Global Security Forecast • 05 – 12 January 2018

Global Security Forecast • 05 – 12 January 2018

CHINA: Beijing – US issues travel warning after a spate of high-profile international detentions.

The US state department has issued a travel advisory following a series of high-profile detentions of Canadian and American citizens in China.  The warning comes after two Canadians, one a former diplomat, were arrested and remain in detention following accusations that they harmed national security.  In total thirteen Canadians have been detained since December 1 and three American nationals have also been barred from leaving the country under China’s controversial ‘exit bans’.  The increase in detentions and exit bans has coincided with the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou who was detained in Vancouver on 1 December at the request of the US.  US officials are attempting to extradite the Chinese national following accusations that she manufactured the sale of US technology to Iran through a Hong Kong company in an attempt to circumvent US sanctions.

The trade war between China and the US has escalated in recent months and the arrest of citizens on both sides appears part of an ongoing diplomatic dispute.  The US Presidents statement on 12 December, suggesting that he would personally intervene in the Meng Wanzhou case if it would facilitate a favourable trade deal with China, has only added to fears that the recent spate of arrests are politically motivated.

ADVICE:   While travel to China can continue, travellers should exercise increased caution and organisations should have pre-considered contingencies in place prior to employee travel. Employees require a valid visa and in-date passport for the duration of their trip.  If detained, travellers should ask security officials to notify their respective embassy as soon as possible.

DRC: Kinshasa; urban centres (Country: HIGH; Civil Unrest: EXTREME) – Further unrest likely following a delay in the release of election results.  Continue to defer all travel until after election announcement.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) announced on 3 January that the release of provisional election results, which had been anticipated on 7 January, would be delayed after reports that only 20 percent of tally sheets had been received by election officials in Kinshasa.  The announcement comes following reports from the Catholic Church, who had thousands of monitors in attendance at polling stations around the country, that disruptions and irregularities were experienced in some provinces during the election.  While the 30 December vote passed off relatively peacefully, the campaign period was marred by violent clashes between security forces and opposition party supporters in key opposition held areas.  At least seven people were killed in the weeks leading up to the election.

President Joseph Kabila, who has held the position of President since 2001, will step down following the release of election results.  The country has been gripped by political crisis since 2016 when Kabila’s second and final term ended.  The delay in the release of the election results alongside accusations of voting irregularities by the Catholic Church is likely to provoke further demonstrations in the coming days.  Government authorities have blocked the internet and banned some media broadcasters in an attempt to disrupt the organisation of protest movements.  See our latest Travel Advisory for more information.

ADVICE: Defer all travel to the DRC untill after the release of the election results. For those already in country, minimise movements in major urban centres in the coming days and stay up to date with planned political demonstrations in your area. If you are in country, ensure that you are in, secure, compound-based accommodation for the duration election period.  Monitor Solace Global alerts for further details.

SUDAN: Khartoum; urban centre – Anti-austerity protests continue, reports of widespread clashes with security forces, further protests likely

Opposition political parties and civil society groups are calling for further anti-government protests on the 4 and 6 January.  The announcement comes after more than two weeks of countrywide demonstrations demanding the end to severe austerity measures that have been implemented by the Sudanese government in an attempt tackle growing inflation in the country.  Widespread discontent has gripped Sudan over the last 12 months following a sharp increase in food prices, countrywide fuel shortages and the devaluation of the Sudanese pound. In the last two weeks protest have occurred daily in major urban centres, including the capital Khartoum and Port Sudan leading to clashes with security forces. Nineteen people have been killed since 19 December and local reports indicate that security forces have used tear gas and live ammunition in an attempt to disperse crowds.   Sudanese officials have responded to the protests by implementing emergency protocols throughout the country which include curfews in potential protests flash points and the closure of most university campus in the country.  On Sunday 6 January protesters will attempt march on the Presidential Palace in Khartoum at 13.00 to deliver a petition demanding that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir resigns.

ADVICE: Travellers in Sudan should exercise addition caution and follow all instructions from local officials.  An increased security presence should be expected in Khartoum and other urban centres.  If you encounter a protest or gathering of people, leave the area immediately and return to a secure location.

VENEZUALA: Countrywide (Country: HIGH; Civil Unrest: EXTREME) – Current incumbent President Nicolas Maduro will be inaugurated for his second term on 10 January, protests likely.

Current incumbent Nicholas Maduro will be sworn in for his second term as Venezuelan president on 10 January leading to calls from local civil rights groups and a collation of opposition parties to demonstrate in urban centres.  The main opposition parties boycotted the 20 May presidential election over a lack of transparency and allegations that the National Electoral Council were unable to hold a free and fair election due to perceived bias.  Opposition protests erupted in the capital Caracas on 16 May which were met by a forceful response from security forces who claimed protesters had not sought permission from the government to hold a demonstration.

Despite holding huge oil reserves, the Venezuelan economy has been severely mismanaged leading to widespread poverty and malnutrition.  President Maduro is accused of perpetuating the situation following his refusal to acknowledge the economic challenges or the social impact it is having, refusing the support of international aid groups. Thousands of Venezuelans have fled the country over the escalating socioeconomic challenges and fear of political persecution.  In 2017, months of street protests erupted throughout the country after the government arrested several opposition leaders and dissolved the opposition-led national assembly.  Over 150 people were killed, and 4,500 people were arrested.

ADVICE: Consider minimising movement in the capital Caracas and other urban centres on 10 January due to the credible threat posed by clashes between demonstrators and security forces.  Travellers should avoid all opposition-related gatherings due to the risk of violence. Consult local media, in country contacts and Solace Global alerts for details of any planned or ongoing demonstrations in your area.


Global Headlines • 21 December 4 January 2019

MYANMAR: Rakhine State – Renewed fighting between Buddhist armed groups and Myanmar’s military forces thousands to flee

Fighting erupted in December between government forces and the Buddhist separatist group the Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine state (Western territory) forcing thousands to flee their homes.  Tensions have been elevated in Rakhine state, known for its religious and ethnic diversity, since the Rohingya crisis erupted last year forcing hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya Muslims to seek refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh.  An escalation of hostilities began after two Buddhist men disappeared on 18 December while fishing in Maungdaw township, on the border with Bangladesh and were later found dead.   On the same day a police convoy was ambushed in the area by unknown assailants resulting in the kidnap and death of a police officer.  The Myanmar military responding by launching clearing operations throughout the state forcing thousands of Buddhists to flee their homes and seek shelter in monasteries and communal camps.

The Arakan Army have responded to the clearance operation by launching a series of attacks against security forces in the state.  An AA spokesperson stated that on 4 January a series of attacks occurred at several police posts killing seven members of the security forces and taking 12 hostages.  The forced return of Muslim communities who had sought refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh was meant to begin in December but has subsequently been delayed due to ongoing tensions.

ADVICE: Travel to Rakhine state should be for business-critical purposes only and supported by a trusted local contact. Foreign travellers require prior approval from the Myanmar government to visit the state. If travelling to any rural parts of the country, make sure you have suitable communication equipment and check-in regularly with a home contact.  Minimise all movements near police, military or government installations. Monitor Solace Global alerts for further updates.

UNITED KINGDOM: Manchester – Three people stabbed at Victoria railway station in suspected terror attack on 31 December

Three people were stabbed at Victoria railway station on 31 December in a suspected terror attack.  At approximately 21.00 a male suspect approached people waiting at the tram platform in the station before producing a knife and stabbing two individuals.  Screams alerted the British Transport Police situated in the station who were able to quickly apprehend the suspect.  One of the officers was subsequently stabbed while detaining the assailant.  Witnesses reported hearing the attacker shout Allah and anti-western slogans during the attack.  Police are currently treating the incident as a lone-wolf styled terrorist attack and do not believe anyone else was involved in the planning or execution of the attack.

Security had been increased throughout the UK over the festive period with additional units deployed to major transport hubs and in high-profile locations.  This ensured a quick response to the incident, minimising the opportunity for the attacker to do further damage, none of those injured are in a critical condition.  Lone-wolf, low profile attacks continue to present a serious concern for counter-terrorism efforts in the UK due to the difficulty faced by security forces and counter-terrorism agencies in tracking and intervening in such attacks.

ADVICE: Individuals in the UK should always maintain situational awareness and exercise heightened vigilance in high profile areas such as transport hubs, tourist locations or government buildings.  Report any suspicious behaviour or packages to the local authorities.  Security in and around major transport hubs is likely to remain high in the coming weeks and could lead to potential disruption.  Monitor Solace Global alerts for further updates.

GERMANY: Bottrop – One man detained after several injured in an intentional vehicle ramming incident on 1 January

Four people were injured on 1 January after a car was driven into a crowd of tourists near the Plaza in Bottrop situated in the north west of Germany in the early hours of New Years Day.  The assailant, a 50-year-old German male, fled the scene before attempting to hit a second crowd at a bus stop in Essen where he was eventually stopped and apprehended by police.  A senior government official stated that the incident was an intentional attack that clearly intended to kill or maim.  Police are treating the incident as a xenophobic attack motivated by anti-immigration sentiment.

The German governments ongoing support to refugees, which has seen the arrival of over one million asylum seekers arrive in the country in the past three years, has led to a sharp rise in tensions between migrant and host communities. In some German state’s crime, including violent crime, has risen during this time and been explicitly linked by German media to the influx of refugees.  While tensions have risen German officials are treating the attack as a one-off event that can be partially attributed to the suspect history of mental health problems.   That said, such attacks can further isolate migrant communities and provides an opportunity for Islamist groups to use the attack as propaganda for their own recruitment activities.

ADVICE: Travellers should exercise enhanced vigilance if travelling in Germany and report any suspicious behaviour or packages to the local authorities.  Security in Bottrop and the surrounding areas is likely to remain high in the coming days and could lead to potential disruption.


Significant Dates and Events

Date Country Event Potential for Violence
TBC Jan Guinea Legislative elections MODERATE
8 Jan Puntland (Somalia) Regional elections MODERATE
10 Jan Venezuela Presidential Inauguration HIGH
1 Feb Senegal Presidential elections MODERATE
3 Feb El Salvador Presidential elections HIGH
16 Feb Nigeria Presidential and Legislative elections HIGH
24 Feb Cuba Referendum LOW
24 Feb Moldova Legislative elections MODERATE
TBC Feb Thailand Legislative elections MODERATE

Click the following link to download this report as a PDF: Global Forecast Week 52

The Global Security Forecast highlights what travel security managers should look out for over the next week while also providing advice following significant events from the last week. The Global Security Forecast was compiled by Solace Global’s in-house intelligence team.