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Women from the city of Al-Junina (West Darfur) cry after receiving the news about the death of their relatives as they waited for them in Chad, Nov. 7, 2023.

REUTERS/El Tayeb Siddig

Sudan genocide feared after massacre at refugee camp

Sudan’s ongoing civil war may once again be spiraling into genocide. Late last week, the UN Refugee Agency condemned the mass killing of at least 800 people within 72 hours by the Arab paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and its allies in the Ardamata refugee camp in West Darfur. This weekend, the EU's chief diplomat Josep Borrell cited witness reports that over 1,000 members of the Black African Masalit population had been killed, noting that the international community “cannot turn a blind eye on what is happening in Darfur and allow another genocide to happen in this region."

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Sudanese who fled the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, cross the border between Sudan and Chad.

Reuters

UN: Sudan situation is spiraling

Four months after conflict broke out between rival factions in Sudan, the UN warned this week that the situation is spiraling out of control.

The grim statistics: At least 1 million people – roughly the population of Austin, Texas – have fled to neighboring countries, while over 3 million remain displaced inside Sudan, according to UN data.

At least 380,000 Sudanese have fled to Chad, where they languish in refugee camps, while many others have sought refuge in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Libya – all of which are grappling with their own domestic crises.

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A supporter of Colombian presidential candidate Rodolfo Hernandez in Bogota.

REUTERS/Vannessa Jimenez

What We’re Watching: Colombia’s “anti” runoff, Pacific meh on China, Sudan ends emergency

It’s anti vs. anti in Colombia presidential runoff

Colombians wanted change? Well, now they’ll have no choice! In the first round of the country’s presidential election on Sunday, the top two finishers were leftist opposition leader Gustavo Petro (40%) and Rodolfo Hernández (28%), an independent populist tycoon who surged late in the campaign with an anti-corruption message. The two will head to a runoff on June 19. Both promise a radical reorientation of the Andean country at a time of high inequality, rising violence, and simmering social tensions. For Petro, the answer lies in super-taxing the rich, massively expanding the social safety net, and decarbonizing the economy. Hernández, meanwhile, wants to slash taxes, shrink the state bureaucracy, and even legalize cocaine. We’ll have more to say ahead of the runoff, but for now: has the election of any other major economy in recent memory featured a presidential runoff between TWO stridently anti-establishment figures like this?

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Paige Fusco

What We're Watching: Taliban ditch poppies, another Chinese COVID mishap, Darfur war crimes tribunal

Taliban ban poppy cultivation

Fulfilling a long-held promise, the Taliban have banned the cultivation of poppies, the main ingredient used in heroin and other opiates. “If anyone violates the decree, the crop will be destroyed immediately, and the violator will be treated according to Shariah law,” the group said. Afghanistan is by far the largest producer of opium, accounting for 85% of all production globally. (After the Taliban took control last year, opium production increased in the country by 8%.) Indeed, the move comes as the Taliban are vying to gain recognition from the international community as the legitimate ruler of Afghanistan and unlock millions of dollars worth of foreign reserves currently held in US banks. However, as cash runs dry from the opium trade, regular Afghan farmers who depend on the crops for their livelihood will feel the economic pain. Observers are warning of an impending calamity in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, which is already reeling from economic collapse with reports of Afghans being forced to sell their children and organs to survive.

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France's President Emmanuel Macron looks on during a joint press conference with Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz (not pictured) after an European Union (EU) summit at the European Council Building at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium December 17, 2021.

John Thys/Pool via REUTERS

What We’re Watching: France’s EU presidency, Kim Jong Un’s 2022 plans, NYC’s new mayor, Sudan’s PM steps down

France takes over EU presidency. France has assumed the EU's rotational presidency, which allows Paris to set the bloc’s agenda for the next six months at a very interesting time for both EU and French politics. French President Emmanuel Macron will want to make a big splash as he vies to become the bloc's de-facto leader after the departure of Angela Merkel. Macron's ambitious plans include reforming the EU's budget rules to allow member states to spend more than 60 percent of their annual GDP, which he’ll have a tough time selling to debt-averse Germany. He also will continue to push hard for the EU to develop a military capability independent from the US, and to embrace nuclear power as a green source of energy as Brussels just proposed. Also, in the run-up to the French presidential election in April, the centrist Macron will use the EU presidency to tell voters how France can benefit from a stronger Union led by France — particularly to fend off challenges from his right in fellow Europhile Valerie Pécresse, and his far right in Euroskeptics Marine Le Pen and Éric Zemmour. So far, Macron isn't off to a good start: he had to remove a giant EU flag perched on Paris’ Arc de Triomphe after his three main rivals called it an attack on French identity.

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Reuters

What We’re Watching: Libya delays vote, Sudan’s embattled PM, COVID cures, EU-UK fish deal

Libya election postponed. As many had expected, Libya’s election will in fact be postponed. The vote, the first since psycho autocrat Muammar Qaddafi was ousted in a NATO-backed uprising 10 years ago, was supposed to happen on Friday. Now the country’s electoral board says it will be postponed by a month, until January 24. The move isn’t a surprise: for weeks the two rival governments that run Libya — and their outside backers — have been squabbling over electoral rules and candidate eligibility. The question now is whether delaying the vote genuinely gives the parties time to agree on a process that seems legitimate enough to hold, or whether the move risks further unraveling a fragile and fragmented country. The UN has already raised alarm about rival armed groups setting up positions in and around Tripoli.

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What We're Watching: Europe's anti-lockdown protests, Chileans vote, a shaky deal in Sudan, German negotiations in the home stretch

Europe anti-lockdown protests get violent. Pockets of unrest spread across Europe in recent days as tens of thousands gathered in several cities across the continent to protest government measures aimed at curbing a fast-spreading wave of COVID-19. Violent clashes broke out between demonstrators and police in The Hague and Rotterdam where Dutch cops opened fire at an increasingly aggressive crowd protesting the tightening of restrictions. Meanwhile, more that 35,000 people turned out in Brussels, while large crowds rocked Vienna, protesting fresh lockdowns that initially targeted only the unvaccinated, as well as new vaccine mandates. The state of the pandemic in Europe is not good. Germany recorded more than 48,000 new cases Sunday, the highest on record, prompting new lockdowns in the lead-up to Christmas, while deaths across the continent are also rising since the summer months, though they remain well below pre-vaccine levels. What's more, far-right groups, like Austria's Freedom Party, are taking advantage of COVID fatigue and anti-vaxx sentiment to encourage people to defy government rules and sow chaos.

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What We're Watching: A shaky deal in Sudan

A tenuous deal in Sudan. One month after the Sudanese army deposed the country's joint civilian-military government, Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok was released from detention Sunday. The new deal negotiated by Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who led last month's coup, reinstates Hamdok as PM and calls for the release of arbitrarily detained political prisoners. Al-Burhan says he supports the return to a power-sharing agreement, though it's unclear what this might actually look like given that the military staged the coup in the first place to avoid handing over executive powers to the civilian leadership. Meanwhile, protesters took to the streets of Khartoum Sunday, saying the deal is merely a ploy by the military to get Washington to remove crippling sanctions, while still maintaining a grip on power. Indeed, critics say that the ongoing political involvement of Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo – a former paramilitary leader with close ties to Sudan's former despot Omar al-Bashir – is proof that the military wing of the government is not serious about democratic reforms.

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