Happy New Year?

One of my brothers once described New Year as a triumph of hope over expectation. And so it is as we bid farewell to 2007 with bloodshed on the streets of Pakistan and welcome 2008 with horrific killings in Kenya.

We hope for peace and respect for human rights, yet events lead us to lower our expectation that 2008 will be any better than 2007, or any other year come to that.

These are truly awful events in Kenya. As the Times reports, the violence that has erupted throughout the country has exposed tribal resentments that have long festered. I hear disturbing echoes of how much bigger conflicts began elsewhere in Africa.  Indeed, the Times also reports the Kenyan Red Cross, which has taken aerial footage showing farms and hundreds of houses on fire, as saying that only those from the right ethnic group were being allowed through roadblocks set up every ten miles. Thousands are apparently fleeing the violence, some into neighbouring Uganda.

So I fear Im not about to start feeling more cheerful any time soon. But I did smile when I read in the Independent that, because of a ban on live television and radio broadcasts in Kenya, while the BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera were reporting the rising death toll a local channel, KTN, was showing The Sound of Music.

In both Pakistan and Kenya, the violence has been triggered by peoples hopes for democracy appearing to have been squashed.

In his blog for the Telegraph, Daniel Hannan argues that meaningful democracy is in retreat not just in Africa and Pakistan but elsewhere too, including here in Europe. Hes not predicting bloodshed on the boulevards of Brussels but lets hope hes wrong all the same.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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