10 Actual or potential conflict situations around the world deteriorated and 3 improved in September 2015, according to CrisesWatch 146. Deteriorated Situations: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Somalia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Yemen. Conflict Risk Alerts: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic
In September, sectarian violence flared up again in the Central African Republic, while Burundi’s political deadlock increasingly turned into a deadly conflict. Yemen’s and Syria’s conflicts further intensified, with a significant toll on civilians, and Afghanistan’s and Somalia’s long-running insurgencies made substantial gains. Meanwhile, Burkina Faso and Tajikistan saw political crises bringing the prospect of renewed instability, and rising violence threatened peace efforts in Turkey and Mozambique. In contrast, Colombia’s peace process received a major boost with a breakthrough agreement on transitional justice, and Guatemala took a step to overcome a legacy of impunity.
In the Central African Republic, state disintegration and simmering intercommunal tensions were brought to the fore by the killing of a Muslim motorbike taxi driver on 26 September that triggered armed clashes in the capital Bangui. Almost 40 were killed and tens of thousands displaced. Crisis Group has repeatedly warned of the dangers of embarking upon electoral preparations before addressing intercommunal tensions, disarming armed groups, and ensuring sufficient international peacekeeping. Meanwhile, violence rose again in Burundi’s capital Bujumbura. With dialogue between the government and opposition deadlocked, the country is slowly sliding back into deadly conflict.
Syria’s war escalated further as Russia stepped up its military support for President Assad’s government and launched its first airstrikes on 30 September, primarily targeting non-Islamic State rebels. The toll on the civilian population remains unabated, with over 11 million people displaced inside the country or having fled to neighbouring countries. Meanwhile, Yemen’s civil war entered a more dangerous phase in the north as the Saudi-backed coalition launched a campaign to capture Marib province to the west of Sanaa and increased airstrikes against Huthi/Saleh positions in the capital. The Huthi/Saleh bloc has ensured that any coalition gains in the north are costly, and its fighters are conducting more frequent deadly raids across the Saudi border. The conflict is exacting an increasingly heavy toll on the civilian population, including in Taiz where dozens were killed in the reported bombardment of a wedding party. With neither side likely to secure a clear or rapid military victory, Crisis Group continues to warn that only a political settlement can end the war.
Across the Gulf in Somalia, Al-Shabaab went on the offensive as AMISOM peacekeeping forces lost key strongholds. The Islamist militant group succeeded in retaking several towns in Lower Shabelle, Bakool, Gedo and Hiran regions, and staged several successful attacks. Meanwhile, factional fighting between the Galmudug Interim Administration and the Sufi militia Ahlu Sunna Wa Jama’a challenged the legitimacy of Somalia’s fourth federal state. In Afghanistan, the Taliban seized control of the northern city of Kunduz at the end of the month, and were reported to be advancing on other northern districts. As fighting raged between insurgents and government forces, members of parliament called for President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah to step down.
Violence worsened in Turkey’s south east as Ankara continued its offensive against Kurdish insurgent PKK targets within Turkey and in northern Iraq, and the PKK continued attacks on security officials. The violence is eroding opportunities for resumption of the peace process, and threatens to widen into a general Kurdish-Turkish confrontation. In Mozambique, violent incidents between security forces loyal to the government and Renamo militias, including direct attacks on Renamo leader Alfonso Dhlakama and clashes that killed up to twenty, also threaten to undermine the peace process launched last year and have heightened tensions.
Burkina Faso’s political transition suffered a serious blow when the powerful presidential guard, the Régiment de sécurité présidentielle (RSP), staged a coup on 16 September. Led by ousted President Blaise Compaoré’s right-hand-man General Gilbert Diendéré, it plunged the country into crisis, days ahead of elections scheduled for 11 October. The transitional government was reinstated on 22 September, the RSP has been dissolved, and calm has been restored, but the root causes of the crisis remain unaddressed. Political instability also deepened in Tajikistan after Deputy Defence Minister General Abdukhalim Nazarzoda, formerly a member of the United Tajik Opposition alliance that fought the government during the country’s civil war in the 1990s, was killed by security forces after reportedly ordering deadly attacks on police near the capital. The government accused Nazarzoda of planning a coup. In contrast, Macedonia’s government and opposition made progress in implementing the July EU-brokered agreement to end the country’s political crisis, appointing a special prosecutor to investigate allegations that the government has been illegally wiretapping citizens.
The agreement on transitional justice reached by Colombia’s government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) on 23 September is a major breakthrough in the four-year peace talks. Meeting for the first time, President Santos and FARC leader Timochenko agreed that a final peace agreement would be signed within six months. In a major step forward for Guatemala’s struggle against impunity, President Otto Perez Molina, under pressure for his alleged involvement in a massive customs fraud scheme, resigned on 2 September, the day after Congress voted to lift his immunity. As Crisis Group has argued, whoever wins the upcoming run-off presidential election must work with Congress to clean up the country’s political system, including reforming electoral laws and those governing the civil service, transparency and the justice sector.
Read more: ChrisisWatch 146