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Conflict Monitoring Report: May 2024

Written by Elena De Mitri, Arianna Lucà, Mickey Beckmann, Jacob Dickinson, Marnix Van ‘t Hoff, Sara Frisan 


 
  • Russia-Ukraine: Russia opened a new offensive toward Kharkiv. Western aid is finally improving for Ukraine, which is scrambling to take the momentum away from Russia.

  • Israel-Hamas: Despite the international community’s warnings to halt its offensive on Gaza, the IDF attacked two designated safe zones in Rafah, killing dozens of civilians. 

  • Myanmar: Ethnic armed groups continue to make advances against the military junta. 

  • Sudan:  Fighting between SAF and RSF has intensified, especially in Al-Fashir, SAF's final stronghold, as the humanitarian crisis worsens.

  • New Caledonia: Violence erupted after the central government proposed to extend local voting rights to mainland French citizens. Tensions remain high. 

  • Ethiopia: The renewed fighting between Tigray and Amhara militias in northern Ethiopia escalates risks of turmoil and conflict in the country. 

  • Mali: As the military junta in Mali extends its rule until 2027, opposition politicians in exile form a rival transitional government. 

  • Colombia: Caught amid protests and setbacks in the peace process, Petro's government faces instability and rising violence. 

  • Taiwan: China conducts military exercises after the inauguration of new Taiwanese president Lai China-te, significant protests against KMT-proposed legislation.

  • Georgia:  The presidential veto on the foreign agent law was overturned by the Parliament, as protests continued throughout the month.

  • DRC: A new government has been formed amidst escalating conflict in the eastern DRC between the Congolese Army and Rwandan-backed M23 rebels. 

  • Haiti: As Haiti is gripped by gang violence and the worsening humanitarian crisis, the appointment of a new PM rekindles hopes for long-awaited international support

  • North Korea: North Korea continues to test missiles in the Sea of Japan



Conflicts, May 2024 


Russia-Ukraine

In early May 2024, Russia opened up a new offensive from the Russian-Ukraine border to Kharkiv. This new offensive gained ground quickly in the opening days but now seems to have crashed against Ukraine’s first layer of prepared defensive positions. Russia has, since the start of this new offensive, targeted civilian infrastructure in Kharkiv, resulting in a significant rise in civilian casualties in the city. The aim of this offensive, as claimed by Russia, is to establish a ‘sanitary zone’ to prevent Ukraine from shooting into Russia from near the border. An alternate aim for this offensive could be to force Ukraine to redirect manpower from the other fronts in the East and South. In response to the mass targeting of civilians in Kharkiv, western countries are discussing the option of allowing Ukraine to use their donated weapons against targets on Russian soil. 


As new Western aid bills are passing, with the most notable being the US aid bill for $61 billion, Ukraine seems finally able to dampen the momentum Russia has had in the past months. In some locations, Ukraine has even managed to gain back recently lost ground. The renewed vigor in Western support, although still lacking in numbers and pace, will possibly allow Ukraine to once again turn the tide


Israel-Hamas  

Despite months of talks and efforts by Egypt, Qatar, and the US to carry out negotiations between Israel and Hamas, the situation remains stalled. Both sides accuse each other of obstructing agreements to prolong the conflict. Hamas demands a permanent fire and Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Israel seeks the release of hostages held by Hamas, and it does not agree to a full withdrawal of its forces from the Gaza Strip as part of any ceasefire deal. 


On May 26 and 28, 2024, bypassing a landmark ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordering Israel to halt its offensive in Gaza, the IDF conducted deadly airstrikes targeting designated safe zones in north of Rafah, where thousands of displaced civilians were sheltering. Israel denied targeting humanitarian areas, claiming it was aiming at senior Hamas operatives. Following the attack, the White House announced that the US would not change its policy and support toward Israel, as the recent strikes on Rafah did not constitute a "major ground operation" and Israel's actions did not cross any' “red lines." In response to the Israeli strike on Rafah, Hamas informed mediators they would not participate in negotiations. The recent escalation has made it nearly impossible for humanitarian groups to import and distribute aid to southern Gaza. Currently, the humanitarian situation remains highly dire in Gaza, with millions of people displaced and living in extreme famine conditions.


Moreover, over the past days, the Israeli forces took operational control of the “Philadelphi corridor”, a long corridor along the Gaza Strip that borders only Egypt, giving them more control over the Palestinian territory. On May 27, a shooting took place between Israeli and Egyptian personnel near the crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, killing a member of the Egyptian personnel. 


The escalation in Rafah is receiving condemnation and reactions from the international community. Spain, Ireland, and Norway have formally recognized the Palestinian state. On May 20, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for two Israeli leaders, including PM Netanyahu, and three Hamas leaders. Even though several countries, including Israel, do not recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction, it was the first time the Court took action against leaders of a nation closely allied with the US and Europe, suggesting Israel's growing isolation over its campaign in Gaza. 



Myanmar 

The fighting in Myanmar’s civil war has been intense throughout the month, seven months after the beginning of a combined offensive by ethnic armed groups and pro-democracy forces called Operation 1027. The resistance has gained 55 towns around Arakan State since the start of the offensive and controls around 60% of the territory of Myanmar. The military junta, otherwise known as the State Administration Council, has faced mass desertions from junta soldiers, yet it has not crumbled. The junta has increased the use of drones for surveillance and airstrike spotting to target resistance forces. The civil war is raging across the country on the border with Thailand, on the border with China. The situation on the border of India is seeing intense fighting between the junta troops and the Arakan Army (AA), an ethnic group fighting for more autonomy for the Rakhine ethnic population in the state. The UN estimates that 45,000 out of 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, where one million Rohingya already live with the ongoing genocide of the Rohingya in Myanmar since 2016. Reports have emerged of forcible conscription of the Rohingya by the AA and the military junta. The ruling military junta is on the back foot around the country, yet it is showing few signs of weakening. Given the ongoing ability of the SAC to hold on to the country’s major cities, such as Yangon and Mandalay, the conflict is likely to continue longer than some had predicted. 


Sudan 

Sudan is experiencing a severe humanitarian crisis due to ongoing conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). In the past year, the conflict has resulted in over 15,000 casualties and approximately 8 million internally displaced people. Al-Fashir (or El Fasher), the capital of North Darfur, has become the epicenter of the conflict, with RSF fighters encircling it for a final assault on the army's final stronghold. Nomadic Arab militias support the RSF, while non-Arab Darfuri armed groups support the army, escalating the risk of ethnically motivated violence and genocide in the region. According to the UN, the escalation of violence in Al-Fashir is rapidly deteriorating the humanitarian situation of around 800.000 people. In the last two weeks, fighting in the area resulted in over 130 fatalities and over 1200 displaced people. On May 28, the army intensified airstrikes in targeting the town of Kutum in North Darfur to disrupt RSF reinforcements headed to Al-Fashir. Medical facilities are being targeted, and hospitals are running out of medical supplies, with both the army and RSF obstructing aid delivery. While the army restricts UN agencies' assistance delivery in RSF-controlled areas, escalating clashes led to the shutdown of a key humanitarian corridor with Chad in early May, with the latest violence halting aid convoys coming through Chad's Tina and Adré border crossings. The UN reports that 25 million people need humanitarian assistance, with four million facing famine. 


Over a year into the conflict, Sudan's security situation is highly volatile, with fighting showing no sign of easing. The humanitarian crisis is worsening, with dramatic levels of violence against civilians, food insecurity, and sexual violence. The conflict in Sudan has far-reaching consequences, fueling cross-border instability and the risk of spillover into the region and creating an opportunity for jihadist groups to gain a foothold in the country. 



Alerts, May 2024 


New Caledonia 

Protests erupted in New Caledonia on May 13, 2024, as lawmakers in mainland France discussed a new constitutional amendment, later adopted on May 14, which will give citizens of mainland France who have lived in New Caledonia for ten years the right to vote in provincial elections. Locals opposed this amendment as they feared that the votes of the French people would quell the desires of the indigenous Kanak population. Moreover, this would break the terms of the 1998 Nouméa Accord, which granted the Kanak more representation. Buildings were torched and looted, while many roads were barricaded, including connections to the local airport, creating difficulties in the provision of food and medicines. Demonstrators, supported by Azerbaijan, clashed with local police, resulting in a few casualties. French authorities declared a state of emergency and, in a very criticized move, banned TikTok, which was allegedly used to coordinate violence. The ban was lifted on May 29. Police reinforcements were deployed to calm the situation. Relations between locals and mainland France have been tense as part of the local population has strived for independence. While neighboring countries have organized evacuations for their citizens, French President Macron briefly visited New Caledonia to try to de-escalate the situation. The state of emergency was lifted on May 27, as Macron decided to delay the constitutional reform vote attempting to reach a political deal with local leaders. Even though the situation is currently calmer, the government is set on eventually passing this reform, which might cause demonstrations to return. In the meantime, New Caledonia's international airport will remain closed at least until June 2. 


Ethiopia

Nearly two years after the end of the so-called Tigray War (2020-2022) between Ethiopian government forces and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), recent escalations of violence are threatening the fragile peace in northern Ethiopia. Despite signing a peace agreement in Pretoria in November 2022, tensions between the Tigray and Amhara regions persist over a territorial dispute. The disputed area, located on the Ethiopian border with Sudan, was controlled by the Tigray administration until its seizure by Amhara forces in 2020. The Amhara administration has long-standing claims to the territory, claiming it was forcibly annexed to Tigray in the 1990s. The Amhara forces have been accused of ethnic cleansing which forced hundreds of thousands of ethnic Tigrayans to flee the region, allegations denied by the Amhara regional government. Since February 2024, a resurgence of armed clashes between TPLF and the Fano militia, respectively from the Tigray and Amhara regions, has been reported. The latest clashes caused over 50.000 displaced people and raised humanitarian concerns. In April 2024, the TPLF took control of the Raya Alamata district, in the Amhara region. The Amhara regional government denounced the Tigraryan "invasion." On top of recent clashes, Tigray is willing to speed up the process of return of ethnic Tigrayans displaced during the conflict in the contested region, as agreed in the peace deal. In early May 2024, the Tigray administration and the Ethiopian government finalized a plan to return the internally displaced people by July 7. Moreover, in May 2024, clashes between the Ethiopian National Defense Force and Fano militia intensified in the Amhara region. Several civilians have been killed in government airstrikes. 


Along with the resumption of fighting in northern Ethiopia, other conflicts and instability persist in the country, increasing the risk of a humanitarian crisis and a large-scale conflict escalation. Clashes between the government security forces and local militias are reported in Oromia and Gambela regions. In the Oromia region, the government is intensifying the anti-insurgency efforts against the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). In Gambela, civilian casualties are rising due to fighting between the state police and unidentified armed groups. 


Mali

While the humanitarian crisis is deepening in northern Mali due to besieging major towns by armed groups linked to the Islamic State, the country is experiencing a time of political turmoil and increasingly authoritarian turn. In early April 2024, the authorities suspended all politically oriented activities by civil society and political parties, banned all media coverage of political parties, and announced an indefinite suspension of elections. Elections in Mali were initially scheduled for February 2024, but postponed by the military junta for "technical reasons". Since December 2023, the military junta has been carrying out an initiative known as the Mali National Dialogue or Inter-Malian Dialogue to address the country's multiple challenges, including political transition, national reconciliation, and security. Following the junta's restriction of political rights, the opposition and many civil society organizations boycotted the talks. On May 10, 2024, it was reported that the participants of the dialogue recommended the extension of the transition period from 12 to 36 months, which could mean the extension of the military junta's power until 2027. In response, on May 25, Malians opposition politicians announced the formation of a transitional government in exile to rival the military junta and foster the mobilization of Malians residing in the country.  Meanwhile, the military junta is concentrating its efforts on limiting dissent. On May 27, an ally of Mali's civilian Prime Minister Kaiga, chosen by the junta but whose room for maneuver appears very limited, was arrested for openly criticizing the military regime. 


Colombia

Colombia's fragile peace process, known as Paz Total (Total Peace), suffered setbacks in May 2024. Negotiations with two of the main armed groups in the country, the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Estado Mayor Central (EMC), are currently stalled. On the one hand, despite the resumption of talks between the government  and the ELN, the group announced in early May the lifting of the suspension of kidnappings stipulated in the December 2023 ceasefire. On the other hand, the government partially suspended the ceasefire with the EMC in some departments due to violence against civilians, indigenous leaders, and security officials. Indeed, despite the government's efforts, levels of violence and conflict in the country remain high, suggesting that President Petro's stabilization strategy is not working.  


The Petro administration is also facing massive protests. Delays in implementing the pledged socio-economic reforms, repeatedly blocked by the opposition, are spawning widespread popular dissatisfaction and eroding the President's popularity. Currently, the situation in Colombia remains unstable as a result of the political crisis and the fragmentation of the peace process, which raises the risk of new escalations of violence and a worsening humanitarian situation. 


Taiwan

Taiwan’s new president, Lai Ching-te, took office on 20 May. He announced in his inaugural speech that he would be open to dialogue with China, but stated that China must respect the sovereignty of Taiwan’s democracy. Beijing sees Lai as a ‘separatist’, and responded with two days of military exercises around Taiwan and its islands near the mainland, Matsu and Kinmen. The military drills were intended to simulate a blockade of Taiwan in the event of an invasion and an attempt to threaten what China terms 'secessionist forces’ in Taiwan. Moreover, Taiwan’s domestic politics were upended after legislation passed by the more pro-China parties in Taiwan’s legislature requiring business people, security officials, and politicians to answer questions under the threat of financial penalties. Supporters of the bill, including the Kuomintang (China Nationalist Party), said that the reforms were necessary to refine Taiwan’s democracy. However, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets against the new legislation, calling the measures anti-democratic and against the interests of Taiwan’s national security. Critics fear that officials could be called to reveal sensitive national security information. With a strong culture of protest in the country and the passage of the deeply divisive bill, the protests are likely to continue in the coming months.  


Updates, May 2024


Georgia

Protests against the “foreign agents bill” in the capital, Tbilisi, and other major cities, have continued throughout the month. On May 14, 2024, the controversial bill was adopted as violent clashes erupted inside and outside the parliament. Activists are worried that this law may be used to silence dissent, as it happened with a similar Russian law. Many allies of Georgia, including European countries and the US, have spoken against the bill, stating that it will hamper Georgia’s path to access the European Union. The EU is considering freezing accession talks with Georgia, and the Council of Europe asked Georgia to withdraw the law. More measures will likely be taken by the EU in June. In the meantime, the US imposed visa restrictions on the members of Georgian Dream, the main party in the government, and announced a review of its relations with Tbilisi. Police violently cracked down on protests with water cannons, intimidation, and arrests. Even though Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili vetoed the law on May 18, the parliament rejected the veto on May 27. On May 28, protesters gathered around Georgia’s parliament as the lawmakers overrode the veto. It is expected that the protests in Georgia will continue on a daily basis in the upcoming weeks. 


Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

The humanitarian situation in the country is deteriorating, especially in the regions of North Kivu, South Kivu, and Ituri. Since the beginning of 2024, nearly 358,000 people have been internally displaced, and many have died in the heavy fighting. Clashes persist between the Congolese army and the M23 rebel group. M23 rebels reportedly attacked refugee camps near Goma on May 3, causing 12 fatalities and over 30 injured. The attack on refugee camps received international condemnation as a violation of humanitarian law and human rights. The UN and the US blamed both M23 and Rwanda, widely accused of backing the M23, for the deadly attacks. Moreover, international observers denounce the fight for control and exploitation of mineral resources as a root cause of violence  and likely the primary reason for  Rwandan backing of M23. On May 1, the M23 forces seized Rubaya, a key coltan mining town in eastern DRC. 


After months of negotiations and political uncertainty since the re-election of President Tshisekedi on December 31, 2023, the Democratic Republic of Congo announced a new government on May 29, confirming Judith Sumonwa Tuluka, as DRC’s first female PM.  The formation of the government came a few days after what the Congolese Army called an “attempted military coup”. On May 19, 100 armed men attacked several sites in central Kinshasa, including the president’s official residence. Three people died, including two Congolese security officials and the attackers' alleged leader, Christian Malanga, a diaspora opposition figure. About 50 people were arrested, including three U.S. citizens. 


Haiti 

May 2024 has been a tumultuous month for Haiti. After appointing Fritz Bélizaire as interim prime minister on April 30, the transition council reversed its decision due to internal disagreements about the president's functions. On May 28, the council appointed former PM Garry Conille, who was in office for seven months in 2012, to resume this role and use his experience at the UN to stabilize the country. However, political stability remains elusive as gangs lay siege to Port-au-Prince.  From January to March 2024, over 2,500 people were killed or injured, and 1.4 million Haitians faced famine due to the lack of essential supplies and limited aid deliveries. While the seaport remains closed, the Toussaint Louverture International Airport reopened on May 20, raising hopes for the deployment of the Multinational Security Support (MSS) mission. By May 16, U.S.-funded contractors were working with Haitian officials to prepare for the MSS. On May 21, 200 Kenyan police officers arrived in Haiti to assess the situation and meet the Haitian police and the transitional council. However, logistical issues, including unfinished bases and a lack of resources, forced the Kenyan officers to return home, delaying deployment by three weeks, according to Kenyan President William Ruto. 


Despite the appointment of a new Prime Minister rekindling hopes for the deployment of the long-awaited international support and the political transitional process, the situation in Haiti remains volatile. Due to widespread violence, the rate of displaced persons, and scarcity of aid, the country is experiencing a dramatic humanitarian crisis. Moreover, it is not yet clear whether the decision of the transition council will trigger gang backlash and result in a new escalation of violence. 


North Korea

Tensions on the Korean Peninsular continued throughout May 2024. North Korea continued missile testing, firing several missiles into the Sea of Japan. North Korea has increased missile testing significantly over the past few years and improved military collaboration with Russia in exchange for missile development. The US, South Korea, and Japan have also stepped up military exercises around the Peninsular in an attempt to deter North Korean missile attempts. On 28 May, China, South Korea, and Japan held discussions for the first time in four years as they sought to revive regional cooperation. Among other regional security issues, they discussed the North Korean missile launches. On May 30, North Korea launched 10 short-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, a couple of days after a North Korean spy satellite attempted to launch but quickly exploded shortly after take-off. The risks of an incident are raising tensions and further instability in the region. 



 
Conflict Monitoring Report_ May 2024
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About the authors 


Elena de Mitri 

Elena is a highly motivated person with a strong interest in international security. She holds a Master's degree in International Studies from the University of Turin, where she focused on regime changes and human rights. Her academic journey also includes a Bachelor's degree in Foreign Languages and Cultures, with a focus on the MENA region and muslim societies. Additionally she pursued a Minor in Gender Studies, enhancing her understanding of the intersectionality of various issues in international contexts. During her previous traineeship at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission she conducted research on terrorist groups, especially on jihadist groups and right-wing extremists.


Arianna Lucà

Arianna is a new intern at Dyami, covering the role of Research Intelligence Analyst to enrich her background knowledge in International Relations with topics involving security and conflict. She holds an MA in International Relations from Leiden University and an LLM in European Criminal Justice from Utrecht University. During her academic career, she has volunteered for different NGOs, mainly Amnesty International, and Emergency and ActionAid, embracing humanitarian and conflict security causes, and addressing issues like famine and lack of security in different regions of the world. With Dyami, she is contributing to joint publications, writing articles, and keeping up to date with key regional developments.


Mickey Beckmann

Mickey is currently enrolled in the master’s program Conflict Studies & Human Rights at the University of Utrecht. As of a young age she felt the need to help people in dire circumstances, which evolved into a deep interest and drive to address sociocultural and political issues related to conflict. Motivated to make the world a safer and more accessible place, she completed a bachelor in ‘International Relations in Historical Perspective’ at Utrecht University. Eager to broaden her knowledge of geopolitical conflict and security, during her internship at Dyami she will actively participate in writing collaborative publications and authoring articles, with a main focus on the region North and Sub-Saharan Africa.


Iris de Boer

Iris works as a Global Intelligence Analyst at Dyami, leveraging her background in Human Geography. Additionally, Iris holds an MA degree in Conflict Studies and Human Rights from Utrecht University, specializing in conflict analysis, peace processes, and geopolitics. Her MA thesis delved into the securitization of the war in Ukraine by the Heads of State, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and Ministers of Defense of the Netherlands and Poland. Within Dyami, Iris is actively involved in security risk management, travel security, and geopolitical analysis. Her enthusiasm for addressing topics in international security extends across a diverse spectrum of countries and regions.


Sara Frisan 

Sara joined Dyami as a Junior Intelligence/Research Analyst post-graduate intern to deepen her passionate interest in conflict analysis and security. Sara recently completed her MA in Conflict Studies and Human Rights at Utrecht University and held an MA degree in International Sciences and Peace Studies. During her academic career, she conducted research in South America, primarily Colombia, on the dynamics of collaboration and resistance between civilians and non-state armed groups in violent settings. In her previous internship at the investigative think-tank InSight Crime, Sara developed some expertise on transnational organized crime and political-criminal alliances.  




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