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06 Jan 23. Mexico: Capture of Guzman sparks wave of violence in Sinaloa; operational disruptions will likely continue. On 5 January, security services detained Ovidio Guzman – the son of former Sinaloa Cartel chief, Joaquin ‘Chapo’ Guzman – in Culiacan (Sinaloa), triggering a wave of violence in the city and nearby towns. Officials confirmed seven security force personnel were killed, and over 20 civilians were injured. There were at least 12 recorded armed clashes, 25 incidents of looting and 250 vehicles set on fire to block roads out of the city. At least two aircraft were also shot by cartel members that attacked Culiacan International Airport (CUL). Numerous hospital personnel were also abducted during the violence. A previous attempt to capture Guzman in October 2019 sparked a similar wave of violence, leading officials to release Guzman to restore order. Ground transport operations and flight disruptions are expected through 6-7 January as a result of the violence.
06 Jan 23. Benin: Authoritarianism concerns increase likelihood of unrest if opposition performs poorly in elections. On 8 January, Benin will hold legislative elections, which unlike 2019 will include opposition parties. In 2019, changes to election laws rendered numerous opposition parties ineligible to contest polls, resulting in deadly clashes between security forces and protesters. This time, seven political parties will contest the upcoming polls, including three opposition parties, potentially reducing tensions around the election. However, with numerous opposition leaders under arrest and many others living in exile, sustained public concerns about President Patrice Talon’s authoritarianism will drive suspicion of potential electoral manipulation. If polls do not appear to reflect public attitudes, and the opposition parties do not perform well in the election, there is a high likelihood that protests will be organised in the post-election period, particularly in major cities such as Porto Novo and Cotonou. (Source: Sibylline)
06 Jan 23. Chad: Repressive tactics will mitigate immediate threats to government stability. On 5 January, the government announced that security forces had successfully foiled a plot to destabilise the government, led by a group of 11 army officers and a human rights activist. The government claimed it has been in the process of arresting conspirators since 8 December, mitigating any immediate threat to government stability or a significant shift in security posture. However, the plot underlines enduring levels of discontent over recent political developments and mounting economic challenges facing Chad. In October, security forces used live ammunition to disperse protesters demanding a transition to democratic rule in cities across Chad, killing around 50 people. Whilst the government’s repressive tactics are likely to mitigate the emergence of insurmountable threats to government stability, continued delays to democratic transition will drive further unrest, increasing the risk of greater fissures within the armed forces. (Source: Sibylline)
05 Jan 23. The absence of accountability for Syria’s use of chemical weapons is a danger to us all: UK statement at the Security Council.
Statement by Fergus Eckersley, UK Political Coordinator at the UN, at the UN Security Council briefing on Chemical Weapons in Syria
Thank you Mr President
The UK joins others in welcoming you to the Council and assuring you of our full support during your Presidency.
We would also like to extend a warm welcome to colleagues from Ecuador, Malta, Mozambique and Switzerland.
I’d like to thank Mr Ebo for her briefing and the OPCW Director-General for his monthly report.
Last year we marked the 25th anniversary of the Chemical Weapons Convention’s entry into force. Each of us has a responsibility to ensure that it is upheld.
Prior to the start of the conflict in 2011, Syria had an extensive chemical weapons programme. In 2013, after multiple chemical weapons attacks this Council unanimously adopted resolution 2118.
But it became clear that Syria had retained a chemical weapons capability in contravention of resolution 2118 and the Chemical Weapons Convention – and worse than that, further attacks took place.
OPCW and joint UN-OPCW investigations confirmed that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons, including chlorine and sarin, on at least 8 occasions.
These were shocking attacks by the Syrian regime, designed to inflict mass casualties and extreme suffering on its own people.
Syria has since done everything possible to deflect and deny OPCW efforts to resolve the many serious gaps and omissions in its chemical weapons declaration. As we’ve heard, Syria still today shows its contempt for its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and UNSCR 2118.
Sadly, over the last 9 years, accountability and effective Council action to uphold resolution 2118 has also been consistently blocked in the Council. There has also been a consistent disinformation campaign designed to undermine the OPCW and protect the Syrian regime from accountability for its crimes.
It is not too late to turn this around. We welcome the Technical Secretariat’s latest initiative to send a reduced team to Syria in January. This is an opportunity, finally, for the Syrian regime to come into compliance with their obligations. The responsibility rests with them.
President, we are approaching 10 years since the adoption of UNSCR 2118. As a Council we must insist on its full implementation. This means the complete destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile and accountability for their use.
As Mr Ebo said today, the absence of accountability is a threat to international peace and security and a danger to us all.
As a Council we cannot turn a blind eye. We too must uphold our responsibilities.
Thank you. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
05 Jan 23. Somalia: Attack in Hiran underscores sustained al-Shabaab efforts to disrupt military offensives. On 4 January, al-Shabaab killed at least 35 people and wounded 40 in two vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attacks near a military base in Mahas in the central Hiran province, 273 kilometres (170 miles) north-northeast of Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab’s media office claimed to be targeting counter-insurgency forces but reports indicate the majority of casualties were civilians. Security deployments are highly likely in the Mahas district in the coming days, including additional checkpoints and movement restrictions. Government offensives to push al-Shabaab out of its strongholds in southern and central Somalia are ongoing. Whilst such operations are likely to degrade al-Shabaab’s capabilities in the medium-to-long term, the group will attempt to sustain attacks to disrupt government offensives in the coming months. This will sustain heightened risks to bystanders in cities including Mogadishu and central and southern districts, particularly surrounding government buildings and military bases. (Source: Sibylline)
05 Jan 23. Sri Lanka: Local polls will raise the threat of anti-government protests in the first quarter of 2023. On 4 January, Sri Lanka’s election commission said it would hold local government polls for over 1,000 councillor positions by the end of February. This would mark the first election in the country since former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned in July 2022. Several parliamentary ministers have opposed the polls due to the significant cost involved. The election result is not expected to have an impact on the federal government and government stability risks. However, if the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party fails to perform well in the local polls, public opposition against President Ranil Wickremesinghe will likely rise, increasing the risk of domestic unrest. While anti-government protests have eased partially since last year, confidence in the government remains low and has the potential to spark renewed unrest. (Source: Sibylline)
05 Jan 23. Peru: Police disperse anti-government protests in Lima; sustained elevated risk of domestic unrest. On 4 January, police dispersed demonstrators attempting to approach the Peruvian Congress in Lima. The incident occurred after left-wing groups and indigenous activists restarted protests over the ousting of former president Pedro Castillo on 7 December. Transport authorities also reported 35 protests and roadblocks across the country, supporting demands for the resignation of President Dina Boluarte, the closure of Congress and Castillo’s release. The majority of roadblocks were recorded in the Puno and Cusco regions. Authorities likewise reported that trains to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu had been suspended. The political crisis has severely affected businesses in the region, accumulating losses of around USD 2.5 bn since December 2022. The risk of domestic unrest remains high in the short term. (Source: Sibylline)
05 Jan 23. Israel-Palestinian Territories: Security risks to persist with holy sites as flashpoints; pro-Palestinian activism likely to bolster campaigns targeting Israeli businesses. On 5 January, the UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting following Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City. The visit, perceived as a provocation, has triggered widespread domestic and international condemnation. While holy sites in Jerusalem represent flashpoints for unrest and violent confrontations, there has been no immediate response by Palestinian militant groups, with only a failed rocket launch from Gaza on 3 January. Nonetheless, heightened ethno-religious tensions will increase the likelihood of violent clashes and unrest in the West Bank in the coming days, particularly during Friday prayers. The continued volatility of the security environment will also maintain existing physical risks for business staff and assets. Additional perceived provocative acts are also likely to increase the threat of pro-Palestinian activism targeting Israeli-affiliated firms across Europe elevating security and reputational risks. (Source: Sibylline)
05 Jan 23. US: Trade delegation visit to Taiwan likely to sustain elevated tensions between the US and China. The office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) will send a senior official and delegation to Taiwan between 14-17 January. The USTR officials will lead talks pertaining to trade negotiations that commenced with Taiwan in June 2022. They seek to expand agricultural and digital trade, as well as cooperation on a host of issues relating to environmental, corporate governance and labour standards. The office stressed that the negotiations will take place within the frame of the ‘one China policy’. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) also recently earmarked USD 11.5bn in new investments in the Pacific including USD 428m in spare aircraft parts to Taiwan. The USTR visit is likely to sustain tensions between US and China and may risk retaliatory sanctions in the medium term for firms involved in US-Taiwan trade negotiations. (Source: Sibylline)
04 Jan 23. Colombia: Peace Approach.
- On 31 December 2022, President Gustavo Petro announced a bilateral ceasefire with five of Colombia’s largest armed groups. The ceasefire is due to last from 1 January until 30 June.
- The ceasefire will likely prompt a near-term reduction in attacks targeting security personnel in border regions.
- While there is significant uncertainty regarding the 6-12-month outlook, it is unlikely that subsequent peace talks will lead to most combatants disengaging.
- In the most likely scenario, several groups will feign co-operation and engage in temporary talks with the government. However, such talks are unlikely to lead to a decrease in long-term security risks.
The ceasefire move is part of the government’s ‘Total Peace’ initiative to demobilise all guerrilla and paramilitary groups currently operating in Colombia. Among the groups covered by the deal are two FARC dissident guerrilla outfits (Segunda Marquetalia and Estado Mayor Central) and two paramilitary entities (Gulf Clan and Autodefensas Conquistadoras de la Sierra). The fifth group is the ELN, which began demobilisation talks with the government in late December 2022. As of 4 January, the ELN is the only group which appears not to have agreed to the latest ceasefire.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the ELN’s response to the ceasefire, it is likely that shootings and IED attacks targeting security personnel will decrease in the near term. This will largely impact assets and personnel in rural areas near the Ecuadorian and Venezuelan borders where high concentrations of armed groups are typically located. However, there is significant uncertainty surrounding the prospects of a prolonged ceasefire and demobilisation efforts in the coming 6-12 months, especially as the relevant groups all have different motivations for participating in the ceasefire, as well as different command structures.
- No co-operation
Guerrilla and paramilitary groups in Colombia have historically engaged in covert negotiations with governments during their first years in office. Governments have traditionally reached out to armed groups in order to gauge their appetite to initiate demobilisation talks or assess their capacity to threaten policies. High-ranking members of larger armed groups have occasionally used these talks to gain concessions or influence decisions made by the government, which they then later dismiss or refute. This serves to embarrass government officials and increase uncertainty surrounding security policies.
This scenario is the second-most likely of the three, in part because President Petro has yet to serve a full year in office. He has also repeatedly indicated that he is open to talks with all armed groups. This public stance exposes the government’s reputation and future security policies if armed groups immediately backtrack on ceasefire agreements.
- Feigned co-operation
Feigned co-operation has traditionally been used by guerrilla groups in order to make (and protect) strategic gains. In theory, this approach allows armed groups to use freed-up resources to counter the encroachment of rival organisations. For example, several groups active in areas near the Venezuelan border are more concerned by the expansion of other criminal organisations than the impact of security force operations. In this scenario, a cessation in security force operations allows groups to focus on pushing back against this perceived primary threat to the control of their territory and revenue. It also affords groups time to procure weaponry and train recruits without significant pressure from the government. Finally, groups which depend on the cultivation of coca or the processing of narcotics can expand their revenue sources with relative ease.
This is the most likely scenario involving groups which have agreed to the ceasefire, especially dissident FARC guerrillas.
III. Full co-operation
In this scenario, high-ranking members of the various armed groups co-operate with the ceasefire and eventually take part in demobilisation talks. Commanders attempt to secure amnesties and rehabilitation initiatives for their subordinates. The government requires the groups to cease all armed operations and to disclose past criminal activity. The government also attempts to establish security cordons for demobilised members in order to secure their safety.
However, the difference in the structures of the groups risks stalling demobilisation agreements. Groups like the ELN have a high degree of separation between high-ranking members and middle-to-lower ranks. High-ranking members tend to favour demobilisation talks because they can secure significant political concessions and are more likely to retain their economic assets. At the same time, dissident elements within guerrilla or paramilitary umbrella organisations wield significant power to derail negotiations by conducting high-profile attacks against security officials or civilians.
Groups like the dissident FARC guerrillas have previously been involved in demobilisation processes. Their membership structure largely comprises middle-ranking officials who have stepped away from past peace talks or re-joined armed groups due to their demands not being guaranteed by the government or a lack of security guarantees. Indeed, some of these demands may not be politically viable. These include greater representation in the Colombian legislature or pardons for sensitive crimes (e.g. kidnapping) committed during past demobilisation efforts.
This is the least likely scenario, due to both the difference in the armed groups’ structure and the political concessions the government is willing to grant to resume demobilisation talks. (Source: Sibylline)
04 Jan 23. Mali: Attacks near Bamako underscore trend of southwards jihadist expansion, threats to bystanders. Late on 2 January, unidentified gunmen killed two firefighters and three civilians in an attack against a civil defence post at Markacoungo along the RN6 highway. The incident took place around 50 miles (80km) from the capital Bamako. Simultaneously, assailants killed two forestry officials near a toll booth at Kassela, also located along the RN6. The road connects the city of Segou to Bamako. These attacks underline jihadists’ increasing presence and operational capacity around Bamako. This trend is due to the southern expansion of the al-Qaeda-aligned Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM). It underscores the threat posed to overland transport moving along roads to and from Bamako, and also to bystanders near government and military facilities in Bamako’s outskirts. Increased security along the RN6 is highly likely in the coming days. Vehicle checks will disrupt movement and supply chains. (Source: Sibylline)
04 Jan 23. Tanzania: Lifting of rally ban will increase frequency of protests, reduce likelihood of clashes. On 3 January, President Samia Suluhu Hassan lifted a ban on political opposition rallies. The measure represents further efforts by Hassan to differentiate herself from her predecessor, John Magufuli, and to demonstrate to the international community an improvement in Tanzania’s human rights conditions. Hassan has been criticised for arbitrary arrests of opposition politicians carried out under a ban on opposition rallies imposed by Magufuli in 2016. The lifting of the ban will likely increase the frequency of opposition-led demonstrations. However, it will also reduce tensions around such events, reducing the likelihood of violent clashes with the security forces who regularly utilise excessive force to disperse gatherings. (Source: Sibylline)
03 Jan 23. Peru: Anti-Government Protests.
Both the Peruvian government and opposition activists have scheduled protests in early January. The government has requested that citizens attend a demonstration on 3 January in Lima, to protest violent incidents carried out by supporters of former president Pedro Castillo who was ousted in December 2022. In turn, left-wing activists and supporters of Castillo have indicated that they will continue mass protests and roadblocks across the country on 4 January, demanding the release of Castillo from detention.
- Castillo was removed as president on 7 December 2022 following an impeachment motion passed by Congress. The motion was passed hours after Castillo attempted to dissolve Congress. The legislature later swore in Dina Boluarte, the former vice president, to replace Castillo. A judicial panel subsequently ordered Castillo to serve an 18-month pre-trial detention period, citing an investigation into criminal and graft charges.
- Demonstrations following Castillo’s detention have led to at least 20 deaths and several hundred injuries. Activists claim that most deaths have been associated with incidents of abuse by government forces. Security personnel have also arrested high-profile activists accused of stoking domestic unrest. As recently as 2 January, police have also cleared encampments in Lima set up by Castillo supporters.
- Outside of major cities, pro-Castillo protesters have repeatedly targeted critical infrastructure and highways. Protesters besieged Andahuaylas Airport (ANS) and Rodríguez Ballón International Airport (AQP) in mid-December 2022, severely disrupting flight operations. Officials at MMG’s Las Bambas copper mine also reported disruption due to roadblocks.
Sibylline’s current base case scenario expects Castillo supporters to stage protests through January 2023. In major cities, including Lima, protesters have targeted government facilities in arson attacks and acts of vandalism. Clashes with demonstrations organised by the government are also possible. There is a high risk to personnel and assets in the vicinity of organised protests. Past protest locations in Lima include Avenida Abancay, Avenida Guzman Blanco, Campo de Marte, Paseo Colon, Paseo de los Heroes Navales, Plaza Dos de Mayo and Plaza San Martin.
Left-wing activists and supporters of Castillo are also likely to stage protests in rural areas, which will involve roadblocks. Security forces have reportedly been deployed to key thoroughfares and infrastructure, suggesting that disruption to airports and large mining sites may be lower compared to that seen in December 2022. Nevertheless, on smaller roads – many of which link mining areas – protesters are still likely to burn tyres, throw rocks and damage property.
In the 1-2 month outlook, incidents of abuse carried out by security personnel dispersing protests and roadblocks may escalate and prolong the protest movement. A separate trigger for escalation would be an expansion of the judicial inquiry targeting Castillo and several of his political allies. In contrast, drivers for de-escalation include a revision of the electoral calendar to bring forward presidential elections from early 2024. The situation would also de-escalate if there was a relaxation of judicial inquiries into Castillo’s political allies as well as protest leaders. (Source: Sibylline)
03 Jan 23. Colombia: President announces ceasefire with five armed groups; risk of armed attacks and IEDs against security forces likely to decrease in the near term, On 31 December 2022, President Pedro announced bilateral ceasefires with five armed groups, which will run between 1 January and 30 June. Among the groups covered by the ceasefires are two FARC dissident guerrillas (Segunda Marquetalia, Estado Mayor Central) as well two paramilitary groups (Gulf Clan, Autodefensas Conquistadoras de la Sierra). The fifth group is the ELN guerrilla, which began demobilization talks with the government in late December 2022. In the near term, it is likely that armed attacks and IED incidents targeting security personnel will decrease. However, several of these groups have broken off from larger criminal organisations that have previously demobilized and there are members that have suggested they will not participate in peace talks. It is also unclear if some of these groups will attempt to use the ceasefire to bolster capabilities and operational reach in the medium term. (Source: Sibylline)
03 Jan 23. Cameroon: Threat of separatist attacks likely to increase in response to government claims of military success. On 2 January, Anglophone rebel groups announced they would enforce curfews or “ghost towns” in the Northwest and Southwest regions, in response to claims by President Paul Biya that the military was reducing the threat posed by separatist rebels. Separatist efforts to demonstrate their influence have resulted in a spike in conflict over the past few days, particularly in the northwest districts of Bui and Kakiri. Rebels have sealed markets, abducted civilians not complying with lockdowns and attacked soldiers, including within major towns such as Kumbo. Cameroonian forces have reinforced garrisons in key towns in response. However, an elevated risk of attacks will likely continue over the coming weeks, raising threats to overland movement through the region and the likelihood of abduction, particularly to NGO staff running programmes out of major towns in the Northwest and Southwest. (Source: Sibylline)
03 Jan 23. Senegal: Sentencing of opposition members will likely elevate political tensions and drive further protests in Dakar. On 2 January, a court in Dakar sentenced Amadou Niang and Massata Samb, lawmakers of the opposition Party for Unity and Rally (PUR), to six months in prison for assaulting a ruling Benno Bokk Yakaar (BBY) coalition lawmaker, Amy Ndiaye Gniby. The assault took place during a brawl on 1 December 2022 in the National Assembly. Political tensions remain heightened after the ruling BBY lost its majority in the National Assembly in July 2022, amid concerns that President Macky Sall will seek a third term. The sentencing will likely further elevate political tensions with the leading opposition Yewwi Askan Wi (YAW) coalition, of which PUR is a member. YAW is holding national rallies on 6 January, whilst the sentencing will act as a possible flashpoint for further protests in Dakar around the Place de la Nation. Security forces’ likely use of force to disperse protesters will heighten incidental risks to bystanders. (Source: Sibylline)
04 Jan 23. South Korea’s Yoon warns of ending military pact after North drone intrusion. South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said on Wednesday he would consider suspending a 2018 inter-Korean military pact if the North violates its airspace again, his office said, amid tension over a recent intrusion by North Korean drones.
Yoon made the comment after being briefed on countermeasures to North Korean drones that crossed into the South last week, calling for building an “overwhelming response capability that goes beyond proportional levels,” according to his press secretary, Kim Eun-hye.
“During the meeting, he instructed the national security office to consider suspending the validity of the military agreement if North Korea stages another provocation invading our territory,” Kim told a briefing.
The 2018 deal, sealed on the sidelines of a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, calls for ceasing “all hostile acts”, creating a no-fly zone around the border, and removing landmines and guard posts within the heavily fortified Demilitarised Zone. The government has not said how many mines and posts were removed, citing security concerns.
Abandoning the pact could mean the return of the guard posts, live-fire drills in the former no-fly zone and propaganda broadcasts across the border – all of which drew angry responses from Pyongyang before the pact.
Inter-Korean relations have been testy for decades but have grown even more tense since Yoon took office in May pledging a tougher line against Pyongyang.
During the election campaign last year, Yoon said Pyongyang had repeatedly breached the agreement with missile launches and warned he might scrap it. He said after taking office that the pact’s fate hinges on the North’s actions.
Yoon has criticised the military’s handling of the drone incident, in part blaming the previous administration’s reliance on the 2018 pact.
He has urged the military to stand ready to retaliate, even if that means “risking escalation.”
Yoon ordered the defence minister to launch a comprehensive drone unit that performs multi-purpose missions, including surveillance, reconnaissance and electronic warfare, and to set up a system to mass-produce small drones that are difficult to detect within the year, Kim said.
“He also called for accelerating the development of stealthy drones this year and quickly establishing a drone killer system,” she said.
South Korea’s army operated two drone squadrons within its Ground Operations Command since 2018, but they were primarily designed to prepare for future warfare.
The defence ministry has said it plans to launch another unit focusing on surveillance and reconnaissance functions, especially targeting smaller drones.
“The upcoming unit would carry entirely different tasks, conducting operations in various areas,” Defence Minister Lee Jong-sup told parliament last week. To boost its anti-drone capability, the ministry announced plans last week it would spend 560bn won ($440m) over the next five years on technology such as airborne laser weapons and signal jammers. ($1 = 1,273.9000 won) (Source: Reuters)
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