The Conflict Path Series in the Middle East and Africa Issue no.27 December 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 28th  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:

A forward-looking vision can be presented for the future of the situation in Ethiopia during the coming period, which portends the possibility of returning to the square of negotiations between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia again, as the Egyptian administration will not give up the rights of its future generations to the waters of the Nile River. Addis Ababa’s failure to pay its debts and the resort of credit rating agencies to lower its rating may lead to a decline in performance indicators of the Ethiopian economy, and then the flight of foreign investments from the country, which may affect the dam project, perhaps halting filling operations for a later time, or making accommodations with the government. Egypt regarding this file, and some countries supporting Addis Ababa may intervene and support it in paying its debts. As for the security aspect, the year 2024 may be the year of peace between the Abiy Ahmed government and the Oromo Front, as happened with the Tigray community before, and given the nature of the recent movements in the Horn of Africa region, through which the Prime Minister is trying to consolidate relations with countries. Region; To establish peace and stability, as a sponsor of peace in the region, and to seek to establish a regional and perhaps international status for Ethiopia, and

given the continuing attempts to secure entry to the Red Sea, we find that in light of this insistence, it is possible that the Ethiopian government will reach an agreement with Eritrea, Somalia, or Djibouti. , and other coastal countries; To lift this landlocked country from its isolation, and to agree on a participatory approach that guarantees Ethiopia the right to access the sea directly, and at the same time takes into account the interests and concerns of the country that will allow it this possibility. This matter may take some time, and may be postponed until the economic situation in the country improves. Because the government will not be able to achieve this goal absolutely under the current circumstances and challenges, whether security, political, or economic.

Sudan:

The year 2023 was considered a disastrous year for Sudan by all standards, and with the advent of a new year, Sudan will witness decisive months, either by expanding the scope of the war or accelerating its end. Hopes are still rising to stop the bleeding of the ongoing war that has exhausted the Sudanese people and state, but this can only be achieved. By holding unconditional negotiations and taking a set of decisive steps that are imposed on both sides of the conflict. In order to accelerate the resolution of the crisis, all international and regional interventions must be excluded, especially the countries allied to the Rapid Support Forces, which provide them with support. It is necessary to move towards imposing sanctions on these countries, in addition to the inevitability of banning the export of weapons to Sudan, and developing a comprehensive strategic plan, from During cooperation between international and regional organizations aimed at resolving the crisis; To confront all companies that benefit from selling weapons to Sudan, in addition to the need to protect cities that still witness a degree of relative stability. This is to ensure the maintenance of security and peace there, prevent the expansion of the circle of war in the future, and then rebuild the Sudanese state. In order to achieve the desired democratic transformation.

Somalia:

Somalia is witnessing developments in Puntland State; As a result of the elections, scheduled to be held on January 8, 2024 AD, but given the humanitarian conditions and the political crisis that the state is witnessing, in addition to the economic deterioration in recent years, agreeing on a consensual formula for holding the next elections is considered the most appropriate solution to overcome this crisis, as for the president not making concessions. Said Abdullahi Deni and the opposition, may lead to worsening the situation, and elections may be held in the state of Puntland according to the old system, of tribal sultans appointing members of parliament to elect the president and deputy of the state; To prevent acts of violence, and on the security level, the Somali army was able to control the Al-Shabaab movement, but there are fears that Somali piracy will return again, and in terms of diplomatic relations and foreign aid, we find that it has witnessed great development, especially with Germany, China, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia, and that Within the framework of enhancing diplomatic rapprochement.

Iraq:

The recent elections are seen as an indicator of the balance of power in a country where groups close to Iran are steadily gaining influence. The poll comes before parliamentary elections scheduled for 2025, and there are clearly questions about the impact of the local election results on the general political scene in Iraq. These differing opinions reflect different analyzes of the current situation and its impact on the future. There is an expectation that the absence of the “Sadr movement” from the political scene, in addition to the loss of the civil forces in the recent elections, in addition to the “coordination framework” forces topping the results, indicates that the winning forces have become able to form a unified bloc, and this means that they may be able to regain their dominance. Its influence is through having a majority in the next parliamentary elections in 2025, given that this strong alliance of framework forces is considered a development that can continue at the national level. The second expectation, which indicates the impact of the recent elections at the local level more than its impact on the entire country, also indicates that the impact may be a “relative change” limited to the local scene within local administrative councils, and interest centers on the interactions between the winning forces within these governorates, and it may This change will have less impact at the national level. As for the third expectation, it indicates that the impact will depend on how the winning forces invest in their victory in the local elections, whether through forming the equation for the upcoming parliamentary elections or through their endeavor to share power in the management of the provincial councils, and this reflects the ongoing interaction between the political forces inside Iraq. However, it appears that the results of the local elections will have a noticeable impact, and the future of the political situation in Iraq may be greatly affected by the way the winning forces invest in their success and how to direct this success.

Yemen:

The settlement of the Yemeni crisis is based on the results of two main tracks: the course of developments in the internal fighting on the ground between the conflicting parties, and the course of the negotiations led by the United Nations, and the extent of support it will receive from regional and international powers. Regarding the first path; It can be said that Yemen has witnessed, during the past two years, relative calm and a reduction in the pace of internal fighting on the ground between the parties to the conflict, compared to the years that preceded it. As for the second path; During the year 2023, it was noticed that there were indicators that suggested the approach of peace in Yemen, the most prominent of which was: The visit of a Houthi delegation to Riyadh for the first time, last September, was preceded last March by the visit of a high-level Saudi and Omani delegation to Sana’a. The mutual visits and meetings between the Saudi and Houthi sides come officially, in light of a strong regional desire towards this direction, with the latest developments. On the global scene, and the regional keenness to achieve calm in the region, these movements to resolve the Yemeni crisis were born out of the “Saudi-Iranian” agreement, sponsored by China, last March. Although these indicators are positive, they remain dependent on the extent of the Houthis’ preparedness and readiness for peace. As is the custom of this group, the possibility of accepting peace on the part of the Houthis may not rise to the ideal level to secure an appropriate peace environment, in which any understandings reached are viable. For application on the ground, especially since what increases the Houthis’ strong position on the ground is the regional popularity they obtained through their involvement with the resistance axis (Syria – Lebanon – Iraq) in opening a war front against Israel.

South Sudan:

When we consider the developments in the scene in South Sudan, we find that the Sudanese government, headed by Salva Kiir, is looking forward to issuing new regulations and laws before the presidential elections, including the completion of the draft mining law for the year 2023 This law is considered one of the most important laws in Sudan. Since Sudan has a lot of potential in the field of mining, and it has not been exploited, this law greatly helps in reducing smuggling activities in the country, and with regard to the economic file; There are many crises that South Sudan is suffering from, including the fuel crisis and high prices, which exacerbate the suffering of farmers in many states. South Sudan suffers from insecurity. Due to the repercussions of the war in Sudan, which affected many agencies in the country; As there is great instability in security activity in South Sudan; Due to the deteriorating conditions in the north, and at the security level, most of the displaced people to South Sudan suffer from deteriorating conditions in the camps. Due to the lack of medicines and food, in light of the spread of diseases and epidemics in many camps, and there are many requests for help from doctors’ committees; In order to improve the conditions of the displaced.

Syria:

Return to square zero after hopes for a breakthrough in the scene; This is how the Syrian situation can be described during the year 2023, which is about to end. The year began with a resounding disaster represented by the earthquake in February 2023, which left destruction and huge material and human losses, but at the same time it demonstrated what was known as “earthquake diplomacy.” It opened the door to Arab openness of varying forms and degrees to the Syrian regime, until, at the end of this path, Syria returned to the Arab League after long years of isolation.

Libya:

Libya will leave in 2023, in light of widespread controversy over the escalating political conflict, especially regarding the election file, which faces a clear contradiction in views between the main parties. The Libyan street hopes that in 2024, it will witness a serious agreement on electoral laws and the political process in general. After years of unfulfilled promises and efforts that yielded nothing but more disappointments. It is expected that a new date will be announced in mid-January 2024 for the preparatory meeting for the five-party table, which the international community is betting on as a mechanism to achieve consensus between the conflicting Libyan political parties, whether in the east or west of the country, while the United Nations mission to Libya confirmed its commitment to facilitating dialogue between… The main parties, and the mission called on those parties to nominate their representatives for the preparatory meeting, which was proposed by the UN envoy Abdullah Batili, without delay, and added that the main parties must agree on a clear electoral path, a timetable for the elections, and reach a consensus on forming a unified government. However, it is expected that the Libyan parties will be unable to meet, or even to nominate their representatives for the preparatory meeting. This reveals the presence of real obstacles that prevent resolving the crisis, and that the situation in 2024 will not be better than 2023. This is for several reasons, the most prominent of which are: The political elites are still the same ones obstructing the solution. In order to preserve its privileges and interests that are also linked to regional and international agendas, it does not rush to reach the moment of leaving the tunnel.

Lebanon:

Lebanon is suffering from a catastrophic failure in all its institutions. Which puts it in a state of extreme fear that Hezbollah will drag it into a war with Israel, amid the intensification of the clashes on the northern front, and the Lebanese interior is calling for the implementation of Law 1701; To remove Hezbollah from the equation, and to spread border peace between Israel and Lebanon. As for the issue of the political vacuum, it is expected that the crisis will be resolved soon, especially in light of the rapprochement between Hezbollah and Joseph Aoun, the Lebanese Minister of Defense, and especially after his term was extended for another year.

Mali:

December witnessed a continuation of tensions between the Malian forces and the Azawad Movements over control of the Azawad region in the north of the country, which have ended so far with the Malian army retaking the city of Kidal, and the Azawad Movements imposing a comprehensive siege on the main roads in northern Mali. The move to summon Mali would also… Its ambassador to Algeria and the visit of its Foreign Minister to Morocco, with which Algeria severed diplomatic relations in August 2021, and disturbing (financial-Algerian) relations, which may affect the possibility of serious re-negotiations between the two parties within the framework of the peace and reconciliation agreement sponsored by Algeria, and thus increase fears of the continuation of Escalation and repetition of the 2012 scenario, which threatens the prolongation and expansion of the conflict.

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