2016 Mass Atrocity Forecasts

25 Jan

In Friday’s post, I evaluated my predictions for 2015. In sum, I improved a bit on 2014, but still had some shortcomings.

I define a mass atrocity as 1,000 deaths caused intentionally by a discrete combatant group against another discrete noncombatant group in a calendar year. My predictions are not designed to highlight cases where a new case is likely to start, but simply where I think a combatant group will intentionally kill 1,000 civilians.

  • Iraq (95%)
  • Syria (95%)
  • Nigeria (90%)
  • Afghanistan (70%)
  • South Sudan (70%)
  • North Korea (50%)
  • Yemen (50%)
  • Sudan (40%)
  • Cameroon (40%)
  • Mexico (35%)
  • DRC (30%)
  • Pakistan (25%)
  • Burundi (25%)
  • Gaza (25%)
  • Central African Republic (20%)
  • Libya (10%)
  • Egypt (10%)
  • Rwanda (10%)
  • Somalia (10%)
  • Zimbabwe (10%)
  • Ukraine (5%)
  • Lebanon (5%)
  • Chad (5%)
  • Kenya (5%)
  • Ethiopia (5%)
  • Burma (5%)
  • Eritrea (5%)
  • Mali (5%)
  • Uganda (5%)
  • Venezuela (2%)
  • Republic of the Congo (2%)

The top 5 are all fairly obvious. Yemen, after its deadly 2015, jumps up to 50%. Cameroon too doubles in risk, partially due to some indications that Boko Haram may have killed more than 1,000 civilians last year, but also because the Nigerian offensive against the group is likely to push it into Cameroon.

Burundi is a major climber in the list following a lengthy political struggle. I’ve been fairly optimistic about Burundi over the last year, however the beginning of armed attacks by the opposition bodes very poorly. However, it’s still far from clear opposition forces have the ability to launch a sustained insurgency, which from my reading of the situation, is probably necessary to provoke the government to committing a mass atrocity in response. Any unrest in Burundi may spill over into the DRC or Rwanda. Both countries are also facing the build-up to national elections, and while Kagame maintains a much tighter grip than Kabila, a collapse would be much more deadly in Rwanda than the DRC, even if it is considerably less likely in the short-term.

Israel seems to assault Gaza about every other year, and while one may not happen this year or lead to a mass atrocity, the probability is still reasonably high. In the Central African Republic, the situation is certainly better than in 2013, but sectarian violence in September demonstrates that the risk is not gone.

Despite ongoing armed conflict, I see the risk of a mass atrocity in Ukraine and Burma as fairly low. Eastern Ukraine’s conflict is petering out, but Russia certainly has the capability to re-ignite it. Still, the conflict has not shown signs of either side intentionally targeting large numbers of civilians. In Burma, low-level violence will likely continue, but it seems unlikely any counterinsurgency will become much more violent. As for the Rohingya, the awful discrimination will continue, but without government support, a mass atrocity is unlikely, and I don’t see the new government committing one.

I added three new countries to this year’s list: Uganda, Venezuela, and the Republic of the Congo. Uganda gets the nod due to next month’s Presidential elections, which are likely to produce significant repression, if not mass violence. Still, Museveni’s electoral victory is not absolutely guaranteed, and any sign he’s losing will likely prompt a vicious reaction from his allies in the security forces. Venezuela is in the throes of a political crisis and Maduro’s government is increasingly erratic, making the chances of a mass atrocity possible if still very unlikely. Finally, like many other countries in Africa, the Republic of the Congo is in the midst of a term-extension crisis, and opposition to the extension of Sassou-Nguesso’s rule could spark a backlash.

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