Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
from Africa News blog:
On July 7, 1990, fear spread around Kenya. It stretched from the capital, where the opposition had called demonstrations to press for a multi-party system and constitutional changes, right into rural areas.
When a lorry carrying packed milk, under a now long-discarded school-feeding scheme, approached a rural schoolyard during a break, schoolchildren ran into their classrooms because the black stacked crates looked suspiciously like the helmets of armed police.
Some schoolchildren were picked up by their parents from school, too anxious about their safety to let them stay in school.
Opposition leaders and their supporters were beaten up and arrested on the streets by police, forcing some to flee into foreign embassies and into exile in the ensuing crackdown by security forces.
Europe has become increasingly selfish and materialistic in the 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the heads of the Roman Catholic bishops' conferences across Europe said at the end of their three-day annual meeting at the weekend. "The crisis sweeping Europe today is serious," they said in a statement after the session in Paris. They cited materialism, individualism and relativism as major challenges facing European society.
The bishops' sober assessment contrasted with the upbeat mood that the overwhelming "Yes" vote in Ireland's Lisbon Treaty referendum created. It must be noted they drew up their statement before they'd heard the news from Dublin on Saturday. And their statement ended with a note of Christian hopefulness. Still, their diagnosis is so fundamental it's hard to imagine they would have changed much in the text.
Diplomats say there is mild panic in the EU capital at the thought that the regular June summit — where the bloc is due to discuss the Lisbon treaty reforming the EU — could be chaired by Eurosceptic Czech President Vaclav Klaus.
Each side accuses the other of trying to scare voters ahead of Ireland’s referendum on the EU treaty on Thursday.
“No” groups have campaigned on issues ranging from abortion and euthanasia to taxation and Ireland’s military neutrality. They also say new decision-making mechanisms mean small states will lose influence and get trampled by the EU’s heavyweights.
The government’s response is to accuse treaty opponents of scaremongering by campaigning on emotive and extraneous issues that will not be affected by the treaty.
In some cases neutral voices are inclined to agree, with the Catholic archbishop of Dublin and referendum commission weighing in to say there is nothing in the treaty that threatens Ireland’s strict abortion and euthanasia laws.
The government warns of “dire consequences” for Ireland’s economy and diplomatic clout if a nation that has gained so much from EU support and subsidies is ungrateful enough to reject the treaty.
The “No” camp accuses the government of bullying, blackmail and exaggeration. Indeed a number of economists say that while a “Yes” vote would be best for future prosperity, rejection of the treaty is unlikely to have any severe repercussions.
So who is the biggest bully in the playground? Or is it just an inevitable flaw in referendums that they become a lightning rod for irrelevant issues and for politicians who don’t trust us to be able to debate the question we’re being asked?