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Continuing Conflicts that Create Refugees - December 2013

Categories: Articles:Asylum & Refugees, Articles:Peacemaking | Published: 03/01/2014 | Views: 2679

11 actual or potential conflict situations around the world deteriorated and none improved in December 2013, according to CrisisWatch N°125, Deteriorated Situations: Bangladesh: , CAR. China/Japan, DR Congo, Egypt, Korean Peninsula, Lebanon, North Caucaus (Russia), South Sudan, Thailand, Yemen

You can download the full report here: CW125.pdf 

Sudan: Longstanding political divisions within South Sudan's ruling Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the military (SPLA) escalated into factional fighting between army units that has brought the country to the brink of civil war (see Crisis Group's recent statement and open letter to the UN Secretary-General). Violence rapidly spread beyond the capital, with armed groups targeting civilians based on their ethnicity; reports of over 1,000 dead are likely to be underestimates. Over 75,000 civilians are sheltering in UN compounds and the UN Security Council has approved the deployment of 5,500 additional troops. Significant parts of Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei states are under the control of armed groups not loyal to the government - Unity State oilfields have been shut down as a result, though Upper Nile's fields remain operational. The two major armed factions, under pressure from the regional body, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), began talks on 2 January, but clashes are ongoing and the situation remains extremely volatile.

Central African Republic: Sectarian violence escalated in Central African Republic as anti-balaka groups launched a number of offensives against ex-Seleka in Bangui and the north east (see our recent commentary). CAR risks becoming ungovernable - despite the deployment of French and regional troops, religious killings and retaliations continue to rise and there have been reports of massacres, including the discovery of 30 bodies near a military camp in Bangui. President Djotodia's efforts to restore calm have thus far gone unheeded. Crisis Group identifies a conflict risk for CAR (see our recent report on the Central African Republic).

DR Congo: In the Democratic Republic of the Congo supporters of pastor Gideon Mukungubila, a former presidential hopeful, attacked state and military buildings in Kinshasa with the purported aim of ousting President Kabila. The attempted coup was rapidly quashed by security forces, with over 40 attackers reportedly killed and scores arrested. In the east, the Congolese government, M23 rebels and the Ugandan government reached a peace agreement that includes limited amnesties for M23 fighters. Focus has now turned to other armed groups operating in the region, including the ADF-NALU, a Ugandan group believed responsible for a number of attacks in North Kivu throughout December.

Thailand: the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), led by former Democrat Party secretary general Suthep Thaugsbhan, ramped up its protests in an effort to overthrow the government and oust the "Thaksin [Shinawatra] regime". The PDRC is demanding that the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin's sister, step down to allow for an appointed council to reform an electoral system it says is corrupted by populist policies and vote buying. Yingluck dissolved parliament and elections are scheduled for 2 February, but the Election Commission has urged a delay and the PDRC is threatening to block the polls and seize Bangkok unless their demands are met. The Democrat Party will boycott the election and has thrown its support behind the protest movement.

Bangladesh: The political crisis continues to intensify as the country heads for a general election on 5 January which the main opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) has vowed to boycott. Political violence has brought the country to a virtual standstill as the BNP has enforced blockades and strikes, demanding the ruling Awami League stand down and form a neutral caretaker government to supervise the polls. More than 100 people have died in political violence since the BNP announced its boycott on 2 December. The boycott, which is supported by other parties, could see over half of parliamentary seats going uncontested - raising the prospect of polls which are widely viewed as illegitimate and setting the scene for further political violence and deadlock.

China/Japan: Relations between China and Japan, already severely strained, sunk further after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, where several war criminals are enshrined. His visit drew a swift rebuke from China, whose foreign minister, Wang Yi, said Abe's action created a new and major political barrier to Sino-Japanese ties. Earlier in the month Japan adopted a new National Security Strategy and increased military spending over the next five years, citing as justification its concerns over China.

North Korea: A high-level political purge in North Korea prompted widespread international concern over political stability there, after Kim Jong-un's uncle by marriage and political guardian Chang S?ng-t'aek was stripped of his positions of power and executed on 12 December. Meanwhile Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine has killed any immediate prospect of improvement in bilateral ties between South Korea and Japan - scuppering U.S. efforts to strengthen trilateral security cooperation to counter perceptions of North Korea's threat to regional security. (See our latest report).

Lebanon: Acar bomb in downtown Beirut on 27 December killed Mohammad Chatah, former finance minister and a senior figure in the March 14 alliance. Chatah, a high-profile political moderate, was strongly critical of the Syrian regime and Hizbollah. The March 14 alliance and others accused the Syrian government and Hizbollah of being responsible for the attack, which left seven others dead and scores wounded; both denied the claims. The assassination raises fears of further security deterioration as the March 14 alliance renewed its calls to the president and prime minister-designate to form a non-partisan government without prior agreement of political parties. Hizbollah for its part warned against such a de facto government describing it as a "threat to Lebanon".

Yemen: Security in Yemen rapidly deteriorated after armed forces killed Saad bin Habrih, a prominent Hadrami sheikh, at a military checkpoint in early December. In response, the Hadrami tribes, supported by southern separatist movement Hiraak, called for security responsibilities in Hadramout to be transferred to them, and for those responsible for the sheikh's death to be handed over. The killing further prompted a violent response in the South, as protesters attempted to seize several cities and clashed with the armed forces. On 23 December several political parties signed an agreement granting a measure of autonomy to the South, although there is still no agreement on the number of federal regions. The capital was also struck by violence, as al-Qaeda attacked a defence ministry complex in Sanaa killing over 50 and injuring hundreds.

Egypt: The interim government formally labelled the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation - despite lack of evidence of its involvement in a series of recent bomb attacks, the ostensible justification for this decision. The move, which effectively rules out the possibility of reconciliation with the group, the largest and most effective party in the country, significantly complicates Egypt's political scene and could poison political life for some time to come (see our latest report).

Russia: Concerns over security in southern Russia and the North Caucasus ahead of the upcoming Sochi Olympics increased after two suicide bomb attacks in the southern Russian city of Volgograd in late December. Islamist militants from the North Caucasus are widely suspected of being responsible for the bombings, in which at least 31 people were killed. (See our recent commentary and latest report).

Unchanged Situations:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, China (internal), Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, India (non-Kashmir), Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel-Palestine, Kashmir, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Libya, Macedonia, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan), Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Rwanda, Serbia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Western Sahara, Zimbabwe

Improved Situations: None

Conflict Resolution Opportunity: None

Conflict Risk Alert for January 2014: Bangladesh, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Thailand

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