January 21st, 2008 09:20 EST
World Chronicle: January 21
The World Chronicle has reached its fourth month. As news spreads with the speed of light in the contemporary world, a single day seems like eternity. Governments are sworn in; governments are toppled. Someone rises; someone falls. Everything is changing – and so is the World Chronicle. I have decided to cut the number of presented events to one from each region. This, hopefully, will make the Chronicle more coherent and cohesive, with a stronger focus on one noteworthy story. If you have any suggestions, please share them with me: email@example.com
AFRICA – Is Kenya another Rwanda?
NAIROBI, Kenya. The death toll in Kenya from last weekend: several people were macheted to death in one of Nairobi's slum suburbs, whereas over 20 lost their lives in violent clashes that erupted in the northwestern region of Rift Valley. The latest casualties added to the total number of Kenyans killed, now over 600, since the December presidential election woke up tribal animosities, thought to have been buried deeply in the past.
Despite pre-election opinion polls and international observations, incumbent President Mwai Kibaki announced himself the victor and orchestrated a swearing-in ceremony hours after the puppet electoral commission released the official results. It enraged Raila Odinga – Kibaki's main political opponent and a presidential candidate – who called on his supporters to protest against Kibaki. The fact that Kibaki is Kikuyu and Odinga belongs to the Luo tribe fueled the tensions. In the country regarded as the most stable in the region, tribal violence threatens to repeat the history of the 1994 Rwandan genocide where over 800,000 people were murdered.
Neither foreign mediators nor the number of deaths has persuaded the two warring sides into negotiations.
Odinga informed today that his supporters would stage a mass rally in Nairobi on Thursday, even though the government banned gatherings shortly after the election.
AMERICAS – The Rise of John McCain
Mitt Romney has scored the largest number of delegates so far, but it is John McCain who leads the Republican presidential contest. With a considerable win in the South Carolina primary, the senator cemented his lead over other top candidates, namely Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. The latter may have lost his big moment as the Evangelicals from South Carolina did not give him as great of support as he had hoped for. It is said that the “Palmetto State” is a gateway to the entire South, which seems immune to Huckabee's populist message. Mitt Romney remains the big mystery of this year's presidential race: he's won three caucuses – Wyoming, Michigan, Nevada – but none of them was highly contested or gained media attention. Fred Thompson, the former Tennessee senator who portrays himself as a new Ronald Reagan, managed to garner an unimpressive 16 percent on Saturday. In the opinion of many pundits, it means only one thing: the 2008 presidential race is over for Thompson.
John McCain was almost written off before the primaries started. In most opinion polls conducted in 2007, the Vietnam War veteran trailed other candidates by double digits. For the same kind of resurrection hopes New York's former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who has staked his entire candidacy on the January 29 Florida primary. Anything below a decisive win will be his ruin.
ASIA – Musharraf: Democracy in Pakistan is not threatened
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan. The February 18 parliamentary elections will be fair and democratic, said Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Friday. His words were uttered at a time when the international community closely watches Pakistan, as the number of bomb attacks increases and the country's opposition accuses the government of planning to rig the elections. The president delivered his speech in Brussels, where he met with European Union officials and representatives of the European Parliament. His visit to Belgium was part of a longer European tour. Musharraf is expected in Paris on Monday; later he will fly to Switzerland and Great Britain. The Pakistani president hopes to use his time in Europe to convince the West of his democratic principles. He also said that Pakistan remained, despite the price it had to pay for its commitment, a staunch ally in the War on Terror.
EUROPE: The Pope Not Welcomed at an Italian University
VATICAN, Rome. Pope Benedict XVI had to cancel his Thursday visit to La Sapienza University after strong protests from the college's faculty and students. For the first time in the long history of Italian academia, the head of the Catholic Church was refused entry to a university as some students and professors warned they would occupy the La Sapienza campus, should the Vatican insist on the pope's presence.
The pope, who holds a PhD in Theology, was asked in November by La Sapienza's authorities to attend the school and deliver a speech for start of their academic year. They had to back away, however, when the majority of the university's faculty issued a letter that underscored the secular opinion of La Sapienza. The professors also claimed, wrongly as it later turned out, that before Joseph Ratzinger was elected the pope he had defended the Church's prosecution of Galileo.
On Sunday, during a weekly papal meeting with the faithful in St. Peter's Square, Benedict XVI was greeted by 200,000 people, among them being La Sapienza's Catholic students who wanted to dissociated themselves from their rebellious colleagues. In his short sermon, the pope said that “as a professor — shall we say, emeritus — who has met with so many students in my life, I encourage all of you, dear university students and professors, to always be respectful of other people's opinions and to search for truth and goodness with a free and responsible spirit.” (The Associated Press)
MIDDLE EAST: Russia Enriches Axis of Evil
TEHRAN, Iran. Iran received another portion of Russian nuclear fuel on Sunday, bringing the opening of its first nuclear power plant closer. In the fourth such shipment, 11 tons of the radioactive fuel were unloaded in the port city of Bushehr, where the plant is being built. So far, Russia has sent half of the 80 tons of nuclear fuel. The country's authorities believe the first nuclear reactor will be completed by summer of this year. In a US-approved agreement between Russia and Iran, the former pledged to provide Tehran with nuclear fuel. The deal was to prevent Iran from enriching uranium – a program that could lead to the production of nuclear weapons.
Iran is still regarded by the United States as a “rogue” state and the core of the Axis of Evil. The phrase, coined by the Bush Administration shortly after the 9/11 attacks, listed Iran, Iraq and North Korea as the countries which sponsor terrorism and stock weapons of mass destruction. Although the National Intelligence Estimation released last year claimed that Iran had given up some parts of its nuclear program, it remains unknown how developed the program is. In his early January trip to the Middle East, U.S. President George W. Bush repeatedly called Iran “a threat to world peace.”