January 22nd, 2008 11:50 EST
World Chronicle: January 22
AFRICA: Mass Killings Planned Before Election
NAIROBI, Kenya. The New York Times reported on Monday that tribal clashes, which have been taking place in Kenya since late December, might have been planned. Jeffrey Gettleman, who authored the article, quoted an official of the Kenya Human Rights Commission as saying that “[i]t wasn’t like people just woke up and started fighting each other. It was organized.” The newspaper also mentioned leaflets calling for ethnic cleansing which had been distributed among the country's villages shortly before the results of the presidential election were published on December 30. According to The New York Times' source, a considerable number of machetes and clubs were found in a governmental car in November, but no charges have been brought up since.
In less than a month, over 650 people have been killed. Although many of them were shot by the police during banned political rallies, some were brutally murdered by fellow villagers of different tribes. The most striking example of those animosities took place several weeks ago, when a group of 50 Kikuyu were burned alive in a church which, they hoped, would save them from an angry militia. Last weekend around 20 people were butchered with machetes in Rift Valley, northwest of Nairobi.
Like most former African colonies, Kenya is an artificially created country inhabited by numerous tribes and ethnic groups. Although it was thought to be the beacon of stability in East Africa, tribal tensions have been nothing new in Kenya. The largest tribe – Kikuyu – has given the country some of its most prominent figures: the first president Jomo Kenyatta and the incumbent head of state, Mwai Kibaki. Other tribes, such as Luo and Kalenji, have continually felt disproportionately represented in governmental offices.
AMERICAS: South America Votes for Women
ASUNCION, Paraguay. Blanca Ovelar won the nomination of her party and may become Paraguay's first ever female president. Ovelar, who presently holds the position of the education minister, is a member of the Colorado Party – a political power that ruled the country for almost half a century. Her main opponent in the April presidential election will be Fernando Lugo, a former Catholic bishop who runs on the socialist ticket.
It is still unknown if Blanca Ovelar will run for the presidency as her victory in the party's primary is questioned by the incumbent vice president, Luis Castiglione. The latter was defeated by Ovelar only by a half-percent margin and said he would take the dispute to court, if necessary. Nevertheless, Ovelar told the Associated Press on Monday that “it was a cruel primary campaign, but it's over. I now announce that for the first time in Paraguay's history a woman will be the president.”
Paraguay is an agricultural country that has experienced years of dictatorship. Only in 1989 it disposed of its long-time leader, Alfredo Stroessner, but the political situation has been far from stable. In the last decade, Paraguay has witnessed the assassination of a vice president and a number of politicians arrested on corruption charges.
ASIA: Panic with Asian Stock Exchanges
NEW DEHLI, India. American investors coming back from the three-day holiday weekend could not believe their eyes when stock market figures from Asia showed that a world-wide recession is, in fact, not far off. On Tuesday, big and small businessmen in India and other Asian countries were desperately selling their shares, fearing the continuation of bad news from the United States. The Bombay Stock Exchange Index plummeted by over 7 percent, following an opening loss of 9.5 percent.
The Indian sell-off campaign caught many analysts by surprise as the country's economy is booming. According to the Indian finance ministry, the economy will continue its growth by nine percent this year with an expected eight percent in 2009. That investors are getting rid of shares derives from the first signs of stagnation in the American economy. The life belt proposed by the Bush Administration last Friday, which offers tax cuts for businessmen, was greeted with huge disappointment by economists from around the globe.
In the contemporary globalized world, when America sneezes, other continents catch a cold. Although development figures in Europe and Asia are optimistically high, regional stock markets are reporting record sell-offs. Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Cloude Juncker said during a meeting with European Union finance ministers that “the only positive thing [to] say is that we are living in interesting times.”
EUROPE: Great Britain Still in the European Union
LONDON, England. As much as Great Britain is reluctant to accept the increasing power of the European Union, it has no alternative. The British Parliament boiled on Monday as legislators clashed over the principles of the Lisbon Treaty – a veiled name for the European Constitution – and how to sell it to British society. Since the Brussels-written document was stripped of constitutional phrasing, such as references to a pan-European country, the Labor government wants the parliament to determine its fate. Gordon Brown's minister for European affairs reminded his colleagues yesterday that a similar legislative way had been adopted with the previous Maastricht Treaty in 1992. However, the Conservative Party, which was in power until 1997, demands a national referendum as the treaty may significantly limit the sovereignty of Great Britain.
Finally, after hours of intense discussions, the House of Commons voted in favor of the Lisbon Treaty with a majority of 138 votes. This means the door to a national referendum is almost shut. Despite the victory, the government seems to be in trouble as 19 Labor legislators allied themselves with the Conservatives. The centrist Liberal Democratic Party supported the governmental decision, warning that Great Britain's future in the European Union was at stake.
MIDDLE EAST: After American Soldiers and Iraqi Civilians, al-Qaeda Targets Teenagers
BAGHDAD, Iraq. On Tuesday, one person was butchered and over 20 injured in a suicide attack on a high school in the province of Diyala. Witnesses say the perpetrator intended to kill teenagers as he detonated his explosives when most students and teachers were arriving at the Baqouba school. That they are still alive can only be credited to the inexperience of the suicide bomber or to providence. Until now Iraqi schools and universities managed to stay distant from the attacks and people willingly allowed their children to attend classes. At the moment of the explosion, there were dozens of teenagers inside the school and many more on their way to morning classes.
On Monday, 18 Iraqis lost their lives in a suicide attack near Tikrit – the hometown of Saddam Hussein. According to local police, it was not supporters of the former dictator but al-Qaeda that perpetrated the attack.
When it comes to Iraq, very few things can shock, but Tuesday's suicide attack on the Baqouba high school could have led to terrible carnage, unseen since the beginning of the US-led invasion of this country in 2003. Despite a relatively peaceful situation in Iraq, the Diyala province remains one of the center points of the Islamic armed counterinsurgency.