10 actual or potential conflict situations around the world deteriorated and 2 improved in May 2015, according to CrisisWatch N°142. Deteriorated Situations: Afghanistan, Burundi, Colombia, Korean Peninsula, Macedonia, Pakistan, South China Sea, South Sudan, Tajikistan, Yemen
Burund's violent pre-election crisis prompted increasing alarm over the potential for open conflict. Meanwhile, fighting escalated dramatically in Afghanistan, South Sudan and Yemen in May, and Colombia's peace agreement looked further imperilled as FARC suspended their ceasefire. A high-level defection to Islamic State from Tajikistan and a horrific attack on minorities in Pakistan were a stark reminder of ongoing destabilising extremist threats in these countries. May also saw a marked rise in geopolitical tensions in the South China Sea, developments in North Korea's nuclear weapons systems, and a worsening of Macedonia's political crisis. In contrast, both the Philippines and Cyprus made progress to resolve decades-old conflicts.
Burundi: Violent protests against Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza's proposed third term escalated dramatically last month, including a failed coup attempt led by former army chief of staff General Godefroid Niyombare. As the country teeters on the brink of renewed civil war, Crisis Group's latest briefing stresses that peaceful resolution is still possible if a range of measures are taken swiftly, including establishing a new electoral calendar and ensuring that the security and political conditions necessary to hold elections are restored.
Colombia: An increasingly volatile peace process suffered a major blow with the collapse of FARC's five month-old unilateral ceasefire, following one of the deadliest government attacks on the guerrillas in the last five years. Crisis Group's Statement on the crisis argues that, to bring the process back on track, both parties need to show maximum restraint on the battlefield, ring-fence the negotiations from this new conflict dynamic, and demonstrate concrete progress with de-escalation measures like their joint demining scheme.
South Sudan: The situation continued to deteriorate. Fighting escalated dramatically in May and fears of economic collapse and an impending famine are growing. Both President Salva Kiir's government and the SPLM-IO continue to prioritise military gains, and critical peace talks remain stalled (read our recent statement). In late May, Kenya launched an initiative to link IGAD negotiations with the SPLM reunification process.
Yemen: continued to slide toward an increasingly intractable conflict as Saudi-led airstrikes against the Huthi/Saleh coalition inflicted a heavy toll, including on civilians (see our latest briefing).
Afghanistan: Tens of thousands of people fled fighting outside the northern provincial capital Kunduz in early May amid deteriorating security, as the government launched a major counteroffensive against the Taliban's advance on the city. The situation in Kunduz stabilised by the end of May, but further unrest is expected.
Tajikistan; The proximity of the increased fighting to Tajikistan prompted growing concern there, compounded when a former special forces commander announced he had joined Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL) and threatened to bring jihad to the country. In ongoing criminal and terrorist violence in Karachi, 45 members of Pakistan's Ismaili Shia minority were killed in an attack on a bus on 13 May.
Elsewhere, the month saw increasing concern over stability in Macedonia, where eight police and ten gunmen were killed in a bloody shootout in the town of Kumanovo on 9-10 May, and the ongoing political crisis deepened. East Asia saw rapidly rising tensions over the South China Sea as the U.S. challenges China's reclamation of islands in the disputed Spratly chain (see our latest report), and alarm as North Korea continued to develop its nuclear delivery systems, combined with reports of a high-level purge in Pyongyang with the potential to trigger internal instability.
Improved Situations: Cyprus, Philippines - In a positive step forward, the House of Representatives in the Philippines passed the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) for plenary hearing. As the cornerstone of the 2012 peace agreement ending decades of conflict in Mindanao, the bill still needs to be ratified by the House of Representatives and passed by the Senate - where there remains strong opposition - all before congress enters recess in early June. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) must also agree to amendments that have been made to the BBL. In Cyprus, UN-mediated reunification talks between the Greek Cypriot leader and the Turkish Cypriot leader resumed on 15 May after an eight-month impasse. On 28 May, the leaders agreed on five concrete steps in the framework of confidence-building measures.
June 2015 Outlook.
Conflict Risk Alert: Afghanistan, Burundi
Conflict Resolution Opportunity: None
Download the full report: CrisisWatch N°142