The Index — April 30, 2009

Once again, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa ruled out a ceasefire with the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) in the northern part of the country, a day after British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and French counterpart Bernard Kouchner called on Rajapaksa to forge a truce to end the 26-year conflict. Rajapaksa resisted, saying that the West should stop “lecturing” him on civilian welfare. The Sri Lankan government announced this week that it had stopped using heavy weapons in the conflict zone but the LTTE said “artillery and air attacks are continuing.” Miliband called the government military effort “spectacular” but said that “winning the peace is as vital as winning the war.”

The Pakistan army has begun to realize that its target should be on an enemy that’s closer to home, the Taliban, rather than across the Indian border, said President Barack Obama. His comments came after reports of the Pakistani army regaining control of the main town in the Buner district, amid signs of a Taliban advance on Islamabad. Kamal Hyder, an Al Jazeera corespondent who’s stationed just outside Buner, said, “There is stiff resistance from Taliban in certain areas but the military is still pressing on, using helicopter gunships and even main battle tanks.” Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani president, asked the nation to put aside their political differences and support the army’s fight with the Taliban to ensure civilian protection. Peace talks between the central government, factions, and religious leaders in the Northwest Frontier Province stalled due to the army assault.

Longtime rivals Japan and China seem to have found new common ground. During a two-day visit to Beijing Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso looked to forge agreements concerning the global financial crisis, global warming, and, now, swine flu—all while seeming to sidestep “tensions over the past.” The countries disagreed over when to resume Six Party Talks regarding North Korea, but the other agreements reached between Japan and China come as no surprise: both countries are looking to cooperate in lifting domestic consumption and “resisting trade protectionism.” Japan wants to help China expand it’s industry greenhouse gas-reducing technology and both countries pledged youth exchanges. While some progress was made, there was little done to resolve the long-standing dispute over natural gas beds under the East China Sea.

With last year’s post-election violence fresh in their minds, Kenyanshave watched with disgust as politicians squabble over the scraps of the country’s power-sharing accord. Kenya’s prime minister, Raila Odinga, accused President Mwai Kibaki of not honoring the agreement regarding a joint government. Sadly, these increasing tensions have “fuelled rumours of fresh violence.” In addition, new corruption charges on all sides—from manipulating maize exports, to suspicious fuel contracts, to questionable tourism junkets—have further hurt the government’s already rock-bottom popularity. Kofi Annan, former UN secretary general and the person responsible for brokering the Kenyan power-sharing accord last year, said unless reforms are made to “strengthen” institutions “we could face a worse situation in 2012 than we did last year.” While the politicians bicker and the populace grows embittered at their government, some people are taking unorthodox actions to promote change. Women activist groups in Kenya are planning a seven-day sex ban on “the country’s men” to “shock” the country’s political class, mostly males, into overcoming these feuds. Ida Odinga, wife of the prime minster, said she supported the strike “body and soul.”

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