In Kenya, at least 300 people have died in ethnic fighting following last week’s disputed presidential election. At least thirty people were burned alive on Tuesday when a church was set on fire. Police estimated that 75,000 Kenyans have fled their homes due to what has been described as the worst violence in Kenya since 1982. On Sunday, Kenya’s Election Commission declared President Mwai Kibaki the winner of Thursday’s election, but immediately questions were raised about the fairness of the vote. Early results showed opposition leader Raila Odinga well ahead. In some areas, there were more votes for the president than registered voters. The European Union said that there was clear evidence of ballot rigging.
EU Chief Observer Alexander Graf Lambsdorff: “As far as the electoral process is concerned I have said very clearly the tallying process lacks credibility, and despite the good efforts of Chairman Kivuitu, the ECK has not fulfilled its responsibilities to create such a process that is credible and is acceptable to all parties and candidates.”
The United States and several European nations are calling for a recount. But Kenya’s president Mwai Kibaki has refused such an inquiry. Kibaki’s government is now accusing opposition leader Raila Odinga of fomenting ethnic conflict and destabilizing the country. Odinga is planning to hold an alternative swearing-in ceremony at a rally in Nairobi on Thursday.
bq.Raila Odinga: “There can be no peace when there is injustice. Injustice committed by the Electoral Commission together with Mr. Kibaki is what has brought the country to where it is, and that is the injustice is what must be dealt with, and it will only be dealt with by President Kibaki resigning from office, because he was not elected by the people of this country as their president.”
The Pakistani government has announced next week’s parliamentary elections have been postponed until sometime after February 8. Pakistan remains in a state of turmoil six days after the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.
On Sunday, the Pakistan’s Peoples Party announced Benazir Bhutto’s son and husband would take over the leadership of the party. Bhutto’s son, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardawi is a nineteen-year-old student at Oxford.
Bilawal Bhutto-Zardawi: “I am thankful to the CEC for putting their trust in me as chairman of the PPP. Like all chairmen of the PPP, I will stand as the symbol of the Federation. The party’s long and historic struggle for democracy will continue with renewed vigor, and I stand committed to the stability of the Federation. My mother always said: Democracy is the best revenge.”
Benazir Bhutto’s husband Asif Ali Zardari called on elections to go ahead as scheduled.
Asif Ali Zardari: “Elections should not be postponed. We feel this is a way to vent the anger of the people. If Inshallah, the People’s Party, wins and we manage to make government, at least 30 percent of the people would have been met, this is a way to, one, cure to the negative energy which has evolved because of this great loss, and two, do something non-negative as such.”
Musharraf’s government is continuing to resist calls for an international investigation into Bhutto’s killing. On Friday, the Pakistani government claimed that Bhutto had died, not from a bullet wound, but from striking her head on the sunroof of her motorcade while trying to duck during the bomb blast. But video shot at the scene shows Bhutto fell into her car before the blast exploded. Now Pakistani officials are backtracking and admitting she might have been shot dead.
Meanwhile, the McClatchy newspapers has revealed that on the day of her death Bhutto was planning to give two visiting U.S. lawmakers a 160-page document accusing the Musharraf government and Pakistan’s intelligence agencies of preparing to rig the January 8 vote. Bhutto was scheduled to meet with Senator Arlen Specter and Congressman Patrick Kennedy just hours after she was shot.
In Iraq, thirty people died in Baghdad on Tuesday when a suicide bomber detonated a bomb inside a home where dozens of mourners had gathered to pay tribute to a man who recently died in a car bombing. It was the deadliest attack in Baghdad in months. The Iraqi Ministry of Health is reporting at least 16,000 Iraqi civilians died in 2007. 899 U.S. troops also died last year, making 2007 the deadliest year for the U.S. military since the 2003 invasion.
The Iraqi government has begun compensating Kurdish families who have been displaced by the recent Turkish bombings in northern Iraq. It is not known how many Kurds have been forced to flee their homes since Turkey started carrying out air strikes in mid-December. The Iraqi government is offering to pay about $700 to every Kurdish family displaced.
A leader of the group New Hampshire Veterans for Rudy has resigned from the Giuliani campaign after he called for the extermination of Muslims. John Deady made the comment in a videotaped interview with the Guardian newspaper.
John Deady, co-chair of state Veterans for Rudy: “He’s got, I believe, the knowledge and the judgment to attack one of the most difficult problems in current history, and that is the rise of the Muslims. And make no mistake about it, this hasn’t happened for a thousand years. These people are very dedicated, and they’re also very, very smart in their own way. We need to keep the feet to the fire and keep pressing these people until we defeat or chase them back to their caves or, in other words, get rid of them.”
In other campaign news, ABC and Fox have decided to bar six Democratic and Republican candidates from debates this weekend in New Hampshire. Democrats Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel won’t be allowed to participate in ABC’s Democratic debate on Saturday. Republicans Ron Paul and Duncan Hunter are being excluded from a debate hosted by Fox on Sunday.
Meanwhile, three peace activists were arrested Monday after they occupied Mike Huckabee’s headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa. The protest was part of a campaign called Seasons of Discontent: A Presidential Occupation Project. While holding a banner reading “Who Would Jesus Bomb?” the activists attempted to have a meeting with Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist minister.
A new report by Privacy International and the Electronic Privacy Information Center has ranked the United States in the worst possible category for privacy protections. The United States is listed along with nations including China, Russia, Singapore and Malaysia as having an “endemic surveillance society.” According to the authors of the report, the United States is the worst ranking country in the democratic world.
In Sudan, a U.S. diplomat and his driver were shot to death on Tuesday. The thirty-three-year-old diplomat, John Granville, worked for USAID, the United States Agency for International Development.
President Bush has signed the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act. The legislation allows state and local governments to cut investment ties with companies doing business in Sudan. But President Bush also issued a signing statement in which he said he was reserving the authority to overrule state and local divestment decisions if they conflicted with foreign policy.
Former Guantanamo detainee David Hicks has been released from jail in Australia after serving a nine-month sentence. Hicks was held for five years at Guantanmo before being sent back to Australia. His attorney David McLeod read a statement from Hicks to the media.
David McLeod: “As part of my conditions of release from Guantanamo Bay, I agreed not to speak to the media on a range of issues before March 30th, 2008. It is my intention to honor this agreement, as I don’t want to do anything that might result in my return there. So for now, I will limit what I have to say. I will say more at a later time.”
And three Puerto Rican pro-independence activists have been subpoenaed by the U.S. government to appear before a grand jury in New York. The activists have been identified as Tania Frontera, Christopher Torres and Julio Antonio Pabon. The FBI is also reportedly trying to locate Hector Rivera of the musical group the Welfare Poets. The newspaper El Diario reports the grand jury might be linked to an FBI investigation into the Puerto Rican independence group Los Macheteros. In 2005, FBI agents shot dead the group’s leader, Filiberto Ojeda Rios.