Americas: ELN announces nationwide armed strike from 23 to 26 February across Colombia
Sectors: all; private, passenger and cargo transport
Key Risks: armed attacks; transport/ operational disruption
In Colombia, on 20 February the leftist ELN guerrilla group announced a nationwide armed strike to protest President Ivan Duque’s government. The action would be effective from 06:00 local time on 23 February until 06:00 local time on 26 February. The group urged the populace to remain at home and avoid all transportation. Government officials confirmed the authenticity of the statement – which was circulated on social media – while local media stated that it replicated the wording of a previous statement announcing an armed strike which ended up not taking place. The ELN tends to conduct armed strikes to put pressure on the government. Violent incidents – including armed attacks against those not respecting the measure and clashes between rebels and the security forces – are likely. Heightened security force presence should be expected across the main thoroughfares should the armed strike take place.
Asia Pacific: Hundreds of Nepalese rally against US grant in Kathmandu
Key Risks: civil unrest; political instability
In Nepal, hundreds of protesters continued to rally in the capital Kathmandu to protest a US$500m grant from US-based Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC). The grant – first signed in 2017 between the government and the foreign aid agency – was initially scheduled to be presented and debated in Parliament on 16 February. However, the parliamentary debate was postponed to 20 February after thousands rallied against the fund near Parliament for its alleged infringement on the country’s sovereignty. The grant has also created divides amongst major political parties, with the ruling coalition partners – traditionally allied with China – opposing the ratification. The debate is set to be completed within several days. Washington had previously indicated that it would review the bilateral ties if the grant was not ratified by 28 February. The latest challenge could trigger another wave of political instability.
Eurasia: Separatist leaders request Moscow to recognise Donetsk and Luhansk; Biden-Putin summit possible
Key risks: war on land; sanctions
Separatist leaders from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Denis Pushilin and from the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) Leonid Pasechnik appealed for Russian President Vladimir Putin to recognise the two breakaway oblasts amid escalating fighting in the area. Putin held an extraordinary meeting with the country’s Security Council to discuss whether Moscow should answer the requests. The members of the Council expressed support for DNR and LRN recognition. Separately, French President Emmanuel Macron stated that US President Joe Biden and Russian President Putin tentatively agreed to hold a summit to discuss tensions over the Russian military build-up near its borders with Ukraine. The Kremlin later stated that there were no concrete plans for a meeting. Moscow is now likely to recognise LNR and DNR while the Biden-Putin summit remains uncertain.
Europe: Bosnian Croat nationalists threaten to create their own region in Bosnia-Herzegovina
Key Risks: political stability;
In Bosnia-Herzegovina, on 19 February the Croatian National Parliament (HNS), led by the largest ethnic Croat party, the HDZ, threatened to form their own region within the country unless election laws are changed to improve their representation on a national level. The HNS warned that failure to reach an agreement on election-law reform could mean that Bosnian Croats boycott the general election in October 2022. Bosnian Croats want to reform the way the Croat member of the country’s tripartite presidency is elected so that the Croat representative is chosen in an exclusive Croat vote. Currently, Bosniak voters can sway the results of the election. On 20 February EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell expressed concern over the development, which came amid growing concerns around Bosnian-Serb separatism. Failure to resolve the issue could seriously jeopardise the viability of the October elections.
MENA: Hizbullah drone avoids detection above Israel; Tunisia extends state of emergency
Key Risks: civil unrest; political violence
On 18 February Lebanon’s Hizbullah launched a reconnaissance drone code-named ‘Hassan’ over northern Israel. Notably, the drone returned having avoided detection and interception by the sophisticated Iron Dome aerial defence system. In response, Tel Aviv deployed two war planes at low altitudes over Beirut and Hizbullah’s southern strongholds. This incident came one day after Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) downed a similar Hizbullah drone. Tel Aviv regularly targets Hizbullah-linked sites in the region, most recently in Syria on 16 February. The incident will be a major cause for concern for Israeli authorities and will likely prompt action to combat Hizbullah’s capacity to produce and operate drones. Meanwhile, on 19 February President Kais Sa’id extended Tunisia’s state of emergency law – in place since 2015 – until end-2022. The move will further heighten concerns around the country’s democracy since Sa’id’s political intervention in July 2021.
Sub-Saharan Africa: Ethiopia’s mega dam starts production amid continued regional opposition
Key Risks: diplomatic tensions; business disruption
In Ethiopia, on 20 February Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed officially inaugurated electricity production by the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), situated on the Blue Nile. The GERD’s construction and the initial filling of its reservoir was completed despite opposition from Sudan and Egypt and comes after failed AU mediation. Both countries insist the GERD’s operations will cause downstream water shortages and demand a legally binding tripartite framework governing its management. The GERD will produce over 5,000 MW and is expected to improve energy provision across the region. However, the commencement of electricity production will likely aggravate tensions. Egypt previously warned of ‘catastrophic’ consequences for Ethiopia if it continued to unilaterally develop the GERD. Should the GERD’s operations have the feared effects on water supplies, a severe deterioration in regional relations and stability is a distinct possibility.