January 1st, 2008 13:49 EST
World Chronicle: January 1
AFRICA NAIROBI, Kenya- Almost 300 people have been killed in Kenya since Sunday, when the incumbent president was sworn in to his second term-- despite allegations of a rigged election. Hundreds of angry protesters thronged the streets of Nairobi, the capital, and other main cities the moment the national media announced the official results.
Mwai Kibaki, who came to power in 2002 on a promise to end corruption and tribal divisions, had been trailing in all opinion polls as well as in the first released results, with Raila Odinga (an opposition candidate supported by various tribes) leading with a considerable advantage. But hours after international observers praised the election as fair and democratic, Kenya's electoral commission surprisingly announced Kibaki the winner; the swearing-in ceremony took place only minutes after the communique.
The United States and European Union have refused to congratulate President Kibaki and demanded that the electoral commission recount the votes in the regions where, according to international observers, Kibaki received surprisingly high support, sometimes reaching 90 percent of the ballot.
A Student Operated Press journalist in Kenya, Kathryn Were Omwandho, writes that widespread killings, bordering on ethnic cleansing, are taking place in Nairobi. According to the SOP reporter, inhabitants of Nairobi's slum districts are being killed by Kikuyu militias and, afterwards, the victims are being castrated. http://www.thesop.org/article.php?id=8916
AMERICAS CARACAS, Venezuela- On December 31, Venezuelans said goodbye not only to the old year, but also to their old currency. “A strong bolivar,” as the new one has been dubbed, is the government's response to the increasing prices and galloping inflation. The National Bank's maneuver stripped all denominations of three zeros, making economic transactions easier for both Venezuelans and foreign investors. As a drawback, within one day, thousands of local millionaires disappeared in Venezuela as the largest note is now 100.
Controversial President Hugo Chavez is trying to present himself as a responsible statesman who cares about the well-being of his citizens. Despite losing an important referendum in December, which would have enabled him to rule the country as long as he wished, Chavez has been continuing his reforms to “introduce the socialism of the 21st century.”
DES MOINES, Iowa- With only two days until the first presidential caucus in Iowa, more questions remain unanswered than it would have seemed only several months ago. If Democrats have gotten used to the idea that Hillary Clinton will be their presidential candidate, they may change their minds as Barack Obama and John Edwards hold every chance of snatching the Iowa victory.
According to a Des Moines Register poll, Obama leads with 32 percent; Clinton and Edwards are trailing with 25 and 24 percent, respectively.
In the Republican camp, on the other hand, the main battle should be fought among the following three: Romney, Huckabee, and McCain. While the high position of the former Massachusetts governor is understandable– Romney has spent more money in Iowa than the rest of contenders combined– then the rise of Huckabee and McCain acknowledges that everything is possible in the 2008 presidential election.
The question is not who will win the Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses, but who will lose; a failure in one of them will surely cost Huckabee or Romney the entire campaign.
ASIA ISLAMABAD, Pakistan- Parliamentary elections scheduled for January 8 should be postponed, says a Pakistan's election commission official. Quoted by the Associated Press, the commission spokesman admitted that it was “impossible” to hold the elections as planned since “our offices in 10 districts of Sindh have been burned, the electoral rolls have been burned, the polling schemes, the nomination papers have been burned.”
However, the commission will make the official decision on Wednesday, after hearing the positions of all main parties. Political chaos in Pakistan continues as the opposition and President Musharraf's supporters accuse each other of playing dirty and destabilizing the country.
The murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto caught many by surprise, with the United States and European Union fearing that an unstable Pakistan could endanger the peacekeeping mission in neighboring Afghanistan.
EUROPE NICOSIA, Cyprus- On Tuesday, Cyprus and Malta joined 13 other countries which have given up their national currencies and adopted pan-continental euro. With the decreasing value of the American dollar and growing position of the European currency, more and more European Union members wave their old pounds, crowns and marks goodbye and accept money with the double crossed “E.”
Quoted by the Associated Press, Cyprus' finance minister said Tuesday, “Although the pound has been a loyal and faithful servant of the Cyprus economy, we felt that things could happen that could destabilize a small, open economy, so it was to our benefit to join the euro zone as soon as possible.”
Cyprus and Malta, two former British colonies, joined the European Union in 2004 with eight other, mostly post-communist, countries.
LUBLJANA, Slovenia- Slovenia took over the European Union presidency, being the first new member to lead the organization in the next six months. The Balkan country of slightly less than two million people, which joined the EU in 2004, will head the world's largest economy.
According to many experts, Slovenia inherits from Portugal (which stood at the helm in the second half of 2007) an organization stronger and more united, but with problems, nevertheless.
Among the challenges put before Slovenia, the most important ones are the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, as well as the exercising of a new, working policy towards the rest of the Balkan region.
MIDDLE EAST GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip- Eleven Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip since Monday, when clashes between the supporters of Hamas and Fatah broke out. According to the Associated Press around 60 more, with various injuries, were taken to nearby hospitals.
The first shots were fired Monday, when some Fatah members began to shoot, celebrating the 43rd anniversary of their movement. Armed Hamas militia responded at once, as the Gaza Strip and neighboring territories are controlled by this faction.
Palestine has again been plunged into political chaos, only a week before US President Bush's scheduled visit to the Middle East. Washington hopes that, boosted by the success of the Annapolis Conference, the leaders of Palestine and Israel will be able to reach an agreement, paving the way for permanent peace.