9 Actual or potential conflict situations around the world deteriorated and 3 improved in August 2015, according to CrisisWatch 145. Deteriorated Situations: Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Colombia/Venezuela, Guatemala, Kashmir, Lebanon, Nepal, Yemen
Political crises and violent protests rocked a number of countries in August, including Guatemala, Nepal, Lebanon and Iraq, where popular unrest threatens to topple the government and overturn the post-2003 political order. Deadly conflict worsened in Yemen, Afghanistan and Kashmir, while violence increased in Burundi following President Nkurunziza’s successful run for a third term, and instability remained the norm in the Central African Republic where UN peacekeeping efforts faced a series of setbacks. A border crisis also prompted a dangerous spike in tensions between Colombia and Venezuela. On a positive note, August saw a peace agreement in South Sudan, strengthened prospects for political and constitutional reform in Sri Lanka, and an important political agreement ahead of October elections in Guinea.
A wave of anti-establishment protests over the systemic inadequacy of service delivery has brought Iraq to the edge of yet more serious conflict, despite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s introduction of sweeping reforms to halt the deterioration. Crisis Group’s recent Conflict Alert warns that a sustainable course correction will be needed if Abadi is to survive politically and Iraq is to avoid what could become in effect a military takeover.
Meanwhile protests against Lebanon’s political paralysis and the on going garbage crisis in Beirut turned violent in late August when riot police fired tear gas and water cannons on demonstrators. As discussed in our latest blog, the clashes, which have left dozens wounded, increase instability in a country highly polarised along politico-sectarian fault lines and overwhelmed by over a million Syrian refugees.
Yemen’s war became potentially even more deadly. The government-in-exile and the Saudi-led coalition made significant military gains against the Huthi/Saleh alliance in the south, and are pushing north into Huthi strongholds. The coalition’s gains could serve as a springboard for a ceasefire and political talks, as advocated in Crisis Group’s latest report, but instead both sides now appear to be gearing up for a battle for the capital Sanaa.
In Afghanistan, a spate of insurgent attacks targeted Kabul, including bombings on 7 August that inflicted more than 350 casualties including 50 killed. The Afghan government blamed Pakistan for the violence, as relations between the two countries reached their worst point since President Ashraf Ghani’s inauguration last year.
In Central Africa, Burundi continued to slide into chaos following President Nkurunziza’s controversial election to a third term in July. Arbitrary arrests, kidnappings and deadly attacks on both opposition members and the president’s supporters have compounded an atmosphere of fear, which not only threatens a return to full scale civil war but also negatively impacts security in the wider Great Lakes region.
In the Central African Republic, the UN’s MINUSCA mission was further discredited by a failed operation to secure Bangui’s PK-5 district and more allegations of abuses, including against children. As the mission falters, security remains elusive in significant swathes of the country.
In Latin America, tensions flared between Colombia and Venezuela after three Venezuelan soldiers were killed near the border, allegedly by Colombian paramilitaries according to Venezuela. Further incidents could destabilise the already fragile border region.
Political tensions escalated in Guatemala as prosecutors named President Otto Pérez Molina and former Vice President Roxana Baldetti ringleaders of a major customs fraud scandal. Ongoing demonstrations calling for the president to resign swelled to over 100,000 on 27 August. As we warn in a statement, ahead of general elections on 6 September protests could give way to unrest if the government ignores popular demands for justice and transparency.
In South Asia, Nepal saw widespread protests and deadly clashes between protesters and security forces over a proposed federal model opposed by several groups who claim it violates previous agreements on state restructuring and does not address their aspirations. With national political leaders carrying on the constitution-drafting process without having begun negotiations with dissenting groups, there is a risk of intensifying tensions and further violent confrontation. In Kashmir, clashes across the Line of Control (LoC) and the Working Boundary dividing Pakistan and Indian-administered Kashmir again escalated.
Nine civilians were killed and dozens wounded in a shooting between Indian and Pakistani border guards on 28 August. In Sri Lanka, the peaceful political shift that began with the January victory of President Maithripala Sirisena was consolidated following parliamentary elections on 17 August, and with a new national government opening up the possibility of political and constitutional reforms.
On a positive note in Africa, the Guinean government and opposition leaders signed an agreement on electoral preparations on 20 August, marking a major breakthrough in the country’s prolonged political deadlock. The opposition however has already cast doubt on its implementation and long-term viability. Lastly, in a significant step forward, South Sudan’s warring parties finally reached an agreement to end the twenty-month conflict following months of stop-start negotiations. President Salva Kiir and armed opposition leader Riek Machar announced a permanent ceasefire starting 30 August.
Guinea, South Sudan, Sri Lanka
September 2015 Outlook
Conflict Risk Alert:
Colombia/Venezuela, Guatemala, Iraq, Nepal, Yemen
Conflict Resolution Opportunity
: South Sudan
Download the full report: Crisis Watch 145