CrisisWatch N°105, 01 May 2012
On 12 April soldiers deposed the government in Guinea-Bissau, marking another coup in a country in which no leader since independence has completed a full term. Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior, widely expected to win the presidential run-off election scheduled for 29 April, and interim President Raimundo Pereira were detained by the military junta for two weeks, before their release to Côte d’Ivoire. The coup was swiftly condemned by the international community, with ECOWAS imposing sanctions and threatening force to restore civilian rule. After the breakdown of talks between ECOWAS and the junta, Crisis Group identifies a conflict risk for Guinea Bissau.
In Mali, despite an agreement by the military to hand over power to a civilian government, confusion still persists after the arrest of several high-profile politicians by the military junta and a counter-coup attempt by soldiers loyal to deposed President Touré. In the north, MNLA Tuareg rebels proclaimed an independent “Azawad” state, while Islamist group Ansar Dine, with the reported help of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, overran Timbuktu. The deteriorating situation and the failure of negotiations with coup leaders prompted ECOWAS to threaten the deployment of troops. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for immediate international action to address the “cascading crisis in the Sahel”.
Relations between South Sudan and Sudan remain tense. Still stalled negotiations on oil and security push both countries towards financial ruin. Juba and Khartoum accuse each other of supporting rebels, and despite South Sudan’s withdrawal from Helgig oil fields, continued cross-border attacks and violence spark fears of a return to outright war. The African Union has given Sudan and South Sudan three months to reach a deal and end the fighting, or face “appropriate measures”. For the fifth month in six, Crisis Group identifies a deterioration in the situation between the Sudans.
In Eritrea the absence of President Afewerki from public view prompted speculation over the president’s health, not least in light of long-term rumours he suffers a terminal illness; rumours a late-month televised appearance did little to dispel. The president’s reported ill-health raises the spectre of an internal power struggle in a country with no vice-president and no institutional mechanisms in place for succession.
The security situation continued to deteriorate in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Former CNDP leader Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the ICC on war crimes charges, launched a failed mutiny, prompting President Kabila to openly call for his arrest. Fierce fighting between the army and rebels has displaced thousands in the region.
In Pakistan, the Supreme Court’s conviction of Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani for contempt of court, and Gilani’s subsequent refusal to stand down, plunged the executive and judicial branches into direct confrontation and prompted accusations of partisan judicial interference in politics. Meanwhile, two of Pakistan’s largest cities, Karachi and Quetta, both witnessed spates of political and sectarian killings that together claimed over 30 lives.
North Korea’s war rhetoric has grown increasingly shrill and belligerent this month, with the Supreme Command of the Korean People's Army ominously threatening to destroy the Republic of Korea, its president and its mass media. This comes amidst international condemnation of a failed North Korean missile launch coinciding with the hundredth birthday of Kim Il-sung.
Authorities in Bahrain continued to violently disperse daily anti-government and pro-reform protests against this month’s Formula One race and in support of detained activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja – who has now spent more than 70 days on hunger strike. Inter-communal tensions have also increased following two explosions reportedly targeting policemen, and retaliatory attacks by pro-government Sunnis on a Shiite store.
Egypt saw increasing constitutional and electoral turmoil ahead of the first round of presidential elections, scheduled for 23-24 May. The disqualification of 10 out of 23 presidential candidates led to the renewal of mass protests in Tahrir Square, and the Muslim Brotherhood has warned of a second revolution. An administrative court suspended the constitution-writing process following a boycott by secular and minority groups.
Violence continued to wrack Syria despite the acceptance of the UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan by authorities and the ongoing deployment of UN observers to monitor a fragile ceasefire. Security forces have yet to withdraw from population centres or end their attacks against opposition strongholds. UN Secretary-General Ban has said that authorities are “failing to keep the truce”, voicing his alarm at the upsurge in regime violence in towns visited by UN observers and continued attacks against anti-government demonstrations.
Ethnic tension intensified again in Macedonia after five Macedonians were found murdered, potentially in retaliation for the March killing by an off-duty policeman of two ethnic Albanians. The probable and imminent rejection of the country’s NATO membership is likely to further rock its already shaky stability.
In Nepal, the integration of Maoist combatants progressed smoothly, marking a step forward in the peace process. Cantonments were transferred to Nepalese army control and a majority of fighters retired voluntarily in the second phase of combatant regrouping. Further progress was made on the long-stalled constitution negotiation process, with a resolution appearing likely in the near term.
April 2012 TRENDS
Bahrain, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Egypt, Guinea-Bissau, Macedonia, Mali, North Korea, Pakistan, South Sudan, Sudan.
Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bosnia, Bolivia, Burma/Myanmar, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Côte D’Ivoire, Cyprus, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Kashmir, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan), Niger, Nigeria, North Caucuses (Russia), Philippines, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, Somalia, Somaliland, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Western Sahara, Yemen, Zimbabwe.
May 2012 OUTLOOK
Conflict Risk Alert
Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Syria