News Timeline: January 2014


January 1 – Europe: LATVIA / EUROPEAN UNION
Latvia adopts the euro, the European Union’s common currency, becoming the 18th member of the eurozone.  After strong recovery from the recession, Latvia currently has the fastest growing economy within the EU.

January 6 – South Asia: BANGLADESH
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League party wins a majority in the parliamentary elections, bringing her back for a third term in office. The deadly election was boycotted by her arch enemy Khaleda Zia and her Nationalist Party (BNP), who demanded that a neutral caretaker government oversee the poll. She also called for supporters to block the country’s infrastructure in an attempt to bring down the government. At least 18 people were killed and many injured during the violent campaign and election.

January 13 – South Asia: INDIA
India marks three years since the last reported case of the polio disease, the amount of time needed to pass before a country can be proclaimed polio-free. Only in 2009, India had 741 cases of polio. There are just three countries, which still have the disease, two of them in South Asia: Afghanistan and Pakistan. The third one is Nigeria.

January 14 – East Asia / Africa: JAPAN / AFRICA

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pays an official visit to Ethiopia, pledging more cooperation, investment, and aid for Africa. He says Japan wants to invest in education in Africa. He promises humanitarian aid of $320 million for Africa, including South Sudan struggling with infighting and war-torn Central Africa Republic. Abe’s visit is seen as an attempt to counter China’s influence in Africa.

January 19 – Europe / Former Soviet Republics: UKRAINE
Renewed widespread violent and deadly protests erupt in Ukraine in response to the government’s passage of a law that bans unauthorized tents in public areas and criminalizes blocking public buildings and slandering government officials. (January 30): The government announces amnesty for detainees under the condition that the opposition will end protests. However, the opposition, which has been occupying key government buildings, dismisses the offer.

January 19 – Africa: EGYPT
Ninety-eight percent of voters in Egypt approve the country’s new constitution in a nationwide referendum, which will replace the one introduced by the former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. In comparison, the previous constitution was approved by only 64 percent of voters. The new document states that Islam remains the state religion, but it guarantees religious freedoms and protection. It also guarantees equality between men and women.

January 21 – East Asia: THAILAND
The Thai government imposes a 60-day state of emergency in the capital, Bangkok, and the surrounding areas to deal with anti-government protests that have been blocking parts of the city since November. Protesters have been calling for Prime Minister Yinkluck Shinawatra to step down since she passed a political amnesty bill, which would allow her brother and former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, to return from exile. She rejects the calls to resign, and instead announces plans for new elections in February 2014. The opposition says it will not stop protesting and will boycott the elections.

January 24 – Africa: SOUTH SUDAN
A ceasefire agreement is reached between the followers of South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir and his former Vice President Riek Machar following a conflict that killed hundreds of people and displaced more than half a million. The conflict was a result of a power struggle between the two leaders who represent two different ethnic groups of South Sudan: Dinka and Nuer.  In mid-2013, President Kiir dismissed Machar and in December accused him of plotting a coup, which sparked deadly clashes between the rival factions.

January 25 – East Asia: PHILIPPINES
The Philippine government signs the final part of a peace agreement with Muslim rebels, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), who agree to put down their weapons in exchange for an autonomous area in the south of the country. The conflict lasted 40 years and claimed more than 120,000 lives.

January 26 – East Asia: CHINA
China sentences a prominent human rights activist Xu Zhiyong to four years in prison for what it calls “disrupting public order.” Xu and his grassroots organization New Citizens’ Movement have been campaigning against corruption and calling for protection children’s rights.

January 27 – Africa: TUNISIA
Tunisia adopts its first constitution since ousting President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali during the Arab Spring revolutions in 2011. It defines Islam as the state religion, but guarantees freedom of religion. It also guarantees equality between men and women. After the ousting of Ben Ali, the moderate Islamist Ennahda party has been in power.

January 28 – Latin America: NICARAGUA
The Nicaraguan parliament approves changes in the constitution, which scrap the limit for presidential terms. This will allow current president, Daniel Ortega, to run for a third term in 2016. The opposition dismisses the decision as a threat to democracy.

January 28 – Latin America / International Organizations: PERU / CHILE / UNITED NATIONS
The United Nations International Court of Justice at The Hague settles a maritime border dispute between Peru and Chile that has lasted since the war of the Pacific in 1883 when Chile took rich lands from Peru. The Court awards Peru about 7,700 square miles and gives control over 10,000 square miles of international waters, but some rich fishing areas remain with Chile. Both sides pledge to abide by the UN ruling.