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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
March 4, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Kenya Hopes for Non-Violence in Key Election

Millions of Kenyans voted Monday in a key national election (AP) many hope will rebuild the nation's image after a disputed 2007 poll saw the deaths of more than 1,200 people amidst tribal violence. Despite hopes for calm, at least thirteen people were killed in attacks by gangs (al-Jazeera) in the coastal city of Mombasa. Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, who faces charges by the International Criminal Court for orchestrating the 2007 violence, is battling Prime Minister Raila Odinga for the presidency. The United States and Western donors have been worried about the stability of the nation, which is an ally in the fight against militant Islam in the region.


"Given that the platforms of Mr. Odinga and Mr. Kenyatta don't differ much — both favor pro-market economic policies — the tribunal factor gives the outside world reason to hope that Mr. Odinga's narrow advantage in the polls will translate into a victory. But the most important outcome will be peaceful acceptance of the results by the defeated candidates," writes a Washington Post editorial.

"Because it has attracted such serious regional and international scrutiny for so many months now, and because the incumbent is not a contender, the first round of the election will in all likelihood go without a hitch, perhaps even as smoothly as the two national referenda on the constitution in 2005 and 2010. It is the rerun that will be the event most fraught with the baggage of the past, badly frayed nerves and sky-high tensions," writes Joe Adama for The Star.

"[Kenya] has not become a democratic success story. Kibaki has used his office to enrich and empower tribal allies while trying to destroy the opposition and make the presidency even more powerful. Graft has become worse since 2002. Public anger at the failings of the democratic period has led to spasms of violence," writes Josh Kurlantzick for CFR.



Malaysian Death Toll Reaches Twenty-Six in Siege

Twenty-six people have died so far in the three-week standoff (TIME) between Malaysian security forces and a group of Filipino militant rebels who stormed a northern Borneo village. The turmoil is overshadowing Malaysia's general elections, due before the end of June.

CHINA: China, whose National People's Congress meets this month to set key policies and appointments, said that it will uphold the judicial independence of Hong Kong (SCMP).

In this blog post, CFR's Elizabeth Economy examines the current U.S. stance on the pivot to Asia and what Secretary of State John Kerry thinks of China.



Karachi Bomb Kills at Least Forty-Eight

At least forty-eight people died after a powerful bomb (TIN) ripped through Abbas Town, a mainly Shia neighborhood in Karachi, Pakistan. The attack comes after almost 200 people were killed in two bombings targeting Shias in Quetta in January and February.

This CFR Crisis Guide delves into Pakistan's history and its current sectarian strife.

BANGLADESH: Soldiers were deployed in northern Bangladesh on Sunday after five died in clashes between police and Islamist party activists protesting their leader's death sentence (AP). Around sixty people have been killed since the sentence was handed down Thursday.



U.S. Pledges More Aid to Egypt

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, after meeting with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, said the United States would provide Egypt with the first $190 million of a pledged $450 million in budget support (al-Jazeera), plus an additional $60 million to set up a joint enterprise fund.

SAUDI ARABIA: The Saudi foreign minister called on Monday for an arms embargo (al-Arabiya) against the Syrian regime, saying international assistance to the opposition shouldn't be limited to humanitarian aid.



Islamist Chief Likely Killed in Mali

France's military said Monday that top Islamist militant leader Abdelhamid Abou Zeid has likely been killed in Mali (AFP). French and Chadian troops have been fighting Islamist rebels from the northeast since a French-led offensive launched in mid-January.



Cardinals Gather for Papal Selection

Roman Catholic cardinals from around the world have gathered in Rome to begin the process of electing the next pope (Reuters), after Benedict XVI stepped down after nearly eight years in office. The Vatican is aiming to have a new pope elected next week.

Edward Pentin discusses how the Vatican does foreign policy in this Foreign Affairs article.

IRELAND: Police in Northern Ireland foiled a mortar bomb attack (TheIndependent) at a local police station, arresting three men believed to be linked to dissident republicans.



Bolivian President Confirms Chavez's Relapses

Bolivian President Evo Morales confirmed that his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chávez, is still suffering from relapses (MercoPress) in his recovery. His statement comes amid demands from the Venezuelan opposition for further clarity around the president's health.

BRAZIL: Brazilian police have moved into the favelas near Rio de Janeiro's international airport in a bid to take control (BBC) of the poor districts from gangs before next year's World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.



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