CrisisWatch N°114 | (01 Feb 2013)
In Mali France launched a military operation to oust the coalition of rebel Islamist groups that has controlled the north of the country for the past year and who in December suddenly began advancing further south. Combined French and Malian forces swiftly recaptured the main northern towns from the rebels, and moved on their last stronghold, Kidal, at the end of the month, raising hopes that the region will swiftly return to government control. Military advances have, however, also prompted fears of further destabilisation, abuses of the civilian population, especially ethnic Tuaregs, by the Malian armed forces, a spillover into neighbouring states, and a backlash from extremists. The military approach also risks diverting attention from the fragile political process in Bamako, where deep divisions and the potential for further military meddling raise questions about the ability of Mali’s leaders to secure the transition and adequately address northern grievances.
In Egypt, the second anniversary of the revolution and a court ruling on football violence in Port Said stadium last year ignited days of violent demonstrations and unrest across major cities which left dozens dead. President Mohamed Morsi declared a state of emergency and curfew in Port Said, Ismailia and Suez. As a senior military official warned that the state verged on collapse, rival political groups met on 31 January, pledging to support a serious dialogue and condemning violence. Protests are expected to continue in February.
In Iraq demonstrations against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, sparked by the arrest in December of Sunni Finance Minister Rafie al-Issawi, gathered pace, threatening political stability. What initially looked like a confrontation between Sunni political leaders and a Shia-led government soon escalated into a broader campaign against al-Maliki, as Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr and personalities associated with the highest Shiite religious authority, the Marjaiya, threw their weight behind the opposition. On 26 January, Sunni, Kurdish and Shiite lawmakers voted to block al-Maliki from seeking a third term, but al-Maliki’s supporters have rejected the law as illegal.
Myanmar’s government stepped up its military campaign against the Kachin Independence Organisation. Government troops advanced on the ethnic rebel group’s headquarters in Laiza close to the Chinese border, as fighter jets bombed Kachin rebel positions. The U.S., UK and other international actors expressed concern over civilian casualties and displacement and the potential impact of the campaign on efforts to deepen Myanmar’s reforms and national reconciliation.
Photo: Mary Newcombe/Flickr