Beyond the list of countries at risk of genocide, there are other countries that are either currently experiencing mass atrocities or show warning signs of mass atrocities. Experts and organizations dedicated to monitoring warning signs of genocide have identified 10 countries to keep an eye on for risk of mass atrocities:
Although the transition of power in Afghanistan was smooth last year, the country still poses great threats that ensure 2015 to be far from peaceful. The new President, Ashraf Ghani, and the chief – executive, Abdullah Abdullah, have faced difficulties in cooperating together, making it challenging to agree on cabinet appointments and agree on final decisions. The Taliban remains a danger in Afghanistan and the terrorist group is becoming increasingly violent, especially as they are gaining power in remote areas.
With a history of mass violence along ethnic lines and political tensions high ahead of elections in 2015, Burundi has been identified by many observers as high on the list of countries at risk of mass atrocities. The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide has called for efforts to avoid the “worst” ahead of elections. International attention may be mitigating that risk. Assessments by the Early Warning Project at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Center for the Prevention of Genocide suggest the risk may not be as high as feared by some. But with recent violence and tensions ahead of elections, Burundi will be a country to keep an eye on.
The list of risk factors in Guinea includes recent violence, elections, and the added strain of the Ebola crisis. In 2009 government troops attacked peaceful demonstrators and killed more than 150 people in a massacre at Conakry stadium. Justice for the event remains delayed adding to tensions around a presidential election set to take place in 2015. The last election in 2010 was marred by ethnic violence and the opposition has warned of a huge risk of instability and violence if elections are not transparent. Meanwhile, Ebola has killed nearly 2,000 people in Guinea straining the government, economy, and social cohesion of the country.
Since the fall of Qaddafi in 2011, armed groups have been struggling for territory and political supremacy in Libya. The nation is split between forces linked to the internationally recognized government and the General National Congress. Both sides are accused of committing war crimes and abuses that may amount to crimes against humanity as a total of 393,400 civilians are internally displaced and nearly 120,000 have sought refuge. If the international community does not hold the parties in Libya accountable the level of violence is likely to continue to increase.
Nigeria faces political tensions around postponed elections and heightened by attacks by extremist Islamist group Boko Haram and excessive use of force by its security forces. Boko Haram attacks have led to at least 5,000 deaths since 2009 and the pace is quickly increasing with reports of as many as 2,000 people killed at the start of 2015 and attacks expanding to broader territory. The African Union is forming a force to combat the group’s spread. Meanwhile, Nigerian security forces have been implicated in several instances of abuse. This mix of threats make it likely that another atrocity incident like the kidnapping of some 300 Nigerian girls by Boko Haram in 2014 will happen again in 2015.
Thousands of civilians have been killed in recent years in Pakistan as a result of sectarian attacks and fighting between security forces and militants. Military offensives displaced over a million people last year and an attack on a military-run school by the Pakistani Taliban at the end of 2014 killed at least 148 people, including 132 children. Security forces have responded with their own abuses including torture, disappearances, and extrajudicial killings. With continued fighting and terrorist attacks, the risk of atrocities in Pakistan in 2015 is likely to remain high.
Despite advances in security in Somalia in recent years, the state remains fragile and open to attacks. Al-Shabaab militants have been weakened but continue to control large areas and carry out attacks in Somalia and Kenya. Abuses by government forces and inter-clan fighting add to the general instability and will keep Somalia high on the list of countries at risk of mass atrocities.
Sri Lanka is still suffering from one of the largest but least known cases of mass atrocities in recent years. In 2009 the Sri Lankan military sought to end the threat of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels, leading to an estimated 40,000 deaths of civilians caught in the middle. Both sides committed war crimes and crimes against humanity and demands for accountability from the UN remain unfulfilled. Added to the risk factors of a recent history of violence and lack of accountability are a government crackdown on critics and the rise of ultra-nationalist Buddhist movement linked to violence similar (and in some ways linked) to what is being seen in Burma.
The threat faced in Ukraine is clear in terms of geopolitical consequences between Russia and the West, but less so in terms of the risk of atrocities. Over 1 million people have been displaced and more than 5,000 killed in fighting between Ukrainian forces and separatist and Russian forces (despite Russia’s continued denials). The fact that the conflict is toward the top of most world leaders’ international agendas may help to mitigate risks. But if peace efforts fail and Moscow becomes more involved in promoting the separatist region then tensions between the separatists and Ukraine could dramatically rise and the risk for atrocities as well.
2015 began with a takeover of the Yemeni government by Houthi rebels. The situation has continued to deteriorate causing western countries to close their embassies and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to warn, “Yemen is collapsing before our eyes”. A mix of support and interests from various powers in the Middle East, presence of perhaps al-Qaeda’s strongest wing, U.S. drone strikes, and secessionist desires in the south of the country complicate matters placing the civilian population at increasing risk of being caught in the middle of violence.