The World Today for August 09, 2022
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NEED TO KNOW
Everywhere in Kenya these days, people are jamming, on corners, at gas stations, and even on buses. That’s because there’s a presidential election Tuesday and appealing to the youth vote – 40 percent of the electorate – is critical for a win.
But irrespective of the catchy tunes, the mood is anything but frivolous in East Africa’s economic hub. Instead, it’s tense as many worry about looming violence, as occurred in many of the country’s past elections.
This time, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta can’t run for a third term, according to the country’s constitution. But Kenyatta’s influence on Kenya’s presidential election on Aug. 9 reflects his outsized political influence in the East African country. And he’s decided to use it to endorse his former rival, Raila Odinga, over his deputy president, William Ruto, causing a furor among those who normally would have taken anything Kenyatta said as gospel. Ironically, Ruto had helped Kenyatta defeat Odinga in the last two presidential ballots.
Speaking to the BBC, attorney Wahome Gikonyo said that Kenyatta had stabbed Ruto in the back. “Ruto did the donkey work in 2013 and 2017,” Gikonyo said. “Were it not for him Uhuru would not have become president. Is that the way to repay a friend?”
Those sentiments are one reason why Odinga has a slim lead in polls but is falling short of topping the 50-percent mark he needs to avoid a run-off election.
Kenyatta and Odinga joined forces after the 2018 presidential election when civil unrest erupted over allegations of unfairness over the vote, explained the New York Times. Police cracked down brutally on protesters who called for Kenyatta to step down, killing dozens and injuring scores of others.
Since Kenyatta distanced himself from Ruto, some voters are having second thoughts about the president’s legacy. “Not only is he a scion of the richest and most influential of Kenya’s kleptocratic political families, but the record of his 10 years in power consists largely of an unbroken procession of corruption scandals and graft-ridden projects,” argued Kenyan cartoonist Patrick Gathara in an Al Jazeera opinion piece.
Even Kenyatta admits that corruption is endemic in the country. He has claimed that people steal more than $16 million a day from public funds, according to the Nation, a Kenyan newspaper.
Odinga, whose nickname is “Baba,” (Father) has promised to stamp out corruption and institute a universal healthcare program called Babacare as well as other social welfare service improvements. Ruto, meanwhile, refers to himself as a would-be “Hustler-in-Chief” on the campaign trail, repeating how he once sold chickens in the Rift Valley in order to highlight his knack for getting things done, CNN wrote.
Corruption might alter the direction of the vote as the Conversation noted in a piece that drew from many experts in portraying the state of things before the vote. Fears of vote rigging, gender violence, vigilantes and militia groups taking to the streets and targeting members of specific tribes have caused concern of a repeat of 2018 or even the 2007-2008 crisis when as many as 1,500 people died in post-election violence.
The conditions are ripe for a rocky transition.
Still, despite its recent history of turbulent elections, Kenya stands out for its relative stability in a region where some presidents-for-life pull out all stops to stay in power, the Associated Press noted.
And there lies hope in the millions of Kenyans under 35, whose tribal loyalties are considerably weaker than their elders, analysts say. Over the weekend, for example, young local artists organized a community-wide celebration of ethnic diversity in Nairobi’s diverse Kibera district, one of the world’s largest slums, and a center of election violence in the past.
“We know what happened in previous elections in this country and we as young people cannot go back to where come from,” Esha Mohammed, a director of the National Youth Council, told Al Jazeera. “We cannot allow ourselves to be in that situation (again).”
THE WORLD, BRIEFLY
A Fragile Peace
ISRAEL/ WEST BANK & GAZA
Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip reached a ceasefire agreement this week, ending three days of conflict that began following the arrest of a senior Hamas leader, the BBC reported.
As of Monday, the Egypt-brokered truce appeared to be holding. Israel announced it was lifting its blockade to allow fuel and humanitarian aid to enter Gaza.
The latest clashes – the most serious since the 11-day conflict in May 2021 – ignited following the arrest last week of Bassem Saadi, the head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in the West Bank.
Israel said it began its military operations following threats from the PIJ, with the country’s military officials saying that 1,100 projectiles were fired from the Gaza Strip during the flare-up, with 200 landing inside Gaza.
Meanwhile, Palestinian officials blamed “Israeli aggression” for the deaths of at least 44 people, including 15 children in Gaza. No Israeli casualties have been reported.
Israeli officials also said it hit 170 PIJ targets during the military operation, adding that a number of deaths were caused by PIJ fire. It said it would investigate the civilian deaths.
The Iran-backed PIJ is considered one of the strongest militant groups operating in Gaza. It has been held responsible for a number of attacks, including rocket fire against Israel.
In November 2019, Israel and the PIJ fought in a five-day conflict that left 34 Palestinians dead and 111 injured. Israeli officials reported 63 injured.
Coming to the Table
Chad’s military government signed a peace deal with more than 40 opposition groups Monday, an agreement that is expected to kickstart reconciliation talks in the restive African nation, Al Jazeera reported.
The government and rebel groups signed the accord in the Qatari capital of Doha following months of negotiations. Since March, Qatar has been mediating talks between the armed rebels and the government of Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, a general who seized power after his father, President Idriss Déby Itno, was killed in a battle with rebels last year.
Under the accord, participants will attend a national dialogue – known as the N’Djamena talks – later this month. It aims to pave the way for presidential elections later this year. The deal also commits the signatories to a ceasefire during the talks. The Chadian government said it would guarantee the safety of the rebel leaders attending the dialogue.
Officials said 42 of the 47 factions signed the accord. Even so, the main rebel group, Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), rejected the deal.
FACT officials warned that participants in the reconciliation talks will not be treated equally and demanded a new committee to organize the negotiations. It added that the deal’s guarantees were insufficient and that Déby must forswear running in future elections.
Following last year’s takeover, Déby pledged there would be elections in 18 months. However, he has retained the authority to extend his administration’s “transitional” rule for an additional 18 months.
Chad has had little stability since it became independent from France in 1960. Still, the talks will be closely observed internationally as the country remains a key ally in international efforts to fight armed groups around the region.
India unexpectedly withdrew a proposed data protection bill this month, which had raised fears among tech giants and privacy rights advocates about government overreach, the New York Times wrote.
The government said it is now working on new legislation, two years after unveiling the previous bill, because it had grown too complicated.
The scrapped bill would have required internet companies such as Meta and Google to obtain specific permission for most uses of an individual’s data, and made it easier to request that such sensitive data be removed.
Tech companies worried that the bill would have forced them to increase their compliance burden and data storage requirements. Others complained that the bill would have made it difficult for global tech giants wanting to expand in India, the world’s second-largest Internet market after China.
But the draft law would have also given the government broad powers over personal data and would have exempted authorities from the bill’s provisions – apparently for national security reasons.
Privacy activists and opposition politicians lamented that the legislation would have provided the government with the ability to store, use and control large amounts of data on its citizens, including fingerprints and iris scans.
Meanwhile, analysts said the withdrawn bill was another attempt by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to rein in tech companies. His government has enacted rules that allow authorities to demand that posts critical of them be hidden from users in India.
Still, some privacy advocates say a measure is needed to safeguard the data of citizens online and hold companies responsible for misusing users’ personal data.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that talks with Kyiv or its foreign allies may not take place if Moscow stages referendums on joining Russia in occupied areas of Ukraine, according to Radio Free Europe. Russian forces and Moscow-backed rebels now control huge swathes of territory in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region and in the south. Russian-installed leaders in both areas have suggested organizing referendums on joining Russia.
- The threat of a nuclear disaster caused heightened international concern Monday amid weekend strikes on a Russian-controlled power station in Ukraine that is nearly twice the size of Chernobyl, NBC News wrote. The facility is damaged but remains running. Meanwhile, at a ceremony in Tokyo marking the 77th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, UN Secretary-General António Guterres appealed for independent inspectors to be granted access to the massive nuclear complex in Zaporizhzhia.
- Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder will remain a member of the Social Democrats Party (SPD), despite his connections to Russian energy corporations and friendship with Vladimir Putin, Politico reported. An internal SPD arbitration committee rejected an expulsion motion against the controversial ex-chancellor on Monday, finding he had “not been guilty of a violation of party rules.”
A Harsh Mistress
Scientists recently discovered that Earth’s satellite is not entirely inhospitable, saying there are spots on the moon that are “very cozy,” the Atlantic reported.
A research team recently analyzed data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter of two lunar caverns located in the Sea of Tranquility in the Moon’s northern hemisphere.
Their findings showed that one of these cylindrical-shaped caverns had a pleasant, cool temperature of 63 degrees Fahrenheit that didn’t change much from a lunar day to night.
A lunar day lasts about a month on Earth, which means that the Moon’s surface experiences about 15 days of nonstop, scorching sunlight that can boil water. The lunar night, meanwhile, is a period of intense cold.
Lead author Tyler Horvath explained that sunlight illuminates only a part of the 328-feet-deep cavern, while the rest is permanently in the shade. This prevents it from heating up too much and stops the warmth from escaping at night.
But Horvath’s team noted that this cavern also had a small dent in the wall, which they believe to be the entrance to an underground cave.
They added that these structures were created during the Moon’s formation billions of years ago and could be the perfect spots for future lunar colonists to build permanent homes on the celestial body.
Earth’s satellite has no atmosphere, lacks defenses against dangerous cosmic radiation and is occasionally bombarded by small meteorites.
Science fiction writer Robert Heinlein had a point when he titled his book, “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.”