Americas: Colombian government, ELN begin second round of peace talks in Mexico City

Sectors: all
Key Risks: terrorism; insurgency; targeted attacks; violent clashes; violent crime; kidnapping

In Colombia, on 13 February President Gustavo Petro’s government and the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group began the second round of official peace talks in Mexico’s capital Mexico City. The second round is expected to last a month during which the two parties will likely discuss a potential bilateral ceasefire among other peacebuilding measures. From 17 to 21 January an emergency meeting was held between the two parties in Venezuela’s capital Caracas after the ELN denied having agreed to a ceasefire announced by Petro on 31 December 2022, highlighting the complexity of negotiating with the country’s last active guerrilla. The ELN has persistently carried out targeted attacks on strategic energy and transport infrastructure and against government and security force personnel. Therefore, the negotiations could significantly improve the national security environment should they lead to a peace deal.

Asia Pacific: Hostile Chinese vessels exacerbate regional tensions in the South China Sea

Sectors: all
Key Risks: war on sea; accidental conflict

In the South China Sea, on 13 February the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) publicly revealed that a China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel performed ‘dangerous manoeuvres’ and twice aimed a ‘military-grade laser light’ at one of its vessels in waters off the Second Thomas Shoal – also known as Ayungin – on 6 February. The vessel was on a resupply mission before it was forced to retreat. While Chinese leadership has previously stated its intention to manage maritime issues with Manila cordially, recent weeks have seen an increasingly hostile CCG presence in the South China Sea. It is largely believed to be in response to Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s recent efforts to seek closer security cooperation with the US and Japan. Further similar encounters between the CCG and PCG are likely, which could ultimately heighten the risk of accidental conflict.

Eurasia: Ukrainian forces increasingly likely to withdraw from Bakhmut

Sectors: all
Key risks: war on land

In Ukraine, on 12 February local media reported that the key bridge between Bakhmut and Kostyatynivka over the Siversky Donetsk – Donbas canal had been destroyed. It is unclear whether the bridge’s destruction was an intentional act by Ukrainian forces. If confirmed, such an act could presage their withdrawal from Bakhmut. However, as of 13 February, heavy fighting around the city continued, particularly south-west of Bakhmut near the village of Ivanivske located on the T0504 road – the major supply line for Ukrainian forces fighting in the area. Additionally, on 12 February mercenary Wagner forces reported that they had captured the village of Krasna Hora north-east of the city, although this information has not been confirmed by either the Russian Ministry of Defence or Ukrainian General Staff. Ukrainian forces appear increasingly likely to eventually withdraw from the city amid continued Russian attacks.

Europe: Moldova’s government resigns amid legitimacy crisis and tensions with Moscow

Sectors: all
Key Risks: political stability

In Moldova, on 10 February Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita and her pro-Western cabinet announced their resignation as anti-government protests – which began in September 2022 led by exiled politician Ilan Shor – continue to undermine the country’s political stability. Gavrilita’s resignation came on the same day as a Russian missile allegedly violated Moldovan airspace before striking Ukraine, further raising tensions between Chisinau and Moscow. The cabinet reshuffle likely aims to reinvigorate an administration that has faced continuous crises caused by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Gavrilita’s successor, Dorin Recean, is expected to swiftly win parliamentary approval and press on with Chisinau’s bid to join the EU. However, the country will continue to face serious security risks. On 9 February Chisinau’s intelligence services confirmed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s recent allegations that Moscow planned to destabilise the country and overthrow its government.

MENA: Netanyahu’s proposed judicial overhaul threatens political stability in Israel 

Sectors: all
Key Risks: economic; political stability; civil unrest

In Israel, on 12 February over 145,000 civilians protested for the fifth consecutive week against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to overhaul the Supreme Court in Tel Aviv, resulting in the highest turnout rate since the beginning of the mobilisation on 16 January. Another 80,000 civilians gathered in various Israeli cities. The judicial reform, which is expected to tighten Netanyahu’s political control over judicial appointments, led leaders in the tech sector to threaten departure. On 13 February tensions rose in the Knesset after several lawmakers were forcibly thrown out following the vote to send the first chapter of the draft to the plenum for a first reading. President Isaac Herzog warned that the country was headed towards ‘constitutional collapse’. Pushing forward with the reform will deepen Israel’s growing political polarisation, while concerns about political stability may lead to important capital outflows. 

Sub-Saharan Africa: Attempted bombing in northern Ghana raises Islamist militant fears

Sectors: all
Key Risks: terrorism

In Ghana, on 8 February unidentified assailants attempted to blow up a bridge using an IED in Bawku, Upper East region, near the Burkina Faso border. Tensions between the Kusaas and Mamprusi ethnic groups often flare in Bawku. However, the use of an IED is a major escalation in the tactics employed by the warring groups. Accra fears that spill over from Islamist militancy in Burkina Faso and Mali could escalate the violence between rival ethnic groups. Islamist militant groups such as JNIM and ISSP often exploit communal and ethnic violence to gain a foothold in the region. Islamist militant groups are seeking to expand into coastal littoral West African states and have already carried out attacks in Togo, Benin and Cote d’Ivoire. Further similar attacks in northern Ghana could point to a presence of Islamist militant groups and to their growing influence in the region.