Not so bloodless protest in Thailand
years after Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was overthrown by a
coup d’etat, fears successor Samak Sundaravej remained too close to the
corrupt leader, who has since fled to Britain, have thrown the country
into a turmoil unseen even during the bloodless 2006 military takeover.
Incidents which have pitted government supporters against protesters
occupying Government House for over a week have in fact led to one death
and many injuries, which also was reaching a level of violence unseen
two years ago
While back then tourists and locals
alike posed in front of tanks for souvenir photos of the events, their
presence the subject of amusement more than anything else, union
protests against the government have paralyzed much of the country,
including airports, railways and utilities, with some neighbouring
countries advising their citizens against travel in one of the region’s
most popular tourist destinations.
Samak, who has only seen
the number of protests against him grow during his seven months in
office, resisted calls for him to step down and has accused his
opponents in the People’s Alliance for Democracy, who are occupying
Government House, of trying to provoke another coup, to force him and
his People’s Power Party from office.
With Thailand’s history
of coup d’etats, the man in charge of keeping order during the current
state of emergency is only too aware of the military’s delicate role.
Army commander, General Anupong Paochinda, rushed to say that his
troops would neither use force nor take sides, or stage a coup for that
matter. "I can assure every person that the Thai police and military
will not use force against any civilian by any means," he said at a
news conference. "If the military uses force to stage a coup, it will
create a lot more problems." He added: "This is a very sensitive issue,
and whatever we do, we will have to be careful not to take sides. This
is a situation among people in society, two groups who do not agree."
meanwhile defied the state of emergency’s ban of gatherings of more
than five people, some 30,000 remaining massed around Government House.
The measures also barred any news reports or published materials that
could "cause panic" or affect the stability of the state.
the stability of the one Asia’s hottest economies seemed to be put to
the test by labour organizations. A coalition of 43 unions representing
workers at state companies including water, electric, phone and the
national airline said they would cut off services to the government in
support of the anti-government protests, after disrupting rail service
and public bus transportation. "The government has beaten protesters,
and that justifies our retaliating by stopping water, telephone service
and electricity to some government agencies," Sawit Kaewwan,
secretary-general of the State Enterprise Workers Relations
Confederation, said at a news conference.
Echoing the slogans
of the right-wing protesters occupying Samak's office to bring down the
government, the 200,000-strong alliance says the government is corrupt
and too close to Thaksin. The same group had organized the massive
rallies in 2006 that helped spark the bloodless coup.
says that in addition to staying put he won’t even consider calling new
elections. They may eventually be hard to avoid however, as within
hours of the state of emergency being declared, the country’s Election
Commission said it would ask the courts to disband the PPP for alleged
vote fraud in last December’s general election.
Then this week
Samak was effectively ousted when a Constitutional Court found him
guilty of violating the constitution for receiving payment to host a TV
cooking show while in office. But his party has vowed to re-nominate
"The issue at stake is whether or not democracy will
continue in Thailand," Charles Keyes, a University of Washington
anthropologist told the Toronto Star. "Either the will of the people
will be allowed to determine the nature of the government, or there
will be a return to an older authoritarianism, or `guided democracy.'"
some are questioning the current state of democracy in the country of
smiles, pointing to the impact of many rural poor voters who they say
helped elect the present government only because they benefited from
better health care, social services and village loan funds.
years after Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was overthrown by a
coup d’etat, fears successor Samak Sundaravej remained too close to the
corrupt leader, who has since fled to Britain, have thrown the country
into a turmoil unseen even during the bloodless 2006 military takeover.
Incidents which have pitted government supporters against protesters
occupying Government House for over a week have in fact led to one
death and many injuries, which also was reaching a level of violence
unseen two years ago.
Unité au rendez-vous?
phénomène Obama a beau s'essouffler et l'avance du prodige au drôle de
nom a beau rétrécir au point de devenir à peine perceptible dans les
sondages, la coqueluche adulée de l'Illinois restait la grande vedette
de la convention démocrate, sensée remettre un peu de souffle dans les
voiles du jeune sénateur et de son colistier Joe Biden.
le discours de son ancien adversaire, Hillary Clinton, allait être un
des moments forts de la convention, la division risquant à tout moment
de gâter la fête des démocrates, après huits ans de règne républicain;
autant sinon plus que le dérangeant Ralph Nader. Clinton, dont le nom
figurait symboliquement sur les bulletins de vote soumis à la
convention pour souligner son parcours historique, restait, tout comme
son mari Bill, une certaine source de discorde malgré le geste d'unité
posé en juin dans la ville du New Hampshire du même nom, Unity, qui en
principe enterrait la hache de guerre et mettait fin au duel cinglant.
Or déjà à ce moment là des groupes de
manifestants affichaient une déception vite devenue tapageuse, un tiers
des troupes de Clinton allant lorsqu'à prétendre aller voter pour John
McCain plutôt que Barack Obama. A Denver, des mesures de sécurité
étaient en place en prévision d'importantes manifestations de discorde
dans le camp démocrate, de quoi gâter une grand-messe prévoyant de
rassembler quelques 75,000 fidèles dans le stade de Denver pour
entendre parler l'heureux choisi.
Le deuxième jour d'une
convention qui a pris son élan avec un discours de la femme d'Obama,
Michelle, plaçant la candidature de son mari sous le signe de
l'"espoir", il était temps de resserrer les rangs. "Je suis ici en tant
que fière Américaine et fière supporter de Barack Obama, déclara
Hillary, qui malgré sa popularité n'avait jamais figuré sur la liste
des possibles colistiers. Il est temps de reprendre le pays que nous
aimons. Il est grand temps de s'unir au sein d'un même parti avec une
mission unique... Barack Obama est mon candidat et doit être notre
Quelques jours plus tôt Obama avait fait l'annonce
de son choix de colistier, un choix accueilli sous la bannière du "sans
risque" pas certains, mais critiquée de contraire aux principes de
"changement" évoqués par la campagne Obama, étant données les décennies
de Biden à Washington.
La machine McCain s'est immédiatement
précipitée de souligner les différences entre Biden et Obama durant la
campagne électorale, Biden ayant déjà parlé de lui à titre de "premier
Afro-Américain consensuel qui s'exprime bien, qui soit brillant, propre
et séduisant". Les pubs du candidat républicain citent également Biden,
en pleine campagne, estimant qu'il serait "une erreur tragique" d'élire
quelqu'un de si faible en matière de sécurité nationale ou de politique
étrangère. Celui qui préside la commission des affaires étrangères
représente ainsi un certain complément à la campagne Obama, en matière
de connaissance des engrenages de la machine politique autant que des
Puis restait l'énigme Bill, qui avait
fait feu à boulets rouges, pourtant les couleurs de l'autre parti, sur
la campagne Obama en désignant sa politique irakienne de "conte de
fées", ce qui lui a valu quelques répliques bien ciblées. Si certains
dans l'entourage d'Obama redoutaient de la teneur du discours de Bill,
ils ont dû être rassurés dès les premiers instants lorsque le 42e
président a entonné qu'Obama "est prêt de diriger l'Amérique et de
rétablir son leadership dans le monde." S'adressant aux partisans de
Hillary encore réticents, Bill a pointé son doigt dans leur direction
en leur donnant une directive sans équivoque: "Votez pour Obama en
Frais de son intronisation par acclamation, lorsque
Hillary a demandé que l'on fasse halte au vote formel des délégués,
Obama a désigné son rival McCain de sosie de Bush en soulignant qu'il
avait voté comme lui 90% du temps. L'Amérique "peut faire mieux que ce
qu'elle a fait au courant des huit dernières années. C'en est assez!"
a-t-il dit, évoquant la nécessité de restaurer ce qu'il a appelé "la
promesse américaine: l'idée que nous sommes responsables de nous-mêmes
mais aussi que nous tombons et nous relevons comme un seul pays".
discours d'acceptation du candidat historique avait lieu 45 ans jour
pour jour après le célèbre discours du "rêve" de Martin Luther King à
Washington. La grogne a-t-elle disparu suite au spectacle Obama? Pas
certain, surtout si l'on tient en compte le choix de la gouverneure de
l'Alaska Sarah Palin comme colistier de McCain, qui attirerait sûrement
quelques partisans déçus de l'ancienne first lady.
Les dieux de Béijing?
ont été les véritables dieux du stade? les candidats évidents, Usain
Bolt, recorman aux 100m, 200m et au 4x100m. ou Michael Phelps avec ses
8 médailles d'or? Ou encore des candidats moins évidents, comme ce
premier médaillé Afghan de l'histoire, ces athlètes Irakiens qui à
quelques jours des Jeux en étaient exclus ou cette sud-africaine
unijambiste qui a terminé 16e sur les 25 participants au marathon
Les obstacles étaient de taille même avant les Jeux
pour les Olympiens qui ont dû mettre en arrière pensée les crises à
domicile, comme en Georgie, dont les athlètes ont récolté autant de
médailles d'or que le Canada alors que le pays traversait le
traumatisme d'une invasion territoriale.
Pour Bolt, dont le
nom de famille propose des qualités plutôt électrisantes, la question
ne se posait même pas: «Je ne vais pas me comparer à Michael Phelps,
précise Bolt, qui préfère rester à l'écart de ce débat. C'est un
athlète extraordinaire. Il a gagné huit médailles d'or et fixé huit
nouveaux records mondiaux. C'est incomparable. Je le félicite d'être le
meilleur dans sa discipline.»
De son côté, Kenenisa Bekele
était sans aucun doute le roi de sa discipline, l'Ethiopien récoltant
l'or au 5,000 m. (en signant un record olympique, rien de moins) après
avoir été couronné au 10,000 m. Pour des millions d'Africains Bekele
était bel et bien le roi des Jeux, mais encore une fois la question, au
moment de faire le bilan, pouvait manquer de bon sens: "Il n'est pas
juste de comparer tout le monde, ils ont tous joué un rôle historique,
dit-il. C'est impossible, tout le monde a fait son effort, ils ont
atteint leurs objectifs, très difficiles à atteindre dans leur
Après tout, même en Ethiopie son titre de
champion sur piste n'était pas nécessairement assuré puisque du côté
féminin Tirunesh Dibaba a été la première à capturer le 5,000 m. ainsi
que le 10,000 m. Evidemment être couronné à répétition est un exploit
en soi. Bekele est devenu, après l'or d'Athènes au 10,000m., le premier
athlète éthiopien à remporter trois médailles d'or.
cette logique qui a fait de Karen Cockburn, médaillée d'argent au
tremplin, le porte- drapeau de la troisième équipe canadienne à avoir
le mieux réussi (18 médailles). Elle a beau ne pas avoir récolté l'or,
il s'agissait des troisièmes JOs auxquels elle avait soutiré une
médaille (après l'argent à Athènes et le bronze à Sydney, où le sport a
fait son apparition).
Si le choix de roi (ou de reine) des JOs
reste incertain, que penser de celui du grand pays champion des Jeux:
les Etats-Unis rafflant 110 médailles ou le pays hôte, qui dominait au
chapitre des médailles d'or, représentant plus de la moitié (51) de ses
récoltes de 100 podiums? Le débat a de quoi durer jusqu'aux prochains
Jeux, ceux d'hiver à Vancouver, dans moins de deux ans déjà.
perdants (encore là c'est matière à débat) peut-être, les Etats-Unis
estimaient à la clôture des Jeux qu'il "était désolant que la Chine
n'ait pas profité de l'occasion pour faire preuve de plus de tolérance
et d'ouverture." Le président américain, qui à l'opposé du premier
ministre canadien avait assisté à plusieurs cérémonies à l'occasion des
Jeux, avait déclaré: "Nous croyons avec fermeté que les sociétés qui
permettent l'expression libre des idées ont tendance à devenir les plus
prospères et les plus paisibles."
Pourtant de son côté le
président du CIO Jacques Rogue estime que la tenue des Jeux aura ouvert
le Chine au monde. Seul le temps le dira vraiment.
wasn't the first warning Canada had received, but if one is to believe
its authors, it was the one most quickly acted upon. Days after the
Taleban warned Canadian troops to leave Afghanistan or face more
attacks three combat engineers became the latest Canadian soldiers last
week to lose their lives after their convoy hit a roadside bomb outside
Kandahar City, bringing Canada's military death toll in the country to
93. Half a dozen other soldiers also suffered injuries in attacks in
the following days.
The week was especially bloody to many
nations of the NATO-led military alliance. France had just lost 10
paratroopers in a single attack and three Polish soldiers were killed
in a roadside bomb blast southwest of Kabul. Thousands of miles away
meanwhile, hundreds of mourners were gathered in Edmonton, where the
three recent casualties were from, to remember Canada's 90th casualty.
body of Master Cpl. Erin Doyle of Kamloops, B.C., had recently been
repatriated after he was killed in a firefight in the country's
Panjwaii district. Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued what is
becoming a familiar mournful statement, lauding the efforts of the
latest soldiers to fall in Afghanistan. "These soldiers made an
important contribution to international efforts in Afghanistan aimed at
creating the conditions necessary for reconstruction and development
efforts to flourish in a country ravaged by decades of war and
despotism," Harper said.
"Canada and our NATO allies are
making a profound difference in the lives of the Afghan people,"
assured Defence Minister Peter MacKay in a statement. "Despite this
tragic event, we remain undeterred in our mission to help Afghans
rebuild their country."
In Afghanistan, Taleban spokesman
Zabihullah Mujahid said his fighters were taking credit for the attack.
"I don't know that the Taleban are getting any stronger," said in
response to a reporter's question Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson, commander
of the Canadian Forces in Kandahar. "What I would say is that they're
much more aggressive this fighting season than they've been in the
But it wasn't lost of anyone that at the beginning
of the week the Taleban had warned Canada like it rarely had before
that it faced more casualties unless it withdrew its troops from the
country. In an open letter addressed to "the Canadian people," the
fundamentalist group said Canada "sacrificed" its self-respect by
following the "American" agenda and urged Canadians to press the
government to "put an end to the occupation of Afghanistan."
the letter, Qari Muhammad Yussef says the Taleban don't want to kill
Canadians but are forced to because Canadians are killing innocent
Afghans. The warning came just days after three aid workers, including
two Canadians, were gunned down by insurgents in Logar province and two
weeks after Canadian troops accidentally shot two children to death in
the Panjwaii district of Kandahar, fearing the vehicle they were riding
in was going to attack them.
NATO troops have repeatedly
come under fire for incidents which made civilians casualties in the
Afghan population. The UN blamed a US airstrike last week of killing 90
civilians including 60 children. MacKay assured the Afghan government
that Canadian troops are following the rules of engagement.
had earlier condemned the Taleban letter, saying that it will not deter
Canadian soldiers currently in Afghanistan. "This letter is a
disgusting attempt to justify the deliberate killings of innocent
civilians. There is no justification for these killings by the
Taliban," he said. "Canada is in Afghanistan at the request of the
democratically elected government of that country," he said, adding
Canada will continue to try to bring stability and security to the
A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen
Harper said Canada does not respond to threats from the Taleban. "This
has no effect whatsoever on the Canadian mission," spokesman Kory
Teneycke said. "The Taleban demonstrates, time and again, its
willingness to target civilians, including Afghan civilians as part of
Worried about the insurgency but unable to
defend itself, the Afghan government however is increasingly wary of
foreign troops on its territory. But it may received more if an Obama
presidency keeps its words of transferring more U.S. troops there to
finish the job started after Sept. 11. In Canada meanwhile, another
voice was calling for the withdrawal of the troops.
hours before Canada's latest casualties, Alexandre Trudeau, the
journalist son of late prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, said
Canada's "aggressive" war in Afghanistan is all about "teaching lessons
with weapons" and will leave nothing behind "except the blood we've
lost there." "Our aggressive military activities in Afghanistan are
foolish and wrong," said the 34-year-old.
"The Pashtun have
extremely different values than ours, values we may not agree with in
any case, but it's not our business to try and teach them lessons with
weapons," he told the Gazette. "Because, in fact, they'll be the ones
teaching us lessons. "We're going to have to leave the place or
there'll be nothing left of us or of whatever we've done, except the
blood we've lost there after we leave. So it's better we leave now."
have not only been targeted in Afghanistan. The Algerian branch of
al-Qaida said last week it had deliberately targeted Canadians when it
bombed a bus full of SNC-Lavalin employees earlier in the week, leaving
12 dead and 15 wounded. In a claim of responsibility issued soon after,
al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb said it had planned the attack for
three months and identified the suicide bomber as Abdul Rahman Abu
The statement said the attackers “made
sure that passengers on the protected bus were Canadian citizens.
Therefore, they targeted the bus, and it is not as the apostates claim
that we are targeting our brothers, Muslim workers.” The company said
however that the workers killed were locals.
As it buried
its dead in Afghanistan meanwhile, France said its parliament would
debate the army's presence there after the country's worst military
loss in 25 years. "At the moment I am speaking to you, I have never
been so aware of what the solitude of a head of state could be in the
face of the decisions he has to take," President Nicolas Sarkozy said
in a eulogy to the dead men, part of the "national tribute" to them. "I
want to ensure your colleagues are never in such a situation. I want
all the lessons to be drawn from what happened," he added, without
France had been the subject of criticism by
other NATO members such as the U.S., the U.K. and Canada, for not
putting its troops in harm's way, staying out of the volatile south of
the country racked by a fierce insurgency, but the attacks showed there
is no safe area in the increasingly hostile country.
than a year ago as Pakistani President, Pervez Musharraf was declaring
a state of emergency, seizing all powers in an effort to prevent the
judiciary from ruling on his contested re-election. But on Aug. 18 the
embattled former general relinquished the presidency under the threat
of impeachment, bringing an end to a nine year rule which has been the
trademark of Pakistani leaders before him.
tenure,” in effect since he stepped down as army chief to keep his
presidency, proved much shorter than his military rule, and only caused
him to lose his principal military base of support. By last week’s
announcement, there was little reaction even from the country’s army
brass to the largely expected resignation.
While the U.S.
hailed Musharraf as "one of the world's most committed partners in the
war against terrorism," the departure was welcomed in neighbouring
Afghanistan as a boost to democracy, Kabul often blaming the insurgency
in the south of the country on Pakistan’s failure to crack down on
militants in its northwest frontier region.
As a reminder of
the continuing troubles in the restive region, police say a bomb blast
in a hospital killed at least 25 people and injured others as news of
Musharraf's resignation was making the rounds.
news of the resignation was welcomed with relief a bruising impeachment
battle had been avoided, enabling the insurgency-racked country to deal
with a plethora of problems the shaky government will have to struggle
with. Pakistan's biggest party, the PPP, nominated its leader and
Benazir Bhutto's widower, Asif Zardari, to run for the country's
Meanwhile, lawyers who had been at the source of
Musharraf’s downfall over a year ago, danced in jubilation in the
streets of Karachi. It was Musharraf’s decision to suspend the chief
justice in March 2007, prompting widespread strikes and protests, that
eventually led to his downfall following months of sometimes epic
battles between the judiciary and executive. The Supreme Court
overturned the decision and later refused to confirm the result of the
October presidential election which he had won.
month Musharraf declared a state of emergency, citing increasing
attacks by militants, but stepped down as army chief before the month
was over. The two main opposition parties scored major victories in
February’s parliamentary election and eventually formed a coalition, a
gesture of temporary unity lasting long enough to enable them to strike
a deal to impeach Musharraf, accusing him of violation of the
constitution and gross misconduct. The charges included the coup d’etat
which placed him in power in 1999 and last November’s
In his defiant farewell speech Musharraf
said the governing coalition which was pushing the impeachment had
tried to “turn lies into truths.” “They don’t realize they can succeed
against me but the country will undergo irreparable damage,” he warned,
blaming the coalition for what he called failed economic policies,
including a declining currency, capital flight and soaring inflation.
said his policies had brought prosperity out of near economic collapse
when he took charge in 1999 and listed other personal achievements,
ranging from expanded road networks to developing relations with the
U.S. in the post-911 environment and easing tension with arch-rival
But not everyone was convinced by his parting words.
"He even tried to deceive the nation in his last address,” stressed
Mohammed Saeed, a shopkeeper who celebrated Musharraf’s resignation.
“He was boasting about economic progress when life for people like us
has become a hell."
And while questions remained about whether
his resignation would leave the nuclear power on shaky ground under a
coalition government - which quickly started arguing over who will
succeed him and ultimately failed to survive the disappearance of its
main bogeyman - opponents called Musharraf's retreat a victory for
democracy. "His resignation clears the way for our government to get on
with ... providing to the people of Pakistan basic social services,
economic opportunities, political security and law and order," said
Information Minister Sherry Rehman.
The country's stock market
and currency rose as a result of the resignation, sending the message
that investors at least thought the country was entering a more
promising period after a troublesome last year which was notably marked
by the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
the markets plunged again days later when the five month-old coalition
collapsed amid a new round of infighting over the powerful post of the
presidency. Regimes come and go, other things never change.
Georgia accuses Russia of violating truce
the eve, five days after starting a military offensive in Georgia the
U.S. called "disproportionate," Russia announced it was halting its
operations and would bring back its troops. The announcement came as
French president Nicolas Sarkozy visited Moscow to act a mediator in
the crisis, and one day after harsh criticism from Washington which
blamed Moscow for "a brutal escalation" in the conflict with the
As both countries finally agreed on a
cessation of hostilities, Sarkozy however pointed out that both
countries were still not at peace. Georgia had called for the end of
hostilities earlier in the week, and said it could not see evidence of
an end to Russian attacks on its territory. Sarkozy then travelled to
Georgia to present the proposal to return the forces to their original
positions, which was accepted.
On a day supposed to mark the beginning of the Olympic truce, as the opening
ceremonies were taking place in Beijing, world leaders were calling for calm in
the Caucasus, where an exchange of fire between Russian and Georgian troops over
the breakaway Russian enclave of South Ossetia gradually escalated into all out war between the two neighbours.
sent forces into Georgia on
Friday to repel a Georgian assault on the breakaway South
region which according to a local rebel leader Eduard
Kokoity had left the area with "hundreds of dead civilians" in the
main town Tskhinvali. Russian troops were said of soon having forced
the Georgian forces to retreat, but they weren't planning to stop there.
A senior Georgian security official said Russian jets had bombed a military
airbase outside the capital Tbilisi,
which had recently hosted some 1,000 troops from the U.S., a close
ally, to train Georgian forces. Georgia is the third country with the
most foreign troops in Iraq, after the U.S. and Britain, and started
repatriating some of its 2,000 soldiers in view of the crisis. The
country is strategically located owing to the presence of major
pipelines making it a vital supply route for oil from the Caspian Sea
and central Asia to Europe.
Georgia said its
operation, launched after a week of clashes between separatists and Georgian
troops in which nearly 20 people were killed, was aimed at ending South Ossetia's effective independence, won in a 1991-92
President Mikheil Saakashvili said 150 Russian tanks, armoured personnel
carriers and other vehicles had entered South Ossetia from neighbouring Russia. “This is the worst nightmare you could imagine,” Saakashvili told the BBC,
adding Russian troops had been massing north of Georgia for months. “We are a small
country and are being bombed right now in the middle of the territory.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia had sent troops to “prevent
bloodshed” after what he called the “aggression of Georgian troops” against
Georgian civilians and Russian “peacekepers.”
“It was absolutely unacceptable. Many villages were being attacked by
Georgian troops,” he said. He said Russia was trying to prevent
“ethnic cleansing” and would defend its citizens anywhere they are.
Sunday Russia expanded its bombing blitz to the Georgian capital,
deployed ships off the coast and deep into Georgian territory. Russia
refused to recognize a truce by Georgia and said the Georgian soldiers
were "not withdrawing but regrouping." Russian forces then seized
several towns and a military base deep in western
Georgia on Monday, which according to Saakashvili effectively cut
Georgia in half. Georgia's troops were soon sent into a retreat and
were pulled back to defend the capital.
Monday U.S. President Bush condemned Russia's "brutal aggression" of
Georgia, calling it to reverse its course. Bush said Moscow was seeking
to topple Georgia's democratically-elected leadership, which he
considered unacceptable in the 21st century. He said the attacks had
hurt Russia's international standing.
Since the break-up of the Soviet Unions in 1991 Moscow has maintained tense
ties with many of its former republics - some going on to seek EU and NATO
membership - in part out of concern for Russian minorities.
Facing his first crisis since he took office in May, Russian President
Dmitry Medvedev vowed to defend Russian
"compatriots" in South Ossetia,
where most people have been given Russian passports. "We will not allow
their deaths to go unpunished," he said.
Tensions over the Russian minority in Georgia
go back to the period surrounding the downing of the Berlin
wall which ended the Warsaw Pact, South Ossetia
choosing the time to declare its autonomy from the Georgian republic,
triggering three months of fighting. South Ossetia won defacto
independence, one not recognized internationally, in a war against
Georgia that ended in 1992. In November 2006 South Ossetia
overwhelmingly voted to break away from Georgia in a
referendum Georgian officials said was part of a Russian campaign to stoke a
In light of the recognition of Kosovo by a number of countries in March
South Ossetia asked the international community to recognise its independence
Russia’s parliament then
urged the Kremlin to recognize this independence after Georgia failed
to obtain NATO membership.
As EU, US envoys raced to the region to mediate the crisis Abkhazia, another pro-Russian enclave in Georgia, said its forces had
begun an operation to drive out Georgian forces, possibly opening a
second front against Tbilisi.
the ancient tradition of Olympic truce was shattered by the incident,
at the Olympic Games one Georgian athlete sought to reassert of spirit
of the ancient tradition by embracing her Russian rival on the victory
Nino Salukvadze, who finished third, embraced her
rival and former USSR teammate, Natalia Paderina, who won the silver,
and made a moving appeal for peace after winning an Olympic
bronze medal in shooting on Sunday. "If the world were to draw any
lessons from what I did there would never be any wars," Salukvadze
said. "We live in the 21st Century, after all. We shouldn't really
stoop so low to wage wars
against each other."
Georgia's Olympic team was
told by Saakashvili to remain at the Games in the "best interest of
the country" despite the state of crisis. But some distraught team
members say they haven't been able to concentrate because they were
concerned about family members back home.
Diplomatie de bikini?
duel infernal qui oppose le pays hôte des Jeux à la puissance
américaine afin de couronner les champions des JOs éclipse une rivalité
de longue date qui avait pourtant survécu à la fin de la guerre froide,
celle opposant l'URSS, puis l'ex-URSS aux Etats-Unis.
avait déjà enregistré de nets progrès à Athènes en terminant avec 32
médailles d'or, soit le double d'Atlanta, lui conférant le second rang
officiel. Cependant au compte des médailles, cette place d'argent
revenait à la Russie, qui n'avait pas été exclue du "duel des Jeux"
d'été depuis ceux de Los Angeles, boycottés par le Bloc Est entier.
en ce début des compétitions la Russie se faufile à peine parmi les 5
premières équipes au chapitre des médailles, derrière la Corée du Sud,
qui enregistre également un riche départ, et l'Italie. Peut-être la
crise qui sévit entre la Russie et la Géorgie y est-elle pour
Les deux équipes olympiques admettaient qu'il
pouvait être difficile de se concentrer alors que les éclats ont lieu
dans le Caucase. "Evidemment que c'est difficile, admit le
porte-parole du comité olympique géorgien Giorgi Tchanishvili, mais il
est mieux pour l'avenir du sport que les athlètes géorgiens continuent
de participer aux Olympiques".
Du côté russe les athlètes
étaient plus concentrés sur les disciplines que sur la guerre, estimait
le porte parole Gennady Shvets. "Ils se sont entrainés toute leur vie
pour vivre ce moment. Nous avons d'excellentes relations avec les
athlètes et entraineurs géorgiens". Si l'esprit de la trêve olympique
n'était pas observé dans le Caucase, il semblait bien l'être à Pékin,
où la première médaillées olympique géorgienne des jeux, Nino
Salukvadze, serra sa rivale russe Natalia Paderina dans ses bras lors
des cérémonies de la remise des médailles. "Si le monde pouvait tirer
les leçons de mon acte il n'y aurait jamais de guerre", déclara-t-elle.
Pourtant les Soviétiques ont bien connu des démêlés olympiques
avec des athlètes de pays de l'Est lors d'éditions précédentes des
Jeux. En 1956 un match de water-polo URSS-Hongrie s'est terminé dans le
sang lors des Jeux de Melbourne, qui avaient lieu l'année du sanglant
soulèvement hongrois de 1956, sévèrement réprimé par l'armée rouge, la
vraie, celle des armes et non du podium.
En 1968 à Mexico une
gymnaste Tchécoslovaque a tourné le dos lors de la cérémonie de la
remise des médailles, en guise de protestation lors de l'hymne national
Soviétique. Encore une fois les Jeux avaient lieu après le printemps de
Prague, une invasion de l'armée soviétique qui avait l'objet de mettre
fin à une série de réformes trop osées de la part du gouvernement.
aurait-il quelque geste de protestation lors du match de volleyball
Russie-Géorgie à Pékin? Ou allait-on, selon le Sydney Morning Herald,
assister à une "diplomatie de bikini?"
La prestation russe n'a
peut-être rien à voir avec la guerre du Caucase en fin de compte, mais
les deux devront se résorber d'ici 2014, année de la tenue des Jeux
d'hiver à Sochi, une ville russe à quelques centaines de kilomètres de
la frontière géorgienne.
Despite China's best planning...
In control-freak China, where
all efforts have been made to manipulate everything from cyberspace to intangible
elements, such as the weather, there were reminders in the run up to the
Beijing Games that not all bows to the whims of the omnipotent Communist party.
Certainly not the
pollution index, which showed no sign of reacting to China’s extraordinary measures as Games got underway, international protesters or regional separatists, who
staged a bomb attack killing 16 policemen four days before the opening
ceremonies, despite the country’s much-publicized anti-terror measures.
To be fair the attack
occurred in the westernmost province of Xinjiang, not in Beijing, where Chinese President Hu
Jintao was welcoming International Olympic Committee members. Chinese state media say two men from a
mainly Muslim ethnic group were responsible for an attack are were quickly
arrested. It said the men, a taxi driver and a vegetable seller, drove a dump truck into a group of jogging policemen
Monday in the city of Kashgar then threw home-made bombs.
Police found nine homemade explosives, a homemade gun and propaganda
materials "promoting jihad," CCTV state TV reported. Police believed the
"weapons were similar to those captured by police from an East Turkestan terror camp in January 2007," it
reinforced police prevent did not prevent another attack Sunday as
assailants used home-made bombs to launch a series of attacks, even
engaging police in battle. At least 10 attackers and one security guard
were killed in Xinjiang as a result, police said.
100,000 policemen will be on the streets for the opening ceremonies.
Chinese authorities say the greatest threats at the Olympics come from
Muslim militants from the western province. In July a group
called the Turkestan Islamic Party claimed responsibility for blowing
up buses in Shanghai and Yunnan, killing five people, but China denied
that the explosions were acts of terrorism.
Alim Seytoff, the general secretary of the Uighur American Association, said the attack pointed more to discontent
than militancy. "We don't believe there are militant groups behind this," he said. "But we do know the
crackdown in Xinjiang, especially ahead of the Olympics, has increased
IOC refused to comment on the latest incident, calling it inappropriate
and saying the country had done everything it could to secure the games. A week before the IOC
came under criticism for breaking its own rules of Olympic idealism, allowing China to keep blocking some Internet websites
despite making it a condition for China to allow fully unfettered
access to the Internet for the thousands of journalists during the Games.
since sought to justify the blockage by saying it couldn’t allow websites which
it deemed “illegal”, involving Tibet
or the Falun-gong, to be accessed. It has relented somewhat, allowing some
sites to be unblocked, such as that of Amnesty International, which was
issuing its latest scathing report on the country.
In Amnesty said the human rights situation in China has deteriorated in the
run-up to its hosting of the Olympic Games this year, documenting the use of
"re-education through labour", the suppression of rights activists
and journalists, and the use of arbitrary imprisonment.
In fact Amnesty says the blocked websites only illustrated the fact
from keeping its promises of improving human rights, media freedom and
better health and education, the regime has gone in the opposite
China also promised blue
skies but on the day of the Xinjiang attacks a thick haze of pollution covered Beijing, making some
athletes’ asthma and other respiratory problems act up. If pollution levels are
too high on competition day, the I.O.C. has said it would postpone endurance
events like cycling or the marathon which require athletes to spend extended
periods in the bad air.
The uncooperative situation, a side-effect of China's relentless
booming economy, has made Chinese authorities apply new strict
measures, in addition to the ones limiting vehicles in the capital and
cutting production schedules at factories, not only in the city and
immediate area, but surrounding regions as well.
the coastal city of Qingdao, where algae blooms have threatened the
Olympic sailing venue, pollution is also being blamed for the
blue-green seaweed, forcing hundreds of volunteer to clear the
waterways for the coming competitions.
Tight security on the
streets, where some 300,000 cameras have been installed, has put in
place not only to prevent terror attacks but also activities the regime
considers "illegal", such as unapproved protests. Beijing said it would
provide "protest pens" in three city parks for protesters who manage to
obtain permission to protest, but demonstrators neither waited for
permission nor the start of the Games to make their voices heard.
protesters unfurled a "Free Tibet" banner near Beijing's Bird's
Nest stadium, after activists scaled two lamp posts. The members of
Students for a Free Tibet also unfurled the Tibetan independence
flag. The day before outspoken IOC member Dick Pound said China should
have cancelled the Olympic torch relay in view of the massive protests
that followed a crackdown in Tibet earlier this year. He referred to
the relay as "a disaster."
Later Wednesday three Americans spent almost an hour on Tian Ann Men Square criticizing Beijing's
handling of issues ranging from forced abortions to Falun Gong and
pro-democracy demonstrations in 1989. They unfurled a banner and
started marching through the square before they were removed by
"We express our strong opposition," said Sun Weide, spokesman for
the Beijing Olympics organizing committee. "In terms of assembly and demonstrations,
has related laws and regulations. We hope that foreigners will respect the
related Chinese laws and regulations."
But IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said
organizers should expect people to "use the platform of the Olympic Games
to draw attention to their causes."
were among protesters arrested in other Tian Ann Men protests as the
Games got underway, to protest the crackdown in Tibet earlier this
year. Some daring protesters even managed to slip Tibetan flag into
official Olympic events, before they were escorted out of the venue.
China handle the truth? Better yet, the naked truth? Chinese
authorities had their hands full two days before the opening ceremonies
with a model in her birthday suit protesting on behalf of animal
U.S. Olympic gold medalist swimmer Amanda Beard had
to launch her naked, anti-fur campaign poster outside the Athletes'
Village on Wednesday after Chinese authorities canceled a planned
unveiling, citing safety concerns. A spokesman for People for the
Ethical Treatment of Animals, said the launch was "a bit more dramatic
than we had planned" after Chinese security officials visited a hotel
where an official news conference had been scheduled and shut down the
Coup d'état en Mauritanie
démocratique aura été de courte durée en Mauritanie, un des rares pays
démocratiques arabes, après le plus récent des nombreux coup d’états
qui ont boulversé le pays depuis l’indépendance en 1960.
président Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, le premier ministre Yahya Ould
Ahmed Waghf et plusieurs ministres ont été arrêtés le 6 août par des
militaires, notamment ceux qui avaient été récemment limogés alors que
le pays traversait une crise politique liée à l’inflation des produits
En mai dernier Abdhallahi avait mis un terme au
gouvernement en raison de sa mauvaise gestion de la crise alimentaire.
Celle-ci, présente partout ailleurs en Afrique et dans les pays en voie
de développement, avait de surcroit lieu sur fond d’attaques
terroristes par des groupes islamistes inspirés par la mouvance
Le nouveau gouvernement mis en place n’a cependant
pas fait long feu, remettant sa démission après avoir connu l’échec
lors d’un vote de confiance. Celui qui a suivi n’avait plus l’appui des
groupes d’opposition. Quelques jours avant le plus récent putsch de
cette république du désert de l’ouest africain, la plupart des membres
du parti d’Abdallahi, le Pacte national pour la démocratie et le
développement, en tout 25 députés et 23 sénateurs, ont quitté le parti,
une décision qui selon certains n’était pas sans l’appui des
Limogé la veille à peine du poste d’état-major
particulier du président et chef de la garde présidentielle, c’est le
général Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz qui semble avoir dirigé le coup d’état,
qui s'est déroulé sans effusion de sang, le premier depuis les
élections présidentielles démocratiques de 2007. Celles-ci avaient
laissé espérer un transfert permanent du pouvoir aux mains des civils,
après le coup d’état de 2005 qui avait mis fin au règne de 21 ans du
colonel Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya.
Le plus récent coup d’état
de cette république islamique met un terme à l’expérience démocratique
d’un des deux pays arabes qualifiés de «démocraties électorales » par
l’organisation américaine Freedom House. La Commission européenne a
aussitôt « condamné fermement cette action militaire et appelé au
respect de la démocratie et du cadre institutionnel légal mis en place
depuis 2007 » et souligné les conséquences financières du renversement.
situation risque de remettre en question notre politique de coopération
avec la Mauritanie dans le cadre de laquelle nous venons de finaliser
avec le gouvernement mauritanien un programme d'appui de 156 millions
d'Euro pour la période 2008 - 2013 en complément de l'assistance déjà
en cours», a prévenu le commissaire européen au développement Louis
Michel. Celui-ci a également « exprimé son souhait que le président et
le Premier ministre retrouvent rapidement leur liberté et leurs
Alors que la junte indiquait qu'elle avait
l'intention d'organiser de nouvelles élections libres et transparentes
dans le pays le plus vite possible, après une période de gouvernement
par un conseil de commandement militaire, d'autres pays et
organisations, dont la Ligue arabe et l'Union africaine ont exprimé
leur inquiétude à propos de la tournure des événements. Plus virulents,
les Etats-Unis ont condamné "dans les plus fermes termes" le
La Mauritanie, un des nouveaux producteurs de
pétrole du continent, s'était notamment rapproché des Etats-Unis depuis
son abandon de l'axe de Bagdad en 2003 qui avait assuré le retour des
investisseurs américains. La Mauritanie avait également été un des
rares pays arabes à reconnaitre l'état d'Israel.
India's latest attacks
by the standards of a country struggling with an insurgency-ridden
north and a history of terrorist bombings of its major centres, the
attacks that ripped through Bangalore and Ahmedabad in the last weekend
of July were setting new marks. While the number of victims wasn’t
precedent-setting, killing 50 people and injuring over 160, the number
of plots, including some which had been foiled, in a period of two
days, rattled the world’s largest democracy, which has often looked
outside its borders for culprits.
This time all the
signs seemed to indicate a domestic wave of terror attacks which the
Times of India feared pointed to “a new confidence and a widening of
the arc of terror in India.” Claiming responsibility for the blasts,
first in the IT capital of Bangalore which killed one, and then as many
as 16 more blasts the next day in Ahmedabad, which made 49 victims, was
a group calling itself the "Indian Mujahideen” which sent emails to
several TV stations five minutes before the first blasts in the second
city, the capital of the western state of Gujarat. "Do whatever you
can, within 5 minutes from now, feel the terror of Death!" the email
said in a warning which left little time for authorities to intervene.
email reportedly claimed that the group was based in India, was
avenging past attacks against Muslims and asked other groups such as
the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba, largely blamed for the attacks
which killed 250 people in Mumbai two years before, not to claim
responsibility. Indian investigators say the group is in fact a front
for the usual L-e-T suspect, but observers stress that the coordination
and timing in the attacks indicated a strong domestic element. More
bombs were defused later.
The group had also claimed
responsibility for blasts that had killed 63 people in the northwestern
city of Jaipur in May as well as serial blasts in northern cities in
which 13 people were killed last November, sometimes heralded by a
similar email. The latest email also reportedly cited grievances
against India's Hindu majority while hinting more attacks were to come.
Displaying the leadership's usual resilience, the
country’s prime minister said that the attacks would fail to divide
India's communities. "These terrorist attacks are aimed at destroying
our social fabric, undermining communal harmony and demoralizing our
people," said Manmohan Singh during a visit of bombing victims on
Monday. "These efforts will not succeed."
Singh also called
for his government to improve its intelligence apparatus, which had
failed to issue any warning despite a history of recent terror attacks
which included 11 major bombings in the last three years. According to
U.S. figures there have been over 3,600 attacks there between 2004 and
2007. India's Intelligence Bureau however counts little over 3,500
field operatives to help protect the country of 1.1 billion according
to Time magazine.
While much of the country was under a
heightened security alert after the attacks, the government has
resisted calls to reinstate an anti-terrorism law that it scrapped
coming to power in 2004. The laws had been criticized for giving the
police too many powers to detain people without charge and allowing the
abuse of government opponents. But some now fear the attackers are
“The consecutive attacks on two state
capitals marked a break from the pattern of allowing a considerable gap
between strikes,” noted the Times of India. “If the atrocities over the
weekend marked a new-found cheekiness, they were backed by
professionalism of a high order.”
Observers have noted that
many of the terror attacks in the last few months have been in states
ruled by the nationalist Hindu BJP party, including Gujarat, and wonder
whether they may, in the likes of terror attacks in Spain in 2004, be
linked to the coming elections there. The party, often accused by
opponents of being anti-Muslim, made the fight against terror the topic
of recent regional elections.
Other observers say that
politics aside, the social alienation of Muslims and their
under-representation in the country’s politics are partly driving the
Going after those guilty of genocide
international justice system looking to bring to account one sitting
leader accused of genocide was welcoming this week within its clutches
a long-wanted fugitive also wanted for committing the gravest of all
It wasn’t lost on anyone that the arrest of former
Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, charged with war crimes, genocide
and crimes against humanity during Bosnia's 1992-1995 war by the
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, came on the
eve of a meeting of EU foreign ministers scheduled to discuss closer
relations with Serbia after the formation of a new pro-western govern-
ment in Belgrade. Karadzic’s arrest, welcomed by European leaders as a
milestone in Serbia’s EU aspirations, had been a condition of Serbian
progress toward EU membership and seemed to put to rest some of the
tensions between Europe and Serbia which had survived the Balkan war of
the mid-90s. Karadzic was tranferred to The Hague on Wednesday.
West had long suspected Belgrade was reluctant to carry on with the
search for Karadzic, seen by militant nationalists as a national
saviour and protected by loyal officials and paramilitaries, but the
new government signalled it was more willing to comply. Days later
Serbia said it was reinstating its ambassadors from EU states that
supported Kosovo's declaration of independence, another major point of
contention between Serbia and the West.
But Serb officials
said they would still preserve their stance on Kosovo, of historic
importance to the Serbs. "With this, we want to balance two priorities
which we have put before us - one to continue with the fight for Kosovo
and the other to intensify the process of European integration," said
Serbian environment minister Oliver Dulic. That process seemed
threatened earlier when nationalist parties came together to try to
prevent a pro-Western government from taking over parliament, a
struggle they ultimately lost. Serbian president Boris Tadic said his
country "would like to become an official candidate by the end of the
year." But the EU had also been pressing Belgrade to follow-up its
arrest with that of Karazic's former military commander, Ratko Mladic.
said Karadzic was able to evade authorities and earn a living by
working in a medical clinic under a false name and had tried to conceal
his identity with a white beard. “Karadzic was located and arrested,”
the Serb government said in a statement. "Karadzic was brought to the
investigative judge of the War Crimes Court in Belgrade, in accordance
with the law on co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal
for the former Yugoslavia," it added.
The news was greeted by
celebrations in the streets of the one Bosnian town synonymous with
hardship, Sarajevo, victim of a 43-month siege in which some 10,000
civilians were killed, atrocities for which Karadzic was indicted. He
was also charged with genocide stemming from the massacre in Srebrenica
— where at least 7,500 Muslim men and boys were murdered — and with
ethnic cleansing for driving tens of thousands of Muslims out of the
Serb-held areas of Bosnia. This week seven Bosnian Serbs were convicted
of genocide and jailed over the massacre.
the former U.S. official who negotiated the 1995 Dayton accords that
ended the war in Bosnia, welcomed the news of the capture, describing
Karadzic as the Osama bin Laden of Europe, "a real, true architect of
mass murder." But Serb ultra-nationalists rioted this week during a
rally against government plans to extradite Karadzic to The Hague, a
process which has not been without stumbling blocks.
arrest came a week after the chief prosecutor at the International
Criminal Court formally accused the Sudanese president of being the
“mastermind” of what he called a genocidal campaign against three
ethnic groups in Sudan’s western Darfur region. The announcement was
met by concerns it would endanger peace deals in the south of the
country and promote new violence in the Darfur conflict that has left
300,000 dead and driven 2.5 million into refugee camps. If the
international judges decide there is sufficient evidence to proceed
toward a prosecution it would mark a first by the court, established
ten years ago to pursue the world’s worst human rights atrocities,
against a sitting head of state.
The announcement, which
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir condemned as a lie, prompted the
United Nations to pull back some non-essential staff deployed in
Sudan's restive Darfur region, fearing reprisals and citing recent
violence there. Days before seven of its peacekeepers were killed and
22 injured when they were attacked by heavily armed militia in northern
Darfur. Last week an adviser to al-Bashir said peacekeepers could be
expelled from Darfur if the Sudanese leader is indicted.
talk does not worry us," al-Bashir said while touring the country's
regions. "We know who's behind him and who's pulling his strings."
Chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who made the accusations after
three years of investigations into the atrocities in Sudan’s ravaged
western province, asked the court to indict Bashir with ten counts of
mass crimes, including three for genocide, and to issue a warrant for
his arrest. Not only would the court be going after a sitting head of
state for the first time, Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic - who died during
his trial - having been indicted by other international tribunals, it
is also the first time that it has sought an indictment for genocide.
evidence establishes reasonable grounds to believe that al-Bashir
intends to destroy in substantial part the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa
ethnic groups as such,” said Moreno-Ocampo’s application for a warrant
to arrest the leader. “Forces and agents controlled by al-Bashir
attacked civilians in towns and villages inhabited by the target
groups, committing killings, rapes, torture and destroying means of
livelihood.” “Al-Bashir is executing this genocide without gas
chambers, without bullets and without machetes . . . he used other
weapons: rapes, hunger and fear,” it went on.
The charges made
regional countries nervous, the 53-member African Union seeking to have
them deferred “because there is a risk of anarchy in a proportion we
have not seen in this continent”. Sudan’s government on the other hand
downplayed them, saying the indictment would be meaningless. "Whatever
comes out of the ICC . . . is non-existent,” said foreign ministry
spokesman Ali al-Sadig.
While enforcement is unlikely in the
form of U.N. Security Council action, made difficult because of
division between its members, the U.N. reminded AU officials it could
not interfere in the work of the international court, whose judges have
three months to consider formal indictments against Bashir. And
international prosecutors would argue those indictments shouldn't be
taken likely, pointing to Karadzic's capture. "It clearly demonstrates
that nobody is beyond the reach of the law and that sooner or later all
fugitives will be brought to justice," said International Criminal
Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz.
Nouvelle crise en Belgique
avec le cœur lourd que les Belges célébraient leur fête nationale le 21
juillet, alors que leur pays traverse sa plus récente crise
constitutionnelle. La veille le roi Albert II a appelé Flamands et
Wallons à rester unis et à trouver de nouvelles façons de travailler
ensemble pour résoudre la crise politique qui menace l'unité du pays. «
Les divisions dans les esprits n'est pas une fatalité. C'est l'union et
la tolérance dans le respect de l'identité de chaque entité fédérée qui
représentent la seule voie possible dans notre société démocratique, a
souligné le roi dans son discours. Nous devons inventer de nouvelles
formes de vivre ensemble dans notre pays». Pourtant tout semblait
indiquer que la classe politique belge était à court d’idées sur ce
Six jours plus tôt le premier ministre
chrétien-démocrate Yves Leterme avait semé la consternation en
présentant la démission de son gouvernement de coalition, formé de cinq
partis des communautés francophone et néerlandophone, après l'échec de
négociations sur l'autonomie des régions. Leterme avait jugé que le
modèle politique du pays avait «atteint ses limites», et ainsi à
nouveau laissé planer le spectre de la partition, relançant dans la
crise politique un pays qui n’avait pas été proprement gouverné pendant
plusieur mois en 2007.
La démission a cependant été rejetée
par le roi, qui lors de son discours, s’est également dit alarmé par la
hausse du nombre de Belges vivant sous le seuil de pauvreté, faisant
référence à une étude montrant qu'en Belgique, une personne sur sept
peut être considérée comme pauvre. "Ce pourcentage est plus élevé que
dans nos pays voisins (...) mais ne faisons-nous pas partie des pays
les plus prospères de la planète?".
Cette pauvreté est
d’autant plus au centre des préoccupations qu’elle est plus durement
ressentie du côté Wallon, qui craint une diminution de fonds
redistribués des régions flammandes; plus prospères et qui font appel à
une plus grande autonomie. Alors que le roi lui-même entamait des
négociations avec les dirigeants politiques, le quotidien Le Soir
dressait un portrait bien sombre de l’avenir dans un éditorial plançant
le pays «au bord du gouffre».
Les partis francophones ont été
les premiers à se sentir estomaqués par le geste d’abandon du premier
ministre, qui avait estimé que le «consensus politique» entre les
Flamands et les francophones ne fonctionnait plus. Le vice-premier
ministre Didier Reynders, était de ceux qui appelaient Leterme à ne pas
jeter l'éponge, affirmant qu'il croyait toujours en la possibilité de
parvenir à un accord entre les deux camps. «Nous devons travailler dans
les prochaines heures et les prochains jours pour construire sur la
confiance (...) pour travailler vers une solution, a-t-il souligné. Le
gouvernement doit poursuivre son programme économique et social. Nous
devons poursuivre avec notre coalition et avec Leterme en tant que
D’autres, dont Elio di Rupo, leader des
Socialistes francophones, a d’autant plus été surpris qu’il estimait
que les négociations sur la réforme des institutions s'étaient tenues
dans «un climat constructif, positif». Le côté flammand a cependant
accusé l'autre camp de ralentir délibérément les pourparlers et de ne
pas faire preuve de bonne volonté.
Leterme avait formé en mars
un cabinet qui a succédé au gouvernement intérimaire du libéral flamand
Guy Verhofstadt après neuf mois de crise politique. L’intervention du
roi ne constituait ainsi que le plus récent chapitre de la saga
constitutionnelle, remontant aux élections législatives du 10 juin
2007, dans ce royaume regroupant 6 millions de néerlandophones et 4,5
millions de francophones.
La crise laisse sans solution encore
l’épineuse question de la réforme des institutions, au sein de laquelle
les néerlandophones réclamaient une autonomie accrue des régions,
notamment en matière de sécurité sociale et de fiscalité. C’est ce qui,
du côté francophone, fait craindre une réduction des budgets accordés à
la Wallonie, région la plus pauvre du pays, et à la capitale bilingue,
« Notre pays traverse, vous le savez bien, de
sérieuses difficultés politiques, a noté le roi dans son discours
habituel à la veille des fêtes du 21 juillet. Mais j'aimerais rappeler
que les difficultés et les crises sont aussi des occasions de rebondir
et de se ressaisir ». Le 21 juillet commémore le jour en 1831 où le
premier roi belge, Léopold de Saxe-Cobourg, a prêté serment de rester
fidèle à la constitution. Albert II en a profité pour évoquer le
souvenir de son frère le roi Baudouin «un avocat vigoureux de l'unité
et de la cohésion du pays » qui marquera le 31 juillet le 15e
anniversaire de sa mort.
Le 31 juillet est également la date à
laquelle doit soumettre un premier rapport la troïka désignée par le
roi pour se pencher sur la crise actuelle. Entre temps Leterme est en
fin de compte revenu sur sa décision de démissionner, assurant qu'il
resterait en place pour mener à bien la réforme institutionnelle,
déclarant, lors d'une réunion extraordinaire, de façon plutôt
dramatique: "C'est moi ou le chaos".
Freedom for the world's most famous hostage
had been so long since she tasted freedom from her Colombian rebel
captors, that former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt was both
relieved and incredulous at first. "God, this is a miracle," she said
as she stepped down from the military plane following a daring military
rescue during which Colombian spies had tricked Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia rebels into handing her and 14 other hostages.
a perfect operation is unprecedented," she said, as she embraced her
mother on a Bogota tarmac. People erupted in cheers in various cities
across the country after learning about the release. In Paris,
meawhile, standing next to a French president who had pushed for
Betancourt’s release, the rest of the family was struggling to express
their gratitude following the end of the six-year ordeal. Betancourt’s
son Lorenzo Delloye-Betancourt called her release "indescribable joy"
and "the most beautiful news of my life." "I still cannot believe it,"
he said. His sister Melanie said it was like "emerging from a bad
But it was a nightmare for the rebels. This was just
the latest blow to the FARC, already reeling from the deaths of key
commanders and the loss of much of the territory it once held.
Colombia’s military used the opportunity to renew offers to negotiate
with the rebel movement, which suffered battlefield losses and
widespread desertions that have cut its ranks and is leading some to
speculate they may be about to end their four-decade fight.
Colombian military killed a top commander in a controversial raid into
neighbouring Ecuador March 1. During the raid, it obtained computer
hard drives that suggested Venezuela's Hugo Chavez had ties to the
rebel group, which some analysts say will force him to shed any support
he may have given. Chavez called Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to
offer his congratulations. He had been calling for a negotiated
settlement between Colombia and the rebels.
Since his swearing
in, Uribe took a much more radical approach, declaring a national state
of emergency, imposing a wartime surtax, increasing the size of the
army and weeding out commanders believed either to be corrupt or
unwilling to engage the rebels in battle. Some estimate his strategy
has paid off, putting the rebels on the defensive.
this year Chavez used his leftist credentials to convince FARC leaders
to hand over six hostages, including several kidnapped politicians, in
a move that won him praise across the continent. But relations between
Venezuela and Colombia soured after the Ecuador raid, triggering the
region's worst diplomatic crisis in a decade.
Juan Manuel Santos said military intelligence agents infiltrated the
guerrilla ranks and led the local commander in charge of the hostages
to believe they were going to take them to supreme rebel leader Alfonso
Cano. He denied reports that $20m had been paid to some FARC members to
assist the operation or that Israeli and U.S. agents had been involved
in the operation, saying it had been "100% Colombian". The country's
intelligence has long been backed by U.S. government support.
operation also freed three American contractors who had been the
longest-held American hostages in the world and took place as
Republican presidential candidate John McCain was touring the country.
Colombia is where the U.S. has poured $6.2 billion over the last years
to help the government fight the war on drugs, in what observers say is
the point of origin of 90% of America's cocaine.
freed hostages were members of the Colombian security forces, among a
group of about 40 that the rebels had been using to bargain for
political concessions. Collecting ransom and drug trafficking are two
major sources of income for the rebels. "We wanted to have it happen as
it did today," said armed forces chief Gen. Freddy Padilla. "Without a
single shot. Without anyone wounded. Absolutely safe and sound, without
Some of the hostages had been held for a dozen
years, captured when rebels overran military outposts, but Betancourt
was by far the most famous hostage, her rescue often the subject of
much speculation before turning into bitter disappointment. Hugging her
mother, Yolanda Pulecio, and her husband, Juan Carlos LeCompte,
French-Colombian Betancourt appealed to the FARC to release the
remaining hostages and make peace.
It is estimated that FARC
still holds hundreds of captives. She thanked Uribe, against whom she
was running when she was kidnapped, and said he "has been a very good
president" but added she wasn’t through with politics. "I continue to
aspire to serve Colombia as president," she added. Betancourt, 46, had
been campaigning for the presidency in Colombia's interior in 2002 when
she ignored advice of the government and military and entered a former
demilitarized zone where the rebels were still strong.
rebels snatched her and her vice-presidential running mate, Clara
Rojas, who was freed in January, in a deal brokered by Chavez. Also
released then was Consuelo Gonzalez de Perdomo, 57, a former
congresswoman kidnapped in 2001, one in a long list of abducted
Colombian officials over the years.
Since her release
Betancourt made a number of public appearances in what she is calling a
new campaign for the release of the remaining hostages. Some are
wondering whether, despite her praise of the Uribe, she is not only
resuming the campaign for the presidency she was a part of at the time.
When elected in 1998 Betancourt was considered the most popular senator
in Colombia and remains the second most-popular politician today after
While Uribe can't run for a third term according to the
Constitution, he was tempted to change the rules, something that the
release may help him obtain. On the other hand Santos' popularity and
the potential candidacy of Betancourt could, according to the
Economist, make things interesting if three major actors in the
dramatic rescue battle for the highest political office in the land.
the fight against the guerilla goes on, as at least one Canadian is
suspected of being among the latest hostages captured. And no small
success is able to correct the inequalities that prompted the FARC to
take up arms in the first place in 1964. Today still almost 60 per cent
of Colombians subsist on $2 a day or less and government health and
social programs are disarray after years of neglect, squeezed by years
of boosting the military.
Curiously the man that inspired FARC
to lead the struggle, Fidel Castro, criticised their "cruel methods of
kidnapping and holding prisoners in the jungle" this weekend, calling
for the group to let the hostages free, without necessarily dropping
the armed struggle. In the past 50 years, rebel groups that had yielded
"did not survive to see the peace," Castro noted.
Quebec celebrates 400th
hard for it to rain on your parade when the festivities last an entire
season. And so while dignitaries from around the country and other
nations wished Quebec City a happy 400th birthday on July 3 under rainy
skies, there was little to dampen the enthusiasm of a city which had
kicked off its party as far back as on a cold winter's night on Jan
The celebration has been going on strong not only for
months across the province, in a year Quebec City's Colisee had hosted
both the world hockey championships and the world eucharistic congress
before the city welcomed the Francophonie summit, but other parts of
the country and overseas as well. On the eve of the anniversary French
explorer Samuel de Champlain landed in what would become one of the
continent's first permanent settlements, boats which had taken off on
France's west coast had arrived in the old capital. Two days before
July 1 celebrations had a distinct Quebecois rhythm as giant puppets
and impersonators dressed in traditional costumes mingled with the
Canada Day crowd.
Then on July 3rd at 11 a.m., the time
Champlain is said to have hit the shores of the St. Lawrence, bells in
churches nationwide rang in the celebration. As soon as the fête began,
so did the bickering by some nationalists that the party was supposed
to celebrate the French fact in the Americas, and not Canada's
founding, but the prime minister begged to differ in his July 3rd
Quebec City speech.
"The seeds planted here 400 years ago
today have blossomed into a magnificent city, a strong and proud
Quebecois nation and a great Canadian country, strong and free. What an
amazing legacy," Stephen Harper said, calling Champlain's arrival a
milestone "for Quebec and for the whole of Canada." Harper also
referred to his government's efforts to have Parliament adopt a motion
recognizing Quebec as a nation in 2006, saying it built upon the work
of pioneers who came after Champlain who created "in North America a
bastion of French language that is renowned in the world."
General Michaelle Jean kicked off the ceremony by stressing it was more
than simply a birthday. "This is not only the 400th anniversary of the
founding of Quebec that we are celebrating together today," she said.
"We are celebrating four centuries of courage, of stubbornness and bold
behaviour that allowed French Canada to exist, to continue to exist and
to remain in existence for the future." In her remarks, Jean also said
that the anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on Canada's roots and
the first encounters between Canada's Aboriginal Peoples and European
explorers. "Quebec City is giving us an opportunity to explore the
beginning of all of these encounters, and all the mixing that came
about between French, English, Irish (and) Aboriginal Peoples, and 400
years later, Canada contains the entire globe and it is this whole
voyage that we will never forget," Jean said.
Minister Francois Fillon highlighted the historical ties that bind
France to Quebec, saying that "there is only one France" and that
Quebec is part of it. He created a minor stir by twice referring to
Quebec as a "country" in a joint declaration with Quebec's premier
before the official ceremonies, a term downplayed by his staff which
pointed out that regions of France where sometimes referred-to as
President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to visit
Canada later this fall, and all the indications point to a possible
departure from Paris' usual safe diplomatic stance of
"non-indifference, non-interference" on the issue of Quebec.
Jean Charest stayed away from political controversy and drew parallels
between the characteristics of Champlain and those of Quebecers,
including openness and determination. "Four centuries later, we still
have within ourselves his energy, his audacity and his faith in the
future . . . Today, it is a whole nation that salutes him," Charest
The speeches were followed by a march of 1,500 soldiers
from the Plains of Abraham to the Chateau Frontenac. And many many more
days of merry-making as the city prepares for stars the likes of Celine
Dion, Paul McCartney and whatever comes the old city's way in 2008.
La Mongolie aux urnes
d'être un fait accompli, à l'opposé de chez ses voisins russes et
chinois, les élections sont une chose sérieuse en Mongolie, qui
pourrait donner une leçon de démocratie à Moscou et à Pékin.
gouvernement a dû décréter l'état d'urgence quelques jours après la
sortie de résultats électoraux donnant la victoire au Parti
révolutionnaire du peuple mongol (PRPM) au pouvoir. Environ 5 personnes
ont perdu la vie et 300 personnes ont été blessées lorsque des
manifestants se sont attaqués aux quartiers généraux du PRPM estimant
qu'il y avait eu des irrégularités lors de la tenue du vote.
le choix qui se présentait aux électeurs de cet ancien satellite de
l’URSS était autre chose que ce qui est ordinairement proposé aux
électeurs de la Russie de Poutine, sans parler de la Chine communiste.
Alors que le PRPM, plus ancien parti de Mongolie, a dirigé le pays de
1921 à 1996, plus de 350 candidats représentant une douzaine de partis
ont participé au scrutin, ainsi que 74 pourcent du 1.5 million
En remportant au moins 44 sièges lors
des législatives du 29 juin, soit une majorité des 76 sièges du Grand
Houral, le PRPM du Premier ministre Sanjaagiin Bayar mettait en
principe fin au statu quo avec l'opposition qui paralysait le pays
depuis quatre ans, lorsque les Démocrates, s'étaient retrouvés à
égalité avec les anciens communistes.
Depuis la victoire des
Démocrates en 1996 et le retour des PRPM quatre ans plus tard, un genre
d’alternance semble faire partie du paysage politique en Mongolie.
L’instabilité fait également partie du jeu. Depuis 2004, le pays a
connu trois Premiers ministres; un chaos politique digne d’une
démocratie moderne qui favorise le vote à la proportionelle.
qui dit liberté ne dit pas nécessairement richesse. Le pays tente de
transformer son économie nomade à base d’agriculture où le revenu par
habitant ne dépasse guère les $1,500. Quelle tentation par conséquent
quand le parti au pouvoir a promis un dividende de $1,300 par personne
grâce à l’exploitation d'énormes richesses minières.
grands partis soutiennent la ratification par le parlement d'un projet
d'accord d'investissement qui permettrait que le chantier minier d'Oyu
Tolgoi soit exploité par des compagnies internationales, dont la
canadienne Ivanhoe Mines et Rio Tinto. Cet accord aurait de quoi, selon
ces compagnies minières, faire accroître le PIB du pays de 34%, et
ouvrirait la voie à d'autres contrats d'exploitation des ressources
naturelles du pays, dont le sous-sol renferme entre autres charbon et
Le parti Démocratique promettait légèrement moins,
soit un «partage du trésor » d’environ $860 par tête. De quoi soulager
tout de même les 2.5 millions d’habitants du pays dont le taux
d'inflation est de l'ordre de 15% l'an. L'économie mongole a tout de
même connu un taux de croissance de 9,9% en 2007, contre 7,5% en 2006.
principales formations politiques, alarmées par la croissance du prix
des produits alimentaires et du pétrole dans un pays dépendant de la
Russie pour son pétrole et son gaz et de la Russie et de la Chine pour
les céréales, entendent ainsi développer ces deux productions pour
mieux contrôler les prix à l'avenir sur cette terre où le bétail est 12
fois plus nombreux que les hommes. Mission impossible peut-être, mais
qui aurait cru à l'implantation d'une démocratie sur la terre de Gengis
En attendant les troubles qui ont marqué les lendemains
du scrutin risquent de retarder les lucratifs projets miniers.
L'opposition a exigé certains recomptages et même la tenue de nouvelles
élections dans certaines régions en raison d'irrégularités". Les
observateurs internationaux ont bien noté quelques incidents mais ont
de règle générale jugé l'exercice démocratique tout à fait acceptable.
"A mon avis il y a bien pu avoir quelques irrégularités électorales
mais en gros ça n'a pas changé grand chose au résultat," a estimé
Luvsandendev Sumati de la Fondation Sant Maral, auteur de sondages.
leurs différends, les deux partis ont uni leur voix pour faire un appel
au calme quelques jours après les fâcheux incidents, sans pour autant
s'entendre sur un accord de partage du pouvoir. En attendant le calme
est revenu, mais les masses gardent toujours les politiciens à l'oeil.
Untouched by terror, and yet....
officials concerned Canadians may be turning complacent about the
possibility of a terror strike like to say that of a list of Western
countries threatened by al-Qaida in the past, only Canada has yet to be
hit. But these days Canadians can be forgiven for thinking the country
is under siege. Court dates from Brampton or Ottawa to Guantanamo Bay
are, to quote one newspaper’s recent headline, “putting terror on
trial” in Canada.
Snipers on rooftops and concrete barriers in
front of an Ottawa courthouse have set the stage for what some are
calling “the trial of the century.” This week the Crown's star witness
in the trial of terror suspect Momin Khawaja has placed him at a camp
for Islamic fighters in northern Pakistan. Mohammed 'Big Dawg' Babar
told court he met Khawaja in Lahore where he told the Canadian to shave
his long beard and to wear Western clothes to make himself look like
any other tourist.
Three or four days later, Babar testified,
he drove Khawaja and another man into the tribal areas of northern
Pakistan. Babar said that the former software developer once considered
establishing a jihadi training camp in Canada. Babar is the only
al-Qaida informer to have testified in open court and his lawyer claims
he has no direct testimony to offer about Khawaja's alleged involvement
in the British fertilizer bomb plot which landed the latter at the
mercy of lady justice.
The charges against Khawaja include
allegations he participated in a terrorist group, used explosives for
the commission of a terrorist act, facilitated terrorist activity,
financed terrorism, and offered assistance to a terrorist group. Five
British Muslims were convicted last year in relation to the same plot.
Khawaja was the first person charged with terrorism under the Criminal
Code, which was amended as part of the Anti-Terrorism Act passed by
Parliament soon after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
he isn’t alone. Also facing trial under Canada's anti-terror
legislation is a youth who cannot be named, currently on trial in
Brampton for his part in the so-called Toronto 18 plot. In both cases
the government is desperate to show that Canada's post-9/11 laws work,
but Ottawa may be relying on Khawaja to drive this point across rather
than the Brampton case, seven of the suspects arrested in a wide
anti-terror sweep two years ago having seen their charges dropped
There are similarities between the two cases, both
involving alleged attempts to blow up buildings and create mayhem in
support of Islamist causes. Both involve otherwise unremarkable young
Canadians. The British plotters planned to use fertilizer to make their
bomb. Some charged in the Toronto 18 case were allegedly planning to do
the same. But in the case of the 18, the existence of a serious plot
has still to be established. On the other hand the London bombers had
already purchased fertilizer by the time they came to police attention.
Two other terror-related cases are evolving in entirely
different judicial settings, one in the country’s highest court, the
other part of a U.S. military tribunal environment that defies
international rules of justice. In the case of Adil Charkaoui, a
Moroccan-born permanent resident that some witnesses also placed in
training camps, the Supreme Court was asked earlier this year to decide
whether the Canadian Security Intelligence Service had carried out its
investigation in that case in a biased manner. This followed the spy
agency's own admission that they had not only destroyed records of
interviews with Charkaoui himself, but had systematically destroyed all
interview records in his file, as a matter of policy. The Canadian Bar
Association, the Quebec Bar Association and Amnesty International,
among others, intervened in Charkaoui's favour at the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court said Thursday CSIS was wrong to destroy the documents but
also turned down his request for lifting his security certificate which
means he remains monitored at all times as he has been for the last
five years. Earlier high court rulings on the suspected al-Qaida
sleeper agent however made the government rewrite its law governing the
controversial certificates, used to detain foreign-born suspects
indefinitely with the goal of deporting them.
21-year-old naturalized Canadian terror suspect Omar Khadr told the
media this week he longed for a normal life and a chance to return to
the country where his "soul" is "connected" six years after being
imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay for killing a U.S. serviceman during a
firefight in Afghanistan in 2002 when he was 15. Khadr, who was born in
Toronto, is the only Western detainee to remain at Guantanamo. His
trial is only expected to begin in October.
Zimbabwe opposition pulls out of vote
was hardly the first time thugs had cracked down on opposition
supporters in Zimbabwe but for Movement for Democratic Change party
leader Morgan Tsvangirai Sunday’s incident was the last straw. Less
than a week before a presidential run-off vote his party had denounced
as impossible to be held under fair conditions due to electoral
violence since the first round of voting last March, Tsvangirai
withdrew from the race and sought refuge in the country’s Dutch
"We in the MDC cannot ask them to cast their vote on
27 June, when that vote could cost them their lives," Tsvangirai said
at a press conference in Harare as he dropped out of the race. "We have
resolved that we will no longer participate in this violent,
illegitimate sham of an election process." "We will not play the game
of Mugabe," he added.
The MDC says at least 70 supporters have
been killed and 200,000 forced from their homes by ruling party
militias. While the claims were hard to substantiate there was no
doubting the government’s response, Monday, when police raided the
offices of the MDC, arresting about 60 people, including women and
Government officials said Tsvangirai pulled out the
vote because he faced "humiliation and defeat" at the hands of
President Mugabe, who he said would win "resoundingly". Officials said
that in any case Tsvangirai's withdrawal came too late to call off the
election, but at the United Nations, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
warned that going ahead in the current climate would only "produce a
result that cannot be credible," and urged its postponement.
spoke shortly before the 15-member UN Security Council unanimously
declared that the violence and restrictions on Zimbabwe's opposition
made a free and fair run-off election "impossible." The U.S. and
Britain meanwhile drafted a more critical statement that effectively
called for Tsvangirai to be declared president if violence continued to
render the run-off a sham, basing the legitimacy of the move on the
results of the first round of the presidential election.
won 47.9 per cent of the vote according to a May 2 recount, a strong
win but not enough to avoid a run-off. "Until there is a clearly free
and fair second round of the presidential election, the only legitimate
basis for a government of Zimbabwe is the outcome of the (March 29,
2008) election," the draft statement said. Intimidation by government
forces on a large scale warranted this outcome, according to British
Prime Minister Gordon Brown. "The current government - with no
parliamentary majority, having lost the first round of the presidential
elections and holding power only because of violence and intimidation -
is a regime that should not be recognized by anyone," he told
Across the Atlantic U.S. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice warned that "the Mugabe regime cannot be considered
legitimate in the absence of a run-off" and urged both the government
and its opposition to work together "on behalf of the people of
Zimbabwe." While Ban distanced himself from the strong statements out
of London and Washington, he spoke out against South African arguments
the matter was a strictly internal one. "What happens in Zimbabwe has
importance well beyond that country's borders," he said. "The region's
political and economic security are at stake, as is the very
institution of elections in Africa."
South Africa has long
tried to act as intermediary in the crisis but has been criticized as
being too lenient with Mugabe. Officials from Thabo Mbeki’s office said
they were "very encouraged that Mr Tsvangirai, himself, says he is not
closing the door completely on negotiations". But Tsvangirai doubts
anything can be done about the violence that since the first round has
made his party’s campaigning near-impossible. MDC members have been
repeatedly beaten and its supporters evicted from their homes.
himself has often been arrested and the MDC's secretary general, Tendai
Biti, was held and charged with treason before being released on the
eve of the run-off. Police regularly ban opposition rallies, and while
a high court allowed one on Sunday to go on in Harare it was crashed by
violent Mugabe supporters.
Mugabe, who has ruled since
independence in 1980 and became a hero fighting white rule in his
country, has repeatedly vowed never to turn over power to the
opposition, vowing to hold on to power until “God” tells him otherwise.
While Tsvangirai’s move may have brought attention to the plight of the
opposition, it may only have allowed the political survival of the
84-year-old veteran leader according to one analyst. “It (Tsvangirai's
withdrawal) means Robert Mugabe is the legitimate president of Zimbabwe
as far as the legal position is concerned," said Tom Cargill, of the
London-based Chatham House.
Yet with the U.N. saying a fair
vote was impossible and usually silent African neighbours saying the
situation in Zimbabwe can't go on like this forever, a rare
mobilization is taking place to isolate further the bad boy of Africa.
True to form however, Mugabe refused to bow to international pressure,
saying the world can "shout as loud as they like" but he would not
cancel the planned run-off election even though his opponent quit the
While South Africa's ruling party issued a toughly
worded statement calling on Mugabe's government to stop "riding
roughshod" over the opposition, the ANC also warned against
international intervention following a report that Britain has drawn up
contingency plans for deploying troops in Zimbabwe to resolve a
humanitarian crisis and to evacuate British nationals and their
dependents. But as Tsvangirai left the Dutch embassy, he called for a
"negotiated political settlement" stating that the run-off, which he
described as an "exercise in futility" would not provide a solution to
the crisis which has troubled his country.
In the mean time
U.S. presidential contender Barak Obama said Washington and regional
African leaders should join to spread word that President Mugabe's
Zimbabwean government "is illegitimate and lacks any credibility".
De palais en musée
encore c’était le palais du roi Gyanendra, aujourd’hui il s’agit d’un
musée. Quelques semaines à peine après la victoire des rebelles
maoïstes lors des premières élections au Népal depuis 1999, et quelques
jours après l’abdication du dernier roi himalayen suite à l’abolition
d'une monarchie vieille de 239 ans, le 28 mai, le drapeau quelque peu
médiéval du pays a été hissé au-dessus du prestigieux bâtiment de
Katmandou, devenu le symbole d’une nouvelle ère républicaine.
métamorphose du palais Narayanhiti avait en quelque sorte de quoi
rappeler l’évolution d’un autre palais, celui du dalai lama à Lhassa,
également devenu musée après la fuite de son pensionnaire en Inde, en
1959, après la répression chinoise d’une révolte; mais la comparaison
s’arrête là. Tout comme la fin de la monarchie, la conversion de
l’immeuble s’est faite, un peu à la surprise de tout le monde, sans
effusion de sang, alors que Gyanendra a paisiblement accepté de se
retirer, le 11 juin, à la résidence d’été que constituait jadis le plus
modeste palais Nagarjuna, à quelques kilomètres de la capitale.
qui mettait fin au bref règne de Gyanendra, devenu monarque après un
massacre au palais en juin 2001, dont ne s’est jamais remise la
royauté, et dont les traces pourraient devenir visibles aux yeux de
milliers de touristes attendus, eux qui étaient pourtant chassés des
lieux dans le passé. Pendant plus d’un règne ce palais entouré de
longues murailles n’était en effet ouvert au public qu’une fois l’an,
au dixième jour d’un festival marquant la fin de la mousson, en
septembre, afin de célébrer la victoire contre les démons.
siècle après être devenu le siège de la dynastie qui a unifié le Népal
en 1768, le palais était ouvert au public lors d’une cérémonie
regroupant des diplomates et des représentants de la société civile,
dont le premier ministre Girija Prasad Koirala, que certains voyaient
bien devenir le premier président de la nouvelle république - une
suggestion cependant rejetée par les maoïstes qui dominent la nouvelle
assemblée constituante et obtinrent sa démission quelques jours plus
Sans roi ni président, le pays, l'un des plus pauvres au
monde, se lance donc dans une nouvelle ère politique avec un geste on
ne peut plus symbolique, les principales attractions du musée étant
constituées d’objets délaissés par le monarque sortant lors de son exil
historique, dont sa couronne, son sceptre, sertis de diamants de rubis
et d’émeraudes, son trône et ses dorures.
exhibés font plutôt l’objet de curiosité, comme une Mercedes, modèle
1939, offerte au grand-père de Gyanendra par Adolf Hitler, qui avait
été hissée par une armée de manœuvres à Katmandou à une époque où les
routes étaient peu répandues à travers la topographie himalayenne. Plus
récemment, la Benz servait d’outil de formation aux mécanos d’un
collège technique de la capitale.
Se retirant dans la campagne
avec son costard en alpaga, Gyanendra, petit-fils, celui en qui
plusieurs voyaient la réincarnation du roi Vishnou, est désormais
évincé d’un pouvoir qui a l’intention de mener une petite « révolution
bourgeoise démocratique » cherchant à mettre fin au féodalisme népalais
et au système de castes ancré au sein de la société. «La république a
été établie, déclarait Koirala le jour de l’inauguration du musée. Le
roi a facilité le transfert en saisissant le désir et les attentes de
la population en quittant de manière volontaire vers l’exil. Il s’agit
d’un événement historique. »
Il ne faudra pas s’en faire pour
l'ancien monarque sexagénaire pour autant. Dans un pays où sévit la
pauvreté l’ancien homme d’affaires reste un des Népalais les plus
riches qui puisse vivre à l’ombre des pics.
Boston, ville de champions
Faut-il se rappeler l’excitation,
un peu débordante, des partisans du Canadien quand le CH a éliminé les Bruins
de Boston en première ronde des séries cette année ? Mais alors que les
rêves des partisans Montréalais s’évaporaient en seconde ronde, c’est la ville
américaine qui est aux anges après avoir remporté son dernier trophée de
Alors que la dernière coupe Stanley des Bruins remonte à
1972, les autres clubs de la ville n’ont eu aucune misère à s’illustrer ces
dernières années. L’automne dernier, les Red Sox remportaient leur deuxième
série mondiale en trois ans, en éliminant les Rockies en 4 matches.
et 2005 les Patriots, eux qui n’avaient connu que des échecs lors de la grande
finale dans le passé, récoltaient trois trophées Lombardi. Il y a de quoi
penser que les succès bostonais viennent à la paire en général, les Bruins
ayant également gagné en 1970.
Du moins c’est ce qu’espèrent les derniers
champions de la ville du Massachusetts, les Celtics, qui n’avaient pas remporté
de titre depuis Larry Bird, en 1986, dans une finale qui avait toute une saveur
des années 80: contre les Lakers.
Les hommes en vert l’ont emporté 4 rencontres
à 2 mardi et battant facilement Los Angeles à domicile, devant une foule en liesse, 131-92, sous la gouverne de Kevin
Garnett et de ses 26 points.
Allen a accumulé autant de points et Paul Pierce, le troisième membre
de ce qui devient un illustre trio, a ajouté 17 des siens vers le 17ème
titre des Celtics. Neuf de ces championnats ont d'ailleurs été le
résultat de finales disputées contre les Lakers, la rivalité ayant
répété le duel ultime non moins de 11 fois à travers les années.
moins que l'on puisse dire après cette défaite catastrophique, c'était
que les Lakers n'étaient pas en mesure de devenir le premier club de
basketball de remporter le championnat après avoir connu un déficit de
3-1 dans la série finale.
L'après-saison n'avait pourtant
pas été à l'image de ce match ultime, puisque Boston avait disputé au
moins six, parfois sept rencontres, avant d'éliminer ses adversaires
pendant les séries, en commençant par Atlanta (7), Cleveland (6) puis
Après cette victoire record (un écart de 39
points sans précédent) il faut se rappeler que Boston n'était pas
favori afin de remporter la série.
Feeling the pain at the pump
world oil prices soaring above $138 US, just how bad are fuel prices as
the summer driving season heats up ? At least one Quebec company is
bringing home the production of some of its pool parts from China
because of increasingly high shipping charges. That high.
European farmers, truckers and fishermen meanwhile have been staging
loud disruptive protests, begging the European parliament to lower gas
taxes. Some of their Canadian counterparts have been feeling their pain
at the diesel pump and frustration about fuel costs among fishermen
facing lower revenues is leading to active protest by some accounts.
spokesman for lobster fishermen who used their boats last month to
block the entrance to a Cape Breton harbour to get access to the
lucrative snow crab fishery says diesel prices played a role in the
confrontation. “Of course that had lots to do with it — guys, their
profits are going out the window,” said Lawrence MacLellan who added
his own fuel costs have risen from $3,500 to $4,500 this year.
were hardly better on the farm despite highgrain prices. “Rising farm
input costs on fuel are off the charts,” said Canadian Federation of
Agriculture president Bob Friesen, noting fuel and fertilizer represent
anywhere from 40 to 50 per cent of input costs. The costs mean that
despite high food prices farmers are far from making windfall profits
this year and worry about possible grain price drops.
road truckers were also suffering. David Bradley, CEO of the Canadian
Trucking Alliance said the price of fuel has “put real strain on the
industry,” causing some businesses to fold as truckers struggle to make
ends meet. “Fuel has become the number one cost so it’s had an enormous
impact on the cost structures of our business,” he said.
the latest GM plant shutdowns have dealt Ontario’s economy the latest
in a series of manufacturing sector blows, one think tank was backing
the finance minister’s assertion Canada would not be heading for a
recession. While this may be so, there will be no economic growth
either in Canada in the first half of this year according to the
forecast by Global Insight.
The rise in oil prices is
transforming the economic map of Canada in a sense. Manufacturing and
job losses in Ontario may turn the province traditionally known as the
engine of the country into a “have-not” province by some accounts. On
the flip side Newfoundland’s oil revenues are putting the Atlantic
province, which has been a “have-not” province since it joined
confederation, into the black for the first time. Overall growth this
year in Canada will slow to 1.1 per cent, the weakest expansion since
the early 1990s recession, and down from the 1.4 projected just a month
and 2.7 per cent last year.
Among the least welcome forecasts
in Canada, as driving season revs up, is the belief by some crude oil
is destined to reach $150 US a barrel this summer. While most
Canadians, some of whom are paying as much a $1.50 a litre at the pump,
are rethinking travel plans as a result, things couldn’t be more rosy
in the oil-rich West, where oil industry workers toasted the new highs.
Politicians and analysts however blamed much of the surge on
speculators rather than market forces.
``I've been doing this
for 35 years and we've never had a movement like this in the oil price
that was not justifiable by something fundamental - like a major supply
disruption,'' noted Peter Linder, the manager of Delta One Energy Fund.
Oil's latest run started last week with the announcement of likely
interest rate increases in Europe, indicating a weakening of the U.S.
dollar, in turn driving investors toward the commodities.
the worrisome international situation, the world's leading economies
and oil consumers pledged greater investment in energy efficiency and
green technologies Sunday to control their spiralling thirst for
petroleum. In a joint statement, energy ministers from the G8, joined
by China, India and South Korea, also urged oil producers to boost
output, which has stalled at about 85 million barrels a day since 2005,
and called for co-operation between buyers and producers. Meanwhile
wealthy nations pondered reining in consumption.
Obama's historic nomination
the second African-American in history to mount a nationwide campaign
for the U.S. presidency, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, it meant a country
once torn by slavery could once again feel good about itself, having
witnessed white supporters in droves applaud a black presidential
candidate in the once segregationist state of Alabama. For America’s
first black Secretary of State, it meant showing the country’s
greatness across the world, something indeed deemed necessary by many.
For a number of world leaders, it meant the promise of American
politics, in particularly foreign policy, done differently. Something
that brought into agreement both friends - who heard a candidate’s call
for an exit strategy in Iraq and focus on al-Qaida and Afghanistan -
and foe, such as Iran’s president.
We’re not there yet. If
anything polls are warning about another close election with Barack
Obama leading by a few points. But no matter how bitterly fought the
campaign for the Democratic nomination there was no denying the
historic significance of the last 17 months in American politics, even
if it came with a sweeping inevitability that made the evening’s
results a side-show. In the end it didn't quite matter who won the
Democratic primaries in South Dakota and Montana, the distribution of
delegates guaranteed that Barack Obama would win enough of them (at
least 2,118) to secure a historic nomination for his party.
before the polls closed in the first of the two final primaries,
rumours were swirling that Clinton was on the verge of conceding defeat
and even considered the vice-presidency. Clinton eventually won South
Dakota, scoring her latest in a series of victories, but by then it was
too late. Days later Clinton formally endorsed Obama as the Democratic
presidential nominee, urging her supporters to embrace the Illinois
senator as he prepares for a bruising general election campaign against
Republican John McCain.
“I endorse him and throw my full
support behind him,” she told her cheering supporters. “And I ask all
of you to work as hard for Barack Obama as you have for me.” Clinton’s
acknowledgement of defeat ended her campaign to become the first female
president in American history. Obama in turn paid tribute to Clinton
for her "valiant campaign" to become the party nominee for US
president. He said his former rival had "shattered barriers on behalf
of my daughters and women everywhere".
On primary night
Clinton said she would take a few days to go over her increasingly
disappearing options with party leaders, boasting she had won the most
popular votes of all primary candidates. But she insisted she was also
"committed to uniting the party." The following morning her campaign
said she would express support for Obama's White House bid.
then Obama, who eventually won Montana, had all but claimed victory,
making a point of appearing at an event in St. Paul, in the state that
would hold this summer's republican convention. "Tonight after 54
hard-fought contests our primary season has come to an end," he said
after thanking everyone from members of his family to supporters and
his staff. "I can stand before you and say that I will be the
Democratic nominee for President of the United States." He
congratulated Clinton on her run, in the hopes to mend a party unity
worn by months of at times scathing vitrol traded with the former first
lady. "We certainly had our differences," he said but praised Clinton's
unyielding drive to serve Americans, especially in the health care
field. "I am a better candidate for having had the honour to compete
with Hillary Clinton."
He refused the notion the campaign has
left the party more divided and cited record participation rates in the
primary process. While an Obama-Clinton ticket would be considered a
“dream ticket” by Democrats after such a close nomination contest,
there is concern the primary process has driven a wedge within the
party. In the days following his triumph Obama briefly talked to his
former opponent, and later set up a committee to look into a running
mate. After all that it was indeed time to launch the actual campaign
for the presidency.
McCain had not waited for the nomination
to become official to take on his Democratic rival. In a speech given
in Louisiana moments before the South Dakota results came in, McCain
targeted Obama on everything from healthcare to foreign policy. McCain
stressed that he often ”strongly disagreed” with the current
administration about the conduct of the war in Iraq but noted that the
current strategy was succeeding and that “all of this progress would be
lost is Obama had his way” and withdrew soldiers immediately. "The
course Sen. Obama advocates would draw us into a wider war with greater
sacrifice that would put America is harm's way," he said. McCain
questioned Obama’s judgment further by noting the senator from Illinois
was “ready to talk in person without condition with tyrants.”
differences with him are not personal but are with the policies of his
campaign," Obama said of McCain later that night. "What's not an option
is to leave troops in that country for the next 100 years," he said,
adding the U.S. military was overstretched. "Start leaving we must."
"It's time to refocus our efforts on Al-Qaida and Afghanistan," he
said, on the day Canada lost an 84th soldier in that war. It would lose
another over the following weekend. "So I'll say this - there are many
words to describe John McCain's attempt to pass off his embrace of
George Bush's policies as bipartisan and new. But change is not one of
After a long drawn-out campaign last week marked an
important step for Obama toward his once-improbable goal of becoming
America's first black president. Obama's victory set up a five-month
campaign with McCain, a race between a 46-year-old opponent of the Iraq
War and a 71-year-old former Vietnam POW and staunch supporter of the
current U.S. military mission. But as the campaign progresses and the
U.S. economy slows, concern may be less about the wars overseas than
financial concerns on the home front.
The campaign put on hold
the dreams of the former first lady and one-time Democratic
front-runner. But Clinton realized early in the nomination process,
after the Iowa caucuses, that Obama would be more than just a
formidable opponent. Choosing to run her campaign on experience as
someone who could take charge of the White House from day one, against
a junior senator choosing to be the voice for change, Clinton staged
occasional comebacks but gradually lost the delegate count amid a
cash-depleted campaign she sometimes funded herself. She eventually
lost the support of superdelegates free to choose the person they
Clinton did make her mark as the strongest female
presidential candidate in U.S. history, drawing large, enthusiastic
audiences in a Democratic primary process which overall drew record
turnouts, some 34 million people voting in all. As Obamania took over
the U.S. however, the sizes of his crowds spoke for themselves, some
75,000 people tuning in for an outdoor speech in Portland. Obama
emerged from Super Tuesday with a lead in delegates that he never
relinquished, and he proceeded to run off a string of 11 straight
victories. Now the battle for the real prize begins.
Faux départ pour la Macédoine
tenue d’élections en Macédoine au début du mois a rappelé cet autre
foyer de turbulence sur l’ancien territoire yougoslave, lorsque des
violences ont fait un mort, une dizaine de blessés et 28 personnes ont
été arrêtées. C’était plutôt mal partir la candidature du minuscule
état de 2 millions d’habitants qui espère rejoindre les rangs de l’Otan
et de l’Union européenne, dont les représentants étaient déçus des
débordements lors de ce scrutin où les résultats laissaient pourtant
peu de doute.
Le premier ministre sortant Nikola Gruevski a
été facilement reconduit, son parti conservateur remportant une
majorité en doublant le score de son plus proche rival avec 48 percent
des voix. Gruevski a été parmi les premiers à reconnaitre le besoin de
réparer l’image du pays le lendemain du vote, promettant de réorganiser
un scrutin dans les bureaux de vote où l’élection avait été troublée.
lendemain du scrutin, l'Organisation pour la sécurité et la coopération
en Europe a estimé que "les normes internationales n'ont pas été
respectées lors des élections", voyant là "des tentatives organisées
afin de perturber violemment le processus électoral dans les zones
albanaises" du pays, selon le rapport officiel présenté dans la
En 2001 des rebelles albanais lançaient une
insurrection pour faire reconnaitre leurs droits dans ce pays où leur
ethnie représente 25% de la population. Le mouvement, s’opérant à
partir des montagnes limitrophes du Kosovo et inspiré de l’UCK a
éventuellement mené à l’adoption d’amendements constitutionnels faisant
de l’Albanais la seconde langue officielle, augmentant la proportion
d’Albanais dans la fonction publique et précisant les droits des
minorités; mais celles-ci ont vite fait de reprendre la lutte entre
elles, des escarmouches se succédant depuis entre les partisans des
deux partis albanais principaux.
Les incidents plus récents
ont eu lieu dans des zones peuplées majoritairement par des Albanais,
le plus grave dans le village d'Aracinovo, à 10 km au nord de Skopje,
où une patrouille de la police macédonienne a essuyé des tirs qui ont
fait un mort et deux blessés. Les tiraillements que connait le pays
s’étendent à l’extérieur des frontières territoriales, le voisin du sud
représentant la source traditionnelle de blocage.
estime que le nom de Macédoine appartient à son patrimoine historique,
il s’agit de celui de la province grecque avoisinnante, et pourrait,
après avoir bloqué l'adhésion à l'Otan à l’aide de son véto, barrer le
chemin de l'ex-république yougoslave vers l'UE. Aussi l’alliance
Atlantique attend-elle le règlement de cette crise afin de donner son
feu vert. Le secrétaire général Jaap de Hoop Scheffer a déclaré que le
pays serait le bienvenu lorsqu'il aura réglé la question de son nom
officiel avec la Grèce.
D’autre part l’alliance a exprimé sa
préoccupation sur le dossier des élections: "Les pays travaillant pour
devenir membre de l'Otan doivent faire tous leurs efforts pour se
conformer aux normes démocratiques de l'Alliance", a indiqué M. de
Hoop Scheffer dans un communiqué. Gruevski avait d’ailleurs convoqué
ces législatives anticipées après l'échec de la candidature de la
Macédoine, lié au véto grec.
Même préoccupation du chef de la
délégation de l'Assemblée parlementaire du Conseil de l'Europe, qui a
mis en cause des "actions irresponsables, violentes et destructrices de
militants des deux principaux partis albanais" de Macédoine. "L'UE
reste très favorable à la perspective européenne du pays, a déclaré
pour sa part le commissaire européen à l'Elargissement, Olli Rehn dans
un communiqué. Je souligne que la tenue d'élections libres et justes
est une partie essentielle du critère politique du processus
L’annonce selon laquelle Gruevski acceptait la
suggestion du diplomate en chef de l'UE, Javier Solana, de réorganiser
le scrutin là où les incidents ont eu lieu a été bien accueillie. La
Macédoine va "montrer qu'elle peut organiser des élections libres,
démocratiques et honnêtes dans tous ses bureaux de vote et qu'elle
mérite de poursuivre sa voie" vers l'intégration aux institutions
euro-atlantiques, a déclaré Gruevski.
La porte semble donc
encore entre-ouverte, malgré les chocs, aux négociations d'adhésion à
l'UE, la Commission européenne devant, d'ici la fin de l'année,
recommander ou non l'ouverture des discussions. Entre temps Grèce et
Macédoine se sont engagés à reprendre les discussions sur le nom. Les
Grecs sont plutôt sensibles sur la question des noms. Séparément la
justice grecque a commencé à examiner si l'usage du qualificatif
"lesbienne" pouvait être interdit aux homosexuelles, à la demande
d'habitants de l'île de Lesbos.
Back to the days of shame
wave of xenophobic attacks across South Africa’s townships have plunged
the continent’s most modern country back into its dark past as mobs
beat foreigners and set some ablaze in scenes reminiscent of the worst
apartheid-era violence. A testimony to the country’s failure to handle
immigration and deal with a number of social ills making it among the
world’s most violent nations, the incidents have also spoken volumes
about the chaos in nearby Zimbabwe, a country many of the foreigners
fled, as it geared up for the second round of its controversial
Politicians appealed for an end to the violence in
the country that is preparing to host the World Cup of soccer in two
year’s time. “Citizens from other countries on the African continent
and beyond are as human as we are and deserve to be treated with
respect and dignity,” said president Thabo Mbeki, whose African
National Congress had based itself in neighboring states during its war
against the apartheid regime. South Africa, he added, was not “an
island separate from the rest of the continent.”
was loudly echoed by township resident, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and
apartheid struggle icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu who pleaded: “Please
stop. Please stop the violence now,” in an impassioned statement. “This
is not how we behave. These are our sisters and brothers. Please,
please stop.” Tutu, who once intervened in the apartheid years to
prevent a mob from necklacing a man, was distraught the practice was
now being used against poor immigrants fleeing violence from other
countries. He noted that when South Africans were fighting against
apartheid they had been supported by people from around the world, and
particularly in Africa, where the immigrants now being targeted were
Tutu stressed that although those countries were
poor, their populations had welcomed South Africans as refugees, and
allowed liberation movements to have bases in their territory, even if
it meant they could face reprisal by the then South African Defence
Force. “We can’t repay them by killing their children. We can’t
disgrace our struggle by these acts of violence,” he said. “It is as if
we were back in the days of the necklace."
who once cracked down on anti-apartheid groups in these same townships,
now stepped up efforts and called for reinforcements to prevent more
violence, arresting more than 240 people after some ten days of
violence which claimed over 40 lives. Some have criticized the ANC’s
failure, after 14 years of rule, to deal with both illegal immigration,
estimated around 5 million, and deep social inequalities inherited from
the apartheid era, such as mass unemployment, poor sanitation and
limited services in many townships. Many victims say their attackers
accuse them of taking jobs away from South Africans, in a country where
the national unemployment rate is estimated at around 40%, and is much
higher in many townships.
South Africa has a history of
troubles in its townships, against immigrants or not, the country being
ranked as one of the world’s most violent nations in terms of crime,
with 52 people murdered every day for an annual murder rate of 43.1 per
100,000 people. There are also half a million cases of assault and
attempted murder annually. Further inflaming the situation is the
world-wide crisis of rocketing food and fuel prices, leaving Africa’s
poorest foreigners at the mercy of township lynch mobs seeking
scapegoats. Foreign-owned businesses and shacks were looted and
destroyed before the violence spread further, as South Africans from
smaller ethnic groups, such as Vendas and Shangaans, also became
“Days of Our Shame” read one editorial in South
Africa’s Mail & Guardian, the paper faulting Mbeki for his failure
to better the lot of many of his people and for his soft diplomacy
toward Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. “It is clear the African renaissance
remains a pipedream when South Africans kill and rape their African
brothers and sisters purely for not being South Africans. It again
underlines the fact that Mbeki left his society behind as he traversed
the continent signing peace deals. He failed to sell his pan-Africanism
to his own people,” the paper wrote. “His head-in-the-sand attitude
towards Zimbabwe’s problems has served only to deflect those problems
on to the poor. As, daily, thousands of Zimbabweans sneak through our
porous borders, we can’t help but remember Mbeki’s mantra on Zimbabwe:
‘Crisis, what crisis?’”
A Times editorial, entitled "Mbeki’s
Shame," also criticized the president for his refusal to take a tougher
line against Mugabe. “By failing to condemn Robert Mugabe’s murderous
dictatorship, Mr Mbeki has done more than any outsider to keep him in
power. He has also perpetuated the flood of Zimbabwean refugees who now
comprise of three-fifths of South Africa’s foreigners... For Mbeki to
announce the creation of a panel to study the causes of the
lawlessness, as he has, is fiddling while Rome burns.”
week as the army was asked to intervene in the township violence which
sent thousands of foreigners either fleeing or seeking refuge around
police stations, a leading think tank warned there were dangers of a
coup in neighbouring Zimbabwe by military hardliners wanting to prevent
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai from toppling Mugabe. Tsvangirai’s
Movement for Democratic Change said its leader scrapped plans to return
to Zimbabwe recently because it had received details of an alleged
“It is the military (plotting), the JOC
(Joint Operational Command) that has been running the country” since
the March 29 election, said party Secretary-General Tendai Biti. The
MDC won that election but it took weeks, amid mounting post-voting
violence, before the country’s electoral commission finally ordered a
second poll for the presidential ballot. Official results and observers
said the MDC had won but not by enough votes to avoid a run-off.
International Crisis Group called for African mediation leading to a
national unity government led by Tsvangirai as the best way to resolve
a crisis, adding continued rule by Mugabe would be “catastrophic” for a
nation already suffering inflation of 165,000 percent and 80 percent
unemployment. The Group said military commanders opposed to Tsvangirai
had been instrumental in preventing a democratic transition. “There is
growing risk of a coup either before a run-off (in a pre-emptive move
to deny Tsvangirai victory) or after a Tsvangirai win,” the Group said.
The report added that African mediation must address the
loyalty of the security forces as a priority. Failure to do so “would
risk a Tsvangirai victory leading to a military coup or martial law and
the security services splitting along factional lines." Meanwhile
intimidation, torture and murder by Mugabe’s supporters since the March
poll “preclude the possibility of holding a credible run-off,” it
added. The report was also sharply critical of the South African leader
whom it said had “continued to shield Mugabe.” It said Mbeki’s
reluctance to criticize the Zimbabwean leader or condemn the
post-election violence had badly undermined his credibility.
also condemned Mbeki's failure to confront Mugabe, using the strongest
terms yet used by his party. “What’s concerning us is this lack of
statesmanship, of leadership by African leaders,” he said. “I think
that the paralysis of leadership and perspective lies (with) certain
officers indebted to Robert Mugabe.” The MDC has asked the Southern
African Development Organization to replace Mbeki as its chief
negotiator in the Zimbabwe crisis. International efforts to intervene
they say have been hampered by Mbeki and South Africa’s current
chairmanship of the U.N. Security Council.
crisis is exposing every leader on the African continent, embarrassing
us as Africans because we are not able to resolve our own problems,”
Biti said, who added that fears of a coup were not unfounded, calling
next month’s runoff “merely extending and exacerbating the crisis”
legitimizing “Mugabe’s constitutional coup.”
Une Serbie toujours partagée
Nouveau départ » ou pareil au même en Serbie ? Le succès électoral du
Parti Démocrate du président Boris Tadic avait certes quelquechose de
prometteur, encourageant la population à participer au projet de
“Serbie européenne”. Mais sans doute la dernière déchirure, celle du
Kosovo, avait-elle le plus blessé et était-elle encore trop saillante
pour qu’on ne parle déjà plus des fantômes du passé. Un d’entre eux a
d’ailleurs refait surface alors que deux partis anti-occidentaux
tentaient de former une coalition qui mettrait de toute évidence les
projets européens au placart.
Ce n’est pas ce qui devait se
produire si l’on revient sur les éloges internationales des élections
du 11 mai, qui selon l’éditorialiste kosovare Blerim Shala « révèlent
une société serbe tournée vers l’avenir, vers l’intégration européenne,
et guère mobilisée par le thème du Kosovo ». C’était peut-être vite
parlé alors que le parti radical d’extrême droite, les nationalistes
dont le premier ministre Vojislav Kostunica ainsi que le parti
socialiste du défunt Slobodan Milosevic se rapprochaient d’une entente.
Poursuivant une tradition qui se veut un rejet du camp européen, des
représentants serbes se rendaient à Moscou, où l’on a refusé de
reconnaitre l’indépendance du Kosovo, afin de discuter d’avenir et
d’obtenir l’aval de la famille du despote.
Le quotidien Blic
rapportait que les socialistes avaient posé comme condition à leur
participation à un futur cabinet l’amnistie pour Mirjana Markovic et
Marko, le fils de Slobodan Milosevic, tous deux accusés d’abus de
pouvoir et de blanchiment d’argent. On semble donc loin du «nouveau
départ » qui selon le quotidien serbe « est, sans conteste, le moteur
de ces dernières élections» suite au « choix pragmatique » des
électeurs, apparemment plus tentés par «la stabilité économique, les
investissements, les nouveaux emplois » qu’un programme qui « se
focalisait sur la défense des intérêts serbes au Kosovo, qui a
récemment déclaré son indépendance. Les électeurs n’ont pas vu l’offre
leur permettant d’améliorer leur qualité de vie. »
Même son de
cloche de Shala qui affirmait qu’ « il est clair que l’Accord de
stabilisation et d’association avec l’Union européenne, la perspective
d’intégration de la Serbie dans l’UE et les projets d’investissements
de Fiat à Kragujevac, ont eu plus de poids en Serbie que la vaine
guérilla politique et diplomatique contre l’indépendance du Kosovo. »
La bourse, elle qui comme bien du monde avait redouté une victoire
nationaliste, a plutôt bien réagi le lendemain d’élection, enregistrant
des gains de presque 13%.
Pourtant comme l’organisation,
illégale, des élections dans la partie nord du Kosovo, notamment à
Mitrovica, l’a démontré, le Kosovo est loin d’être oublié, et les
divisions à son sujet font l’objet d’un rappel fréquent. En Bosnie à la
suite de la déclaration d’indépendance du Kosovo, les dirigeants du
parti au pouvoir en Republika Srpska, la partie serbe du pays, ont
préconisé de transformer la Bosnie en une fédération et revendiquent le
droit de l’entité, prétendument fondé sur la Charte de l'ONU, à une
autodétermination, par référendum, pouvant aller jusqu’à la sécession.
a vite rappelé que les entités de la Bosnie n’ont nullement le droit de
faire sécession mais cet incident, de même que les manifestations
d’extrémisme suscitées par l’indépendance du Kosovo, ont rappellé que «
l’Union européenne n’est pas seule sur scène et que le nationalisme
risque d’alimenter des déclarations incendiaires, susceptibles de faire
dérailler à long terme le processus d’intégration européenne ».
part l’UE a dû reconnaître qu’il est peu probable qu’elle puisse
prendre la relève de la police de l’Onu au Kosovo à la date prévue,
soit le 15 juin, et le refus de Moscou de reconnaitre le dernier-né du
continent y est pour quelquechose. Le gouvernement albanophone de
l’ancienne province serbe souhaitait à l’origine que les 2200
policiers, magistrats et administrateurs civils de cette mission civile
européenne se déploient lorsque l’indépendan- ce de la province a été
proclamée, en février. Mais le refus de la Serbie et la Russie de la
reconnaître empêche l’ONU de déléguer officiellement le mandat de la
force à la mission européenne.
L’Europe n’a pas seulement des
difficultés avec la Serbie. Suite à des affrontements pré-électoraux
entre les partis albanais de Macédoine, culminant récemment avec la
mort d’un militant, la Commission de l’UE menace de retarder
l’ouverture des négociations d’adhésion si la situation ne s’améliore
pas. Mais même si Tadic refuse autant que l’opposition de reconnaitre
le Kosovo, il soutient pourtant que les jours de division avec
Bruxelles sont révolus: «Les citoyens ont voté pour une Serbie forte,
stable et pro-européenne, non pas pour un gouvernement isolation-
niste, disait-il, Kostunica veut punir la Serbie (en raison de ses
pauvre résultats électoraux). Je vais défendre la volonté électorale
des Serbes avec toutes les méthodes démocratiques à notre disposition.
A la source de cette nouvelle crise, l'impossibilité de
gouverner sans l'aide des autres: les radicaux ont enregistré 29% des
voix contre les 39% de la coalition de Tadic. “On pourrait encore une
fois se retrouver avec un gouvernement faible et instable, et à la
merci de la majorité naturelle du parlement... qui est nationaliste,”
estime un expert.
Morales' great gamble, of sorts
a former farmer, Bolivian president Evo Molares sure hasn’t been shy to
upset many of his former colleagues disappointed by agrarian reforms
pushed through by the leftist leader since he assumed office a little
over two years ago. Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous leader, has
more reforms in store, including amendments to the constitution which
have been stalled by conservative opposition members.
constitutional measures would enshrine reforms including land
redistribution to Bolivia’s indigenous majority and spread the wealth
with the poorer western regions, a move critics say gives the
government too much power. This would be in keeping with Morales’ first
socialist measures since taking the helm, including the nationalization
of energy companies, which upset the rightist governors of eastern,
energy-rich regions now pushing for autonomy.
On May 4 thousands
of flag-waving opposition supporters rushed to the streets to celebrate
the overwhelming approval of an unofficial referendum on regional
autonomy held in Santa Cruz Bolivia’s economic capital. While Morales
declared the referendum a “resounding failure” he was bracing himself
as three other areas in Bolivia’s more prosperous east prepared to hold
their own autonomy referendums, some say in an effort to force the
government to hold talks about the constitutional draft.
conditions no longer exist for the government to impose its
constitution and if it tried it wouldn’t last more than a few days,”
said Oscar Ortiz, an opposition leader who heads Bolivia’s senate.
Morales meanwhile is labelling the promoters of autonomy, or as he
calls it “political separatism” as oligarchs and exploiters of the
people that want to steal the country’ wealth and natural resources.
“Elitist landowners are seeking new ways to keep exploiting the people
and plundering the land that belongs to all,” he said.
effort to push through his reforms Morales has agreed to an August 10
showdown in the forms of a recall referendum on his presidency and nine
regional governorships which would require officials to get no less
support than the percentage which got them elected. If not they would
have to step down, and in Morales’ case, call new elections, more than
two years before the end of his mandate.
Morales said he
looked forward to the challenge. “For the first time in Bolivian
history, the people will not only have the right to choose, but also to
decide if the authorities are failing to serve them,” he said, adding
he was confident of the win. In his case he would have to score 53.74%
or more, with a popularity level of about 54%.
president’s numbers have softened somewhat, his pro-Indian and leftist
reforms are popular in western Andean areas, where indigenous people
like him make up the majority of the population, marking a clear divide
in Bolivia with the European-descended landowners in the east. The
referendum is apparently the only thing Morales and his opponents have
agreed on for a long time and will for the third time in less than
three years force the country of 9 million back to the polls.
of the president have staged huge pro-government rallies in response to
the autonomy movement. But while the referendum pushes until next year
any vote on the constitution and amendments permitting Morales to end
current limits on presidential terms and force the breakup of huge
cattle ranches and soybean farms in the east, some analysts say it will
do nothing to settle matters.
“The referendum won’t provide an
exit from the crisis,” political analyst Juan Antonio de Chazal told
daily newspaper La Razon. “It’s more like a taking stock of forces to
see who has more legitimacy.”
Dealing with Burma's crisis
In these lean times at aid agencies, made difficult by a combination
of high food and oil prices, a major natural disaster is precisely what
they hoped to avoid. But just days after a major plea from the United
Nations to boost food aid to avoid “a silent tsunami” of hunger, and
reports by the Asia Develop- ment Bank that the food crisis could undo
years of development policies in Asia, one of the area's poorest
countries, and more reviled regimes, has been stricken by a devastating
cyclone suspected to have killed some 10,000 in one coastal city alone.
In all over 60,000 were either dead or missing and U.N. officials
expected the toll to rise.
Yet while aid agencies responded with their usual efficiency,
Burmese officials stand accused of hampering aid efforts. “More deaths
were caused by the tidal wave than the storm itself,” Minister for
Relief and Resettlement Maung Maung Swe told a news conference in
Rangoon, where food and water supplies were running low. “The wave was
up to 12 feet high and it swept away and inundated half the houses in
low-lying villages. They did not have anywhere to flee.” At least five
states in Myanmar and the main city of Rangoon have been declared
disaster areas by the country’s government.
On Friday the World Food Programme said it temporarily halted aid
shipments to Burma after two plane-loads of food were impounded on
arrival by the military authorities.This came at the end of a week the
country has been facing international condemnation for delaying
shipments of aid and the arrival of disaster specialists with red tape.
The disaster struck as the military junta in power, better known for
its brutal crackdown on protesting monks and democracy activists, was
about to hold a referendum on a new constitution which it deemed a firm
step toward multi-party democracy but which many international
observers recognize as achieving little except to ensure the military
will continue to be the ultimate power and authority in Burma. This
week Freedom House listed Myanmar among the most repressive regimes
along with Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Turkmenistan and
In the midst of the tragedy the junta said it would still carry on
with the referendum, postponing it only in the worst-hit areas of
Rangoon and the delta, after a campaign which silenced the opposition
and intimidated voters into voting “yes”. In recognition of this
situation, Canada announced it would be making $2 million in relief
fund available to agencies dealing with the disaster Monday, while at
the same time making Burmese Nobel Prize laureate and opposition member
Aung San Suu Kyi an honourary citizen.
Similarly U.S. president George W. Bush said his country would help
Burma but also wanted to see it hold free elections. The last time
Burmese voters were called to the polls was in 1990 when 85 per cent of
them voted for Suu Kyi, in an election later made invalid, sending its
winner to prison.
While the reclusive regime refused aid in the aftermath of the 2004
tsunami, it recognized this time that the devastation was too
overwhelming, and the UN’s World Food Programme said the government had
given aid agencies a “cautious green light” to start sending help. But
it didn’t make providing aid easy, a remider that the country’s
military is more comfortable cracking down on dissidents than
mobilizing for large-scale emergency operations.
In fact despite the magnitude of the disaster - the most devastating
cyclone to hit Asia since 1991, when 143,000 people died in Bangladesh
- France said the ruling generals were still placing too many
conditions on aid. “The United Nations is asking the Burmese government
to open its doors. The Burmese government replies: ‘Give us money,
we’ll distribute it.’ We can’t accept that,” French Foreign Minister
Bernard Kouchner told parliament. France has suggested invoking a U.N.
“responsibility to protect” clause, a concept recognized in 2005, and
delivering aid directly to Myanmar without waiting for approval from
the military in Yangon. In New York, Rashid Khalikov, U.N. humanitarian
affairs coordinator, appealed to Myanmar to waive visa requirements for
U.N. aid workers trying to get into the country.
As in the aftermath of the 2004 India Ocean tsunami which killed a
quarter of a million people across southeast Asia, some officials were
expressing hopes some good could come of the relief effort. “Out of
this horrific disaster, maybe there will be some good come . . . in
terms of getting in to Burma,” said NDP’s Ottawa-Centre MP, Paul Dewar.
He said the devastation could provide an opportunity for international
agencies and relief groups to “get in” and help a country that usually
would not allow entry to them.
That's just what the junta feared, delaying access to aid agencies
with red tape and frustrating concerned capitals around the world. By
some accounts the junta was concerned about letting foreigners into the
country before the country held its referendum. “Forget politics.
Forget the military dictatorship. Let’s just get aid and assistance
through to people who are suffering and dying as we speak, through a
lack of support on the ground,” said Australian Prime Minister Kevin
Prime Minister Stephen Harper had his own take on the delays: “I
don’t think we’re entirely surprised. We know the nature of the Burmese
military regime. This is a regime that hasn’t been known to take the
interests and rights of its people to heart. We know about their
abuses, not just of democracy but of human rights in Burma, but
nevertheless, the Burmese people are suffering."
The United States, which has imposed sanctions on the junta, said it
had provided $3 million in immediate assistance through aid agencies
and a disaster response team was on standby, but Washington said the
government hadn’t given it permission to enter the country. “Our
message is to the military rulers,” Bush said. “Let the United States
come and help you, help the people.”
In terms of mending relations through emergency support, the
aftermath of the tsunami aid efforts did help mend relations between
Jakarta and the stricken separatist region of Aceh, but did nothing if
not exacerbate the crisis between Tamil rebels and Sri Lanka’s
government. Burma’s neighbours, India and Thailand, often accused of
being too cosy with the regime for the sake of getting access to the
country’s rich oil and gas resources, were quick to respond with
assistance. Within days two Indian navy ships loaded with food, tents,
blankets, clothing and medicines sailed for Rangoon. Thailand flew in
nine tonnes of food and medicine, the first foreign aid shipment.
But it was becoming obvious as the first batch of $10 million worth
of aid arrived into the country, its distribution delayed by a lack of
equipment and bad roads, more would be needed for a long time to come.
Of all places the cyclone was most devastating in the Irrawaddy delta,
the nation’s rice bowl, reducing furthermore to poverty a country which
at independence was the rice bowl of the region. Rice futures rose in
response to the news that vast swaths of Myanmar’s rice-growing areas
had been wiped out.
Concerns mounted over the lack of food, water and shelter in the
delta region where some 1 million people were estimated to have become
homeless. There were concerns about possible spread of disease in a
country with one of the world’s worst health systems. “Our biggest fear
is that the aftermath could be more lethal than the storm itself,” said
Caryl Stern, who heads the U.N. Children’s Fund in the United States.
Lack of immediate post-storm assistance increased the likelihood of
diseases such as cholera and malaria.
Troisième essai pour Berlusconi
Sa troisième élection à titre de premier ministre, à 71 ans, fait de
lui presque un symbole de stabilité sur l’incertaine scène politique
italienne. Deux ans après avoir quitté ses fonctions faisant face à des
accusations de conflit d’intérêt, Silvio Berlusconi, “Il Cavaliere”
rentre dans Rome vainqueur à nouveau, et à la tête d’un gouvernement
presque à toute épreuve.
En effet les fortes majorités remportées par son parti, Peuple de la
liberté, dans les deux chambres parlementaires lors des législatives de
la mi-Avril, et sa précieuse alliance avec une Ligue du Nord xénophobe
et antieuropéenne, lui garantissent quelques mois de stabilité,
notamment après la déconfiture de la gauche.
Rien ne symbolise mieux ceci que la prise de la “Ville éternelle”
par un parti de droite, du jamais vu depuis la chute du Duce. A
l’inverse, le parti communiste italien, jadis un des plus puissants
d’Europe, a totalement été évincé du parlement, une première depuis
1946. Cette disparition n’a pas été la seule car le nouveau parlement a
moins l’apparence d’une mosaique que ceux du passé, comptant 5 partis
contre 14 à la chambre et 12 au sénat dans la précédente législature.
Des observateurs dressent par ailleurs un certain parallèle entre
l’élection de Sarkozy en France et la ré-élection de Berlusconi en
Italie, lui qui sera officiellement investi des fonctions de président
du Conseil pour la troisième fois depuis 1994. “Nous avons les moyens
de faire du bon travail. Rome va pouvoir à nouveau jouer son rôle de
capitale, une capitale plus propre et plus sûre”, a lancé Berlusconi,
qui s’est déclaré “l’homme le plus heureux d’Italie” alors que les
représentants des Chambres des députés et du sénat se réunissaient pour
la première fois depuis les élections.
Du coup Berlusconi rappelait un des thèmes principaux de la
campagne, celui de s’attaquer à la criminalité. La contre-performance
de l’économie et la déception du gouvernement Prodi expliquent en
partie le retour du Cavaliere, tout comme l’important contrôle que
Berlusconi exerce sur le paysage médiatique et télévisuel italien,
ironiquement ce qui avait été à l’origine de plusieurs procès et de sa
chute en 2006. Deux ans plus tard, Berlusconi est plus que jamais le
grand magnat de la presse italienne, contrôlant, en comptant
l’influence qu’il va sans doute exercer d’une manière et d’une autre
sur les chaines publiques maintenant qu’il est élu, 90 pourcent de la
Mais c’est sans doute en partie cette image d’éternel et puissant
homme d’affaires qui a à nouveau séduit l’électorat italien, estime
l’Economist, comme si le peuple pouvait par osmose absorber un peu de
sa richesse et le faisant élire. Pourtant le déclin italien face aux
autres économies européennes ne date pas d’hier et englobe les deux
mandats précédents de Berlusconi. Le Front Monétaire International
projette que l’économie italienne ne va croitre que de 0.3 pourcent
l’an prochain, de loin le taux le plus bas de l’Union et du G8. Le PNB
par population va d’ailleurs glisser sous la moyenne de l’UE au courant
de l’année 2008, et sous celle de la Grèce en 2009, lui qui avait déjà
été rattrapé par l’Espagne en 2006.
Et cette économie sur-régularisée et fortement syndiquée n’est pas
prête de voir la lumière au bout du tunnel. Il n’y a qu’à voir la
réaction de Berlusconi sur le dossier Alitalia, qu’il a menacé de
nationaliser si l’Union européenne n’autorise pas le gouvernement
italien à lui octroyer un prêt d’urgence pour éviter la faillite de
cette compagnie aérienne en grande difficulté. “S’ils continuent à nous
embêter, nous pourrions prendre une décision par laquelle Alitalia
serait rachetée par l’Etat, a-t-il déclaré, annonçant un nouveau règne
d’insolence. C’est une menace. Pas une décision”. L’UE doit déterminer
si le prêt de 300 millions d’euros ne viole pas la législation commu-
nautaire sur les subventions publiques.
Evidemment Berlusconi n’a pas toujours suivi les règles de la
maison. Mais d’un autre côté ses majorités pourraient faciliter
l’adoption d’importantes et difficiles réformes. Voilà peut-être le
sens de ses mots quand il a annoncé que son nouveau cabinet connaitrait
« des années difficiles » tout en promettant un gouvernement moins
turbulent et plus responsable que ceux du passé. Lors de la campagne
Berlusconi a affirmé que des baisses d’impôt et l’augmentation des
investissements dans les infrastructures pourraient redonner de la
vigueur au pays. Reste à voir s’il tient véritablement à concrétiser de
Turkmenistan seeks to enter the 21st century
As personality cults go, few rivaled with that of former Turkmen
president Saparmurat Niyazov. Up until his death in December of 2006,
Niyazov used the country's oil and gas wealth - which made it the
country with the second largest gas reserves in the former Soviet Union
- to build golden statues of himself around the country and other
eccentricities such as a theme park based on Turkmen folk tales.
He made his book, a "spiritual guide" called the Rukhnama,
compulsory reading for students and workers and renamed months of the
year after historical figures and members of his family. In his
calendar, Saturday was Rukhnama Day and April was named after his
mother. January was named after his own honorific: Turkmenbashi, or
Father of the Turkmen.
Niyazov’s reign as one of the world’s most repressive dictators was
unscathed by the crumbling of the Berlin Wall, carrying from 1985 until
2006, and seemed to survive him, until news in April that his
successor, Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov will be abolishing the names of
days and months among a series of reforms he said were necessary to
bring the country into the 21st century.
“The fast changing economic and political conditions in the world
and the ongoing reforms in the country demand improvement in the
activity of state legal institutions, quick adoption of new laws and
their prompt introduction in life,” said Berdymukhamedov. “Some
articles and rules of the constitution are outdated, lagging behind
times, even hindering the progress.”
Berdymukhamedov said that "profound politico-juridical change" is
coming. “The world is moving forward and any state that cannot keep
pace with the global developments will inevitably be left behind,” he
added. “We cannot allow this to happen to our country.” But with a
minimum wage of about $40-$60 per month, the average Turkmen may have
felt left behind by the country’s at times lucrative energy policies.
This week Turkmenistan and Afghanistan signed agreements on energy
after agreeing with Pakistan and India to push forward a
multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline that would start being built in 2010.
The only problem is that it would cross through into Afghanistan's
western province of Herat and the southern province of Kandahar - one
of the most Taliban-troubled regions – before entering Pakistan. As yet
another sign of possible change to longstanding policies in
Turkmenistan, its proud policy of neutrality, Berdymukhamedov said he
was seeking a U.N. convention on international pipeline security to
protect the link that could power the1.3 billion people of the
The change of policy is worth a shot as the country's energy
industry, once jealously guarded by Niyazov - who treated the country’s
oil and gas industry as his personal fiefdom, feeding speculation he
stashed away an estimated $3 billion overseas - is looking forward to
foreign investment in the oil and gas sector of $2.5 billion this year.
The government estimates its onshore hydrocarbon reserves to be 21
billion tons of oil and 25 trillion cubic meters of natural gas while
Caspian offshore reserves are estimated to be 12 billion tons of oil
and 5 trillion cubic meters of gas.
But the troubles at home will need soul-searching as well as money.
“The need has ripened for development of essentially new approaches to
domestic policy and decision of socio-economic problems, including the
determination of precise legal instruments and perfection of activity
of the supreme bodies of authority in Turkmenistan,” Berdymukhamedov
said. So the president asked a number of ministries and the country’s
supreme court as well as other bodies to create working groups to
propose constitutional reforms that will then be sent to parliament for
In September a special session of the legislature will be convened
to adopt amendments. While their nature and that of other reforms will
vary, Berdymukhamedov is sure about one thing. "Names of months and
days have to comply with international standards."
Election serbe sur fond d'indépendance au Kosovo
Du déjà vu, en perspective, ce vote présidentiel serbe, qui qualifie
l’ultranationaliste Tomislav Nikolic et l’actuel président pro-européen
Boris Tadic pour le second tour. Mais à l’aube, selon certains, de la
proclamation de l’indépendance du Kosovo qui mettrait fin à ce qui
pouvait être défini à titre de « Grande Serbie », l’heure est à la
fierté nationaliste à Belgrade, où tout candidat espérant un avenir en
politique doit se prononcer contre la séparation de cette province à
Des deux finalistes, Nikolic, le patron par intérim du Parti radical
serbe (SRS), la première formation du Parlement, est nettement le plus
ferme sur la question, rejetant toute indépendance du Kosovo, un fait
accompli pour plusieurs capitales internationales, et prônant une
alliance avec la Russie se voulant, comme en Ukraine, le rejet de
Alors que plusieurs politiciens, dont le premier ministre Vojislav
Kostunica, exigent que Tadic défende «le chœur de la civilisation et de
la culture serbes » au prix de décevoir les capitales européennes,
censées dépêcher au Kosovo des observateurs internationaux pour
accompagner le processus de l’indépendance, ce dernier continue de
livrer un message mixte qui refuse de trancher catégoriquement entre le
Kosovo et Bruxelles. Pour le candidat réformiste, tenter de réconcilier
l’irréconciliable constitue un défi de taille.
La campagne serbe a lieu alors que le premier ministre du Kosovo,
Hashim Thaci, estime qu’une proclamation d’indépendance n'est qu'“une
question de jours”, déclarant au nom du peuple albanais que “le Kosovo
est prêt”. “Nous nous attendons à un soutien massif de la part des
Etats-Unis et de l’Europe”, a-t-il ajouté à l’issue d’entretiens avec
Javier Solana, le chef de la diplomatie européenne et le commissaire à
l’élargissement, Olli Rehn.
C’est bien ce dernier que conserve, malgré ses discours cherchant à
plaire aux masses, dans sa mire Boris Tadic, qui a vu avec le temps une
ancienne république Yougoslave, la Slovénie, se joindre au club
européen, d'autres cherchant à emboîter le pas alors que Bruxelles est
plus réticente à ajouter au compte un pays qui n’a pas encore rendu tous
les comptes de la dernière guerre européenne il y a dix ans.
Parmi les rares têtes dirigeantes des atrocités à s'être retrouvé
derrière les barreaux en passant par la justice internationale figure le
chef de Nikolic, Vojislav Seselj, emprisonné au Tribunal pénal
international de La Haye pour crimes contre l’humanité. Bien que le
candidat ultranationaliste ne parle pas de faire la guerre à un Kosovo
indépendant, il prévoit quand même des mesures de représailles comme un
blocus économique de la province et une rupture des relations
diplomatiques avec les pays qui reconnaîtront cette sécession.
D’un côté comme de l’autre, la Serbie pourra compter sur l’appui du
président russe Vladimir Poutine, qui a assuré à son homologue Tadic de
l’opposition “catégorique” de Moscou à toute déclaration “unilatérale”
d’indépendance du Kosovo, lors de la signature d’importants accords
énergétiques au Kremlin. “La Russie est catégoriquement opposée à une
proclamation unilatérale d’indépendance du Kosovo, a insisté Poutine, vu
le risque de provoquer de graves dommages à l’ensemble du système de
“La Serbie ne renoncera jamais à la préservation de son intégrité
territoriale”, avait à son tour insisté Tadic, remerciant Poutine de son
côté pour un soutien sans lequel “la Serbie aurait plus de mal à
défendre ses intérêts au Kosovo”, alors que Belgrade est isolé face à
Washington et à une majorité des Etats membres de l’Union européenne qui
considèrent l’indépendance comme inéluctable.
Ces capitales ont insisté sur la nécessité de conduire un “processus
coordonné” jusqu’à l’indépendance. Dans l’entourage de Solana, on
souligne également que cette marche doit être conduite “sans
précipitation, sans tension inutile”. De son côté Thaci répétait que le
Kosovo agirait “en coordination” avec l’UE et les Etats-Unis. “Nous
allons coopérer étroitement.”
In between Canada's two latest military casualties in Afghanistan the
country had a short but intense period to consider the latest
assessments being made on its most important military engagement since
the Korean war.
Last week a panel on Canada’s future role in the country called for a
conditional extension of the mission because the Forces could not
complete what they set out to do by the end of the current military
mandate in 2009. Changes had to be considered to make this possible, the
Unbeknownst to its leader John Manley some changes were already in
the works, such as a suspension of all the transfers of Afghan detainees
after a federal government monitoring team found “a credible allegation
Manley did recommend that the prime minister assemble a special
cabinet committee that would devote the attention to the mission that
the mission needs. According to Canada's last military casualty, Cpl.
Étienne Gonthier, 21, a combat engineer from Quebec who died on Jan. 24
when his light armoured vehicle struck an improvised explosive device,
that includes better equipment.
“He told his grandparents when he came over here during the holidays
that if they (the Canadian soldiers) were fighting against Americans,
British or Australians, they would all be dead by now,” Mayor Roger
Carette said. Instead he considered himself lucky the Forces were
fighting disorganized Taleban forces, but he suggested the Forces were
disorganized as well.
The panel also recommended Stephen Harper urge the international
community to “get its act together,” both in Afghanistan and with other
key countries in the region. “We do not expect that NATO will be able to
replace us in 2009. Nor will the Afghans be ready to take over. But we
can insist that NATO find us a partner in Kandahar, enabling us to
expand the scope of security and to shift increasingly from fighting to
training the Afghan forces,” Manley said. A key finding was its blunt
demand on NATO to find 1,000 additional troops for southern Afghanistan
by February 2009 or else Canada would announce its intention to withdraw
its 2,500 troops.
But NATO allies being urged to send extra troops into Afghanistan had
recently responded with outrage to criticism by U.S. Defense Secretary
Robert Gates that many operating in the south of the country were
ill-prepared to combat guerrillas. “I’m worried we’re deploying
(military advisors) that are not properly trained and I’m worried we
have some military forces that don’t know how to do counterinsurgency
operations,” he was quoted as saying in a recent Los Angeles Times
Canada’s 2,500 troops are based in the southern region around
Kandahar, and while Gates soon contacted allies insisting he had been
misinterpreted, joined by other U.S. officials cautious of rankling the
few allies putting up a fight in the restive region of the country, the
timing could not have been more awkward as mourners were gathering to
commemorate one of four Canadian soldiers killed in the country since
To date 78 Canadian soldiers and a diplomat lost their lives in the
country. The following day seven Canadian soldiers were slightly injured
in two separate roadside bombings just hours apart. By then Gates was
publicly praising NATO troops for helping reclaim parts of southern
The Times article was published the day after the U.S. announced it
was sending 3,000 Marines to Afghanistan, most of them to help NATO
troops in the south. To some this signaled an intention to take more
aggressive action on the ground. Britain, the Netherlands and Canada are
carrying the load of military operations in the southern region and
none of the countries recognized themselves in Gates’ statement.
The Dutch defense minister called in the U.S. ambassador for an
explanation while the U.S. ambassador to Canada issued a statement
expressing “satisfaction with the role the Canadians are playing within
ISAF.” “My country greatly appreciates the sacrifices Canadian troops
and other NATO allies are making in southern Afghanistan to increase
security and stability in a troubled region,” David Wilkins said. The
British Ministry of Defence insisted its troops had extensive
counter-insurgency experience. “We are working to an agreed NATO
operational plan under a U.S. commander,” a spokesman said. Conservative
legislator Patrick Mercer more bluntly called Gates’ comments “bloody
A State Department spokesman said Gates “was not directing his
comments at any one country in particular, but at the alliance as a
whole, which includes the United States.” The article also mentions
unnamed U.S. military officers as saying their experience in Afghanistan
supports the secretary’s comments, but European officers are also
quoted complaining that the United States allowed the security situation
in Afghanistan to deteriorate by keeping too few troops in the country.
Overall the alliance has been bickering over the reluctance of some
European members, such as France and Germany, to commit forces to
confront the Taleban in the south. Gates later said the deployment of
Marines was designed to shore up forces in “the toughest part of the
country.” That decision, he added, had nothing to do with any misgivings
about the performance of Canadians already there. “I have no problems
with the Canadians,” he said.
Former British prime minister Tony Blair meanwhile urged Canada not
to flinch in its fight against radicals in Afghanistan. “We have to
stand up and fight for our values as though they were at risk - and they
are,” he said while visiting Toronto.
Canada had a retraction of its own to make vis a vis its huge
neighbour a few days later. Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier demanded a
controversial training manual be re-written. A recent Foreign Affairs
document identified the United States and Israel as countries it
suspects of practising torture. The document also defined such U.S.
interrogation techniques as blindfolding and forced nudity as torture.
But to some, the Gates and Foreign Affairs slip-ups were a rare insight
into what some insiders have perhaps been thinking.
Canada resumes command of the mission in southern Afghanistan in
February after 15 months of Dutch and British control. This will take
place as a change to warmer weather usually indicates an escalation of
combat in the region. For Canadian troops, the escalation has already
begun: in a single week three soldiers were being buried.
Gates’ comments were particularly untimely as the Harper government
is attempting to extend the military mission in Afghanistan beyond 2009.
The opposition has called for a prompt withdrawal that year, if not
before, but Liberal leader Stephane Dion, returning from a trip to the
region, caused some surprise when he said that any attempt to counter
terrorists in war-torn Afghanistan would not succeed without an
intervention in neighbouring Pakistan. A spokesman later said he was
stressing a diplomatic rather than a military intervention.
In Gonthier's hometown, in a region which sent 40 Quebec youngsters
to war, there was growing doubt about the purpose of the mission. “The
community supports the soldiers who are in Afghanistan right now, but
the people here are questioning the relevance of what the soldiers are
doing there and the poor equipment they seem to have to rely on,” said
Markets send early warning about economy
It didn’t take long for traders to vote with their feet about
economic prospects for 2008 as worldwide markets collapsed three weeks
into the new year, sending the loonie diving and forcing the Fed to
slash its interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point. The
Bank of Canada also lowered its rate by a quarter of a point, as markets
reeled at the prospect of a sharp downturn in the U.S. economy. The
markets soon rebounded somewhat but by then the bad news had extended to
lowered projections for this year's economic growth.
On Jan. 21 a 600-point drop in Toronto added to losses of nearly 900
points the previous week, some 6.6 per cent, a veritable bloodbath on
Bay street where a dollar once sailing above parity only managed to eke
its way back above 97 cents US. It was the fifth straight day of heavy
losses in Toronto and the biggest one-day loss since 2001. The market
had by then dropped 17 per cent since hitting its peak in July and
fallen all the way back to where it was in November 2006. The market
rallied by 500 points on Jan. 22 but many feared more carnage to come.
Last week the Bank of Canada lowered the growth forecast for the
overall economy to 1.8 per cent this year, a slowdown early in the year
expected to yield to stronger results in the latter months. Domestic
demand is expected to remain strong but the slumping US economy has
lowered expectations, Bank governor David Dodge said.
The U.S. Federal Reserve rate cut, the scale of which was unseen
since 1984, limited the damage on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones
industrial average fell a mere 128.11 points. Still that was a 5th
consecutive drop in a market fewer and fewer are hesitating to call a
Bear run, sparking talk of a recession in the world’s largest economy.
Markets in Europe and Asia were not spared by the collapse, sparked
by fears a slowdown in the U.S. could spark a global economic slowdown.
The sell-off signalled investors don’t believe a U.S. stimulus package
worth as much as $150 billion proposed by President George W. Bush will
succeed in keeping the world’s largest economy out of recession and
worry too much of the world’s economy remains tied to America’s
fortunes. Prices of commodities like oil, gold and copper were sent
sharply lower on concerns that countries like India and China will
indeed be hurt by the U.S. slowdown.
On the up side the price of oil, which recently reached $100 a
barrel, dropped under $90 in the process. The Nikkei stock average
closed down 5.65 per cent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index lost 8.65 per
cent while European markets fell more than 4.4 per cent. Some European
stock indexes saw their biggest one day drop since the Sept. 11, 2001
“Financial market conditions have deteriorated since October," the
Fed said in a statement, “leading to a tightening of credit conditions
in industrial countries. Given this, and a deeper, more prolonged
decline in the U.S. residential housing sector, the 2008 outlook for the
U.S. economy is now significantly weaker” than forecast in October.
Canada’s outlook also became more gloomy as surging unemployment,
lacklustre retail sales during the holidays, and the slumping stock
market south of the border was bound to have implications for its most
intimate economic partner.
“We clearly have under-estimated the impact of the subprime mortgage
market has had on equity valuations (in the U.S.) and the broad and
growing threat it now poses to financial market disintermediation,” said
Jeff Rubin, chief strategist at CIBC_World Markets. Michael Gregory,
senior economist at BMO_Capital Markets, issued a note cautioning that
“economic and financial market conditions will probably continue to
deteriorate between now and the next policy announcement on March 4.”
Analyst were wary predicting how much further the Canadian stock
market has to fall before hitting bottom. Among the key issues being
considered is whether a U.S. recession will be short and shallow or long
and deep. Economists aren’t predicting a Canadian recession for now but
expect more cuts by the Bank of Canada to offset the effects of the a
slowing U.S. economy, especially in the exporting provinces of Quebec
Recession fears and stock market losses quickly eroded the economic
confidence of Canadians, especially their expectations about the future
which have sunk to a more than two-year low, a monthly survey by a
Canadian marketing firm revealed last week.
Clinton, McCain take the comeback state
After an Iowa caucus which started
the year-long process of electing a U.S. president by bringing new
faces into the spotlight, the New Hampshire primary crowned familiar
names without securing any individuals as democratic and republican
front-runners. But while Hillary Clinton’s win in the Granite State kept
her hopes of obtaining the presidency very much alive, runner-up Barak
Obama came in close enough at second to make the contest for the
democratic leadership a serious two-horse race.
After an evening which showed the
two running neck & neck Clinton secured the win with 39 percent of
the vote despite late polls which had given the state to the senator
from Illinois. “I come tonight with a very full heart and I want
especially to thank New Hampshire. Over the last week I listened to you
and in the process I found my own voice,” Clinton said shortly after
embracing her daughter and husband on stage. "Together let’s give
America the kind of comeback that New Hampshire has just given me.”
Clinton’s performance recalled the
second-place finish of her husband Bill Clinton, who was dubbed the
Comeback Kid in New Hampshire after finishing second there in the 1992
Democratic primary. Clinton had been down in the polls as critics often
associated her experience with old-style politics while newcomers such
as Obama personified "change". But in an election without an incumbent
and where Republicans themselves speak of change after years of strict
conservative orthodoxy, Clinton said she too could shake up things after
two mandates of an administration too close to special interests. “It’s
time we had a president who stands for all of you,” Clinton said. “I
intend to be that president... There will be no more invisible
Obama had taken New Hampshire by
storm after winning Iowa, drawing sometimes overflow crowds and getting
into long-distance shouting matches with Clinton, and still finished
strong with 36 per cent of the vote. “I am still fired up and ready to
go,” Obama said, congratulating Clinton on her win. “A few weeks ago no
one would have imagined what we accomplished here tonight in New
“At this moment in this election
there is something happening in America,” he said between supporter
cries of “we want change.” Americans “know in their hearts this time
must be different.” Obama drew young and male voters while Clinton took
home the female and registered Democrat vote according to statistics.
On the Republican side John McCain
took New Hampshire with 37 per cent of the vote while Iowa winner Mike
Huckabee came in third. GOP favourite Rudy Guliani, who did not campaign
in the state, scored just 9 per cent, ending fourth. “Tonight we sure
showed them what a comeback looks like,” McCain said, making little of
pundit predictions his campaign was over early in the presidential race.
McCain's campaign seemed near collapse just last summer.
The night’s results also came as a
relief to Clinton supporters, who feared the candidate long touted as
being a Democrat favourite could suffer a second consecutive setback
early in the campaign after Iowa's third-place finish. Analysts wondered
whether an emotional outburst a day before the vote hadn’t helped to
humanize the New York senator better known for being unemotional and
making rather dry speeches.
When asked in a small
establishment how she could cope with the demands of the electoral grind
her voice softened and she spoke more haltingly. “It’s not easy, it’s
not easy,” Clinton replied slowly and near tears. “I couldn’t do it if I
did not passionately believe it was the right thing to do. It’s very
personal to me.” “I have so many ideas for this country, I just don’t
want to see us fall backwards,” she said. “It’s about our country, it’s
about our kids’ futures.”
La violence suit les élections au Kenya
qu’on assiste au Pakistan à une veille électorale ensanglantée, c’est
le lendemain qui cause des troubles au Kenya, où l’opposition a rejeté
le dernier scrutin présidentiel retournant au pouvoir Mwai Kibaki. Avec
plus de 600 morts, les émeutes entourant cette réélection controversée
semblent avoir tourné aux affrontements ethniques, 30 personnes ayant
été brûlées vives le premier jour de l’an dans une église.
incident, qui a également fait plus de 100 blessés par balles ou par
flèches, a ouvertement été décrit comme un «nettoyage ethnique» dans
cette région d’Afrique où l’expression prend tout son sens. La plupart
des victimes étaient des kikuyu, soit l'ethnie de la classe dominante et
du president Kibaki. La violence s’est particulièrement emparée de
cette région depuis le dévoilement des résultats électoraux le 30
Croix-Rouge compte plus de 200000 déplacements dans la région
occidentale en raison des violences. Des images aériennes de zones de
l’ouest du pays ont montré des centaines de maisons et huttes incendiées
et des barrages routiers installés tous les dix kilomètres sur les
routes. «C’est un désastre national », a déclaré lors d’un point de
presse le secrétaire général de l’organisation, Abbas Gullet. Seules les
personnes du «bon groupe ethnique» peuvent franchir ces barrages.
victimes fuyaient les violences qui parcourent le pays depuis une
élection qui selon l’Union Européenne « est tombée à court des normes
internationales » et dont le comptage « manquait de crédibilité ».
Certains commissaires électoraux au Kenya ont émis de similaires
réserves à propos de l'exercice. La Commission nationale des droits de
l’homme du Kenya a également estimé que le scrutin était «dénué de
vieux président de 76 ans, élu en 2002 après deux échecs précédents, a
fait de la lutte contre la corruption un thème central de sa campagne.
Pourtant un rapport de Transparency International de septembre dernier
indiquait que le pays connaissait des échecs dans la guerre contre les
sondages sur les scrutins présidentiel et législatif donnaient le chef
de l'opposition Raila Odinga vainqueur. Certains parfois même avec une
avance d’un million de voix. Le mélange de violence politique et de
vieilles rivalités tribales fait craindre que le pays tout entier ne
sombre dans l’anarchie et le chaos.
avait été déclaré vainqueur après trois jours de comptage mais son
rival Odinga estime qu’il y a eu fraude électorale. Le gouvernement
conteste toute irrégularité. « je n’ai aucun indice qu’elles (les
élections) aient été manipulées», affirmait le ministre des finances
Amos Kimunya. Mais les indices sont pourtant nombreux. Un document
confidentiel que s’est procuré Le Monde recense les irrégularités
constatées par les observateurs des partis.
88 des 210 circonscriptions, une anomalie entache le formulaire
officiel recensant les résultats de la circonscription, selon le
journal. «Dans une circonscription de la province centrale, bastion du
président sortant, Mwai Kibaki, l’ensemble des bordereaux issus des
différents bureaux de vote sont signés par la même personne. A Kieni,
dans la même région, on enregistre une différence de 20000 voix entre le
nombre de votants pour les législatives et pour la présidentielle,
écart irréaliste témoignant d’un “gonflage” du premier chiffre. »
plusieurs journées de manifestations qui ont parfois viré à l'émeute,
le gouvernement a laissé entendre qu'il pourrait organiser un nouveau
scrutin mais seulement si la demande provenait d'une cour de justice. En
attendant l'opposition a rejeté la proposition de former un
gouvernement d'unité nationale tandis que le président de l’Union
africaine échouait dans sa médiation.
tensions demeurent importantes puisque Odinga a refusé les invitations
du président au dialogue, irrité par la ligne de conduite de Kibaki, qui
consiste à s’estimer réélu sans admettre de contestation, et a fait
prêter serment aux derniers membres de son gouvernement. Comble de la
provocation, l'opposition a fait appel à trois jours de grève dans ce
pays important de l'économie régionale.
Vote delayed after Bhutto killing
Benazir Bhutto never doubted the dangers she faced by coming back to
Pakistan last October. She was quickly reminded of the threats when a
suicide bomber detonated his charge during her welcoming rally, missing
her but killing some 140 other people. Threats took many forms, she
reflected in one of her final interviews, they could be Islamic
fundamentalists, part of security system or political rivals.
She could be hated for being secular, critical of army procedures, or
the first woman democratically elected to lead a Muslim state. “I am
what the terrorists most fear,” she told a US magazine in one of her
last interviews. “A female political leader fighting to bring modernity
to Pakistan. Now they’re trying to kill me.”
Neither she nor her family or the city she was in when she was killed
by a suicide bomber on December 27, were spared of the bloody history
of violence which has engulfed Pakistan, a country held by the military
for more than half its existence. She was herself the target of a number
of previous attacks and both her brothers were killed in the mid-90s,
one by poisoning, the other when he was gunned down.
Bhutto’s own father was hanged in 1979 on charges of having ordered
the murder of a political opponent, perhaps a mile from the spot in
Rawalpindi where a man shot at Benazir’s convoy following a political
rally, before detonating a bomb strapped to his body. She died yards
from where the country’s first prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan, had been
felled by an assassin’s bullet in 1951.
The loss of the two-time female prime minister of 54, who returned to
the country to try to reclaim the mantle in elections scheduled for
this year opposition parties initially said they would boycott, was met
with both sadness and outrage. “The repercussions of her murder will
continue to unfold for months, even years. What is clear is that
Pakistan’s political landscape will never be the same having lost one of
its finest daughters,” wrote Pakistan’s main English-language
newspaper, the Dawn.
Meanwhile the streets were engulfed in violence, claiming dozens of
more lives after the 20 who died in the assassination. Many turned their
anger against the leadership of president Pervez Musharraf both in the
streets and in political circles. ``Under the present circumstances and
under Musharraf, neither is campaigning possible nor is a free
election,” said Bhutto ally and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
``Peace is impossible under Musharraf,’’ he said. ``Pakistan’s unity is
impossible under Musharraf. He is the root cause of all problems.’’
Musharraf called for a crackdown of demonstrators two days later.
Compounding the disgruntlement was the government’s initial assertion
neither bullet nor bomb killed Bhutto directly, but that she died from
hitting her head during the attack. Scotland Yard eventually accepted a
request from Pakistani authorities to help with their investigation into
Musharraf said he was “not fully satisfied” with the investigation
into the killing of Bhutto but said he did not believe government or
intelligence agencies had tried to “hide secrets” after her murder. He
did later concede however that Bhutto may have been killed by a bullet
but made no friends among her supporters when he told a U.S. network
Bhutto was herself to blame for making herself so vulnerable to an
Sharif, whose Pakistan Muslim League party initially called for a
boycott of the vote as well as a nationwide strike to protest against
the killing, reconsidered not taking part in the vote after Bhutto’s son
was selected as heir to the family dynasty. Bhutto’s son took over as
chairman of her party and immediately vowed to fight for democracy as
revenge for her assassination.
At an emotional news conference where his father was presented as
co-chair of the Pakistan People’s Party, the 19-year-old Bilawal Bhutto,
an Oxford University student untested in politics, said he was ready to
lead.“My mother always said that democracy is the best revenge,”
Bilawal said. “The party’s long and historic struggle for democracy will
continue with a new vigour.” Bilawal will complete his studies before
formally taking the party's helm.
Pakistan’s Election commission delayed the vote until February in
view of the post-assassination violence. Speaking with little emotion,
Musharraf defended the election’s postponement as “absolutely right”
because riots in the wake of Bhutto’s death left 58 dead and caused
hundreds of millions of rupees in damage. Musharraf, for whom the
killing represented the latest incident in a turbulent year, blamed the
attack on terrorists.
The day before the assassination he and Afghan counterpart Hamid
Karzai had pledged to share intelligence and tighten border controls to
quash increasing attacks by Taleban and Al-Qaida terrorists. “People
from both the countries are suffering under the hands of extremism and
terrorism,” Musharraf said at a joint news conference. “The key in
fighting and enhancing the capability against terrorism and extremism is
intelligence cooperation,” said Musharraf, who had recently ended a
six-week state of emergency.
But political opponents and analysts were wondering where that
security and intelligence sharing was during the political rally in what
they described as one of the most closely-watched cities in Pakistan.
The day following the assassination authorities said they recorded an
intercept in which Al-Qaida’s most wanted man in Pakistan had
congratulated his people for the attack. But Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s
Party rejected the claim. A spokesman said the government must show
solid evidence. “The government is nervous,” a spokesman said. “They are
trying to cover up their failure” to provide adequate security.
In her final rally Bhutto had herself spoken of the need to “curb the
religious extremists ... curb the violence in this country.” Now many
fear the attack will leave the country weakened in its attempt to either
fight terrorism or promote democratic ideals. Concerned world leaders
condemned the attack. “Those who committed this crime must be brought to
justice,” U.S. president George Bush said, adding that by returning to
the country despite threats to her life Bhutto “refused to allow
assassins to dictate the course of her country.” Bush urged political
leaders in Pakistan to honour her memory by embracing democracy.
The United Nations Security council called the attack “abhorrent.” A
sign of the turbulence engulfing the country, the UN's refugee agency
meanwhile says clashes between Pakistan’s Shia and Sunni groups have
forced people to flee the country in droves. Hundreds of families,
comprising some 6,000 mainly women and children, have been crossing the
border as the security situation has been deteriorating in Pakistan’s
tribal regions. It is the first time so many people have crossed this
way into Afghanistan after years of fleeing the country.