January 24th, 2008 12:32 EST
World Chronicle: January 24
AFRICA: Kenya Sighs in Relief as President Meets with His Foe
NAIROBI, Kenya. The threat of further bloodshed in Kenya has been reduced Thursday as the incumbent president met with the leader of the opposition. In the first such conference since they feverishly competed in a presidential election this past December, the two politicians promised journalists and all Kenyans that they would work in concert for the well-being of the country. President Mwai Kibaki and his main political rival, Raila Odinga, held talks under auspices of former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. Odinga, quoted by the Associated Press, said today that together with his allies, he had “taken the first few steps to resolve the electoral dispute and conflict.”
Although both President Kibaki and Raila Odinga shook hands in front of TV cameras, the animosities between the two could hardly be hidden. Neither of them expressed willingness to work with the other, refraining in their speeches from using “we” – underlying “I” instead, in fact. Saying that he would “personally lead our country in promoting unity,” President Kibaki did not forget to remind journalists and foreign observers that he was the rightful president.
Also on Thursday it was announced that Ugandan President Museveni's plan to establish a special commission, one to investigate the alleged election deceit, was approved by both sides. Museveni is himself accused of applying autocratic rules and curbing the opposition.
AMERICAS: Revolution Stronger than Death
HAVANA, Cuba. In a rare flutter of honesty, Fidel Castro revealed to his comrades that he had thought he was dying back in July. On Thursday, Cuban newspapers published the dictator's essay in which he portrays himself as a true leader, receiving death with dignity. In one part of his article, Castro wrote that, while feeling “gravely ill,” he was thinking about his fellow Cubans and their fate after his seemingly imminent passing would occur. “And while the doctors fought for my life, the head aide of the Council of State read at my urging the text and I dictated the necessary arrangements,” reads one of the passages translated by the Associated Press.
Fidel Castro has not appeared in public for almost two years. Since he underwent intestinal surgery on July 31, 2006, the island's long-time leader has remained in his mansion, scarcely publishing his essays – usually denouncing the Bush Administration – in the state-controlled media. Television sometimes broadcasts pictures of Castro, usually with an up-to-date issue of a newspaper, to prove that “El Presidente” is still alive. Despite his health problems, Castro is running for office in the February parliamentary elections and is expected to win his seat again – just as he's been doing sine 1959.
ASIA: Tamils Should Co-govern Sri Lanka, Say the Country's Politicians
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka. The Tamil minority must be offered a greater role in Sri Lanka's political life, the country's most prominent politicians said on Thursday. In a report presented to the president, its authors recommended that the central government bring about new laws aiming at elevating some Tamils to high statuses in order to prevent them from joining the violent Tamil Tiger rebels. Despite a ceasefire signed in 2002, the number of clashes between the Tamil Tigers and military forces is gradually increasing; only this year has the conflict claimed dozens of lives.
According to experts, the guidelines of the report are neither revolutionary nor new. The first constitutional amendments, which were to win the Tamils' hearts and minds for the central government, were introduced in 1987. According to the changes, some of the northern and eastern Sri Lankan provinces, where Tamils constitute the majority, gained relative autonomy. But as the Tamil Tigers won control over those parts, the central legislation ceased to be relevant.
The conflict between the central government and the Tamil Tiger rebels broke out in the 1970s. Since then, brutal fights have killed as many as 60,000 people, most of them civilians.
EUROPE: Military Pilots Die in Plane Crash
WARSAW, Poland. Twenty Polish army officers died in a plane crash in northwestern Poland. It was late Wednesday night when a Polish air transporter was beginning to land. Suddenly, due to unknown reasons, the plane disappeared from the nearby airport's radars as it went down half a mile before reaching the runway. There were 20 army officers on board – four crew members and 16 highly skilled pilots – who were coming back from an international conference on flight safety.
As it takes millions of dollars and several years to train a pilot, the loss for the Polish army is great. The minister of defense told reporters today that the casualties were “the flower of the Polish air force.” He also said that the government was debating whether or not to prohibit high-ranking pilots from taking the same flights in order to prevent future tragedies.
The plane was one of 10 CASA C-295M bought by the Polish air force in 2003. The Spanish-made light transporters are said to be one of the best in their class and are used by the armies of Spain and Finland, among others. The American air force was recently considering obtaining some CASAs.
The Polish president announced a three-day long national mourning. Until 7 P.M. on Saturday, most theaters, cinemas, and discos will be closed. Also national television channels have changed their schedules and will not broadcast entertainment programs.
MIDDLE EAST: Israel Washes Its Hands of Gaza
JERUSALEM, Israel. Israel will cease to take responsibility for the Gaza Strip as the territory's southern parts have now gotten access to Egypt. The Israeli deputy minister of defense told the Associated Press on Thursday that “we need to understand that when Gaza is open to the other side we lose responsibility for it.” So far, it was the Jewish State that provided Gazans with electricity, fuel, and most food provisions – despite the fact that the Gaza Strip was controlled by the highly anti-Israeli Hamas group. But the situation in the region turned upside down yesterday when an unknown perpetrator bombed a wall surrounding the border with Egypt. Since then, tens of thousands of desperate Palestinians have fled to their southern neighbor with the Hamas and Egyptian military watching them statically.
Middle East experts warn that the Gaza Strip is already the hub for Palestinian radicalism and Israel's new position may only reinforce it. With Israel to its east and north and Egypt to the south, the Gaza Strip relies heavily on its two neighbors. With the annually income of some $600, Palestinians desperately seek work in Israel, where the standard of living is comparable to the ones in western Europe.