BURUNDI: Violence increases in the country alongside regional and international attempts to curb the escalation of the conflict
Violence escalated in the country in December with a coordinated attack on three military bases by unidentified rebel groups on 11 December. The Burundian security forces stopped the attack and announced that 87 people had died, including eight members of the security corps. Local sources put the death toll at nearly 200 and many abuses and extrajudicial executions by the Burundian security forces were reported. Around 150 rebels participated in the attack and 45 were arrested, according to the security forces. The events prompted a reaction in the international community and pressure from the UN Security Council and the AU to force a political dialogue, which studied various options on the table. On 17 December, the AU approved the creation of a peacekeeping mission, the AU Prevention and Protection Mission (MAPROBU), and President Pierre Nkurunziza threatened to attack the members of the mission if they violate the territorial integrity of the country. On 23 December, former Lieutenant Colonel Edouard Nshimirimana announced the creation of a rebel group called the Forces Républicaines de Burundi (FOREBU). Nshimirimana deserted from the Burundian Army in September and may be located in the province of Bujumbura Rural, which surrounds the capital. Moreover, on 28 December peace talks began in Entebbe (Uganda) mediated by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni at the request of the regional organisation EAC, with the participation of representatives of the government and the ruling CNDD-FDD party, the political opposition and civil society, the National Council for the Respect of the Arusha Accord (CNARED, the main opposition platform) and representatives of the countries of the region and international organisations in order to promote a political dialogue. Four former Burundian presidents participated in the meeting (Jean Baptiste Bagaza, Domitien Ndayizeye, Sylvestre Ntibantunganya and Pierre Buyoya), who will be part of the mediating team that aims to end the climate of violence rocking the country. However, the Burundian government delegate, CNDD-FDD Deputy Chairman Victor Burikukikiye, said that before initiating peace talks, issues such as who should participate in them had to be reviewed and said that the authors of the coup d’état could not be involved. Museveni said that the rival parties must not lay down conditions before the negotiations start. Since April, 400 people are estimated to have been killed as a consequence of the violence. (Allafrica, 13-31/12/15; Reuters, 13-16/12/15; UN, 15, 19/12/15; Jeune Afrique, 23/12/15; The Monitor, The News Times, 29/12/15, Fox News, 13, 30/12/15)
EL SALVADOR: Data from 2015 confirm the Central American country as one of the most violent in the world
According to the Salvadoran authorities, 6,657 homicides were reported in 2015. This is an average of 104.2 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, making El Salvador the most violent nation in the world not at war. The data from 2015 highlight a nearly 60% increase in homicides compared to 2014, when 3,912 murders were reported, returning the country to the numbers seen during the civil war from 1980 to 1992. The authorities have pointed out that El Salvador has become the most violent nation in Central America, beating out Guatemala by more than 900 homicides and Honduras by 1,500, the country that was the most violent in the region in 2014. Local analysts have attributed the rise in violence to the end of the truce between the gangs and the government, the spillover of violence and executions carried out between the gangs and a notable increase in clashes between the security forces and the gangs, which according to data presented by local media led to the deaths of 62 police officers and 24 soldiers in 2015, as well as a rise in the number of gang members killed by the security forces. (EFE, 09/12/15; Reuters, 12/12/2015; La Prensa Gráfica, 03/01/16; The Guardian, 04/01/16; InSightCrime, 05/01/16; MTN24, 03/01/16)
FORCED DISPLACEMENT: UNHCR confirms a record increase in the levels of forced displacement globally in the first half of 2015
The UNHCR report on the situation of forced displacement around the world during the first half of 2015 confirms the trend of significant increase observed in recent years and anticipates that the overall figures for the year will surpass all records since they have been kept on the phenomenon. According to the statistics of the UN agency, by mid-2015 over 60 million people had been forcibly displaced due to conflicts and persecution. In other words, one out of every 122 people in the world had been forced to abandon their homes fleeing violence. Of this total, 20.2 million people were refugees, meaning that they had abandoned their country of origin, the highest figure since 1992. This is compounded by rates of voluntary return, which measure how many refugees may safely return to their countries and are at their lowest level in three decades. The war in Syria is considered the main factor for this increase in the number of refugees. Until mid-2015, the conflict in the country had created 4.2 million refugees and passed Afghanistan as the main issuer of refugees in mid-2014. The ranking of issuing countries is topped by Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan (in this regard, the data of the UNHCR does not take the situation of the Palestinian population into account, which is under the protection of a specialised UN agency, the UNRWA). Turkey headed the list of the receiving countries, with 1.84 million people, while Lebanon was the country with the largest refugee population with respect to the local population, at a rate of 209 refugees for every 1,000 inhabitants. In December, the UN warned of the vulnerable situation of refugees of Syrian origin in countries like Lebanon, where 70% (of a total of more than one million) were under the threshold of extreme poverty and faced increasing problems of food insecurity. (UNHCR, 18/12/15; UN News, 23/12/15; BBC, 18/12/15)
PHILIPPINES (MINDANAO-ABU SAYYAF): Over 40 people are killed in a few days as the government’s military offensive against Abu Sayyaf intensifies
At least 44 people were killed and around 60 were wounded in several clashes between the Philippine Armed Forces and Abu Sayyaf in the Sulu Archipelago. The main acts of violence occurred in mid-December, when around 30 people (most of them combatants) were killed and over 40 were wounded in the Al-Barka region in Basilan province. On 31 December, 10 more Abu Sayyaf fighters were killed and 10 others were wounded in another firefight in the Buhanginan region, also in Sulu. At the end of the year, the Philippine Armed Forces stepped up their counterinsurgency operations against Abu Sayyaf by direct order of President Benigno Aquino. Shortly before, the Malaysian prime minister had called the Philippine government to increase its actions against the group after a Malaysian citizen was kidnapped and beheaded in Sulu. In this regard, on 1 January the government declared that 133 members of Abu Sayyaf were killed in 2015 and another 164 were wounded in Sulu. In addition, 18 soldiers were killed and 82 were wounded in the region during the year. These data do not include the civilians killed as a result of the conflict or the combatants or soldiers that died outside the Sulu region, the main stronghold of the armed group. Moreover, according to the government, 16 people that had been kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf were released, ransomed or escaped in 2015. The group is estimated to currently hold four people, including a Dutch citizen. (Inquirer, 15 and 30/12/15 and 01/01/16; Bangkok Post and Newsfultoncounty, 20/12/15; Interaksyon, 22/12/15)
PHILIPPINES (MINDANAO-MILF): The BIFF carries out various attacks against Christian communities during the Christmas season
The BIFF, a MILF breakaway group opposed to the peace process, conducted several simultaneous attacks on 24 and 25 December and on New Year’s Eve in various places in Mindanao. The first series of coordinated attacks in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao and Cotabato provinces killed 13 people, nine civilians and four combatants. Around 6,000 people from the affected regions are estimated to have fled their homes for fear of further attacks. The BIFF spokesman said that the people who were killed had been armed and entered into combat with the group, but residents of the attacked communities contradicted this version of events and denied being part of the Christian militia Pulahan. Although the Philippine Armed Forces deployed additional troops to the region and urged the civilian population to feel calm and safe and return to their places of origin, some media outlets reported that some residents were purchasing weapons for purposes of surveillance and self-defence. Later, on New Year’s Eve, the BIFF carried out a new attack against three military outposts in Maguindanao province. The attack was repelled by the Armed Forces and no fatalities were reported. The military, the government and the head of the government’s negotiating panel in the peace process with the MILF have warned of the possibility of new attacks by the BIFF to increase political instability in the region and retaliate for the casualties it has suffered recently. Indeed, in mid-December the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency had warned of the possibility of several attacks in Mindanao during the Christmas season, especially in the Zamboanga Peninsula, Palawan, Boracay and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). (Inquirer, 16, 27 and 29/12/15 and 01/01/16; Philippines News Info, 24/12/15)
TURKEY (SOUTHEAST): The war worsens and spreads to more urban areas, while the Kurdish movement announces the creation of autonomous regions
The situation of war in the Kurdish areas of southeastern Turkey worsened in December with the multiplication and intensification of special security force operations laying siege to towns, prolonged curfews and a large-scale military deployment (10,000 troops and special forces, backed by tanks and artillery), while Kurdish militias maintained their strategy of armed challenge inside the cities. Especially affected were the districts of Sur (Diyarbakir province), with a curfew from the beginning of the year, and Cizre and Silopi (Sirnak), with a curfew from mid-year, joining other areas. Human rights advocates warned of the disproportionateness of the operations, with multiple impacts on civilians (restrictions on access to healthcare, electricity, water and food, among others). According to police figures from December, around 100,000 people have been displaced by the violence. Meanwhile, the PKK urged the Kurdish population not to flee their homes. According to the Turkish Army, 261 members of the PKK were killed in operations in December. The pro-Kurdish party HDP counted 60 civilian fatalities in the last operations and 200 since the beginning of the military campaign in late July. According to the Turkish president, 3,100 PKK insurgents were killed inside and outside Turkey in 2015. The PKK admitted that 220 of its members had been killed during the year and claimed that 1,544 members of the security forces had fallen. At the end of the year, the Kurdish armed group TAK, which some experts describe as a proxy of the PKK, announced the beginning of an offensive campaign against the state and “collaborators” throughout the territory in retaliation for military operations in the southeast while also warning airlines and tourists. The TAK claimed responsibility for an attack on an international airport in Istanbul at the end of the month that killed one worker and injured another. Furthermore, political tension escalated between the government and the Kurdish movement. The pro-Kurdish platform DTK approved a statement backing the declarations of “democratic autonomy” made by various areas of the southeast in recent months and affirming that any solution to the Kurdish issue depends on political status, raising the resumption of peace talks and release of Öcalan as crucial. The document contains 14 points, including a call for the formation of autonomous regions, comprising one or more provinces, governed by self-government bodies. In December, the Turkish government said that it would continue operations against the PKK and criticised the statements made by the Kurdish movement. (AFP, Hürriyet, ANF, Today’s Zaman, Al-Monitor, 1-31/12/15)
AFGHANISTAN: A resumption of the talks is agreed while the Taliban are engulfed by internal fighting
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have agreed to resume the peace talks once again. At the “Heart of Asia” meeting, Ghani was received with honours in Islamabad. The director of the Afghan intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, resigned over his opposition to dialogue with the Taliban. The Afghan political opposition also expressed its opposition to the talks. The key problem is the lack of dialogue due to the divisions between the Taliban and the likely death of their leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, in a clash between rival factions near Quetta. Clashes were also reported in Sar-e-Pol and Herat. However, the Taliban are maintaining several open fronts that raise fears of new areas falling into insurgent hands. Helmand is the most affected province. At the start of the month, 50 people were killed when the Taliban attacked the Kandahar Airport. Six US soldiers were killed in an attack on Bagram Airfield. Shortly thereafter, the Taliban launched attacks in Kabul. One of them hit a Spanish Embassy guesthouse, killing two Spanish police officers on the premises and four Afghan police officers. (ToloNews, 08-17/12/15; Dawn, 08, 10, 12, 21, 27/12/15; The New York Times, 10-13/12/15; Reuters, 12/12/15; The Express Tribune, 27/12/15)
DJIBOUTI: President Ismail Guelleh’s announcement that he will run for a fourth term sets off protests and leads to scores of fatalities
President Ismail Guelleh’s announcement on 3 December that he will run for a fourth term of office in the presidential election that will take place in April 2016 was rejected by part of the political opposition and triggered peaceful protests on 14 December. However, around 50 members of the opposition were arrested between 13 and 16 December. The subsequent police intervention in a congregation of a religious and cultural nature of the Yonis Moussa community belonging to the Issa clan, in Buldhoqo, on the outskirts of the capital, took on political overtones as a result of government repression that caused seven deaths and injured 70 others, according to official sources, though the number of fatalities could be as high as 30, with 150 injured, according to the Djibouti League for Human Rights (LDDH). Supported by the emergency measures taken after the attack in Bamako (Mali) on 20 November, which included a ban on congregations in the street, the security forces decided to intervene to break up the event against the worshippers’ will. Hundreds of nomadic participants who had come from the border with Ethiopia allegedly resisted the intervention. The government announced that at least 50 police officers were injured as a result of “the deliberate action organised by outside forces”. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has called for the establishment of an international commission of inquiry. (AFP, 22/12/15; Garowe Online, 17, 24/12/15)
ETHIOPIA: At least 75 people are killed as a consequence of police repression
The international human rights advocacy organisation HRW has reported that at least 75 people have died as a result of the security forces’ repression and use of firearms against anti-government demonstrators in the Oromiya region. Four police officers were also killed, hundreds were wounded and an unknown number of people were arrested. The deputy chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress, Bekele Gerba, claimed that 80 members of civil society had been killed. Government plans to expand the capital, Addis Ababa, into Oromiya territory, accompanied by expropriations, sparked various protests involving thousands of students of the Oromo community in mid-November. (Jeune Afrique, 19/12/15; AFP, 22/12/15)
LIBYA: Rival political factions sign an agreement to form a unity government, but doubts about the sustainability of the deal persist
Members of both rival parliaments in Libya signed a UN-backed agreement that defines a plan to establish a national unity government. The agreement was signed in mid-December in the Moroccan town of Skhirat by 50 of the 136 members of the General National Congress (GNC), the Parliament based in Tripoli, and by around 80 of the 188 representatives of the legislative chamber based in Tobruk (HoR), which enjoys international recognition. In this context, some key groups not present at the ceremony, including the leaders of both acting governments, backed away from the agreement and denounced it as illegitimate. The deal establishes a nine-member Presidential Council, a unity cabinet, a House of Representatives and a State Council. The UN Security Council gave its unanimous support to the agreement in Libya (in a motion proposed by the United Kingdom) and called on the new Presidential Council to define a unity government and finalise the security agreements within 30 days. Experts stressed that there is a risk that the agreement may give rise to a third institution that is unable to meet in the capital or even the country. Some analysts stressed that various countries were interested in the formation of a legitimate government in Libya that focuses its efforts on fighting against the ISIS faction operating on Libyan soil and requests international intervention against the armed group once established. According to media reports, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Italy are weighing possible intervention in Libya. Until late December, the UN special representative for Libya, Martin Kobler, held meetings and contacts with Libyan representatives to attempt to broaden support for the political agreement. Kobler reported positive negotiations with the speaker of Parliament in Tobruk, Agila Saleh, and with General Khalifa Haftar, and held meetings with members of the GNC in Tripoli. (The Guardian, 17, 22, 23/12/15; UN News, 02/01/16; BBC, 17, 18/12/15; Reuters, 17/12/15)
MALI: The state of emergency in the country continues due to the threat of jihadist attacks
In the middle of the month, the government of Mali declared a new 10-day state of emergency that was later extended until 31 March due to threats of new attacks by jihadist groups in the country. After the attack on the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako last November, on 2 December the organisation al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) confirmed an alliance with the group al-Mourabitoun, led by the Algerian al-Mokhtar Belmokhtar. In this context, as part of Operation Barkhane, on 20 December the French government announced the “neutralisation” of 10 suspected al-Mourabitoun jihadists in the region of Menaka. Meanwhile, clashes continued between Tuareg rebel groups and members of jihadist movements. On 8 December, clashes were reported between the Fulani self-defence group Ganda Izo and militants of the jihadist movement MUJAO. On 19 December, the group Ansar Dine denounced attacks by separatist groups and in response, in two different attacks at the end of the month, Ansar Dine militants attacked Tuareg rebels of the CMA, causing at least 15 deaths. Fighting between jihadist groups and Arab-Tuareg armed organisations has increased after the signing of the peace agreement in Anéfis in October between the Arab-Tuareg movements and following the jihadist groups’ accusations that they collaborate with the government and the foreign French forces. In another vein, Mongi Hamdi, the Tunisian head of MINUSMA and one of the main mediators of the Algiers peace agreement, announced that he will end his mission on 14 January 2016. He will be replaced by the former Chadian foreign minister Mahamat Saleh Annadif, who was in charge of the AMISOM from 2012 to 2014. (Jeune Afrique, 16-17/12/2015; RFI, 21, 23, 30/12/2015; Reuters, 21/12/2015; MaliActu, 23, 30/12/2015; UNPress, 23/12/2015)
NEPAL: The crisis persists despite proposals to amend the Constitution
The tense situation in Nepal continued, including the dissatisfaction of Madhesi political groups with the new Constitution approved for the country, and particularly with the new territorial organisation and the creation of new provinces that divide the Madhesi population. On 20 December, the government presented a proposal to include some reforms to the text of the Constitution approved in September, which raises issues like the Madhesi population’s proportional representation in different state bodies and a population-based delimitation of electoral constituencies. However, this amendment was rejected by Madhesi leaders, who said that it contained abstract proposals and no specific solutions to Madhesi demands. Meanwhile, the roads remained blocked, preventing supplies from reaching the country from India, which is causing serious problems of shortages of essential goods such as medicine and fuel and exacerbating illegal logging and the reconstruction of homes damaged by the earthquake in April. The blockade is having a severe humanitarian impact and organisations such as UNICEF have warned of the consequences for children, for example. Furthermore, clashes broke out between Madhesi demonstrators and security forces, killing one person and injuring several more. At least 50 people have lost their lives since August. (BBC, 30/11/15, 12/12/15; DNA India, 1, 22, 27/12/15; Atimes, 21/12/15)
RUSSIA (DAGESTAN): Islamic State claims responsibility for an attack in a tourist area in Derbent, the second-largest city in the North Caucasian republic
The armed group Islamic State (ISIS), which operates mainly in Syria and Iraq and has been joined by armed groups of the insurgency in the North Caucasus, claimed responsibility for an attack in late December near the tourist complex in Derbent, the second-largest city in Dagestan. The attack killed one agent and left 10 people injured. According to the Dagestani police, some of those injured were tourists. The attack targeted Russian intelligence personnel, according to a statement by ISIS spread through websites supporting the North Caucasian insurgency and pro-ISIS social network profiles. Other violent incidents took place throughout the month in Dagestan, the epicentre of armed violence in the North Caucasus, leaving a dozen people dead, and an antiterrorist operation regime was temporarily imposed in several areas. According to the toll kept by the independent portal Caucasian Knot, 41 people had been killed in the third quarter of 2015 (25 insurgents, 12 civilians and four agents) and five other people were wounded. (Caucasian Knot, RFE/RL, 1-30/12/15)
SERBIA – KOSOVO: Over one third of the parliamentary opposition of Kosovo is arrested for violent incidents against the agreement to decentralise Kosovo Serb areas
The political and social tension in Kosovo continued with new violent incidents such as the launching of tear gas in mid-December at the Kosovar Parliament that involved MPs from three Kosovo Albanian opposition parties protesting against the agreement reached in August between Serbia and Kosovo to create an Association of Serb Municipalities in Kosovo and against an agreement to delimit the border with Montenegro. The incidents included the frequent launching of tear gas at the Parliament building since October by opposition MPs, accompanied by street protests and clashes between demonstrators and police. Following the events in December, MPs were arrested again until over one third of the parliamentary opposition was under arrest. For months the parties Vetevendosje (“Self-determination”), the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) and Initiative for Kosovo (Nisma) have been demanding withdrawal from these agreements and have tried to block parliamentary activity with violent incidents in order to do so. After a brief suspension of the agreement on the Association of Serb Municipalities in Kosovo dictated in November by the Constitutional Court to review its constitutionality, in late December it ruled that it was constitutional except for certain principles and demanded that they be changed. (Reuters, Balkan Insight, 1-30/12/15)
UKRAINE: The government and rebel forces agree on a new ceasefire, but accuse each other of failing to comply
The Ukrainian government and the self-proclaimed authorities of the east agreed on a new truce to facilitate the celebration of the New Year and Christmas, which most of the Orthodox Christian population of Ukraine celebrates on 7 January. The measure entered into force on the morning of 23 December, with expectations that it could go on beyond Christmas. The parties also agreed to avoid military manoeuvres and reduce the movement of military personnel to a minimum. However, the fragility of the new truce was evident since it came into effect, with mutual accusations that it had been violated. The Ukrainian government denounced the deaths of a soldier and an elderly woman and the wounding of several soldiers at the end of the month in an attack in the village of Zaitseve (north of Donetsk), an attack for which both parties traded blame. In addition, a team of OSCE observers was attacked in a village very close to Mariupol, though there were no casualties. The political leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France reaffirmed their support for the truce in a telephone conversation on 30 December. Meanwhile, in December the UN issued a new toll of the war, which has claimed 9,090 lives and injured 20,732 people since April 2014, including 47 civilians killed in the most recent period studied, from late August to mid-November 2014. There was a significant reduction in hostilities during that period, but the need to demine was deemed urgent. (Reuters, RFE/RL, BBC, 1-30/12/15)
VENEZUELA: The opposition’s victory in the legislative elections opens a new political scenario in the country and polarises tensions between the government and the opposition
On 6 December, Venezuela held legislative elections that gave a sweeping victory to the opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), obtaining 112 of the 167 seats that make up the National Assembly, compared to the 55 won by the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). According to data facilitated by the National Electoral Council, the MUD won 67.07% of the votes (7,707,422), while the PSUV received 32.93% (5,599,025) in elections with a 74.25% turnout. The election results handed the opposition a qualified majority of two thirds of the chamber, giving it absolute control over it, which has not happened in 15 years. The government acknowledged its defeat, but reacted by taking advantage of its last few weeks of parliamentary control to try to bolster its power and has announced the appointment of 12 new judges to the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ), as well as the designation of Susana Barreiros, the judge who convicted opposition figure Leopoldo López, to be the public defender of Venezuela. The government has also challenged the election of nine elected opposition MPs, with the Supreme Court suspending three MPs from the MUD and one from the PSUV, which has temporarily blocked the opposition’s qualified majority in the National Assembly that is scheduled to begin work on 5 January. The government has set up what it calls the National Communal Parliament as a parallel legislative body to try to offset its loss of legislative power, but the opposition has condemned the move and refused to recognise it. (CNE, 06/12/15; Telesur, 07/12/15; La Tribuna, 30/12/2015; EFE, 30/12/15)
YEMEN: The round of negotiations between the rival bands makes no progress towards a political solution and is affected by persistent ceasefire violations
A new round of negotiations between the warring parties held in Switzerland starting in 15 December failed to move towards an agreed solution and was tempered by persistent violence in the country, despite the initial declaration of a ceasefire. This was the first time that the parties sat down at the same table to talk, but at the political level the government of Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the anti-Houthi forces maintained their differences. The Yemeni leader, who has relied on military support from a coalition led by Saudi Arabia since March, insisted that the provisions of UN Resolution 2216 must be applied, while the Houthis, in an alliance of convenience with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, repeated their demands for regime change. On top of this, there was disagreement about a possible exchange of prisoners and repeated ceasefire violations that in principle were supposed to be extended for a week as a sign of goodwill between the parties while the negotiations went on. On 20 December, the UN reported that there had been many violations of the ceasefire since it began and Saudi Arabia officially decreed that the truce ended in early 2016. According to media accounts, more than 80 people, most of them soldiers and guards, have been killed on Saudi soil in the border area with Yemen since hostilities began in March 2015, while another 6,000 have died in Yemen, in accordance with figures kept by the UN. Both sides have been accused of war crimes and human rights groups claim that the coalition led by Riyadh is responsible for the highest number of civilian deaths in the conflict. In the days prior to the talks in Switzerland, other acts of violence had put the prospects of the dialogue into question. A day before the truce went into effect, an attack by Houthi forces cost the lives of scores of troops from the Saudi-led coalition (over 150, according to some sources), including two senior officers, one Saudi and the other Emirati. On the same day, other reports stated that 19 civilians had been killed in coalition attacks in the north and south of the country. Exploiting the instability, the ISIS branch in Yemen claimed responsibility for an attack in early December that killed the governor of Aden, Jaafar Mohamed Saad, and 10 of his companions. (The Guardian, 06, 14, 18/12/15 and 02/16; ICG, 04/01/16; The New York Times, 20/12/15)
BURKINA FASO: The holding of presidential and legislative elections closes the cycle on the transitional government and ushers in a new political era for the country
On 29 November, Burkina Faso held its first presidential and parliamentary elections since the fall of Blaise Compaoré’s regime in October 2014, which ended the transition of the country. The presidential election, which enjoyed a 60% turnout, was won by Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, the candidate of the People’s Movement for Progress (MPP), who triumphed in the first round with 53.49% of the votes over Zéphirin Diabré, the candidate of the Union for Progress and Change (UPC), who obtained 29.65%. The results of the legislative elections were more balanced, with no political party obtaining an absolute majority (the MPP won 55 seats, the UPC gained 33 and the party CDP obtained 18). This forced the parties to negotiate in order to form a government. The elections were declared valid by different domestic and international observation agencies, and all participating political forces acknowledged the results. The new government presided over by Kaboré was sworn in on 29 December. Salif Diallo, also a member of the MPP and formerly Compaoré’s right-hand man, was elected spokesman of the National Assembly. Meanwhile, the Burkinabe justice system pressed forward with the different cases open in the country. Former President Blaise Compaoré stands accused in the case investigating the death of former President Thomas Sankara (along with General Gilbert Diendéré) and an international arrest warrant has been issued against him. Thus, new arrests were made in relation to the failed coup d’état last September and the government reported an unsuccessful attempt to flee by two of the prime suspects, Diendéré and Bassolé, after arresting around 20 soldiers who planned to free them and restore the presidential guard. (Jeune Afrique, 10, 21, 23, 29/12/15; RFI, 20, 22, 30/12/15; BBC, 21, 29/12/15; Reuters, 21, 29/12/2015; ActurNiger, 29/12/15)
CAR: The legislative and presidential elections and constitutional referendum are held in an atmosphere of calm
Delayed by three days due to logistical problems, the country held legislative and presidential elections on 30 December in an atmosphere of calm. The MINUSCA highlighted the turnout and lack of incidents as signs that the day was a success. Previously, on 13 December, a constitutional referendum had been held that ratified the Constitution with over 90% support, according to the UN, which was welcomed by the international community amidst significant logistical and technical shortcomings. On the day of the referendum, several shells were fired in PK-5, the Muslim-majority neighbourhood of the capital, Bangui, by people opposed to the election process. Five people were killed. Meanwhile, Nourreddine Adam, the leader of a faction of the former rebel coalition Séléka, proclaimed the autonomy of the Republic of Logone, in the northern part of the country. (VOA, 16/12/15; Bloomberg, 30/12/15; AFP, 01/01/16)
CHINA – JAPAN: Both countries resume talks and acknowledge that relations have improved in the last year
The leaders of the ruling parties in both countries met for the first time in seven years to improve bilateral relations with both countries, which had deteriorated significantly since 2012 essentially due to the dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Both parties were very satisfied with the meetings held in China, recognised that there had been a significant improvement in bilateral relations over the past year and promised to continue their dialogue. According to media sources, both sides are working on a four-point document in which both countries agree not to establish themselves as a threat to the other party and to try to overcome political disagreements that may arise in the future. A few days after these meetings, senior defence ministry officials from both countries held a two-day closed-door meeting in the Chinese city of Xiamen to boost bilateral cooperation on security issues. According to various sources, both parties had agreed to increase the exchange of information between their respective coast guard systems in the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, speed up the creation of a mechanism for sea and air communication (in principle, this mechanism was agreed at a meeting between the prime ministers of China and Japan), strengthen cooperation to preserve maritime biodiversity and prevent smuggling and other crimes, coordinate search and rescue mechanisms and enable China to develop gas reserves near its maritime border with Japan in the East China Sea. (The Japan Times, 04 and 09/12/15)
INDIA – PAKISTAN: New understanding between the leaders to resume talks
At the UN summit on climate change in Paris, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, held an informal meeting in which they exchanged ideas to resume peace talks. After months of cancellations, the National Security Advisors of both countries finally met in Bangkok at the beginning of the month. Furthermore, some days later during the “Heart of Asia” conference (Istanbul Process) in Islamabad, both premiers once again expressed their desire to resume the dialogue and lower tensions. On Christmas Day, Modi phoned Sharif to congratulate him on his Birthday and decided to stop by in Lahore. Modi was flying from Kabul, where he had attended the opening of the new Parliament building, which had received the contribution of $90 million from India. Both leaders flew together in Sharif's official helicopter from Lahore to Raiwind, where the Pakistani PM has his residence. They discussed issues related to the peace processes of Kashmir and Afghanistan. It was the first visit to Pakistan by an Indian PM since 2004. Modi gave a dress as a gift to Sharif's granddaughter, who was getting married that night. On the border between both countries, members of their militaries met to address security issues. Nonetheless, clashes between the Kashmir insurgency and members of the Indian security forces continued at a low level. After a counterterrorist operation in Kupwara, two insurgents and a soldier were killed. A few days later, two more rebels were killed in Pampore. A member of Lashkar-e-Toiba was killed in a clash with the police. The Indian security forces reported that they had arrested nine youths charged with belonging to the Islamic State when they were trying to cross the border into Pakistan. (ZeeNews, 05, 08, 25/12/15; Dawn, 07, 10/12/15; BBC, 07, 09/12/15; The Express Tribune, 09/12/15)
MYANMAR: The first steps are taken for a political dialogue with the insurgency
The first steps have been taken for a political dialogue process in the country. The Union Political Dialogue Joint Committee submitted a draft proposal for the format of this dialogue, which is planned to include 700 participants: the Burmese Armed Forces, the armed ethnic groups and the political parties would be given 150 seats apiece, with 75 reserved for the government, 75 given to MPs, 50 reserved for ethnic leaders not belonging to armed groups and 50 given to additional guests. One of the most important issues pending is the participation of armed groups that have not signed the ceasefire but could be invited as observers. Eleven armed groups in this situation would be invited. The political dialogue is planned to begin in mid-January and some of the main lines of discussion will be constitutional reform, the issue of federalism and greater autonomy. Alongside this progress, armed clashes continued to take place in various parts of the country. The armed Arakan group AA and the Burmese Army clashed in the north of Arakan State in late December and there were also clashes between the armed group TNLA and a joint force of SSA-S Shan rebels and government forces. (The Irrawaddy, 01, 16, 18, 21, 28/12/15)
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