Kenya – In what was touted to be an election that would set the pace for African democracy, a dangerous mix of tribalism and reports of electoral fraud have plunged the generally stable nation into violence. More than 300 people have perished and according to the UN as many as 250,000 Kenyans have been displaced since protesters went on a rampage against the Kikuyu, the country’s largest ethnic group, following the Dec. 27 election. Incumbent president Mwai Kibaki said he would accept the opposition’s demands to hold a fresh election only if ordered to by a court.
(Files from The Globe and Mail and the BBC)
Zimbabwe – In the face of dire food shortages, China is sending 5,000 tonnes of food aid to Zimbabwe. More than three million Zimbabweans, 25 per cent of the population, depend on UN food aid following a poor harvest last year. The country has the world’s highest rate of inflation, of mass unemployment and extreme shortages of basic goods. China has expanded its economic relationship with Zimbabwe after the West began enforcing strict sanctions against President Robert Mugabe citing human rights violations. (Files from BBC.co.uk)
Lebanon – Pro-Syrian opposition group Hezbollah stated publicly for the first time last week it will not allow a Lebanese president to be elected unless it obtains veto power by receiving a third of cabinet seats. The Western-backed Lebanese government continues to reject this demand. Disputes between the two groups have left Lebanon without a president for over five weeks. Government and opposition agree the president should be military leader Gen. Michel Suleiman, but disagree over the shape of the future government. A parliamentary session to elect a president is now due to begin on Jan. 12 after being postponed 11 times.
(Files from BBC.co.uk)
Venezuela – President Hugo Chavez has announced a major cabinet reshuffling weeks after his wide-ranging reform proposals were defeated 51 to 49 per cent in a December referendum. Among 13 proposed changes, Chavez will replace Vice-President Jorge Rodriguez with current Housing Minister Ramon Carrizales. Rodriguez has been blamed by many Chavez supporters for the failure of the proposed reforms. Chavez maintains a ‘new offensive’ of reforms are coming. (Files from BBC.co.uk)
Sri-Lanka – American-based organization Human Rights Watch is lobbying the UN to send observers to monitor fighting between the Sri Lankan military and the Tamil Tigers. The government ended a 2002 ceasefire deal Wednesday, meaning the Nordic-led Sri-Lankan Monitoring Mission will end Jan. 16. About 5,000 people have been killed since 2006 with both sides being accused of widespread human rights abuses. A total of around 70,000 have been killed since the conflict erupted in 1983.
(Files from BBC.co.uk)
Afghanistan – The nation’s commerce minister is appealing to the international community to provide more supplies of wheat to alleviate a shortage. In some areas the price of bread has doubled or even quadrupled in recent months. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto has led to a reduction in wheat shipments from Pakistan and there have been charges of wheat being smuggled to neighbouring Tajikistan. Some farmers are being accused of switching from wheat to the more lucrative opium poppy and the ongoing insurgency has made getting supplies to the war-torn south increasingly dangerous. The government has responded by cancelling a tax on imported grain until March. (Files from BBC.co.uk)
Bangladesh – The chief of the Bangladesh army says he is ‘very concerned’ by the fact the country is facing a catastrophe over rice supplies. The price of rice, the staple of many Bangladeshi’s diet, has doubled in some cases over the last year after crops were damaged by heavy monsoon rain. The minister blamed the global market for the price increases as India recently raised its price from $425 to $500 a tonne. The government has taken measures to combat the shortage by ordering extra supplies and by instituting a food-for-work program. (Files from the New York Times)
Pakistan – Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was killed Dec. 27 after being allegedly shot twice moments before a second assailant set off a bomb killing at least 20 others. The assassination of the leading candidate in next month’s Parliamentary elections sparked riots throughout the country. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf fiercely denied accusations either he or Pakistani intelligence services were responsible, instead pinning responsibility on Islamic extremists. Musharraf has enlisted Scotland Yard to investigate Bhutto’s murder.
(Files from CBC.ca and the Washington Post)
Somalia – Interim President of war-torn Somalia, Abdullahi Yusuf, 72, collapsed Friday morning in his seat of government and was flown to neighbouring Ethiopia for treatment. Prime Minister Nur Hussein Hassan claims his condition is not serious, but close aids have suggested otherwise. In his absence, the prime minister has appointed 15 members of cabinet to replace those he dismissed last month.
(Files from BBC.co.uk)
United States – The first round in the road to the White House went to Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee as they won the Iowa caucuses last week. Obama received 37 per cent support while John Edwards and Hillary Rodham Clinton received 30 per cent. Aided by the strong support of Evangelical Christians, Huckabee defeated Mitt Romney and John McCain. The next step is New Hampshire where the presidential primaries take place Tuesday. (Files from CBC.ca)