The current war in Ukraine has understandably centralized the attention of the media and international public opinion; the conflict’s violence, the high number of victims, including civilian casualties, the direct involvement of Russia, the nuclear power, and the support of the United States and its allies for Ukraine indicate the global significance of the confrontation and evoke the specter of a third world war, of devastating consequences.
This overshadows the ongoing armed conflicts around the world, which risk being completely forgotten, even though they entail serious humanitarian consequences and pose a permanent danger to peace, not just at the local level. We think of Ethiopia, Yemen, Syria, Libya, and the Sahel, as well as other potentially explosive situations such as Afghanistan, Iraqi Kurdistan, Palestine, Nagorno-Karabakh, Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, and Myanmar.
These are areas where conflicts are characterized by alternating periods of violent armed clashes and others of fragile truce but are far from being resolved. Some crises have been going on for several years. In contrast, others are more recent, and it is difficult to assess their outcomes.
A two-month, U.N.-sponsored, Ramadan-related truce was underway in Yemen since April 3; this was the first time weapons have been permanently silent after nearly eight years of a war that has pitted the government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, supported by a Saudi-led coalition, and the Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels.
An extremely harsh conflict has devastated the country; 150,000 Yemenis have lost their lives in armed clashes or aerial bombardment, while total direct and indirect casualties from the conflict, which has encouraged famine and epidemics, number more than 370,000.
Of a population of 31.9 million, 23.4 million require humanitarian assistance and 17.4 million, or over half of the total, are in food insecurity, the UN says.
The recent truce is also related to the changing climate in the hegemonic challenge between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which in recent months has seen some tentative signs of dialogue; nevertheless, prudence is in order in the face of the failure of all attempts at a diplomatic solution made by the United Nations in recent years.
Almost the same situation in Libya and Syria
Both Syria and Libya are experiencing moments of relative calm. Still, these are based on the division of territory between the parties to the conflict without re-establishing unified power and a genuine, peaceful, and democratic process.
The humanitarian situation in Syria is still dramatic: With 6.5 million internally displaced persons and an equal number of refugees, over half of the population is not living in their own homes.
African Conflicts Are Highly Volatile
Generally speaking, the continent of Africa appears to be the place where the situation is most explosive, as the wars between different populations are often contaminated by the fundamentalist insurgency, which seems to be regrouping, even as the attention of the international community has undoubtedly diminished.
Even in the conflict between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a fragile cease-fire is underway to allow humanitarian aid to come to the aid of the civilian populations, who are now at the point of exhaustion.
The clash does not appear to be resolved at all, however, and it leaves a rich legacy of casualties, destructions and gross human rights violations.
In addition, violence that erupted in late April in Gondar, Amhara region, including attacks on the Muslim community that left twenty-one people dead and about one hundred and fifty wounded, make clear the complexity of the situation in the country and the high risk of overall disintegration.
What Role do China and United States Play?
When profiling the ongoing conflicts, it must also not be forgotten that many of the tensions are part of a strategic rivalry pitting China and the United States against each other, amid a scenario that has evoked, some observers believe, the cold war.
As the experiences of the Donbas, Yemen, Libya, and Syria have shown us, regional and often even global powers with their own interests come into play in local wars that risk not helping the political resolution of conflicts but rather deepening and widening them.