Global Security Forecast – Week 14

Global Security Forecast – Week 14

GLOBAL HEADLINES

Iran: Hamedan

Adverse weather causes flooding in the west of the country

After years of drought, western Iran received 70 percent of the region’s annual rainfall in a single day. As a result of the unprecedented adverse weather, flooding has heavily impacted Hamedan, in Hamedan Province and Pol-e Dokhtar, in Lorestan Province. On Monday 2 April, the authorities ordered emergency evacuations in several locations in Lorestan Province, while also issuing warnings regarding flood waters in Khuzestan Province reaching a “critical level”. Thus far, at least 62 people are believed to have been killed in the flooding.

Reports indicate that tens of thousands of people have been displaced, putting pressure on emergency shelters and disaster relief efforts. Storms forecast for the coming days are also predicted to affect the west and southwest of the country. Further flooding, disruption and damage are to be expected.

ADVICE: Travellers are advised to adhere to all instructions issued by the authorities. Defer non-essential travel to Hamedan, Lorestan and Khuzestan provinces as well as any other areas that are being impacted. Keep yourself informed of the situation through local news sources. If currently in the affected locations, do not attempt to cross waters of an undetermined depth and ensure that all accommodation is in an area not prone to flooding. Remain aware that emergency services and hospitals might be unable to provide assistance due to insufficient resources.


Venezuela: Nationwide

Judges strip opposition leader Guaidó of immunity

On 1 April, the government-backed National Constituent Assembly lifted the parliamentary immunity status for the opposition leader and self-declared interim President Juan Guaidó, as he supposedly violated a travel ban in the past months by visiting several South American countries that openly support regime change in Venezuela. He previously enjoyed immunity due to his position as the head of the National Assembly. At present, whether Maduro’s government will take further action by arresting him, remains unclear. However, as Guaidó is being accused by the authorities of inciting violence and hiding personal finances, this latest development might legitimise an attempt to arrest him. Following the National Constituent Assembly’s decision to strip him of immunity, Guaidó posted a speech on social media reassuring supporters of having a contingency strategy in place, while instigating nationwide protests to take place on 6 April. At present, further details on the protests have not been announced.

The arrest, or some form of detention, of Guaidó would be a dangerous step for the Maduro regime as it would both galvanize the opposition and the international community opposing Maduro’s government, potentially resulting in harsher sanctions and direct international intervention in the country’s crisis. However, it is unclear what the next step for the country will be, as Maduro continues to control the state and military apparatus with crucial support from China and Russia.

ADVICE: Avoid all travel to Venezuela as the situation is likely to deteriorate further. Public demonstrations in support of Guaidó and for President Nicolas Maduro are likely following this announcement. Venezuela’s crisis has further deepened following a recent series of power outages that have led to transportation and communication disruptions.


Nepal: Bara & Parsa District

Deadly thunderstorm kills at least 30 on 31 March

At least 30 people were killed and hundreds more were injured after a violent thunderstorm hit Bara and Parsa districts in southern Nepal, about 120km south of capital Kathmandu on 31 March. Emergency services have been unable to reach the worst affected areas due to the damage to roads and communication lines; as a consequence, the death toll is likely to increase. Hazards such as flooding and mudslides pose a further threat to the region.

During the pre-monsoon months, it is common for Nepal to experience severe thunder and hailstorms that can cause significant property and agricultural damage; however, fatalities are rare. Rescue and relief operations are underway.

Some locals have bemoaned the “tourism” that the disaster has caused. While trucks and trailers have arrived loaded with sacks of rice and vegetables, horse-drawn carriages and brightly painted auto-rickshaws have also brought visitors from neighbouring villages and towns. Some have come just to look whilst others have been busy taking selfies and snapping photos of the locals. There even are reports of a group of students who were there with their teacher; apparently on an educational trip to experience what a disaster zone looks like.

ADVICE: Flooding has led to widespread disruption in Bara and Parsa districts in southern Nepal. It is not recommended to attempt to drive through flooded roads. Dangerous obstacles are often unseen in flood waters and there is potential for strong undercurrents, even in low-level flood waters. Additionally, be aware that there may be localised sections of civil unrest in response to the disaster as people have lost their livelihood.


Uganda: Queen Elizabeth National Park
US citizen kidnapped for ransom in Uganda

On 2 April, an American national and her safari guide were kidnapped at gunpoint in Queen Elisabeth National Park, located in south-west Uganda on the border with Congo. The two were reportedly on a game drive in the park, without the presence of any armed guard despite being advised to have one, when they were abducted.

Ugandan police have dispatched an elite squad of investigators in the wake of a ransom demand made by Ugandan militants. Despite the rapid escalation of the event, officials have managed to cordon off and secure a considerable area which encompasses much of both the Ugandan and Congolese border. Police are convinced that the perpetrators are housed within the search areas diameter. The woman concerned was kidnapped alongside four other US citizens and a Ugandan driver; the other hostages were freed shortly after. The militants are in-contact with US officials and are demanding a US$500,000 ransom pay-out for her safe return. Far from being a standalone event, the kidnapping contributed to the heightening international concern surrounding the security of foreign nationals in Uganda due to a substantial rise in kidnappings made over the past 12 months.

Advice: If travelling to Uganda, remain aware of the heightened threat in kidnapping and exercise increased vigilance. Avoid carrying luxury items, as foreigners are often targeted for the perceived wealth. Foreign nationals travelling to the region should be aware of this specific threat, this is especially the case for high-net-worth individuals. When travelling to a remote area, take sensible precautions, such as hiring a security-trained driver and avoid travelling at night. Consider communicating to your Foreign Office your itinerary and remain aware of the in-country situation through local and international news.


Libya: Tripoli
Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s troops advance on the Libyan capital

The military strongman’s troops have already seized control of the oilfields in the south of the country and are now advancing on Tripoli in an effort to take de-facto control of the country’s government. Haftar, a former Gadhafi general who spent time in exile in the US, is backed by both neighbouring Egypt and, allegedly, by Russia; in the form of mercenaries and money.

The general has been painted as a secularist, countering the jihadist threat in the country by many. However, many of his supporters include Salafists and Islamic fundamentalists. Despite this wide range of support, and apparent ambition to take over the entire country, Haftar’s forces are already facing stiff resistance as they advance on Tripoli from the country’s de-jure government.

Elsewhere, it remains unclear what support outside of Egypt and Russia the Field Marshal can look to enjoy, France, in particular, appears attracted by the prospect of a military strongman to use as a basis to build a more united – and stable – Libya. Haftar has also been encouraged by the silence of the International community, which has emboldened his advance.

Advice: Travellers are advised to defer all travel to Libya for at least the next 48 to 72 hours due to the potential for an outbreak in fighting. Travellers in-country, and especially in Tripoli and Misrata, should remain in place in a secure location with enough supplies to remain for at least seven days. Ensure you have 24/7 professional security support.


Libya: Tripoli
Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s troops advance on the Libyan capital

The military strongman’s troops have already seized control of the oilfields in the south of the country and are now advancing on Tripoli in an effort to take de-facto control of the country’s government. Haftar, a former Gadhafi general who spent time in exile in the US, is backed by both neighbouring Egypt and, allegedly, by Russia; in the form of mercenaries and money.

The general has been painted as a secularist, countering the jihadist threat in the country by many. However, many of his supporters include Salafists and Islamic fundamentalists. Despite this wide range of support, and apparent ambition to take over the entire country, Haftar’s forces are already facing stiff resistance as they advance on Tripoli from the country’s de-jure government.

Elsewhere, it remains unclear what support outside of Egypt and Russia the Field Marshal can look to enjoy, France, in particular, appears attracted by the prospect of a military strongman to use as a basis to build a more united – and stable – Libya. Haftar has also been encouraged by the silence of the International community, which has emboldened his advance.

Advice: Travellers are advised to defer all travel to Libya for at least the next 48 to 72 hours due to the potential for an outbreak in fighting. Travellers in-country, and especially in Tripoli and Misrata, should remain in place in a secure location with enough supplies to remain for at least seven days. Ensure you have 24/7 professional security support.


Algeria: Algiers

President Bouteflika resigns amid protests; council to meet on 10 April to decide future

On 2 April, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his resignations, effective immediately. His declaration follows two months of nationwide protests against the president’s attempt to run for re-election, demanding his immediate departure from office. Demonstrations have been fueled by systemic issues like a high unemployment rate, sluggish economic growth and lack of political options for change. The now-former president became the focal point for the unrest and a symbol of the government’s inaction, partially due to his lack of public appearances since a stroke in 2013.

Algeria’s 12-member Constitutional Council is now expected to meet on 10 April to discuss the course of action. Amidst the ongoing political crisis and uncertainty, labour unions across several sectors announced their plans to hold a strike and protests on the same day. Further demonstrations over the coming hours and days are considered likely throughout the nation, as well as a heightened security presence attempting to prevent any additional instability.

Solace Global Comment: President Bouteflika was considered merely a figurehead since his stroke in 2013. The real decision-making power in the country was believed to be held by a shadowy group of businessmen, politicians and generals known as “le pouvoir” (or “the power”). The country is now entering a period of high political risk, with the protester’s ambitions growing and many wanting a new start. The decision-making establishment, who would normally have control over the situation, is also struggling; General Ahmed Gaid Salah, has tried to but failed, to gain authority over the process. Additionally, the intelligence chief, Athmane Tarag, who was a close ally of Bouteflika, quit this week under pressure from the military.

Officials have looked across the region and warned of bloodshed. Indeed, Algeria’s own history offers a warning example of the consequences of the potential conflict; Algeria’s civil war began after Islamists won the first round of free and fair parliamentary election, in 1991. Generals stepped in and cancelled the rest of the voting. Around 200,000 people were killed in the exceptionally politically divided conflict that touched nearly every part of Algeria’s society and lasted until, officially, 2002.

ADVICE: Individuals are advised to monitor local media for updates on the political situation. Avoid all demonstrations and gatherings, as well as openly discussing political matters in public. In-country travel disruption is possible as a result of the civil unrest and it is, therefore, recommended to allow additional transport times and be aware of alternate routes to minimise potential delays.


Israel: Nationwide/Gaza border

Elections to be held amidst tensions with Gaza.

Early legislative elections will be held in Israel on 9 April to elect the members of the Knesset, the unicameral legislature of Israel, which will determine whether the sitting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has been in power since 2009, will be granted a fifth term in office. The sitting prime minister is surprisingly trailing in the polls against his opponent, lieutenant-general Benjamin Ganz, former chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces. Netanyahu, who historically favours hard-line solutions to deal with Palestinian terrorism and unrest, has recently escalated the political discussion regarding Gaza, reportedly stating that the option of an occupation is still on the table.

The statement comes in the context of recent protests along the border between Gaza and Israel, where tens of thousands of Palestinian demonstrators gathered on 30 March to commemorate the first anniversary of the ‘Great March of Return’ with at least four people being killed. The fatalities are reported to have occurred when Israeli troops opened fire after protesters rushed the fence, with numerous injuries recorded. The following day, further clashes took place along the border fence as unrest continued.

Additionally, local reports indicated that at least five rockets were fired into the Eshkol Regional Council area of Israel on 31 March, however, only two seem to have landed in deserted areas. No significant damage or casualties were reported. In response to the rocket attack, allegedly perpetrated by Hamas in response to the deaths of the Palestinian protesters (though no group has officially claimed responsibility for the rockets), IDF retaliated with airstrikes, artillery bombardments and targeted tank strikes against suspected Hamas military positions. There were no reports of casualties.

ADVICE: Travellers are advised against all but essential travel to Gaza, or to border areas within Israel, due to an increase in tensions, mass protests and military operations. The security environment in the area is expected to deteriorate in the run-up to the election date and possibly the following days. Travellers should remain vigilant and follow local and international news.


European Union

Brussels: The 21st EU-China Summit to be held on 9 April.

On 9 April the 21st EU-China Summit will take place in Brussels, with the aim of strengthening bilateral cooperation. The European Commission, responsible for determining the Union’s economic and trade agreements, issued a statement declaring that member states won’t be able to achieve their objectives unless they maintain full unity. Apart from trade and investment, key topics that will be addressed during the yearly summit are multilateralism and global governance, human rights, foreign policy issues such as the Venezuelan crisis and the Iran Nuclear Deal, as well as the contentious subject of the security of the 5G network. Notably, EU member states are threatening to refuse to sign a joint statement, like during the 2016 and 2017 Summit, citing the repeated non-fulfilment by the Chinese counterpart of commitments made in the past. In fact, the EU faces great pressure by their populous to hold China accountable for the accusation of repeated violation of human rights, as well as issues related to economy and trade like the protection of intellectual property. Finally, the ongoing trade war between China and the US significantly contributes in creating a more volatile environment for already tense talks.

ADVICE: There is a possibility that the Summit could spark demonstrations by human-rights groups protesting Chinese “political education” camps and politically-driven arrests. The protests are expected to be non-violent but might cause additional security measures to be put in place and minor travel disruption in the area.

Significant Dates & Events

Date Country Event Potential for Unrest
5 April China/Taiwan Qingming Festival (Tomb Sweeping Day) LOW
5 April Nepal Ghode Jatra (Horse Parade) LOW
5 April South Korea Arbor Day (Shik Mok Il) LOW
6 April Burundi President Ntaryamira Day LOW
6 April Maldives Legislative Elections LOW
6 April Mauritius Ougadi – Public holiday LOW
6 April Thailand Chakri Memorial Day (Public holiday) LOW
7 April Mozambique Mozambique Women’s Day MODERATE
7 April Rwanda Genocide Memorial / National Mourning Day HIGH
7 April Tanzania Sheikh Abeid Amani Karume Day MODERATE
7 April Andorra Legislative Elections LOW
8 April Macedonia International Romani Day LOW
9 April Georgia Restoration of Independence Day LOW
9 April Iraq Baghdad Liberation Day MODERATE
9 April Kosovo Constitution Day LOW
9 April Liberia National Fast and Prayer Day LOW
9 April Israel Legislative Elections HIGH
9 April Philippines Day of Valor (Public holiday) LOW
9 April Tunisia Martyrs’ Day MODERATE
11 April Costa Rica Anniversary of the Battle of Rivas LOW
11 April United States 2019 Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia LOW
11 April Venezuela Anniversary of coup that temporarily ousted President Hugo Chavez (Rallies likely) HIGH