The Conflict Path Series in the Middle East and Africa Issue no.25 October 2023

Introduction:

Conflicts in the Middle East and Africa are a reflection of the complexity of protracted conflicts; The way in which they interact, their longevity, the behaviour and demands of the perpetrators, the parties’ terms of settlement, the dynamism of which they are characterized, and the intensity of their competition reflect their complexity.

This complexity increases as these conflicts interact with global changes s interests become more overlapping and complex, and the challenges surrounding political settlements increase in order to increase the importance of careful follow-up and analysis of such interactions as to enable us to set the record straight for choosing the most appropriate policies and preparing for the scenarios presented, In this number, together with tracking regional conflicts, we are approaching their internal interlinkages and international and regional interaction.

The 25th  issue of the Shaf Centre’s monthly Conflict Trail Report highlights the Middle East and Africa arena of conflict States, tracking important issues, highlights and local, regional and international interactions. The report covers the conflict situation in 10 States (Ethiopia, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Lebanon and Mali)

Executive Summary

Before we shed light on developments in the situation of conflict in the regions to be dealt with, the situation of conflict in the 10 States of concern is broadly presented before proceeding to the detailed report.

Ethiopia:

In the midst of the ongoing conflicts in Palestinian territories, there seems to be a significant focus on these events, while there is relative silence in the African continent and a cooling down of some crises, notably the Sudanese Civil War. However, the situation quickly returned to its natural course, as seen in Ethiopia hosting a meeting between Sudanese civil and political forces in Addis Ababa to address the bloodshed resulting from this war. Also, the continuation of the tripartite negotiations regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam under challenging circumstances indicates Egyptian aspirations for serious and fair solutions that consider their historical rights to the Nile waters. As long as the efforts continue, there remains hope for Ethiopia to reconsider its stance.

Sudan:

Resolving the crisis in Sudan must be accompanied by full coordination and alignment among all international and regional initiatives aimed at ending the war. Additionally, it should include agreement on fundamental principles through a comprehensive political process that entails ending the war and establishing a civil state that respects all cultures and religions while condemning all forms of discrimination. This process should also involve a negotiated political framework that includes all factions supporting a peaceful transition of power, as well as establishing specific foundations for security and military reform to build a unified national army. Furthermore, it should address the humanitarian disaster caused by the war and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to those affected by the conflict.

Somalia:

We still see ongoing arrangements for the “presidential and parliamentary” elections in Puntland, with criticism from the opposition regarding the timing and President Said Deni’s role dominating the domestic scene in Somalia. Additionally, the country continues to grapple with the humanitarian consequences of attacks and conflicts by the al-Shabaab movement, particularly their impact on civilians. However, Somali efforts persist in countering this group and liberating the remaining areas under their control. On the international front, the Somali President and Prime Minister have been actively working to strengthen diplomatic relations with other countries, such as Eritrea, the United Arab Emirates, and Finland. Furthermore, they have condemned the actions in Gaza and violations against civilians and called for their cessation, along with opening borders for humanitarian aid.

Iraq:

Iraq has shown strong support for Palestinian rights and strongly condemned the aggressions and violations against them. In this regard, Iraq has sent humanitarian assistance to Gaza to aid the Palestinian people and called for an immediate ceasefire and the lifting of the blockade on Gaza. Iraq has also called for international and regional support for this objective.

The ongoing solidarity and continuous efforts from Iraq to support the Palestinians reflect a commitment to achieving stability and justice in the region. This is happening while there is continued domestic attention to move forward with organizing provincial elections, despite several challenges that almost led to their postponement. Nevertheless, there is determination from various political factions to proceed with these elections, considering the essential role provincial councils play in addressing the daily needs of citizens.

Yemen:

Despite indications suggesting a potential approach to peace in Yemen, both militarily and politically, this desire and eagerness may clash with Houthi obstinacy on one hand. On the other hand, Israel’s war in Gaza appears to raise regional and international concerns about the expansion of the conflict, especially as Iran’s proxies in the region seem ready to engage, which could significantly impact the regional power dynamics, particularly in fragile peace states like Yemen.

South Sudan:

When we look at the situation in South Sudan, it appears to have relative stability in the political scene, paving the way for presidential elections. Several laws are being approved by the parliament, such as the Social Insurance Law for 2023, which helps the government leverage personal income tax and regulate the private sector. Economically, South Sudan is heading toward modernizing its banking sector and establishing partnerships with Arab countries like the United Arab Emirates to develop

its infrastructure and keep up with technological advancements. On the security front, South Sudan faces terrorist attacks, increased rates of kidnapping, and brutal killings. It also suffers from the repercussions of the war in Sudan, resulting in a growing number of refugees whose conditions in camps deteriorate due to the lack of medicines and food. South Sudan will need concerted efforts in the near future to provide medication to refugees and secure their basic needs.

Syria:

As previously mentioned, the security situation in Syria is deteriorating due to the conflict in Gaza and ongoing Turkish attacks against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Syria. This is likely to lead to further economic deterioration in the country, fueling protests in Sweida in southern Syria, with the possibility of protests spreading to other Syrian provinces. This complex security situation has had political repercussions, with Arab-Syrian normalization and Syrian-Turkish normalization efforts being frozen, especially after Ankara’s offensive.

Libya:

The content of the Supreme Council of State’s decision and the statements of some of its members raise doubts about the Parliament introducing its own amendments to the electoral laws proposed by the (6 + 6) committee in early June last year. The real concern now lies in the position of the UN mission, which is expected to use the stance of the Supreme Council of State to emphasize the lack of “Libyan-Libyan” consensus on the election regulations, justifying its own vision for the entire political process. This may encourage some parties to exploit the prolongation of the transitional phase.

Lebanon:

It can be said that Lebanon is currently experiencing one of the worst periods in its contemporary history. The scenario where Hezbollah initiates the first war in the region with Israel is not excluded, especially as clashes between the party and Israel have exceeded the level of controlled confrontations, intensified, and included shelling of densely populated areas, leading to the displacement of residents from border regions. However, the option of war and involvement in it remains a less likely scenario. The war between the two parties may continue within a limited framework, as the choice of war would be destructive for Lebanon and result in severe losses for Israel, especially as it cannot afford a multi-front war or prolonged conflicts.

Mali:

Mali is witnessing a renewed conflict between the Coordination of Azawad Movements, which seeks separatism, and the Malian Army since the end of August. This conflict marks the first of its kind since the 2012 conflict that aimed to control the region, signifying a violation of the Algiers Peace Agreement signed in 2015. Azawad movements have accused the Malian government of neglecting the development of their region, leaving it vulnerable to escalating violence and terrorist activities by groups like “ISIS in the Sahel” and the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Jama’at Nasr al-Islam walMuslimin. This situation has been exacerbated by the security vacuum left by the withdrawal of French forces and now the United Nations mission (MINUSMA).

As a result, the Malian Army is facing a multi-front war, battling armed groups on one side and Azawad movements on the other. If serious negotiations do not occur between these two parties, Mali is likely to witness an open conflict. With the intensification of the conflict, Tuaregs in other parts of the region may join the ranks, alongside recruitment efforts for other elements. There is also the possibility of Niger and Burkina Faso becoming involved in the conflict due to their joint defense agreement, in addition to the potential for cooperation between terrorists and Azawad groups against the Malian government and the Russian private military company, Wagner. This constitutes a disastrous scenario, threatening the prolongation and widening of the conflict. Moreover, the Malian government is likely to be increasingly targeted by armed groups during this period due to its involvement in multi-front warfare.

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