January 16th, 2008 11:49 EST
World Chronicle: January 16
HARARE, Zimbabwe. Although it is still too early to speak of a new wind of change blowing in Africa, democracy is beginning to revive itself on the continent. In Zimbabwe, where the president is strong and the opposition weak, things are about to turn around as dissidents speak of staging a series of marches before the country's presidential and parliamentary elections in March. The Agence France Press quotes one official of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change as saying on Wednesday, “Our march is a statement against poverty, against the failed state. Our march is a demand for our cash, for drugs in our hospital.”
Zimbabwe has been ruled by autocratic Robert Mugabe since the 1980s, when he came to power as the person who freed the country of European colonists. Soon, however, he cleaned the political scene of opposition parties, arrested critics and introduced the “big man” rule. One of the richest African countries in the 20th century, Zimbabwe now depends on foreign aid, with a reeling economy and sky-rocketing inflation reaching 3,000 percent a month.
NAIROBI, Kenya. Raila Odinga, the opposition leader who claims to have won the December presidential election, continues his political insurgency. After a week of relative calm, Wednesday saw the streets of Nairobi again thronged with dozens of protesters demanding the incumbent president step down and call a new election. And like before, the metropolitan police executed a governmental order to quell all manifestations, with brutal efficacy. News agencies report that one person was killed and several more wounded today when dozens of people came to a rally organized by Odinga's supporters.
Meanwhile, more and more Kenyans are growing increasingly impatient with Odinga's actions. Whereas his first rallies were attended by thousands of disappointed people, now only the most fervent supporters answer his calls. Ordinary residents of Nairobi and other big cities simply want the situation to calm down so they can open their businesses again.
DETROIT, Michigan. Mitt Romney won the Michigan primary on Tuesday. With 37 percent, the son of a former Michigan governor defeated his main opponent, John McCain, who came in second with 30 percent. Mike Huckabee trailed behind them, winning only 16 percent of the vote. After three primaries, the Republican Party is in trouble since no formidable front runner has emerged thus far. It is a good sign for the Democrats who narrowed the number of their favorites to two; namely, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The two senators are enjoying greater media attention than any of the Republican contenders.
HAVANA, Cuba. Cuba's long-time dictator, Fidel Castro, is too sick to speak; but, it doesn't stop him from criticizing the Bush Administration. One day after Castro's meeting with the Brazilian president, national newspapers ran an article in which the communist leader admitted that he was not “physically able to speak directly to the citizens of the municipality where I was nominated for our elections next Sunday.” Nevertheless, Castro again slated U.S. President Bush for his “imperialist” policies in the Middle East and South America.
The parliamentary elections are scheduled for Sunday; however, the winners are already known. Fidel Castro will officially remain in office, but it will be his younger brother, Raul, making all the decisions.
BEIJING, China. American parents, worried that their kids may never enjoy the fun of playing with dolls and toy cars made in China, may give a sigh of relief as Chinese products satisfy all the strictest requirements, claims Beijing. Quoted by the Associated Press, a Chinese official said on Wednesday that “all the rectification goals have been achieved on schedule.”
Apart from toys and other products exported to the United States and Europe, the quality of Chinese food has also been significantly improved. The government-led investigation into the state of domestic products has ended in the arrest of several prominent politicians and businessmen. The companies whose standards were far from satisfying were either closed or given time to fix all the problems.
China is trying to bolster its image abroad after hundreds of thousands of Chinese goods had to be withdrawn from American stores when it was discovered that they contained potentially dangerous levels of lead.
LONDON, England. One of the topics that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will discuss during his visit to China will be Darfur, the premier announced on Wednesday. In his weekly meeting with parliament, Brown told legislators that he would try to convince the government in Beijing of the need to press the Sudanese authorities to resolve the humanitarian crisis in the province of Darfur. “I intend, on my visit to China, to continue these talks with premier Wen so that all of us, including the Chinese government, add to the pressure for a peaceful settlement in Darfur,” the socialist prime minister said today.
In the past decade, China has become the major foreign investor in Sudan. While western countries refrain from trading with the controversial government in Khartoum– accused of orchestrating ethnic cleansing in Darfur– Chinese workers and advisors are more and more visible in Sudan.
JERUSALEM, Israel. Yisrael Beiteinu, a hawkish right-wing party, withdrew from the Israeli government on Wednesday, narrowing Prime Minister Olmert's parliamentary majority to 67. It means that in the crucial time for peace negotiations with the Palestinians, the bickering ruling coalition enjoys only seven votes more than the opposition. Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the secessionist party, said that the reason 11 legislators left the government was because the prime minister's agreement to concede too many principles to the Palestinians. Referring to an open question of borders, Lieberman told the Associated Press, “If we pull back to the 1967 borders, everyone should ask himself, 'What will happen the following day . . . nothing will change.'”
Last week U.S. President George W. Bush expressed his hopes that a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority could be reached by the end of his second term. Today's shakeup on the Israeli political scene, however, can significantly slow down the tortuous peace process.