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Continuing Conflicts that Create Refugees - February 2015

Categories: Articles:Asylum & Refugees, Articles:Peacemaking | Published: 01/03/2015 | Views: 2317

8 actual or potential conflict situations around the world deteriorated and none improved in February 2015, according to CrisisWatch N°139.  Deteriorated Situations: Libya, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela, Yemen

In February, the political crisis worsened in Yemen, whose territorial disintegration is in danger of accelerating, while in Bangladesh political violence threatens to further destabilise the country; Venezuela's downward spiral also continued amid deep political polarisation. Deadly violence rose in Libya, where the prospects of a diplomatic solution to the internal conflict receded further; in Syria, where the regime and its allies initiated a major campaign against rebels in the south; and in areas affected by the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria and Niger. Serious fighting in Myanmar's Kokang region undermined the ongoing peace talks, while a new peace deal for Ukraine was followed by major military defeat for the government in the east.

Yemen's political crisis deepened in early February when the Huthis created a "revolutionary council" and associated bodies in a move clearly outside the constitution. Issuing a statement from Aden after escaping his Sanaa house arrest, former President Hadi rescinded his January resignation and rejected Huthi actions as a coup, raising fears of an acceleration of the conflict and territorial disintegration. Despite the limited ability of external actors to influence events (see our latest Conflict Alert), the best way of preventing the start of serious hostilities may now be for the Gulf Cooperation Council and the UN to sponsor emergency talks outside of Yemen between core stakeholders.

Bangladesh an anti-corruption court issued an arrest warrant for the leader of the opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP), Khaleda Zia. If the warrant is executed, it could seriously escalate the political crisis that has seen over 100 killed in anti-government protests since early January. The crisis could gravely destabilise the country unless both the government and the BNP move urgently to reduce tensions (as explained in our new report). In Venezuela, Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma was arrested after the government claimed to have foiled yet another U.S.-backed opposition plot to overthrow President Maduro. Six people including a fourteen-year-old boy were killed allegedly during or after anti-government protests, prompting criticism of security forces.

Libya's crisis took another turn for the worse as the Tobruk-Based House of Representatives withdrew from UN-sponsored talks aimed at reaching a diplomatic solution. But Libya's rival authorities are evenly matched: to halt the slide toward all-out civil war and state collapse they must work toward a political solution (as we explain in our new report). Deepening political divisions and the resultant military clashes have facilitated the growth of jihadi armed groups. On 15 February, an Islamic State-affiliated armed group issued a video in which militants beheaded 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians. In response, Egypt launched aerial attacks on Derna and Sirte, reportedly killing scores of people. President Assad's regime initiated a major campaign against rebels in southern Syria, aided by Iranian and Hizbollah forces. Their participation was openly reported by pro-regime media, and represents a major escalation by non-Syrian, pro-regime forces in this part of the country. The regime and its allies also attacked rebel-held towns north of Aleppo, paired with smaller escalations inside the city where UN envoy Staffan de Mistura has been trying to broker a "freeze" of fighting.

Niger Series of violent Boko Haram (BH) attacks in Diffa region targeting Bosso and Diffa cities. Attacks prompted increasingly strong govt response. Defence Minister Mahamadou Karidjo 6 Feb said 100 BH insurgents, four soldiers died during attack on Bosso; same day bombing of Diffa compelled Chadian, Nigerien forces to launch air-strikes on BH position. Bomb detonated in Diffa central market 9 Feb killed five, wounded twenty. Parliament 10 Feb voted unanimously to send 750 soldiers to reinforce regional military cooperation, authorised army to fight on Nigerian territory as part of regional response against BH insurgency. Authorities 17 Feb arrested some 160 suspect-ed of BH links: thousands same day took to streets in support of army. National Assem-bly 26 Feb voted unanimously to extend Diffa state of emergency for three months.

Nigeria Month saw increasing Boko Haram (BH) and election-related violence ahead of postponed polls, while military launched major offensive against Boko Haram (BH). Defence authorities 2 Feb said they retook Gamboru and four other towns near Lake Chad following combined operations by govt troops, civilian vigilantes, Chadian and Cameroonian forces. Authorities 18 Feb reported intensive operations around BH's Sambisa Forest stronghold liberated eleven communities, some 300 insurgents reportedly killed; 19 Feb reported Special Forces, aided by Air Force and Chadian troops, reclaimed Dikwa local govt area, Borno state, some 117 insurgents killed. BH attacks continued: attack 19 Feb in Gaya village in Hong local govt area of Adamawa state killed 30 residents; some seventeen killed by explosives thrown from car in Jos, Plateau state. BH suicide bombings continued in Gombe, Yobe, Borno states, killing over 100 in Feb including 22 Feb bombing of market in Potiskum by seven-year old and 16 Feb attack on Damaturu bus station by teenager. Electoral Commission (INEC) 7 Feb postponed planned Feb elections: presidential and national polls delayed to 28 March, governorship and state polls to 11 April. Opposition All Progressive's Congress (APC) condemned postponement, warned it would resist any further delay. Election-related violence increased with deadly incidents recorded almost daily: National Hu-man Rights Commission (NHCR) 13 Feb reported 58 killed in election-related violence since Dec. People's Democratic Party (PDP) thugs 17 Feb attacked APC rally with ex-plosives, guns in Okrika, Rivers state, two killed, 50 wounded; Rivers APC chair called for international attention to rising violence.

Myanmar fierce fighting broke out in Kokang region in Shan state in early February as the ethnic Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), apparently assisted by other groups, attempted to seize control of Kokang capital Laukkai. The fighting, the most serious in the country since 2009, prompted at least 30,000 and possibly up to 100,000 people to flee across the border to China. It has created further difficulties for the peace process, now unlikely to progress further before the November elections. Ukraine suffered one of its heaviest defeats yet with the fall of a major military garrison at the strategic railway town of Debaltseve to rebels just days after the signing of a new peace deal in Minsk. The defeat further weakened President Poroshenko's administration, as the country comes under increasing pressure from Russia and slips deeper into economic crisis.

Syria Regime and allied forces early Feb began major campaign in south following months of rebel gains in Daraa and Quneitra provinces: retook some ground from re-bels including areas south-west of Damascus, scores reported killed by mid-month; pro-regime media reported direct Iranian, Hizbollah participation, signalling apparent major escalation by non-Syrian pro-regime forces in south. Regime and allied forces 16 Feb launched attack on rebel-held areas north of Aleppo and inside city: captured some ground but suffered heavy casualties; hundreds of rebels and pro-regime forces reported killed. UN Syria Envoy de Mistura 17 Feb briefed UNSC on efforts to broker "freeze" of Aleppo fighting: said regime indicated willingness to halt aerial bombard-ments for six weeks while pursuing agreement on "freeze" in part of Aleppo. An-nouncement made without rebel agreement to halt fighting; rebel scepticism of UN ef-forts increased following de Mistura's 13 Feb statement that Bashar Assad is "part of the solution", later clarified to mean Assad needed for "de-escalation of violence". Kurdish forces and allied rebels continued advancing following late Jan victory over Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL) in Kobani: seized several mostly Kurdish towns south of city, late Feb seized north-eastern town Tel Hamis. IS late Feb reportedly abducted over 200 Christian villagers in north east. Deadly regime airstrikes continued includ-ing scores killed around Damascus 5 Feb following rebel shelling of regime-held areas. U.S.-led coalition airstrikes against IS continued; at least 30 reported killed in Raqqah province 6 Feb.

Ukraine Month saw one of heaviest defeats yet for Ukraine with fall of major mili-tary garrison at Debaltseve to rebels days after signing of peace deal, also increasing Russian pressure on Kyiv, deepening economic crisis. New peace agreement announced 12 Feb in Minsk; key elements include ceasefire to start 15 Feb, withdrawal of heavy weaponry from contact line, exchange of prisoners, amnesty for crimes committed dur-ing fighting, withdrawal of "foreign armed formations"; also local elections in east, con-stitutional reform providing unspecified form of decentralisation, and adoption of per-manent "special status" for certain areas. Hostilities continued unabated, Debaltseve fell 18 Feb. Moscow rejected accusations of extensive Russian involvement in last phase of Debaltseve battle, including advanced weaponry, regular combat forces and command and control. U.S. Sec State Kerry 4 Feb said U.S. weighing option of supplying arms to Kyiv. Limited prisoner exchange took place 21 Feb; reports of limited pull back of heavy weapons 26 Feb with reports ceasefire holding in some areas. Govt under increasing crit-icism domestically over economy and slowness in reform, major currency depreciation; also anger directed at political and military leadership among troops involved in De-baltseve fighting. UN launched new humanitarian appeal amid reports of increasingly dire conditions in east. Russia late month threatened to cut off gas supply as Ukraine struggled to make payments. IMF 12 Feb announced ¤15.5bn package for Ukraine over four years. Attacks on civilian targets continued including three killed when shell hit hospital in Donetsk city 4 Feb. Four killed in explosion at march in Kharkiv 22 Feb.

Venezuela Govt 12 Feb said it had thwarted U.S.-backed opposition plot to over-throw President Maduro: some 40 air force members accused of involvement, several arrested. Maduro accused entire opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) leadership of knowing of plot, claimed Primero Justicia party coordinator Julio Borges selected coup bombing targets; accused Caracas mayor and MUD faction leader Antonio Ledezma of playing key role. Ledezma arrested 19 Feb by intelligence agents; U.S., Colombia and Chile expressed concern, human rights bodies and NGOs criticised arrest. MUD said it fears govt may be seeking to create conditions in which it can outlaw opposition par-ties. Govt also alleged that Borges and Ledezma planned murder of opposition Volun-tad Popular party leader Leopoldo López, confined to military prison for past year fol-lowing accusations he planned violent demonstrations to overthrow Maduro.

February 2015 Improved Situations: None

March 2015 Outlook: Conflict Risk Alert: Bangladesh, Yemen. Conflict Resolution Opportunity: None   Read the full report here

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