January 28, 2008

  • On the Heels of Further Violence, Kenya’s Leaders Told to Prepare to Make Hard Choices
  • Barack Obama Picks Up Key Endorsements After Cruising to Victory in South Carolina
  • Critics Prepare for Over-Optimistic State of Union
  • Burmese Government Prepares for What Ethnic Rebels Call a “Genocidal War”
  • Protesters Around the World Demand Halt to Israeli Siege on Gaza

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Indonesia’s former strongman, Suharto, was buried today in a funeral fit for a king. Suharto was laid to rest in a family mausoleum with a military honor guard, Islamic prayers and the scent of Javanese mysticism. John Miller is the National Coordinator of the East Timor & Indonesia Action Network. He says they don’t think Suharto deserved such honors.

One of the attendees of Suharto’s funeral was Indonesian President Yudhoyono who led prayers over Suharto’s body. Yudhoyono had been scheduled to attend an anti-Corruption Conference sponsored by the UN that opened today in Bali. FSRN’s Haider Risvi reports from the UN.

UN officials said today more than 1,000 delegates from around the world have gathered in Bali. The conference is aimed at making the UN’s anti-corruption treaty as strong and effective as possible. The conference started just a day after Indonesia’s military dictator Suharto died. He had ruled Indonesia with iron-fist for 32 years. He was forced to step down in 1998 after democracy activists organized a series of mass protests against his US-backed regime. Suharto was accused of massive corruption and human rights abuses. Although he was considered one of the world’s most corrupt leaders, Suharto was able to avoid his trial on medical grounds. At the eve of Bali meeting, the head of UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime urged countries to take effective steps to ensure the implementation of an anti-corruption treaty. For FSRN – I’m Haider Rizvi at the UN.

European Union Ministers decided at a meeting in Brussels today to sign an interim trade agreement with Serbia. Dutch objections held up the signature of a more formal pact on closer ties — a first step to joining the EU — because of Serbia’s failure to hand over UN war crimes suspects. Aris Oikonomou is in Brussels.

Once more, the European Union was torn. On one side, there are those who support the Stabilization and Association Agreement. They hope to pave the road to EU membership for Serbia AND discourage following a more nationalist pro-Slavic path. On the other side, those against the agreement who preach that war criminals like Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, charged with genocide for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 7,000 Bosnian Muslims, should be handed over for trial at the Hague. The Netherlands clearly refused to sign the agreement insisting that the EU should require Serbia’s full co-operation — although it recognized that Belgrade had made significant progress, especially since last spring. According to highly placed EU officials, a much softer line will be followed from now on in hopes of preventing the rise of the nationalist sentiment in Serbia. Such a movement might push ultra nationalist candidate Tomislav Nikolic ahead in the run for Serbian presidency, particularly now that the Kosovo ethnic Albanian leaders are only a few weeks away from declaring independence from Serbia. For FSRN this is Aris Oikonomou in Brussels.

Israel resumed limited fuel shipment to the Gaza Strip yesterday but the amount shipped does not meet the essential needs of the Palestinian people. FSRN’s Rami al-Meghari has more from Gaza.

Israeli officials told the Supreme Court on Sunday that they are waging “economic warfare” against the Gaza Strip’s Hamas leaders. While limited fuel shipments resumed this weekend, the Israeli State Attorney told the High Court that the military intends to start cutting electricity to the Palestinian territory and to continue restricting fuel. The statement came as a response to a lawsuit filed by two Arab-Israeli human rights groups, Adala and Gisha. On the 17th of January, Israel declared a total closure of Gaza and blocked fuel shipments to the Gaza Strip, forcing the Gaza’s sole power plant to shut down. Israeli media reports say that the Israeli government warned of stopping fuel supplies to Gaza if homemade rocket fire resumes. In Gaza, petroleum stations say that they only received minimum amounts of fuel this weekend, all of which went to humanitarian needs. Mahmoud al-Khuzendar is the deputy-chief of Gaza’s petroleum stations society.

(sound clip) “Since the 17 of January, we received nothing of all types of petroleum; no gasoline, no Benzene. Ten thousand liters of gasoline which is already sent to the stocks of UNRWA for Humanitarian activities.”

In their meeting Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, pledged to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that Israel will prevent a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. For FSRN. I’m Rami al-Meghari in Gaza.



On the Heels of Further Violence, Kenya’s Leaders Told to Prepare to Make Hard Choices

Kenya has been a civil battleground since the end of December, when opposition leader Raila Odinga accused President Mwai Kibaki of fixing the National election. Hundreds have been killed in civil strife and a political solution seems out of reach.

Over the weekend, as former UN head Kofi Annan visited victims of violence in the western Kenya town of Eldoret, fresh victims of violence were being displaced in other parts of Rift Valley. The violence in Kenya has yet again been taken to another level. FSRN’s John Bwakali reports from Nairobi.

Barak Obama Picks Up Key Endorsements After Cruising to Victory in South Carolina

Coming off an overwhelming win in South Carolina, Barak Obama is riding a huge wave of momentum. He’s received some impressive endorsements – Toni Morrison, who called Bill Clinton the first black President is now endorsing the possibility of a real black President. Obama also received the support of the brother and daughter of the President John F. Kennedy, the former US leader many compare the Democratic candidate to. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Critics Prepare for Over-Optimistic State of Union

Tonight President Bush will give the annual State of the Union address to Congress. Early reports from the White House suggest Bush will paint an optimistic picture of the Iraq war and the economy. But many people question if this is grounded in reality. FSRN Correspondent Matt Laslo reports from Washington.

Burmese Government Prepares for What Ethnic Rebels Call a “Genocidal War”

The situation in Burma for pro-Democracy advocates has not improved, according to Amnesty International. Despite claims and assurances by the Burmese government that the arrest of political dissidents would cease, new research by the human rights organization finds that nearly 100 political prisoners have been taken since last November. According to Amnesty International director Catherine Barber, the new arrests have targeted those who have attempted to send evidence of the crackdown to the international community. The military junta has also delayed a promised visit with United Nations Envoy Ibrahim Gambari until April.

In other news: Since the beginning of the year, there have been four bombings aimed at civilians in Rangoon and other cities. Burma’s state-controlled media has blamed the attacks on ethnic rebel groups. The last bomb originated on a bus traveling from the state of Karen. The military junta has positioned 187 battalions in that State for their yearly dry season offensive against territory, which is controlled by the Karen National Union and its armed forces.

Zack Baddorf reports from rebel-controlled territory, where he finds fear the Burmese military is conducting a “genocidal war” against the Karen people.

Protesters Around the World Demand Halt to Israeli Siege on Gaza

Over the weekend, human rights advocates held protests in over thirty cities worldwide calling for the end to Israeli attacks on and the sealing off of Gaza. Israel has cited continued rocket attacks from Palestinian territory as the reason for their actions. But protesters claim Israel’s response has been disproportionate to the level of threat coming from within Gaza. An estimated 3,000 people participated in the various rallies from Cape Town to Montreal and from St. Petersburg, Florida to Seattle. FSRN’s Saed Bannoura has more from Portland, Oregon.

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