January 21, 2008

  • Thousands Protest in Kenya, as Post-Election Violence Continues
  • McCain Coasts to Victory in SC; Hillary and Obama Remain Close in Polls
  • Pro-Chavez Groups Assemble to Build a Unified Front
  • Georgian President Inaugurated Admits Calls for Run-Off Election

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Israel decided late today to allow some diesel fuel and medicine into Gaza in a one time shipment tomorrow. But power outages persist, threatening health care and international food aid programs.  Israel is accusing Hamas of fabricating a crisis while human rights organizations are condemning the fuel cutoff that began on Friday.  The European Union called the Israeli measure “collective punishment,” which is banned under the Geneva conventions. FSRN’s Rami aL-Meghari has more.

Last Friday, Israel stopped providing Gaza with fuel. Today, medical sources in Gaza say the fuel needed to generate electricity for Gaza’s hospitals will soon run out. At the largest Gaza hospital in al-Shifa, 120 patients with kidney failure are in a life-threatening condition unless the hospital ensures the needed electricity for dialysis machines. Dr. Akram Assaf is the night’s shift principal of the kidney-failure ward at al-Shifa.

(sound) “in the next 48 hours, if the patient does not have dialysis, the patient will be in danger”

In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of Gaza Strip’s residents live without electricity, after the Gaza’s sole power plant, which generates 50 percent of the electricity needed, shut down last night.  Israeli media sources reported today that the Israeli military decided to begin what it termed ‘ the second step of actions against Gaza’. In September 2007, Israel declared Gaza a ‘hostile entity’ and in October it began imposing a series of apparently punitive measures on the coastal Strip. Israel claims its actions on Gaza aim at stopping homemade rocket fire onto nearby Israeli towns. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Rami Almeghari in Gaza.

Just three days after the announcement of elections to replace a century of monarchy in the small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan – bombs have threatened the prospect of democracy. PC Dubey reports from Nepal.

Midday yesterday, four bomb blasts whipped through different parts of the kingdom including the capital, Thimphu. There was only one minor injury and minimal structural damage, but political observers say this is the first ever such incident in the generally peaceful country. Bhutan’s chief election commissioner Kunzang Wangdi blames the Bhutan Tiger Force, the Bhutan Maoists Party and the Communist Party of Bhutan based in Nepal’s refugee camps. Sunita Tamang, a Nepal based Bhutanese refugee woman, says these outfits bask in support of majority of over 100,000 refugees. Tamang concedes the blasts could be their handiwork.

(sound) “the militants believe the refugees would go back only after the end of the current Buddhist autocracy. They also think that talk of democracy in Bhutan is a farce.”

For FSRN – I’m P.C. Dubey in eastern Nepal.


After two weeks of peace talks, a deal is due today between rebel groups in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and the Congolese government. Joshua Kyalimpa reports from neighboring Uganda.

General Laurent Nkunda did not attend that talks in person but President Laurent Kabila attended the talks in Goma, the provincial capital.  The deal has been sponsored by the US, the EU and the African Union. It is designed end months of bloody conflict in Eastern DR Congo from which more than 450,000 people have fled in the last year. The agreement would establish a technical commission to oversee a permanent ceasefire, a disengagement of troops and the disarmament of the rebels. The rebels have been offered amnesty, but this would only cover insurrection against the government – not human rights violations. The European Union is promising US $150 million of aid to reconstruct the region, which has been devastated by the fighting. For FSRN, I’m Joshua Kyalimpa in Kampala, Uganda.



Thousands Protest in Kenya, as Post-Election Violence Continues
After a week of mass civilian action followed by a weekend of political bickering, fresh violence and more death, Kenyans are hoping that this new week will bring successful mediation on elections complaints and subsequent peace. But an accord remains firmly out of grasp. Today the government of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki warned the crackdown on protests would continue. FSRN’s John Bwakali has the latest from the ground in Nairobi.

McCain Coasts to Victory in SC; Hillary and Obama Remain Close in Polls
After John McCain’s win in South Carolina and Mitt Romney’s wide victory in Nevada, Republican candidates are looking ahead to Florida. McCain’s win in South Carolina has suddenly propelled the Arizona Senator into the position of frontrunner. The Florida primary on February 5 th is likely to weed out the still-substantial pool of Republican Candidates. As for the Democrats, the Nevada caucuses are over but the high stakes politics have not subsided. Accusations of dirty politics that began in Nevada are still permeating through the campaigns. Even though Hillary Clinton won in Nevada, the quirks of the election system there will likely gives Barack Obama more delegates – And in the end, it’s the number of delegates, not popular vote wins, that seals the nomination. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell files this report from Las Vegas.

Pro-Chavez Groups Assemble to Build a Unified Front
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez suffered his first-ever electoral defeat last December, when his proposed Constitutional Reform lost at the polls. Since then, Venezuelans have been deep in reflection. This weekend, however, pro-Chavez social movements transformed this into action. They held an unprecedented 2-day long grassroots assembly with the goal of building a unified agenda. Mike Fox has more from Caracas:

Georgian President Inaugurated Admits Calls for Run-Off Election
Mikheil Saakashvili was sworn in for a second five-year term on Sunday as President of Georgia, the former Soviet Republic. He re-stated his intention to increase and instate social welfare programs, but many see this as only an attempt to quell the vocal opposition. As Saakashvili gave his inaugural speech, opposition parties rallied in another part of the capital, still demanding an election run-off. The opposition claims the January 5th elections, in which Saakashvili polled over 53 percent of the votes, were rigged. A European election monitoring organization reported 23 percent of the vote counts at polling station were “bad or very bad.” And vote tampering was reported at 8 percent of the stations. Deborah Wild in Tbilisi has the latest developments.

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