CrisisWatch N°135, 1 November 2014
After a rainy season lull, South Sudan’s warring parties are preparing for major offensives with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) this week launching attacks on Bentiu, capital of oil-producing Unity state (see our recent Conflict Alert). Hardliners in the government and the SPLA-IO appear determined to settle the conflict through war. Despite some signs of progress, nine months of peace talks have seen few results; instead, militias and self-defence forces are proliferating as their interests splinter, with many not effectively under the command and control of either main faction. Renewed conflict risks exacerbating widespread displacement and famine, as well as precipitating more atrocity crimes.
Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaoré resigned following intense pressure and violent protests against a possible extension to his 27-year rule. On 30 October, after several days of protests that left thirty dead, demonstrators against a proposed constitutional amendment to extend the presidential two-term limit stormed the parliament, setting it ablaze. The army stepped in but appears divided over who has taken the reins of power – army chief General Honoré Traoré and the Presidential Guard’s second-in-command, Colonel Isaac Zida, have both claimed to be head of state. It also remains unclear whether street protestors and political parties alike are ready to accept the 12-month military transition the army has announced.
Escalating violence in Bangui and deepening political animosities once again shook the Central African Republic’s fragile transition. The mobilisation of anti-balaka militias following a 7 October grenade attack resulted in violent clashes with Muslim residents that left several dead. Outside the capital violence continues to plague the central and western regions where French “Sangaris” forces clashed with ex-Seleka fighters and where banditry is on the rise. President Catherine Samba-Panza appears increasingly isolated amid persistent doubts over her appointment of Mahamat Kamoun as prime minister and an outcry following the disappearance of a significant tranche of Angolan financial aid.
Yemen’s Huthis continued their advance, bringing the country’s political transition to the brink of collapse. A late September UN-brokered peace and power-sharing agreement, aimed at preserving a nominal political process, appears to have little real impact. The Huthis consolidated their control in the north following their mid-September seizure of the capital, Sanaa, and expanded into central Yemen where hundreds were killed in clashes with their rivals. On 31 October the Huthis and their tribal supporters issued an ultimatum to the president to form a new government in 10 days or face further escalation. Southern separatists have seized the opportunity to renew their call for independence, holding large-scale rallies and giving the government until 30 November to remove all employees and security forces from the south.
In eastern Lebanon, Syria-based jihadi group Jabhat al-Nusra expanded its war of attrition with Hizbollah by attacking several of the group’s strongholds and leaving dozens dead. Meanwhile, scores were killed in and around Tripoli in late October when the army clashed with Sunni militants. Army raids in northern Lebanon, Saida and Beirut followed, with tens of alleged “terrorists” arrested.
Clashes between police and pro-government militias, otherwise known as “colectivos”, in Venezuela’s capital left five militiamen including their leader José Odreman dead and raised concerns over the government’s ability to exert its control. The subsequent dismissal of the Interior and Justice Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres, accused by the colectivos of assassinating Odreman, and ongoing calls for the dismissal of the National Assembly president have only deepened the regime’s instability. Meanwhile, Venezuela’s economy continued to deteriorate, with a rapid fall in oil prices raising the spectre of a default on the country’s external debt. (See our latest briefing on Venezuela’s political crisis.)
In Mexico the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero, apparently at the hands of local police with links to organised crime, triggered massive, sometimes violent, protests. The federal government has arrested a number of suspects and uncovered several mass graves, but so far failed to find the students or identify their remains. The case appears to expose yet again local and perhaps state-level complicity with criminal groups, as well as the failure of the federal government to control violence and widespread impunity.
Hostilities between India and Pakistan continued along Kashmir’s Line of Control (LoC) and the working boundary dividing Pakistan and India-administered Kashmir, with each side accusing the other of unprovoked firing. The clashes were accompanied by unusually aggressive rhetoric from the Indian government, causing concern that the Pakistani government, currently engaged in a power struggle with the military over the country’s India policy, will see its political options narrow further.