12 actual or potential conflict situations around the world deteriorated and two improved in Janary 2014, according to CrisisWatch N°126. Deteriorated Situations: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan), South Sudan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Ukraine.
Download the full report: cw126.pdf
Afghanistan an attack on a popular Kabul restaurant killed at least 21 in the deadliest insurgent attack on foreign civilians since 2001. The last twelve months have seen a sharp increase in violence across the country (see our recent commentary). Taliban attacks continued throughout January, several targeting NATO bases and Afghan security personnel. Political tensions remained high as President Hamid Karzai continues to refuse to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement with the U.S.
Bangladesh the Awami League (AL) government conducted general elections on 5 January despite the boycott of the opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) and eighteen small parties. More than 20 were killed in election day violence and unrest continues. On 30 January the president of the opposition-aligned Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party, Motiur Rahman Nizami, was sentenced to death for a 2004 arms smuggling case; in 2013, death sentences for Jamaat leaders for war crimes led to some of Bangladesh's worst political violence in decades.
Egypt's interim government held a referendum on the amended constitution in mid-January, adding to the momentum of the current transition (see our recent commentary and briefing). The vote does nothing to address political polarisation, however, and signals a clear regression in democratic procedure compared with other polls since 2011 - in light of the lack of space for opponents of the amended constitution to campaign and the widening crackdown on activists even beyond supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces approved defence minister and army chief Field Marshal Abdelfattah el-Sisi to contest presidential polls now set to take place within three months, ahead of parliamentary elections.
Iraq's Anbar province jihadi militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took advantage of the national army's withdrawal to seize key areas of Ramadi and Falluja on 1 January. Clashes between ISIL and government forces backed by local allies killed over 100 on 3 January, with more than 100,000 displaced during the month. After local tribes, clerics and former officers regained control of the city, the government made no distinction between local residents and militants, and announced Falluja to be in the hands of ISIL, calling for national and international support in the "war on terror". Bomb attacks continued across the country. (See Crisis Group's most recent report).
Kyrgyzstan Tensions at Kyrgyz-Tajik border escalated as 11 Jan clashes between border forces left several guards on both sides injured, prompted both countries to send additional troops to area. Clashes reportedly broke out over Kyrgyzstan's construction of new road through disputed border territory in Ferghana Valley that would bypass Tajik enclave Vorukh. Kygyzstan reported Tajik border troops fired mortars, rocket-propelled grenades to hit transformer station, water pump inside Kyrgyz territory, claimed attack premeditated; Tajikistan alleged Kyrgyz border guards fired first.
Lebanon saw an escalation in attacks on Shia neighbourhoods by radical Sunni groups in retaliation for Hizbollah's military involvement in Syria, offering clear signs that some such groups, affected and emboldened by the Syrian conflict, are becoming more violent. (see our most recent report on Lebanon).
Libya, the targeted violence that until recently was limited to eastern Libya spread, with incidents reported across the country. Clashes between Tebu and Awlad Sulayman tribesmen in Sebha and Murzuq killed dozens. Political tensions mounted after a failed attempt to hold a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and popular calls to dismiss Congress by 7 February. In the east the country's main oil export terminals remained closed as the federalist movement there grew increasingly assertive in the face of government pressure.
Nagorno-Karabakh The month saw fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan along various front-line areas of Nagorno-Karabakh. The nature of the reported clashes and ominous statements by some government officials mark an escalation unprecedented in recent years. Both sides blamed each other for the uptick in violence. (See our recent briefing on Azerbaijan and Armenia)
South Sudan's government late January announced treason charges against armed opposition leaders, including former Vice President Riek Machar, casting doubt on the viability of an already fragile ceasefire signed earlier in the month (see our recent commentary on the conflict). Sporadic clashes continued despite the accord, and both sides now accuse the other of violating the terms of the truce. The humanitarian situation also deteriorated, with the UN estimating that some 770,000 civilians have been displaced since late December. The African Union, responding to emerging reports of atrocities, confirmed its commitment to investigating human rights abuses.
Tajikistan border guards launched an armed attack on Kyrgyzstan on 11 January, in the most serious incident on the Kyrgyz-Tajik border for years. Apparently angered by the construction of a new road that would bypass a Tajik enclave inside Kyrgyzstan, the Tajik side used mortars and rocket-propelled grenades to attack a transformer station and a water pump inside Kyrgyz territory. There were a number of injuries on both sides but no deaths.
Thailand's political turmoil intensified as the People's Democratic Reform Committee began a series of protests to "shut down Bangkok", stepping up efforts to overthrow Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's caretaker government and force cancellation of the general election scheduled for 2 February. As protest-related violence increased the government imposed a state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding provinces, but this did not deter protesters from forcibly preventing advance voting in Bangkok and several southern provinces. Further violence is anticipated on election day. (See Crisis Group's Conflict Alert and recent commentary.)
Ukraine a violent crackdown on anti-government protests led to a standoff between President Viktor Yanukovych's government and what appears to be an increasingly empowered opposition protest movement. On 28 January the government resigned and Yanukovych offered an amnesty to protesters provided they vacate the government buildings they have occupied in Kiev and other cities. The opposition has rejected the terms of the amnesty and called for Yanukovych's resignation, snap elections and changes to the constitution. Amid international condemnation of violence and calls for dialogue there is concern over the role of extreme right elements in the protest movement.
Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, China/Japan, Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, Cyprus, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, India (non-Kashmir), Indonesia, Iran, Israel-Palestine, Kashmir, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korean Peninsula, Kosovo, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Myanmar/Burma, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, North Caucaus (Russia), Pakistan, Rwanda, Somalia, Somaliland, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Yemen, Zimbabwe
Improved Situations: Philippines, Tunisia
Tunisia's new constitution, the most secular democratic constitution in the Arab world, was signed into law after passing a National Assembly vote. The breakthrough agreement effectively ended a protracted political crisis, though challenges remain (see Crisis Group's recent report). A new technocratic government has now been formed to take the country to new elections. In early January an electoral commission was appointed by the Constitutional Assembly after months of wrangling.
Philippines government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) announced they had reached agreement on the fourth and final annex of their October 2012 Framework Agreement for Muslim-majority areas in the south. The annex on normalisation of security includes the disarming of the roughly 11,000-strong rebel force and creation of a security force for the area. It paves the way for a comprehensive peace agreement to end over four decades of violent conflict. (See our most recent report on the Philippines).
February 2014 Outlook
Conflict Risk Alert: South Sudan, Thailand