Conflict Risk Alerts


Deadly clashes erupted between security forces and opposition supporters after President Farmajo’s mandate expired; deadlocked electoral process could spark more violence in March.

Farmajo and heads of federal member states 3-5 Feb met in Galmudug state capital Dhusamareb but failed to break deadlock over organisation of parliamentary and presidential elections; conditions for holding polls in Gedo region, Jubaland state, among main stumbling blocks.

Opposition bloc of 15 presidential candidates 8 Feb said it no longer recognised Farmajo as president after his term expired that day, called for formation of Transitional National Council to lead country to elections; federal govt however maintained by month’s end – on basis of Sept legislation – that govt can stay in power until elections are held. After opposition bloc 14 Feb called for protests, federal govt 17 Feb banned public gatherings, citing rise in COVID-19 cases.

Security forces and opposition supporters 19 Feb clashed in capital Mogadishu, leaving at least eight dead. Subsequently, Jubaland and Puntland state presidents pulled out of 21 Feb election talks between Farmajo and heads of federal member states.

PM Roble and opposition bloc 25 Feb met in Mogadishu, agreed to launch investigation into 19 Feb clashes, delay protest planned for 26 Feb and continue discussion over political situation. Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab attacks 1-21 Feb left at least 26 security personnel and civilians dead in Mudug, Galguduud, Hiraan, Middle Shabelle and Lower Shabelle regions. In Mogadishu, Al-Shabaab suicide bombing 13 Feb killed at least one civilian; suspected Al-Shabaab militants next day shot and killed three civilians; two separate Al-Shabaab bombings 28 Feb left at least two security personnel and a civilian dead. Counter-insurgency operations also continued. Security forces 2-28 Feb reportedly killed several dozen Al-Shabaab combatants in Galguduud, Middle Shabelle, Lower Shabelle, Lower Juba and Bay regions. In Hirshabelle state, security forces and clan militia opposed to Nov 2020 state presidential election outcome 4 Feb clashed in Hiraan regional capital Beledweyne, death toll unknown. At border with Kenya, Somali soldiers 1 Feb shot and killed one Kenyan security personnel and injured two others.


Huthis intensified military offensive in Marib governorate, threatening further escalation in area, while U.S. changed course to address conflict with renewed focus on mediation. In some of heaviest fighting since 2018, Huthis mid-month significantly stepped up their year-long offensive in Marib governorate where they advanced in north west, west and south of province, making particular progress in western district of Sirwah some 20km from Marib city. Looming battle for Marib city and nearby oil and gas production facilities could trigger more mass displacement, deepen country’s humanitarian and economic crisis, and spark renewed armed conflict in south and along Red Sea coast in March. Govt-aligned forces late Feb announced imminent counter-offensive to expel Huthi forces from Marib governorate, but Huthis held recent gains by end of Feb. Rebels also intensified cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia (see Saudi Arabia). In major policy shifts, U.S. President Biden 4 Feb announced that U.S. will halt “offensive support” for Saudi-led coalition’s war effort in Yemen, including transfer of precision-guided munitions, while “stepping up” diplomatic support for UN-led mediation; appointed veteran diplomat Timothy Lenderking as new U.S. special envoy to Yemen; and, lastly, revoked Trump administration’s designation of Huthi movement and its three top leaders as “foreign terrorists”. In renewed diplomatic push, Lenderking 22 Feb-3 March travelled to several Gulf countries to meet govt officials and UN special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths. Meanwhile, UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock 18 Feb briefed UN Security Council on Yemen, warning of “worst famine the world has seen in decades”. UN 21 Feb announced that talks proceeding since 24 Jan between Huthis and govt on potential prisoner swap failed to reach agreement.


In unexpected breakthrough, participants to UN-led political talks elected new political leadership; implementation of Oct 2020 ceasefire however still on hold. UN-backed Libyan Political Dialogue Forum 5 Feb elected heads of unified transitional govt to lead country to general elections scheduled for Dec 2021; winning ticket secured 39 votes of 74, with Abdelhamid Dabaiba, a businessman with ties to former Qadhafi regime, elected PM-designate, Mohamed al-Menfi (representing east) chosen as Presidency Council president-designate, and Musa al-Koni (south) and Abdullah al-Lafi (west) elected Presidency Council VP-designates; vote of confidence in House of Representatives (HoR), currently scheduled on 8 March, needed for new leadership and upcoming cabinet to officially replace Libya’s two rival govts. Tripoli-based Govt of National Accord (GNA) immediately welcomed breakthrough and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, leader of east-based Arab-Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF), 6 Feb said he was ready to work with new leadership. UN Security Council 9 Feb welcomed “important milestone in Libyan political process”. In east, in bid to foster unity ahead of vote of confidence, al-Menfi 11 Feb met dozens of tribal elders, academics and activists in Benghazi city, next day met mayor of Tobruk city and pledged to unify all state institutions. Dabaiba 25 Feb delayed submitting list of cabinet members to HoR for approval. AFP 28 Feb leaked UN report alleging at least three delegates had received bribes to vote for Dabaiba in 5 Feb election. Meanwhile, UN Security Council 4 Feb called on Sec-Gen Guterres to deploy advance team to monitor implementation of Oct 2020 ceasefire, and UN Special Envoy for Libya Ján Kubiš 19 Feb met with Haftar in Benghazi city to discuss ceasefire implementation. Unclaimed mortar attack during tenth anniversary celebrations of Libyan uprising 17 Feb killed one child in Sabha city in south. GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha 21 Feb claimed he was target of assassination attempt after gunmen same day opened fire on his motorcade outside capital Tripoli; one person killed and two arrested.


President Déby’s sixth term bid sparked unrest and raid on house of opposition presidential candidate Yaya Dillo turned deadly; intercommunal violence persisted. Ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement 6 Feb chose Déby as candidate for April presidential election. Hundreds of opposition and civil society members same day demonstrated against Déby’s sixth term bid in capital N’Djamena and across country’s south, defying ban on protests; police fired tear gas and arrested at least 14 in N’Djamena, while a dozen members of opposition party Les Transformateurs, including party leader Succès Masra, sought refuge at U.S. embassy. Masra 12 Feb left U.S. embassy after U.S. diplomats said they had received assurances from govt that he “would be allowed to return home unhindered”. Police 13, 20 and 27 Feb used tear gas to disperse opposition protests in N’Djamena and southern Chad and reportedly arrested scores of people. Security forces 28 Feb raided home of opposition presidential candidate Yaya Dillo – a former rebel leader and relative of Déby – in N’Djamena, leaving at least two killed and five wounded; Dillo said presidential guards attacked him and his family while govt said security forces came to arrest Dillo but faced armed resistance and had to retaliate; authorities immediately shut down internet in N’Djamena amid mounting tensions. Meanwhile, 15 opposition parties 2 Feb created coalition to field joint candidate in upcoming presidential election, and 9 Feb elected political newcomer Théophile Bongoro as candidate; opposition heavyweight Saleh Kebzabo’s and four other parties however withdrew from coalition few days later citing irregularities in election process. Intercommunal violence continued notably in south east, where farmer-herder clashes 15-16 Feb left 35 dead and several injured in Mouraye town, Salamat province. At G5 Sahel summit held in N’Djamena, Déby 15 Feb announced immediate deployment of 1,200 troops to tri-border area between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger; deployment decided in early 2020 was delayed due to insecurity in Lake Chad basin. French President Macron next day ruled out downsizing military forces in Sahel (see Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger entries).


Post-election violence flared as opposition rejected victory of ruling-party candidate Mohamed Bazoum in 21 Feb presidential runoff. Second round of presidential election between ruling-party candidate Bazoum and former President Mahamane Ousmane 21 Feb disrupted by deadly incident in Dargol commune, Tillabery region (near Mali border) as landmine killed seven poll workers. Electoral commission 23 Feb announced provisional results, saying Bazoum won with 55.75% of vote. Ousmane same day rejected results, citing electoral fraud, and his supporters immediately took to streets in capital Niamey; police fired tear gas to disperse protesters who reportedly ransacked at least one police station and several shops. In Dosso city, about 100km south of Niamey, protesters same day reportedly burnt down political party premises. Ousmane 24 Feb claimed victory with 50.3% of vote, reiterating that fraud had been committed “pretty much everywhere” and prompting protesters to confront security forces in Niamey’s central market area and south-western town of Kollo. Govt 25 Feb said two died in post-election violence and 468 were arrested; also accused opposition figure Hama Amadou, who was barred from running in presidential election, of being “main person responsible” for unrest; after Amadou next day turned himself in to police in Niamey, police detained him over these allegations. Regional body ECOWAS and UN 25 Feb jointly condemned post-election violence and called on all actors to exercise restraint. Meanwhile in Tillabery region (south west), jihadist activity continued albeit at lower intensity than in Jan: suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants 5 Feb seized livestock in Kailou Kouara village, Ouallam department. In Maradi region (south), unidentified gunmen conducted series of attack in Guidan-Roumdji department: 5 Feb attacked Guilbadi village, killing at least one and wounding four others; 8 Feb killed student and seized livestock in Dan Mani village, and same day shot three dead in Gaja village. G5 Sahel summit 15-16 Feb held in Chad’s capital N’Djamena; French President Macron announced France would not downsize military forces in Sahel until at least mid-2022, called for “civilian surge” to complement military efforts, and continued to oppose dialogue with jihadist leaders.


Criminal groups abducted hundreds in north west, while ethnic and regional tensions ran high in south amid farmer-herder conflict; meanwhile, tensions rose in south east between govt and Biafra secessionists. Criminal groups in Feb reportedly killed at least 112 and kidnapped over 450 people, mostly in Katsina, Kaduna, Sokoto and Zamfara states (north west), but also in Niger state (Middle Belt). Notably, armed group 17 Feb abducted 42 students and school personnel in Niger state, released them 27 Feb; 26 Feb kidnapped 279 girls in Zamfara state. Meanwhile, Auwalun Daudawa, who masterminded Dec 2020 abduction of 344 students in Katsina state, 8 Feb laid down arms along with five of his troops. Amid rise in herder-farmer and intercommunal violence in south since Jan, clashes between ethnic Hausa and Fulani on one hand, and ethnic Yoruba on the other, early Feb killed two dozen people in Oyo state capital Ibadan (south west). Nobel laureate in literature Wole Soyinka 6 Feb warned situation could spiral into civil war and former President Abdulsalam Abubakar 16 Feb said it could lead to “point of no return”. In Imo state (south east), security forces stepped up operations against Eastern Security Network (ESN), paramilitary wing of outlawed secessionist group Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB); army 18 Feb deployed helicopters and hundreds of troops in Orlu and Orsu areas, razing several ESN camps; IPOB same day said govt had triggered “second Nigeria-Biafra war”. Boko Haram (BH) attacks continued in Borno state (north east) despite military operations. Army 9-10 Feb repelled insurgent attacks on base in Rann town and on Askira Uba town, killing at least 50 combatants. BH splinter group Islamic State West Africa Province 15 Feb killed at least seven soldiers in Marte area; next day launched coordinated attacks in Marte and Gubio areas, death toll unknown; 19 Feb raided several villages in Dikwa area, displacing thousands. BH rocket attack on state capital Maiduguri 23 Feb reportedly left 16 dead. Military 15 Feb said troops had killed some 80 insurgents from BH faction led by Abubakar Shekau (JAS) in “recent” operations in Sambisa forest; at least two senior JAS figures reportedly among those killed.