Conflict Weekly 45

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Conflict Weekly 45
The US troops withdrawal, Violent protests in Thailand, Refugee crisis in Ethiopia, Anti-France protests in Pakistan and the Indo-Pak tensions along the LoC

  IPRI Team

IPRI Conflict Weekly, 19 November 2020, Vol.1, No.45

United States: Trump administration hastens withdrawal from Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia 
In the news
On 13 November, the Trump administration announced plans to hasten the reduction of the US military presence in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia by half. This withdrawal would come in full effect before, possibly, President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January 2021. The acting Defence Secretary Christopher Miller in a press statement said, "the intended troop cuts would almost halve the force in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500, and the presence in Iraq from 3,000 to 2,500." The administration has been strongly criticized from its own Republican party followed by the statement from the Secretary-General of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, Jen Stoltenberg, that "the price for leaving too soon or in an uncoordinated way could be very high." 
Issues at large 
First, Trump's desire for a legacy pushing hasty exit. The plan has been put in place despite arguments from senior military officials, who have favoured slow and methodical pull-out, that a premature exit would upturn the 'hard-fought gains' in the region. The announcements come a week after several senior Pentagon officials, including Defence Secretary Mark Esper, resisting the withdrawal were replaced by Trump loyalists with little relative experience. There are logistical difficulties between the order and the actual fruition of what Trump would like in order to secure his legacy. 

Second the US rationale behind the withdrawal. The US has experienced a 'boom-to-bust' cycle in both wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that have triggered turmoils. In Afghanistan, the US-backed regime has failed to secure a firm footing, and at the same time, the Taliban is now the main actor in peace talks with the Afghan government. In Iraq, the US-led democratic reform has not proceeded well either. The increased financial burden on Washington and less burden-sharing by other Western democracies have pushed Obama and then Trump, whose presidency rode on safeguarding American interests first, to pull out troops. Even though the Middle East situation worsened with the presence of the Islamic State and involvement of Russia, Trump has chosen to appease the public's anti-war sentiments at home, thereby securing votes from the service members.

Third, no smooth transition will impact the course of peace talks in Afghanistan. There are two purposes of the US forces in Afghanistan: train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces, alongside NATO allies and to counter terrorist threats from ISIS and al-Qaeda. Now at 2,500 troops, the US will only focus on the counterterrorism and even though the agreement with the Taliban in Doha has ensured reduced US engagements with the group. However, the deal earmarks May 2021 for the withdrawal of the US, assuming conditions in the country are relatively peaceful, and the Taliban has upheld its end of the deal. When all is not well at the peace talks, and attacks have increased on the Afghan security forces and civilians by Taliban fighters, an accelerated withdrawal could destabilize a tenuous peace deal.

Fourth, the fight against terrorism. In Iraq, minutes after Miller's comments, multiple rockets hit the US embassy in Baghdad. The removal of 500 US troops would not change much, but the political message is strong for the cause of the fight against ISIS and Iranian-backed militias. Similarly, in Somalia, the 700 US troops have been helping local forces to defeat the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab terrorist activities. The elite commando force and gains from resisting al-Shabab will be left exposed if the US troops withdraw now; even though the possibility of air support remains.

In perspective 
The President-elect Joe Biden faces a question on what to do with Trump's withdrawal plan when he assumes office. There is a possibility that nothing might change as it aligns with Biden's idea to keep some troops in Afghanistan as counterterrorism force. Hence in a way, Trump could be handing him what he has long advocated for. However, the challenge could come in rethinking the diplomatic ties in the region, especially with Israel and Saudi Arabia for whom Iraq is an important forefront against Iran's 'expansion'. For long, these US allies have foreseen a reality of no American boots, but a hasty exit increases the worry that Tehran will have more influence over Iraq impacting the geopolitical situation in the Middle East.

Thailand: Protestors and royalists clash, iLaw proposed amendment rejected
In the news
On 18 November, the charter amendment draft proposed by human rights NGO iLaw was rejected by the parliament in its first reading. The proposal had more than 100,000 public signatures and its rejection was criticized by the protestors. On the same day, protestors also called the Thailand King a giant monitor lizard and painted graffiti portraying his sexual activities.  
On 17 November, pro-democracy protestors gathered near the parliament even as legislators were debating the constitutional amendments. When protestors marched towards the parliament, police used water cannons and tear gas to stop them. Protestors also clashed with the royal supporters. At least 55 people were injured, including 6 who were treated for gunshot wounds.

Issues at large
First, the charter amendment. The current constitution was written by the military regime in 2017, and changing it is one of the primary demands of the protestors. The Parliament considered many draft proposals, including those by the government, opposition and iLaw. Only the government and the opposition proposed drafts were passed in the first reading, while the iLaw proposal was rejected. This was because the latter's reform agenda was comprehensive and also included the monarchy. The passed proposals, however, leave the institution of monarchy untouched; they also call for the establishment of a panel for charter writing. They will now go through second and third readings.

Second, the response by State. Thailand has a history of State resorting to violence for quelling protests. However, in the current protests, which have continued for more than four months now, the State has so far refrained from the use of large scale force. Police have used water cannons and tear gas to deal with demonstrators and also arrested/detained protest leaders. Prime Minister Prayut has also softened his position over the last few months and also occasionally extended the olive branch to calm down tensions. Further, on 18 November, in reference to the clashes, Prayut said that the government would not bring special laws and only enforce the regular laws more strictly.

Third, the intensifying clashes between pro-democracy protestors and royal institution supporters. Although both sides have clashed before, the clashes on 17 November were the most violent. Police said they found bullets near the protest site and one royalist supporter was also arrested for carrying a gun.

Fourth, the increasing criticisms against the King. The monarchy is protected by strict 'lese majeste' laws, which entail a punishment of up to 15 years for criticizing the institution. Monarchy is not only revered but criticizing it is considered a taboo.  Despite this, in the past few months, protestors have broken all conservatisms, and the intensity of their attack on the King has only increased. Never before has the King being called a lizard or subjected to a satire bordering on mockery. This stipulates the extent to which the anger against the monarchy has tipped.

In perspective 
Rejection of the iLaw proposal means that the protests would continue. However, despite the passed proposals leaving out monarchy reform, consideration of charter amendment even in its limited form is a victory for the protestors. 

The protestors-royalists clashes on 17 November are more worrying. Polarization between both the camps has increased over the last few months, and further violent clashes cannot be ruled out at this stage. How the monarchy and the state respond to intensifying attacks on the King is also to be seen.

Ethiopia: Escalation in the Tigray conflict triggers a refugee crisis
In the news
On 17 November, the UNHCR spokesperson warned that a "full-scale humanitarian crisis" was emerging in Ethiopia after it launched a series of military attacks against Tigray on 4 November. The spokesperson said the pace of refugees fleeing to neighbouring Sudan was unseen in the last two decades. Meanwhile, the communications and road blockades in Tigray by Ethiopia have cut off access to food and essential supplies to the refugee camps in the region. Despite appeals by international aid groups, Ethiopia has not addressed the issue.
Further, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed also announced that a final offensive would be launched against Tigray. He said Tigray's non-adherence to the three-deadline to surrender rebel forces has pushed Ethiopia to announce the crucial offensive. 

Issues at large
First, the scale of the refugee influx into Sudan. Since the military was deployed to Tigray on 4 November, Sudan prepared itself to receive refugees. However, since 10 November, at least 4,000 refugees have been crossing into Sudan daily. As of 17 November, Sudan received more than 27,000 refugees, and this unprecedented scale has undermined Sudan's efforts to avert a refugee crisis. For example, the refugee transit centre Hamdayet which has a capacity of 300 people is currently sheltering 12,000 persons. 

Second, the limitations of Sudan to host refugees. The transitional government in Sudan has been working towards stabilizing the economy, and the internal political scenario remains tense after the ousting of former leader Omar al Bashir. Further, the sanctions imposed by the US in the previous years has added to the worsening of economic conditions in Sudan. The country also has 1.4 million people exposed to food insecurity, and unless internal problems are addressed, Sudan is likely to face backlash if it diverts attention to the refugee influx.

Third, the issue of internally displaced persons in Ethiopia. Ethiopia also has 1.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) as a result of internal ethnic conflicts and environmental disasters. In September, an International Organisation for Migration report said internal conflict alone had resulted in the displacement of 1.2 million persons. Currently, while the UN has not issued an estimate, it has confirmed that the number of IDPs has increased during the ongoing escalation. 

Fourth, the impact of the conflict on Eritrean refugees in the Tigray. Tigray shelters 96,000 Eritrean refugees reliant on the UN aid. The escalation in conflict could lead to a secondary displacement of the Eritrean refugees. Further, on 14 November, Tigray President confirmed that they had bombed the airport in Eritrea's capital. While the UN agency on the ground says there is no immediate threat to the Eritrean refugees, the current escalation could be a reason for Tigray to target Eritrea whom it considers its long-standing enemies. 

In perspective
On 16 November, Ahmed said the Ethiopian government was willing to "receive and reintegrate" refugees. This statement is a stark contradiction to his actions and his vow of a "final offensive" against the Tigray region. Further, Ahmed has rejected all mediation offers by neighbouring countries. Therefore, his reassuring words sound hollow as Ethiopians flee from the forces that he assures will protect them. 

Further, in 2019, Ethiopia had amended its refugee laws making it possible for refugees to avail services available to Ethiopian citizens, like school education, registering a drivers' license and the like. Ahmed was hailed as a progressive leader for Ethiopia which hosts around 7,50,000 refugees from Somalia, South Sudan, Eritrea and Yemen. Through the current conflict, Ahmed has displayed a disregard for his own citizens and contradicted the welcome initiative towards refugees by driving away from his countrymen. 

Pakistan: Anti-French protests called off
In the news
On 16 November, the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) announced that the government had accepted all its four demands; however, the leadership made no announcement calling off its sit-in. Earlier on 15 November, the federal government claimed that it succeeded in convincing the TLP to end their sit-in after hours-long negotiations. This came two days after they laid a partial siege to the national capital as a means to denounce the publication of blasphemous caricatures in Charlie Hebdo magazine and remarks about Islam and terrorism by French President Emmanuel Macron.

The agreement signed between the two sides includes four stipulations. First, the government has to make a decision regarding the expulsion of the French ambassador within three months. Second, it will not appoint its ambassador to France, third, the boycott of French goods and fourth, the release of all the arrested workers of the TLP and not register any case against the TLP leaders or workers even after it calls off the sit-in. The agreement was signed by Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noorul Qadri, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah and the deputy commissioner, Islamabad.

Issues at large 
First, TLP strikes again, but this time against an international development. The ongoing protest which was staged outside Islamabad is not the first time the staunch cleric and TLP chief, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, has organized demonstrations over blasphemy-related issues in Pakistan. The TLP first came to limelight in 2017 when they staged demonstrations against few changes in the wording of an electoral oath which they considered "blasphemous" and organized a three-week-long sit-in at Faizabad, blocking off the twin cities. This time the group has garnered against an international development; however, it still shows that the religious rhetoric is still being used to counter the political forces.

Second, the rise of the Barelvi right. The Barelvi's are trying to prove that they are in a better position to protect, preserve and promote religious values in society. A group which was once seen as the embodiment of traditional, peaceful, Pakistani Islam, has seen certain Barelvi elements becoming radicalized. They have found a cause that fits their interpretation of Islam, thus making anyone from a different religion or someone deviant from their interpretation of Islam an easy target. Further, the electoral rise of the TLP indicates an aggressive and militant face of Barelvi politics.

Third, the force behind the TLP. It is a known fact that Rizvi, who does not enjoy massive street power like the religious party of Fazal-ur-Rehman, somehow always succeeds in arriving at the strategic Faizabad Interchange without much difficulty. Although earlier verdicts stated a link between Rizvi and the military establishment, this has not been proven. However, the situation is not new; religion has been used to benefit the power elite, especially the military establishment, while the faith merchants in the process have become stronger at the cost of weakening the state.

In perspective
First, religious narratives continue to overrule democracy. Rizvi's arrival, the capital shows that democratic governments are weak for fundamentalists can easily capture even the national capital and turn the hands of the government in power. Further, the deal does not look like a good sign for the political parties and democracy, for it shows that religious sentiments are considered above anything else.

Second, the government's willingness to negotiate with the group shows that the former also believes in the same narrative. However, the narrative for both the state as well as extremist groups has moved further from their Palestine and Kashmir cause to a larger cause under the tag of combating Islamophobia.

India and Pakistan: Violence along the Line of Control, and Islamabad's new dossier on India
In the news
During the last week, there were a series of firing along the LoC. On 13 November 2020, according to a report in the Hindu, "At least eight Pakistani soldiers were killed and 12 others injured on Friday after Indian Army pounded several of their positions along the Line of Control (LoC) in north Kashmir with anti-tank guided missiles and artillery guns in response to unprovoked ceasefire violations in multiple locations by troops of the neighbouring country." The following day, on 14 November, India condemned the firing and said, "It is highly deplorable that Pakistan chose a festive occasion in India to disrupt peace and perpetrate violence in J&K through coordinated firing along the length of the LoC using heavy caliber weapons, including artillery and mortar, on Indian civilians."

On 13 November, the Hindu, quoting an official data stated, that during 2020, Pakistan has resorted to 4,052 incidents of ceasefire violations ( in 2019 there were 3,233 violations). 
On 14 November 2020, Dawn reported about "unprovoked and indiscriminate" firing by the Indian troops, killing five civilians and a solider. On the same day, Pakistan's foreign minister, along with the Director-General of Pakistan's Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) gave a press conference accusing India of "fanning State terrorism". Both claimed to have irrefutable evidence against India. Presenting a dossier on the subject, Shah Mahmood Qureshi said: "The state that used to say that it was the world's biggest democracy is [now] becoming a rogue state through its activities. We have information and evidence on the basis of which I can say India is fanning state terrorism. India has prepared a plan to destabilize Pakistan… Today, we have undeniable evidence and we want to show it in the form of this dossier to the nation and the world." According to the DG-ISPR said, "the recent upsurge in violence in Pakistan is a direct consequence of Indian's intensified engagements with all brands of terrorists, sub-nationalists and dissidents operating against Pakistan."

Issues in the background
First, the continuation of ceasefire violations across the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan. The ceasefire that was agreed by both the countries in 2004 along the LoC has witnessed regular violations during recent years. Both India and Pakistan have been accusing each other for violating the LoC. India accuses Pakistan of using firing along the LoC as a screen to push militants into the Indian side of J&K, while Pakistan has been accusing India of unprovoked and indiscriminate violence.

Second, the disruption of peace along with the LoC villages. Since the ceasefire in 2004, villages along the LoC were witnessing normalcy. Local farmers resumed working on their lands, schools opened, and related regular activities resumed on both sides of the LoC. The new round of violence affects the return of normalcy and bring the fear of breakdown of regular life.

Third, Pakistan's new dossier on India's role in fanning terrorism, as a part of building a new narrative. During the recent years, there has been a debate within Pakistan to create a new narrative, that would counter the existing one linking Islamabad's policies with terrorism. The debate in the FATF has also brought a new reality to Pakistan at the global level, on how rest of the world looks at Islamabad's role in curbing terrorism, with a special focus on legal and financial measures. Pakistan has been placed under the "grey list" for long.

Fourth, Pakistan's new case against India since capturing Kulbushan Yadav. Pakistan has been trying to implicate India – to a local and global audience, that India is the problem. Pakistan looks at this as an opportunity to counter India's dossier since the Mumbai attacks in 2008.

In perspective
First, India and Pakistan returning to a political table look bleak, with both countries accusing each other. While Islamabad has been insisting on negotiations, its actions – from its increased political rhetoric on J&K to the new dossier, does not give an impression, that Pakistan is making the environment conducive for a political approach. On the other hand, New Delhi has not responded so far with any hints that it is considering a return to a political table. It insists on terrorism and violence sponsored by Pakistan has to stop before any attempt towards a meaningful dialogue.

Second, with an increasing presence of China inside Pakistan, and a political divide between China and India, Beijing is becoming a factor in India-Pakistan relations. While New Delhi wants Beijing away from India-Pakistan bilateral relationship, Islamabad would want to bring China inside the bilateral equation.

Third, developments within J&K is likely to complicate any future India-Pakistan dialogue. India has made constitutional changes to J&K. On the other hand, there has been discussion within Pakistan to provide a provincial status to Gilgit Baltistan and make it as its fifth province. This would mean new actors and new issues when India and Pakistan decide to restart the political dialogue.


Also, from around the world
Peace and Conflict from Southeast and South Asia
Myanmar: Post electoral win, Suu Kyi's NLD extends the hand of unity to minorities 
On 13 November, Monywa Aung Shin, the central information committee secretary of the National League for Democracy (NLD), said that the party has sent an open letter to the ethnic political parties representing minority groups in Myanmar inviting them to work in unity for the democratic federal union. The aim is to "work effectively for ethnic affairs and ending the civil war," said the party spokesperson. The gesture comes after the incumbent Aung San Suu Kyi-led NLD returned to power securing 399 of 642 parliamentary seats. The election had previously come under fire for reports on barring off voting in the conflict-prone regions. Thus, the letter by NLD to its 48 ethnic political parties: Kachin, Karen, Shan, Rakhine, Mon, Kayan, Lahu, Ta'ang, Kaman, Khami, Mro, Dainet, Tai Leng, Chin, Danu, Zomi, Kokang, Dawei, Pao, Akha, Zo, Naga, Kayah, Lisu, Wa, and Inn is a much-needed step for inclusive democracy.

India: After Mizoram, border dispute spurs between Assam and Nagaland
On 14 November, Assam's border row with its neighbours in the Northeast of India has expanded from areas adjoining Mizoram to Nagaland. After a few days of normalcy at the Assam-Mizoram border, five organizations based in Assam's Karbi Anglong district have threatened to impose an economic blockade against Nagaland on 20 November owing to reports of encroachments by the latter. The forest officials in Karbi Anglong have also raised concerns over encroachment by people from Nagaland by removing pillars demarcating the 512.1-km border between the two states. The Nagaland government has however denied any charges of "illegal occupation" of land in Assam, claiming that its police personnel was keeping vigil within the state's periphery. 

India: OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime comes under regulation
On 11 November, the Centre issued a notification bringing OTT platforms (digital video services) such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hotstar under the ambit of the Information & Broadcasting ministry for regulation, thereby allowing the latter to draft rules on any digital contents produced by these platforms. Earlier, the government had asked OTT platforms to come up with a self-regulatory mechanism, but in September the model proposed by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) proved dissatisfactory for the Centre. With the Centre regulating the code of ethics, the morality of contents, and the definition of prohibited contents, India extends its idea of colonial-era censorship to its digital platforms.

India: Gupkar alliance for Article 370 in J&K suffers the unity test
On 11 November, a day before the last day for filing of nominations for the first phase of the District Development Council election elections, the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) in Jammu and Kashmir seems to be failing the "unity test." There remains no consensus on the seat-sharing in the Valley where the alliance is supposed to have more say and weeks ahead of the elections on 28 November. Currently, intra-party disagreements, power struggle and lack of strong leadership has wrecked the future of the alliance, formed to bring back the special status of the state. In addition, the Congress party, despite being a signatory to the Gupkar Declaration, made it clear that its involvement with the alliance was purely restricted to the DDC polls and have sought to field its candidates in opposition to those from the alliance in a few seats in the Kashmir region.

India: Deputy commander-in-chief of ULFA-I surrenders 
On 11 November, the deputy commander-in-chief of the banned armed group United Liberation Front of Assam – Independent (ULFA-I), Drishti Rajkhowa, surrendered to Indian Army Intelligence agencies, according to the press statement by the Defence Ministry. Rajkhowa is said to be a close confidant of the group's chief Paresh Baruah and has been known to be operating and travelling along the Indo-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya, especially in the South Garo Hills district. It is after two failed operations by the Indian Army, that his surrender has followed and this would be "a major blow to the underground organization," read the press statement by the ministry.

Bangladesh: Cricketer Shakib Al Hasan apologies for visiting Kali pujo in West Bengal 
On 16 November, Bangladesh cricketer Shakib Al Hasan issued a public apology after being criticized for attending a ceremony dedicated to Goddess Kali in the Indian state of West Bengal. Shakib recently attended a Kali pujo ceremony in Kolkata wherein he shared the stage for a brief moment with the regional party leader. The apology note by the star cricketer reiterated his values as a Muslim worshiper stating, "I was on the stage for barely two minutes. People are talking about this and thought I inaugurated it. I did not do this and being a conscious Muslim I would not do this. But, maybe, I should not have gone there. I am sorry for this and apologize. As a practising Muslim I always try to follow religious customs. Please forgive me if I have done anything wrong."

Pakistan: CII to prepare a draft to define forced conversions
On 16 November, the Parliamentary Committee to Protect Minorities from Forced Conversions stated that there must be clear definitions of, and differentiation between, forced and voluntary conversions. The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has been asked to undertake the task of preparing a draft to define forced conversions. Additionally, a subcommittee has been formed to look into the proposed draft legislation against forced conversions to formulate a comprehensive law to cover all aspects of forced conversions. This development comes as an attempt to define forced conversion and clarify the matter which has been difficult to address due to its loose interpretation.

Afghanistan: The US-Taliban deal cannot be the basis for all topics in talks says, Abdullah Abdullah
On 16 November, Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the High Council for National Reconciliation said, "Afghanistan has not ignored the (US-Taliban) agreement, but it cannot be the basis for all our discussions. The Afghan community wants a peace that represents views all the people of Afghanistan." This comes as negotiations in Doha have been temporarily stopped over disputed points on the ground rules. Further, regarding the US President Donald Trump decision for the early withdrawal of troop from Afghanistan, he said, "we'll see if the decision is made by January or earlier, but it's a decision that will be made by the US."

Peace and Conflict from Central Asia, Middle East and Africa
Armenia: Foreign Minister resigns indicating internal political fallout over Nagorno-Karabakh deal
On 16 November, Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan resigned amid public outrage over the ceasefire signed with Azerbaijan on 9 November. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and FM Mnatsakanyan had indicated a disagreement over ceding the city of Shushi to Azerbaijan. The PM had remarked that the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh could have been averted if Armenia had "voluntarily ceded control of seven regions surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh as well as Shushi Meanwhile, President Armen Sarkissian suggested that Pashinyan's government resign and an elected interim government be set up.

Iraq: Four rockets strike Green Zone in Baghdad
On 17 November, four rockets landed in the green zone which houses government officials and diplomatic missions in Baghdad; three rockets landed outside the zone. According to a US official, there were no casualties among the US persons. However, Iraqi officials said at least two Iraqi security personnel and a child have died in the attack. The attack came less than an hour after the Trump administration announced its plan to reduce the US troops from 3,000 to 2,500. Previously, the US had threatened to shut its diplomatic missions in Iraq due to frequent attacks targeting the US Embassy. 

Iraq: Criticism rise over closing camps for IDPs
On 16 November, the International aid groups, including the Norwegian Refugee Council, have criticized Iraq's move to shut down camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) by the end of November. According to the Norwegian Refugee Council, Iraq has at least 2,40,000 IDPs who had fled the Daesh attacks. The aid groups said the families being evacuated have no home to return to. Further, families who had members involved with the Daesh may face arrest and threats from their tribes.

Israel: Palestine Authority to resume cooperation with Israel
On 17 November, Civil Affairs Minister Hussain al-Sheikh of the Palestinian Authority (PA) said Palestine will resume engagement with Israel after the latter reiterated its commitment to past agreements. The minister cited verbal agreements and written letters from Israel which confirmed the latter's commitment to past agreements. He said relations with Israel "will return to how it was" prior to May 2020. In May, PA President Mahmoud Abbas had suspended all agreements and refused to accept tax revenue transactions from Israel.

Somalia: Six killed in a suicide attack in Mogadishu
On 17 November, six people including two police officers died and at least 10 were wounded in a suicide attack at a restaurant in the capital city of Mogadishu. Al-Shabab claimed the attack. The attack comes after the Somali military captured three senior Al-Shabab commanders in a military operation in the Hiraan province. The outfit frequently attacks, especially in Mogadishu, to overthrow the government.

South Sudan: Over 1000 killed in communal strife, says UN envoy
On 17 November, United Nations Special Envoy for South Sudan David Shearer said more than 1000 people were killed and over 400 abducted in communal conflicts in the last six months. Cattle-raiding led to the recent series of revenge attacks. Shearer warned that the dry season in January could lead to further escalation of violence and called for a national dialogue as observers feared that communal violence could derail the peace process established in 2017 to end the civil war. Meanwhile, on the same day, President Salva Kiir said: "Only homegrown solutions can bring about lasting peace in South Sudan."

DRC: Violence in North Kivu continues
On 17 November, bodies of 29 people were found in Virunga National Park in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Further, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC said six people were killed in a nearby village by rebel forces. The local government blamed the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan armed group. The Kivu Security Tracker said 811 civilians were killed since the Congolese Army launched operations against the ADF on 31 October 2019.

Peace and Conflict from Europe and the Americas 
Russia: Putin promotes Russian COVID-19 vaccines at the BRICS summit
On 17 November, Russian President Vladimir Putin told BRICS leaders that their vaccines "work effectively and safely." He urged the members to "join forces" for the mass production of the shots. Further, while addressing the summit he said "coordinating collective BRICS measures" to tackle the pandemic is the alliance's priority, adding that Russia was ready to cooperate with its BRICS partners "in the manufacturing and use" of the Russian-made vaccines. This announcement came after two companies Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. said their vaccines appears to be 94.5 per cent effective and 90 per cent effective respectively.

Russian: Mutated coronavirus strain 'forming in Siberia'
On 17 November, Anna Popova, head of the federal health and consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor stated, "We are witnessing certain changes in the Siberian Region which allows us to suppose that its own variant [of coronavirus] is forming in this region with certain mutations." Popova went on to state that this was however not limited to Siberia but rather a mutation that is already widely spread abroad. Isolated cases of a mutation that is spread in Japan have been identified in certain regions of [Russia's] European part." This comes as Russia has recorded the world's fifth-largest caseload of the coronavirus.

Greece: In its first, refugee charged over son's drowning death to crossover from Turkey
On 17 November, BBC reported that the authorities in Greece charged an Afghan refugee for endangering his six-year-old son's life after the boat they were using capsized off Samos Island on 8 November leaving the child dead. The Afghan man could face a six-year prison sentence if found guilty in what is seen to be the first such case in the country. According to his lawyer, a distress call went out to the coastguard at midnight, however, a vehicle was sent to look for the body six hours later, adding that the police should investigate that delay rather than the actions of the father. Further, this comes amid a new surge of asylum seekers, wherein this year alone thousands of migrants have arrived in Greece from Turkey and more than 1,400 have landed on Samos alone, according to the United Nations.

The Netherlands: Gun attack on the Saudi Embassy in the Hague 
On 12 November, shots were fired at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in The Hague, leaving bullet holes across the building's façade. No one was injured in the attack and a 40-year-old man from the nearby town has been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the shooting incident. However, the motive for the shooting is not yet known. This attack came a day after a bomb attack at a World War I remembrance service in Jeddah injured at least two people. The attack drew condemned by Islamic organizations and the international community. The Saudi embassy in the Netherlands denounced the attack as "cowardly," further, the Dutch Foreign Ministry said that it was taking the shooting "extremely seriously" and was in close contact with Saudi authorities.

The US: Violence erupts after pro-Trump supporters rally, Trump refuses to concede 
On 14 November, thousands of supporters of US President Donald Trump fought on the streets of Washington, DC with counter-demonstrators. One person was stabbed while the police have arrested at least 20 people. Further, Trump is seen to have approved the gathering by dispatching his motorcade through streets lined with supporters. This came one day after the last two states of the election were called. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. won Georgia to finish with a total of 306 electoral votes and Trump won North Carolina, for a total of 232 electoral votes. Further, Trump has refused to concede the race, reiterating his claim that he would have won if not for what he has claimed were widespread voter irregularities.

Peru: Francisco Sagasti sworn in as the next interim president, calls for calm after protests 
On 17 November, Francisco Sagasti was sworn in as interim president after the Congress elected him to return stability to a country. Sagasti, a legislator from the centrist Purple Party, is expected to serve out his term until July next year, with a new presidential election scheduled for 11 April. Further, this is expected to ease tension on the streets after the impeachment of former president Martín Vizcarra on 9 November, whose anti-graft agenda caused tensions with Congress, triggered a nationwide protest believed to be Peru's worst political crisis in more than a decade. Vizcarra's successor, Manuel Merino, resigned on 15 November after serving just five days in power. Although Sagasti's appointment appears to have brought the tensions down, a deep mistrust of the country's politicians remains.

Mexico: Police fire on femicide protest in Cancun
On 10 November, BBC reported that local police in Cancun fired shots at protesters who tried to force their way into Cancun city hall during a demonstration against the country's femicide crisis. The state governor called for the suspension of the police chief while Mexico's interior ministry and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, responded to the incident, calling for a thorough investigation into the incident. Gender-based killings of women, often termed 'femicide,' is extremely prevalent in Mexico, and with the issue fuelling countless protests all over the country. As April of this year was the deadliest month in the last five years with a record 267 murders of women. This incident was the latest in which feminist protests have been met with police violence.

About the authors
Lokendra Sharma is a PhD Scholar at the School of Conflict and Security Studies at NIAS; Sourina Bej, Apoorva Sudhakar and Abigail Miriam Fernandez Project Associate and Research Assistants at NIAS.

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