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Published:December 3rd, 2007 13:38 EST
World Chronicle: Africa to The Middle East

World Chronicle: Africa to The Middle East

By Krzys Wasilewski

AFRICA

MOGADISHU, Somalia- According to the Elman Peace and Human Rights Organization, around 6,000 people have been killed since the beginning of 2007 when clashes between Islamic rebels and the Ethiopia-backed governmental forces intensified. The same organization claims that in the last 12 months more than 8,000 civilians have been wounded and around 720,000 had to flee their homes and seek refuge in humanitarian camps scattered across Somalia and neighboring countries. Last week, some U.N. officials visiting Somalia warned that the Somali crisis, neglected by the media, was worse than the situation in Darfur, Sudan.

On Sunday Nur Hassan Hussein was sworn in as Somalia`s next prime minister. Educated in Europe, Hussein served as the chairman of the Somali Red Crescent Society and is thought to be a conciliatory politician. The Associated Press quotes a presidential spokesman as saying that the new prime minister will talk with Islamists and other opponents. This is the first priority. "

In summer 2006 Somalia enjoyed a fragile stabilization when much of the country fell under the control of the Islamic regime. The situation in the country deteriorated at the end of 2006, when the governmental forces, supported by Ethiopia and the U.S., launched a violent offensive against the Islamists.

AMERICAS

CARACAS, Venezuela- The December 2 referendum turned out to be Hugo Chavez`s personal debacle. According to the official results, with turnout at 56 percent, 51 percent of the Venezuelans who cast their votes rejected President Chavez`s amendments to the constitution which would have extended his powers and allowed him to rule the country for an indefinite period of time. The outcome of the December 2 referendum is very surprising considering the fact that Chavez controls the Venezuelan media and most of the opposition activists remain in jails or in exile. During the days following the referendum, the streets of Caracas were thronged with thousands of people who either wanted to support the president or voice their discontent with the current state of affairs.

The 69 amendments rejected on Sunday would have given the president right to control the National Bank and exercise monetary policy. They would have also granted him power thepower to shut down the media, when he had found it necessary for the country`s integrity, and appoint local representatives regardless of the outcome of regional elections. The most visible change, however, was the amendment that erased the restriction of two presidential terms and would have allowed Chavez to run for office as many times as he wishes. Recently, he said he was going to govern Venezuela until 2051.

ASIA

MANILA, Philippines- It was a tumultuous weekend in the former American colony. Almost 30 angry protesters showed up Sunday at the American embassy in Manila, demanding that a Marine who had been accused of raping a woman and who was found guilty by a Filipino court last year be transported to a local jail. The protesters waited until the policemen guarding the embassy left their posts then began to storm the embassy doors. It wasn`t until additional police units had arrived that the volatile situation was finally controlled. Last year the Filipino president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, allowed the Marine to serve the sentence in the embassy.

Thirty-seven military officers are accused of masterminding an anti-government uprising. Last Thursday when the group was hearing the charges of taking part in another coup, the officers left the courtroom and barricaded themselves in a nearby five-star hotel and called for a national rebellion. Faced with overwhelming police forces, which besieged the hotel, the 37 surrendered after several hours.

Also on Monday, news agencies reported on a mass exodus of Manobo tribes from the southern island of Mindanao after the Filipino army launched an offensive against communist rebels. It is estimated that as many as 3,000 people fled their homes in the wake of heavy fighting between the governmental forces and the left-wing New People`s Army.

AUSTRALIA

CANBERRA, Australia- Kevin Rudd, who leads the Australian Labor Party, was sworn in today as the country`s 26th prime minister, ending the 11-year-long period of continuous rule by the Conservatives. Shortly after the ceremony, Prime Minister Rudd signed the Kyoto Protocol to demonstrate his government`s commitment to tackling climate change. "

EUROPE

MOSCOW, Russia- President Putin`s United Russia party emerges as the victor of the Sunday parliamentary election, winning more than 63 percent of the vote. The Communist Party, which had been the leading political force until Putin came to power in 2000, took second place with a little more than 11 percent. Only two more parties-- the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party and the socialist Just Russia-- exceeded the threshold of seven percent. Despite the support from western governments and the involvement of former world chess champion, Garry Kasparov, none of the opposition parties won more than three percent of the vote.

It was the first parliamentary election in Russia wherein the sitting president was running for a parliamentary seat. His party, the United Russia, led a political campaign focusing on Putin`s achievements, reaping from immense popularity that the former KGB officer has garnered during his seven years in the Kremlin.

MIDDLE EAST

TEL AVIV, Israel- In a gesture of good will, Israel freed 429 Palestinian prisoners, a move that Tel Aviv hopes will bolster the position of the moderate Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas is considered by the centrist Israeli government as the only Palestinian politician able to partner in peace talks which U.S. President Bush hopes will be completed by the end of his term. Associated Press quotes the Israeli government spokesman as saying, The peace process cannot only be summits and words, but has to be reinforced by practical measures on the ground. " Although it is estimated that Israel still holds around 9,000 Palestinian prisoners, many experts emphasize that today`s decision to release more than 400 Palestinians-- most of whom are members of Abbas` Fatah movement-- may successfully accelerate peace talks.