Kenya Is A Nasty Surprise But It Is Hardly Another Rwanda
In 100 days during the spring of 1994, more than 800,000 Rwandans, mostly Tutsi, were hacked to death by Hutus. Thus when machete-wielding youths hit the streets of Kenya recently, it sparked talk of a new Rwanda. Days after presidential election results came out on Dec. 30, allegedly revealing massive fraud by the incumbent Mwai Kibaki, opposition leader Raila Odinga declared that "genocide on a grand scale" was underway.
In fact, Kenya is no Rwanda. True, there's an ethnic element: Kibaki is from the long-dominant Kikuyu tribe, while Odinga is Luo, but the bloodshed pales in comparison. In the first two weeks of the Rwandan genocide, more than 100,000 were killed. Just over two weeks into the mayhem, even the most liberal estimates put the Kenyan death toll at less than 1,000.
Another difference: in Rwanda, the murder was systematic and mainly Hutu-on-Tutsi. Hutu extremists in government organized the killing and used state radio stations to urge ordinary people to crush the inyenzi (cockroaches)—a Hutu slur for Tutsis. And after the country exploded, Hutu radio declared it Hutus' "patriotic duty" to exterminate Tutsi neighbors. In Kenya, the violence has been sporadic, flaring up with the passion of disorganized mobs from various tribes. And the government has tried to contain it, shutting down the press after the contested election. Newspapers have avoided mentioning tribal passions, to avoid inflaming things further.
Rwanda was genocidal, not political: Hutus aimed to literally exterminate the Tutsis. In Kenya, the tensions were political first and only later descended into tribal conflict. This dynamic was clear in Eldoret, a Rift Valley town that witnessed some of the worst bloodshed. The trouble began when Odinga supporters rallied to harass and intimidate Kibaki's backers; only after the looting and burning started did people rally back to their tribes. It's vital to note that Odinga has both Luo and Kikuyu supporters. And it seems clear that if the political machine can be fixed, the fighting will stop.
To be sure, there are ugly echoes of Rwanda. Churches have been used as havens, only to become scenes of mass murder, in Kenya too. Caravans of farmers, their homes looted and burned, are fleeing to neighboring countries. Yet the differences in kind and scale remain. The world was slow to recognize Rwanda as a genocide, and still feels the guilt, but rushing to judgment in Kenya won't help matters; in fact, it could prove destructive.
Middle East: Bush Vs. His Own Spies
In Israel last week, George W. Bush told Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that he believes Iran is still running a nuclear-weapons program—despite the new National Intelligence Estimate, which says Tehran halted the program in 2003. Bush told "the Israelis that he can't control what the intelligence community says, but that [the NIE's] conclusions don't reflect his own," says a senior administration official.
Bush's message comes at a time when many nations are citing the NIE as a reason to lift pressure on Iran. National-security adviser Stephen Hadley, however, says Bush only told Olmert what he's said publicly: that Iran remains a "threat" because it is still enriching uranium (as fuel for weapons). Either way, Bush's assurances seem aimed at quieting Israeli calls for unilateral military action against Iran. Olmert, asked by NEWSWEEK whether he felt reassured, replied: "I am very happy."
Statecraft: Hollywood On The Seine
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has made quite a spectacle of himself. Divorced from his wife just three months ago, he has been gallivanting about with his new girlfriend, former supermodel Carla Bruni. First photographers snapped shots of Bruni, 39, and Sarkozy, 52, on vacation at the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh. The couple was greeted home by press coverage describing Bruni, a self-professed "polygamist" who has dated Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton, as a "man-eater," and Sarkozy as "President Bling-Bling." Last week Sarkozy all but confirmed that he plans to marry Bruni. The result of this behavior, according to the French and foreign press, was a significant drop in approval ratings. They say Sarkozy's "Hollywood" lifestyle—when his predecessors were so discreet about their indiscretions—is hurting his numbers.
Yet Sarkozy's popularity is falling for reasons that go beyond his seemingly mercurial romances. His numbers have dropped 15 points since the summer, almost entirely because his economic promises have failed to come to fruition. In fact, while he may have lost a couple of extra points because of his love life, says pollster Gaël Sliman of the BVA firm, the topic doesn't matter to regular French people, beyond the voyeuristic interest. Polling data show "people don't give a damn to an unimaginable degree," he says. Still, the French can't resist reading meaning into a juicy love story.
Fast Chat: Joy To The World
In the new book "The Geography of Bliss," Eric Weiner explores the globe's happiest countries. He visited nations that scored well in the World Database of Happiness—and one, Moldova, consistently near the bottom—to find out why countries are happy. He chatted with NEWSWEEK's Raina Kelley.
What did you learn?
Americans can get narcissistic in our pursuit of happiness. We think, How can I be happy? But getting in touch with your inner child is not necessarily the best way. Happiness used to have a much broader meaning—tied to the idea of a virtuous and meaningful life—but now it's almost indistinguishable from pleasure.
t always understand why countries were so happy.
Oftentimes I understood how happy they could be, but it just didn't work for me.
Give me an example.
The Swiss. Their emphasis on functionality and order works for them. But it's boring.
Was there a country that you couldn
t wait to leave?
Moldova is the least happy country on the planet. They go to great lengths to see their neighbors fail.
What surprised you?
That the happiest countries in the world tend to be the most homogenous.
Culture: Holy Hot Flash!
When the novelist Jodi Picoult was approached to write a few installments of the "Wonder Woman" comics series, her first impulse was to take the character out of her trademark red-and-gold bustier. "As any woman writer would know," she writes in the introduction to a collection of the comics, "it's impossible to fight crime without straps." Such is the irony of the most well-known female superhero: though she was featured on the first issue of Ms. Magazine under the headline WONDER WOMAN FOR PRESIDENT, for most of her 66 years she's been written by a man. But now, women are finally breaking into the boys' comics club. With the release of this month's "Wonder Woman" No. 14, the superhero gets her first permanent, ongoing female scribe, Gail Simone, just as alternative and foreign comics by women are gaining visibility. The movie "Persepolis," based on Marjane Satrapi's graphic memoir about life during the Iranian revolution, opened Christmas Day, and Megan Kelso's multipart strip "Watergate Sue," about a Nixon-era family, was recently featured in The New York Times Magazine. Kelso's domestically themed graphic novel "The Squirrel Mother" was well reviewed, as was Alison Bechdel's 2006 graphic novel-memoir of growing up and coming out, "Fun Home." Manga, a Japanese style of comic featuring huge-eyed characters and often including elements of fantasy, has spawned a female-oriented subset, shojo manga, some of which outsells regular manga. The ladies aren't exactly kicking the guys off the planet yet—"Spider-Man 3" was still the top-grossing movie last year—but they're no longer the comic equivalent of kryptonite, either.
Simone says that despite being written by a man for most of her life, Wonder Woman has always been a strong female character, so the writer doesn't plan to insert an overtly feminist agenda to the strip. Which means the superhero won't be losing her bustier soon. "Part of her appeal is that she makes your eyes pop out of your head," Simone says. "I don't see a reason to change that."
drugs to Help Kick Butts
Vaccines are normally conceived to fight infectious disease, but a new shot will bring cheer to those who have resolved to kick certain habits in the new year. Although it's still years from FDA approval, a vaccine that would teach the immune system to destroy cocaine before the drug reached the brain is poised to enter its first large-scale clinical trial. Developed by Baylor College of Medicine psychiatrist Thomas Kosten, the preemptive treatment joins a raft of new vaccines that target addictive substances like nicotine, heroin and methamphetamine.
Normally drugs like those are small enough to evade the body's immune system: they slip undetected from the respiratory and circulatory tracts that absorb them into the nervous system. But when they're sent into the body attached to larger molecules—like inactive proteins—they can't hide, and antibodies can find the tiny drugs and prevent them from reaching the brain.
Preventive measures like these could change the way we treat addiction by blocking the drugs' neural targets, unlike the treatments—like methadone—used today that simply serve as "a replacement drug," explains Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And, one day, it could even make kids "impervious to the effects of alcohol and hard drugs."