Tracking Conflict Worldwide - September 2017

Trends and Outlook

In Asia, the continuing security crackdown in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State prompted over half a million Rohingya civilians to flee, and North Korea conducted its largest nuclear test to date. At least 50 people were killed in Ethiopia in clashes between ethnic Somalis and Oromos, while Cameroon’s increasingly violent standoff between the government and minority Anglophones risks worsening. The main political players in Kenya locked horns over an upcoming rerun of the August presidential vote, and in both Iraq and Spain confrontation mounted over contested independence referendums. El Salvador saw a spike in murders blamed on criminal gangs. In positive news, secessionist rebels and pro-unity factions in Mali agreed to stop fighting, and Colombia’s second guerrilla group signed a ceasefire agreement with the government

Over 500,000 Rohingya civilians have fled Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State, where the military’s violent and disproportionate response to the late August attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) has prompted one of the fastest-growing refugee crises since the Second World War. Tens of thousands of Rohingya and members of other groups have also been internally displaced by the ARSA attacks and the ensuing crackdown, which has targeted Rohingyas with systematic burnings of their villages, abuses and killings. The government has blocked access for the UN and most international aid agencies to the area. Crisis Group has warned that the crisis could derail Myanmar’s transition, deepen radicalisation and destabilise the region. The path to stability lies not in a military response but in a political solution that addresses the longstanding challenges in Rakhine State and recognises the concerns of all groups.

North Korea conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test on 3 September, inflaming regional and international tensions and providing another indication of its determination to push forward with its military nuclear and missile programs. Aggressive rhetoric between Pyongyang and Washington continued to intensify, with President Trump telling the UN General Assembly that he would “totally destroy” North Korea if it threatens the U.S. or its allies. Crisis Group has argued that the nuclear test should spur the U.S., China and South Korea to redouble their efforts to craft a common diplomatic approach.

The struggle of Cameroon’s minority Anglophones against the central government reached greater levels of violence, including new deadly clashes between security forces and protestors on 22 September, more arson attacks and the use of homemade bombs. As Crisis Group has argued, to achieve a lasting solution the government needs to acknowledge Anglophones’ grievances and push on with decentralising power. If it does not take action, violence could be worse in October; already on 1 October at least eight protestors were killed.

In Kenya, tensions and uncertainty grew after the Supreme Court on 1 September annulled August’s presidential election result, which gave victory to President Kenyatta, and ordered a rerun. The opposition rejected the ruling party’s proposed changes to the electoral law and commission, threatening to call nationwide protests and boycott the new vote, set for 26 October. As Crisis Group has explained, a credible, peaceful vote will require government and opposition to compromise, especially on changes to the commission, and more effective, non-partisan management of protests by the security forces. In Ethiopia, at least 50 people were killed and reportedly some 55,000 displaced by fresh clashes between ethnic Somalis and Oromos in disputed areas in the south and east along the border between the two groups’ regional states.

Good news from Mali where the rebel Coalition of Azawad Movements, fighting for the secession of the north, and a coalition of armed groups supporting national unity known as the Platform, agreed to halt clashes and release prisoners, among other measures. The deal creates breathing space to push forward the stalled implementation of the wider 2015 Algiers peace pact, but the process remains fragile, with jihadists continuing to launch deadly attacks on the army and UN peacekeepers.

As Crisis Group warned, Iraqi Kurdistan’s determination to hold a referendum on independence from Iraq on 25 September – in which over 92 per cent voted in favour – exacerbated tensions with central government in Baghdad and within the region. Manifesting its ire, Baghdad two days later banned international flights to and from Iraqi Kurdistan. Political tensions spiralled ahead of an independence referendum organised by the regional government of Catalonia in north-east Spain, which the Spanish government declared illegal. Over 800 people were injured as police tried to block voting on 1 October. Despite efforts to prevent the referendum, the Catalan government reported that 43 per cent of the electorate voted, 90 per cent of them favouring independence.

In El Salvador, 40 murders on 23 September marked the country’s highest death toll in a day this year; nearly 200 people were reported killed that week. Police blamed the violence on fighting between criminal gangs.

There was cause for optimism in Colombia, where the government and the National Liberation Army (ELN), the country’s second main guerrilla group, announced a temporary ceasefire starting on 1 October. ELN attacks nevertheless continued in Arauca province, and the government has warned that peace negotiations with the “highly radical, ideological” ELN will be difficult. Meanwhile, the leader of the Gulf Clan, Colombia’s largest drug-trafficking organisation, reportedly offered to surrender the group to the judicial system and, under the right conditions, cease its involvement in illegal activities.

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Africa

Burundi

UN commission of inquiry 4 Sept released report detailing govt’s human rights violations including enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and rape, concluding reasonable grounds to believe govt has committed crimes against humanity, urged International Criminal Court to investigate; unidentified armed assailants broke into compound of UN Human Rights office in capital Bujumbura 13 Sept. UN Human Rights Council 28 Sept passed resolution proposed by Africa group to send three experts to work with govt to pursue perpetrators of crimes; 29 Sept voted to extend for one year commission of inquiry, despite govt’s resistance. Ruling party CNDD-FDD held rally to protest against UN report 16 Sept. 500 refugees repatriated from Tanzania 27 Sept following agreement between Burundi and Tanzania. Four people including one in police uniform kidnapped opposition figure Léopold Habarugira in Bujumbura 12 Sept. Mediators 5 Sept said inter-Burundian dialogue expected to resume in Oct. Congolese security forces near Kamanyola, eastern DR Congo shot dead 39 Burundian refugees and injured about 100 protesting arrest of four fellow refugees. National Communication Council 28 Sept banned ten media outlets including radio and TV stations.

Cameroon

Security deteriorated in two Anglophone regions, North West and South West, and could worsen in Oct when separatists plan to declare independence of Anglophone territory. To protest govt marginalisation of Anglophones, protestors set fire to seven schools and several shops and, for first time, homemade bombs detonated; one explosion at police station in Bamenda, North West region capital 21 Sept injured three policemen. North West and South West governors imposed curfew, blocked internet for 24 hours, banned movement between Anglophone divisions, banned public meetings and demonstrations in two regions until 3 Oct, closed two regions’ maritime and land borders and increased house searches and arrests of young people in Bamenda, Buea, South West region capital and nearby Ekona. Protestors maintained general strikes three days a week and held largest and most widespread protests in months 22 Sept; some called for President Biya to resign, some for federalism, some for secession; three to eight protestors reportedly killed in clashes with security forces. Boko Haram continued to attack civilians and security forces in Far North. Militants killed one person in Doulou, Mayo Sava department 4 Sept. About 100 militants raided Dzaba, Mayo Tsanaga department 5 Sept killing three, abducting several. Soldier and two vigilantes killed 15 Sept when vehicle hit landmine on Abdouri-Woulba road, Mayo Sava. Some 100 militants raided and torched Hidoua and Bavagola, Mayo Tsanaga 17 Sept, no casualties reported. Suicide bombings at Sanda-Wadjiri and Kossa, both Mayo Sava 17 Sept killed seven. Militants killed two civilians and kidnapped others in Mainakoua, Mayo Sava 21 Sept; two injured same day during incursion in Sagme, Logone and Chari department. Suicide bombing at Kolofata 22 Sept killed only bomber. Suspected militants killed soldier on Zamga-Djibrili road, Mayo Tsanaga 23 Sept and two others died when their vehicle hit landmine on Bonderi-Kangarwa road, Mayo Sava 28 Sept.

Central African Republic

High levels of violence persisted in many areas. Clashes in Bria in east between rival factions within ex-Seleka group Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance (FPRC) 7-8 Sept left estimated ten people dead. In Zemio, in south east, Christian anti-balaka and Muslim/Fulani groups clashed 25 Sept. In Mobaye in east anti-balaka fighters launched offensive against ex-Seleka faction Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC) controlling town 18 Sept, number of casualties unknown. Anti-balaka and UPC fighters also clashed in Ngakobo in east 21 Sept. Fulani-dominated Retour, Réclamation et Réhabilitation (3R) armed group attacked Bocaranga in north and took control of town 23 Sept. Over 100 fighters attacked humanitarian base in Batangafo in north 7 Sept causing aid organisations to suspend operations in area. After President Touadéra 30 Aug launched disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) pilot project to reintegrate 560 combatants (40 from each of fourteen armed groups) into military or civilian life, 60 ex-fighters integrated into national armed forces 19 Sept. FPRC 11 Sept said its participation in DDR conditional on liberation of detained members. Touadéra 12 Sept announced cabinet reshuffle appointing several people associated with armed groups as ministers and representative of former President Bozizé’s Kwa na Kwa party.

Chad

At conference in Paris 7-8 Sept donors pledged estimated $20bn in support of national development program 2017-2021. France 12 Sept encouraged Chad to announce calendar for delayed legislative elections. Amnesty International 14 Sept reported govt increasingly using repressive laws and intelligence services to muzzle critics. President Déby did not attend summit in New York of Sahel G5 countries 18 Sept reportedly to express discontent at international community’s slowness to fund G5 force to counter jihadism in region. Déby also remained absent from UN General Assembly mid-late Sept. Libya 7 Sept reportedly closed its borders with Chad and Niger for three months. U.S. 24 Sept included Chad in new ban on travel to U.S., citing country’s failure to share public-safety and terrorism related information.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Main opposition leaders Felix Tshisekedi and Moise Katumbi 18 Sept in New York endorsed “Manifeste du Citoyen Congolais” (Congolese Citizen’s Manifesto) which calls for organisation of large scale protests to force President Kabila to leave power by end of 2017; manifesto drafted late Aug and signed by Lucha and Filimbi youth movements and newly created group “Congolais Debout” (Congolese Stand Up). Govt 12 Sept announced start of voter registration in Kasai region, to last 90 days. Kabila 18 Sept in Kananga, capital of Kasai Central province opened three-day “peace and reconciliation” conference to “bring justice” to Kasais. Govt 19 Sept met EU, African Union, Southern African Development Community, International Organisation of La Francophonie, France and UK on margins of UN General Assembly in New York; participants agreed on need to implement fully 31 Dec 2016 agreement and create team of international experts to assist electoral commission. Kabila in 23 Sept address to UN General Assembly said electoral calendar was “forthcoming”. Security in Kasai Central remained volatile but no major incident in Sept. In N Kivu in east, Nyatura militia attacked Bwalanda and Mutanda in Rutshuru territory 7 Sept, three militiamen and two civilians killed; Mai Mai militiamen 23 Sept attacked Kanyatsi military position in Lubero territory, soldier and two assailants killed; Allied Democratic Forces militia clashed with UN mission (MONUSCO) near Beni 17 Sept, Tanzanian peacekeeper killed. In S Kivu, security forces 15 Sept near Kamanyola fired on Burundian refugees protesting arrest of four fellow refugees, killing 39; govt 17 Sept said it would open inquiry into incident that also killed one soldier. In S Kivu, Mai Mai Yakutumba militia and allied National People’s Coalition for the Sovereignty of Congo (CNPSC) militia 27 Sept advanced to outskirts of Uvira, province’s second largest city; army and MONUSCO (both bringing in reinforcements) engaged in heavy fighting with attackers, including on Lake Tanganyika; Mai Mai coalition also spread to neighbouring Maniema and Tanganyika provinces. Nearly 120 inmates escaped Kabinda prison in Lomami province 3 Sept; 34 escaped Mwenga prison in S Kivu 25 Sept.

Djibouti

Chinese troops in Djibouti 22 Sept held first live-fire military exercises since Aug deployment.

Ethiopia

Clashes between ethnic Oromo and Somalis erupted early Sept in disputed areas along border between Oromia and Somali regional states in south and east, at least 50 people killed. Oromia region official 17 Sept claimed fighting had displaced over 55,000 Oromos from Somali region. Six Oromo parties 13 Sept accused Somali regional state govt of waging war to drive Oromos out of border areas. Govt 25 Sept accused Somaliland of displacing over 3,000 Oromos into Ethiopia’s Oromia and Somali regions.

Kenya

Political tensions and uncertainty mounted after Supreme Court 1 Sept annulled 8 Aug presidential election result on grounds that process was not conducted in accordance with constitution and ordered new vote to be held within two months; electoral commission (IEBC) set 26 Oct for new poll. Opposition NASA coalition 14 Sept threatened to boycott vote unless major changes made to IEBC leadership. Ruling Jubilee Party 28 Sept proposed changes to electoral laws including dropping electronic transmission as primary mode of relaying tallies from polling stations; NASA walked out of talks 28 Sept, said if laws passed it would launch nationwide protests and boycott election. Suspected Al-Shabaab gunmen 3 Sept killed two police officers guarding church in Ukunda town, south of Mombasa. In Lamu county, suspected Al-Shabaab militants 6 Sept beheaded four people. In north east, Al-Shabaab 19 Sept destroyed telecommunication mast in Mandera county and exchanged fire with soldiers before retreating. One police officer killed 11 Sept when police vehicle hit IED in Lamu county.

Somalia

Al-Shabaab continued insurgency carrying out terrorist attacks in rural areas and urban centres. Militants 3 Sept raided Somali National Army (SNA) base in Gala Gulud village, near Kismayo in south, allegedly killing 26 soldiers; routed local security forces 16 Sept in El Wak village, Gedo region; overran SNA base in Beled Hawa town near Kenyan border 11 Sept, claiming they killed sixteen soldiers; attacked nearby police station same day; attacked and looted military base outside capital Mogadishu 29 Sept, killing at least eight soldiers. In centre, Al-Shabaab claimed 9 Sept suicide bombing that left six Hiraan regional administration officials dead in Beledweyne city. Unclaimed car bombing 28 Sept killed at least five in Mogadishu’s Hamarweyne district. In Bay region in centre, U.S. airstrike 6 Sept killed three Al-Shabaab fighters in operation also involving SNA and AU peacekeeping mission (AMISOM). In Puntland’s Al-Urur village, unclaimed twin bombing 1 Sep killed at least fifteen people, including eight soldiers and seven civilians. Amid Gulf diplomatic crisis two more federal states (South West state 18 Sept and Galmudug state 20 Sept) declared support for Saudi-led bloc, bringing total to three out of five federal states; federal govt next day reiterated its neutrality.

Somalilan

Ethiopia 25 Sept accused Somaliland of displacing over 3,000 ethnic Oromos into Ethiopia following deadly clashes between Oromos and Somalis in disputed areas along border between Oromia and Somali regions in Ethiopia (see Ethiopia).

South Sudan

Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) rebels loyal to former first VP Riek Machar 20 Sept attacked govt forces in former Unity state in north. In former Western Equatoria state in south west unknown assailants ambushed International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) aid convoy killing driver, ICRC suspended operations in third of country. High-level meetings surrounding UN General Assembly in New York mid-late Sept addressed peace implementation and humanitarian crisis but participants did not agree on new measures. Visiting UN Commission on Human Rights in S Sudan 20 Sept warned that holding elections in 2018, as required by UN-supported peace agreement, could lead to more violence and would be illegitimate given significant displacement. U.S. 6 Sept imposed sanctions on two current and one former official for corruption and hampering peace.

Sudan

Rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) 15 Sep claimed govt violated its unilateral ceasefire with attacks on SPLM-N positions in Blue Nile state 16 and 21 Sept, which govt denied. President Bashir 19 Sept urged Darfur’s internally displaced to return home, claiming region had recovered from conflict. Bashir 22 Sept visited Kalma refugee camp in S Darfur sparking protests; at least three protesters killed in clashes with govt troops. Govt same day accused rebel group Sudan Liberation Movement of inciting protest.

Uganda

Over 100 MPs from ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) and NRM-leaning independents 12 Sept said they would support tabling bill in parliament that seeks to remove constitutional presidential age limit, which prevents President Museveni from running for sixth term in 2021. Small group of MPs from NRM, opposition and independents 13 Sept vowed to block any attempt to remove age limit. Legislators abandoned first attempt to introduce bill to remove age limit 21 Sept after opposition MPs disrupted session by singing national anthem in protest against extra security procedures; lord mayor of Kampala placed under house arrest on suspicion of inciting protest; police clashed with university students protesting bill. Opposition Forum for Democratic Change leader Kizza Besigye arrested 26 Sept before second attempt to table bill in parliament. Parliamentary speaker 26 Sept abandoned second attempt after MPs fought in parliament; fighting broke out again 27 Sept but NRM tabled bill. Protests against bill also held outside Kampala, including in Mbale, Mbarara, Arua and Masaka.

Angola

Electoral commission 6 Sept announced definitive results of 23 Aug general election: ruling MPLA party won 61.07% majority in legislative elections, two major opposition parties UNITA and CASA-CE won 26.68% and 9.45% respectively; commission denied main opposition group UNITA’s claims of electoral fraud. Constitutional Court 13 Sept rejected UNITA’s 9 Sept appeal to annul election results over alleged vote rigging. President-elect João Lourenço took office 26 Sept.

Lesotho

Two senior army officers 5 Sept shot dead Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander Khoantle Motsomotso at his offices outside Maseru and were shot dead by his bodyguards; Motsomotso had reportedly denied his killers’ request to halt police investigations into atrocities committed by LDF under former PM Mosisili. To maintain stability and security Southern African Development Community 6 Sept deployed to Lesotho 1,000-strong stand-by force comprising troops from South Africa, Angola and Mozambique.

Mozambique

Political Commission of ruling FRELIMO party 13 Sept nominated President Nyusi as party’s candidate for 2019 presidential election.

Zimbabwe

Amid ongoing factional tensions within ruling ZANU-PF party including over presidential succession, President Mugabe and First Lady Grace Mugabe at youth rally in Bindura 9 Sept insulted potential presidential contender VP Mnangagwa, President Mugabe said he may name his preferred candidate to succeed him as party leader. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai 14 Sept fell ill and next day was airlifted to South Africa for treatment, reportedly stable. Pastor Evan Mawarire, leader of #ThisFlag protest movement, arrested 24 Sept for urging citizens to protest; High Court ordered his release two days later saying govt could not legally hold him on remand. Police 27 Sept fired tear gas to break up protests in Harare against economic crisis. Voter registration for 2018 general election began mid-Sept but electronic system encountered faults in some places.

Burkina Faso

Insecurity persisted in north, mostly in Soum province bordering Mali. In Soum province, unidentified assailants 4 Sept attacked Kourfadji and kidnapped two people; 7 Sept attacked town hall in Diguel, kidnapped local official releasing him a few days later; 15 Sept killed village chief, imam and third person around Baraboulé; 22 Sept killed civilian in Diadio; 23 Sept attacked police station in Mentao refugee camp; military vehicle same day hit IED in Woro Saba, four soldiers injured; 26 Sept assailants ambushed military vehicle escorting mining convoy after it hit IED, killing two gendarmes; 27 Sept killed local official suspected of complicity with jihadists in Nassoumbou, near Djibo; four bodies found at Touronata 28 Sept. Insecurity spread west: gunmen attacked gendarmerie post 27 Sept in Toéni, Sourou region, near Mali border. Facebook post allegedly by jihadist group Ansarul Islam 12 Sept claimed al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadist coalition Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM) responsible for 13 Aug attack in capital Ouagadougou. Human Rights Watch 8 Sept criticised security forces for human rights abuses.

Côte d’Ivoire

Almost 100 prisoners escaped Katiola prison in centre 3 Sept, 44 later caught. Unidentified assailants same day attacked gendarmerie post in Songon near Abidjan stealing weapons and 26 Sept launched similar attack on police station in Abobo, Abidjan. Large weapons cache found 26 Sept in Attécoubé, Abidjan. Govt 7 Sept said it had arrested 35 people, most military officers, for recent attacks on security institutions and accused figures loyal to former President Laurent Gbagbo of planning attacks, including youth leader Damana Pickass and Gbagbo’s son-in-law Stéphane Kipré. At congress of ruling party Rally for Republicans 9-10 Sept Henriette Diagri Diabaté appointed party president.

Guinea

Security forces 20 Sept clashed with protestors calling on govt to hold long-delayed local elections; two youths shot dead. Following three days of consultations with political parties and civil society, electoral commission 25 Sept said local elections would be held 4 Feb 2018. Opposition marched again 27 Sept in capital Conakry to honour protestors killed.

Mali

Following late Aug and early Sept ceasefires, rebel Coalition of Azawad Movements (CMA) and pro-national unity Platform coalition 20 Sept in Bamako signed agreement that includes release of prisoners and return of Platform forces to Takalot, 40km from Kidal from where CMA forced them out. Security situation remained volatile in north, with attacks targeting govt forces (FAMA) and UN mission (MINUSMA). Two IED explosions near city of Aguelhok, Kidal region and on Ansongo-Ménaka axis, Gao region 5-6 Sept killed two peacekeepers and one civilian; unidentified assailants 6 Sept ambushed FAMA patrol in Ménaka city market, killing one; French Barkhane forces 8 Sept reportedly killed two Islamist militants in Gao city; unidentified assailants killed FAMA soldier and peacekeeper in ambush near Ménaka city 14 and 20 Sept; IED explosion targeting MINUSMA vehicle in Kidal city 14 Sept wounded two peacekeepers; military 20 Sept reported attacks on MINUSMA camp and outposts in Kidal region, no casualties reported; MINUSMA vehicle triggered bomb 24 Sept on road some 50km north of Gao, at least three peacekeepers reportedly killed. Preparations for launch of G5 Sahel force to counter jihadism in region continued: MINUSMA 7 Sept transferred control of camp in Léré near Mauritanian border to FAMA for use as G5 force base; President Keita 9 Sept inaugurated new G5 command base in Sévaré, Mopti region, and 19 Sept at UN General Assembly appealed for increased financial assistance to cover estimated €423mn budget. As requested by govt, UN Security Council 5 Sept adopted new sanctions regime to impose travel bans and asset freezes on those undermining peace agreement.

Niger

Alleged Boko Haram (BH) militants 6 Sept tried to abduct four villagers in Koutou, Diffa region in south east; three reportedly escaped, one killed. Alleged BH 7 Sept abducted child near Nguigmi, Diffa region. Govt 16 Sept extended by three months state of emergency in Diffa region and in Tillaberi and Tahoua regions on Mali border in west.

Nigeria

Boko Haram (BH) continued attacks in Borno state, killing at least 68 civilians: BH killed 21 farmers 31 Aug-2 Sept in villages near Damboa; stabbed to death eleven people in displaced persons’ camp in Banki 1 Sept; killed at least seven with grenade in displaced persons’ camp in Ngala 8 Sept; killed four people 17 Sept in Kurumari village, Magumeri Local Govt Area (LGA); three suicide bombers 18 Sept in Mashalari village killed at least sixteen; killed at least nine 20 Sept in Daima village, Kala Balge LGA. Security forces continued operations: army 19 Sept reportedly repelled BH attack at Pulka and Bitta, killing eighteen militants; air force reported killing “hundreds of insurgents” in airstrikes around Garin Maloma area of Sambisa forest 1 Sept; army 6 Sept said it killed two deputies of Abubakar Shekau at Alafa, Borno state; domestic intelligence agency 9 Sept reported it thwarted gun and suicide attacks in Abuja and northern states. Military cracked down on Biafra separatists in south east, deepening concerns over army’s human rights abuses. Army 14 Sept stormed residence of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of separatist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), in Umuahia, Abia state capital; no word from Kanu since and military 29 Sept denied holding him. Court 20 Sept declared IPOB terrorist organisation. In Niger Delta, militant Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators 3 Sept demanded President Buhari’s resignation over non-performance and threatened regionwide protests and attacks on oil facilities; threats not carried through. Gunmen 4 Sept attacked police post in Kolo, Bayelsa state, killing one officer; pirates 18 Sept abducted five sailors from ship near Parrot Island, Cross River state. Police said Fulani herders in reprisal for death of Fulani boy killed at least nineteen 7 Sept in Ancha village, Plateau state; army 11 Sept reportedly killed five men as it battled suspected perpetrators of assault on Ancha, one soldier also killed. Eight people 13 Sept died in intercommunal fight in Ugboju district, Benue state.

Togo

Opposition parties and civil society groups led thousands in countrywide protests throughout month calling for President Gnassingbé to step down, reestablishment of presidential term limits and electoral reform; security forces dispersed crowds with live fire and tear gas, one boy reportedly killed in clashes in north 20 Sept. UN 9 Sept said govt must limit presidential terms to avoid political crisis. Opposition boycott 19 Sept prevented parliament passing draft law that would cap presidential term limits and reform electoral process, forcing govt to hold referendum on bill, vote will reportedly be held by end of 2017. Fourteen opposition parties 30 Sept called for new protests 4-5 Oct.

Asia

China (internal)

Human Rights Watch called for govt to free thousands of Uighurs and other Muslims, including children, reportedly detained at unlawful “political education” centres in Xinjiang since April 2017. Beijing late Sept denied reports that authorities were seizing Muslim prayer mats and Qurans in Xinjiang.

China/Japan

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga 8 Sept said Tokyo remains “seriously concerned” about Beijing’s intentions and “will respond in a calm and resolute manner” to any future Chinese intrusions on Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, which Japan controls but both countries claim. Japan increased vigilance after Chinese bombers flew off Kii Peninsula for first time 24 Aug, scrambling fighter jets even though Chinese aircraft did not enter Japanese airspace; Beijing asserted drills were normal and in accordance with international law, said no amount of interference or shadowing would prevent long-range exercises from continuing. Japan expressed concern through diplomatic channels. Two U.S. air force B-1B bombers and two Japanese F-15 fighters 9 Sept conducted drill over East China Sea. Japanese PM Abe and Indian PM Modi 13-14 Sept reaffirmed bilateral security and infrastructure collaboration, agreed to expand three-way joint military exercises with U.S.. Beijing 8 Sept hosted high profile ceremony commemorating 45th anniversary of normalised ties with Japan involving some 300 prominent figures from both countries; Abe attended ceremony at Chinese embassy in Tokyo marking anniversary and China’s national day 28 Sept, first PM to do so in over a decade, invited Chinese President Xi to visit Japan; Chinese and Japanese premiers exchanged congratulatory messages 29 Sept.

Korean Peninsula

Concerns grew over escalating in rhetoric between U.S. and North Korea, which conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test to date 3 Sept. Resulting artificial earthquake suggested yield of approximately 150 kilotons; Pyongyang asserted device was a thermonuclear (hydrogen) bomb, which is preferable for missile-delivery nuclear weapon system. U.S. 6 Sept circulated draft UN resolution in response to nuclear test, included bans on textile and labour exports, oil embargo, sanctions against national airline and asset freeze on Kim Jong-un, however measures watered down during negotiations between U.S., Russian and Chinese representatives, amid Russian objection to complete oil embargo. Security Council 11 Sept adopted Resolution 2375 banning supply to North Korea of all condensates and natural gas liquids, and all refined petroleum products beyond two million barrels per year; also bans North Korean exports of fabrics and apparel. North Korea 15 Sept launched another intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) over northern Japan, similar to 29 Aug IRBM. U.S. President Trump attacked North Korea in his address to UN General Assembly 19 Sept, calling Kim regime “depraved” citing inter alia rights abuses and its “reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles”; said if Kim Jong-un threatens U.S. or its allies, U.S. would “totally destroy” North Korea. President Trump 21 Sept issued sweeping Executive Order reinforcing unilateral sanctions on North Korea. U.S. air force 23 Sept flew bombers east of North Korea. North Korean foreign minister 25 Sept said Trump had declared war on North Korea in 23 Sept tweet, giving Pyongyang right to take countermeasures including shooting down U.S. bombers; White House spokesperson denied U.S. had declared war, China called for restraint. U.S. Sec State Rex Tillerson during visit to China 30 Sept said U.S. communicating directly with Pyongyang. South Korea’s Unification Ministry 21 Sept approved $8m aid package for vulnerable populations in North Korea, to be delivered through UN agencies, reaffirming Seoul’s intent to separate humanitarian and political/military issues.

Taiwan Strait