Amid rising COVID-19 cases, fighting between govt forces and Huthis in north and cross-border attacks between Huthis and Saudi Arabia intensified, while tensions in south de-escalated.
In north, fighting between govt forces and Huthis escalated: Huthis 4 and 18 July fired ballistic missiles into Marib governorate, leaving four civilians injured. Saudi-led coalition 12 July launched airstrike targeting Hajja governorate in north west, killing at least nine, including seven children. Saudi airstrike near al-Hazm, capital of al-Jawf, 15 July killed at least eleven, including several children; UN special envoy next day called for investigation. Meanwhile, Huthis mid-month stepped up campaign against tribes in south of Marib governorate in effort to pressure them into breaking with govt. Cross-border war mid-July intensified after Saudi-led coalition 2 July launched series of airstrikes targeting area around Huthi-held capital Sanaa; in retaliation, Huthis 13 July reportedly launched drone and missile attacks targeting oil facility in Saudi city Jizan, Abha airport and military sites in Jizan and Najran cities; no casualties reported. Saudi-led coalition same day said it had intercepted four Huthi missiles and six bomb-laden drones targeting civilians in Saudi Arabia. In south, after Saudi Arabia in June presented new proposal to govt and Southern Transitional Council (STC) on stalled implementation of Nov 2019 Riyadh Agreement, STC 29 July rescinded its April declaration of self-administration and agreed to implement provisions of Riyadh deal, marking progress toward ending months-long power struggle between STC and UN-recognised govt; President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi 29 tasked PM Maeen Saeed with forming new govt in accordance with deal. Meanwhile, UN special envoy Martin Griffiths early July shared latest draft agreement to end conflict with govt; President Hadi 14 July publicly rejected draft on grounds that it “undermines the govt’s sovereignty”; govt reportedly criticised concessions around reopening of Sanaa airport and easing restrictions on Hodeida port. Local health authorities as of 17 July recorded more than 1,500 COVID-19 cases and 439 deaths; 50% increase in both figures from previous month. UN 15 July warned of risk of oil spill from FSO Safer oil tanker in Red Sea, which risks closure of Hodeida port that could cut off 11 million Yemenis from access to basic goods.
Turkish-backed forces loyal to UN-recognised Govt of National Accord (GNA) prepared offensive in Libya’s centre, while Egypt took preparatory steps toward direct military intervention, raising risk of conflict escalation in Aug. In west, unknown aircraft 5 July launched airstrikes on Wutiya airbase, reportedly destroying air defence systems following Turkish deployment of military equipment there. In centre, GNA-allied forces continued to prepare for offensive to capture Sirte city, gateway to Libya’s main oil terminals, and nearby Jufra airbase from Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Arab-Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF); column of about 200 vehicles reportedly moved eastward from Misrata city 18 July. Citing threat to national security, Egypt army 9 July held major exercise near Libyan border and Egyptian parliament 20 July authorised troop deployment abroad “in defence of national security” against “criminal armed militias and foreign terrorist elements”. UN Security Council special session on Libya 9 July highlighted international schisms: France fulminated against Turkey’s “aggressive” posture as destabilising factor; Turkey called for international community to end support for ALAF; Germany and U.S. supported demilitarisation of central Libya, but Russia did not; U.S. slammed Russia for deployment of mercenaries, which Russia denied. UN acting envoy to Libya Stephanie Williams late July warned of “huge risk” of miscalculation around Sirte triggering direct confrontation between rival foreign powers. Diplomatic efforts redoubled to secure agreement on reopening of oil fields and export terminals that Haftar-led forces and allied local tribesmen shut down in Jan. U.S., UN and Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) early July proposed draft agreement holding guarantees that oil revenue would not accrue in contested Tripoli Central Bank but in NOC-controlled bank account for 120 days, to allow for concrete steps to address Haftar’s demands to replace Central Bank top management. NOC 10 July lifted force majeure on oil sites and ordered resumption of oil exports, but agreement unravelled within 24 hours with Haftar rejecting NOC’s temporary holding of oil revenues and reiterating call for audit of Central Bank under UN supervision. UN 27 July announced launch of Central Bank audit.
Political crisis turned deadly despite regional mediation efforts, while violence continued at lower intensity in centre and north. Tens of thousands 10 July protested against President Keïta in capital Bamako for third time since early June; protesters clashed with security forces, set up roadblocks and ransacked administrative buildings; unrest continued in following days, reportedly leaving at least 14 dead and dozens injured 10-12 July; protest followed calls by coalition of opposition and civil society groups M5-RFP, led by prominent Imam Mahmoud Dicko, demanding Keïta’s resignation, formation of M5-RFP-led govt, dissolution of National Assembly and Constitutional Court. In address to nation 11 July, Keïta announced de facto dissolution of Constitutional Court. President’s son Karim Keïta, under growing scrutiny for his lavish lifestyle, 14 July resigned as chair of National Assembly’s National Defence, Security and Civil Protection Commission. Regional bloc Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) 14 July appointed former Nigerian President Jonathan special envoy for Mali; mediation mission 15-19 July failed to reach deal to end deadlock; ECOWAS 23 July sent African heads of state delegation to Mali to pursue mediation efforts; 27 July held virtual extraordinary summit, proposed four-point plan to solve crisis including creation of national unity govt and resignation of MPs whose elections are contested, but called Keïta’s resignation “red line”. Keïta same day reshuffled cabinet, asked new ministers to negotiate with opposition to form unity govt. M5-RFP next day rejected plan and reiterated demand for president’s resignation. Meanwhile, violence persisted in Mopti region in centre, albeit at lower intensity. Suspected Fulani armed groups 1 July attacked several Dogon villages in Bankass circle, killing at least 33. Rising tensions between Dogon militia Dan Na Ambassagou and Dogon villagers who refuse to adhere to its rule led to clashes in Koro Cercle. Notably, Dan Na Ambassagou 4 July killed three Dogon civilians in Berda village. In Timbuktu region in north, suicide attack 23 July killed French soldier near Gossi city; al-Qaeda-linked Group to Support Islam and Muslims 30 July claimed responsibility.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Deadly violence intensified in eastern provinces with high toll on civilians, while tensions ran high within ruling coalition. In North Kivu province, armed group Allied Democratic Forces 1 and 28 July clashed with army in Beni territory, reportedly killing nine soldiers; two factions of militia Nduma Defence of Congo clashed 11-20 July in Walikale territory leaving at least 37 dead; armed group March 23 Movement 21 July attacked armed forces in Rutshuru territory, leaving at least three soldiers dead. In South Kivu province, coalition of militiamen 16 July attacked Kipupu village, Mwenga territory, reportedly leaving 18 civilians dead and over 200 missing. In Ituri province, armed group Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) killed at least 31 civilians and seven members of security forces in Djugu territory 4-8 July. After President Tshisekedi early July sent delegation of former Lendu warlords to negotiate demobilisation with CODECO factions in Djugu, CODECO faction in Kambutso village 13 July stated willingness to disarm and start peace process with govt under conditions; other factions reportedly followed suit late July. Political tensions increased within ruling coalition between Tshisekedi and his predecessor Joseph Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC). National Assembly, dominated by FFC, 2 July voted for FCC ally Ronsard Malonda as electoral commission president ahead of 2023 presidential election. After Catholic and Protestant churches 3 July urged Tshisekedi to reverse decision, and Tshisekedi supporters 9 July and opposition members 13 July protested in capital Kinshasa and other cities, Tshisekedi 17 July rejected Malonda’s appointment, citing lack of consensus. Deputy PM and Justice Minister Célestin Tunda ya Katende, at centre of tension between FCC and Tshisekedi since June, resigned 11 July. Head of Constitutional Court, under U.S. sanctions for alleged corruption and obstruction of democracy during 2018 elections, resigned 6 July. Tshisekedi 17 July appointed three new Constitutional Court judges. After 10 July meeting with top army command, Tshisekedi 17 July carried out major army reshuffle, sidelining some pro-Kabila generals, notably Army Inspector General John Numbi.
Street violence early July left over 200 dead in capital Addis Ababa and Oromia region, while relations between federal govt and Tigray region reached critical point. Late June killing of popular Oromo singer and activist Hachalu Hundessa sparked wave of deadly protests in Addis Ababa and Oromia: heavy-handed suppression by security forces and Oromo youth targeting of non-Oromo ethnic minorities 30 June-2 July left at least 239 dead; amid protests, govt shut down internet, deployed military in Addis Ababa and arrested at least 5,000 including prominent opposition leaders Jawar Mohammed and Eskinder Nega. PM Abiy 3 July described Hundessa’s killing and subsequent violence as “coordinated attempts” to destabilise Ethiopia. Attorney general 10 July announced arrest of two suspects who reportedly confessed to killing Hundessa on orders of armed group Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) with goal of inciting ethnic tensions and overthrowing govt; OLA 15 July denied allegation. Relations between federal govt and Tigray region reached critical point after Tigray region in June vowed to organise regional elections in 2020 despite federal govt decision to postpone them due to COVID-19: in Addis Ababa, authorities 9 July arrested two senior officials of Tigray’s ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front on allegations of involvement in late June-early July unrest, released them on bail late July; amid reports of large-scale recruitment of security forces by Tigray authorities, Tigray President 20 July reportedly said “Tigray region will be a burial ground” for those attempting to obstruct election. Abiy 29 July said elections in Tigray were unconstitutional but ruled out military intervention. Amhara region’s president 23 July announced Amhara’s intention to regain lands “illegally taken” by neighbouring Tigray and said 85 insurgents entered Amhara from Tigray. In Southern Nations region in south, late July clashes between ethnic Konso and Ale reportedly killed at least thirteen and forced thousands to flee. In Benishangul-Gumuz region in north west, gunmen 27 July killed at least fourteen ethnic Amhara. Abiy 21 July said Ethiopia had achieved its first-year target for filling reservoir of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on Blue Nile River thanks to heavy rainy season (see Nile Waters).
Intercommunal violence escalated in east leaving dozens dead, implementation of local power-sharing agreement stalled, and ceasefire between President Kiir and VP Riek Machar’s forces broke down in west. In east, intercommunal clashes intensified in Jonglei state. Notably, unidentified gunmen 2 July killed four in Poktap village; suspected ethnic Murle youth next day attacked Duk Padiet town, leaving at least 39 dead; at least seven were also killed 13 July in cattle raid in Pajut town; gunmen reportedly crossing over from Pibor Administrative Area 27 July killed about 17 people in Makol-cuei village. In Lakes state in centre, intercommunal violence 4 July left four dead in Cueibet County. In Warrap state, also in centre, 15 were killed in cattle raid in Tonj North county 24 July. President Kiir 8 July said govt would launch nationwide disarmament program and intercommunal dialogue initiatives to address mounting intercommunal violence. Following June agreement between Kiir and former rebel leader turned VP Riek Machar which granted Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) governorship of contested Upper Nile state, Kiir’s spokesperson 2 July said he would not appoint Machar’s pick General Johnson Olony over accusations he violated peace agreement by not sending SPLA-IO forces to cantonment sites for unification with govt troops into national army; Kiir 20 July urged Machar to nominate other candidate. Machar’s SPLA-IO and Kiir-aligned South Sudan People’s Defense Forces 18-19 July exchanged fire in Wau, Western Bar El Gazal state, after latter 18 July arrested SPLA-IO fighters in Nyabor area. UN Security Council 13 July and regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) next day urged govt to form legislative assembly and implement security arrangements; IGAD 14 July said in absence of progress in implementation of transitional measures by 14 Aug its chairperson would intervene to mediate between parties and attempt to break deadlock. In south, rebel group National Salvation Front, which refused to be part of Sept 2018 peace agreement, 19 July said it had repelled attacks by govt forces on its positions in Liria county 16 July and Lobonok county 18 July, killing five soldiers.
Govt faced increasing pressure to advance transitional agenda amid continuing delays in finalising peace accord with rebel groups and escalating deadly violence in Darfur. Following 30 June protests demanding greater civilian rule in transition, PM Hamdok 5 July dismissed police chief and his deputy; 9 July accepted resignation of six ministers and dismissed one. Security forces 14 July detained hard-line Islamist preacher and Law and Development Party leader Mohamed Ali al-Gizouli who called on military to remove transitional govt. Thousands of former President Bashir supporters and Islamist group members 17 July protested against govt in capital Khartoum. Khartoum court 21 July opened trial of Bashir over his role in 1989 coup but adjourned it until 11 Aug amid protests and COVID-19 concerns. Govt and rebel coalition Sudanese Revolutionary Front as well as Sudan Liberation Movement/Army faction led by Minni Minnawi mid-July reached tentative agreement on power-sharing; signature of comprehensive peace deal remains elusive with security arrangements an ongoing sticking point; govt 27 July swore in 18 civilian state governors. Holdout armed opposition Sudan Liberation Movement/Army faction led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur (SLM-AW) early July reportedly clashed with security forces in Kamaraya area, West Darfur state, three SLM-AW combatants killed. In Darfur, intercommunal violence flared up and militias killed dozens in a series of violent attacks as they seek to halt returns of internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees to land taken forcibly under Bashir. In North Darfur state, unidentified gunmen 13 July attacked Fata Borno IDP camp, killing at least nine civilians. In West Darfur state, intercommunal clashes 19 July left at least three dead in state capital el-Geneina; some 500 unidentified gunmen 25 July raided Masteri village, killing over 60, mostly ethnic Masalit. In South Darfur state, unidentified gunmen 23 July raided Abdos village, killing at least 15. In neighbouring South Kordofan state, intercommunal clashes 21-22 July left dozens dead in state capital Kadugli. Ethiopia reportedly achieved its first-year target for filling reservoir of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on Blue Nile River as tripartite talks remained stalled (see Nile Waters).
Amid counter-insurgency operations and allegations of extrajudicial killings, Islamist militants launched deadly attacks and stepped up kidnappings in far north. In Cabo Delgado province in far north, Islamist militants killed scores of civilians throughout month, including at least twenty in raid on Mungue village on border between Mocimboa da Praia and Muidumbe districts 15 July, and nine in attacks in Macomia and Mocimboa da Praia district 28-30 July. Numerous kidnappings were reported in July, including several truckloads of women taken by insurgents during occupation of Mocimboa da Praia town 27 June-3 July. Islamic State (ISIS) 3 July threatened to attack natural gas projects, same day warned it would target South Africa should it intervene to support Mozambican army in Cabo Delgado. Meanwhile, security forces 1 July launched raid on insurgent base near Ntessa village, Macomia district, allegedly killing over 100 militants. Reports of extrajudicial killings persisted. Security forces 7 July reportedly killed four civilians suspected of supporting insurgents in Mocimboa da Praia town. Demobilisation and disarmament of Renamo forces continued; ten former Renamo fighters 6 July enrolled with police in Pemba, capital of Cabo Delgado province; UN Special Envoy for Mozambique Mirko Manzoni 16 July said Renamo base in Muxungue, Sofala province in centre, had been dismantled previous day and over 500 former Renamo fighters demobilised since June, reportedly including eleven members of Renamo dissident faction which calls itself Renamo Military Junta. Trial of six individuals accused of supporting Renamo Military Junta, including former Renamo MP Sandura Ambrosio, started 10 July in Dondo district, Sofala province. Police 23 July killed five Renamo Military Junta fighters in Sussundenga district, Manica province in west.
Amid COVID-19 concerns and deepening economic crisis, authorities stepped up crackdown on opposition and civil society, arresting dozens ahead of planned anti-govt protest. Following calls spearheaded by opposition party Transform Zimbabwe to protest corruption and worsening economic crisis in capital Harare 31 July, Deputy Defence Minister Victor Matemadanda 8 July alleged foreign actors were funding unrest and planning to spread COVID-19 through tear gas. Police 20 July arrested Transform Zimbabwe leader Ngarivhume and prominent investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, who in June reported alleged corruption in govt procurement of COVID-19 medical equipment worth $60mn, on charges of inciting public violence; court denied bail to Ngarivhume 23 July and Chin’ono 24 July. After govt 22 July tightened COVID-19 lockdown and imposed night-time curfew, UN Human Rights Office 24 July said govt should not use coronavirus “to clamp down on fundamental freedoms”. Ruling party 27 July called on supporters to “face down” protesters and accused U.S. ambassador of “funding disturbances, coordinating violence and training fighters” in Zimbabwe. Security forces 31 July locked down Harare, thwarting planned protest, and arrested at least 60 people late July, including opposition and civil society leaders, while a dozen others reportedly went into hiding. Meanwhile, authorities 4 July requested Kenya to extradite govt critic and former Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo over corruption allegations and accusations of plotting “mass uprising” against govt. Main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leaders Nelson Chamisa and Thokozani Khupe continued to vie for control of party; de facto interim leader Khupe 1 July sidelined eight Chamisa-aligned MPs from parliament. Parliament 27 July said it would suspend its activities after two MPs tested positive for coronavirus. Perrance Shiri, agriculture minister and former commander of notorious army brigade suspected of massacres in 1980s, died 29 July reportedly of COVID-19; family and others claimed he was poisoned.
Jihadists resumed attacks on Borno state capital in north east, armed groups inflicted heavy toll on army in north west, and attacks on farming communities spiked in Middle Belt. In Borno state in north east, insurgents 2 July shot UN helicopter near Damasak town, prompting UN to pause humanitarian flights to review risk assessments. Suspected Boko Haram faction Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) 7-16 July killed about 50 soldiers, including 37 in ambush along Maiduguri-Damboa highway 7 July. Troops 13 July repelled first insurgents’ attack in state capital Maiduguri in several months, and 19 July repelled ISWAP attack on army’s super camp in Damasak town, killing eight ISWAP commanders. ISWAP same day killed five humanitarian workers abducted in June. Insurgents 30 July fired four rocket-propelled explosives into Maiduguri killing seven, in second major security breach of city long considered beyond insurgent’s reach. In north west, military reported 80 armed men killed in operations 1-31 July, while armed groups continued attacks mainly in Katsina and Zamfara states. In Katsina, unidentified gunmen 6 July killed at least 25 in Yar Gamji village in Batsari area; first explosive device attack in Katsina 18 July killed seven children in Yammama village, Malumfashi area; armed group same day ambushed army unit in Jibia area, inflicting heavy toll on military by killing at least 23 soldiers; 20 July abducted seventeen women in Zakka town, Safana area. In Zamfara, armed group 6 July stormed Danfana village, Maru area, killing seven and abducting 20. Air force 9, 20 and 23 July bombed armed groups’ hideouts in Zamfara state forest, killing unspecified numbers. With armed groups deploying increasingly sophisticated weapons, army 10 July reported growing indications of connections between them and jihadist groups. Intercommunal violence and attacks on farming communities flared in Middle Belt, killing dozens. In southern part of Kaduna state, armed attacks on farming communities 9-24 July killed over 70 residents in Kaura, Kajuru, Kauru and Zangon Kataf areas. In Benue state’s Logo area, unidentified assailants 10 July killed seven in Chembe village. In other communal violence, unidentified gunmen 29 July killed fourteen at Agbudu village, Kogi state.
Political crisis peaked with collapse of govt following weeks of tensions between PM Fakhfakh and Islamist-inspired party An-Nahda. National anti-corruption authority 13 July submitted report on PM Fakhfakh’s revenues to national judiciary and Speaker of Parliament Rached Ghannouchi over allegations of conflict of interest. Group of 105 MPs led by Ghannouchi’s An-Nahda (member of ruling coalition) 15 July tabled no-confidence motion against Fakhfakh’s govt, prompting him to resign same day. Fakhfakh, who remained head of caretaker govt until new one is formed, next day reshuffled cabinet and dismissed all An-Nahda ministers, also pledged to review appointments made by An-Nahda in central and local govt. President Saïed 25 July designated Interior Minister Hichem Mechichi as new PM and tasked him with forming new govt by 25 Aug. Group of 89 MPs led by Abir Moussi’s Free Destourian Party 16 July tabled no-confidence motion against Parliament Speaker Ghannouchi; in parliamentary session 30 July, motion fell short of 109-vote majority with 97 MPs voting against Ghannouchi. In south, several strikes and sit-ins brought production of phosphates to near halt. Notably, demonstrators asking for jobs in energy and related companies 16 July closed pipeline in Kamour area.