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Continuing Conflicts that Create Refugees – February 2016

Categories: Articles:Asylum & Refugees | Published: 07/03/2016 | Views: 1022
Eight Deteriorated Situations in February 2016: Afghanistan, Chad, Korean Peninsula, Mozambique, Somalia, Turkey, Venezuela, Zimbabwe

February saw conflict continue to rage in Turkey’s south east between Ankara and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), looking likely to further escalate in March. Afghanistan and Somalia both saw armed insurgencies capture new territories. In Africa, political tensions rose in Chad, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, while in Venezuela, deadlock between the opposition-held parliament and government has brought the country closer to political and economic implosion. In Asia, North Korea’s announcement of a satellite launch in violation of UN Security Council resolutions prompted international condemnation and calls for tough new sanctions. On a positive note, the coming month brings the possibility of a final agreement to end Colombia’s decades-old insurgency. 

Turkey: Violence continued to intensify in Turkey’s south east between the PKK and security forces, while a car bombing in Ankara on 17 February left 29 high-ranking military officials and civil servants dead. The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), an ultra-radical PKK offshoot, claimed responsibility for the Ankara bombing, which further weakened already slim prospects for peace overtures between Ankara and Kurdish insurgents. The PKK has previously warned it will increase its activity come spring, while the TAK has vowed to carry out further attacks in western Turkey. In our December report A Sisyphean Task - Resuming Turkey-PKK Peace Talks, Crisis Group called on conflict parties to urgently end violence and agree on ceasefire conditions to enable a speedy resumption of peace talks. February also saw Turkey start shelling Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) targets in northern Syria after the group began gaining ground against Turkey-backed rebels in late January.

Afghanistan: fighting continued to worsen ahead of proposed peace talks between the government and the Taliban in early March. National security forces pulled out of Helmand’s Musa Qala district after dozens of police and soldiers were killed across the southern province mid-month, while the governor of Badakhshan province reported two districts had fallen completely under Taliban control.

Somalia: Al-Shabaab upped terrorist attacks and recaptured locations across south-central Somalia, including in Lower Shabelle, Bay and Jubaland regions, killing over 60 people. As Crisis Group has long recommended, military pressure can only sustain progress against the group within durable political settlements. The Somalia Federal Government (SFG) and external allies should pay particular attention to parallel national and local reconciliation processes within Somali society, and address the local political grievances that enable Al-Shabaab to remain and rebuild.

Venezuela: political tensions spiked in February amid a spiralling economic and humanitarian crisis. President Maduro’s government continued to act in defiance of the opposition-held legislature, arguing that the National Assembly’s decisions are subject to approval by the government-controlled Supreme Court (TSJ). The opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance began examining constitutional options for Maduro’s removal, including the possibility of both a recall referendum and a constitutional amendment. As the risk of an extra-constitutional response by either side or a military coup increases, Crisis Group has called for the Organization of American States (OAS) to prepare an emergency political and humanitarian initiative to prevent serious violence and a collapse that would bring regional instability and deepen the misery of the Venezuelan population.

Chad: civil unrest and a police crackdown worsened ahead of the 10 April presidential vote. Following several anti-government demonstrations, civil society created the “ça suffit” platform which called for a ville morte national strike on 24 February protesting President Idriss Déby’s fifth term bid. Although declared illegal by the government, the strike was widely observed in major cities. 

Mozambique: armed opposition Renamo ruled out in early February a face-to-face meeting between its leader, Afonso Dhlakama, and President Nyusi to restart long-running talks, citing Dhlakama’s fears for his safety. Renamo’s renewed attacks on security forces and civilian vehicles left several dead and injured throughout the month while military operations to disarm its militants in Tete province continued to force thousands to flee. 

Zimbabwe: rivalry within the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) intensified between First Lady Grace Mugabe and Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, both jockeying to be President Mugabe’s successor. Grace Mugabe’s harsh rhetoric against security chiefs and war veterans aligned to Mnangagwa on 12 February further polarised the two camps. Later on 18 February police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse a war veterans’ protest in Harare. In Zimbabwe: Stranded in Stasis, Crisis Group called on international actors to seek common ground and support political reform that promotes an inclusive, sustainable economic recovery.

North Korea: announced on 7 February the launch of an earth observation satellite in violation of the UN Security Council ban on ballistic missile tests, prompting wide international condemnation and calls for tough new sanctions.

Colombia: The prospect of an end to Colombia’s decades-long insurgency draws closer as negotiators from the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are scheduled to resume talks on 2 March to address pending issues on the termination of the conflict, ahead of the country’s 23 March deadline for a final agreement.

February 2016 Trends -  Improved Situations: None

March 2016 Outlook - Conflict Risk Alert: Turkey, Venezuela. Conflict Resolution Opportunity: Colombia

Crisis Watch Issue 151, Published 03/03/2016

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