CrisisWatch

Tracking Conflict Worldwide

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

Global Overview

Outlook for This Month January 1970

Resolution Opportunities

Trends for Last Month 三月 2024

Improved Situations

Conflict in Focus

Our monthly conflict tracker highlights three conflict risks in April. 

  • Israel killed thousands more Palestinians in Gaza, bringing the death toll since 7 October to over 32,700. The strip’s north is facing the world’s worst famine, relative to population size, of the past few decades. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly reiterated the threat to invade Rafah, which could kill or again displace a huge proportion of the 1.5 million people seeking refuge there.
     
  • Lebanon continued to face the spectre of all-out war as Israel and Hizbollah engaged in deadly cross-border hostilities. Tensions between Palestinians and Israel during the remainder of Ramadan in April, including at Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade, could provoke further violent actions by Hizbollah or Palestinian armed groups.
     
  • Tensions spiked between Bosnia and Herzegovina’s High Representative Christian Schmidt and Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik over proposed changes to the national election law, with Dodik threatening to paralyse state-level decision-making.

CrisisWatch identified nine deteriorated situations in March. Notably:

  • Violence escalated in Haiti after the country’s two largest gang coalitions launched coordinated attacks across the capital Port-au-Prince to deter an international security mission from deploying. Gangs targeted critical sites, freed over 4,700 inmates and forced tens of thousands to flee.
     
  • Electoral authorities in Venezuela blocked the opposition coalition from registering their banned candidate María Corina Machado or her replacement, in an apparent bid to strengthen President Maduro’s hand in the lead-up to July elections. 
     
  • Political tensions rose in Somalia, where the government of Puntland state suspended its recognition of the Mogadishu-based federal government over a review of the constitution, one of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s priorities.
     
  • Pakistan launched its first acknowledged airstrikes in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s takeover in 2021 in response to a deadly militant attack on an army post in a border district. The Taliban retaliated with cross-border fire, underscoring the risk of armed conflict between the two sides.
     
  • Strained relations between China and the Philippines soured further over maritime incidents in the South China Sea

Our tracker also assessed three improved situations

  • Following a constitutional crisis over a delay to the original February voting day, Senegal held peaceful presidential elections that saw the victory of opposition candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye. 
     
  • Somaliland passed an electoral law, removing a source of tension between the government and opposition ahead of November elections.
     
  • In Papua New Guinea, after tribal clashes killed dozens of people in the restive Highlands Region in February, the two warring factions struck a temporary ceasefire. 

Aside from the scores of conflict situations we regularly assess, we tracked significant developments in Cuba, Gabon, Jordan, Moldova, South Africa and Togo.

Conflict in Focus

Haiti

What happened in March? Haiti’s two largest gang coalitions joined forces under a broad front known as Viv Ansanm, launching coordinated attacks to seize control of critical sites in the capital Port-au-Prince and deter a Kenya-led international security mission from deploying. As the crisis escalated, outside pressure pushed Haiti’s various political groupings to agree on the formation of a transitional presidential council – comprising seven voting members and two non-voting civil society representatives – that can address the country’s myriad crises. 

Why does it matter? Haiti is no stranger to criminal mayhem, but the present inter-gang dynamic is something new. In this latest offensive, rival gangs have sought to set aside their differences and forge a united front in the face of what they perceive as a shared existential threat – the multinational security force. The transitional council offers a glimmer of hope for the besieged country, but the challenges ahead are immense. 

What to watch in the coming weeks and months? With gang rivalries fierce and alliances ever-shifting, Viv Ansanm could collapse at any time. But if the coalitions are able to uphold their pact, the security situation could deteriorate further, with dire consequences for ordinary Haitians struggling amid an ever-worsening humanitarian crisis.

The new transitional government’s challenge will be to rally what remains of state institutions, confront the gangs and steer the country towards elections. But political divisions could impede its decision-making ability, providing gangs with the space to launch more brutal assaults and consolidate control. They could also exploit the uncertainty and try to seize power by broadening their alliance to include politicians such as Guy Philippe, the rebel leader and ex-convict who proposed heading a three-person presidential council, and who remains at a distance from the appointed seven-member council.

Resumption of talks to deploy the international security mission will likely be met with another surge of gang assaults fighting to deter its deployment; if the gangs continue to carry out coordinated attacks during this offensive, the Haitian police could crumble. When the mission arrives, which could take months, gangs may look to mount simultaneous offensives against mission personnel and the police.

What should be done? The transitional presidential council’s first priority upon installation, which is expected in the coming days, will be to confront the turmoil engulfing Port-au-Prince. It should appoint an interim Prime Minister and quickly resume talks with foreign partners to accelerate deployment of the security mission. It should also discuss potential stopgap measures until this force is ready, given continued opposition from some corners in Kenya and the mission’s funding shortfalls. 

The council also needs to present a cohesive front. Caribbean leaders announced that it would make decisions by majority vote, which should enable it to move swiftly, but could exacerbate divisions between members if some feel frozen out. To prevent the council from breaking down, its members should strive to maintain unity and act decisively in the public interest.  

Latest Updates

Africa

Benin

Jihadist violence continued in north, while political tensions remained high over constitutional and electoral reforms. 

Jihadist insurgency persisted. Suspected al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) insurgents continued to carry out attacks in northern Alibori, Atacora and Borgou regions. In Karimama commune in Alibori, JNIM 6 March allegedly planted explosive device that killed two civilians in Chutes de Koudou village while police 15 March killed two suspected militants in Karimama town. In Borgou, police 21 March killed three alleged JNIM militants in Angaradebou village, Tchaourou commune. 

Tensions between opposition and President Talon’s govt continued. Opposition legislators in National Assembly 1-2 March blocked passage of draft revisions to Constitution submitted by ruling party amid persistent concerns that Talon will attempt to run for third term, despite President’s claims he will not. Parliament 5 March modified Electoral Code placing tougher conditions on running for presidency, leading to opposition and civil society criticism.

In other important regional developments. Land border between Benin and Niger remained closed despite West African regional bloc ECOWAS lifting sanctions on latter in Feb; however, 2,000km-long Niger-Benin pipeline began transporting crude oil from Niger’s Agadem field to Benin in early March while officials from both countries 3-9 March met in Benin to discuss containers with goods for Niger blocked at Cotonou port due to fines.

Burkina Faso

Jihadist-related attacks and counter-insurgency operations continued to exact high toll on civilians; govt used forced enrolment to silence opponents and signed security agreement with Mali and Niger. 

High-level violence persisted, with at least 100 civilians reported killed in one day. Following late Feb surge of violence that saw hundreds of civilians killed by jihadist fighters and reportedly state security forces, further conflict reported: special police and al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) militants 8 March clashed in Piela commune, Gnagna province (East region), resulting in four insurgent deaths, while same day drone strikes killed around ten Islamic State Sahel Province militants near Touka-Bayel village, Seno province (Sahel region). Next day, JNIM attacked Tessoague village, Koulpelogo province (Centre-East region), killing at least 27 including two civilian auxiliaries (VDPs). JNIM militants 26 March attacked govt forces in Sanaba town (Boucle du Mouhoun region), leading to deaths of at least eleven soldiers and twenty insurgents. Meanwhile, reports emerged that suspected soldiers 16 March allegedly killed at least 100 civilians in several villages in Kompienga province (East region) during apparent attempt to relieve area from JNIM blockades in place since 2022; observers suggested attacks may have been retaliation for locals’ alleged support to militants and Feb series of jihadist killings.

Govt continued repressive measures against civil society. Concerns grew over authorities forcing opponents to join VDPs following late Feb abduction of Rasmane Zinaba and Bassirou Badjo, activists and members of Balai Citoyen civil group, amid suspicions govt obliged them to enrol with civilian auxiliaries; UN 5 March condemned continued “enforced disappearances” and “forced mobilisation.” Govt 7 March released former FM Ouédraogo, who reported military keepers had told him to spread word about consequences of criticising military authorities; next day Daouda Diallo, another civil society actor forced into VDP enrolment in Dec 2023, also released. 

Security agreement announced with Mali and Niger. Alliance of Sahel States 6 March announced creation of joint counterterrorism force to combat regional jihadist insurgency and address shared security needs.

Burundi

Main opposition party faced disarray amid contention over leadership and govt-instigated fragmentation; reports emerged of ruling party youth wing receiving further military training.

Govt-sponsored efforts ousted leader of main opposition party. Opposition fell into disarray as faction of National Congress for Freedom (CNL) removed party head Agathon Rwasa, with govt recognising parallel leadership. Interior Minister Martin Niteretse denied Rwasa permission for 2 March extraordinary congress, instead allowing ten govt-backed CNL dissidents to convene one in Ngozi province 10 March while Rwasa was not in country. Delegates chose Nestor Girukwishaka, senior executive allegedly close to ruling party, as new CNL head, while Niteretse 18 March officially recognised him as party’s President. Police, intelligence services and ruling-party youth wing Imbonerakure barred pro-Rwasa MPs from attending meeting, with human rights group Ligue Iteka reporting 42 CNL members arrested during day. CNL described congress as “masquerade” while Rwasa said govt had worked with “political mercenaries” from party as ploy to sideline him ahead of 2025 legislative elections; govt interference left CNL adrift with two separate leaderships under Girukwishaka and Rwasa. 

Imbonerakure continued to bolster force with alleged paramilitary training. Locals 6 March reported Imbonerakure members, predominantly from western provinces, undertook military-style training in Cibitoke province, with reports of gunshots and armed parades. Defence ministry said exercises were military training for soldiers but local sources suggested events were paramilitary drills for ruling party youth wing. 

In another important development. Police 17 March discovered decapitated body in Bukinanyana commune in Cibitoke province and arrested four Imbonerakure members as suspects. 

Cameroon

Anglophone conflict persisted while jailed separatist leaders appealed for Nigerian help; political tensions bubbled ahead of 2025 elections.

Low-level violence persisted in Anglophone regions. Separatist groups continued to enforce weekly “Monday ghost town” strikes and engage in skirmishes with govt troops, resulting in casualties on both sides. Notably, separatist militia 15 March ambushed govt forces patrol in Wainama village, Bui division (North West region), causing unconfirmed number of casualties. Meanwhile, jailed Anglophone separatist leaders turned to Nigeria for help, as prominent figure Sisiku Ayuk Tabe and nine others 2 March petitioned Nigeria’s National Assembly to support their release; petitioners were extradited from Nigeria in Jan 2018 and following year Cameroonian military tribunal sentenced them to life imprisonment; in 2019 court in Nigerian capital Abuja ruled arrest and deportation illegal, although then-Nigerian President Buhari took no action. Petition highlighted links between Anglophone conflict and Nigeria, as Nigerian Biafra separatists 5-8 March claimed to have attacked Cameroonian soldiers in Bakassi Peninsula. 

Far North violence decreased slightly although sporadic incidents persisted. Soldiers 4 March successfully repelled Boko Haram attack in Kolofata commune, Mayo Sava department, and 11 March killed two suspected jihadists caught stealing food from farm in Nguetchewe town, Mayo Tsanaga department.

Political positioning continued ahead of 2025 presidential election. Ruling party tightened grip on political landscape while opposition factions contemplated united front for polls; but plans over potential coalition threatened after govt 12 March banned two emerging opposition groupings, Alliance Politique pour le Changement (APC) and Alliance pour une Transition Politique (APT), accusing them of clandestine activities and prohibiting them from further political actions. Trial of seventeen individuals, including former foreign intelligence chief Léopold Maxime Eko Eko and pro-govt business mogul Amougou Belinga, charged with Jan 2023 abduction, torture and murder of whistleblowing journalist Martinez Zogo began 25 March; case, which has so far been marked by administrative interference reflecting broader power struggles within govt, will likely be key political issue in lead-up to 2025 elections.

Central African Republic

Political tensions rose over arrest of opposition leader; army clashed with rebels in north east while self-defence group resisted disarmament.   

Opposition faced further govt crackdown ahead of 2025 elections. Police 3 March arrested Crépin Mboli-Goumba – lawyer and key figure in opposition coalition Republican Bloc for the Defence of the Constitution (BRDC) – at airport of capital Bangui and detained him for 72 hours on charges of contempt of court over his Feb accusations of judiciary corruption. After BRDC condemned arrest and lawyers called for court boycott, security forces 6 March released Mboli-Goumba pending trial; court 27 March sentenced him to one-year suspended prison sentence and fine; arrest raised further concerns over govt’s attempts to limit opposition in lead-up to 2025 presidential elections.

Army clashes with rebels continued in north east. Clash between military and 3R fighters near Yaloké town 4 March killed soldier and civilian, leading to intercommunal unrest in local community with two mosques attacked. Coalition of Patriots for Change rebels 7 March attacked Ndah town, forcing army withdrawal until Russian paramilitary Wagner group intervened with airstrikes. Wagner supported military through increased deployment in north east amid speculation that U.S. private security company Bancroft has presence in region’s rural areas.

Tensions persisted in south east as self-defence militia refused to disarm. After late Feb violent clashes between Unity for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC) rebels and Azandé Ani Kpi Gbé (AAKG) ethnic self-defence militia in several villages in Haut-Mbomou prefecture that caused at least ten casualties, Defence Minister Rameaux Claude Bireaux 5 March visited regional capital Obo to persuade AAKG to disarm; group, however, demanded UPC lay down weapons first. Next day, Wagner mercenaries arrived in Obo and exchange of fire 14 March between AAKG and govt soldiers in city raised concerns over potential escalation of clashes.

In other important developments. Amid deepening of Russian influence, President Touadéra 1 March finished three-day visit to Serbian capital Belgrade, an ally of Moscow, culminating in three cooperation agreements covering diplomacy, defence, and mining. Wagner mercenaries 27 March conducted police checkpoints in Bangui.

Chad

Aftermath of death of staunch govt opponent continued to roil internal politics; opposition struggled to mobilise for May presidential elections. 

Tensions remained high after death of President’s cousin Yaya Dillo. Conflicting reports about Dillo, who led Socialist Party without Borders (PSF) and died in security forces shooting late Feb at party headquarters in capital N’Djamena, sparked speculation about his demise and divisions within ruling elite. Govt 1 March insisted Dillo was killed while resisting lawful arrest but opposition same day labelled killing an execution; authorities 1 March reportedly demolished PSF headquarters, potentially eliminating evidence, and although PM Masra 4 March pledged international investigation, much remained unclear.  

Democratic opposition struggled to build political weight against Déby. Ahead of 6 May presidential vote, Constitutional Council 24 March approved ten candidates, and excluded ten others including prominent opponents of military-led govt, notably Nassour Ibrahim Neguy Koursami and Rakhis Ahmat Saleh over “irregularities” in their applications; transitional President Mahamad Déby and recently-appointed PM Masra both cleared to run for office. Earlier, opposition struggled to mobilise behind one figure with some parties supporting Koursami’s candidacy and others that of influential former PM Padacké. 

Security in hinterland remained stable, but sporadic violence persisted. Unidentified gunmen 1 March attacked community radio journalist’s home near Mangalmé town (Guera region), killing journalist and two family members. Inter-communal clashes remained prominent; tensions in Djourf Al-Ahmar department (Ouaddaï region) escalated as Mouro and Birgit communities 17 March clashed as part of decades-long tensions, with govt reporting 42 civilians killed during unrest. Meanwhile, govt 25 March announced explosive device killed seven soldiers near Lake Chad in west, saying they suspected Boko Haram jihadists from Nigeria.

In another important development. In wake of Déby’s Jan visit to Russia, France attempted re-engagement with govt; French President Emmanuel Macron’s envoy Jean-Marie Bockel 7 March reassured Déby about continued presence of French troops, with force crucial for regime stability but unpopular with some political actors and civil society groups. 

Côte d’Ivoire

Jostling continued ahead of 2025 presidential election with announcement of first candidacies. 

Opposition party African People’s Party-Côte d’Ivoire (PPA-CI) 9 March announced former President Laurent Gbagbo as candidate for 2025 presidency polls, despite his ineligibility due to 2018 criminal conviction for looting Central Bank of West African States during 2010-2011 post-electoral crisis. Main opposition party Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) leader Tidjane Thiam 11 March confirmed good relations with Gbagbo. Meanwhile Philippe Legré, member of ruling party Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace’s (RHDP) executive board and governor of Bas-Sassandra region, 16 March said President Ouattara would be RHDP candidate for 2025 election. 

Democratic Republic of Congo

Ongoing clashes spread northward in North Kivu as ruling party head accused former President Kabila of supporting insurgents; Angola continued DRC-Rwanda diplomatic efforts.

Clashes between govt-allied forces and M23 rebels in North Kivu continued. As front froze west of provincial capital Goma despite sporadic mortar exchanges, M23 6 March expanded assault northward; rebels posed increasing threat to Lubero town and seized control of several others including Nyanzale 6 March, despite resistance from pro-govt Wazalendo militia groups. Fighting triggered further displacement with UN official 13 March saying violence had displaced 250,000 in one month. Strategic town Sake (25km north west of Goma) remained under Wazalendo and army control, although largely deserted; military blamed Rwandan troops for 16 March mortar shell that wounded eight UN peacekeepers in Sake town. Meanwhile, after 28 March meeting in Rutshuru in which several people linked to political movement of former President Kabila appeared alongside Corneille Nangaa, head of pro-M23 politico-military group Congo River Alliance, ruling party chief Augustin Kabaya accused Kabila of supporting insurgents, claiming former president had fled country.

Angola attempted to induce DRC-Rwanda de-escalation of crisis. Angolan President Joao Lourenço 11 March hosted Rwandan President Paul Kagame in Angola’s capital Luanda to discuss crisis, mirroring Congolese counterpart President Tshisekedi’s Feb trip to Angola; later, FMs from all three countries 21 March convened in Luanda, reportedly attempting to organise future summit between Kagame and Tshisekedi.

Other armed groups continued to take heavy toll on civilians in Ituri and North Kivu. In Ituri, clashes between CODECO militia, which claims to defend interests of Lendu ethnic group, and ZAIRE militia from rival Hema people 5 March claimed seven lives in Djugu territory. In North Kivu, according to military authorities Islamic State-affiliated Allied Democratic Forces militants 23-24 March killed at least thirteen civilians in twin attacks on Sayo district of Beni city, setting houses ablaze. 

In other important developments. Constitutional Court 12 March passed verdicts on electoral disputes from Dec parliamentary election, invalidating over 40 results, and predominantly benefiting pro-Tshisekedi ruling coalition. Govt 13 March announced resumption of executions citing need to combat perceived treachery and treason amid M23 conflict, spurring international condemnation.

Eritrea

Asmara rejected UN human rights official’s accusation it maintains troops in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, and President Isaias Afwerki hosted his Somali counterpart amid deepening bilateral ties.

Govt denied maintaining troop presence in Ethiopia. Ministry of Information 15 March rejected late Feb statement from UN Assistant Sec-Gen for Human Rights Ilze Brands Kehris to Human Rights Council, in which she accused Asmara of maintaining troops in Tigray, where they have committed human rights violations; Asmara accused official of “parroting” disinformation of Tigray People’s Liberation Front (ruling party in Ethiopia’s Tigray region) and denied maintaining troop presence in Tigray. 

Eritrea and Somalia strengthened relations. Somali President Mohamud 17-18 March visited capital Asmara in second trip to country since Ethiopia 1 Jan signed Memorandum of Understanding with Somaliland to build naval port. He and President Isaias Afwerki 17 March discussed issues including bilateral relations, counterterrorism and regional affairs as pair sought to deepen ties, possibly to counter Ethiopia’s regional ambitions.

Ethiopia

Hostilities in Amhara intensified, insurgency continued in Oromia region, and tensions simmered between govt and Tigray leaders over slow implementation of peace process.

Army struggled to contain Amhara nationalist militias amid worsening insecurity. Fighting between federal forces and Amhara nationalist militias known as Fano reached major towns for first time since hostilities intensified in Aug 2023; notably, Fano 29 Feb-1 March attacked regional capital Bahir Dar. Fano members 3 March killed four security officers, including Shewa Robit town’s police commander and head of Peace and Security Office, in North Shewa Zone. Fano 5 March confirmed kidnapping 270 youths from South Ethiopia People’s Region allegedly affiliated with govt forces. Conflict spilled into Oromia, raising fears of interethnic conflict; notably, Fano 7 March reportedly killed at least nine civilians in Oromia’s Dera woreda, North Shewa Zone. Clashes between Oromo and Amhara ethnic militias 9-21 March in Amhara’s Oromo Special Zone and North Shewa Zone killed 27. Deteriorating security crippled economic activity.

Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) made gains as govt shifted attention to Amhara. Govt-insurgent clashes continued in Oromia region. OLA 4 March reportedly made gains in Gelana district, West Guji Zone, forcing hundreds to flee to South Ethiopia People’s Region. In significant shift, govt reportedly planned to redeploy troops from Oromia to Amhara, suggesting it views latter conflict as more pressing.

Situation in Tigray region remained fragile amid halting progress on peace deal. Govt and Tigray regional leaders 11 March expressed commitment to 2022 Pretoria peace agreement during deal’s first Strategic Review, held under AU auspices in capital Addis Ababa. Region’s ruling party Tigray People’s Liberation Front 13 March raised concern about growing trust deficit, however, due to slow implementation of deal, including resolution of disputed territories and removal of Eritrean and Amhara troops from region. Tigray Interim Administration 25 March accused Amhara of incorporating “Tigray land” (referring to disputed territories) “into its educational curriculum and regional map” and called for its reversal. Clashes same day occurred in Amhara-controlled Raya Alamata town, South Tigray Zone; Amhara and Tigray authorities traded blame for violence. 

Gabon

Regional body for Central African states lifted sanctions and re-admitted govt while national dialogue preparations continued. 

Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) bloc readmitted govt. Body 9 March decided to lift sanctions on govt and said Libreville could rejoin after its membership was suspended Sept 2023 following previous month’s coup that removed President Ali Bongo. 

Preparations for national dialogue grew amid conflicting views about its nature. In 8 March decree, transitional President Gen. Nguema announced 2-30 April convening of “inclusive” national dialogue in capital Libreville, as part of preparation for new Constitution. However, opposition raised concerns over issues with representation at dialogue and asked for postponement.

Guinea

Junta announced formation of new govt amid questions over regime stability and future of transition. 

New administration composed of technocratic and junta-friendly ministers. Junta 13 March announced 29-member cabinet following Feb dissolution of govt amid internal power struggles. Junta-allied Defence, Security and Foreign Ministers among fourteen who kept posts from previous administration; both former PM Goumou and former Justice Minister Charles Wright, whose tensions with one another may have contributed to Feb dissolvement of govt, lost posts. Meanwhile, PM Bah 25 March said elections “cannot effectively be held” in 2024; civil society remained concerned transitional govt would continue past proposed Dec 2024 end date due to lengthy process of finalising Constitution and organising elections; first draft of new Constitution, promised for March, yet to be circulated.

Popular pushback continued against lack of services and repression. Electricity blackouts led to demonstrations and unrest, with police allegedly killing two youths during protests related to power cuts in Kindia city 12 March and another in capital Conakry 14 March; in response to lack of supply, President Doumbouya 16 March sacked several senior electricity officials. Meanwhile, in apparent attempt to pursue conciliatory tone, Bah 6 March met with journalists and subsequently said he would consult with Doumbouya about lifting media constraints, with govt having removed internet restrictions in Feb.

Kenya

Al-Shabaab continued to drive insecurity, while police deployment to Haiti faced setbacks.

Al-Shabaab militants remained threat, particularly along porous Somalia border. Group of Al-Shabaab insurgents 2 March crossed border and attempted to establish temporary camp in Fafi area of Garissa county; security forces subsequently killed five and arrested four group members. Bomb at hotel 25 March killed at least two police officers and civilian in Mandera town. Meanwhile, court 7 March sentenced two Somali men, arrested in 2018 in possession of explosives and accused of planning to bomb key sites in capital Nairobi, to 25 years in prison. 

Nairobi-led multinational mission to Haiti faced delays. Escalation in Haiti (see Haiti) caused setback to govt’s deployment of 1,000 Kenyan police to lead UN-backed mission. After acting Haitian PM Ariel Henry resigned, Foreign Ministry Principal Secretary Korir Sing'Oei 12 March announced govt would wait until new administration is in place before deploying police; President Ruto next day, however, indicated Nairobi would still lead mission. Earlier, govt 1 March signed reciprocity agreement with Haiti in order to counter Jan-announced objection by Nairobi High Court.

Political tensions continued, including accusations govt curtailing freedoms. Busia County Senator Okiya Omtatah 22 March said “goons” attacked his vehicle with stones after he left court, but he escaped unharmed; senator had been prominent in holding govt accountable, including over housing levy; earlier, Ruto 19 March signed amended housing bill (that includes new tax) into law, bypassing court’s late Jan decision to suspend measures as unconstitutional amid continued executive-judiciary tensions. Meanwhile, Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki 18 March said police would arrest anyone heckling political leaders, raising concerns over restrictions on political rights and free speech. 

Mali

Govt-sponsored inter-Malian dialogue took initial steps amid ongoing stifling of civic and political rights; jihadist and other armed violence continued.

Initial phase of dialogue approved, albeit without main rebel and jihadist groups. Piloting Committee 4 March submitted terms of reference for Inter-Malian dialogue process to transitional President Col. Goïta, following approval from representatives from capital Bamako, regions and diaspora; participants agreed on five thematic committees covering peace and reconciliation, security, economic development, geopolitical issues and political reforms. Several key actors remained outside process including main rebel and jihadist groups; govt 8 March imposed initial six-months long financial sanctions on two leaders associated with al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), and four from Permanent Strategic Framework (CSP), coalition of armed groups from 2015 Algiers Accord. 

Concerns rose over restrictions on civil and political freedoms. Govt 6 March dissolved influential group Coordination of Movements, Associations and Sympathizers (CMAS) – led by well-known figure and vocal govt critic Imam Mahmoud Dicko – and 13 March shut down Association of Malian Students. National Human Rights Commission 6 March expressed concerns about “serious threats” to political freedoms, especially freedom of association; UN human rights body 13 March also condemned moves. Meanwhile, over 80 political parties and civil society groups 31 March called for end to transition and organisation of presidential elections as soon as possible.

Violence by jihadist and other armed groups remained high. Notably, Islamic State Sahel Province militants 6 March attacked army base in Labbezanga, Gao region, leaving at least four attackers dead; JNIM shelling targeted airports in Gao city 16 March and Timbuktu city two days later, causing injuries and material damage. Alliance of Sahel States 6 March announced creation of joint counterterrorism force to combat regional jihadist insurgency and address shared security needs. Meanwhile, Dozo militia 8 March reportedly abducted and killed around 30 Fulani near Kingolola village, Segou region.

In other important developments. Hundreds 16 March protested high cost of living and insecurity in Ménaka city. Officials 19 March visited Russia’s capital Moscow for discussions on security cooperation and expanding partnership in commerce, transportation, and more.

Mozambique

Jihadist attacks continued in northern Cabo Delgado province, although slowed mid-month; Oct general election preparations progressed haltingly.

Islamic State-affiliated militants focused on Ibo and Quissanga districts. Islamic State Mozambique Province (ISMP) continued to target security forces and civilians in Cabo Delgado province with dozens of attacks between late Feb and 6 March; militants also appeared to be systemically looting areas and re-supplying its base in Mucojo town, Macomia district, including taking food and goods from Quissanga town 2 March; next day, insurgents attacked nearby Quirimba island, Ibo district, leaving nine soldiers dead. ISMP fighters involved in Feb assault on southern Chiúre district returned north early March; free movement of militants highlighted weakness of security forces, whose blanket orders to evacuate some areas worsened humanitarian situation and angered locals. UN 8 March reported over 110,000 displaced since uptick in militant operations began late Dec. Attacks subsequently slowed mid-month amid fasting for religious month of Ramadan that began 11 March. Heavy rains which limited security operations may also have curbed militants’ movements; end of religious holiday on 10 April and of rainy season could see levels of violence rise again in coming weeks. Meanwhile, govt 13 March said it had identified new leadership in ISMP, mainly based in Macomia and Quissanga districts. Earlier, President Nyusi 3 March announced Algeria pledged support in anti-terror fight in Cabo Delgado. 

Preparation for Oct polls faced challenges. Electoral commission 15 March began registering voters, open until 28 April; insecurity and technical glitches delayed process in some areas including parts of Cabo Delgado, while reports emerged that officials were prioritising voters from ruling FRELIMO party; meanwhile, pro-govt Naparama militia members 8 March beat to death three election officials in Chiúre after mistaking them for insurgents. Both FRELIMO and main opposition RENAMO continued to struggle to designate respective presidential candidates.

Niger

Govt severed military accords with U.S. and moved closer to Sahelian partners; jihadist violence continued.

Niamey distanced itself militarily from Washington. After U.S. diplomatic delegation 12 March visited capital Niamey and met PM Zeine and others, authorities 16 March “denounced with immediate effect” its military accords with Washington; govt accused delegation of disrespect of diplomatic protocol and intention to limit Niamey’s sovereignty in choice of international partners; uncertainty grew over whether 1,000 U.S. military personnel, many based at Agadez military base, will remain in country; govt and U.S. ambassador 27 March discussed future plan for “disengagement” of U.S. forces. Earlier, Alliance of Sahelian States 6 March announced creation of joint counterterrorism force to combat regional jihadist insurgency and address shared security needs.

Jihadist-related violence persisted in Tillabery. In Tillabery region (south west), Islamic State Sahel Province militants 3 March attacked convoy of trucks near Koutougou Haoussa village, killing around seven people and burning seven vehicles; militants 19 March ambushed military position near Teguey town killing 23 soldiers and wounding seventeen, with some 30 assailants killed. In Diffa region (south east), military 13 March killed ten alleged Islamic State West Africa Province militants in airstrike near Assaga village.

In important regional developments. After West African regional bloc ECOWAS lifted sanctions on govt in Feb, land borders between Niger and Nigeria re-opened 22 March; border with Benin, however, remained closed, although 2,000km-long Niger-Benin pipeline began transporting crude oil from Niger’s Agadem field to Benin in early March.

Nigeria

Series of mass abductions by bandits and jihadists underlined widespread insecurity; violence also continued in South East and Niger Delta, while deepening economic crisis heightened social tensions.

Criminal groups kidnapped hundreds and killed dozens in North West and North Central. In Kaduna state, gunmen 7 March abducted scores of students and a staff member from schools in Kuriga town, Chikun area, demanding 1bn Naira (roughly $650,000) for their return; govt 24 March said all 137 students rescued alive from neighbouring Zamfara state, but staff member died in captivity. In Kaduna state, daily reports of bandit attacks 8-17 March saw at least 190 abducted and unconfirmed number killed, mostly in Kajuru and Birnin Gwari areas; in Niger State, armed group 21 March killed 29 people in attack on local market in Rafi area.

Jihadist-related insecurity continued in North East. In Borno state, UN 6 March reported jihadists 29 Feb kidnapped over 200 internally displaced people near Gamboru Ngala town; local sources said between 113 and 319 were abducted amid conflicting reports over whether Boko Haram or Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) were responsible. Military continued operations against jihadists reporting hundreds killed, while reports also emerged that former fighters had threatened to rejoin insurgency.

Violence continued in South East and flared in Niger Delta. Security forces continued operations against Biafran separatists in South East. Notably, troops 7 March killed twenty members of Indigenous People of Biafra armed wing Eastern Security Network, destroying major camp at Mother Valley in Orsu area, Imo state. In Niger Delta, clashes between communities over land dispute in Bomadi area of Delta state killed sixteen soldiers on peace mission 14 March, causing widespread outrage.

Deepening economic malaise heightened social tensions, risking unrest. Fears over cost of living crisis-related insecurity grew following late Feb stampede at food auction site in Lagos city that killed seven, with food inflation at over 35%. In suburb of federal capital Abuja, residents 3 March looted food items from govt warehouse. Crushes at relief distribution centre in Nasarawa state 22 March and charity giving event in Bauchi state 24 March left ten people dead.

Rwanda

Authorities expressed concerns over military intervention of southern African regional body in eastern DR Congo (DRC).  

In letter to AU Chair, FM Biruta 3 March expressed reservations about AU support to southern African bloc (SADC) mission in DRC, alleging force’s collaboration with DRC forces and anti-Rwanda armed groups carried risk of exacerbating conflict; Biruta urged political process rather than military intervention; AU next day, however, endorsed SADC mission. Meanwhile, in 25 March interview, President Kagame addressed accusations of Rwandan military presence in eastern DRC, citing factors including anti-Kigali Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) as potential reasons for such presence, without directly acknowledging or denying existence of Rwandan troops in region. While stating readiness for dialogue over future of eastern DRC, Kagame criticised Congolese authorities and also South Africa (who contribute troops to SADC mission) for collaborating with FDLR. Earlier, Kagame 11 March visited Angolan capital Luanda to discuss DRC crisis amid Angolan diplomatic efforts (see DR Congo).

Senegal

Presidential elections held peacefully, paving way for victory of opposition leader. 

Elections held peacefully, Bassirou Diomaye Faye set to become new president. Presidential poll held 24 March with both ruling party and opposition candidates competing after delay from original 25 Feb date had sparked constitutional crisis; election day ran peacefully across country. Electoral commission 25 March said Faye, candidate for opposition PASTEF party, won polls and Constitutional Court 29 March confirmed results; Faye took 54.3% of the vote, beating eighteen others including ruling coalition candidate Amadou Ba who took 35.8%, avoiding need for run-off and completing remarkable victory for figure little known several years ago and released from prison earlier in March (see below). Opposition supporters 25 March and in following days celebrated results in capital Dakar. 

Popular support rallied behind Faye after several key figures released from prison. National Assembly 6 March passed amnesty law for people arrested between Feb 2021 and Feb 2024 for political crimes or participation in protests. Those released included Faye and most popular opposition figure Ousmane Sonko, whose 14 March release was welcomed by thousands of supporters in Dakar; Sonko, barred from running as candidate due to May 2023 conviction for defamation, pledged support for Faye’s candidacy. Meanwhile, Supreme Court 15 March rejected disqualified candidate of Senegalese Democratic Party Karim Wade’s attempt to delay March election, while Wade subsequently endorsed Faye before polling day. 

Somalia

Political tensions rose as Puntland suspended recognition of Mogadishu-based central govt over contentious constitutional review; Al-Shabaab made territorial gains.

Puntland withdrew recognition of federal govt over constitutional review process. After parliament 30 March passed first four chapters of draft constitution, Puntland state govt 31 March revoked “recognition and confidence in” federal govt institutions; in sign of rising political temperature, Puntland cabinet said it would have power of “independent state” until dispute resolved and new federal system approved through referendum. Earlier, tensions mounted as President Mohamud promoted updated constitution despite lead opposition figures accusing him of seeking to boost his chances at 2026 election; notably, former federal Presidents Sheikh Sharif and Farmajo and current Puntland President Said Deni 22-23 March met in Puntland capital Garowe to discuss opposing proposed changes.

Al-Shabaab took over towns in centre, political dispute turned deadly in Hirshabelle. In Mudug region (centre), group 9-14 March gained control of Amara, Bacadweyne, Caad, Shabellow and Xinlabi towns with no fighting; military abandoned positions after clan militias withdrew from area amid dispute with federal govt, highlighting ongoing challenge of organising anti-militant operations. Militants 14-15 March also launched attack on hotel in downtown Mogadishu, leading to ten-hour siege with three soldiers and five insurgents reportedly killed. Meanwhile, clashes between Hirshabelle state govt forces and those calling for separate Hiraan state (one of two regions that make up Hirshabelle) 13 March killed at least six in Beledweyne city; violence came after Hirshabelle-appointed governor of Hiraan region tried to enter city.

Tensions with Ethiopia appeared to publicly ease. Although no major breakthrough reached, Mogadishu and Addis Ababa pursued dialogue to address tensions over Jan-announced Ethiopia-Somaliland port deal. After Kenyan President William Ruto late Feb separately hosted both President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and his Ethiopian counterpart PM Abiy Ahmed, technical teams from Mogadishu and Addis Ababa early March travelled to Kenya’s capital Nairobi for shuttle discussions.

In other important developments. Govt 4 March officially joined East African Community (EAC) regional body. Increase in piracy incidents off Somali coast in Indian Ocean raised concerns of resurgence in attacks on vessels in region.

Somaliland

Signing of electoral law ended uncertainty around Nov 2024 party and presidential elections and removed source of tension between govt and opponents.

Approval of bill paves way for vote, opposition welcomed move. President Bihi 9 March signed electoral bill and other related measures into law, ending months of tensions and speculation that polls due to be held Nov 2024 would be delayed. Main opposition party Waddani welcomed developments and Waddani candidate Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi Irro 21 March met Bihi and cabinet members, as sides prepare to move forward with elections where vote for political parties and presidency will be held concurrently.

Troop movements continued but calm remained along Sool region frontline. Govt troops and Dhulbahante clan militias conducted movements along frontline in Sool region; lull in fighting between sides however held.

In another important development. Technical committee aiming to finalise Jan-announced Ethiopia-Somaliland Memorandum of Understanding over sea access and diplomatic recognition conducted meetings with stakeholders, including in coastal areas, at Berbera port and with opposition parties.

South Africa

Political tensions increased ahead of May general elections, with continued electoral violence in KwaZulu-Natal province.

Ahead of May elections, tensions ran particular high between ruling African National Congress (ANC) and former President Zuma’s newly formed uMkhonto weSizwe party (MKP), predominately in key battleground KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province. Amid inflammatory statements and rhetoric, electoral violence continued to plague build-up to polls; notably, in KZN capital Durban, unidentified gunmen 2 March killed MKP organiser in Umlazi township, while ANC accused MKP of being responsible for aggravating strike by municipal workers in eThekwini municipality; industrial action ran late Feb to mid-March and caused unrest and destruction of infrastructure, while on-duty municipal worker died after strikers allegedly attacked her. Also, ANC members 16 March clashed with members of opposition Inkhata Freedom Party (IFP) during cultural ceremony in KwaNongoma town, injuring sixteen. Election commission 28 March announced Zuma barred from being candidate in election due to 2021 conviction for defying court order, further raising political tensions. Amid polling suggesting ANC may get under 50% of vote nationally for first time since transition from apartheid system to democracy in 1994, deputy secretary general of party Nomvula Mokonyane 13 March said ANC not in talks over coalition.

South Sudan

Disruptions in oil exports harmed economy, raising risk of currency collapse and political turmoil in lead-up to planned December polls; localised clashes persisted. 

Lack of oil revenue hurt economy and could fuel political turmoil. Authorities remained unable to restart oil exports following damage in Feb to main oil pipeline, which carries 65-75% of country’s crude to market through Sudan; repairing pipeline could prove near impossible due to fighting in Sudan. Disruption of oil production led to collapse of South Sudanese pound against USD from 1100 in early Feb to 2000 by 25 March. Central Bank and Ministry of Finance 29 March announced measures to stabilise exchange market. Economic meltdown and collapse of President Kiir’s patronage system could follow if production is not restored and govt is unable to find lender to bail it out.

Array of actors warned about lack of preparedness for polls and risk of violence. Deputy Chairman of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO), Nathaniel Oyet Perino, 1 March said conditions for credible elections, slated for Dec, were not in place. UN head of peacekeeping operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, 5 March warned of “potential for violence with disastrous consequences” if polls not managed carefully, concluded country is “not ready for elections”. Minister of Presidential Affairs 19 March said Kiir rejected extension of transitional period and vowed elections would take place. Coalition of Opposition Parties 25 March filed petition demanding revocation of $50,000 registration fee for parties registering candidates, move they say is designed to restrict opposition participation. 

Intercommunal violence continued. Armed attackers 5 March killed UN Mission in South Sudan staff member in Abiemnhom county, Ruweng Administrative Area. Armed youth suspected of allegiance to Nuer spiritual leader Gai Machiek 9 March reportedly killed nine Misseriya and stole over 300 cattle in Kuerchiedieng village, Unity state. Armed youth suspected to be from Anyuak community 19 March killed fifteen, including Boma County commissioner, in Nyat village, Greater Pibor Administrative Area.

Sudan

Sudanese army (SAF) made significant gains against paramilitary forces (RSF) and fighting reignited in North Darfur, amid rising risk of famine.

RSF lost ground amid SAF offensive. SAF recaptured much of Omdurman city from RSF, with its forces 12 March taking control of national radio and television headquarters. Offensive 17 March reached Signal Corps in Bahri city, which risks becoming next epicentre of fighting; SAF could also attempt to retake capital Khartoum, increasing danger of protracted urban warfare. SAF launched multi-pronged offensive into RSF-controlled El Gezira state; paramilitary holds state capital Wad Madani, critical for maintaining its positions in Khartoum. Sudan Liberation Movement under Darfur governor Minni Minawi 24 March announced group was joining SAF to expel RSF from Khartoum and El Gezira. Meanwhile, violence 15 March broke out in North Darfur’s capital El Fasher, with SAF conducting airstrikes on RSF positions; fighting could engulf state in conflict, drawing in armed groups from Darfur that have so far remained neutral. 

Various diplomatic efforts continued, albeit without clear results. AU High-Level Panel for Sudan 6 March met separately with members of former President Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP) and Forces for Freedom and Change-Democratic Bloc in Egyptian capital Cairo. Panel next day separately met RSF and civilian coalition Taqaddum in Ethiopia; both criticised panel’s talks with NCP, indicating challenge of bridging Sudan’s polarised political landscape. UN Security Council 8 March urged cessation of hostilities during Muslim holy month Ramadan; RSF next day welcomed call, but SAF 10 March ruled out truce unless RSF leaves civilian locations. U.S. Special Envoy Tom Perriello 11 March embarked on regional tour, 26 March said he hoped for restart of talks around 18 April, though RSF and SAF remained sceptical about U.S. mediation. Rumours circulated of secret RSF-SAF meetings in Cairo, which RSF denied. Regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development 26 March appointed Special Envoy for Sudan.

Humanitarian agencies warned of looming hunger crisis. World Food Program head 6 March warned conflict risks triggering “world’s largest hunger crisis”, with “over 25 million people across Sudan, South Sudan and Chad trapped in a spiral of deteriorating food security”. Integrated Food Security Phase Classification 29 March called for immediate action “to prevent famine”.

Togo

Govt extended state of emergency in northern region amid continued jihadist violence; legislature passed new Constitution, causing political tensions.

National Assembly 12 March renewed emergency security measures in Savanes region in north, first imposed in June 2022 and extended twice before, for further twelve months amid continued violence in area; notably, Al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) 6 March killed eight civilians in Nagouni commune. Ahead of 20 April legislative elections, parliament 25 March passed bill adopting new Constitution, shifting political system to one where lawmakers will choose president for single six-year term, replacing direct presidential election for two five-year terms. Opposition and civil society denounced moves as power grab by current President Gnassingbé and called for protests; Gnassingbé 29 March asked National Assembly to submit law to second reading due to “interest aroused” by bill. 

Uganda

Political manoeuvring intensified ahead of 2026 general elections, with appointment of President Museveni’s son as army chief. 

Inter-govt tensions over succession continued. President Museveni 21 March appointed son, Lt-Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, as head of military, in move widely seen as grooming him for succession but also stalling Muhoozi’s informal campaign for presidency in 2026, when Museveni is expected to seek re-election. In lead up to appointment, Muhoozi continued campaigning efforts for newly formed Patriotic League of Uganda (PLU) as part of his presidential ambitions, including in Masaka district 15 March. 

Authorities warned that Allied Democratic Force remained threat. Military 18 March heightened alertness after receiving intelligence that suspected Islamic-State-affiliated Allied Democratic Force fighters had entered country from DR Congo, warning against large gatherings in churches, bars and other public places.

In other important developments. Viral social media campaign exposed corruption within parliament; under banner #UgandaParliamentExhibition, leaks from govt’s financial system made public on social media sparked outrage from late Feb through March; disclosures revealed mass corruption among parliamentarians across political spectrum including misuse of public funds on personal projects, wastage on foreign travel and excessive spending on partisan political activities. Meanwhile, court 12 March dismissed LGBTQ+ rights advocacy group Sexual Minorities Uganda’s petition seeking govt registration amid ongoing tensions around anti-LGBTQ+ laws. 

Zimbabwe

Govt crackdown continued with mass evictions and discussion of law restricting civil society; relations with U.S. strained amid adjustment of sanctions. 

Repression continued including removals of those living on state-owned land. Govt kept up campaign to remove people living in “illegal” dwellings on state-owned land, with police arresting thousands of settlers since measures began mid-Jan, drawing opposition from civil society as well as some in ruling ZANU-PF party; criminal actors took advantage of situation, with local NGO 11 March reporting gang had attempted to violently enforce evictions in village with gold mining opportunities in Insiza district, Matabeleland South province, leading to clashes with villagers. Meanwhile, parliament 1 March began process to pass controversial Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill that critics argue will be used to control civil society organisations.

Washington lifted broad sanctions and imposed targeted ones. U.S. treasury 4 March removed broad program of sanctions, imposed new penalties against eleven people, including President Mnangagwa and his wife, and three companies for corruption and human rights abuses under Global Magnitsky measures; spokesperson for Mnangagwa – who became first sitting head of state to be sanctioned under program that blocks access to U.S. visas, property and services – 6 March condemned “illegal coercive measures”. In sign of worsening tensions, U.S. aid chief Samantha Power 8 March decried “unacceptable” intimidation following alleged Feb harassment, detainment and deportation of U.S. aid staff in capital Harare; govt accused workers of interfering and violating sovereignty.

Asia

Afghanistan

Taliban and Pakistan engaged in first serious military confrontation as Islamabad launched cross-border strikes in response to deadly militant attack, prompting Taliban heavy fire. 

Pakistan launched airstrikes, raising risk of armed conflict with Taliban. Amid mounting tensions between Islamabad and Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers, six militants 16 March rammed explosive-laden vehicle into military checkpoint in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhthunkwa province before conducting suicide bombings, killing seven soldiers (see Pakistan); Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) Hafiz Gul Bahadur affiliate claimed responsibility. Blaming Taliban for arming and hosting militants and “being involved in incidents of terrorism”, Pakistan 18 March launched retaliatory airstrikes, claiming targets were TTP groups in Afghanistan’s Paktika and Khost provinces (east); strikes marked first time Pakistan has acknowledged carrying out attack on Afghan territory since Taliban takeover in 2021 (previously suspected cross-border attacks as in April 2022 were unclaimed). Taliban forces same day retaliated by firing heavy weaponry into Pakistan’s Kurram district, killing Pakistani captain. While relative calm late March returned to border, risk of resumption of hostilities remained high, particularly if TTP launches another major attack in Pakistan; statements by Pakistani officials vowing to deport Afghan citizen card holders from 15 April also bode ill for bilateral relations.

Resistance groups and Islamic State staged attacks. After National Resistance Front (NRF) 26 Feb reportedly fired rockets at Kabul airport, allegedly targeting Taliban military installation, group continued its attacks, including ambush 27 March on Taliban checkpoint in capital Kabul in which NRF claimed three Taliban members were killed. Afghanistan Freedom Front 11 March declared month-long Ramadan ceasefire. In Kandahar city (south), Islamic State’s local branch (ISKP) 21 March claimed explosion inside bank allegedly targeting Taliban members, killing three by Taliban estimates and as many as 21 according to BBC; Taliban-affiliated media reported attacker underwent training in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, which it claimed had become key staging ground for ISKP. Suspected ISKP terror attack in Russian capital Moscow 22 March killed scores (see Russia). 

In another important development. Uzbekistan’s FM Bakhtiar Saidov 12 March met senior Taliban in capital Kabul to discuss trade; Taliban media suggested Uzbekistan may soon accept Taliban ambassador (see Uzbekistan). 

Bangladesh

Govt faced mounting economic challenges as opposition activity remained in lull, Myanmar’s conflict continued to spill over border, and peace talks in Chittagong Hill Tracts resumed with ethnic armed group.

Economic hardship persisted as opposition mobilisation remained subdued. Activity of opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies remained at low ebb due to difficulties of mobilising during Ramadan, although BNP may attempt to resume large-scale anti-govt demonstrations from late April or May, potentially prompting renewed crackdown. Govt meanwhile faced challenges of high inflation and rapidly increasing food prices: PM Sheikh Hasina 6 March instructed Rapid Action Battalion to intensify campaigns against food hoarders and 15 March fixed prices for 29 agricultural products. Due to depleted foreign currency to pay for energy imports, power shortages continued and could increase in summer amid higher temperatures. 

Hostilities in Myanmar spilt over border, raising prospect of new refugee influx. Myanmar’s military 5 March carried out airstrikes close to border, causing panic among Bangladeshi residents. Over 175 Myanmar Border Guard Police members 12 March crossed into Bangladesh’s Bandarban district to escape Arakan Army’s offensive in Rakhine state (see Myanmar). Conflict continued to raise prospect of new influx of Rohingya fleeing violence as hundreds, possibly thousands, gather in boats along Naf River; Dhaka, however, insisted no new refugees will be accepted and detained over 400 Rohingya. Authorities 1 March relocated 1,141 Rohingya from Cox’s Bazar to Bhasan Char island, which now hosts 30,000. Rohingya continue to die at sea trying to flee: boat carrying estimated 150 Rohingya 20 March capsized off Indonesia’s Aceh, with only 75 rescued.   

Peace talks resumed in Chittagong Hill Tracts in south east. Govt delegation and Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) – which claims to represent six Kuki-Chin subgroups, largest of which is Bawm – 5 March held face-to-face talks after first round in Nov. KNF issued six demands, including establishing Kuki-Chin territorial council; two sides reportedly agreed to meet in April, while KNF pledged to refrain from conducting attacks in meantime. If govt rejects KNF’s demands, communal tensions between Bawm and Marma communities could escalate, risking deadly clashes and further involvement of army or other armed groups. 

China/Japan

China maintained naval presence in East China Sea as Japan labelled Beijing’s expanding power “serious concern”, while Tokyo continued to deepen defence ties with U.S. and broader region. 

Beijing continued maritime presence. As of 31 March, Japan spotted 121 Chinese vessels in Japan’s contiguous zone with ten vessels in its territorial sea over four days. Tokyo 9 and 10 March scrambled fighter jets in response to Chinese military aircraft with anti-submarine and maritime surveillance capabilities patrolling Western Pacific waters and crossing Miyako Strait – strategic outlet for Chinese navy and key international waterway. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi 5 March said that China’s rapidly expanding military power was “serious concern”.

U.S. and Japan conducted joint exercises. U.S. and Japan late Feb commenced Resilient Shield 2024, utilising computer simulations of ballistic missile defence envelope for both nations. U.S. marines and Japanese troops held three-week amphibious training exercise “Iron Fist 24” 27 Feb-19 March amid concerns about Chinese military activity around Japan and TaiwanReports during March indicated Japan’s interest in cooperating with Australia, U.S. and UK security partnership dubbed “AUKUS” on advance capabilities, such as artificial intelligence and underwater technologies. 

Tokyo deepened regional security cooperation. Japan’s FM Yoko Kamikawa and Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar 7 March pledged to enhance cooperation in Indo-Pacific in response to China’s growing military and economic influence. Japan 19-20 March hosted multilateral meeting with defence ministers of fourteen South Pacific island nations, aiming to strengthen its involvement in regional security issues. 

India

Opposition parties decried crackdown ahead of national polls starting in April, ethnic conflict in Manipur in far north east rumbled on and tensions with China surfaced over disputed territory in north east. 

Concerns rose about unlevel playing field ahead of election. Election Commission 16 March announced dates for national polls, which will be held in seven phases from 19 April to 4 June. Signs emerged raising concern that polls may not be entirely free and fair. Notably, federal investigative agency 21 March arrested leader of opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for allegedly accepting bribes in exchange for granting licenses to alcohol contractors; AAP claimed no wrongdoing and accused govt of attempting to weaken opposition ahead of elections, as protesters rallied in capital New Delhi. Opposition Congress Party 21 March alleged govt agencies had frozen all of its bank accounts, making it impossible to fight election, calling it “assault on democracy”. 

Insecurity in Manipur state persisted. Security forces 8 March rescued junior army officer abducted in Thoubal district. Ahead of national elections, Manipur’s chief electoral officer 16 March said no special voting arrangements had been made for estimated 10,000 displaced in neighbouring Mizoram state and some 60,000 displaced in Manipur’s relief camps. Indigenous Tribal Leaders forum 26 March pleaded with Kuki-Zo tribal people not to comply with state govt’s order to deposit licensed arms ahead of national elections, asserting necessity to defend “our right to life and land”.    

Security forces targeted Maoist militants. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), security forces 15 March killed three Maoists and 27 March killed six Maoists in Bijapur district. In Maharashtra state (west), security forces during 25-hour operation 19 March killed four Maoists in Gadciroli district. 

India-China relations remained tense. During visit to Arunachal Pradesh state (north east), PM Narendra Modi 9 March remotely inaugurated strategically-important tunnel close to disputed border known as Line of Actual Control. China, which claims sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh, 11 March issued statement saying it “strongly deplores” visit. India 19 March asserted state “was, is and will always be an integral and inalienable part of India”. 

India-Pakistan (Kashmir)

Harsh weather curtailed militant activity in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) as PM Modi visited for first time since 2019, praising region’s “progress” while local parties reiterated demands for long-overdue elections.

Militant attacks and security operations remained at low ebb. Due to inclement weather amid snowfall and avalanches in higher reaches of region, militant activity remained subdued during March but may step up once weather improves ahead of national elections (see India). Low-intensity blast 26 March occurred in Poonch town; police arrested two suspects. 

PM Modi addressed region in rare visit amid demands for overdue polls. Ahead of national elections in April-June, PM Narendra Modi 7 March visited Kashmir valley for first time since abrogation of Article 370 in 2019. During his address, Modi claimed “Kashmir is touching new heights of progress and prosperity after the abrogation of Article 370”, while Lieutenant Governor asserted that “the ecosystem of [militancy] has been dismantled”. Despite govt’s claim of new era of peace in J&K, delayed elections are contributing to local frustration and unrest. J&K’s regional parties, National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party, 12 March urged Chief Election Commissioner to hold regional and national elections simultaneously in union territory; Election Commission ruled it out on security grounds. Home Minister Amit Shah 20 March said elections would be held before 30 Sept deadline set by Supreme Court. 

Authorities permitted Chief Cleric to lead prayers for first time in months. J&K administration 6 March told High Court that Chief Cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was “a free man” and not under house arrest, permitting Farooq to lead prayers at Jama Masjid in Srinagar city on 8 March for first time since Oct when he was placed again in detention. At a sermon, Farooq 15 March requested authorities to “unconditionally release thousands of Kashmiri political prisoners”.

Protests in Ladakh continued. Protesters in Ladakh 6 March held rally calling for granting of statehood and its inclusion in Sixth Schedule of the Constitution for safeguards, after talks between Ladakh’s representatives and New Delhi 4 March failed to make any progress. 

Korean Peninsula

U.S. and South Korean conducted military drills as North Korea resumed missile testing, while Russia vetoed renewal of UN panel tasked with monitoring sanctions compliance. 

Following seasonal alliance military drills, Pyongyang launched missiles. U.S. and South Korea 4-14 March held annual Spring exercises, which passed off without dramatic North Korean response; this may indicate some form of distress inside North Korea – with domestic media focused on agricultural challenges – but there is chance North Korea may respond more forcefully to drills in coming months. Following exercises, leader Kim Jong Un 18 March supervised live-fire drill of multiple rocket launchers and Pyongyang same day fired three short-range ballistic missiles into waters off peninsula’s east coast. State media 20 March reported successful test of solid-fuel engine for intermediate-range hypersonic missile.

Russia wielded veto to block renewed mandate for UN Panel of Experts. Vote on renewal of UN Panel of Experts on North Korea sanctions – tasked with monitoring compliance with sanctions – was delayed and thrown into doubt after Russia 12 March proposed changes, including sunset clause for sanctions and reducing reporting period from every six months to annual. U.S. and its allies remain steadfast in opposition to alterations to sanctions or reporting framework, arguing sustained pressure on North Korea is essential. Russia 28 March vetoed renewal, ensuring panel’s mandate will expire 30 April; U.S. accused Russia of silencing body because it began reporting on “Russia’s blatant violations of the UN Security Council resolutions”. In further sign of Russia’s lack of sanctions enforcement and compliance, Financial Times 26 March reported that Russia 7 March began “first documented direct seaborne deliveries” of oil to North Korea in contravention of 2017 UN sanctions, possibly in part payment for munitions deliveries. 

South Korea issued stern warning against Pyongyang’s provocations. Speaking at ninth West Sea Defence Day, which commemorates North Korean provocations in West Sea, South Korean President Yoon 22 March cautioned Pyongyang against reckless provocations and emphasised resolve of South Korea govt and military to push back against aggression; Yoon also pledged to further enhance trilateral security cooperation with U.S. and Japan.

Myanmar

China brokered talks between regime and ethnic armed groups in northern Shan state aimed at resuming border trade, while regime lost more territory to Arakan Army in west and Kachin Independence Army in far north. 

In north, regime and Three Brotherhood Alliance engaged in talks. As 11 Jan ceasefire held in Shan state (north), regime negotiators early March met Three Brotherhood Alliance in Kunming city, China, for further negotiations on reopening China-Myanmar border trade worth billions annually, which mostly ceased after alliance’s Oct offensive; sticking points include sharing of revenue between sides. In southern Shan state, after Pao National Liberation Army aligned with resistance in Jan, regime 3 March launched destructive offensive to recapture Hsihseng town from group.

In Rakhine state (west), Arakan Army continued to capture regime positions. Arakan Army 4 March captured Ponnagyun town, barely 30km from state capital Sittwe, and 7 March claimed Ramree town  its first in central Rakhine state – located close to major Chinese infrastructure projects in neighbouring Kyaukpyu township, including oil terminal, twin gas and oil pipelines, and proposed deep-sea port and Special Economic Zone. Arakan Army also continued attacks in northern Rakhine, including in Rathedaung, Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships, and 17 March seized Rathedaung. Group 12 March seized Aung Thapyay Border Guard Police post in far northern Maungdaw, prompting 179 regime personnel to flee into Bangladesh. Regime shelling 9 March killed five Rohingya residents in Aung Mingalar ward.

In Kachin state (north), Kachin Independence Army stepped up offensive. After embarking on wave of attacks late Feb against regime positions that for over decade have encircled its Laiza headquarters, Kachin Independence Army-led forces 7-9 March seized total twenty camps in Momauk and Waingmaw townships, and assassinated head of regime-aligned Lisu People’s Militia Force. KIA offensive could impact already-strained communal relations between Jinghpaw majority, which leads KIA, and minority groups in Kachin state, including Shanni and Lisu. 

Regime’s conscription drive sparked tensions and recruitment race. Regime’s decision in Feb to enforce dormant military service law reportedly triggered killings of at least dozen local officials tasked with overseeing process, and sparked conscription race with ethnic armed groups, as latter reported increase in recruits. 

Pakistan

Military launched first acknowledged airstrikes in Afghanistan since Taliban takeover after deadly militant attack, triggering Taliban retaliation.

Military launched airstrikes in Afghanistan, raising risk of armed conflict. Amid mounting tensions between govt and Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers, six militants 16 March rammed explosive-laden vehicle into military checkpoint in Khyber Pakhthunkwa province’s North Waziristan before conducting suicide bombings, killing seven soldiers; Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) Hafiz Gul Bahadur affiliate claimed responsibility. Blaming Taliban for arming and hosting militants and “being involved in incidents of terrorism”, Pakistan 18 March launched retaliatory airstrikes, claiming targets were TTP groups in Afghanistan’s Paktika and Khost provinces (east); strikes mark first Pakistan has acknowledged carrying out on Afghan territory since Taliban takeover in 2021 (previously suspected cross-border attacks such as in April 2022 were unclaimed). Taliban authorities same day retaliated by firing heavy weaponry into Pakistan’s Kurram district, killing Pakistani captain. While relative calm late March returned to border, risk of resumption of hostilities remained high, particularly if TTP launches another major attack in Pakistan; statements by Islamabad vowing to deport Afghan citizen card holders from 15 April also bode ill for relations. Meanwhile, suicide bombing on bus carrying Chinese engineers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Bisham sub-district 26 March killed five.

Political turmoil continued following disputed elections in Feb. Formation of new govt following 8 Feb elections was accompanied by claims of widespread electoral manipulation by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), led by imprisoned former PM Imran Khan. Security forces 3 March detained scores of PTI supporters staging protests countrywide against “theft of the public mandate”; Shebhaz Sharif of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) same day won PM election in national assembly. Election Commission 4 March ruled that newly-formed Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) party – which PTI-backed independent parliamentarians joined in mid-Feb – was not eligible for dozens of reserved seats; after seats were redistributed, PML-N tally in parliament rose to 123 seats, overtaking PTI as largest party. U.S. Assistant Sec of State Donald Lu 20 March said if election commission fails to investigate irregularities, it would “retard our ability to have the type of relationship we want” with Pakistan.

Papua New Guinea

Tribal factions struck temporary ceasefire to calm deadly hostilities.  

After tribal clashes in Feb in restive Highlands Region killed over 40 people, two warring tribal factions – known as Yopo Alliance and Palinau Alliance – from Enga province 13 March struck three-month unconditional ceasefire after negotiations in capital Port Moresby; agreement reportedly acknowledged that long-running hostilities had caused “displacement of thousands of people” and precipitated “humanitarian crisis”.

Philippines

Security operations and militant attacks persisted in south, while military battled Communist insurgents.

Insecurity persisted in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). In Maguindanao del Sur province, soldiers from army’s 1st Brigade Combat Team 9 March clashed with Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) during operation to apprehend BIFF commander Kagi Karialan (who evaded capture) in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town, killing two suspected BIFF members. Militant ambush 17 March killed four soldiers in Datu Hoffer; military blamed jihadist group Daulah Islamiyah, but BIFF 19 March claimed attack in retaliation for 9 March security operation. Region 27 March marked anniversary of signing of Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro, which could boost momentum for implementation of key parts of peace deal.

Clashes continued between Communist rebels and military. Hostilities between security forces and communist rebels in Luzon (Quezon, Batangas) in north, Mindanao (Bukidnon/Lanao del Sur) in south and Visayas (Panay island) in centre during March claimed five civilian and combatant fatalities, and two injuries. Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. 18 March declared Surigao del Norte province insurgency-free after its provincial govt and law enforcement agencies dismantled remaining forces of Communist militant group New People’s Army (NPA).

South China Sea

Maritime encounters and stern warnings heightened tensions between Philippines and China in South China Sea (SCS); Manila proactively engaged U.S. and regional countries.

Manila and Beijing engaged in war of words amid maritime incidents in SCS. Philippines 5 March accused China of “dangerous manoeuvres and blocking” that led to collision between one of its ships and Chinese Coast Guard vessel during Philippine resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre on disputed Second Thomas Shoal, injuring four Philippine sailors. U.S. same day denounced China’s “provocative” and “dangerous” moves and reiterated that its Mutual Defence Treaty with Philippines extends to armed attacks on Philippine armed forces, including Coast Guard, anywhere in SCS. Philippine Senate 7 March passed bill to align country’s maritime zones with 2016 award of Permanent Court of Arbitration tribunal that invalidated Beijing’s vast territorial claims in SCS; China protested that act violates its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights. Philippines 11 March reported spotting about 50 Chinese vessels within its Exclusive Economic Zone in SCS, many surrounding disputed Scarborough Shoal. In another maritime incident, China Coast Guard vessel 23 March used water cannon on civilian boat supplying Philippine troops on Second Thomas Shoal, damaging vessel and injuring crew; Manila 25 March summoned China’s envoy to protest “aggressive actions”. China’s defence ministry 24 March warned Philippines to “stop making any remarks” that could lead to escalation or risk China’s “resolute and decisive measures”. President Marcos 28 March announced plans for counter-measures against China Coast Guard’s “illegal, coercive, aggressive, and dangerous” actions.

Manila courted ties with Washington and regional states. Philippine FM Enrique Manalo 4 March called on regional neighbours to uphold rule of law in SCS, referring to Manila’s victory in Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling. Marcos 19 March met U.S. Sec of State Antony Blinken to discuss cooperation and security matters amid heightened tensions with China; Blinken called U.S. security commitment to Philippines “ironclad”. China’s foreign ministry responded that U.S. “has no right to intervene” in SCS issues. India’s FM S. Jaishankar 26 March called for defence cooperation with Philippines. South Korea 26 March expressed “grave concern” over China’s use of water cannons in SCS.

Sri Lanka

As elections lingered on horizon, govt’s authoritarian legislation faced opposition and communal tensions persisted in Northern Province; govt secured next portion of International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan.

Political jockeying intensified as elections appeared increasingly likely. With presidential elections required by mid-Oct, and parliamentary elections possible before or soon after, negotiations for possible electoral alliances intensified. President Wickremesinghe held discussions with leaders of current ruling party, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), even as quiet efforts continued to reconcile Wickremesinghe and former allies in opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB). Frontrunner, leftist National People’s Party (NPP), held series of rallies countrywide.

Govt’s anti-democratic laws met opposition at home and abroad. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk 1 March expressed concern over new or proposed laws to severely restrict rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression. UN Human Rights Council “Core Group” 4 March warned of Online Safety Act’s potential “chilling effect on freedom of expression” and cautioned govt on proposed “Commission on Truth, Unity and Reconciliation”, calling for “inclusive participatory process to build trust in advance of any legislation”. Civil society organisations 14 March met with Wickremesinghe to explain opposition to draft Non-Governmental Organisations Act, which permits authorities to monitor, collect information and restrict activities. 

Communal tensions persisted in north. After “Core Group” 4 March noted “with concern reports of increased tensions around land seizures” in North and East, police 8 March arrested eight Tamil Hindus at worship site in Northern Province’s Vavuniya district despite court order permitting prayer ceremony; police 19 March released them amid reports of mistreatment in detention. Govt 4 March announced bill aimed at “formally managing the discovery and preservation of the nation’s antiquities and archaeological heritage”, likely through granting even stronger powers to Archaeology Department, which has seized land used by Tamils and Muslims in north and east. 

Govt secured next part of IMF loan. IMF 21 March announced new staff level agreement with govt, paving way for disbursement of third instalment of $300mn loan; govt figures 16 March showed economy grew by 4.5% in last quarter of 2023, despite overall negative economic growth of -2.4% in 2023.

Taiwan Strait

Dispute between Taiwan and China over jurisdiction of waters around Kinmen Islands persisted as Beijing maintained military activity around Taiwan and U.S. continued support for Taipei. 

Tensions persisted with Beijing around Kinmen Islands. Following 14 Feb incident in which two Chinese nationals drowned off coast of Taiwan’s Kinmen Islands, Chinese vessels continued patrols in restricted and prohibited waters around islands. Negotiations between China and Taiwan early March faltered, with Taiwan’s coast guard stating Chinese officials made demands incompatible with Taiwan’s legal system. Taiwan and China 14 March jointly conducted rescue mission after fishing vessel capsized near Kinmen; China 17 March rescued two fishermen, reportedly with Taiwan’s assistance. Four Chinese coast guard ships 15 and 16 March entered Kinmen’s waters, reportedly loitering for hours on 16 March; Taiwan’s coast guard patrol shadowed the vessels and broadcast warnings until they left.

China maintained military activity around Taiwan. As of 31 March, Taiwan detected 470 Chinese military aircraft around island, of which at least 172 crossed unofficial “median line” or entered Taiwan’s de facto air defence identification zone; Taiwan spotted 270 Chinese naval vessels in surrounding waters. Taiwan’s Defence Ministry 8 March clarified that any intrusion by China across Taiwan’s territorial borders is considered act of aggression. USS John Finn 5 March completed its second transit of Taiwan Strait in 2024.

U.S. continued diplomatic and military support to Taiwan. U.S. President Biden 7 March made his first reference to Taiwan during a State of Union address, emphasising U.S. commitment to peace and stability in Taiwan Strait; White House 11 March allocated $100mn for Taiwan’s military assistance, marking first standalone mention of island in budget report. Taiwan 14 March confirmed U.S. Army Special Forces are stationed on Taiwan’s outlying islands for training and exchange purposes. Meanwhile, Australia and Malaysia 5 March issued joint statement recognising importance of peace in Taiwan Strait. South Korea’s envoy in Taiwan 6 March announced visits from significant South Korean figures to Taiwan are expected to increase. Russian President Putin 18 March claimed Taiwan is part of China, triggering prompt refutation by Taiwan. 

Thailand