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Forecast podcast: Deadly power struggle in Sudan sparks fears of civil war

The recent outbreak of civil war in Sudan is visible in satellite images as bridges and other infrastructure are being targeted.

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Ahmed Namatalla discuss the deadly clashes in Sudan, plus more on railway workers striking in Italy, local elections in North Kosovo, an annual meeting of Brazilian Indigenous communities and a court appearance for Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan.

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These stories and others are also available in our free weekly Forecast newsletter.

This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Agnese Boffano, Alex Moore, Jess Fino, Awais Ahmad and Ahmed Namatalla.  Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe

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Factal Forecast podcast transcript

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.


Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.

Today is April 20.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got railway workers striking in Italy, local elections in North Kosovo, an annual meeting of Brazilian Indigenous communities, a court appearance for Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan and a look at the deadly clashes in Sudan. 

You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter. You’ll find a link to that in the show notes.

Italian nationwide public sector

Information compiled by Agnese Boffano

JIMMY: A 24-hour nationwide train strike is expected to impact travel across Italy tomorrow.

The country’s Basic Unitary Confederation trade union has called for the strike, in an effort to gain better working conditions and higher salaries for workers of Italy’s public sector.

This is the second train strike in as many weeks and comes in the absence of substantial talks with the government on improving the public sector’s work demands.

Now, this strike is expected to impact several more areas than the one last week, with both regional and country-wide train journeys under substantial cancellations and delays

The education and healthcare ministries also announced that they will operate “the minimum essential services,” but warn residents to expect reductions from workers joining the strike.

Local elections in North Kosovo

Information compiled by Alex Moore

JIMMY: Local elections will finally take place in northern Kosovo on Sunday. 

The elections in the majority ethnic Serb area were initially expected to be held last December in the wake of mass resignations by ethnic Serb politicians.

Those politicians left their positions en masse to protest Pristina’s row with Serbia over license plates. 

Tensions in northern Kosovo sharply escalated surrounding the runup to the elections and in the aftermath of their suspension.

Those tensions included Belgrade placing troops near the border on high alert as ethnic Serbs erected roadblocks in the region. 

Now, tensions have cooled significantly between the two sides over the course of multiple rounds of EU-brokered talks.

Those meetings have made some progress toward eventually establishing some sort of normalization agreement between the two sides. 

And while a key tenet of such an agreement would be establishing a degree of autonomy for Kosovo’s ethnic Serb regions, some ethnic Serbs in Kosovo say they won’t participate in local elections until that is established. 

Finally, while Belgrade and Pristina have made progress toward de-escalating tensions and ultimately establishing some semblance of normalized ties, the local elections will serve as the first major test for the two in months.

Brazilian Indigenous communities meet

Information compiled by Jess Fino

JIMMY: Brazilian Indigenous communities will meet in the capital Brasília starting Monday.

The annual Free Land Camp event will aim to establish boundaries for 14 territories corresponding to 3.7 million acres, the largest demarcation in Brazil in the past decade. 

Of course, this still leaves nearly 200 other areas to be divided. 

The protest-camp is also expected to focus on attempts to review a legal opinion. Specifically, one saying Indigenous communities can’t obtain formal recognition of their lands if they were not physically living there on the day the country’s constitution was enacted in October of 1988.

Now, 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 – things that led to Indigenous groups calling for Bolsonaro to be tried for crimes against humanity

Meanwhile, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva pledged during his campaign to create a ministry focused on Indigenous-related issues and revoke Boslonaro’s policies. 

As for creating boundaries for Indigenous lands, since coming into power Lula has called for the need to demarcate land before invaders “take over”.

Imran Khan court appearance in sedition case

Information compiled by Awais Ahmad

JIMMY: 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.

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. 

Now, Khan’s political career since his ouster last year has been marred by a strained relationship with the current administration.

That resulted in countless protests, an assassination attempt and the dissolution of two provincial assemblies. It’s also led to more than 30 court cases, ranging from contempt of court to terrorism. 

Finally, this tug of war between the ruling coalition and Khan is seen by many as the military establishment’s attempt to bar the populist former premier from participating in the upcoming elections. As a result, the country is facing a burgeoning political crisis amid an economic slump.

Sudan war

Information compiled by Ahmed Namatalla

JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the recent fighting in Sudan. For more on that I’ve got our Middle East and Africa desk lead Ahmed Namatalla.

JIMMY: Hey, Ahmed.

AHMED: Hi Jimmy. 

JIMMY: Thanks for talking with us today. Things in Sudan have really escalated over the past week and I’m hoping you can give us a bit of a recap on what’s happened.

AHMED: We, here in the West, woke up Saturday morning to the sound of gunfire and explosions, for any of us that were checking our social media apps like I was, and this is in Khartoum, Sudan, where the country’s two top generals, who were former allies up until this last Saturday, started to fight each other on the streets of the capital and other cities around the country. This involved heavy weaponry, the military even carried out airstrikes in the middle of the densely populated capital. And the destruction has just been massive. Both sides are refusing to back down. We are five days into this conflict and really there’s no end in sight.

JIMMY: Well, what’s the latest? How are things at the moment?

AHMED: I am seeing that there’s a bit of quiet in the capital. There’s a 24-hour ceasefire that started at 6 p.m. local time to allow people to just meet basic needs, like food, water and medical care. But that has been shaky. This is a second attempt at a ceasefire that was reportedly brokered by regional powers that have influence with both of these generals, but it’s not expected to last because both are trying to wipe the other out. So that’s where we stand. Internet and power are either severely disrupted or out in a lot of locations, including the capital, and there are reports of food and water shortages. Of course, heavy structural damage around the capital, including many hospitals and schools, and at Khartoum airport itself, because that is where a lot of military installations are located. So yeah, it’s a pretty dire situation.

JIMMY: What kind of casualty toll have you seen from the fighting?

AHMED: So far, we’re seeing, you know, about 200 dead and hundreds injured. But we’re also seeing the entities reporting these numbers, like the Sudanese Doctor Syndicate, saying that the numbers are much higher and that their medics are not able to reach many of the areas where fighting is taking place. And so they’re really counting bodies a while after, you know, the clashes have taken place. And a lot of people are not able to get medical care, that’s another wrinkle that’s adding to this. So the death toll is likely to be — and injury tolls — are likely to be much higher. And we’re going to find that out in the next days.

JIMMY: How have the Sudanese civilians reacted to all this? And you know, speaking of reactions in general, how has the international community responded to the violence?

AHMED: Locally, people are pleading for help. We’re seeing this on social media and messaging apps coverage by local and regional media. People are just asking for very basic things like, you know, we need access to food, water and medical facilities. Internationally, there have been calls for restraint, as you would expect, but nothing much more than that. What’s surprising is that I have yet to see anybody who has dealt with Sudan — any of the countries that would consider themselves allies or on friendly terms with Sudan — take the side of either the military or this paramilitary group that it’s fighting against. And that’s surprising. This could reflect that really, I mean, the alliances were brittle to begin with, but it also reflects the facts on the ground and that is both of these military forces are pretty evenly matched. And that’s what we’re really seeing on the ground, despite the fact that the military has an air force, for example, and it’s been carrying out airstrikes. RSF does not have those capabilities and yet their soldiers have been able to take and capture positions all around the country, especially in the southwestern Darfur regions, but also right inside of the capital. So this is just a wait and see for who comes out on top or if both sides eventually decide to lay down their arms and set new boundaries for how they will coexist.

JIMMY: And what would that look like? What would coexisting, you know – how would that play out?

AHMED: Well, this is a possibility in the medium to long term. Short term, they’re just trying to wipe each other out. But in the medium to long term, it appears that we could be headed toward a situation like what we’re seeing in other countries in the region that have had armed conflicts, namely Libya, Yemen and you could also argue Syria, where the government forces have their own territory and opposition forces claim their own territory. So, really be effectively further dividing Sudan into sub regions. But like I said, I mean, it’s hard to see how we escape that outcome unless one side comes out victorious in this and that would have a heavy toll on the country’s population and infrastructure.

JIMMY: Well, Ahmed, I think we’ll stop there for today, but I thank you so much for keeping us caught up. Always appreciate it. 

AHMED: Thanks, Jimmy. 

JIMMY: Take care

JIMMY: As always, thank you for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast and newsletter each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Please subscribe and review wherever you find your podcasts. We’d love it if you’d consider telling a friend about us.  

Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Agnese Boffano, Alex Moore, Jess Fino, and Awais Ahmad. Our interview featured editor Ahmed Namatalla and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, if you have any feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing

This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed. 

Copyright © 2023 Factal. All rights reserved.

Music: ‘Factal Theme’ courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Top photo: 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)

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