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Continuing Conflicts that Create Refugees - April 2015

Categories: Articles:Asylum & Refugees, Articles:Peacemaking | Published: 01/05/2015 | Views: 2184
8 actual or potential conflict situations around the world deteriorated and one improved in April 2015, according to CrisisWatch N°141. Deteriorated Situations: Burundi, Chad, Colombia, Kashmir, Nepal, South Sudan, Ukraine, Yemen

An agreement on the framework for a Joint Plan of Action on Iran's nuclear enrichment program in early April marked a major step forward. However, mid-month, Colombia's peace process suffered a serious blow when Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) fighters killed government soldiers in an ambush; and fighting resumed in Ukraine between the military and separatist forces. The announced end of Saudi Arabia's five-week airstrike campaign in Yemen on 21 April brought few tangible results: missile strikes continued as the humanitarian situation became increasingly dire. Violent protests erupted in Burundi late month ahead of crucial presidential elections in June, and in Chad where popular discontent spilled over into violence. South Sudan and Kashmir saw their worst violence in months, while an earthquake in Nepal on 25 April killed thousands, amid the country's ongoing political impasse.

Burundi, the 25 April official announcement of President Nkurunziza's candidacy for June presidential elections triggered mass protests. At least six were killed in clashes with police, and around 20,000 have fled across the border to Rwanda. After days of deadly unrest, on 29 April Burundi's Senate requested that the Constitutional Court examine the legality of Nkurunziza's attempt to secure a third term. In its latest report on Burundi's elections, Crisis Group warned that a return to violence risked threatening the 2000 Arusha peace agreement, and called for Burundi's partners to engage more pro-actively with the electoral process to prevent rising tensions as well as pressure all Burundian political parties to reaffirm their commitment to the Arusha agreement's principles.

Yemen: On 21 April, Saudi Arabia announced an end to its five-week bombing campaign in Yemen against the Huthis and security forces aligned with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Despite this, Saudi-led air attacks have continued, and even intensified in southern and western provinces. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda has taken advantage, seizing Al-Mukalla town in Hadramout. The air campaign thus far has succeeded in militarising the Yemeni power struggle, contributed to a humanitarian disaster, and undermined any chance of political settlement. Yet a political settlement remains key: an immediate, complete and unconditional ceasefire - that includes the Saudi-led coalition - followed by UN-led peace talks with backing from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Western allies, is essential to reversing Yemen's current path (see our latest report and commentary).

Colombia: After months of good news, the Colombian peace process suffered a serious setback when FARC guerrillas killed eleven soldiers and wounded another twenty in an ambush in Buenos Aires in Cauca region on 14 April. President Santos declared the attack a violation of FARC's December 2014 unilateral ceasefire, and announced the resumption of airstrikes, just days after renewing his March decision to temporarily suspend bombings. The attack had no discernible immediate impact on ongoing negotiations, but raised risks of new military escalation and triggered a political backlash against the peace process. In our statement we urge?d? the government to resist mounting political pressure to set a deadline for the Havana talks, and called on both sides to find ways to stabilise FARC's ceasefire and minimise the chance of a future incident.

Ukraine: Shelling resumed along the front line separating Ukraine's military from separatist rebels around 12 April, breaking over a month of calm. Fighting intensified during the month, particularly near Mariupol and outside Donetsk city, and comes despite claims by both sides to have pulled back their heavy weaponry in compliance with the February Minsk agreement. The humanitarian situation in the east continues to deteriorate, exacerbated by the government's economic blockade of separatist-controlled areas. (See our report and statement on Ukraine).

South Sudan saw renewed clashes in Upper Nile and Unity states - the most serious since August - while severe economic strain is only increasing the likelihood of further conflict. On 21 April, fighting between government troops and a previously allied local ethnic (Shilluk) militia broke out in Upper Nile's state capital Malakal, displacing over ten thousand mostly Shilluk civilians. A few days later, government forces attacked opposition controlled areas in and around Unity state's capital Bentiu, and clashed with Sudanese rebels in Pariang county. Meanwhile, tensions escalated on the Sudan-South Sudan border as both governments traded accusations the other was supporting rebel groups (see our recent report). Sudan's air force bombed reported Sudan Revolutionary Front areas in Bahr el Ghazal and, following a cross-border JEM rebel attack, threatened the rebels' bases in South Sudan. (See our recent statement)

Chad, popular discontent flared. On 25 April, the death of a suspect in police custody sparked riots and clashes between security forces and protesters in the southern city of Kyabe that left four dead. Earlier in the month, teachers and civil servants again went on strike to protest non-payment of their salaries.

Nepal: A powerful earthquake struck Nepal 25 April causing widespread devastation and a humanitarian emergency. Over 5,500 people were confirmed dead at the time of publication, with numbers expected to increase, and 1.4 million are reportedly in need of food aid. The disaster struck amid the ongoing impasse between Nepal's political parties on the overdue draft constitution.

Kashmir witnessed the sharpest rise in violence in months. Violent protests erupted after the Indian army reportedly killed two men in southern Kashmir on 13 April, a militant and his non-combatant brother. A 16-year-old boy was shot dead by police during a protest outside Srinagar on 18 April.

Improved Situations: Iran

Iran and the P5+1 (EU3+3) on 2 April announced a landmark initial agreement on the key parameters of a "Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action" on Iran's nuclear enrichment program. The agreement marks the first step toward a nuclear accord that could end the prolonged standoff between Iran and the international community and open the door to constructive engagement on issues critical to the Middle East's peace and security. (see our statement, open letter, blog post and commentary)

May 2015 Outlook

Conflict Risk Alert: Burundi, South Sudan

Conflict Resolution Opportunity: None

Download the full report: CW141-April 2015

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