Sudan Talks Resume, Hong Kong Protests Continue
Plus: Russia releases a journalist, Botswana decriminalizes gay sex, and the other stories we're following today.
Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: A cautious opposition returns to talks in Sudan, protests in Hong Kong delay the legislature’s debate of a controversial extradition bill, and Russia releases an investigative journalist.
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Sudan Resumes Talks Amid Darfur Reports
Sudan’s ruling military council and the opposition will resume talks on the country’s transition, according to the Ethiopian envoy sent to mediate in Khartoum. Protesters and opposition groups said they would suspend their mass civil disobedience campaign today after bringing the capital to a standstill in an attempt to pressure the military to stand down.
Talks between the two sides broke down after a violent raid on the main protest camp by security forces—allegedly led by the Rapid Support Forces, headed by Mohamed Hamdan “Hemeti” Dagolo, the deputy head of the military council. On Monday, the military reportedly deported three opposition leaders to neighboring South Sudan.
What’s happening in Darfur? Meanwhile, government-backed forces, including the RSF, are still committing war crimes in Darfur, according to an Amnesty International report. (The RSF has previously committed mass atrocities in Darfur.) Last month, the military council asked the United Nations to hand over its facilities in the region to the RSF as the U.N. peacekeeping mission draws down, a document published by FP reveals.
Pulling strings. As the situation in Sudan deteriorates, there are outside brokers. The United Arab Emirates is still communicating with both the opposition and the military government, according to its foreign affairs minister. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are also playing roles. The United States’ top Africa diplomat, Tibor Nagy, is due to arrive in the region today.
What will come of the talks? One of the three opposition leaders deported to South Sudan told Reuters that the military council intends to divide the opposition and retain power. Likewise, the opposition alliance is approaching the renewed talks cautiously: It has instructed people to remain ready for protest action.
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What We’re Following Today
Hong Kong legislature delays debate on extradition bill. Hong Kong’s Legislative Council was scheduled to debate the controversial proposal to allow extraditions to mainland China today, but delayed the second reading of the bill in the face of continuing mass demonstrations. Tens of thousands of people turned out to protest the bill, blocking the roads outside of the legislature building on Wednesday. By the afternoon, police began to fire tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets in an effort to disperse the crowds as some protesters hurled bricks at police. Since the huge demonstration against the bill on Sunday—Hong Kong’s largest since the British handover—Chief Executive Carrie Lam has told the public that new amendments to the bill would protect human rights. Critics warn that it will allow China to target activists and undermine investment in Hong Kong.
Russian journalist released. Russia did something unprecedented on Tuesday: Facing widespread criticism, authorities suddenly dropped the charges against the investigative journalist Ivan Golunov and released him from house arrest. The officers who detained him last Thursday were suspended. The surprise decision suggests that the government is nervous about its approval ratings, FP’s Amy Mackinnon writes. “While the Kremlin may have intervened swiftly to nip the situation in the bud this time, it has also taught Russians a powerful lesson: Protest works,” she notes.
Poland’s president heads to the White House. Polish President Andrzej Duda will meet U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington today. The leaders are expected to announce increased U.S. military presence in Poland to deter Russia. The move risks endorsing Duda’s dismantling of democracy, Melissa Hooper argues for FP. “U.S. military support for Poland is a green light for further abuse,” she writes.
Keep an Eye On
A landmark ruling in Botswana. On Tuesday, Botswana’s High Court struck down colonial-era laws that criminalized gay sex, drawing cheers from LGBT activists in the courtroom. Same-sex relations remain illegal in more than two dozen sub-Saharan African countries. The decision in Botswana follows another closely watched case: Last month, Kenya’s High Court upheld similar laws in what activists said was a setback for the region.
Italy’s emergency decree. In a move intended to target migrant rescue ships, Italy passed an emergency decree on Tuesday that regulates vessels in its territorial waters and imposes fines of 10,000-50,000 euros ($11,000-55,000) on ships that disobey Italian officials’ orders. The country’s ports have already been closed to rescue boats. Migrant arrivals to Italy have declined dramatically since Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini—who leads the anti-immigrant League party—took office a year ago.
Abuse in the Polish Catholic Church. After church authorities declined to give prosecutors documents involving a pedophilia case, a Polish court has ordered them to hand over the files. The move marked a rare conflict between the Catholic Church and the state in devout Poland two days before a Vatican sexual abuse investigator is due to arrive to train clergy. A documentary released last month alleged that the Polish church has covered up sexual abuse.
A doctor shortage in Brazil. Cuba recalled around 8,500 of its doctors from Brazil last year, creating a policy challenge for President Jair Bolsonaro—who had taken a firm stance against Cuba. Six months later, Brazil is struggling to replace the Cuban health workers—limiting access to care for an estimated 38 million people, the New York Times reports.
China’s rare-earths threat. China is still threatening to limit its exports of rare-earth minerals to the United States. China’s control of the materials is a major vulnerability: They are used in every advanced weapon in the U.S. arsenal. There are few alternatives, Keith Johnson and Lara Seligman report.
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Odds and Ends
Gabon has named a British conservationist to head its environmental ministry after its last forests minister was fired over an illegal logging scandal. Lee White holds British-Gabonese dual citizenship and previously managed the country’s national parks. Despite the environmentalist efforts of President Ali Bongo, Gabon remains a target for loggers and poachers.
French President Emmanuel Macron will send a new oak tree to the White House after reports that the one he and U.S. President Donald Trump planted on the front lawn last year had died. “Do not see symbols where there are none,” Macron said Tuesday. “The symbol was to plant it together.”
That’s it for today.