January 23rd, 2008 10:10 EST
World Chronicle: January 23
AFRICA: A Different Rwanda
KIGALI, Rwanda. The Rwandan government started a major redistribution of land in some parts of the country this week. It is a response from the authorities to vast disproportions between affluent land owners and ordinary citizens, as the majority of farms remain in the hands of the privileged few, leaving hundreds of poorer villagers landless. According to the new law, each farm should be no bigger than 25 hectares. This means that those whose proprieties exceed the limit will have their lands resized. Among the first victims of the redistribution are state officials: Senator Joseph Karemera, Director of the Cabinet Maj. Gen. Frank Mugambage, and Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa (Rwanda's current ambassador to India).
Although Rwanda is not the first African state to implement land redistribution, it may be the first to succeed. In other countries which introduced similar regulations, such as Zimbabwe, the only group to profit turned out to be governmental officials. However, as the last several days have shown, Rwanda is on the right track and could set a good example for the rest of the continent.
For most people Rwanda still remains the place where over 800,000 people died in the 1994 acts of genocide. But today Rwanda is a completely different country – the political system is one of the most stable ones in the region, the economy is rising from the ashes and computer-literacy is one of the highest in all of Africa.
AMERICAS: Collin Powell, a Bigger Liar than Dick Cheney
WASHINGTON, DC. Call it lies, misjudgments, or false statements. Regardless of the phraseology, the fact is that the Bush Administration took the United States to war based on incorrect information. According to a research conducted by the Center for Public Integrity, in the two-year period of between the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Bush Administration officials made over 900 announcements that later turned out to be untrue. At that critical time, quotes about Saddam Hussein's links to al-Qaeda and Iraqi weapons of mass destruction appeared on a regular basis.
US President George W. Bush leads the notorious ranking of officials with 259 misleading statements. Much to the disappointment of the present administration's vociferous critics, the second place went to former Secretary of State Collin Powell who made only 15 fewer false allegations than his boss. Powell was regarded as the sole voice of common sense among the cabinet members. Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld – both thought to have been the main supporters of the invasion – made 48 and 109 false statements, respectively.
It would be wrong to accuse the Bush Administration of deliberately lying to the public. The president and other high-profile members of his cabinet relied on data provided by the CIA and other intelligence agencies, all of whom insisted the Hussein regime had been in possession of weapons of mass destruction.
ASIA: Afghan Journalist Sentenced to Death
KABUL, Afghanistan. It would seem that radical Islam disappeared from Afghanistan with the fall of the Taliban regime. How erroneous this belief is could be seen on Tuesday when an Afghan journalist was sentenced to death for “humiliating Islam.” The convict, 23-year-old journalist Sayed Perwez Kaambakhsh, is accused of distributing an article found on the Internet, which contained phrases offensive to Muslims. Although the Afghan legislative way offers the journalist two appeals, it is very unlikely that any judge would like to risk outraging the country's conservative society. The last hope lies in President Kharzai, who exercises the right to grant pardons.
It is suspected that, by sentencing Kaambakhsh to death, the judges wanted to influence his brother, also a journalist. According to Jean MacKenzie, who leads the Afghan cell of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, told the Associated Press that “[w]e feel very strongly that this is a complete fabrication on the part of the authorities up in Mazar, designed to put pressure on Parwez' brother Yaqub, who has done some of the hardest-hitting pieces outlining abuses by some very powerful commanders in Balkh and the other northern provinces.”
Despite the fall of the Taliban regime and the presence of NATO forces, Afghanistan remains the hub of the region's Islamist radicalism. American Intelligence believes that Osama bin Laden may be hiding in the eastern parts of the country.
EUROPE: Europe Turns Green and More Expensive
BRUSSELS, Belgium. European Union member countries will cut their carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2020. At the cost of $80 billion a year, the EU hopes to become the most ecologically-friendly region in the world, leaving other industrialized countries such as Japan and the United States far behind. The European Commission – a semi government which presides over the EU – proposes that all 27 member states eschew traditional sources of power, like coal or gas, in favor of natural ways of accumulating energy: wind farms and water plants. The proposal favors the Scandinavian countries which have a long history of green energetic policies while discriminating poorer members, such as Romania or Bulgaria – former socialist states with heavy industries depending largely on coal and gas.
Economists also warn that being more ecologic means higher prices that consumers will have to pay for heating their homes or driving their cars. What is more, according to some trade unions, implementing new policies may endanger as many as 50,000 jobs in the EU steel industry alone.
MIDDLE EAST: Gazans Flood Egypt
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip. Thousands of residents of Rafah fled to Egypt on Wednesday when an unknown man damaged the Israeli wall surrounding the Palestinian border town. None of the Palestinian organizations took responsibility for the blast, but it is suspected that the perpetrator belonged to the Hamas militia, which controls the Gaza Strip. According to news agencies, Rafah residents welcomed the opportunity to leave their homes, saying that they felt free for the first time in many months. “Freedom is good. We need no border after today,” one of the runaways told the Associated Press. Neither Hamas militiamen nor Egyptian border control officers took any action to stop the exodus.
The wall was erected in 2000 after a wave of suicide bombings shook Israel. The seven-mile barrier was to prevent Islamic extremists from getting into the Jewish State, but it also herded some 150,000 people into a poverty-stricken territory with no future.
Rafah also hosts two refugee camps with over 80,000 people.
Despite the partial opening of the Israeli crossings on Tuesday, relations between the Jewish State and the Palestinian Authority remain tense. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday that he wished the peace process with Israel would continue, but recent flare-ups on the Palestinian-Israeli border could have dashed any hopes that the two countries will reach an agreement by the end of this year.