12 Jan announced that two parties supporting President Talon’s govt, Republican Bloc and Progressive Union for Renewal, won 81 out of 109 seats in parliamentary elections held 8 Jan; opposition to make return to parliament after four-year absence as main opposition party Les Démocrates won remaining 28 seats.

Burkina Faso

Amid rampant jihadist violence countrywide, volunteer fighters reportedly committed abuses against civilians, and authorities ordered French military contingent stationed in Burkina Faso to leave.

Jihadist violence continued to affect most regions across country. In Sahel region (north), suspected jihadists 12-13 Jan abducted dozens of women and children near Arbinda town (Soum province); authorities 20 Jan announced 66 had been released. Unidentified armed group attack 30 Jan in Falagountou town (Séno province) left at least 12 govt and allied forces, one civilian and 15 assailants dead. Suspected al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) combatants throughout month clashed with volunteer fighters allied with govt forces (VDPs) notably in Centre-East, East and Centre-North regions, with six VDPs and one civilian killed in Rakoengta locality (Bam province) 19 Jan. In Boucle du Mouhoun region (north west), suspected JNIM combatants 2-3 Jan killed at least seven civilians in Sourou and Nayala provinces; attacks by suspected jihadists 19 Jan also killed ten VDPs in Nayala province, and 12 civilians in Banwa province. Nearby in Centre-West region, unidentified assailants 26 Jan killed ten civilians in two attacks in Dassa commune (Sanguié province). In Cascades region further west, suspected JNIM militants 29-30 Jan reportedly killed 15 civilians near Linguekoro village (Comoé province).

Local NGO accused volunteer fighters of serious human rights abuses. Amid transitional authorities’ mass mobilisation of VDPs launched late 2022, civil society organisation Collectif contre l’Impunité et la Stigmatisation des Communautés 2 Jan accused VDPs of committing serious crimes and other abuses against civilians in Dec, including killings and kidnappings; authorities same day said investigation was under way into killing of 28 Fulani civilians night of 30-31 Dec in Nouna town (Kossi province, Boucle du Mouhoun region).

Tensions with France reached new heights. Ouagadougou 23 Jan announced requesting France to withdraw troops from Operation Sabre within a month; Paris 25 Jan confirmed 400-strong contingent stationed near capital Ouagadougou will leave as requested, and next day recalled Ambassador to Burkina Faso Luc Hallade for consultations.

Burundi

Military faced accusations of human rights abuses in South Kivu (DR Congo) and Cibitoke province, while ruling party’s youth militia Imbonerakure continued intimidating population.

Congolese Tutsi community accused military of attacking ethnic Tutsi in DR Congo. Burundian troops’ continued support to Congolese army against Burundian and Congolese armed groups in South Kivu (including Tutsi-led RED-Tabara rebel group opposing Burundi’s Hutu-dominated govt), fuelled fears among Congolese Tutsi Banyamulenge community. Local Banyamulenge chiefs from Minembwe territory 4 Jan sent letter to Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye in his capacity as chair of East African Community, denouncing alleged ethnic cleansing of their community by Burundian and Congolese forces alongside Congolese Maï-Maï armed groups. Media outlet La Libre Afrique 19 Jan reported Burundian forces had lost 40 soldiers since deployment in South Kivu in Aug 2022.

Locals accused military of inflicting degrading treatment on local population. As military continued operations against Kinyarwanda-speaking rebels based in Kibira forest (north west). Defence Minister Alain Tribert Mutabazi 10 Jan hosted meeting with residents in Mabayi, Cibitoke province; residents accused army elements of collaborating with rebels and complained about behaviour of security forces, including their raping, beating and coercing labour from local population.

Imbonerakure continued harassing population amid general climate of impunity. Five members of ruling party youth militia Imbonerakure 3 Jan stabbed and injured individual in Birohe locality, Gitega province, allegedly due to dispute over theft of personal belongings. Meanwhile, after residents 1 and 16 Jan found dead bodies with signs of torture in Buganda and Rugombo communes, Cibitoke province, local authorities buried bodies without prior investigation.

In other important developments. During ruling CNDD-FDD party congress in capital Gitega, President Ndayishimiye 22 Jan called out corruption in state administration.

Cameroon

Canadian peace initiative to settle Anglophone conflict suffered setback as Yaoundé denied giving any country facilitation mandate, while fighting continued between govt forces and separatists in Anglophone regions.

Yaoundé denied seeking Canadian facilitation in Anglophone conflict. Following series of discreet pre-talks between Yaoundé and separatist groups held in Canada in Nov-Dec 2022, Canadian FM Mélanie Joly 20 Jan announced Ottawa had accepted mandate to facilitate talks between Yaoundé and six Anglophone separatist groups. Anglophone separatists 21 Jan said they were committed to negotiated process mandated by Canada, and civil society and religious leaders as well as women’s groups from Anglophone regions in following days welcomed announcement. Govt 23 Jan however denied asking any country to organise peace talks with separatists. Canadian foreign ministry immediately said it was in touch with conflict parties and “previous statement stands”.

Tensions remained high in Anglophone regions. In New Year address, President Biya referred to Anglophone separatists as “terrorist groups” and said troops had crushed many of them. Military 2 Jan said they had deployed troops to Oku, Kumbo and Jakiri areas in North West region (NW) after armed groups in preceding days sealed markets, chased people and vehicles from streets and abducted scores of civilians. Armed separatists 13-15 Jan launched new offensive against govt forces, attacking armoured military convoys in Mbengwi area in Momo division (NW), Banga Bakundu locality in Meme division (South West region, SW), and military post in Mamfe city in Manyu division (SW), reportedly killing at least one soldier in each attack. Suspected separatists 18 Jan killed electoral body official in Bamenda city (NW) one day after separatist leaders rejected Senate elections scheduled for 12 March. Govt forces 25 Jan attacked separatist positions in Ngo-Ketunjia and Mezam divisions (NW), with unknown casualties.

Jihadist attacks continued in Far North, particularly in Mayo-Tsanaga division. Suspected Boko Haram (JAS) or Islamic State West Africa Province militants 1 Jan attacked Zeneme military outpost, injuring soldier; 3 Jan ambushed Multinational Joint Task Force in Djeneme area of Mozogo commune, injuring two; 11 Jan reportedly killed at least one civilian in Dingliding area; and 22 Jan killed two civilians and one soldier in Nguetchéwé locality (all Mayo-Tsanaga).

Central African Republic

Several hundred Sudan-based rebels entered country; fighting between armed groups on one hand, and govt forces and allies on the other, could escalate in coming weeks.

CAR and Sudan shut shared border citing security challenges. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Zéphirin Mamadou and Vice-Chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti” 4-5 Jan announced closure of Central African Republic (CAR)-Sudan land border, with Hemedti warning Sudan-based rebels could seek to overthrow CAR President Touadéra (see Sudan). Sudanese troops in following days deployed to border areas, with some crossing into CAR and taking position near Birao town (Vakaga prefecture). Several hundred Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) rebels 24 Jan reportedly entered CAR from Sudan near Sam-Ouandja town (Haute-Kotto prefecture). CPC rebels around 25 Jan clashed with govt forces and allied Russian private military company Wagner Group near Gordil (Vakaga).

Rebel groups reinforced presence around main towns in west. In Nana-Mambéré prefecture, CPC 21 and 24 Jan launched major attacks on army positions in Béloko and Besson towns, with several dead; unidentified gunmen 7 Jan attacked security forces in Yenga village near Bouar town, leaving two soldiers dead and one missing. In Mambéré-Kadei prefecture, 3R rebel group (which is part of CPC) 2 Jan attacked mining site near Abba town, killing one miner; 12 Jan killed one soldier and wounded another in raid on army positions in same area.

Constitutional Court cleared way for constitutional referendum. Constitutional Court 3 Jan validated nomination of Jean-Pierre Waboé as new court president to replace Danièle Darlan, whom Touadéra dismissed in Oct, but said Darlan’s dismissal was unconstitutional. Court 20 Jan also confirmed constitutionality of 28 Dec law on referendum procedures, paving way for Touadéra to hold constitutional referendum and potentially run for third term.

Humanitarian needs soared as financial crisis loomed. After Legislative Assembly 27 Dec voted 2023 budget forecasting deficit of over $67mn, govt 3 Jan increased price of fuel by 50%; deterioration of financial situation unfolds as international donors maintain suspension of budgetary aid. UN humanitarian office 18 Jan warned humanitarian situation in CAR is degrading with 50% of population now critically food-insecure.

Chad

New rebel group emerged in country’s south, while interim govt signed peace deal with Miski self-defence committee and strengthened grip on transitional institutions.

New rebel group emerged in country’s south. In video published early Jan and widely circulated on social media, armed men announced creation of new rebel group Revolution Movement for Southern Chad allegedly comprising 12,000 combatants, including hundreds based across Chad’s southern border in Central African Republic; also appealed to Russia for support. Governor of Logone Oriental province, Gen. Ahmat Dari Bazine, 15 Jan confirmed existence of rebel group, said it “must be defeated”. Moscow next day denied supporting rebellion.

Govt signed peace agreement with prominent self-defence committee in north. Transitional govt 8 Jan signed peace deal with self-defence group which has long opposed state control of local mining sites in and around Miski locality (Tibesti province). Some committee members rejected agreement, whose terms were not made public, saying it could pave way for govt to loot Tibesti’s gold resources. Oil and energy minister 10 Jan froze all mining activities in province.

Interim govt strengthened grip on transitional institutions. Transitional govt 25 Jan named members of commission charged with organising constitutional referendum; parties from across political spectrum next day denounced body’s lack of representativeness, saying it risked facilitating “massive fraud”. Meanwhile, transitional govt 5 Jan confirmed security forces early Dec thwarted coup attempt and detained 11 army officers along with group’s alleged leader, human rights activist Baradine Berdeï Targuio; same day reportedly transferred all suspects to Koro-Toro high-security prison. Authorities also 5 Jan removed Transitional President Mahamat Déby’s brother, Saleh Déby, from police force after he accused Mahamat Déby of involvement in their father’s death in audio recording circulated on social media. 

Côte d’Ivoire

Tensions with Bamako eased as Ivorian soldiers detained in Mali since July 2022 returned home.

Soldiers returned home after six-month detention in Mali. Malian Interim President Col. Goïta 6 Jan pardoned all 49 Ivorian soldiers arrested in July 2022 and convicted of conspiracy in Dec – 46 of whom had remained in detention while three others had returned to Côte d’Ivoire in Sept 2022 –, citing commitment to “preserving fraternal relations” with neighbours. President Ouattara next day welcomed pardoned soldiers in economic capital Abidjan. In phone call, Ouattara 9 Jan reportedly invited Goïta to Côte d’Ivoire in apparent attempt to normalise bilateral relations.

Competition ran high between presidential hopefuls. Former President Gbagbo’s right-hand man Charles Blé Goudé 11 Jan said he seeks to “govern Côte d’Ivoire one day”, adding to longstanding tensions with former mentor who likely also nurtures presidential ambitions. Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI)’s VP Jean-Louis Billon 14 Jan also announced plan to run in 2025 presidential election, openly challenging PDCI’s long-time leader and anticipated presidential candidate Henri Konan Bédié. Meanwhile, Paris-based media outlet Africa Intelligence 17 Jan reported Ouattara and Gbagbo pledged to meet in Feb during phone call held 12 Jan.

Eritrea

Significant Eritrean troop withdrawals from Ethiopia’s Tigray region occurred after progress on Tigray’s disarmament; Russian FM met with President Afwerki to boost support for war in Ukraine.

Eritrean troops withdrew from most major cities in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Ethiopia’s federal govt and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) continued to make progress on implementing peace accord (see Ethiopia). Notably, Tigray’s forces 10 Jan began handing over heavy weapons to Ethiopia’s federal military. Within days, Eritrea withdrew its troops from most major cities in Tigray. Notably, news agency Reuters 21 Jan reported that troops had left Shire (North Western Zone), while other witnesses reported their withdrawal from Adwa (Central Zone) and Axum (North Western Zone). Senior Ethiopian military officer Teshome Gemechu 28 Jan claimed “there is no other security force in the Tigray region except the Federal Defence Forces”. However, Eritrean forces reportedly retained presence in outskirts of some urban areas and in rural areas. Since it is not party to peace accord, which stipulates withdrawal of foreign and non-federal troops from Tigray concurrent with heavy weapons handover, Eritrea may retain military presence in region until TPLF’s full disarmament. Meanwhile, Tigrayan reports of Eritrean attacks on civilians and looting of properties in region continued to emerge during month.

Russian FM met with Eritrean leader in capital Asmara. President Isaias Afwerki 26 Jan met Russian FM Sergei Lavrov in Asmara during Lavrov’s tour of Africa to bolster support for war in Ukraine; Minister of Information Yemane Meskel said discussions centred on “dynamics of the war in Ukraine and enhancement of bilateral ties on sectors of energy, mining, information technology, education and health”.

Eswatini

Killing of prominent pro-democracy activist sparked domestic and international outrage.

Unidentified gunman 21 Jan shot dead human rights lawyer and prominent pro-democracy activist Thulani Maseko at his house in Manzini region. South Africa-based opposition group Swaziland Solidarity Network 22 Jan blamed killing on King Mswati III’s regime. UN human rights chief Volker Türk 23 Jan condemned “cold-blooded killing” and called for “impartial and effective” investigation, while Southern African Development Community Organ Troika Chairperson Hage Geingob 25 Jan warned of looming civil war absent dialogue. Govt late Jan denied involvement in Maseko’s killing, said it launched investigation to find those responsible. Hundreds of pro-democracy activists 27 Jan reportedly marched to Manzini police headquarters demanding justice for Maseko; police reportedly opened fire and injured at least one demonstrator.

Ethiopia

Tigray’s peace process made notable progress on disarmament and Eritrean troop withdrawals from region; violence continued to worsen in Oromia.

Tigray handed over heavy weapons, significant Eritrean troop withdrawals occurred. Peace process between federal govt and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) progressed. Most notably, Tigray’s forces 10 Jan began handing over heavy weapons to federal forces, a key aspect of Nov peace deal, in Agulae town some 30km north of regional capital Mekelle in presence of African Union monitors. Although peace agreement stipulates foreign and non-federal troop withdrawal as TPLF combatants hand over heavy weapons, Tigrayans reported Eritrea’s continued military presence in rural areas and outskirts of some urban areas. Still, around 20 Jan their troops began withdrawing from most major cities, while Amhara forces 11 Jan left Shire. Federal military 17 Jan entered northern Adigrat city from which it will patrol Eritrean border.

Humanitarian flows continued to improve, more services resumed. Private Wegagen Bank 2 Jan resumed banking services in Mekelle but customers were unable to withdraw funds exceeding 2,000 Birr ($37) due to cash shortages. Ethiopian Airlines same day resumed commercial flights to Shire. UN humanitarian agency 18 Jan said that, between early Oct and 4 Jan, partners had delivered food to around 3.7mn people in Tigray.

Violence in Oromia persisted amid renewed govt resolve to defeat OLA militarily. Federal forces 2 Jan announced renewed military campaigns against Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) amid ongoing fighting in number of zones in central, western and southern Oromia. Amhara militia involvement continued to complicate situation. Although OLA largely conducts rural operations, group 7 Jan launched second major attack in urban area since Nov, breaking into prison in Bule Hora town (West Guji Zone), killing five guards and freeing over 480 inmates. Meanwhile, OLA 23 Jan published manifesto spelling out its vision and goals; announcement follows late-Dec govt decision to rule out negotiations with OLA, citing group’s lack of “purpose and leadership”.

Sudanese and Ethiopian leaders met. PM Abiy Ahmed 26 Jan met with Sudan’s Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in Sudanese capital Khartoum; Burhan reportedly said sides agree “on all matters regarding Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam”.

Guinea

Interim govt rejected calls to reopen inter-Guinean dialogue outside country amid ongoing stifling of dissent.

Conakry ruled out possibility of resuming dialogue abroad. Col. Doumbouya’s interim govt 12 Jan rejected efforts by West African regional bloc ECOWAS to relaunch dialogue between interim govt and political and civil society groups outside country to include main opposition actors (who boycotted so-called inclusive inter-Guinean dialogue held in late 2022), said “there is no reason to hold talks abroad” as dialogue “has been wrapped up”. Meanwhile, UN Deputy Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel Giovanie Biha 18-20 Jan visited country, met with PM Bernard Goumou and reaffirmed UN’s “commitment to support the ongoing transition… in accordance with the 10-point timetable for a rapid return to constitutional order”.

Harassment of opposition persisted. Authorities 17 Jan blocked Fodé Oussou Fofana, VP of opposition Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea, from travelling abroad; 21 Jan arrested Mamadou Billo Bah, prominent member of outlawed civil society platform National Front for the Defence of the Constitution, in capital Conakry, later accused him of taking part in “illegal gathering” and “destruction of property”.

Kenya

Govt and opposition traded accusations of misconduct during August elections, while Al-Shabaab and cattle rustlers carried out deadly attacks.

Govt and opposition argued over presidential election results. President Ruto 17 Jan made unsubstantiated allegation of plot to assassinate electoral commission’s former Chairman Wafula Chebukati for allegedly refusing to rig Aug 2022 presidential election in favour of opposition leader Raila Odinga. At opposition coalition Azimio la Umoja rally gathering thousands in capital Nairobi, Odinga 23 Jan urged supporters to “resist” Ruto’s govt, calling it “illegitimate” and demanding its resignation.

Al-Shabaab launched new attacks in east along border with Somalia. In Garissa county, explosive device likely planted by Al-Shabaab combatants 11 Jan killed four road workers between Garissa and Bura towns, while security forces 18 Jan killed ten suspected Al-Shabaab militants in Galmagalla village.

Deadly cattle raids continued in drought-affected north west. Unidentified gunmen 1 Jan killed two girls and stole 70 heads of cattle in Kotut village, Elgeyo-Marakwet county; another cattle raid 12 Jan reportedly left eight people dead in Laisamis town, Marsabit county.

Nairobi’s efforts at regional diplomacy continued. Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and President Ruto 9, 10 Jan respectively met Vice-Chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti” in Nairobi, reportedly to discuss Sudan’s possible reintegration into African Union among other matters (see Sudan). Representatives of M23 rebel group 12 Jan met East African Community facilitator for peace process in eastern DR Congo (DRC), Uhuru Kenyatta, in Kenya’s Mombasa city, reiterated readiness to withdraw from captured territory in DRC’s North Kivu province and adhere to ceasefire (see DR Congo).

Mali

Jihadist militants launched spate of attacks in south, transitional govt encountered resistance to constitutional reform plans, and months-long tensions with Côte d’Ivoire abated.

Jihadist attacks continued including in southern region. Al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) 2 Jan launched simultaneous attacks in southern Koulikoro region, killing two people in Kassela village (20km from Bamako) and another five in Markacoungo town (80km from Bamako). Also in Koulikoro, JNIM 15 Jan reportedly ambushed armed forces near Kolokani village, killing five soldiers while also losing 15 combatants. In centre, JNIM 10 Jan launched twin attacks on govt forces between Dia and Diafarabé towns (Mopti region), and Koumara and Macina towns (Koulikoro and Ségou regions, respectively); 14 soldiers and 31 jihadists reportedly killed. Meanwhile, in Ménaka region further north, Islamic State Sahel Province (IS-Sahel) militants targeted civilians, notably killing eight people in Inagam and Assakereye villages 5 Jan.

Transitional authorities’ constitutional reform plan faced opposition. Several opposition groups, including supporters of influential Imam Mahmoud Dicko 9 Jan, announced boycott of meeting convened by govt to discuss draft constitution ahead of constitutional referendum scheduled for March. Meeting 12 Jan proceeded with only 50 of 281 invited participants present. Authorities 14 Jan used tear gas to disperse demonstration to welcome Dicko back from Saudi Arabia to capital Bamako.

Tensions with Côte d’Ivoire eased as Mali freed Ivorian soldiers detained since July. Interim President Col. Assimi Goïta 6 Jan pardoned 49 Ivorian soldiers detained in July 2022 on allegations of undermining state security; 46 soldiers next day returned to Côte d’Ivoire (three had been released in Sept 2022). In phone call, Ivorian President Ouattara 9 Jan invited Goïta to visit Côte d’Ivoire (see Côte d’Ivoire).

In other important developments. After signatory armed groups late Dec suspended participation in 2015 Algiers Accord, Malian FM Abdoulaye Diop 15-16 Jan travelled to Algeria, met counterpart Ramtane Lamamra and President Tebboune to discuss issues related to peace agreement. Bamako later in month reportedly declined Algerian proposal to host meeting between stakeholders of 2015 agreement, which would have conformed with signatory armed groups’ request for meeting “on neutral ground”.

Mozambique

Fighting continued in Cabo Delgado province as govt forces and allies redoubled efforts to tackle Islamist insurgency.

Govt launched new counter-insurgency operation in Cabo Delgado. Security forces 1 Jan undertook operation “Vulcão IV” reportedly with support of Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) in bid to clear Messalo River basin in Muidumbe district and nearby forests of northern and western Macomia district. Operation coincided with uptick in insurgent attacks and clashes between security forces and insurgents in both districts. In Macomia, Islamic State Mozambique Province (ISMP) 8 Jan ambushed joint Mozambican and SAMIM force near Litandacua village, claimed injuring several soldiers and stealing military equipment; ISMP 22 Jan again clashed with security forces in Litandacua. In Muidumbe, fighting 9 Jan reportedly erupted between security forces and ISMP in Mandava village, leaving unconfirmed number of casualties; ISMP next day attacked military post at Xitaxi village, killing at least three soldiers, and 15 Jan reportedly launched explosive device attack against govt forces along N380 road. Also in Muidumbe, local militia 19 Jan killed six alleged ISMP militants in Namacule village. Attacks on civilians also persisted in Cabo Delgado. Notably in Nangade district, alleged ISMP 4 Jan raided Chacamba village, less than 10km from district headquarters, beheading one man and kidnapping up to three women; attack coincided with Cabo Delgado governor’s visit to area. In Mocímboa da Praia district, alleged ISMP 25 Jan entered Calugo village, reportedly to resupply themselves.

Rwandan forces expanded area of operations to southern Cabo Delgado. Rwandan security forces 12 Jan confirmed that they had deployed to Ancuabe district in southern Cabo Delgado amid ongoing operations in Palma and Mocímboa da Praia districts in province’s north.

In other important developments. Video 9 Jan emerged online allegedly showing SAMIM troops burning corpses in Nkonga forest of Nangade district in Nov 2022; SAMIM 11 Jan said it “does not condone acts reflected in the video” and announced investigation. UN World Food Programme 27 Jan announced it would as from Feb suspend food aid to people displaced by conflict in Cabo Delgado, Niassa and Nampula provinces.

Niger

Jihadist violence continued to fuel insecurity in south west and south east; local peace agreement between communities of Banibangou municipality revived hope for resolution of longstanding conflict.

Islamic State continued driving insecurity in Tillabery region in south west. Govt forces 8 Jan reportedly killed four suspected Islamic State Sahel Province (IS-Sahel) fighters and arrested another three near Taroum town (Ouallam department), also losing two soldiers; 18 Jan reportedly killed 11 suspected jihadists and detained another six near Doulgou village (Gotheye department), with local sources alleging unknown number of those killed were Fulani civilians. Suspected IS-Sahel elements 10 Jan killed two civilians near Téra town (Téra department); 12 Jan attacked Doukou Koira Tegui village (Tillabery department), killing two and wounding seven residents.

Boko Haram factions kidnapped civilians in Diffa region in south east. Suspected Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) faction of Boko Haram 7 Jan kidnapped two people in Gremari locality (Maine Soroa department); next day kidnapped five children in Maissirodi village (Diffa department). Suspected Boko Haram (JAS) militants 18 Jan kidnapped at least four women in Rimi village (N’Guigmi department).

In other important developments. Representatives of Zarma and Fulani communities in Banibangou municipality (Ouallam department, Tillabery region) around 23 Jan signed peace agreement to end longstanding conflict fuelled notably by competition for natural resources. Ruling party late Dec elected former President Issoufou’s ally Foumakoye Gado as party president, highlighting Issoufou’s continuing influence within party and in state matters.

Nigeria

Insecurity remained rampant ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections due in February.

Political violence persisted notably in south ahead of general elections. Electoral commission 9 Jan warned that insecurity could derail general elections due 25 Feb and 11 March. Assailants 14 Jan killed uncle of prominent politician in Akokwa town, Imo state. Gunmen next day set electoral commission office on fire in Enugu state, killing policeman, and 20 Jan stormed ruling All Progressives Congress meeting in Ebonyi state, killing two.

Jihadists remained active in North East. In Borno state, clashes between rival jihadist groups persisted, with Boko Haram (BH) 7 Jan reportedly killing 35 Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) fighters near Kukawa town. Jihadist groups also continued to target civilians and security forces in Borno. Notably, Boko Haram 17 Jan raided Makilwe village, killing one farmer and abducting eight others. Govt forces 23 Jan repelled ISWAP ambush near Komala village, killing at least 23 assailants.

Violence continued despite military operations in North West and North Central. Authorities 3 Jan announced arrest of ISWAP commander Abdulmumin Ibrahim Otaru (aka “Abu Mikdad”), said he “operated terrorist cells” in Kogi state. In Kaduna state, unidentified gunmen 9 Jan ambushed security patrol near mining site in Birnin Gwari area, killing 12 security personnel and local vigilantes. Meanwhile, in Benue state, suspected herdsmen 19 Jan killed nine people including displaced persons in Abagena town. Military suspected of mistakenly killing dozens in airstrikes 24 Jan: bomb blast struck group of herders near Rukubi village, Nasarawa state, reportedly leaving 54 dead, and drone strike killed unspecified number of vigilantes near Galadimakogo village, Niger state.

Biafra agitation and other violence persisted in South East. In Imo state, gunmen 2 Jan attacked former state governor’s convoy, killing four police officers near Ehime-Mbano town. In Anambra state, gunmen 9-12 Jan killed at least seven people and set buildings on fire in Ihiala town. Troops 10-13 Jan killed at least seven Indigenous People of Biafra separatists in operations in Imo, Anambra, Abia and Enugu states. Meanwhile in South South, gunmen 7 Jan kidnapped around 20 people at Igueben train station, Edo state; all abductees later rescued.

Somalia

As govt offensive against Al-Shabaab shifted to Galmudug state, group launched series of attacks to undermine govt’s territorial gains in Hirshabelle state; Puntland state suspended ties with Mogadishu.

Anti-Al-Shabaab offensive shifted to Galmudug. Govt forces made progress in Galmudug state, capturing towns of Massargaweyne 1 Jan, Barag Sheikh Amir 15 Jan, Galcad next day, and more significantly Ceel Dheere 17 Jan. Military also pushed south from Hobyo and Wisil towns, taking control of Ceel Huur town 14 Jan and strategic Xarardheere town (which had been major centre of Al-Shabaab activity) 16 Jan. Al-Shabaab militants 20 Jan stormed military base in Galcad town; govt reported seven soldiers and 100 Al-Shabaab killed, but militants claimed significant losses on govt side.

Al-Shabaab increased attacks in Hirshabelle following govt’s gains there. Al-Shabaab launched series of deadly improvised explosive device attacks both along main Jowhar-Beledweyne route and near border with Galmudug, temporarily overrunning some army positions. Notably, group 4-17 Jan targeted Mahas, Jalalaqsi, Bulobarde and Halgan towns as well as Hilowle-Gaab and Hawaddley villages. Al-Shabaab also maintained pressure in Hirshabelle by raiding clan militia positions in Dudan Dad village 4 Jan and Tabantab village 13 Jan, and by attacking civilians accused of supporting govt forces and clan militias in Beer Xano village 2 Jan, and El Xeero village 11 Jan. Meanwhile, suicide bombers 22 Jan attacked Banadir regional office in Mogadishu, killing at least six.

Puntland state suspended relations with Mogadishu. Puntland state govt 9 Jan announced it would operate as autonomous entity until Somalia’s provisional constitution is finalised, collaborating with Mogadishu only on humanitarian affairs. Separately, series of small-scale grenade attacks in first half of Jan took place in Bosasso city following onset of voter registration for “one person one vote” polls at district level.

In other important developments. Approximately 2,000 (out of 5,000) Somali troops trained in Eritrea returned starting 21 Dec. After political dispute over South West state President Lafta-Gareen’s term extension in Dec turned violent, reconciliation conference organised by national Lower House Speaker Aden Madobe and attended by President Mohamud 16 Jan kicked off in state’s largest city Baidoa.

Somaliland

Govt forces withdrew from border town also claimed by Somalia’s Puntland state following protests sparked by insecurity.

Unrest in Las Anod led to govt forces withdrawal. Govt forces 5 Jan pulled out of Las Anod town in contested Sool region for first time since they took over town from Puntland forces in 2007, citing need to “avoid further escalation”; move came after security forces late Dec suppressed protests against insecurity in town, leaving at least 20 people dead. Representatives from Dhulbahante clan (generally opposed to Somaliland’s control of Las Anod and areas they inhabit in Sool region) 8 Jan called for Somaliland forces to withdraw from all Sool region. Interior Minister Mohamed Kahin 11 Jan led high-level govt delegation to Las Anod, 15 Jan said govt was committed to resolving issues in Sool region through dialogue. As traditional leaders and elders from Sool, Sanaag and Cayn regions mid- to late-Jan gathered in Las Anod to discuss their future, govt 21 Jan said conference should not be detrimental to Somaliland’s unity and warned of foreign interference; President Bihi around 30 Jan said his administration will amicably settle crisis in Las Anod.

Election-sequencing dispute remained unresolved. Voter registration proceeded in Jan despite lack of progress in resolving election-sequencing question.

South Sudan

Month saw progress on peace deal implementation, while space for civil society continued to shrink; intercommunal violence spread in several states as dry season began.

Govt made some progress toward implementing 2018 peace agreement. President Salva Kiir 1 Jan signed ten laws critical to delayed “roadmap” for implementation of peace agreement, including Constitution-Making Act and Political Parties Act, as concerns about inclusivity of constitution-making process persisted. Final batch of unified armed forces 14 Jan graduated in Bentiu city, nearly four years after 2019 deadline, but questions remain over forces’ lack of command structure, weaponry and budget. Head of UN Mission in South Sudan 26 Jan announced UN will provide assistance on technical preparations for elections. Meanwhile, Kiir 28 Jan announced return to Rome peace talks with holdout opposition groups.

Fighting in Upper Nile decreased, but violence spread elsewhere amid dry season. In Jonglei state, Lou Nuer and Bor Dinka armed groups 30 Dec-2 Jan attacked Likuangole town of Greater Pibor Administrative Area; suspected cattle raiders from Murle ethnic group early Jan attacked several villages in Uror and Duk counties, leaving dozens dead. In disputed Abyei Administrative Area, armed Nuer and Dinka Twic youths 2 Jan attacked Rumamer village, killing 13. In Warrap state, Dinka youths from Rumbek North 10 Jan killed five Dinka civilians in Tonj East village; suspected armed youth from Abyei and Unity state 27 Jan raided cattle camp in Twic county, killing at least 16. In oil-rich Ruweng Special Administrative Area, clashes 7 Jan broke out between national security forces guarding oil fields and cattle herders from Unity state, killing three. Meanwhile, hostilities in Upper Nile de-escalated.

Authorities continued to erode space for civil society. National Security 3 Jan arrested six journalists working for state broadcaster, accusing them of disseminating embarrassing video of President Kiir. Military intelligence next day arrested activist and human rights defender Samuel Garang in capital Juba for alleged links to holdout opposition leader Paul Malong. Meanwhile, gunmen in South Sudan People’s Defence Forces uniforms 11 Jan abducted former Western Equatoria Minister of Information, Charles Kisanga, in Juba; 14 Jan released him.

Sudan

Efforts to install civilian govt continued with launch of “Phase II” negotiations, armed groups formed joint military force in Darfur, and security issues emerged at border with Central African Republic.

Phase II negotiations on political transition produced mixed results, notably with eastern leaders. Following Dec Framework Agreement between military and dozens of civilian leaders on transition to civilian rule, “Phase II” negotiations 9 Jan began, focusing on transitional justice, security sector reform, Juba Peace Agreement, status of ex-regime dismantling committee and crisis in eastern Sudan. Parties 12 Jan concluded talks on dismantling ousted Bashir regime, agreeing to reinstate disbanded Empowerment Removal Committee with new members. However, significant obstacles on other outstanding issues persisted. Notably, eastern Sudan tribal leader Mohamed al-Amin Terik 1 Jan rejected framework agreement along with other Beja Tribal leaders who 15 Jan announced parallel platform to address eastern Sudan governance; Terik warned region may seek self-determination if final agreement for transition period fails to address their priorities. Forces for Freedom and Change-Central Council (FFC-CC) 19 Jan agreed that Trilateral Mechanism including UN mission in Sudan, African Union and Intergovernmental Authority on Development would organise negotiations on east Sudan governance as well as review of Juba Peace Agreement, which Beja chieftains rejected. FFC-CC 24 Jan announced postponement of dialogues on transitional justice and security sector reform until after formation of transitional govt.

Military announced creation of joint security force in Darfur. Amid reports of renewed attacks on civilians and proliferation of armed militias in Darfur, Sudan Liberation Army 16 Jan announced formation of joint force with Rapid Support Forces and Sudan Liberation Forces “to end insecurity and restore order”; joint force excluded national army and other armed groups, including coalition of western Darfuri armed groups Sudanese Alliance.

Authorities shut land border with CAR, citing security concerns. Vice-Chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti” 5 Jan formally announced closure of border with Central African Republic (CAR), warning Sudan-based rebels could seek to overthrow CAR President Touadéra (see Central African Republic). Authorities in following days deployed troops to border areas but, despite measures, over 1,000 Coalition of Patriots for Change rebels 24 Jan reportedly crossed border into CAR.

Tanzania

In important step toward reconciliation with opposition, govt lifted six-year ban on political rallies; U.S. embassy issued security alert over possible terror threat.

Opposition held first rally since 2016 after authorities lifted longstanding ban. President Suluhu Hassan 3 Jan lifted 2016 ban on political rallies. Main opposition party Chadema 21 Jan held first rally in six years in Mwanza city, with thousands attending. Chadema prominent leader Tundu Lissu 25 Jan returned from exile, vowed to “get back to work”. Meanwhile, independent body Media Council of Tanzania early Jan reported improvement in press freedom, with 17 “press violations” recorded in 2022 compared with 25 in 2021 and 41 in 2020.

U.S. embassy and Dutch airline warned of security risk. U.S. embassy in Tanzania 25 Jan issued security alert for Tanzania, citing terrorist threat in “locations frequented by U.S. citizens and other Westerners” in Dar es Salaam city and elsewhere. Police next day called for citizens to remain calm, insisted country was safe. Dutch Airline KLM around 27 Jan briefly halted flights to Tanzania, citing “civil unrest”. Govt next day rejected claim as “baseless, alarmist, unfounded, inconsiderate and insensitive”, urged public to “ignore KLM’s statement”. KLM 29 Jan issued apology, saying it had incorrectly described reason for barring crew stop-over in Dar es Salaam.

Togo

Jihadist militants launched further attacks in northern region.

Suspected al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) militants launched explosive device attacks in Kpendjal prefecture of Savanes region, reportedly killing at least three soldiers near Tiwoli village 2 Jan and injuring four others near Boatou village 18 Jan.

Zimbabwe

Harassment of opposition supporters continued months away from general elections, and constituency delimitation report faced fierce criticism.

Main opposition party members faced violence and arrests. Mob 7 Jan assaulted members of main opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) during party meeting in Murehwa town, north east of capital Harare, reportedly leaving seven injured; CCC accused ruling ZANU-PF party of unleashing vigilantes ahead of general elections slated for mid-2023. Police 14 Jan stormed CCC legislator’s home in Budiriro, Harare suburb, detained 26 party activists over accusations of holding illegal gathering. NGO Amnesty International 17 Jan called for their immediate release, condemned “escalating crackdown against freedom of association and assembly” in run-up to elections. All activists granted bail 27 Jan.

Report on delimitation of constituencies criticised across party lines. Govt 6 Jan presented electoral commission’s preliminary report on delimitation of constituencies to both houses of parliament. Ad-hoc committee of 13 legislators charged with examining report 13 Jan criticised document, saying electoral commission must use final census results and ensure equal number of voters in all constituencies as provided for by constitution. NGO Zimbabwe Democracy Institute 13 Jan said preliminary report showed capture of electoral system “through gerrymandering, calculated to disorient the main opposition and benefit the ruling party”, and civil society platform Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition around 20 Jan said delimitation process fraught with irregularities and part of broader scheme to rig elections in favour of ZANU-PF. Meanwhile, opposition People’s Unity Party late Jan vowed to hold nationwide demonstrations on 25 March in attempt to stop elections.

Asia

Afghanistan

Islamic State continued deadly attacks in capital Kabul, and hardships persisted amid electricity shortfall, severe winter and curtailed relief operations due to Taliban restrictions on NGOs.

Islamic State continued attacks, resistance group struck in Taliban heartland. Suicide bomber 1 Jan struck defence ministry convoy near military airport in Kabul, killing around 20 security personnel and civilians; Islamic State’s local branch (ISKP) later claimed attacker was one of two militants who had targeted Chinese hotel weeks earlier. ISKP claimed bombing at entrance to Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kabul 11 Jan that killed number of govt employees. Meanwhile, resistance group Afghanistan Freedom Front 18 Jan claimed attack in Kandahar province (south), continuing to illustrate group’s operational presence inside Taliban’s heartland.

Murder of former female parliamentarian fuelled concerns. Gunmen 15 Jan shot dead former female Afghan parliamentarian Mursal Nabizadeh at her home in Kabul, sparking concerns over safeguards for Afghan women, especially former politicians and women’s activists, under Taliban rule. Authorities subsequently announced that lawmaker was killed as result of family feud, as bodyguard and jewellery remained missing.

Electricity blackouts resulted in hundreds killed. Amid unusually cold winter, and despite electricity supply deals struck late Dec with Uzbekistan and 10 Jan with Tajikistan, country continued to face electricity outages that hampered private sector and contributed to heating problems for ordinary Afghans, leaving hundreds dead; authorities in Jan also cut off electricity to Kandahar and Helmand provinces, despite unprecedented cold weather, due to dwindling water levels of Kajaki dam. Authorities 5 Jan signed oil extraction deal with Chinese company to invest $540mn over three-year period, creating 3,000 jobs. UN 14 Jan resumed cash shipments after short hiatus. UN Deputy Sec-Gen Amina Mohammed led delegation to Afghanistan and 25 Jan reported efforts to obtain exemptions for women to resume working at NGOs, whose operations have been slowed by Taliban restrictions. World Food Programme 26 Jan said malnutrition rates countrywide are at record high.

Bangladesh

Govt continued clampdown on opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) as it held anti-govt rallies, while deadly attacks continued in Rohingya refugee camps.

Govt continued crackdown on BNP amid nationwide protests. New opposition alliance comprising 15 parties 7 Jan joined BNP’s ten-point movement calling for govt resignation and new elections, bringing total parties in support to over 30. As BNP and its allies 11 Jan held mass anti-govt sit-ins in capital Dhaka and countrywide, ruling Awami League supporters reportedly attacked BNP leaders and activists in Faridpur district, injuring several; police next day filed cases against 114 BNP leaders and supporters, arresting 13. BNP leaders and activists 16 Jan clashed with police in Chittagong city; BNP claimed police fired on peaceful protesters, injuring 20, while police filed anti-terrorism charges against at least 500 for attacking police and using explosives. BNP sec gen 18 Jan claimed govt had filed 1,209 cases under controversial Digital Security Act in four years against dissidents, journalists and opposition leaders.

Violence in Rohingya camps persisted. In Cox’s Bazar’s Ukhiya camp, Rohingya leader was stabbed to death 8 Jan and another was shot dead next day; police attributed attacks to Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). Human Rights Watch 17 Jan accused Armed Police Battalion, elite police unit overseeing security camps, of extortion, arbitrary arrests and harassment of refugees. UN refugee agency same day deplored “alarming rise” in numbers of Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar or Bangladesh in 2022, reporting 360% increase and “growing sense of desperation”. In first clash between two groups, Rohingya Solidarity Organisation militants 18 Jan attacked ARSA outpost in Bangladesh-Myanmar border area known as “no man’s land”, where around 4,000 people shelter, killing one RSO militant; Bangladeshi authorities began processing those sheltering there to enter country.

Authorities arrested suspected militants. Counter-terrorism police 1 Jan arrested six suspected al-Qaeda-inspired militants in Dhaka, Chittagong and Teknaf cities; counter-terrorism police 8 Jan arrested three suspected members of new militant outfit, Jamatul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya, in Bandarband’s Naikhongchari sub-district; police 23 Jan arrested two suspected members of same group following reported gunfight in Cox’s Bazar Rohingya camp.

China/Japan

China continued military activity around Japan and disputed islands, while Tokyo deepened defence ties with West and India.

China continued maritime activity in region. As of 19 Jan, Japanese Coast Guard spotted 94 Chinese vessels in Japan’s contiguous zone, four of them within territorial waters. Four Chinese Coast Guard ships 10 Jan sailed around disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in first intrusion into Japanese waters around East China Sea islands this year; incursion followed 72-hour incursion 22-25 Dec off Senkaku/Diaoyu, marking longest since 2012.

Japan reinforced outlying islands. Media reports 10 Jan confirmed Japan’s plan to deploy missile unit on Japan’s Yonaguni Island – located just 110km from Taiwan near Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands – in order to expand military base; Chinese missiles fell near Yonaguni last Aug as China conducted exercises following then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei. As part of efforts to reinforce south-western islands, Japan will also begin construction of military base on Japan’s Mageshima Island.

Tokyo sought to deepen ties with allies and partners. Japanese PM Kishida 9-15 Jan embarked on tour to fellow G7 countries (U.S., UK, France, Italy and Canada); notably, Kishida and U.S. President Biden reiterated commitment to bolster U.S.-Japan defence alliance amid rising security challenges in Asia and, related to Taiwan, emphasised goal to push for integrated deterrence with tighter alliance; Japan due to acquire hundreds of U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles to strengthen counterstrike capabilities. In first such deal inked with European partner, Japan and UK 11 Jan signed landmark defence pact, allowing respective forces to be deployed to other’s country for training, joint exercises and disaster relief activities. Japan and Italy 11 Jan upgraded their relationship to “strategic partnership”. Japan and India 16 Jan commenced first-ever joint fighter aircraft exercise. Kishida and NATO sec gen 31 Jan pledged to deepen ties, as latter accused Beijing of “bullying its neighbours and threatening Taiwan”.

India

China’s activities along disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) continued to raise concerns in Delhi, while Maoist violence persisted in east.

Disputed border continued to fuel tensions with China. Indian army chief Gen. Manoj Pande 12 Jan said that situation along LAC is “stable yet unpredictable” and noted that China “slightly” increased its presence along border, but Indian troops are prepared to deal with any “contingency”. Chinese President Xi Jinping 18 Jan reportedly held rare video conversation with Chinese soldiers stationed along LAC in which he reportedly ordered them to “remain alert and be ready for combat”, which fuelled concerns in India. Satellite images posted 19 Jan showing China constructing dam on Mabja Zangbo/Brahmaputra River near LAC raised fears in India over China’s future control of water. Meanwhile, U.S. Assistant Sec State Donald Lu visiting India 14 Jan said China has not taken “good faith steps” to resolve LAC issue and “U.S. will continue to stand with India”; China next day criticised remarks.

Maoist violence continued in east. In Andhra Pradesh state (east), Maoists 4 Jan killed tribal man suspected of working with police in Alluri Sitarama Raju district. In Jharkhand state (east), security forces 23 Jan killed local commander of Maoists’ splinter group People’s Liberation Front of India during clashes in Ranchi district; improvised explosive device 24 Jan injured boy in West Singbhum district; security forces 28 Jan killed one Maoist during clashes in Chatra district.

In other important developments. News channel BBC 17 Jan broadcast documentary in UK examining role of PM Modi, then-Gujarat’s chief minister, during 2002 Gujarat anti-Muslim riots; govt 19 Jan slammed documentary as “propaganda” betraying “colonial mindset” and banned YouTube and Twitter from airing documentary’s clips in India.

India-Pakistan (Kashmir)

Militants launched first deadly attack on Hindus in years in Jammu region, while acrimony continued between India and Pakistan.

Militants targeted Hindus in brazen attack despite low ebb in violence across Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). In first attack on minority Hindu community members in Jammu region’s Rajouri district in over a decade, militants 1 Jan came down from forested higher reaches to village and fired indiscriminately on three houses, killing four people and injuring seven; explosive left behind by militants next day killed two children in same village. Security forces did not accuse any group of responsibility. Meanwhile, militant attacks across J&K remained at low ebb owing to harsh winter. Notably, militants 1 Jan lobbed grenade at security forces personnel in regional capital Srinagar, injuring one. Two alleged Lashkar-e-Tayyaba militants 15 Jan escaped during security operation in Budgam district but were killed two days later. Militants 22 Jan lobbed grenade in Srinagar, injuring one civilian. Home ministry declared The Resistance Front and People’s Anti-Fascist Front as “[militant] organisations” 5 and 7 Jan, respectively.

Locals protested against govt’s land laws in J&K. Hundreds of political activists 16 Jan protested in Jammu against J&K administration’s ongoing eviction of locals from what has been declared “state land”; protest leader same day said govt had “fiddled” with laws of “erstwhile State of [Jammu and Kashmir]” to “allow people from outside J&K and deprive the residents of their due right to use the land”.

India and Pakistan continued hostile rhetoric. Pakistan’s foreign ministry 4 Jan called on India to end “vile anti-Pakistan propaganda”, accusing Delhi of “brazen involvement in fomenting terrorism on Pakistan’s soil”. Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif 16 Jan called for talks “to resolve our burning points like Kashmir”. India 19 Jan said “we always desire normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan” but there should be no “terror, hostility or violence”. Indian Army Chief Manoj Pande 12 Jan said Feb 2021 ceasefire with Pakistan “is holding well but cross-border support to [militancy] and [militant] infrastructure however remains”; security forces 3 Jan claimed to have killed Pakistani trying to intrude in Punjab state’s Gurdaspur district.

Korean Peninsula

North Korea vowed further nuclear and missile development, while South Korea President Yoon Suk-yeol stirred concern with nuclear armament comments.

North Korea ended 2022 party plenum with promise of nuclear expansion. During speech on 31 Dec at culmination of annual review meeting of ruling Workers’ Party held 26-31 Dec, leader Kim Jong-un vowed to “exponentially increase” nuclear weapons production in 2023 in response to threat posed by U.S. and South Korea, specifically citing heightened trilateral coordination among U.S., Seoul and Japan; Kim also stated country was developing “another new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system” with “rapid nuclear counterattack ability” and highlighted late June (Korean War anniversary) and Sept (75th anniversary of state foundation) as important anniversaries, indicating possible military provocations around those periods.

President Yoon sparked controversy with comments on nuclearisation. In off-the-cuff remarks to reporters, Yoon 11 Jan said South Korea could consider building nuclear weapons if nuclear threat from North Korea grows, explaining “we can have our own nuclear weapons pretty quickly given our scientific and technological capabilities.” Government officials subsequently noted it was not official govt policy; nevertheless, comments sparked intense speculation at home and abroad about whether South Korea may one day pursue nuclear weapons, with opinion polling showing support for nuclearisation now running above 70%.

UN said north and south violated armistice agreement with drones. Following special investigation, UN Command 26 Jan said both North and South Korean forces violated 1953 armistice ending Korean War by sending drones across border into other’s airspace late Dec; verdict followed incident in which five North Korean drones 26 Dec entered south, prompting south to deploy drone in tit-for-tat move.

Myanmar

Regime prepared for election and pursued dialogue with ethnic armed groups, while ongoing heavy clashes between military and resistance groups displaced thousands.

Regime continued election preparations and peace talks with ethnic armed groups. Leader Min Aung Hlaing 5 Jan called for update of voter list as part of preparation for election likely held mid-year. Regime 26 Jan issued new highly restrictive political party registration law, which will likely result in most parties being dissolved within 60 days. Election faced opposition: National Unity Govt (NUG) urged public not to cooperate with process, and resistance groups during month staged more than dozen attacks on teams updating voter lists across country, including assault which killed one in Tanintharyi region 9 Jan. Meanwhile, discussions with ethnic armed groups under regime peace initiative continued; nine of ten groups participated in three rounds of meetings as of 25 Jan. Officials 5-7 Jan met United Wa State Party, National Democratic Alliance Army (Mongla) and Shan State Progress Party (SSPP); SSPP 7 Jan said groups would not oppose election process. Marking Independence Day, Tatmadaw 4 Jan released 7,012 prisoners, including some 300 political prisoners.

Military launched airstrikes against ethnic armed groups in north. In Kachin State, military 9 Jan conducted air attacks on Kachin Independence Army base in Tanai township and outposts in Hpakant and Hkamti townships. In Chin State, regime 10 Jan launched airstrikes against Chin National Front (CNF) headquarters at Camp Victoria, Thantlang township, killing five CNF soldiers and injuring ten; additional airstrike next day damaged medical facility and destroyed three homes.

Military and Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) clashes displaced thousands. In Kayin State, military 1 Jan launched around 20 airstrikes against KNLA Brigade 6 and Kawthoolei Army’s Lion Battalion in Kyainseikgyi township following groups’ late Dec seizure of two bases near Payathonesu, killing seven Lion Battalion soldiers. Brigade 6 and allied People’s Defence Forces (PDFs) 4 Jan launched attacks on three infantry battalions around Kyainseikgyi; military responded with helicopter gunships. Military next day bombed Brigade 6-aligned Karen National Union administrative office in Dooplaya district. Clashes displaced some 10,000 people, and KNLA claimed it killed 70 soldiers.

Nepal

New PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal received near-unanimous support in vote of confidence, while tensions emerged within ruling coalition ahead of presidential election.

New govt secured overwhelming support. In vote of confidence 10 Jan, Maoist Chairman and PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” received 268 votes in favour in 275-member House of Representatives after Nepali Congress in surprise move backed Dahal despite his withdrawal from Nepali Congress-Maoist electoral alliance in Dec; Nepali Congress decision led to speculation that Maoists would in return support Nepali Congress candidate in upcoming March election for presidency.

Discord surfaced between ruling coalition parties. Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist, UML) Chairman KP Oli 17 Jan walked out of all-party meeting after rejecting suggestions that constitutional posts like presidency be shared with Nepali Congress; Oli accused Nepali Congress of “plotting” against Maoist-UML alliance, which is underpinned by 25 Dec deal whereby presidency and house speaker posts go to UML. UML leader Dev Raj Ghimire elected speaker of House 18 Jan. Meanwhile, Deputy PM and Rastriya Swatantra Party chief Rabi Lamichhane 27 Jan resigned after Supreme Court annulled his election to parliament due to invalid citizenship; Lamichhane’s citizenship was restored 29 Jan.

Pakistan

Pakistani Taliban killed scores in suicide attack in Peshawar; tensions remained high as former PM Imran Khan campaigned for early polls and electoral dispute erupted in Sindh province.

Deadly bombing rocked Peshawar city amid spate of Pakistani Taliban attacks. Suicide attack – claimed and then denied by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – at mosque in Peshawar’s Police Lines district 30 Jan killed more than 100 and injured over 200. Earlier, TTP maintained high-frequency attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, killing over dozen security forces. Notably: 6 Jan killed two police officers in Lakki Marwat district; 14 Jan killed three police officers in Peshawar; suicide attack 18 Jan killed three police officers in Khyber district. Attack from Iran in Panjgur district 18 Jan killed four soldiers. Security operation in South Waziristan district 5 Jan killed 11 militants, including top TTP commander. Meanwhile, interior minister 2 Jan said “Islamabad may target the TTP in Afghanistan if Kabul does not take action to dismantle them”.

Khan and allies maintained pressure on govt, dissolving two provincial assemblies. Khan ally and Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi 11 Jan won confidence vote in Punjab assembly, which was dissolved 14 Jan. In KP, chief minister – and member of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) – 18 Jan dissolved assembly; elections now due in both provinces in April. Election commission 22 Jan appointed opposition nominee as Punjab’s caretaker chief minister; PTI 27 Jan challenged nomination at Supreme Court. Meanwhile, PTI embarked on new bid to push for early general elections by seeking to withdraw April 2022 resignations of 131 lawmakers in order to defeat PM Sharif in potential confidence vote; 45 PTI members 23 Jan withdrew resignations but failed to prevent speaker from 17, 20, 22 Jan accepting resignations of all PTI lawmakers; election commission 29 Jan announced by-elections for 86 national assembly seats in March.

Political tensions rose in Sindh province. During second phase of local polls 15 Jan, clashes and electoral disputes erupted between rival party activists; if Sindh’s ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and closest contender Jamaat-e-Islami fail to reach agreement on key positions, particularly Karachi’s mayor, instability in financial hub could further undermine fragile economy.

Philippines

Local insecurity persisted in south, while clashes continued between govt and Communist rebels.

Clashes between armed groups and clan feuds continued. In Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), insecurity persisted; in Maguindanao del Norte province, gunmen 12 Jan attacked Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members belonging to 104 Base Command, sparking local clashes between armed groups in Sultan Kudarat town. Twenty gunmen from Datu Odin Sinsuat town 18 Jan attacked Moro community on outskirts of Cotabato city, killing two and injuring five after strafing houses mostly owned by MILF-aligned Pangilan clan; officials attributed attack to clan feuding. Decommissioning phase of peace process between govt and MILF remained slow through Jan. In Marawi city, European Union, UN’s children agency, BARMM officials and local executives 16 Jan launched €4mn program comprising health, education, child protection and disaster risk reduction provisions for tens of thousands affected by 2017 conflict in Marawi city.

Islamist militant activity continued amid surrenders. Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) elements 8 Jan clashed with local paramilitary in Lamitan city, Basilan province, injuring four. Meanwhile, 21 ASG members and supporters 5 Jan surrendered to military in Jolo town, Sulu province, and five surrendered 12 Jan in Ungkaya Pukan town, Basilan province. In Maguindanao del Norte, six Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters members 16 Jan surrendered to military in Tacurong town.

Communist insurgency killed eight, displaced hundreds. Military operations and some militant ambushes by communist New People’s Army (NPA) in Mindanao Island in south, Visayas Islands in centre and Luzon Island in north claimed eight combatant and civilian fatalities and three injuries. Clashes 18 Jan in Negros occidental displaced hundreds of civilians.

South China Sea

Philippines and China signed economic deals despite differences over South China Sea (SCS), while U.S. and Beijing continued maritime activity in region.

Philippines and China struck agreements amid SCS tensions. Philippine President Marcos Jr. 3-5 Jan visited Chinese capital Beijing and met President Xi, signing agreements on issues including fisheries, infrastructure and finance; meeting followed late Dec announcement of new SCS hotline between two states. Philippine Supreme Court 11 Jan declared 2005 joint oil exploration pact between China, Philippines and Vietnam unconstitutional; Philippine foreign ministry said it would take ruling into account when resuming talks with China over possible cooperation on oil and gas in disputed waters. Former National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos 13 Jan said Philippines was examining Chinese partnership proposal with fishing villages in West Philippine Sea; Marcos 15 Jan clarified Philippines and China only have agreement, not partnership, allowing Filipino fishermen to fish in SCS.

U.S. and Chinese ships continued maritime activity in region. China late Dec sent its largest coastguard vessels to patrol Indonesia’s Natuna Islands, which remained present during month; vessels arrived as Indonesia and Vietnam finalised their 12-year negotiation to delimit overlapping Exclusive Economic Zones late Dec, which may challenge China’s “nine-dash-line” claims. Indonesia mid-month deployed warship to North Natuna Sea to monitor Chinese Coast Guard vessel. U.S. Nimitz Carrier Strike Group and accompanying warships 12 Jan entered SCS and conducted routine operations; in response, Chinese Shandong aircraft carrier group held series of “confrontational drills” in SCS. Media reports mid-month suggested Beijing turned down U.S. offer to hold military talks on SCS ahead of U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken’s visit to China in Feb. Meanwhile, Japanese Coast Guard 13 Jan concluded four-day security drills training with Malaysian counterpart on repelling foreign intruders in SCS.

Sri Lanka

Govt slashed spending amid economic strains and efforts to secure international bailout loan, while continuing initiative to address decades-old ethnic conflict.

Govt cut back spending amid deep recession. Amid falling govt revenues, President Wickremesinghe 10 Jan instructed all ministries to cut 5% of their allocated budgets for 2023, with priority given to salary and pension payments to public sector employees. State Minister of Defence Premitha Bandara Tennakoon 13 Jan made surprise announcement that army personnel would be reduced by one third over 2023, falling to 135,000 from 200,000. In positive step, India 16 Jan informed International Monetary Fund (IMF) that it will support debt restructuring process, marking progress toward finalising bailout loan. Chinese Vice Minister Chen Zhou 16 Jan indicated “some good news soon” regarding debt restructuring. Wickremesinghe 27 Jan prorogued parliament until 8 Feb, when new policy program is due to be announced.

Govt continued discussion of initiative to address ethnic conflict. Wickremesinghe 15 Jan reiterated govt’s “hope to fully implement the 13th Amendment of the constitution”; successive governments have failed to implement key provisions since amendment was made law in 1987. Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran 16 Jan said, “Nobody takes it with any seriousness because it has been constantly promised.” Wickremesinghe also said govt was “discussing appointing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)”. Talks between govt and TNA, however, appeared stalled following former’s failure to meet deadlines for releasing Tamil prisoners held under Prevention of Terrorism Act and releasing private land held by military.

Local elections preparations resumed, Supreme Court ruled on 2019 bombings. Following govt attempts to delay local govt elections, Election Commission 21 Jan announced polls will be held on 9 March. In landmark ruling, Supreme Court 12 Jan ruled that former President Maithripala Sirisena and four other senior officials had violated fundamental rights of petitioners by failing to act on warnings received in advance of 2019 Easter bombings. In first by foreign govt, Canada 10 Jan imposed sanctions on former Presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa for “gross and systematic violations of human rights during armed conflict in Sri Lanka”.

Taiwan Strait

China maintained frequent aerial and maritime activity around island, while Taiwan’s ruling party appointed new leader ahead of 2024 election.

China continued military presence around island. China 8 Jan announced military drill around Taiwan practicing land attack and sea assault. As of 30 Jan, Taiwan detected 346 Chinese aircraft entering Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ), of which at least 119 either crossed unofficial maritime demarcation known as “median line” or were detected in south west ADIZ near strategic Bashi Channel; Taiwan reported 104 sightings of Chinese vessels in surrounding waters. In first transit of 2023, U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Chung Hoon 6 Jan transited through Taiwan Strait. In New Year’s message, newly appointed head of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office 2 Jan reaffirmed Beijing’s commitment to “peaceful reunification and one country two systems on the condition of One-China principle and 1992 consensus”; Taiwan same day responded Beijing must stop military coercion and imposing political frameworks.

Taiwan continued active engagement with partners. U.S. and Taiwan 17 Jan concluded second-round talks on Initiative on 21st Century Trade, which will lay groundwork for de facto free trade agreement; U.S. said that both sides have “reached consensus in a number of areas” covering trade “facilitation”, anti-corruption, small and medium-sized enterprises and regulatory practices. German and Lithuanian parliamentary delegations 9 Jan arrived in Taiwan. President Tsai 30 Jan held telephone call with Czech President-elect Petr Pavel in which pair highlighted countries’ shared values.

Ruling party prepared for upcoming polls. Ahead of presidential elections scheduled for Jan 2024, VP Lai Ching-te 16 Jan took over as new chief of ruling Democratic Progressive Party after Tsai stepped down following bad showing at local elections; Lai vowed to continue to follow Tsai’s approach to maintain status quo and reiterated that there is no need to declare independence for Taiwan.

Thailand

Pro-democracy activists charged with lèse-majesté went on hunger strike, while Malaysia announced new peace dialogue facilitator amid persistent violence in deep south.

Activists staged hunger strike calling for release of prisoners and revocation of lèse-majesté law. Pro-democracy activists Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong 16 Jan appeared in court to revoke their own bail; two women are charged with variety of crimes, including lèse-majesté, for conducting public opinion surveys about royal motorcades. Two activists 18 Jan commenced hunger strike while detained at Central Women’s Correctional Institution, demanding release on bail of other jailed activists and revocation of lèse-majesté and sedition laws, and were taken to hospital 20 Jan. Banners same day appeared at Thammasat and Chulalongkorn universities in capital Bangkok, criticising lèse-majesté law and calling on students to defend right to free speech. Hundreds 26 Jan gathered in candlelight vigil in support of two activists. Court in Chiang Rai province same day sentenced activist Mongkhon Thirakot to 28 years in prison for Facebook posts deemed insulting to monarchy.

Malaysia appointed new dialogue facilitator amid attacks in deep south. Malaysian govt 10 Jan announced appointment of former military chief Zulkifli Zainal Abidin as chief facilitator of peace dialogue between Thai govt and main separatist group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), replacing Abdul Rahim Noor. Meanwhile, violence persisted in deep south. In Narathiwat province, militant IED attack followed by small arms fire 11 Jan targeted motorcycle-borne defence volunteers in Si Sakhon district, killing one and wounding two. Also in Si Sakhon, security forces 20 Jan killed three militants in gun battle.

Europe & Central Asia

Armenia

Continued blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) led to standoff in peace talks with Azerbaijan, and European Union (EU) approved civilian monitoring mission to Armenia’s border areas.

Blockade of NK brought peace talks with Azerbaijan to near standstill. Azerbaijan-backed protesters’ continued blockade of Lachin corridor, only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia (see Nagorno-Karabakh), derailed all diplomacy built around Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process. Communication between Yerevan and Baku throughout Jan was almost non-existent as sides exchanged blame for standoff, despite EU and Georgian attempts to arrange talks. Notably, EU early Jan tried to convene associates of Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders, but Baku cancelled participation. Georgia also reportedly proposed trilateral cooperation format after receiving request from Baku. However, Azerbaijani President Aliyev 19 Jan said at World Economic Forum that Yerevan had rejected proposal; FM Ararat Mirzoyan 20 Jan responded, saying “Armenia is greatly interested in developing trilateral dialogue” but that initiative failed due to disagreement with Baku over Armenian demand for joint statement against hate speech. Russian foreign ministry 27 Jan emphasised Moscow’s “readiness to organise talks between the Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers”.

EU approved monitoring mission to Armenia. In positive move aimed at preventing new escalation along Armenia-Azerbaijan border, EU 23 Jan announced it will deploy two-year civilian monitoring mission to Armenia in border areas to contribute to “stability”, “build confidence on the ground and ensure an environment conducive to normalisation efforts”. Azerbaijan next day warned that EU mission must not be used “for derailing the normalisation process, including in the context of border delimitation process”.

In other important developments. PM Pashinyan 10 Jan said Armenia would not host annual drills for Russian-led military Collective Security Treaty Organisation alliance due to regional instability. Six months after Armenian and Turkish special envoys announced renewed efforts to normalise relations, Türkiye 6 Jan lifted ban on direct cargo flights with Armenia.

Azerbaijan

Continued blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) led to standoff in peace talks with Armenia, and EU approved civilian monitoring mission to Armenia’s border areas.

Blockade of NK brought peace talks with Armenia to near standstill. Azerbaijan-backed protesters’ continued blockade of Lachin corridor, only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia (see Nagorno-Karabakh), derailed all diplomacy built around Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process. Communication between Yerevan and Baku throughout Jan was almost non-existent as sides exchanged blame for standoff, despite EU and Georgian attempts to arrange talks. Notably, EU early Jan tried to convene associates of Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders, but Baku cancelled participation. Georgia also reportedly proposed trilateral cooperation format after receiving request from Baku. However, President Aliyev 19 Jan said at World Economic Forum that Yerevan had rejected proposal; Armenian FM Ararat Mirzoyan 20 Jan responded, saying “Armenia is greatly interested in developing trilateral dialogue” but that initiative failed due to disagreement with Baku over Armenian demand for joint statement against hate speech. Russian foreign ministry 27 Jan emphasised Moscow’s “readiness to organise talks between the Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers”.

Baku expressed concern over planned EU monitoring mission to Armenia. EU 23 Jan announced it will deploy two-year civilian monitoring mission to Armenia in border areas to contribute to “stability”, “build confidence on the ground and ensure an environment conducive to normalisation efforts”; Azerbaijan next day warned that EU mission must not be used “for derailing the normalisation process, including in the context of border delimitation process”.

International actors condemned repression of dissent. U.S. State Dept 9 Jan said it was “deeply troubled” by arrest of opposition leader Tofig Yagublu and activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev and urged authorities to “release them expeditiously”. EU 13 Jan condemned detention of four human rights defenders and political activists, including Yagublu and Hajiyev.

Belarus

Military cooperation with Russia continued, authorities began trial in absentia of opposition figures, and govt sought ways to strengthen cooperation with Tajikistan.

Military activities with Russia continued amid fears of more Belarusian support in Ukraine. President Lukashenko 6 Jan visited training ground in south-western Brest region bordering Ukraine where Russian troops are stationed. Defence ministry same day announced arrival of more Russian military equipment and aircrafts. Authorities 16 Jan-1 Feb held joint tactical flight exercises with Russia; govt 15 Jan said drills were “purely defensive” amid growing fears Belarus plans to deepen involvement in Ukraine. Former security official 29 Jan warned army could face mass desertion if Belarus invades Ukraine. Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen 10 Jan announced new sanctions against Belarus for “role in this Russian war”.

Authorities proceeded with trial in absentia of leading opposition figures. Amid govt’s continued crackdown on dissent, trial in absentia of opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and four associates, indicted among other charges for treason and conspiring to seize power, 17 Jan began in capital Minsk. European Union High Representative Josep Borell same day condemned “fabricated charges” and Belarus’s “brutal persecution” of opposition leaders, while U.S. imposed visa restrictions on 25 officials for continued repression and “politically motivated trials”.

In other important developments. News agency Belta 4 Jan reported that Defence Minister Viktor Khrenin met with Tajik counterpart Sherali Mirzo in Belarus; two reportedly discussed “security matters in the responsibility area of the Collective Security Treaty Organization” and ways to advance bilateral cooperation.

Cyprus

Republic of Cyprus sought German mediation for Cyprus issue amid bleak prospects of resolution, while UN Security Council renewed peacekeeping mandate.

UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres 3 Jan reported to UN Security Council that harsh rhetoric and “a significant hardening of positions” posed obstacle to dialogue and reconciliation between Greek and Turkish Cypriots; UN Security Council 30 Jan renewed UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for one year. Meanwhile, Republic of Cyprus FM Ioannis Kasoulides 10 Jan said he asked Germany to act as mediator on Cyprus question; German FM Annalena Baerbock previous day said that two-state solution “cannot be an option for Cyprus”. Echoing Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar’s 1 Jan remark that “federation talks are over and … two-state politics is settling in”, de facto foreign ministry of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) 13 Jan stated “no common ground” existed between two sides and UN must recognise “current realities on the island”. Republic of Cyprus President Anastasiades 15 Jan said country will continue to seek “liberation and reunification” of island despite threats and challenges. Türkiye’s VP Fuat Oktay 17 Jan said Türkiye will continue to fight for solution in Cyprus based on sovereign equality of two entities.

Georgia

Authorities debated possible resumption of Russian flights, and protesters took to streets demanding transfer abroad of imprisoned former President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Russian plans to resume direct air traffic with Georgia fuelled debate. Russian FM Sergei Lavrov 17 Jan said Moscow was considering resumption of air traffic with Georgia, suspended since 2019 at annual press conference in Moscow; Lavrov praised Georgia’s authorities for having “courage” to resist Western “pressure” on sanctions against Russia and for prioritising “the interests of their own economy”. Lavrov’s statement renewed debate about govt’s susceptibility toward Russia. Ruling party Georgian Dream 19 Jan welcomed “any such decision” on resumption of flights, insisting that Georgia was standing up for its “national interests”. However, President Salome Zourabichvili 20 Jan dismissed govt’s “incomprehensible” position while U.S. Ambassador Kelly Degnan same day said “most Georgians” would oppose resumption of flights. Meanwhile, after initially refusing requests from Ukraine to supply power generators amid Russian attacks on its energy infrastructure, govt 6 Jan sent 25 big power generators to Ukraine.

In other important developments. Amid mounting concern around health of imprisoned former President Saakashvili, street rallies 4 Jan took place in number of towns and cities, including Tbilisi, and foreign capitals, calling for his transfer abroad for medical treatment. Meanwhile, de facto Abkhaz authorities 31 Jan denied delegation of co-chairs from International Geneva discussions, who were planning visit 8-9 Feb, entry to breakaway region; Abkhazia’s de facto FM Inal Ardzinba cited “unilateral” decision to cancel 57th round of Geneva discussions, slated for 21 Feb, as reason for announcement.

Kosovo

Western envoys sought to advance Kosovo-Serbia normalisation, and tensions over license plates persisted.

Western envoys visited Kosovo and Serbia to push for normalisation. Delegation of representatives from European Union (EU), U.S., France, Germany and Italy 20 Jan met with PM Kurti in capital Pristina and Serb President Vučić in Serb capital Belgrade to discuss Franco-German proposal on normalising relations. Kurti same day said meeting was “good basis for further talks” while Vučić expressed willingness to work on implementing agreement. Vučić 23 Jan claimed that EU had warned of delays to Serbia’s European integration and economic isolation if Belgrade did not accept proposal and said Serbia must “take part in dialogue and continue its European road”. EU Special Envoy Lajčak 20 Jan reiterated that Kosovo’s “overdue implementation of the Association of Serb Municipalities” – which would enable Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo to form self-governing association – is “crucial” for achieving normalisation; Kurti 27 Jan remained defiant over proposal. Meanwhile, European Parliament 12 Jan approved visa liberalisation for Kosovo.

Kosovo and Serbia exchanged blame for “violating” license plate deal. Interior Minister Xhelal Sveçla 18 Jan said authorities barred some vehicles with northern Mitrovica city license plates (KM abbreviation) from entering Kosovo, accusing Serbia of renewing these license plates in Dec 2022 and thus breaching 23 Nov EU-brokered deal; Belgrade same day said Kosovo’s actions constituted “flagrant violation” of agreement. EU 19 Jan urged both parties to respect agreement: “This means that Kosovo will refrain from any action against those owners that have KM license plates and effectively maintain the status quo until a more sustainable solution is reached in the dialogue. This also means that Serbia does not issue new KM license plates”.

Kyrgyzstan

President finalised border delimitation agreement with Uzbek counterpart, and police arrested relatives of detained activists and politicians protesting in capital Bishkek.

Kyrgyz and Uzbek leaders completed border delimitation process. President Japarov and Uzbek President Mirziyoev 27 Jan signed over 20 documents aimed at strengthening bilateral relations during Mirziyoev’s state visit to Bishkek. Most notably, leaders finalised border delimitation agreement, which Japarov hailed as “truly historic event”.

Authorities detained dozens of demonstrators in Bishkek. Police 10 Jan arrested dozens of relatives of 26 politicians and activists detained late Oct for protesting border delimitation agreement with Uzbekistan; relatives demanded release of jailed politicians and activists during rally in Bishkek. Police same day released demonstrators.

Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

Lachin corridor connecting Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) with Armenia remained blocked, exacerbating humanitarian crisis and provoking international condemnation.

Blockade of NK remained in place, deepening humanitarian crisis. Azerbaijani-govt-backed “environmental activists” throughout month continued blocking Lachin corridor, which links NK with Armenia. Amid diminishing food and medical supplies in mountainous enclave, de facto authorities 17 Jan began rationing food using coupon system. Reports of hours-long queues to purchase food products from rural areas in de facto capital Stepanakert, home to around roughly half the entity’s population, also emerged. Local energy company ArtsakhGaz 17 Jan reported disruptions to gas and electricity supplies, forcing civilians to begin installing wood stoves for cooking and heating homes. De facto authorities 19 Jan closed schools over gas and electricity disruptions.

Despite international pressure, Baku warned blockade could last for long time. Russian peacekeepers 15 Jan facilitated meeting between representatives from Azerbaijan and de facto leadership to resolve crisis, but came away empty-handed. Armenian FM Ararat Mirzoyan mid-Jan embarked on diplomatic offensive in Europe to spotlight “humanitarian crisis”, meeting with European Union (EU) institutions and EU member states, NATO and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. European Parliament 19 Jan condemned blockade, urging Azerbaijan “to immediately reopen” road. Armenia 30 Jan urged International Court of Justice to break up blockade, calling it part of an act of “ethnic cleansing”; Azerbaijan next day rejected claim, accusing Armenia of using dispute to create leverage at peace talks. Despite mounting pressure, President Aliyev 10 Jan told reporters blockade could continue for long time but did not clarify what actions could be taken to unblock corridor.

In other important developments. De facto NK leader Arayik Harutyunyan 11 Jan appointed Sergey Ghazaryan, previously Stepanakert’s envoy to Yerevan, as de facto foreign minister. Azerbaijan 18 Jan filed interstate arbitration against Armenia under Bern Convention on Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats for destruction of environment and wildlife in NK.

Russia (Internal)

Govt shuffled military command, lawmakers and medical professionals decried imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s treatment, and Western states and Moscow imposed tit-for-tat measures. 

Govt made changes to military command and sketched out army reforms. Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu 11 Jan appointed Valery Gerasimov commander of Joint Group of Forces; Gerasimov will lead war in Ukraine, replacing Sergei Surovikin who is now Gerasimov’s deputy. Fourth shuffle of Russia’s command structure since Feb invasion indicates Moscow may be preparing new offensive in Ukraine. Shoigu 17 Jan revealed new details about planned military reforms from 2023-2026; changes include forming army corps in Karelia region near Finland, creating new force groupings in occupied areas of Ukraine and strengthening combat capabilities of Navy, Air and Space Forces, and Strategic Missile Forces. Meanwhile, reports 19 Jan began emerging of authorities deploying air defence systems atop several defence and administrative buildings in Moscow, suggesting Kremlin is preparing for possible future attacks on capital.

Concern grew over treatment of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Navalny’s lawyer 9 Jan warned of politician’s deteriorating health at penal colony in Vladimir region; 481 doctors next day signed open letter to President Putin demanding end to abuse and provision of medical care. By 20 Jan, over 80 current and former lawmakers had signed appeal urging end to unjustified disciplinary punishments for Navalny and provision of adequate medical assistance. Meanwhile, crackdown on media and NGOs continued. Notably, Moscow City Court 25 Jan ruled to liquidate Moscow Helsinki Group, Russia’s oldest human rights organisation; General Prosecutor’s Office 26 Jan declared media outlet Meduza “undesirable organisation”.

Western countries and Russia imposed tit-for-tat measures. Head of European Commission Ursula von der Leyen 17 Jan announced plans to introduce tenth sanctions package against Russia in Feb; Russia same day sanctioned number of European Union security agencies’ leaders, businesses and individuals helping provide military assistance to Ukraine. Moscow 23 Jan ordered Estonian ambassador to leave Russia by 7 Feb; Lithuania and Latvia same day ordered Russian ambassadors to leave their countries and recalled their ambassadors. U.S. Treasury Dept 26 Jan declar