Round up of the news
Ivory Coast enters civil war
Following UN run elections last year the defeated former President, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to step down. Since then a bitter stalemate between him and the internationally-recognised President Elect Allasane Ouattara has crippled the country’s economy. After Gbagbo failed to leave office by the deadline set by the African Union, forces loyal to Ouattara mounted an attack on the city of Abidjan, where the main government has its seat.
There had been fighting in the previous three months but the violence has escalated in recent days. Supporters of both sides have attacked and killed opponent sympathisers. The tension stems from sectarian friction which has resulted in southern politicians portraying the Muslim North as not Ivorian. Discrimination became more and more common. The recent elections have caused a stir because Ouattara is a Muslim.
As I write, it has been announced that Gbagbo has finally entered surrender negotiations. His days are certainly numbered. If he goes quickly, it may save many lives and prevent all-out war.
Battle continues in Libya
Unlike in Egypt and Tunisia, where the opposed dictatorships fell quickly and with minor violence, Libya’s fight for freedom is turning into a long and bloody battle. As coalition bombs continue to destroy his forces, Colonel Gaddafi is remaining defiant and refusing to step down. Over the past week both sides have taken on lost towns and cities in a desperate struggle for territory. Every day, the upper hand swapped between Gaddafi’s forces and the rebels. The heaviest fighting was over the city of Misrata, which changed hands several times. As yet, it is unclear who will prevail, or if anyone ever will.
The rest of the Middle East
In Tunisia, the first Arab country to revolt, the interim government has announced that a vote to elect a council to rewrite the constitution will take place on the 24th July. It has also announced that it will dissolve the country’s political police, which is widely accused of human rights infringements. Meanwhile, continued protests forced several members of the interim government – including the Prime Minister – to step down because they were seen to be too close to the old regime.
Protests continue in Syria, where the people want to depose ruling President Assad, whose family have controlled the country for decades. So far, he has made political concessions, such as forming a new government, but the protesters are not satisfied. He has also pledged to lift the state of emergency that has been in place for the last forty-eight years. Human rights activists put the deathtoll from the crises anywhere between 60 and 130.
I wish I could tell you what on Earth is going on in Egypt, but a lengthy search of Google, The Economist and the BBC News website has shown me that either nobody knows or the media do not care at the moment. Meanwhile, unrest continues in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Nuclear waste escapes into sea at Fukushima
At the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant the problems keep coming. Power has been restored to the plant and workers are pretty much in control of reactors five and six, but the other four reactors are spewing out varying amounts of radioactive material.
At reactor two, it is believed that radioactive water is seeping out of either a containment vessel or a pipe, through the ground and into the sea. Radiation levels in the sea by the plant are said to be thousands of times the legal limit. Workers are battling to find the source of the leak. At reactor three, radioactive plutonium has been detected in the soil, suggesting partial nuclear meltdown.
As for the future. Reactors one to four are to be decomissioned as soon as they are brought under control. The fate of reactors five and six will be decided by a public consultation. The disaster has called into question the country’s reliance on nuclear power.