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  • Conflict Monitoring Report: February 2024

    Written by Mickey Beckmann, Elena de Mitri, Sara Frisan, Marnix Van t’Hoff, Jacob Dickinson Russia-Ukraine: Avdiivka is conquered by Russia, a new Russian offensive is opened towards Kupiansk. Israel-Hamas-Hezbollah: Fighting is moving towards Rafah. Hezbollah fire rockets into Israel, Israel responded with airstrikes. Deterioration of humanitarian situation in Gaza. Myanmar: Civil war intensifies across the country as the military junta commits human rights abuses and calls for mass conscription. Sudan: Clashes between the RSF and SAF continue, worsening the humanitarian crisis. Argentina: As the government reorganizes after Congress's rejection of Milei's controversial reform package, massive protests against rising poverty across Argentina. Senegal: Widespread protests as the President Sall delays election date. Sahel - ECOWAS: Turmoil in West-Africa tests ECOWAS’s ability to uphold its goals of economic growth and the increasing of democratic practices. North Korea-Russia: North Korea abandons commitment to re-unification and conducts live fire exercises against South Korea Yeonpyeong island. DRC: The renewed advance of the rebel movement M23 in North Kivu triggers anti-Western sentiments and protests across the country. Indonesia: Ahead of announcing Indonesia's official election results, protesters challenge the victory of former general Prabowo Subianto. Conflicts, February 2024 Russia-Ukraine February saw the end of Ukrainian control over Avdiivka, bringing an end to the almost 10 year battle over the city. Russia’s extensive use of fighter-bomber aircraft supported by A-50 AEW&C aircraft played a significant role in taking down the Ukrainian defenses. However, now that Ukraine has managed to destroy a second A-50, it seems to have halted A-50 operations for now. As Russia is unwilling to halt its glide bombing campaign, this has resulted in severe losses to Russian aviation in the past 2 weeks now that Ukrainian air defenses have breathing room. After the fall of Avdiivka, there was a potential for a Russian breakthrough at the Eastern front. However, it seems that the Ukrainian Armed Forces (ZSU) has succeeded in stabilizing the front line on prepared defenses behind Avdiivka. The Russian armed forces have opened a new offensive, along most of the Eastern front line. This offensive most likely aims to take Kupiansk, which in turn would allow for the staging of an offensive on Kharkiv. The intensification of Russian activity over the past month can likely be attributed to the elections coming in March, in order for Putin to be able to report positive news to the Russian people concerning the war. While this intensification has allowed Russia successes and gains, the long term effects of these actions could be negative for Russia. Israel-Hamas-Hezbollah In February, the conflict between Israel and Hamas entered its fifth month, with no clear end in sight. IDF main operations continued to move towards the southern part of the Gaza strip, with clearing operations still going on around Gaza City in the north. Ground operations in the first part of the month have focused on Khan Younis and the Nasser Hospital in the city, which the IDF claimed was used by Hamas as a hiding spot for militants and hostages. The next planned target is Rafah, a major city along the southern border with Egypt where 1.3 million displaced Gazans are in desperate need of humanitarian aid. While ground operations still haven’t started, Rafah has already been targeted with airstrikes. In the occupied territories of the West Bank, throughout the month Israeli forces clashed with Palestinians militants and many militants have been arrested. Talks about a ceasefire and hostage exchange deal for the month of Ramadan are slowly progressing with hope that they will reach a conclusion by the beginning of March. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza has worsened since the previous month. Since February 9, there has been a consistent drop in aid deliveries. Humanitarian agencies complained about the difficulty of delivering aid into Gaza without any support from the IDF. The northern part of Gaza is in especially dire conditions, as it presents security challenges to aid delivery. The World Food Programme has stopped delivering aid to the north, while the UNRWA has warned that the suspensions of funds enacted by many countries will leave them unable to work after March. Nevertheless, the shortages of food, water and medical supplies affect the entire territory of the Gaza Strip, with a widespread risk of famine. As of 29 February there are more than 30,000 reported deaths in Gaza. Intensified clashes continued between Israeli forces and Hezbollah along the Israeli-Lebanese border. Israeli airstrikes have focused on southern Lebanon, but have also reached Baablek in eastern Lebanon, in an attempt to target members of Hezbollah and Hamas and Iran-linked individuals. Sporadic airstrikes are also directed at Syrian territory with the same purpose. In the meantime, France is trying to negotiate a deal to stop the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah. Myanmar With February 1st 2024 marking the three years since Myanmar’s military coup, the civil war intensified as the resistance and ethnic groups have beaten back the military junta on multiple fronts. Beginning at the end of October 2023, Operation 1027, a coalition of three resistance forces consisting of pro-democracy and ethnic groups captured Laukkaing, a city consisting of transnational criminal networks on the border with China, and several other significant military outposts. The military stepped up air and artillery strikes on villages and civilians in response. There are also reports of fighting in the western region of Rakhine State. Confronting multiple assaults across the country, the mass surrender and desertion of military troops has sapped morale among the junta’s military forces. To boost its military personnel, the junta has announced mass conscription for civilians residing in areas where the military has control in February 2024. The widespread horror at serving for a deeply unpopular military junta has led to a mass exodus of the population toward the Thai border. Outside actors' influence on the Myanmar military is limited given the self-sufficiency of the Myanmar military, though the renewed strength of rebel groups may give China a greater influence on the country. Beijing has achieved its goal of reducing cross-border transnational crime on the border with Myanmar, but remains concerned about the loss of cross-border trade with southwestern China. It has responded to the military’s attempt for help by negotiating two ceasefires, which quickly broke down. For now, it seems like China is seeking to maximize its leverage of individual groups rather than backing a particular side to protect its infrastructure  and investment interests in the country. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has remained divided on the issue of Myanmar, particularly with its normative claim to ‘non-interference’ in each other's domestic affairs. Earlier in February 2024, 9 members of the UN Security Council condemned the airstrikes made by Myanmar’s military against civilians, called for an immediate ceasefire, and humanitarian aid needed by more than 18 million people in the country and 2.6 million displaced since the beginning of the conflict. The conflict has claimed 50,000 lives, of which at least 8,000 are civilians. The fighting is likely to worsen as the humanitarian situation deteriorates and a peace plan continues to be ignored by the military junta. Sudan As of February 2024, intensified fighting between RSF forces and Sudanese army has been ongoing in the states of Darfur, Kordofan and Khartoum, in southern and eastern areas of Sudan. Fighting has focused mainly around the cities of Khartoum and Al-Fasher with the Sudanese army claiming control of Omdurman on 17 February. Since 5 February the three main Sudanese telecom networks throughout the country have been deactivated, supposedly by the RSF. This heavily impacted the delivery of aid, external communications and electronic payments on which the population is heavily reliant. Blackouts are still ongoing in many parts of the country. Clashes also erupted in the Abyei region, which is currently disputed between Sudan and South Sudan and jointly managed by the two countries. The conflict has displaced 8.1 million people that fled both to other areas of Sudan and to neighboring countries. Most refugees come from Khartoum and Darfur. According to the UNHCR half of the Sudanese population needs humanitarian assistance, but many challenges prevent the delivery of the necessary aid. Severe lack of funding, insecurity and fuel shortages are all negatively affecting the work of aid agencies. Moreover, the SAF-linked Sudanese government has prohibited the delivery of aid through Chad, claiming that Chad is supporting the RSF. UN agencies have called for increased funding to meet Sudanese humanitarian needs, but managed to secure only a fraction of the funds needed. Expected reductions in harvests are likely to exacerbate the humanitarian emergency, as many parts of the country are on the brink of famine.Cases of cholera, dengue fever and other diseases are increasing and overcrowded refugee camps are especially at risk. Reports of ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity depict a worsening scenario. With diplomatic efforts failing to make SAF and RSF generals hold significant talks and neighboring countries allegedly influencing the conflict, it is very unlikely that violence will end soon. This will also affect refugee flows, as many try to flee the conflict ridden areas. Alerts, February 2024 Argentina Since President Milei declared a state of emergency on December 20, 2023 and promulgated the Decree of "Necessity and Urgency" (DNU), significant protests have occurred nationwide in Argentina. Popular and opposition discontent arose from controversial provisions of the decree and the subsequent promulgation of a series of legislative reforms called Omnibus Bill. Milei's reforms focused on drastic deregulation claiming to lift the country's economy, including massive cuts in education, transportation, health, and substantial reductions in workers' rights. In response, on January 24, 2024, the General Confederation of Workers (CGT) called a nationwide strike, and several protests occurred in Argentina's major urban centers in January 2024. On February 2, 2024, while the House of Deputies was debating approval of the Omnibus Bill, hundreds gathered to demonstrate against Milei's austerity plan. Security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. Clashes with police led to 60 protesters being injured and dozens arrested. Despite its initial approval, the Omnibus bill failed article-by-article review, which was then rejected by the lower house of Congress on February 6, thus undoing its previous approval. President Milei reacted by cutting subsidies needed by Argentine governors for services, including transportation. This measure reignited labor union protests and strikes across the country. Also, the economic crisis and rising inflation meant that in January 2024, the poverty rate in the country reached its highest level in the last 20 years. While it remains unclear whether the administration will resubmit the reform package to Congress, the coming weeks will likely experience an escalation in protests demanding food aid and subsidies for the lower classes. Moreover, strikes and protests by labor unions, likely to continue, could result in more significant unrest and disruption of services in major urban centers. Senegal Last year Senegal experienced intensifying political unrest, with June 2023 being one of the most violent months due to clashes following the conviction of Ousmane Sonko, an opposition leader of President Macky Sall. The months after have been characterized by further protests against high cost of living, youth unemployment, and accusation of systemic government corruption. Moving towards the scheduled elections on 25 February, tensions have been rising, led by the December 2023 decision of the Constitution Council to ban several prominent opposition leaders from running for elections. President Salls’ decision on 3rd February to delay the elections, and the vote by the Parliament to postpone them to December instead of August, created further protests and violence. This resulted in  the Constitutional Council’s verdict on 15th February of the delay being unconstitutional. The African Union, along with regional bodies and Western governments thereafter argued for free and fair elections as soon as possible. The election delay plunged Senegal into turmoil, questioning its status as the last bastion of West African democracy. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) expressed its concerns. However, its impact seemed to hold little leverage in a time where it faced criticism with three member states - Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger - defying its demands and declaring late January to withdraw from the bloc, accusing ECOWAS of not assisting them in resolving insecurity issues. Multiple countries in the bloc faced military coups, often on a base of anti-French sentiments, and have developed closer relationships with Russia. These developments seem to disillusion a young generation of Africans with democratic practices. As such, Senegal will likely experience more tensions and protests in the upcoming period, especially as there is still no fixed agreement on the selection date. Discontent among the Senegalese population, skepticism on ECOWAS’s role and effectiveness, and increasing Russian influence in the region, will keep pressuring democracy in Senegal, also influencing anti-democratic tendencies in other West-African nations. Sahel Amid persistence and strength of violent extremist organizations in the Sahel, the weakening leadership in regional efforts worsened in February. The turmoil in West Africa has brought the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) role and credibility into doubt. The military governments in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Niger, Chad, announced their withdrawal from ECOWAS at the end of January 2024 following the bloc’s imposition of sanctions on Niger in July 2023. These sanctions included closing all shared borders with the country, suspending financial transactions, and freezing the country’s assets in external banks. On 27 January 2024 Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali announced their plan to withdraw ECOWAS. Already in December 2023, the three governments expressed their intention to leave the West African Economic and Monetary Union and establish their own monetary union. The withdrawal of Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali from ECOWAS is likely to further weaken security forces facing various armed groups across the region. The withdrawal from Niger from ECOWAS limits joint task forces established to fight armed groups who travel across borders. The threat of a spread of jihadism and political instability from the Sahel is therefore likely to escalate. The hostility towards Malian and Burkinabe migrants in Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, and Senegal is also likely to increase. The economic consequences are likely to be dire, as halting free movement between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger and the rest of West Africa could lead to significant economic repercussions for all countries involved. With these developments and the threat of countries leaving ECOWAS, the latter faces a dilemma. Either excluding states which practices are not in line with ECOWAS’s principles, or make compromises in its principles to preserve nominal unity. As of 24 February, ECOWAS has lifted  travel, commercial and economic sanctions earlier imposed on Niger, in a new push for dialogue. It is said by ECOWAS’s President Touray that the decision has been on humanitarian grounds to alleviate the hardship resulting from the coup in Niger. With about nineteen elections planned across Africa in 2024, it remains to be seen what degree of democratic governance will prevail by the end of the year. Anyhow, joint endeavors seem crucial for addressing the significant development and security issues that affect all nations in the region. Updates, February 2024 North Korea - Russia The Korean peninsula has seen high levels of tensions throughout 2024. On 5 January, North Korea conducted live fire exercises on South Korea’s Yeonpyeong island, causing the evacuation of South Korean citizens and an artillery response from South Korea’s military. This comes after extensive North Korean long-range ballistic missiles tests and launching of two spy satellites to monitor South Korea and the US. The advance in North Korea’s technological capabilities and assertiveness is likely due to the close relationship developed with Moscow. In exchange for missile development, North Korea has supplied Russia with North Korean ammunition and artillery shells on the battlefields in Ukraine. In a pressing development, Pyongyang has abandoned its commitment to eventual reunification with the South and is speaking openly of a conflict with the South. Kim Jong Un’s motives are always opaque, but they could be a response to regional developments in Northeast Asia and a push for sanctions relief on the country. The closer relationships between South Korea and Japan, who buried the historical animosity for the time being with agreements on intelligence sharing in 2022, is causing alarm in Pyongyang. The pickup in North Korean activities is also used as a bargaining chip for further concessions on sanctions and other goals from its rivals. Indeed, Japan’s PM Fumio Kishida is expected to meet with Kim Jong Un to renegotiate the release of Japanese citizens abducted over 20 years ago in the coming month. While there are reports of planning for war, any determined escalation for an invasion runs the risk of nuclear escalation and possibly the intervention of the United States, which would end his regime. Nevertheless, missteps present a serious risk to the Peninsula. With both Kim Jong Un and South Korean president Yoon becoming more aggressive, there is a risk of disproportionate responses on the Korean peninsula. Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Massive protests erupted in the streets of Kinshasa in early February targeting UN MONUSCO mission buildings and Western embassies. Since February 9, 2024, the embassies of the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, and the United States have been besieged by protesters burning flags outside foreign diplomatic missions. Protests are spreading across the country. On February 15, protests targeting embassies were reported in Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu. The protesters are denouncing the Western complicity in the war in the eastern province of North Kivu, where the alleged Rwanda-backed group M23 intensified its advance surrounding the city of Goma. Since February 7, the resurgence of fighting between the Congolese army and the M23 armed group has forced over 135,000 people to flee the region. Outbreaks of violence against civilians, including attacks on IDP camps, persist in North Kivu. Demonstrators accuse Western nations of indifference to the humanitarian crisis and involvement in the ongoing conflict in eastern DRC for supporting the Rwandan government, blamed for logistically and financially supporting the rebels. Although Rwandan authorities deny involvement with the armed group, multiple recent United Nations reports have extensively documented direct Rwandan military support for the M23 rebellion. Countries like Belgium and France have called on Rwanda to end its involvement. On February 17, the U.S. released a statement condemning Rwanda's support for M23. On February 12, South Africa announced the deployment of 2,900 troops to DRC until December 2024 as part of a Southern African Development Community (SADC). In January 2024, while MONUSCO started the withdrawal operations, expected to be concluded by December 2024, the Congolese military announced a joint offensive with 16-member state SADC troops with a mandate mainly targeting the M23. The protests come at a time of instability for the government. On January 20, 2024, Felix Tshisekedi was reappointed as President. During the election process, the opposition denounced irregularities and called for protests, promptly quelled by the government. Anti-Western protests could thus come at a convenient time for Tshisekedi, shifting popular discontent to the international community. Further protests are to be expected in the coming weeks. The question remains whether popular mobilization will lead the international community to take more concrete action toward Rwanda and the humanitarian crisis in DRC. Indeed, it is likely that the M23, which now holds control over access to the city of Goma, will continue its advance and widespread violence into North Kivu. Indonesia February 14, 2024, Indonesian presidential elections saw the victory of the former Defense Minister under previous President Joko Widodo, also known as Jokowi, and senior military commander Prabowo Subianto. The president-elect is a quite controversial political figure for his links with Suharto's infamous New Order, the military dictatorship which ruled from 1967 to 1998. The president-elect has been accused of mass disappearances, torture, and human rights violations during the dictatorship. The weeks leading up to the election were marked by protests over alleged corruption and rigging by the former President to impose Prabowo as the favored candidate. International observers, pro-democracy activists, and student associations blamed the Subianto-Jokowi alliance for undermining Indonesian democratic institutions and shifting Indonesia towards authoritarianism. In the wake of the election outcome, on February 16, hundreds took to the streets of the Indonesian capital to contest Prabowo's victory, demanding the elections authorities to prevent him from taking office. Indeed, Subianto's presidency is not official yet, as the official results could take up to a month to be released. However, given the support from the military and the former President, it is likely that the election results will be confirmed. Further civil protests are expected to occur in the coming weeks. Observers are concerned about the further deterioration of human rights and freedom in the country. Meanwhile, Indonesia's next President will also have to deal with other security challenges, including an independentist insurgency in Papua New Guinea, where a surge in violence has been reported. About the authors 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. Her main topics of interest are radicalization, extremism, terrorism, jihadism and conflict in the Middle East. In this regard, she wrote her master thesis on the mobilization of Islamic State Khorasan in Afghanistan, looking into the broad set of factors enabling this terrorist group to pursue violent action, thereby estimating the threat the group may pose in the coming years. 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. 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 research during her master's studies delved deeper into the intricacies of human rights violations, with a specific emphasis on the war in Iraq. 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. 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.

  • Intel Brief: Leak Reveals Scale of China’s Cyber Espionage Activities

    Date: 01/03/2024 Location: Asia-Pacific, Europe. Who’s involved: Chinese cybersecurity firm iSOON, AIVD MIVD, China’s Ministry of Public Security What happened? On 22/02/2024, leaked documents from Chinese cyber security tech firm iSOON, a company allegedly focused on cyberespionage, were anonymously leaked on GitHub, a platform where programmers share software code. These documents have since been removed by the platform, but gave an unprecedented insight into the scale and modus operandi of China’s cyberespionage capabilities and targets. The leaked information included  iSOON company information and, more importantly, details on iSOON’s hacking operations, particularly across Asia. Those that were hacked by iSOON include: hospitals in Taiwan and India, universities in Hong Kong, and multiple foreign governments, including India, Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam and to a lesser extent members of NATO. The data gathered by iSOON was shared with Chinese-government agencies. The Ministry of Public Security (MPS), Ministry of State Security and the People’s Liberation Army amongst others, have access to the hacked information. On 06/02/2024, the Dutch military (MIVD) and civilian security (AIVD) services said that the Dutch Ministry of Defense was hacked by Chinese state-sponsored hackers through an internal computer network. Hackers attempted to exploit vulnerabilities in FortiGate, a cybersecurity company, linked devices to steal unclassified research and developments in the Defense network. Analysis: The leaks from iSOON are notable for demonstrating the scale of the surveillance and the list of targets deemed important to China’s security services. It shows how Chinese MPS and the Ministry of State Security outsource intelligence to ‘private’ commercial vendors. The Chinese MPS is China’s internal security service that focuses on surveillance, border security and counter-terrorism, much like MI5 or the Russian FSB. China’s cyber espionage is rapidly developing and is creating a growing demand for “spies for hire” , such as iSOON. The leaks also reiterate the areas of interest for China’s espionage activities. In particular, many of the target organizations were ministries of foreign affairs, security and communication networks based in Asia. The leaked documents named India explicitly as a key target for surveillance and hacked into the government agencies of Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Attacks were also conducted against non-state entities such as telecommunication firms, medical organizations and academic institutions. The exposure of Chinese cyber espionage likely  increases  political tension between China and the countries actively monitored, though their response is yet to be seen. The scale of China’s espionage activities in Europe has been acknowledged by the AIVD & MIVD, when they reported that Chinese hackers infiltrated the Dutch military networks in 2023. The iSOON leak, however, highlights that Chinese-government agencies do not shy away from engaging in hacking activities to gain access to sensitive information that may help them achieve political, economic, and potentially military objectives. The iSOON leak therefore supports claims made by the AIVD and the MIVD, and should serve as a warning to other governments and businesses. Conclusion: The iSOON leak was the first major leak referring to the scale of China’s cyberespionage activities, targets, and modus operandi utilized by China’s surveillance state abroad. The scale of the leak and the targets it reveals across government departments and civil society, supports claims on the scale of China’s surveillance activities. It clarifies the increase in espionage activities against perceived adversaries. China’s cyberespionage activities are likely to continue and illustrate the need for cybersecurity measures to prevent infiltration, given that this was one company out of thousands of private companies supplying China’s spying operations with sensitive information and personal data. The iSOON leak demonstrates the necessity of awareness concerning (cyber) espionage and the need for updated cyber security in governments, companies and personal accounts.

  • Intel Brief: Senegal’s Constitutional Crisis

    Date: 23/02/2024 Location: Senegal, West-Africa Who’s involved: President Macky Sall of the Alliance for the Republic (APR) party, Karim Wade of the opposition Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS), Ousmane Sonko of the coalition Liberate the People, Senegal's Parliament, the Constitutional Council, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). What happened? In a national televised address on 03/02/2024, the incumbent President of Senegal Macky Sall announced a decision to delay the upcoming presidential election. This came after a decision made by Senegal’s Constitutional Council to exclude a handful of prominent candidates from the electoral list. Concerns have emerged that the selection was discriminatory, which, according to Sall, would threaten the credibility of the election, prompting him to postpone the elections. On 05/02/2024, Senegal's parliament voted to postpone the presidential elections to December 15 rather than August. During the parliamentary vote, opposition members tried to block the voting process, resulting in security forces storming the legislative building to forcefully remove them, and the riot police deploying tear gas to disperse and arrest protesters gathered outside of the building. The Ministry of Communications also shut down mobile internet services amid growing protests. On 07/02/2024, presidential opposition candidates and lawmakers submitted several legal objections against the president’s decision to delay the election. Critics claimed that delaying the vote would extend President Sall's term and described the move as an ‘institutional coup’. On Thursday 15/02/2024, the Constitutional Council judged that the delay was unconstitutional, forcing Sall to set a new election date soon. The African Union, along with regional bodies and Western governments welcomed the Council’s decision on Friday 16/02/2024, arguing for free and fair elections as soon as possible. Sall made a statement the same day, pledging to implement the court order, though without directly indicating a new election date. As of 17/02/2024, tensions seem to have diminished. Yet, security forces remain present as there are rumors of upcoming demonstrations. In the evening of 22/02/2024, Sall declared live on television that he will end his presidential mandate on 2 April. Yet, he still did not provide a new election date. While there are further negotiations to establish a new poll, a citizen collective named Aar Sunu Election announced plans to organize a demonstration in Dakar on Saturday 24 February, one day prior to the original presidential election date. Context and analysis: The latest constitutional crisis comes after a year of intensifying political unrest in Senegal. In June 2023, violent clashes broke out following the conviction of Ousmane Sonko for corrupting and rallying youth, resulting in about 15 deaths and hundreds of people injured and arrested. Sonko leads the coalition Liberate the People, an opposition party to President Sall’s APR. Thereafter, unrest has continued, with regular protests against the high cost of living, youth unemployment, and accusations of systemic government corruption. Tensions continued in December 2023, when the Council banned opposition leaders from running for office. On 26/12/2023, jailed opposition leader Sonko filed to run for presidency, but he has been excluded by the Council due to several charges against him, which he dismissed as being politically motivated. Opposition leader Karim Wade was ruled inadmissible due to his possession of both French and Senegalese nationalities, as according to the Council, presidential candidates are required to solely hold Senegalese citizenship. Ultimately, the final list included 20 presidential candidates, being the first election with so many candidates. Although it could be considered a sign of good democratic practice, the event became overshadowed by doubts on the Council’s candidate selection and the election postponement. The Parliament’s decision to extend  the poll to December 2024 has raised questions about Sall's intentions, given that it is a significant delay to solve a technical issue concerning candidate selection. As President Sall is not seeking a third term, the issue has repeatedly ignited deadly protests. Yet, doubts have emerged whether there were additional motives behind Sall’s decision to delay. One potential reason is to buy time for his party to maneuver a stronger candidate into position than his successor chosen Amadou Ba, considering the party was likely going to lose the election. The delay of the elections has been shocking given that Senegal has had a multi-party democracy with regular changes of government since the 1980s. ECOWAS expressed its concerns on the emergence of political turmoil. They urged Senegal to hold fair elections as soon as possible. It is questionable, however, to what extent the organization's voice will have an impact on maintaining democratic governments, given the successful military takeovers in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. President Sall’s announcement of the delay came a week after three member states, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, declared they are leaving the bloc. Reuters reported that the countries withdrew from ECOWAS as the bloc failed to assist in combating Islamist insurgents and resolving insecurity issues. Earlier, ECOWAS suspended these countries due to military takeovers in the countries. Another worrying development is the growth of anti-French sentiment, while affinity with Russia seems to increase. Conclusion: Multiple actors are expressing their concerns on the constitutional crisis in Senegal. Increasing shortfall in democratic practices risks not only damaging Senegal's status as a pillar of democratic stability in the region but also encourages the spread of anti-democratic tendencies throughout West Africa. Amid shifting global dynamics, the expanding influence of Russia, and growing skepticism about ECOWAS's role and effectiveness, it remains to be seen how the forthcoming elections will play out and to what extent democratic norms will be maintained.

  • Intel Brief: Indonesia’s Presidential Election

    Date: 22/02/2024 Who’s involved: Prabowo Subianto, Anie Baswedan, Ganjar Pranowo What happened? On 14/02/2024, Indonesia held a presidential election. Prabowo Subianto declared victory with 58% of the vote, against the next candidate Anies Baswedan with 25% of the vote and Ganjar Pranowo (17%). The next president-elect, Subianto, is a controversial figure. As the former Defence Minister under previous president Joko Widodo (Jokowi) he won a majority in a country of 275 million people. Subianto established himself as a senior military commander in Suharto’s New Order, Indonesia’s corrupt and violent military administration that ruled the country between 1967 and 1998. He has been accused of prosecuting mass disappearances, torture and extensive human rights violations during the dictatorship. On 12/02/2024, hundreds of Indonesian students and activists in Yogyakarta on Java island staged a protest against Jokowi’s tacit endorsement of one candidate over another, which they claim weakens Indonesia’s democracy. More protests have been conducted in opposition to weakening of human rights in the country. The worsening of the security situation in West Papua, where a guerilla insurgency pushing for independence has emerged well armed and better resourced. As the conflict between Indonesian security forces and the insurgency have intensified, the group has been willing to abduct foreign visitors. Analysis: Protests around Indonesia are likely to continue against Subianto. The previous government’s authoritarian legislation has resulted in protests, the largest of which took place in 2019, seeing one month of civil disobedience and rioting around the country. The election result will also be contested. In the Indonesian legislature, the opposition candidates in the election have also called for a probe into the election, which they claim was weakened by fraud and voter intimidation. While the country remains broadly stable, there is a risk of further unrest. Prakowo Subianto is likely to continue Jokowi’s mixed legacy on the economy and a slide toward authoritarian values. For Indonesia’s economy, Jokowi managed steady economic growth of 5% over the past 10 years. He constructed extensive infrastructure projects through roads, airports and further connections between Indonesia’s over 17,000 islands. However, this has accompanied massive corruption at the same time and significant differences between the many islands of Indonesia. On the other hand, Indonesia has fallen behind other manufacturing exporters of Vietnam and the Philippines. Security challenges also include an armed Papuan separatist group in West Papua where the guerilla insurgency pushing for independence has emerged well armed and better resourced. The escalating violence in Papua New Guinea sparked by land grabs and exacerbated by imports of high-powered weaponry is also raising security threats in West Papua. Kidnap remains a present risk to the east of the country, with the New Zealand pilot held captive by insurgents to pressure New Zealand for negotiations with the Indonesia security forces on autonomy for the region. Indonesia will continue to chart an independent foreign and security policy and continue to emerge as a significant power in Southeast Asia. Subianto has indicated he would upgrade ties with Japan, as the country supplies military aid to South China Sea claimants like Vietnam and the Philippines. Under Jokowi, Indonesia has followed a policy of non-alignment, recognising the realities of China’s dominance while balancing with Australia and the United States. At the same time, Subianto’s tendency toward authoritarianism could push his foreign policy away from the west to avoid criticisms of his record on human rights. Conclusion Prabowo Subianto’s election to the presidency has been marred by allegations of voter fraud, and misuse of public funds prior to the general election. Further civil protests against the result are likely in the coming weeks and the result is likely to remain disputed by opposition leaders. There will likely be a weakening of human rights legislation in the country, as Subianto has shown little interest in respecting the rule of law or civil society. He is likely to draw criticism from the US due to his growing authoritarianism but is unlikely to become push back against China in the South China Sea, unlike President Marcos Jr. in the Philippines.

  • Egypt: Balancing regional conflict with domestic issues

    Written by Kevin Heller and Elena de Mitri Egypt, known for its beautiful tourist attractions, its long history of civilization, and its role as mediator in the Middle East conflict, now faces acute political, security, and economic problems, both regionally and internally. Egypt shares borders with three countries involved in armed conflicts and has undergone an election in December 2023 which caused substantial protests. With tensions with Ethiopia, the war in neighboring Sudan, instability in Libya, and troubles with Israel at the Rafah border, Egypt currently has a lot on its plate. Egypt and Ethiopia Egypt’s relationship with Ethiopia has been particularly tense since the 1960s. A central point of tension is the disagreement about sharing the Nile River waters, rooted in competing claims over colonial-era sharing agreements. When Ethiopia announced the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile, the most important Nile tributary, the Egyptian government raised concerns about the impact on its water needs, especially considering the future impact climate change will have on water reserves. Egypt heavily relies on the Nile for agriculture and worries that the filling time for the dam will reduce its water supply. According to Ethiopia, the construction of the dam is fundamental to sustaining the country’s economic development. In 2015, Egypt and Ethiopia, along with Sudan, signed an agreement to cooperate on matters regarding the shared use of the Nile Waters. Talks between the three countries ensued but never reached a definitive conclusion, with Egypt refusing to concede any right on the Nile waters to the other countries. When Ethiopia started filling the dam in 2020 to generate electricity, the tensions resurfaced with talks among the three countries but ultimately failed. In 2024, the ongoing tensions also led Egypt to support Somalia’s protests after the breakaway state Somaliland granted Ethiopia the use of part of its Red Sea coastline, a territory officially belonging to Somalia. In the last few years, there has even been some saber-rattling between Egypt and Ethiopia adding fuel to the fire. A military confrontation between the two countries could be disastrous for them and the wider region. Egypt, Gaza, and Israel Gaza is another trouble spot for Egypt, especially since the start of the Israeli military operation in October 2023. While the Israeli offensive was focused mainly in the northern territory of Gaza, most Palestinian civilians moved towards the south, where Gaza borders Egypt. The border hosts the Rafah crossing, managed by Egypt. Since the first days, the Rafah border crossing has been a contentious point. While the crossing has been open for the delivery of humanitarian aid, Egypt has been unwilling to open it to allow people to exit Gaza. With the Israeli military moving its operations towards the south, there are many concerns about the future of the refugees in Rafah as there are limited options to ensure their safety. Nevertheless, Egypt has not shown a particular willingness to open the border and take people in. While the Egyptian Army has moved troops and armored vehicles to strengthen the border, Egypt has started building a tent camp, making it unclear whether or not the country expects an influx of refugees. Moreover, Egypt has threatened to suspend the Camp David Accords if Israel proceeds with the Rafah ground offensive, which would have important consequences for both countries. Egypt and Sudan The situation in Sudan is deteriorating fast as the government forces of the SAF are still in conflict with the insurgents of the RSF. Egypt has a long history of supporting the SAF with training and equipment but has been hesitant to get involved in the conflict, possibly because the country is more concerned with the situation with Ethiopia and Israel. Until now, Cairo has been trying to get the warring parties to sit at the negotiating table but without any great success. With the Egyptian economy in decline and other Arab countries and the IMF not willing to lend Cairo any more money, the conflict in its southern neighbor has further impacted the economic situation. Egypt can no longer import or export goods with Sudan, which was a big partner in trade before the war, especially for foodstuffs, and the influx of refugees from Sudan and other southern African countries has reached over 260.000. Egypt and Lybia On the western border of Egypt, Libya has been an issue for Cairo ever since the fall of Gaddafi in 2011 and the resulting civil war. The country is still divided into two separate parts that are ruled by military regimes who often make their living by smuggling weapons and drugs and regularly fight each other over territory. Egypt has throughout the years had to severely bolster its military presence on the border to keep the conflict from spilling over into its territory. The border region is also known for being a channel for migrant workers from Egypt crossing into Libya. After the recent floods that destroyed great parts of the Libyan coastline, however, many Egyptians were forcefully sent back by Libyan militias as work opportunities decreased suddenly. Internal struggles and regional challenges With internal issues being increasingly pressing, Egypt has strived to prevent conflict from bordering countries from spilling over into its territories. Inflation in the country is still high, while the economy is struggling, and Houthi’s attacks on shipments along the Red Sea further impact Egypt’s revenues. Climate change is also expected to heavily impact the economy, especially with water scarcity, along with rising tensions with Ethiopia. Protests have increased after al-Sisi’s reelection in December 2023 and are becoming an increasing source of concern for the government. It is no surprise that Egypt is pursuing a noninterventionist foreign policy to avoid a worsening of its economic and political conditions. But how long can it last?

  • Intel Brief: Extreme right-wing activities on the rise in Germany

    Date: 14/02/2024 Who’s involved: Alternative Für Deutschland, NSU, Atomwaffen Division, KSK, Hammerskins, NPD, civil society and others. What happened? In June 2023, the German intelligence services warned of a rise in right-wing extremist violence in the country in the near future. In November 2023, right-wing extremists, including members of the Alternative Für Deutschland (AfD), held a meeting in the east of Germany where they discussed plans for forcefully sending people with a migration background out of the country. The term “Remigration” was used to describe these plans. The news of the meeting came out in January 2024 and it resulted in a political and social discussion on banning the Alternative Für Deutschland from taking part in elections. A similar ban was proposed in 2018 for the extreme-right wing Nationalist Party Deutschland (NPD, now known as Heimat), but the court decided that the NPD was not a genuine threat to democracy because it was not influential enough. Since the Second World War only two political parties have been banned: The Communist Party and the Socialist Reichs Party. Other groups have been banned as organizations but not as political parties. On 19/09/2023 the German interior ministry banned the neonazi Hammerskins group and labeled them a anti-democratic and dangerous organization. The Hammerskins were a spin-off of the neonazi group “Blood and Honour” which was banned in 2000. Blood and Honour was linked to a terrorist organization called Combat 18 and organized concerts and meetings in order to raise money for Combat 18. In February 2024, an administrative court in Cologne ruled that the youth wing of the AfD, Junge Alternative, could be classified as a right wing extremist organization. On 07/12/2022 members of the Reichsbürger movement were arrested for plotting a coup d’état. In April 2022, the movement plotted to kidnap the German Health Minister and destroy power stations in order to compromise the country’s energy infrastructure and then overthrow the democratic system. One of the people involved in the Reichsbürger plot was a soldier serving in the Kommando Spezialkräfte, a special force of the German army. The KSK has been linked to right wing extremism. Many of its members have expressed xenophobic and anti-semitic opinions. Between 2001 and 2010 a neonazi group calling themselves the National Socialist Underground or NSU killed nine people with an immigrant background, and shot and killed one police officer. Three people were seen as the main group but it was later revealed that up to 200 neonazi related people and groups were offering them support in the form of money, information, weapons and shelter. Active since 2015 in the United States and other countries, the neonazi group Atomwaffen Division opened a German chapter in 2018. Although the German chapter has mainly acted through pamphlets and threats to activists and politicians, they are part of a wider international network of right wing extremist organizations. On 02/06/2019 CDU politician Lübcke was murdered because of his political stance on asylum-seekers. In the same year on Yom Kippur, a neo-Nazi tried to attack a synagogue in Halle. Unable to do so, he went on to kill two people. On 19/02/2020, a man killed nine people of migrant background in two shisha bars. Analysis: If the AfD is banned, it could push members of the party and their supporters to take matters into their own hands. AfD is already benefiting from these discourses by labeling them as undemocratic. Cutting the party out of the democratic playing field could push AfD supporters into right-wing extremist environments. The impact will be stronger in the states where AfD has more support. This will likely result in an intensification of violent right-wing extremist activities, especially against governmental institutions, political opponents and marginalized groups. With the local elections in the eastern part of the country coming up on 09/06/2024 there is a lot of pressure on civil society concerning the electoral win or loss of the AfD. There is a likelihood that if the AfD gains more seats in state parliaments like Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, members of extreme right-wing groups will feel more empowered in their actions. Ideas like enacting “remigration”, antisemitism, islamophobia and taking actions against the LGBTQ community will be seen as more socially acceptable with the AfD in power. It is not only the possible electoral win of the AfD that is of concern to the German security services. Extremist groups and terrorist networks on the right-wing spectrum have gained more and more following in the past decade and the willingness to commit violent acts seems to have increased. Social media plays an integral part in radicalizing young individuals through misinformation, disinformation and propaganda. It is likely that applications like Telegram, Discord, X and TikTok will play an even greater role in radicalizing youth in the future and it will be a difficult task for the German government to monitor the activities of radicalized individuals and groups. There is a likelihood of a rise in antifascist activities if the AfD wins majority seats in the elections. The antifascist movement in Germany is strong and some parts of the movement do not shy away from using violence against perceived enemies. Losing faith in democracy might push groups and individuals to take extra-parliamentary actions. Conclusion There is still no certainty about the future of Alternative Für Deutschland as debates continue both among politicians and in the wider public. However, independently of the future of the AfD there will likely be a rise in right-wing extremist rhetoric and activities, especially before, during and soon after the elections, both in 2024 and 2025. The upcoming district elections in eastern Germany and European Parliament elections could see a great increase in societal unrest. Furthermore, there is a likelihood of an increased risk of right-wing terrorism in the near future.

  • Intel Brief: Conflict in Sudan Update

    Date: 12/02/2024 Who’s involved: Sudanese Army, Rapid Support Forces, Wagner groups, United Nations, regional actors: South Sudan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Chad What happened? From mid-April 2023 fighting started between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) marking the start of the war in Sudan. At the moment, it is the fastest unfolding crisis in the world with more than a million people having fled to the Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia and South Sudan. In November 2023, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that both the SAF and RSF violated international humanitarian law, amongst others by attacking hospitals, schools, and other essential civilian infrastructure. In December 2023, the United States officially concluded that the conflicting factions in Sudan perpetrate war crimes, with the RSF and its allied militias being responsible for crimes against humanity and acts of ethnic cleansing. On 01/12/2023, the United Nations Security Council and the Sudan government decided to terminate the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), which was initiated on 3 June 2020 to assist Sudan in its political transition to democratic rule. They agreed on a withdrawal period of 3 months, slated to end on 29 February 2024. On 20/01/2024, a United Arab Emirates (UAE) official reiterated denials that the country was involved in providing military assistance to any of Sudan's government rival parties. The UAE emphasized that it does not supply weapons and ammunition, and maintains a neutral stance in the ongoing conflict. This has been in response to both the accusation by a top Sudanese general in November stating that the UAE backed RSF’s military operations, and similar accusations earlier on by independent U.N. sanctions monitors mentioning the UAE provided the support via Amdjarass in northern Chad. On 22/01/2024, the European Council adopted sanctions against six entities involved in the war in Sudan, stating that they were responsible for "supporting activities undermining the stability and political transition of Sudan". Among those listed are two companies involved in the manufacture of weapons and vehicles for the SAF. On 30/01/2024, the Kyiv Post reported on the deployment of three Ukrainian drone strikes in recent weeks, likely by the Ukrainian special forces, against the Wagner Group and other Russian forces, and their so-called ‘local terrorist partners’ in Sudan. On 01/02/2024, in the state of North Darfur, tensions flared up as confrontations resumed between the SAF and the RSF within Al Fasher town, the state’s capital. A handful of people have been killed and approximately 20 civilians were injured. On 06/02/2024, clashes between local factions in western South Sudan resulted in the death of at least 26 people. In the past week, over 150 casualties have been reported in distinct conflicts involving armed youths from Warrap State confronting rivals from the neighboring Lakes and Western Bar El Ghazal states, and Abyei, an administrative oil-rich area jointly run by South Sudan and Sudan, both of whom have made claims to it. The clashes deriving from disputes over control of land and natural resources between groups in South Sudan and Sudan have resulted in several killings, often including peacekeepers, thereby endangering peace efforts and humanitarian assistance. On 08/02/2024, United Nations chief António Guterres called upon the global community to mobilize and take all necessary measures to halt the conflict in Sudan. The day before, the United Nations appealed for $4.1 billion in international support to provide humanitarian aid. At the same time, Sudan’s main telecom networks got deactivated, most likely by the RSF, limiting civilians to purchase food and essential items, as many of them rely on electronic wallets for transactions. On 11/02/2024, the military leader of the SAF, al-Burhan, declined to authorize the delivery of humanitarian aid to territories under RSF’s control. On the same day, RSF leader Hemetti allegedly announced that his troops are set to resolve the conflict through military means in the upcoming days. Analysis: The conflict between the SAF and the RSF in Sudan has now entered its tenth month, sparking a humanitarian collapse and leaving millions of people in need of humanitarian assistance and protection. The fighting involves heavy weaponry, causing numerous civilian deaths and the destruction of civilian properties and critical infrastructure. Both parties in the conflict have a history of violating international humanitarian and human rights law, and have been accused by the ICC of committing war crimes, including targeting the non-Arab ethnic community of the Maselit by the RSF party. Humanitarian assistance has been provided by some humanitarian organizations, but it has been difficult to deliver it, due to various challenges such as poor network and phone connectivity, insecurity, bureaucratic impediments, fuel shortages, looting of humanitarian supplies, and under-funded humanitarian efforts. Humanitarian need is now at a record high, with millions of people lacking access to food, water, electricity, shelter, education and healthcare. Moreover, the breakout of the Israel and Hamas war in the Gaza Strip has caused a drastic drop-off in donors and non-governmental organizations. Among the Western countries, the U.S. has been taking the lead in trying to mediate between the warring parties, but negotiations have reportedly been deadlocked. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have sought to bolster their influence in the Red Sea region in Africa. The two states initially supported President Al Bashir, but they are now backing the RSF by providing material. Egypt has backed Sudan’s military SAF to maintain stability in Khartoum and blamed the fight on the RSF in the Arab League. Despite this, Cairo could emerge as a possible mediator, as the country shares an extensive border with northern Sudan. Russia plays an important role in the dispute too, due to its interest in Port Sudan as a naval base for its strategic waterway in the Red Sea connecting Europe to Asia and East Asia. Moreover, Port Sudan is important because it is a terminal for a regional oil pipeline and a hub that can serve landlocked neighbors. Russia has been negotiating a deal with Sudan’s ruling military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to provide Sudan with weapons in exchange for a Red Sea Navy base. The Wagner group, a Russian mercenary force founded by Yevgeny Prighozin, plays an important role too. There is evidence that the group exploited Sudan’s natural resources, and smuggled gold via a network of military airports. Numerous reports said the RSF is supported by the Wagner group, reconstituted from Moscow after the death of its leader Prigozhin. Meanwhile, Ukrainian special forces have been reportedly operating in Sudan in support of the country’s army against Russian Wagner mercenaries aligned with the RSF. The Ukrainian forces seem to be operating in Sudan as part of an emerging campaign to strike at Russian interests, but far from the Ukrainian war’s frontlines.  Indeed, a video recently released seems to confirm Ukraine and Russia have taken their way to Africa. On 05/02/2024 the Iranian and Sudanese officials met and expressed the mutual will to engage in stronger political, economic and cultural cooperation, and revive relations between the two countries, opening a new chapter after a 7-year hiatus. Iran will supply the SAF with drones, while Iran will have access to Sudan Port, gaining an important commercial corridor in the Red Sea, with proximity to Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Israel. The African Union has recently named a team to work on a peaceful end to Sudan’s civil war, with the mandate to ensure an all-inclusive process towards the restoration of peace, constitutional order and stability. Prolonged instability in Sudan could create problems for the management of the Nile’s resources, since Khartoum is where the White and Blue Nile merge. Port Sudan is the main international trade gateway for a regional oil pipeline and a hub for landlocked neighbors. So, continued political and economic instability could negatively affect trade flows through the Suez canal, affecting most African countries, and forcing them to search for alternative routes which may be more expensive. In addition, many air carriers transit through Sudanese airspace to Mecca, which is now closed due to the Israeli-Palestinian war, forcing carriers from other parts of Africa to search for other routes. Conclusion: The conflict is likely to protract and the Sudanese humanitarian crisis will worsen. Given the already high rates of poverty, this conflict has an impact on an array of social and economic rights, including access to basic health care and price hikes. Millions are homeless, and half the country is facing famine. If the atrocities continue, the situation may amount to genocide. Moreover, prolonged instability in Sudan could create problems for the management of the Nile’s resources and negatively affect trade flows through the Suez canal. Peace in Sudan is critical for the economic and social developments in South Sudan and the region but the conflict involves multiple international actors which support opposite factions, making it hard to find a common ground between the warring parties.

  • Intel Brief on Germany’s possible ban on the AfD

    Date: 30/01/2024 Location: Germany Who’s involved: German government, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), neonazi groups, civil society, Verfassungsschutz. What happened? The German nationalist anti-immigration party the Alternative Für Deutschland (AfD) is under scrutiny of the public prosecutors office (Verfassungsschutz), other political parties and civil society after members of its party were seen attending a meeting with neonazis and other right wing extremist groups. During the meeting the attendants decided that anyone living in Germany with an immigrant background should be deported as soon as possible, either voluntarily or not. When asked to create distance between the AfD members who were seen at the meeting, the AfD leadership changed the rhetoric and started to use the word “remigration” to frame the deportation plan in public debates and social media. In response to the doubling down of the AfD, political parties, trade unions, antifascist groups and other members of civil society organized several rounds of protests around the country calling for the AfD to be banned for being a “threat to democracy”. This is a judicial measure introduced in Germany after the collapse of the Nazi regime to prevent un-democratic parties from taking power again. According to several media, police and organizers there seems to have been 1.4 million attendees at the anti-AfD protests. Several protests had to be disbanded prematurely because there were too many people who wanted to attend them. The AfD is polling in second place in national elections polls, but is projected to get majority votes in the east of Germany in upcoming local elections in June 2024. The states of Sachsen, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Sachsen-Anhalt are likely to receive the majority of the AfD council seats. Because of the projected popularity of the AfD in eastern Germany, it was expected that AfD candidate Uwe Thrum would win district elections in Saale-Orla in Thüringen on 28/01/2024. However, the AfD was defeated by CDU candidate Christian Herrgott. A poll by Forsa, published on 30/01/2024, showed that the support for the AfD dropped below 20% percent for the first time since July 2023. Analysis: Already in 2019, the public prosecutor’s office of Thuringen decided that the leader of the “Wing” of the AfD and its members should be under judicial review for being anti-democratic. The “Wing” is known for its more radical standpoints than the national side of the AfD. The leader of the “Wing”, Bjorn Hocke, has been indicted several times for quoting national socialist propaganda at rallies and his political immunity as a political party leader has been taken away. A court ruled in 2023 that the AfD should be considered a potential threat to democracy and should be put under surveillance by national security services. In the same year, AfD’s youth wing and the AfD faction in Thüringen were also officially labeled as extremist groups. Discussions on banning the AfD started around August 2023, when co-leader Saskia Esken of the leading SPD party stated during an interview with newspaper Die Zeit that the party should be banned as it was classified by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution as right-wing extremist. Multiple other politicians followed Esken’s rhetoric and voiced their support for banning the AfD. The recent leaking of the AfD deportation plans together with the massive anti-AfD protests has sparked the discussion on banning the AfD again. The German state has in the past banned several extremist parties from taking part in elections or has disbanded them outright. Most of these parties had openly professed national socialist ideas and their members were involved in acts of criminal violence against. However, the banning of the extreme right wing National Party of Germany (NPD) was not completely successful since the judges on the case decided that the NPD was too small to form any danger to German democracy and therefore did not need to be banned. Whereas some German politicians have favored a ban, others are completely against it. The main worry is that banning the AfD might cause a backlash from AfD supporters. There are also voices who argue that banning a political party undermines the pillars of democracy. Conclusion: It is still unclear whether the AFD will be legally banned by the German state, as there is not yet consensus among German politicians surrounding a possible ban. However, the leaked AfD plans and the massive anti-AfD protests will likely have implications for the popularity of the AfD. Previous AfD supporters might refrain from voting on the party during upcoming elections because of the societal pressure that is now within Germany. Furthermore, AfD opponents will possibly employ tactical votes to make it as difficult as possible for the party to maintain its stronghold. However, if politicians agree that there is no place for right wing extremism at all within the German political arena, a total ban of the AfD might happen. AfD supporters may respond to this by pushing more extreme rhetoric and ideas, and possibly turn to violent acts against the state, immigrants, or political opponents.

  • Dyami REBASE light - December - January 2023-2024Report on Business Aviation Security

    Global 1.1. GPS Spoofing The frequency and intensity of GPS spoofing incidents is on a rise. For now mostly found over Iraq, but it can be replicated all over the world. GPS spoofing has been shown to put aircraft upwards of 200 nm off of their flight path. 1.2. Drug trafficking Business model jets have been and continue to be used for drug/contraband smuggling across the globe. These flights are usually to and from Latin America, Ethiopia and India. The aim of using business jets instead of commercial aviation is to lower the chance of getting caught, and increase the volume per flight. 1.3. Human trafficking In order to improve the ease of human trafficking, and to stay away from prying eyes of airport security as well as cabin crew, traffickers prefer to use business jets if they can. This presents a worldwide challenge that is hard to combat. 1.4. Valuables trafficking Ethiopia and India have become hubs for trafficking of valuables, such as wildlife and gold. While the majority of the detected smuggling was on commercial flights, there has been an increase in (attempts to) smuggle with business jets via smaller regional airports. Europe 2.1.  Climate activism European airports are still targeted by climate activists who are mainly focusing on the business aviation sector. Besides physical damage, the protests result in disruptions and closures of airports, forcing jets to divert elsewhere. 2.2 GPS spoofing GPS spoofing has been increasing in multiple countries in Europe mainly around the Baltic region, Poland and around the Black Sea creating potential dangerous situations. Middle East 3.1.    GPS interference GPS spoofing has been increasing in multiple countries in the Middle east creating dangerous situations where aircraft near unsafe territory. 3.2. Overflight Risks Recent developments in the region have caused a need for extra security measures differing per country. These are important to adhere to, as ignoring the risks while overflying can lead to catastrophic results. 3.3 Israel- Hamas  war On October 7th Hamas militants launched an assault on Israel from the Gaza strip, killing 1.200 people and taking more than 200 hostages. Since then the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has struck back by starting a war between Hamas and Israel. The war in Israel has caused several airspace restrictions due to anti-aircraft weapons being used from multiple countries. Flying to and from Tel-Aviv is possible now that the conflict is more contained to just the Gaza strip. In Egypt, aircraft operators need to have caution flying over the Northern Sinai Peninsula and the Red Sea due to anti aircraft weaponry being used. Flying below FL260 should be avoided. The vast majority of Yemeni airspace should also be avoided. In the southwestern part of Saudi Arabia FIR operators should also exercise caution due to a risk of drone and missile attacks. Asia 4.1. New Zealand pilot hostage in Papua On February 7th 2023, independence fighters from West-Papua took a pilot from New Zealand hostage in exchange for independence from Indonesia. In May a video message appeared in which the pilot said that if demands are not met within two months, he will be executed. Several rescue attempts have failed, resulting in casualties on both sides, and the demands of the hostage takers were lowered.  Last month another photo of the pilot was shared along with the message that he was and always has been kept in good health. They however did threaten to shoot him at the end of January if demands are not met. 4.2 Caucasus tensions Tensions on the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia are still prevalent after the military operations performed on September 19 by the Azeri authorities. This January the Armenian foreign minister expressed his concerns over the peace talks. Interviews held with the Azerbaijani president on recent proposals showed a significant regression in the process of the peace talks . Overflying the Armenia Azerbaijan border area should still be avoided at the moment. Overflying Georgia using waypoints DISKA and ADEKI is preferable, as BARAD skims the border of both nations. Both nations have long range air defense systems with ranges up to and exceeding 100 km in radius, and up to 30 km in altitude. 4.3. Regional instability Political instability has led to recurring protests and (armed) attacks, particularly in northern India, Pakistan, Myanmar and the border region of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Instabilities prove themselves risky to aviation, including business aviation. The instability in northern India poses a serious risk to aircraft on the ground, while the unrest in Pakistan and Myanmar introduce threats to overflight as well. As a result of proliferation of anti-air weapons, a minimum of FL300 is advised. Africa 5.1. Overflight risks Recent developments in the region have caused a need for extra security measures differing per country. These are important to adhere to, as ignoring the risks while overflying can lead to catastrophic results. 5.2. Political instability Political instability has resulted in unpredictable protests and revolts throughout Africa. It is important to stay up-to-date with the latest developments to minimize the risk of getting caught in armed violence while staying in a vulnerable African country or region. North America 6.1.  Trafficking Over the last two months, cartels and other criminal organizations have continued to use private aircraft to smuggle narcotics and for human trafficking. The lack of security for private flights, especially at smaller regional airports, makes it easier for traffickers. South America 7.1.  Trafficking Cartels continue to use private aircraft for drug trafficking throughout the continent. Criminal organizations use old aircraft for these flights because a large number of aircraft are destroyed after only a small number of trafficking flights. 7.2 Regional instability Last December (a highly disputed) more than 95% of the voters approved the move to claim the Essequibo strip controlled by Guyana during a national referendum. Top diplomats of Venezuela and Guyana will discuss the Essequibo dispute in Brazil but major breakthrough with these talks is not expected and the focus of these talks will probably lay on mutual assurances and keeping the peace between them. Oceania There were no significant events in Oceania in the months of December and January. [This is the end of the light version for REBASE, for the full version, feel free to contact us]

  • Conflict Monitoring Report - January 2024

    Written by Iris de Boer, Kevin Heller, Alessia Cappelletti, Roos Nijmeijers Russia-Ukraine: New Russian eastern front wide offensive and multiple (Ukrainian) aircraft attacks. Israel-Hamas-Hezbollah: The fighting slowly moved away from Gaza City and into the north of Khan Yunis. Rapid decline of humanitarian situation in Gaza. Myanmar: The Military junta lost ground to guerilla groups across the north of Myanmar and carried out attacks on Chinese soil. Houthis-US/UK: The US and UK responded to Houthi attacks in the Red Sea by formation of international naval fleet and series of strikes on Houthi military installations in Yemen. Ethiopia-Somalia: Tensions in the Horn of Africa surge after Somaliland and Ethiopia signed port MoU and Somaliland announced its potential recognition by Ethiopia. Pakistan-Iran: Terrorist attacks lead to increase in tensions between Pakistan and Iran. The tensions resolved through diplomatic channels. North Korea: Closer cooperation between Russia and North Korea. Reports of North Korean weapons used in Ukraine. DR Congo: Irregularities during presidential elections. Increase in violence in eastern Congo. Ecuador: State of emergency in Ecuador due to increasing influence of cartels and crime syndicates. Haiti: Increase in violence in capital Port-au-Prince. Prime minister under judicial and political scrutiny. Opposition called for strikes if the Prime Minister does not resign. If you would like to receive the full version of this report, please contact info@dyami.services or alessia@dyami.services

  • Intel Brief: Sweden Endures Major Cyber Incident Ahead Of NATO Accession

    Date: 30/01/2024 Where: Sweden/Scandinavia Finland/Broader Nordic region Who’s involved: Swedish government, critical infrastructure, Central Bank, and various private entities Finnish software company, Tietoevry Oyj Akira (Conti) Ransomware Group, other Russian threat actors What happened: From 19-23 January, Swedish government agencies and businesses were disrupted by a ransomware attack believed to have been carried out by Russian hackers. The ransomware attack allegedly originated within servers owned by Tietoevry Oyj, a Finnish software company that conducts significant business in Sweden through their cloud services. Tietoevry Oyj has since attributed the incident to the Akira Ransomware group. Security researchers have established that the Akira Ransomware group has significant ties to the now-dissolved Conti Ransomware group, a Russian threat actor that targeted major business and government service sectors for profit. This attack affected 120 government agencies and more than 60,000 employees, causing significant disruption to services like online purchases at the country’s biggest cinema chain and some department stores and shops. Among the services impacted was Sweden’s central Riksbank. In a statement published on 26 January, the bank stated that, "A restricted number of customer situations will require additional restoration actions that are being planned in close dialogue with those customers." On January 26th, Swedish Minister of Civil Defense, Carl-Oskar Bohlin, held a press conference  about the incident, stating that the scope of the event still isn’t entirely known, and several systems are still down. So far, the Swedish government hasn’t confirmed attribution to any specific entity. Analysis: The incident follows a trend of increased cyber attacks allegedly from both state and non-state Russian threat actors against Nordic targets since Sweden and Finland expressed an interest in joining the NATO alliance. This is the most significant reported cybersecurity incident in Scandinavia since attacks on Danish power companies in May of 2023. Several publications attributed that incident to Russian military threat actors, Sandworm. While it’s still uncertain if this particular attack was politically motivated, various pro-Russian threat actors, such as NoName057(16), have explicitly attacked Sweden for its strategic and political decisions as recently as January 5th. This incident is far larger than attacks previously attributed to the Akira Ransomware group. The group, active since March 2023, typically targets businesses with 200 or less employees. This incident indicates an escalation in capability. Akira, as a threat actor, has demonstrated numerous connections to the now-defunct Conti ransomware gang. Conti was known for choosing targets that aligned with Russian political and strategic objectives, and voicing pro-Russian positions against Ukraine. The attacks came shortly after the Turkish Parliament approved Sweden’s membership in the NATO alliance. The same week as the attacks, Hungary’s Victor Orban, the final holdout against Sweden’s accession, also stated that he would approve a vote for Swedish NATO membership in his own country’s Parliament. The Nordic states have enacted a number of inter-state protective measures in their shared cyberspace. Until tighter restrictions were enacted in August of 2023, a number of their largest and most essential organizations shared data infrastructure with Russian corporations, such as Yandex. Conclusion: The scale and the critical nature of the affected infrastructure in this attack are particularly significant. Akira’s previous attacks were known for their focus on data exfiltration and extortion, but the widespread disruption of essential services in Sweden, including government and healthcare systems, indicates an escalation in the group's operational capabilities. While the Akira group's signature tactics and techniques were evident in this incident, the scale and impact represent a significant escalation in their operations. While there has been speculation that this escalation could have been from an outside influence, it’s safer to assume that ransomware as a whole has just become more dangerous when utilized in a cloud service context. This evolution in Akira's modus operandi could signal a new phase in their cybercriminal activities, warranting close monitoring and robust defensive measures by organizations globally. It’s also noteworthy that the timing of these attacks correlates so closely with renewed interest in Sweden’s acceptance into NATO. Provided this speculation is true, this would not be the first time that Russian political and strategic escalations were carried out by deniable cyber-criminal assets.

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