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What We're Watching: Ethiopia's ongoing ethnic tensions, Australia-China spat deepens, Bolsonaro rejected

Ethiopian refugees wait in lines for a meal at the Um Rakuba refugee camp which houses Ethiopian refugees fleeing the fighting in the Tigray region, on the Sudan-Ethiopia border, Sudan, November 28, 2020.

Ethiopia on the brink: After ethnic tensions between Ethiopia's federal government and separatist forces in the northern Tigray region erupted into a full-blown armed conflict in recent weeks, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced his forces had taken control of Tigray's capital on Saturday and declared victory. But the fugitive Tigray leader Debretsion Gebremichael quickly called Abiy's bluff, saying the fighting is raging on, and demanded Abiy withdraw his forces. Gebremichael accused Abiy of launching "a genocidal campaign" that has displaced 1 million people, with thousands fleeing to neighboring Sudan, creating a humanitarian catastrophe. The Tigray, who make up about five percent of Ethiopia's population, are fighting for self-determination, but Abiy's government has repeatedly rejected invitations to discuss the issue, accusing the coalition led by Gebremichael's Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) of "instigating clashes along ethnic and religious lines." As the two sides dig in their heels, Ethiopia faces the risk of a civil war that could threaten the stability of the entire Horn of Africa.


A blow for Bolsonaro: Brazil's brash president Jair Bolsonaro saw his candidates take a thrashing in municipal elections over the weekend. Of 78 candidates who pegged their election hopes to Bolsonaro's brand, only the president's son Carlos won his race. The biggest embarrassment for Bolsonaro came in his hometown of Rio de Janeiro, where incumbent mayor Marcelo Crivella, an evangelical pastor who tied his reelection bid directly to Bolsonaro's policy agenda, lost by nearly 30 percentage points. But this weekend's results do not mark a shift to the left. Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's Workers' Party failed to win a single mayoral race across 26 states. In Brazil's biggest cities, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, voters elected seasoned center-right mayors who have sparred with Bolsonaro in recent months over his handling of the pandemic, suggesting that voters there have rejected both COVID denialism and political outsiders. Is this a sign of things to come when Brazilians elect a new president in 2022?

China-Australia row intensifies: Relations between Australia and China have deteriorated for months over a series of diplomatic dustups, but things seem to have reached a new low in recent days after an official Chinese government twitter account posted a doctored image of an Australian soldier holding a knife to an Afghan child's throat. The image, fabricated by Beijing, was clearly meant to irk Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a particularly sensitive time: a years-long report commissioned by the Australian government recently found that elite Australian troops unlawfully killed 39 Afghans from 2005 to 2016, which the report stated was "possibly the most disgraceful episode in Australia's military history." Morrison has said that the provocative posting "diminishes [the Chinese government] in the world's eyes." Tensions between Canberra and Beijing peaked in May when the Australian government called for a global investigation into China's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, prompting Beijing to slap fresh tariffs on Australian goods. The Australian government had also called out Beijing in recent years for interfering in its internal government affairs. Prime Minister Morrison says that he's eager to try to "reset" the relationship with China, Canberra's largest trading partner, but that Beijing continues to rebuff his overtures.

Empathy and listening are key to establishing harmonious relationships, as demonstrated by Callista Azogu, GM of Human Resources & Organization for Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), an Eni subsidiary in Abuja. "To build trust is very difficult. To destroy it is very easy," says Callista, whose busy days involve everything from personnel issues to union relationships. She sees great potential for her native Nigeria not only because of the country's natural resources, but because of its vibrant and creative people.

Learn more about Callista in this episode of Faces of Eni.

For the world's wealthiest nations, including the United States, the rollout of COVID-19 vaccine has been rocky, to say the least. And as a result, much of the developing world will have to wait even longer for their turn. Part of the challenge, World Bank President David Malpass says, is that "advanced economies have reserved a lot of the vaccine doses." Malpass sat down with Ian Bremmer recently to talk about what his organization is doing to try to keep millions around the world from slipping deeper into poverty during the pandemic. Their conversation was part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

World Bank President David Malpass was as horrified at what he saw during the January 6th pro-Trump riots on the Capitol as millions of other Americans. But he was concerned for another reason as well: "From the standpoint of world development, it distracts attention at a time when we need to help countries actually develop and get beyond COVID and get back to growth path." He joined Ian Bremmer to talk about how the civil unrest on Washington was distracting from the urgent development work of the World Bank during a pandemic. Their conversation was part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

14,000: Cash-strapped Venezuela has sent enough oxygen to fill 14,000 individual canisters to its more prosperous neighbor Brazil, which is suffering a shortage of oxygen supplies for COVID patients in hard-hit Amazonas state. In response, right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Venezuela's socialist leader Nicolás Maduro should be dispatching emergency supplies to needy Venezuelans.

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Saturday will mark the beginning of an historic turning point for European politics as 1,001 voting members of Germany's Christian Democratic Union, the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, hold an online conference to elect a new leader.

Here are the basic facts:

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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