Then and Now: Sudan's transition, US-China trade war, Nigeria's election

Then and Now: Sudan's transition, US-China trade war, Nigeria's election

3 months ago: Sudan's transition In August, GZERO checked in on Sudan's former strongman Omar al-Bashir who had been put on trial for corruption after being deposed by mass protests against his three-decade long dictatorship. The trial is ongoing and has revealed damning details such as al-Bashir's receiving tens of millions in cash from the Saudi Crown Prince, but his years of alleged crimes against humanity have not been reckoned with, and there seems little chance of his facing justice before the International Criminal Court at The Hague. Meanwhile, Sudan's political transition is still in flux. The first post-Bashir cabinet, a joint civilian-military body, took office in September. It is supposed to oversee a three and a half year transition period until general elections. But this power-sharing arrangement, which preserves elements of the old guard, hasn't placated everyone. Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets this month protesting the enduring influence of al-Bashir's allies in politics, and calling on the government to ramp up investigations into those who went missing when security forces brutally cracked down on protesters in the capital, Khartoum, in June. Now, as Sudan's economy teeters on the brink of collapse, the government is focused on getting Sudan removed from the US sponsors of terrorism list, which would open it up to investment and debt relief. The US says that could happen, but not immediately.

6 months ago: What comes next in the US-China trade war? Six months ago, the stakes of the ongoing US-China trade war peaked again when China, responding to a bout of US tariffs on Chinese goods, imposed retaliatory tariffs on $60 billion worth of American products, as we noted here. Not to be outdone, the Trump administration upped the ante again, responding with fresh tariffs of its own and threatening to extend its tariffs by December 15 to virtually everything America buys from China. But President Trump's inconsistent signals on tit-for-tat penalties have created confusion about what might come next. Last month, Presidents Xi and Trump said they were willing to sign a partial trade deal – a temporary truce– that would see the US roll back some tariffs in return for Beijing ending a freeze on purchases of some US agricultural products. But now, four weeks later, the talks are shrouded in uncertainty because of disagreements over what should be included in the final text. But even if a partial deal is reached that reverses the escalations of the past few months, the US and China will still be in tension over deeper issues, including China's support for state companies, its extortion of technology from American firms, and its bid to become the global leader in advanced technologies like 5G and artificial intelligence.

9 months ago: Nigeria's uninspiring election Back in February we contemplated the uncertainty surrounding Nigeria's upcoming elections – the first since a landmark peaceful transfer of power that had served as a model for the entire region. This spring, Nigerians reelected incumbent president and former military leader Muhammadu Buhari, who came away with 56% of the vote. The former military leader has attempted to rebrand himself as a "converted democrat" but oppressive tendencies have proven hard to give up. Since Buhari's reelection, repression of journalists has drawn increasing international concern. Buhari has failed to tackle allegations of corruption against his political allies, while using his anti-graft agenda to crack down on political opponents. Meanwhile, jihadist terror has spread across large swathes of the country, and the locally grown Boko Haram militant group has extended its reach. When Buhari recently departed for a personal overseas trip, believed to be for medical reasons, he refused to hand over temporary authority to his deputy, which many said violated the constitution. Nigeria's democracy is young and delicate. Buhari is testing its limits.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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