The European Business Council for Africa

ON OUR RADAR
Four conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts  
 

➤ Democratic Republic of Congo: A flare-up in deadly fighting, including inter-communal violence, in eastern Congo has killed at least 160 people, displaced more than 300,000 and complicated efforts to contain an Ebola outbreak. Crisis Group expert Nelleke van de Walle says despite President Félix Tshisekedi's avowed intent to restore peace and security to the DRC’s east, the recent uptick in violence demonstrates that serious challenges remain.

➤ Iraq: On Monday, a rocket hit Camp Taji – a base housing U.S. troops – and on Wednesday, another projectile struck near the headquarters of U.S. and foreign oil firms in Basra. Crisis Group expert Maria Fantappie says while the attacks remain unclaimed, if attributed to Iraqi paramilitary groups linked to Iran they could further heighten Gulf tensions and increase the risk of a regional escalation.

➤ Nigeria: In Borno state, thirty people were killed in multiple unclaimed suicide attacks on Monday and at least a dozen soldiers were killed in an assault on an army base by Islamic State in West African Province (ISWAP) on Wednesday. Crisis Group expert Nnamdi Obasi says these attacks are among some of the deadliest this year, demonstrating that the jihadist insurgency retains considerable power, reach and influence in north-eastern Nigeria.

U.S.-Iran: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on Thursday shot down a U.S. drone that it claimed had entered Iranian airspace, the latest in a string of incidents that have significantly ratcheted up tensions since early May. Crisis Group expert Ali Vaez says with growing frictions, a lack of communication and numerous potential flashpoints, we are edging closer to the brink of an inadvertent or deliberate military confrontation between Iran and the U.S. or their respective regional allies.

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The need for more effective integration of development and humanitarian areas of work is all the more important when governments are devising policies to tackle forced displacement. This was one of the key findings of the team of experts – two of them from ECDPM – selected by the Finnish foreign ministry to evaluate the coherence between the country’s development policy and the objective of dealing with forced displacement.  

Meanwhile, the head of ECDPM’s team working on agricultural transformation, Francesco Rampa, tells us in a video interview about his role as a member of the Task Force Rural Africa. This was a major opportunity to feed into and shape the policy of the European Commission on strengthening the partnership between Europe and the food and farming sector in Africa. 

One of the findings highlighted by the task force is the need for a proper territorial development strategy. Clearly, a truly regional approach in handling essential resources is necessary. Ahead of Water Day, on 22 March, we have looked at Mali’s ambivalent attitudes towards the regional river basin organisations, as it tries to reconcile its national and regional interests in the management of the resource that is becoming scarcer every day: water.

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ON OUR RADAR
Four conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts  
 

➤ Algeria: The Constitutional Council on Sunday cancelled presidential elections scheduled for 4 July that were mandated by the Constitution following the resignation of President Bouteflika and extended the mandate of the interim head of state, Ben Salah. Crisis Group expert Michael Ayari says Algeria has entered a period of uncertainty as a constitutional void that the regime sought to prevent has emerged and authorities lose ever-more legitimacy as the end of Ben Salah's 90-day term approaches.

➤ Honduras: Mass protests against education and health-care reforms have gripped main cities across the country, despite President Hernandez’s decision to withdraw the legislation and call for national dialogue. Crisis Group expert Tiziano Breda says the unrest is rooted in deep-seated popular discontent toward the government that has been exacerbated by polarisation in the political space since a coup brought the ruling party to power ten years ago.

➤ Sudan: A military assault on Monday by Sudan’s security forces killed scores of unarmed protesters and dispersed the months-long peaceful sit-in outside the military's headquarters in Khartoum. Crisis Group expert Murithi Mutiga says the violent attack has derailed a tentative transition to civilian rule and raises the risk of civil war if fractures widen between the military and the Rapid Support Forces, a militia which perpetrated the assault.

➤ Venezuela: A second round of talks in Norway between government and opposition representatives in late May failed to produce an agreement, although it seems the talks will continue. Crisis Group expert Phil Gunson says that while no agreement has been reached, and the talks appear stalled over the question of a transition, the Norwegian initiative currently offers the best hope of a breakthrough.

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ON OUR RADAR
Three conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts  
 

➤ Burkina Faso: A deadly attack on a Protestant church in the country’s north killed six people, including a pastor, on Sunday, days after gunmen targeted a school in the same region. Crisis Group expert Rinaldo Depagne says this is the first time a church has been attacked since 2015, reflecting the escalating violence that Burkina has suffered during the past four years. 

➤ Iran: The U.S. ended waivers granting eight countries exemptions from its sanctions on Iranian oil sales. Crisis Group expert Naysan Rafati says while the move will likely increase Iran’s financial malaise, the policy impact of Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign is less assured. The more the Trump administration succeeds in pressuring Iran economically, the less Tehran has to lose if it decides to take retaliatory measures of its own.

 Venezuela: A short-lived military revolt led by opposition leader Juan Guaidó, involving skirmishes between pro-government and pro-opposition forces, was quickly subdued by security forces on Tuesday. Crisis Group expert Ivan Briscoe says the clear lesson from the 30 April events is that there can be no “winner-take-all” solution to Venezuela’s protracted crisis.

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ON OUR RADAR
Three conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts  
 

➤ Sri Lanka: A spate of lethal bombings on Saturday allegedly perpetrated by a little-known Islamist militant group with foreign backing killed at least 250 people. Crisis Group expert Alan Keenan says Sri Lanka’s worst-ever terrorist attack could heighten intercommunal tensions by increasing already powerful anti-Muslim sentiments across society and strengthening the hand of the Sinhala nationalist opposition.

➤ Korean Peninsula: Kim Jong-un arrived in Russia on Wednesday for a summit with President Putin. Amid an ailing peace process between Pyongyang and Washington, says Crisis Group expert Christopher Green, Kim hopes to obtain Russian diplomatic support, heap pressure upon the international sanctions regime and, by expanding trade, reduce North Korea's economic dependence on China.

 Sudan: Three members of the ruling Military Transition Council offered their resignations on Wednesday, amid continued pressure from thousands of protesters for a civilian-led government. Crisis Group expert Alan Boswell says the opposition has decided to re-engage in talks with the council but short of a transition to civilian rule, as protesters demand, unrest on the streets is likely to persist.   

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ON OUR RADAR
Three conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts  
 

➤ Libya: The Libya National Army (LNA) offensive on Tripoli suffered a major set back late this week, when government-backed armed groups managed to push LNA forces out of their strongholds in the southern and eastern outskirts of the capital. Crisis Group expert Claudia Gazzini says that the situation on the ground is still in flux but at this point the LNA’s initial hopes of swiftly controlling Tripoli have been dampened.  

➤ Nicaragua: On Tuesday, the government released 36 political prisoners alongside 600 common criminals ahead of the one-year anniversary of a mass civic uprising that was met with lethal state force. Crisis Group expert Tiziano Breda says the release is aimed at persuading foreign powers of the government’s commitment to pacify the country. However, social polarisation, a shrinking economy and the lack of a negotiated political settlement are likely to continue fuelling protests.

 Sudan: Thousands of demonstrators continue to maintain pressure on the ruling Military Transition Council after forcing the resignations of the council’s leader and Sudan’s intelligence chief. Crisis Group expert Alan Boswell says the sustained momentum has emboldened the protest movement, yet the country's ruling security group continues to resist demands to immediately cede power to a civilian-led government.

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ON OUR RADAR
Four conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts  
 

➤ Afghanistan: Three U.S. servicemen were killed on Monday by a Taliban suicide bomb near Bagram Airbase north of Kabul. Crisis Group expert Borhan Osman says attacks usually increase in the spring and summer months and this year, facing incentives to improve their military position as peace talks get underway, both the government and the Taliban have already declared a formal start to offensive operations.

➤ Algeria: Abdelkader Bensalah, the speaker of Algeria’s upper house, was appointed interim president for a 90-day period on Tuesday, the same day that police for the first time resorted to tear gas to disperse protesters in Algiers. Crisis Group expert Michaël Ayari says Bensalah’s announcement on Wednesday that elections will be held on 4 July is unlikely to satisfy the demands of demonstrators, who are still mobilised and asking for immediate concrete measures to dismantle the "regime/system". 

 Libya: The UN on Tuesday postponed the national conference scheduled for 14-15 April, citing escalating violence and the rising casualties in Tripoli as the Libyan National Army (LNA) continues its offensive. Crisis Group expert Claudia Gazzini says international actors' calls for restraint will not be effective unless backed up by the credible threat of sanctions and a set of incentives that address the warring sides’ core political and financial concerns.

➤ Sudan: President Omar al-Bashir was removed from power on Thursday by the Sudanese army, which subsequently dissolved the government, suspended the constitution and declared a curfew designed to force out thousands of protesters camping outside the defence ministry. Crisis Group expert Murithi Mutiga says the coup will do little to appease protesters and unless generals hand power to a civilian-led transitional authority, demonstrations will continue.

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