While many of us think that widespread, unending military conflicts in different parts of the world are a thing of the past, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Currently, multiple countries are in the middle of ongoing civil wars or other types of armed conflicts. Some of them, like the decades-long insurgency in The Philippines, or the ongoing conflict in Myanmar, are also some of the longest-running conflicts in human history.
Lasting over five decades, the Colombian civil war is one of the longest-running conflicts in the world today. While it officially ended in 2016 with the signing of a peace accord between the Colombian government and the left-wing guerilla group FARC – or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – violence continues to occur in many forms across the county. Primary actors are groups like ELN guerrillas, breakaway FARC factions, and the Gaitanist Self-Defense Forces of Colombia. Some of them are also involved in operations like illegal mining and drug trafficking.
The violence includes killings, child recruitment, and sexual violence, primarily against rural and indigenous communities. The war has resulted in the internal displacement of over eight million Colombians since 1985, which includes cases of violence against human rights defenders and community leaders. As it stands, the Colombian Civil War – while officially concluded in 2016 – is still ongoing in many parts of the country.
The current conflict in Sudan began on April 15, 2023, between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces. Largely limited to urban centers, it has so far caused over 600 deaths and more than 5,000 injuries, along with the displacement of over a million people across Sudan and neighboring countries.
Like many other countries on this list, Sudan has a long history of internal conflicts, especially since the secession of South Sudan in 2011. That severely affected the country’s economy, resulting in civilian protests that led to the formation of a civilian government that was eventually overthrown in 2021. While it’s a multi-faceted war, the current round of violence began due to the rivalry between two military figures, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo. As of now, the country is at a risk of full-blown conflict in the next few years, which might be disastrous for a population of 46 million people already suffering from droughts and famines due to the ongoing climate crisis.
Conflict erupted in the northeast-African nation of Mali in August, 2023, particularly in and around the city of Timbuktu. Fought between the Malian army, supported by Russian Wagner mercenaries, and various armed groups, including Islamist militants and ethnic Tuareg separatists, it’s an extension of the Mali war that started in 2012, with a ceasefire established between the warring parties in 2015.
Currently, some of the rebel groups have imposed blockades on several cities across the country, leading to acute shortages of food, fuel, and medicine, as well as rapidly rising prices for the average citizen. As of October, 2023, the city of Timbuktu has been under siege for nearly two months. Another city in northern Mali, Gao, is facing electricity shortages and a large exodus of residents to other safer regions due to the intensity of the fighting. The situation is further complicated by the involvement of the Russian Wagner group, along with the continued withdrawal of international peacekeeping forces from the country after the 2021 military coup.
Also known as the world’s longest ongoing civil war, the conflict in Myanmar has been active since the country gained independence from British colonial rule in 1948. The conflict primarily involves the central government, dominated by the Bamar majority, and numerous ethnic armed organizations in seven states. Over the years, the military – also known as the Tatmadaw – has been involved in prolonged fighting with many of these armed organizations, resulting in extensive human rights abuses like extrajudicial killings, forced labor, and displacement.
The current round of conflict began with the military coup in February, 2021. In response, there has since been an armed insurgency led by the civilian National Unity Government and its armed wing, the People’s Defense Force. The conflict has seen widespread cases of violence since then, with at least 1,500 people killed by the military according to some estimates.
6. Democratic Republic Of The Congo
A war has been raging in Congo’s Ituri region since 2017, fought between two ethnic communities, the Hema and the Lendu. Rooted in inter-ethnic rivalries dating back to colonial times, the conflict has left thousands dead and displaced many more since its resumption.
The situation has been further deteriorating since the beginning of 2023, especially in the Djugu and Mahagi territories, where counter-attacks by the nation’s armed forces have only added to the already-long list of casualties. Since 2017, there have been intermittent periods of violence between the two groups, often peaking during the harvest months, that have led to a serious humanitarian situation few people outside the country even know about.
The impact has been the most severe on children and women, as armed groups particularly target civilian buildings like schools and hospitals. As of May, 2023, 5,321 civilians have been killed and 189 injured by militant attacks in just the past six or so months.
Haiti is currently going through an unprecedented surge in gang violence throughout the country, spreading from the capital Port-au-Prince to other major cities. Just in 2023, the conflict has claimed the lives of more than 2,400 people, including widespread cases of summary killings, kidnappings, and rapes.
The emergence of an anti-gang vigilante group, Bwa Kale, in April has added a new dimension to the war, further adding to the long list of homicides in the country. Kidnappings for ransom are also on the rise, with 1,472 cases reported between October, 2022, and June, 2023, though the actual numbers are likely to be far higher due to underreporting. Sexual violence against suspected rival gang members and their relatives is also on the rise, with 452 rape cases documented in the capital during the same period.
The situation in Haiti worsened after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in 2021. Many gangs have grown more powerful since then, and according to some reports, about 80% of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area is controlled by gang members.
The northern part of Cyprus has been occupied by Turkey since 1974. The conflict began on July 15, 1974, when a coup organized by Greek officers against the Cyprus government resulted in a military invasion by Turkish forces. Beginning on July 20, the operation resulted in the occupation of the main Turkish Cypriot enclave, including Nicosia and surrounding areas. In response, Resolution 353 was adopted by the United Nations Security Council, calling for an immediate end to foreign military intervention and negotiations between Greece, Turkey, and the UK for the restoration of peace.
The territory is still considered occupied by the international community, which has so far resulted in the expulsion of about 162,000 Greek Cypriots from their homes. Turkey has since adopted a policy of settlement and mass transfer of Turks to the region, allegedly to forcibly alter the region’s ethnic demographic. The issue remains unresolved to this day, and the territory continues to operate as the unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, established in 1983.
3. The Philippines
The government of The Philippines is currently fighting one of the longest communist insurgencies in history. It began with the foundation of the Communist Party of the Philippines – along with its armed wing, the New People’s Army – in the late 1960s, citing issues like imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat capitalism as its core problems. It’s a self-professed Maoist movement, with its primary aim being the complete overthrow and re-establishment of the central government.
During its peak years, the rebels employed the strategy of a protracted people’s war, mainly operating in rural areas with support from peasants and workers. While the movement has gone through several setbacks in leadership and other fields in the years since, it’s still a problem for the state and its military forces. According to recent data, the strength of the NPA currently stands at about 4,000 fighters, down from its peak strength of about 20,000 fighters back in 1986.
The current conflict between Turkey and armed Kurdish groups, particularly the PKK , or the Kurdistan Workers’ Party – has been ongoing since 1984. The primary aims of the rebellion are greater cultural and political representation for ethnic Kurds within the state of Turkey, and ultimately the establishment of an independent Kurdish state. So far, the conflict has resulted in nearly 40,000 casualties over the years.
The PKK’s initial approach included attacks on both government and economic targets, along with attacks against other Kurds accused of collaborating with the Turkish government. By 1988, the group shifted its tactics to focus on economic targets rather than civilian infrastructure. Regardless, the Turkish government has usually responded with a heavy-handed military approach, leading to widespread destruction, displacement, and civilian casualties against mostly civilian targets.
Tensions have escalated in recent years, as a two-year-long ceasefire collapsed in 2015 and resulted in renewed violence. Turkey’s military actions against the insurgency have spilled over to other states, too, like northern Iraq and northern Syria.
While most people think that Libya’s Civil War concluded with the overthrow and death of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the reality on the ground is far from peaceful. Currently, Libya is torn between multiple armed groups and external actors fighting for power, as the central government struggles to gain and maintain its hold on a number of its territories. Many of these groups are divided along ideological, national, regional, ethnic, and tribal lines, with the involvement of other countries like Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, France, Qatar, Turkey, and the United States.
The proliferation of armed groups in Libya began in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 uprising against Gaddafi’s regime. The situation had dramatically escalated by mid-2014, as competing factions – many of them designated terrorist groups by the international community – fought for their own enclaves of control across Libya’s former territory. The emergence of the Islamic State in Libya in the same year added another horrifying dimension to the conflict, eventually leading to a US-backed campaign to liberate the city of Sirte in 2016.