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Forecast: North Kosovo holds elections, Russia chairs the UN Security Council and Brazil’s Indigenous communities meet

Two sleek trains inside the central station in Milan

Welcome to Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories from the editors at Factal.

We publish our forward-looking note each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead.

Heavy fighting broke across Sudan on Saturday, killing at least 270 people and injuring some 2,600 others, according to the World Health Organization. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Ahmed Namatalla discuss how the power struggle between two generals is sparking fears of a new civil war.

Listen now or download on your favorite platform. 

Week of April 21-28
A Look Ahead

April 21 – Italian nationwide public sector strike

Italian trade union CUB announced it will hold a 24-hour nationwide strike of the public sector on Friday.

What’s happened so far 
Italy’s trade union had previously called for a nationwide train strike on April 14, and approximately 40 percent of train journeys and 65 percent of regional trains were canceled. The union said these strikes are seeking to gain better conditions and higher salaries for workers in Italy’s public sector. As there have been no substantial talks with the government on improving the public sector’s work demands, the union called for a second 24-hour strike Friday.

The impact 
The second nationwide strike is expected to impact several more areas than the previous one a week earlier, with both regional and country-wide train journeys facing substantial cancellations and delays. The education and health care ministries also announced they will operate “the minimum essential services,” but warn residents to expect reductions from workers joining the strike. 

April 21 – Brazilian president visits Portugal and Spain  

Starting Friday, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will pay a state visit to Portugal and Spain after traveling to China.

What’s happened so far 
Lula will attend events to commemorate the 49th anniversary of the Portuguese revolution during the first leg of his trip. On Tuesday, he will head to Spain where he will meet with Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and King Felipe VI. Lula’s visit will focus on strengthening commercial ties with Spain, one of its main European investors. The trip, announced earlier this year, has sparked controversy in Portuguese politics over Lula’s push to establish himself as a mediator for the war in Ukraine.

The impact 
The Brazilian president was meant to address the Portuguese parliament on April 25, an event that was substituted with a speech at a different event after complaints by some opposition representatives following Lula’s remarks on U.S. and EU influences on the war in Ukraine and over his views the conflict. Some lawmakers described the Brazilian president as a Putin ally and accused the Portuguese government of legitimizing pro-Russian views through his visit. The far-right party Chega called a protest on Tuesday, coinciding with the main bilateral event. 

April 23 – Local elections in North Kosovo  

Local elections will finally take place in Kosovo’s majority ethnic Serb north on Sunday after delays due to tensions.

What’s happened so far 
The elections were initially expected to be held last December after mass resignations of ethnic Serb politicians in Kosovo’s north, who left their positions to protest Pristina’s row with Serbia over license plates. Tensions in northern Kosovo sharply escalated surrounding the run-up to the elections and in the aftermath of their suspension with Belgrade placing troops near the border on high alert as ethnic Serbs erected roadblocks in the region. 

The impact 
Tensions have cooled significantly between the two sides since last December’s escalation after multiple rounds of EU-brokered talks made progress toward eventually establishing some sort of normalization agreement between the two sides. A key tenet of such an agreement would be establishing a degree of autonomy for Kosovo’s ethnic Serb regions, and ethnic Serbs in Kosovo say they will not participate in local elections until that is established. While Belgrade and Pristina have made progress toward ultimately establishing some semblance of normalized ties, the local elections will serve as the first major test for the two in months.

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April 24 – Russian foreign minister chairs UN Security Council meetings

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is expected to chair a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Mondayhaving been granted a visa to enter the United States.

What’s happened so far 
Following Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the U.N. General Assembly passed, by a wide margin, a call for Russia to immediately cease hostilities. Russia, as a permanent member of the Security Council, vetoed an attempt to condemn its invasion. Russia held the presidency of the Security Council as it launched its invasion and now regains it, as each nation on the 15-member body is entitled its turn as head. Russia has sought to sway nations outside of Europe and North America to its case, and Lavrov will likely use the presidency to further the narrative of Russia as a victim.

The impact 
Previous attempts by Russian diplomats to speak or steer the discussion in the Security Council have seen walkouts in protest, a symbolic move that may happen again when Lavrov speaks. Russia will pass the chair to Switzerland for May. The next permanent member to chair the body is the United Kingdom, which takes over in July, followed by the United States in August.

April 24 – Brazilian indigenous communities meet

Indigenous groups will meet in Brasilia, Brazil, beginning Monday for an annual event where the demarcation of some of their territories is expected to take place.

What’s happened so far 
The annual Free Land Camp event will aim to demarcate 14 territories corresponding to 3.7 million acres, the largest demarcation in Brazil in the past decade. This still leaves nearly 200 other areas to be divided. The mobilization is also expected to focus on attempts to review a legal opinion that Indigenous communities cannot obtain formal recognition of their lands if they were not physically living there on the day the country’s constitution was enacted on October 5, 1988.

The impact 
The event follows three tumultuous years of former President Jair Bolsonaro’s mandate, marked by strong policies contested by Indigenous communities. These included weakening of environmental protections and the encouragement of private development of the Amazon, which led to Indigenous groups calling for Bolsonaro to be tried for crimes against humanity. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva pledged during his campaign to create a ministry focused on Indigenous-related issues and revoke Bolsonaro’s policies. Since coming into power, Lula has highlighted the need to demarcate land before invaders “take over.”

April 26 – Imran Khan court appearance in sedition case 

Imran Khan, Pakistan’s former prime minister and chairman of the Tehreek-e-Insaf party, is due to appear before a court on Wednesday on charges of sedition. 

What’s happened so far 
The case against the former premier was registered in Islamabad and accuses him of using foul language against officers of a state institution. Khan, who primarily resides in Lahore, filed a petition in the local high court claiming the case was lodged illegally and is politically motivated. 

The impact 
Khan’s political career since his ouster last year has been marred by a strained relationship with the current administration, resulting in countless protests, an assassination attemptdissolution of two provincial assemblies and more than 30 court cases, ranging from contempt of court to terrorism. This tug of war between the ruling coalition and Khan comes amid a burgeoning political and economic crisis and what many see as the establishment’s attempt to bar the populist former premier from participating in the upcoming elections.

April 26 – South Korean president visits United States

President Joe Biden will host South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol for an official state visit on Wednesday. It will be the second state visit of the Biden-Harris Administration.

What’s happened so far 
The White House said the visit is in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the U.S.-South Korea security alliance and comes in the wake of recent provocative moves by North Korea, including the firing of a new type of long-range ballistic missile and claim that it’s ready to launch its first spy satellite.

The impact 
Yoon’s visit to the United States also comes as his approval rating sinks to 33.6 percent. The decline is believed to be at least partially linked to the leak of American intelligence documents that suggested the United States may have spied on South Korea. Accordingly, much attention will be paid to how Yoon and Biden address the situation. In addition to the leaders’ meeting and state dinner, Yoon is expected to address Congress.

April 28 – Pope Francis visits Hungary  

On Friday, Pope Francis is set to travel to Hungary for three days, marking his second visit to the country.

What’s happened so far 
Following an invitation from Hungary’s ecclesiastical authorities and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, the pope and his entourage will visit Ukrainian refugees, a religious institute for the poor and speak with officials and clergymen. Francis’ last visit to Hungary was a short-lived one in 2021 at a time of Mediterranean migration woes. The relationship between the Holy See and Hungary has significantly improved since then

The impact 
This is an important undertaking that solidifies the relationship between the pope and the country. While, in 2021, Orbán and Francis clashed on accepting refugees following a large influx of migrants, the Ukraine war and Orbán’s openess to accept Ukrainian refugees has warmed the relationship. While both continue to disagree on openly vilifying Russia, it is yet to be seen whether Pope Francis, with Hungary’s help, could possibly open up mediation between Ukraine and Russia. 

What Else Matters

The recent outbreak of civil war in Sudan is visible in satellite images as bridges and other infrastructure are being targeted.
Satellite imagery shows spoke rising from Khartoum, Sudan, near the Kobar Bridge on April 16, 2023 amid fighting between the Sudanese army and paramilitary RSF group. (PlanetScope via Planet Labs)

Fighting erupts again in Sudan

struggle for power between the country’s top two military generals spilled on the streets of Khartoum and other cities across the impoverished country of 48 million people on April 15. Troops loyal to their respective sides – the military on one and a paramilitary group known as the Rapid Response Forces on the other – are targeting each other with heavy weaponry, especially near vital government and military installations concentrated around the capital’s airport and in the northern city of Merowe, resulting, so far, in the deaths of dozens of people and injuries to hundreds of others.

Watch for: Regional and world powers have twice attempted to get both sides to agree to a ceasefire for humanitarian reasons but none have succeeded. The whereabouts of the two former allies and now feuding generals Abdel-Fattah Burhan and Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo are also unknown. Neither side appears to have a definite advantage over the other after multiple days of combat, raising the specter of a protracted conflict in the absence of effective mediation. Already, local and regional media are reporting shortages of food and water, power and internet outages and dozens of hospitals damaged or shut down due to the intensity of fighting.

Kansas City shooting of Black teen and Akron police shooting 

Community outrage is building in two different parts of the United States after two high-profile shootings of Black people. In Akron, Ohio, police officers shot at Jayland Walker nearly 100 times following a chase in June. This week, a grand jury declined to charge the officers who were involved, leading to the closure of area schools and some protests. In Kansas City, Mo., an 84-year-old white homeowner was charged for shooting Black teenager Ralph Yarl after he went to the wrong address to pick up his siblings. Yarl was hospitalized but has since been discharged. Despite the charges, many community members have questioned why the police did not take the shooter into custody until the day after charges were filed.

Watch for: Protests are likely to continue around both shootings, and if police escalate violence at the demonstrations, community reactions could become more destructive and last longer. That could lead to more media coverage and more outrage, similar to that which led to protests after the killing of George Floyd in 2020.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

April 21-28 

April 21

  • Second day of nationwide strike of Italy’s public sector

April 22

  • Portugal to host bilateral summit with Brazil
  • Akshaya Tritiya Hindu and Jain Festival

April 23

  • London Marathon
  • North Kosovo local elections

April 24

  • Brazilian indigenous communities camp to discuss territorial demarcation
  • Russian foreign minister chairs UN Security Council meetings

April 26

  • South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol visits Washington
  • Greece hosts annual economic conference in Delphi
  • South Korean president visits U.S.

April 27

  • UK teacher strikes

April 28

  • Pope Francis to visit Hungary

April 29-May 5

April 29

  • Sita Navami Hindu Festival

April 30

  • Uzbekistan constitutional referendum
  • Israeli Knesset returns from recess
  • General elections in Paraguay
  • Sita Navami Hindu Festival

May 1

  • U.S. House speaker addresses Israeli Knesset

May 5

  • Buddha Purnima Buddhist Festival

May 6-12

May 7 

  • Early voting begins in Thailand general elections
  • Election of representatives to write new constitution draft in Chile

May 11

  • President Biden ends COVID-19 emergency declaration

May 13-19 

May 14

  • Thailand general elections
  • Turkey general elections

May 16

  • Council of Europe summit
  • Peace negotiations between Colombian government and FARC

May 19

  • Summit of Arab leaders

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