The latest edition of Crisis Group’s monthly conflict tracker highlights dangers of escalating conflict in DR Congo, Yemen and Bangladesh. CrisisWatch also notes a conflict resolution opportunity in Yemen.
In November, Yemen’s brutal war continued to threaten its people with famine, while talks planned for early December offer a glimmer of hope for reprieve. Boko Haram’s insurgency in north east Nigeria gained intensity, as suspected jihadist groups stepped up attacks in Burkina Faso’s north and east and across the border in south west Niger, and in Mozambique’s far north. In Somalia, Al-Shabaab upped its campaign of violence, while territorial clashes flared between the country’s semi-autonomous Puntland region and Somaliland. In the Central African Republic, fighting between armed groups and violence targeting civilians and peacekeepers surged, and clashes erupted in northern Chad. Fears grew over possible violence around upcoming elections in DR Congo, and troops from neighbouring Burundi attacked a Congo-based Burundian rebel group. Protests turned violent in Haiti and Guinea, while in Bangladesh, election-related violence could increase in coming weeks. In Europe, relations deteriorated between Kosovo and Serbia, while further east tensions spiked following an incident involving Russian and Ukrainian naval vessels in the Azov Sea.
In Yemen, the war raged on with local forces backed by the United Arab Emirates advancing into the eastern part of Hodeida city, still controlled by the Huthis. A battle for Hodeida port and city – a lifeline for some two thirds of the population – would likely plunge millions of Yemenis into famine. Amid recent U.S. Senate moves to end its involvement in the war, December offers a glimmer of hope; UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths is expected to hold peace talks, which could resume efforts toward a political settlement and help avert the slide into a catastrophic man-made disaster.
Jihadist groups stepped up attacks in multiple theatres across Africa. In Nigeria’s north east, the Boko Haram faction calling itself Islamic State West Africa Province upped its raids on security forces, taxing an already over-stretched military ahead of the February 2019 polls. In the Sahel, jihadist attacks continued to rise in Burkina Faso’s north and east and a new hot spot emerged across the border in south-western Niger. Al-Shabaab in Somalia intensified attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere, while separately, forces from Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland fought a new bout with those of Somaliland over contested territory. Further down the coast in northern Mozambique, suspected Islamist militants renewed their brutal targeting of civilians.
In the Central African Republic, violence once again surged, especially in the north and centre, as factions of the former rebel Seleka coalition that temporarily took power in 2013 fought anti-balaka community-based militias. Armed groups also targeted civilians, UN peacekeepers and humanitarian facilities. Meanwhile, the rivalry between Russian and African Union-led mediation processes continued to stymie progress toward a political settlement. A new front opened in Chad’s north as a local defence force formed to resist army operations which it believes are aimed at taking control of the area’s gold mines.
DR Congo’s long-delayed general elections set for 23 December could trigger violence. The opposition’s failure to unite behind a single candidate put wind in the sails of President Kabila’s favoured successor, while concerns about the credibility and fairness of the process could lead losers to dispute the results. Burundi’s political crisis turned more kinetic as the army attacked camps of an armed opposition group based in DR Congo’s east. In Guinea, several people were killed as opposition supporters contesting the results of the February 2018 local elections clashed with security forces.
In an atmosphere of political acrimony and mistrust, fears grew over the potential for violence around Bangladesh’s general elections on 30 December. Clashes continued between police and supporters of the opposition, whose call to postpone the polls by a month, and create a caretaker government to oversee them, the government rejected. At least nine people were killed in a renewed wave of violence in Haiti as anti-corruption protests gripped the country.
Relations between Kosovo and Serbia took a turn for the worse as Kosovo introduced a 100 per cent tariff on imports from Bosnia and Serbia, which it said was retaliation for their “negative behaviour” and diplomatic efforts to undermine Kosovo’s international position. The tariff also raised tensions within Kosovo as ethnic Serbs expressed their anger at the move. A confrontation involving Russian and Ukrainian naval vessels in the Azov Sea resulted in the Russian capture of three Ukrainian vessels and 24 servicemen, in what is believed to constitute Russia’s first overt and uncontested use of force against Ukraine since its 2014 annexation of Crimea; both sides accused each other of provocation.
Isabelle Arradon, Director of Research & Special Adviser on Gender; Leading on Gender, Peace and Security; Brussels, Belgium. Amelia Branczik, Research Manager; Brussels and Ned Dalby, Senior Research Analyst; Brussels.