CrisisWatch N°130 - 1 June 2014
On 22 May Thailand’s military seized power – having two days earlier declared martial law – dismissed the government and arrested hundreds of politicians, democracy activists and journalists. The coup followed several months of violent pro- and anti-government protests. On 7 May the Constitutional Court had sacked caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra over alleged abuse of power in a move her party decried as a “judicial coup”
Libya is on the brink of a country-wide military confrontation. The General National Congress decided to back Ahmed Maiteeq as prime minister, despite controversy over the legality of his appointment. In response, retired army general Khalifa Hiftar launched a military operation against militant Islamists in Benghazi while his militia allies attacked parliament in Tripoli and ordered its suspension. Hiftar and federalist movement leader Ibrahim Jedran refuse to recognize Maiteeq, who is widely seen as close to Misrata-based Islamists. The more radical Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia has vowed to fight Hiftar and accused the U.S. of supporting him.
Yemen’s security and economy deteriorated sharply. Al-Qaeda carried out several deadly attacks in retaliation for the government’s military offensive against it and its affiliates in the south. In early May President Hadi declared “open war” against the group, and vowed the government would expand its operations. Levels of violence also increased in the north where fighting between Huthis and various adversaries backed by government forces intensified in Amran. Tribesmen aligned with the Ahmar clan and the Sunni Islamist party Islah are now preparing for a major offensive around Amran city, just north of the capital Sanaa.
Tensions over maritime boundaries in the South China Sea intensified with China’s placement of an oil rig in disputed waters off the coast of Vietnam. Vessels from the two sides faced off, and a Vietnamese boat sank after colliding with a member of the Chinese fleet. Mass anti-China protests in Vietnam followed – China evacuated thousands of its citizens after two died and over 100 were injured. The dispute dominated the ASEAN forum in late May, where Vietnam and the Philippines protested what they see as China’s encroachment on their territories.
Escalating attacks in Kenya, including bombs in Nairobi and cross-border attacks – most likely by Islamist militant group al-Shabaab – killed at least 30 this month, putting UN and Western embassies on high alert. One of the group’s leaders, Fuad Mohamed Khalaf Shongole, threatened further attacks on Nairobi in revenge for Kenya’s continued presence in Somalia. Despite this, and repeated calls for withdrawal by the opposition, the Kenyan government announced it remains committed to its Somalia military campaign. Inter-clan violence in the north east continued to spread: dozens were killed in clashes between rival Somali clans over disputed boundaries and resources.
In Guinea-Bissau, record numbers voted in a peaceful presidential run-off election. José Mario Vaz from the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) won with 61 per cent of the vote. Both candidates accepted the results; PAIGC and the main opposition Social Renovation Party (PRS) vowed to work together toward national reconciliation. (See our recent report.)