CrisisWatch N°102, 1 February 2012

Report
from International Crisis Group
Published on 01 Feb 2012

In Syria prospects of ending the crisis look bleak, with the UN Security Council struggling to agree on an appropriate response. The Assad regime’s brutal crackdown, including shelling of central city Homs, shows no sign of abating. Increased bloodshed led the Arab League to withdraw its observers at the end of January, its proposal for President Bashar Assad to relinquish power flatly rejected by Damascus. With significant divergences between the West’s and Russian approaches thus far stymieing consensus on a new Security Council resolution, Crisis Group identifies a grave ri sk of further conflict.

Relations between Sudan and South Sudan deteriorated further this month as Khartoum seized South Sudanese oil and Juba, in response, shut down production. Direct talks on the sidelines of the AU summit, and IGAD attempts to mediate, failed to settle the increasingly bitter, and ominous, dispute. In the South, escalating violence between Lou Nuer and Murle killed scores, displaced thousands, and contributed to continued internal instability.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram ca rried out its most deadly series of bomb attacks yet, killing more than 200 people in the northern city of Kano. Further attacks across the far north left dozens more dead, and show increasing signs of sophistication. President Goodluck Jonathan’s claim early in the month that the militants enjoy support in the civil service and security forces was further indication of the gravity of the threat they pose the state. The government’s withdrawal of fuel subsidies, meanwhile, sparked crippling country-wide strikes, forcing Jonathan to partially restore them.

In Mali, regional spillover from the Libyan conflict aggravated fears of a new Tuareg rebellion. National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) rebels, reportedly backed by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and former Libyan army fighters, launched a series of attacks across the north, leaving dozens dead and forcing more than two thousand to flee into neighbouring Mauritania.

In Senegal the Constitutional Court’s ruling that President Abdoulaye Wade can seek a controversial third term in the February 26th elections dealt another blow to the country’s democratic health. Clashes between protesters and police during the ensuing demonstrations left four dead and scores injured. Military operations against Casamance separatists continued in the south.

January saw tensions between Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders ratcheted up further. The military top brass warned of “potentially grievous consequences” in response to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s public criticism of the army. Gilani also dismissed defence secretary and retired general Naeem Khalid Lodhi, replacing him with a civilian, deepening military ire. Friction with the U.S. and Afghanistan continues, a s an internal NATO assessment, leaked at the end of the month, noted decisive Pakistani support for the Taliban insurgency.

A Guatemalan court ruling that former military president General Efraín Ríos Montt must stand trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity marked a decisive step towards ending decades of impunity. Prosecutors argue that Montt had full knowledge and command of army operations resulting in the killing of over 1,700 Mayan villagers at the height of Guatemala’s civil war in the early 1980s.

In Myanmar, the government and the main Karen rebel group signed a ceasefire agreement on 12 January, raising hopes that it would end decisively one of the world’s longest running insurgencies. The release of another 651 prisoners, including prominent dissidents, prompted the U.S. to announce it would restore full diplomatic ties with Myanmar. EU foreign ministers suspended visa bans on leading Myanmar politicians on the basis of the country’s “remarkable” reforms.

January 2012 TRENDS

Deteriorated Situations

South Sudan, Sudan, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Syria, Pakistan

Improved Situations

Guatemala, Myanmar/Burma

Unchanged Situations

Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bolivia, Bosnia, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Kashmir, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan), Nepal, Niger, North Caucasus (Russia), Northern Ireland, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Somaliland, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda,2 0Ubekistan, Venezuela, Yemen, Zimbabwe

February 2012 OUTLOOK

Conflict Risk Alert

Syria

Conflict Resolution Opportunity