Overview of the global crisis shows that in the month of March 2017 fighting intensified in Libya over oil installations and in the capital Tripoli, an assault on Hodeida city by the Saudi-led coalition and allied Yemeni forces looks imminent in Yemen and violence spiked in Kasai Central province and uncertainty grew over talks to establish interim governing arrangements in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Ethnic fighting worsened in Kenya driven partly by drought. Macedonia and Paraguay witnessed heightened political tensions, while Venezuela’s political standoff took another dangerous turn.
In Libya, the Benghazi Defence Brigade (BDB), a coalition comprising mostly fighters from Benghazi opposed to strongman General Khalifa Haftar and including members of jihadist group Ansar Sharia, took over key oil terminals at Sidra and Ras Lanuf in early March. But by mid-month General Haftar’s Libyan National Army had taken them back and pushed the BDB back to Jufra to the south-west.
Meanwhile, in Tripoli in the west, rival armed factions clashed in several neighbourhoods and fighting could escalate if forces from Misrata step in to confront local groups. As Crisis Group warned, fighting over oil facilities risks reducing oil exports at a time when the country is in dire need of cash flow. It also threatens to undermine efforts to knit back together the western and eastern halves of Libya around the internationally recognised Government of National Accord.
Making agreements on who is in charge of securing oil fields and terminals will be a crucial first step to stabilise the frail economy.
In Yemen, intense fighting continued on several fronts between the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and allied Yemeni forces on one side and Huthi rebels alongside supporters of former President Saleh on the other. There is a risk of yet worse violence in April as an offensive by the Saudi-led coalition on the Red Sea port city of Hodeida looks imminent.
Democratic Republic of Congo
In DRC, violence involving the KamuinaNsapu militia in Kasai Central province spiked. Militants clashed with government forces and allegedly decapitated 39 police officers caught in an ambush. Three people who went missing early March, including two UN experts investigating the violence, were found dead two weeks later. Meanwhile, after a new round of talks between the ruling majority and opposition failed to reach agreement on critical aspects of governing arrangements until national elections, the Catholic Church withdrew from its mediating role. The presidency said talks would continue, but without the religious
Meanwhile, after a new round of talks between the ruling majority and opposition failed to reach agreement on critical aspects of governing arrangements until national elections, the Catholic Church withdrew from its mediating role. The presidency said talks would continue, but without the religious leaders, their chances of achieving a consensual way forward are still more uncertain.
In Kenya, ethnic conflicts and raids by herders rose in the north where drought is heightening tensions over resources. Borana raiders attacked Samburu herders on the border between Isiolo and Samburu counties, leaving ten people dead, while Pokot bandits in Baringo county killed ten. In Laikipia county, thousands of herders continued to drive their livestock onto private ranches in search of pasture and armed herders shot dead a ranch director.
Macedonia’s political crisis deepened on 1 March after President Ivanov refused to hand opposition Social Democrat party leader Zoran Zaev a mandate to form a new government, despite his majority support in parliament. Ivanov claimed that Zaev’s acceptance of demands from ethnic Albanian parties – including a new law extending the use of Albanian as a second official language – in return for their support could “destroy” the country.
Zaev accused Ivanov of pushing Macedonia into a “constitutional and national crisis”, while EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini urged the country’s political leaders not to “turn this into an inter-ethnic confrontation that would ruin the country and probably spread further”.
In Belarus, President Aleksandr Lukashenka’s government cracked down on protesters calling on it to scrap a controversial tax on people working less than six months a year. Hundreds of people were detained as protests continued during the month.
In Latin America, violent protests broke out in Paraguay’s capital Asunción on 31 March, with protesters storming and setting fire to the parliament building after senators voted to approve a bill amending the constitution to lift the one-term limit on the presidency. Opponents say the bill, which would allow President Cartes to run for re-election next year, would weaken democratic institutions.
Tensions spiralled in Venezuela at the end of the month after the pro-government Supreme Court assumed the legislative powers of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, claiming it was in contempt of court for failing to suspend three legislators accused of electoral fraud. The opposition accused the court of attempting to impose a dictatorship, and Venezuela’s neighbours rushed to condemn the move.
The Supreme Court reversed its decision on 1 April following a public request by President Maduro’s government, prompting observers to speculate about internal divisions within the regime. The episode came amid an acrimonious debate within the Organization of American States over whether to invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter and suspend Venezuela’s membership.