January 31st, 2008 12:02 EST
World Chronicle Showcasing Kenya, Sri Lanka, Russia, The Middle East and America: January 31, 2008
AFRICA: Africa Union Summit Overshadowed by Crisis in Kenya
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia. The African Union, an organization that strives for a political and economical federation on the continent, began its 10th annual conference on Thursday. Apart from the representatives of the 53 member states, the summit is attended by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was invited to speak on the current crisis in Kenya. The upcoming general elections in Zimbabwe and African Union peacekeeping missions in Darfur & Chad are also on the agenda.
Also today the member states elected the Peace and Security Council, which will consist of Burundi, Chad, Rwanda, Uganda, Tunisia, Swaziland, Zambia, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Mali. Ghana, which has presided over the African Union for the past 12 months, is expected to be replaced by Tanzania.
The African Union is probably the only world body that is comprised of such a mosaic of politicians. On the one hand, there are head of states, such as President John Kufour of Ghana, who were elected in fair and democratic processes. On the other hand, some came to power in rigged elections; President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya epitomizes this group. Still, some do not even bother to keep appearances and simply rule their countries like dictators. Of them, the most visible example is Robert Mugabe, governing Zimbabwe with an iron fist for over two decades.
AMERICAS: Fidel Castro Loses to His Younger Brother
HAVANA, Cuba. Cuba`s ailing dictator, Fidel Castro, received fewer votes in the parliamentary elections than his younger brother, Raul. According to the figures revealed by the Associated Press on Thursday, reflecting the separate districts where the two ran, Raul Castro won almost 99.5 percent of the vote, whereas Fidel came in second with one percent less. What could seem like a coup only a few years ago, nowadays does not stir up controversy as the dictator has been seriously ill for over two years and hardly ever appears in public.
The parliamentary elections held on January 20 were far from democratic. All the candidates belonged to one communist party and first had to be accepted by the Castro regime. The high turnout of 95 percent comes as little surprise " even though participation is not obligatory, those who do not cast their votes draw suspicion from their employers and neighbors.
Fidel Castro has been in charge of Cuba for almost half a century. However, his health deteriorated considerably two years ago when he was diagnosed with intestinal problems. Since then, the power has been in the hands of his younger brother, Raul. The 75-year-old Raul always lived in the shadow of popular Fidel, but is said to be no less determined to defend communism on the island.
ASIA: Sri Lanka on the Verge of Collapse
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka. More than four people were torn to pieces on Thursday in a suicide bomb attack in Sri Lanka`s northern province of Jaffina. According to witnesses, the perpetrator was riding a bike on a crowded street and detonated his explosives while approaching a group of pedestrians. The police reported at least four people killed and up to 20 wounded. Although no rebel organization took responsibility for the attack, it is suspected that the suicide bomber belonged to the Tamil Rebels.
Despite being controlled by governmental forces, Jaffina is inhibited by a considerable number of Tamil residents.
Also on Thursday, the Sri Lankan military informed that it had killed two Tamil Tiger rebels in another northern province of Vavuniya. Today`s clash was the continuation of week-long fights between the Sri Lankan army and Tamil Tigers in the country`s northern peninsula. News agencies reported five rebels killed together with seven civilians.
EUROPE: Russia, the Most Hostile Country in Europe
MOSCOW, Russia. Russia holds the notorious title as the European country with the highest number of race-related crimes. The Associated Press cites a report, prepared by a Russian human rights group, according to which 67 people of different ethnicity were killed and 55 injured just last year. This makes Russia the home of more hate crimes than all western European countries put together.
In the past two weeks, the police have reported three attacks on the Jewish community. Although no people were injured, a number of synagogues and other Jewish centers were devastated. In one of the attacks, a group of skinheads painted swastikas on a synagogue while threatening people inside. The number of Jews living in Russia is estimated to be 1.5 million. The entire Russian population approximates 140 million people.
Since the fall of communism in 1992, many Russians who were disappointed with capitalism took up Nazi ideology. Although not officially, Fascist organizations are present in mainstream politics, with some politicians openly calling for race purity. Last year the government imposed new visa requirements on visitors and banned foreigners from former Soviet republics from trading at Russian markets.
MIDDLE EAST: Egypt and Iran on the Doorstep of New Relations
CAIRO, Egypt. Cairo and Tehran may soon establish diplomatic relations, say politicians from the two countries after the Wednesday meeting between the Egyptian president and an Iranian official. Gholam Haddad-Adel, the speaker of Iranian parliament, told the Associated Press that a strong Egypt, a strong Iran and cooperation between these two poles of the Islamic world could push forward peace efforts. "
Iran cut diplomatic ties with Egypt in 1979, when the latter recognized Israel. This revolutionary move antagonized other Muslim countries of the region and pushed Egypt into isolation. However, as the Wednesday meeting shows, old animosities may give in to the new situation. Unstable Iraq and the lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process call for new cooperation, and the two countries seem to be ready to accept the challenge.