News Timeline: April 2004


April 1 – Africa/International Organizations: COTE D’IVOIRE/UNITED NATIOINS

The United Nations deploys the first peacekeepers to Côte d’Ivoire to replace French and African troops that are guarding the buffer zone between the rebel-held north and government forces in the south. The UN force, known as UNOCI, the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire, is expected to employ 6,240 personnel.

April 1 – Europe: GERMANY

The southern German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg is the country’s first state to ban teachers from wearing Islamic headscarves. Also, Berlin’s regional government agrees to outlaw all religious symbols for civil servants. The Muslim groups protest the new law as suppressing religious freedom. Another five of 16 states are in the process of introducing similar laws.

April 2 – South Asia: SRI LANKA

Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s United People’s Freedom Alliance wins the country’s parliamentary elections, but it does not secure enough votes to have a majority in the parliament. President Kumaratunga is expected to hold talks with smaller parties to form a coalition government. She accuses her rival, Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe, of endangering national security by giving too many concessions to the Tamil rebels.

April 3 – North America/Middle East: UNITED STATES/IRAQ

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell admits that the evidence he used to convince the UN Security Council to support the war with Iraq may have been wrong. At least two intelligence sources that he referred to are now questionable. His statement might be damaging for the Bush administration in an election year.

April 3 – North America/Africa: UNITED NATIONS/SUDAN

UN emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland accuses the Sudanese government of carrying out ethnic cleansing in the western region of Darfur and urges the world to put pressure on Sudan and the rebels to end the atrocities. Egeland describes the situation in Darfur as a humanitarian crisis.

April 5 – North America/Middle East: UNITED STATES/IRAQ

About 1,200 U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces launch a major operation to pacify the Iraqi towns of Falluja and Ramadi, both within the Sunni triangle and the center of opposition to the occupation. The U.S. troops engage in fierce fighting with the Shia Muslim Mehdi Army loyal to radical cleric Moqtada Sadr.

April 5 – Europe: SLOVENIA

Ninety-four percent of Slovenians who participate in a referendum on the law restoring the citizenship and rights of ethnic minorities vote against the law. About 18,000 ethnic minorities, mostly from the former Yugoslavian republics, were removed from population records and lost their residency rights after Slovenia’s independence from Yugoslavia. The human-rights groups condemn the result, pointing to growing nationalism, xenophobia, and racism.

April 6 – Europe/Former Soviet Republics: LITHUANIA

The Lithuanian parliament narrowly votes to impeach President Rolandas Paksas for leaking classified materials and giving a Russian businessman citizenship for financial support. The parliamentary chairman, Arturas Paulauskas, becomes acting president until a new president is elected.

April 6 – Former Soviet Republics: UZBEKISTAN

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) withdraws aid from Uzbekistan because of the country’s slow progress in reforms and poor record in human rights. The bank will continue cooperation with the private sector and certain projects in the public sector.

April 6 – Europe: RUSSIA

Ingush President Murat Zyazikov is slightly injured in an assassination attempt when a vehicle filled with explosives explodes next to his armored limousine in the city of Nazran, Ingushetia’s administrative center. Zyazikov, a former Federal Security Service (FSB) general, is a staunch supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin and was elected president of Ingushetia in 2002 with considerable Moscow support.

April 12 – International Organizations/Latin America: AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL/GLOBAL JUSTICE/BRAZIL

Human-rights groups, including Amnesty International and Global Justice, condemn Brazil’s plans to build a 10-foot-high wall surrounding Rio de Janeiro’s two biggest slums, Rocinha and Vigidal. They say the wall will create social apartheid. But the city’s authorities say the wall will help security forces to control drug trafficking and arms trade in the slums. It would also stop the spreading of the shantytown, which already has 150,000 inhabitants.

April 14 – South America: PAKISTAN

Pakistan’s parliament passes a law, which assigns four seats for the armed forces in the country’s 13-member National Security Council. The council will advise the government on issues of national security. The opposition condemns the law, calling it “permanent martial law.”

April 14 – Europe: SPAIN

The Spanish government says it has destroyed the militant Islamist group responsible for the Madrid bombings. The leader of the cell, a Tunisian national, Serhane ben Abdelmajid Fakhet, was killed in the police raid. The Madrid cell is also responsible for planting the explosives on the railway soon after the March 11 attacks.

April 14 – Middle East/North America: ISRAEL/UNITED STATES

U.S. President George W. Bush abandons a long-standing American policy and endorses Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to disengage from the Gaza Strip in exchange for keeping six settlement blocks in the West Bank. Palestinians react angrily, warning that the unilateral plan that gives concessions on behalf of the Palestinians will destroy the peace process. Israeli right-wing politicians and the settlers’ lobby also oppose Sharon’s proposal.

April 15 – Middle East/Europe: IRAQ/RUSSIA

Russia evacuates more than 800 Russian and other former Soviet citizens from Iraq amid growing violence and kidnappings, especially after an execution of an Italian hostage by Iraqi insurgents. Three Russians and five Ukrainians were kidnapped and then released a couple days later. Russian firms are involved in reconstruction projects in the power, transport, oil, and gas sectors.

April 15 – Middle East/North America: IRAQ/UNITED STATES

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announces that 20,000 U.S. troops scheduled to come back home from their original one-year deployment in Iraq will stay for another 90 days. The announcement comes at a time of an uprising by the followers of the Iraqi radical cleric Moqtada Sadr in the town of Falluja and the biggest outbreak of violence since the end of the military operations in Iraq.

April 15 – Africa: SOUTH AFRICA

The African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa wins general elections and obtains 70 percent of the vote, which gives it the two-thirds majority in parliament required to make changes to the country’s constitution. With the ANC’s victory, President Thabo Mbeki will be sworn in for his second five-year term in office.

April 16 – East Asia: SOUTH KOREA

South Korea’s liberal Uri Party wins, for the first time, the majority in the National Assembly, changing the country’s political spectrum. The Uri Party says it will continue the country’s foreign and economic policies, but it urges the parties that impeached President Roh Moo-hyun to withdraw their vote. The main charge against the president was that he violated his neutrality by officially supporting the Uri Party.

April 16 – Latin America: COLOMBIA

Colombian police raid and seize over 100 properties belonging to the alleged chief of the Norte del Valle drug cartel, Diego Montoya. If the assets, estimated at $150 million, are proved to have come from drug profits, they will be confiscated by the government and applied toward continuing the war on drugs.

April 18 – Europe: SLOVAKIA

Former parliament chairman Ivan Gasparovic wins 60 percent of the vote in the Slovak presidential election, defeating the controversial nationalist ex-prime minister Vladimir Meciar. The critics say there is little difference between the two candidates as Gasparovic supported all of Meciar’s policies while in office. The post of president in Slovakia is mostly ceremonial.

April 19 – Africa: ALGERIA

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is sworn in to his second term in office after he won 80 percent of the vote in the election, promising national reconciliation. Algeria has been struggling with violence, which involves Islamic militants.

April 20 – Africa: SWAZILAND

Africa’s last absolute monarch, King Mswati III of Swaziland, celebrates his 36th birthday with a lavish party estimated at $600,000 of the taxpayers’ money. The celebrations spark anger in the country, where AIDS and unemployment are rampant.

April 20 – South Asia: INDIA

India ends phase one of its first electronic general elections, which cover 13 states and three union territories. Six hundred seventy million eligible voters will come to the polls in four phases stretched over three weeks, which will ensure deployment of two million officers for security reasons.

April 20 – Europe/Former Soviet Republics/Europe: RUSSIA/UKRAINE

The Ukrainian parliament ratifies a treaty on the country’s border with Russia and endorses an accord on the joint use of the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait, stipulating that they are internal waters of both Ukraine and Russia. The Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, the Socialist Party, and Our Ukraine refuse to vote.

April 21 – South Asia: BANGLADESH

Police in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, clash with protestors, supporters of the opposition Awami League, who demand that Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia step down and call early elections. More than 2,000 people have been arrested within the last two days of protests. The opposition claims that Zia’s son, Tarique Rahman, exerts too much influence over the government and is being prepared to take over her office.

April 21 – Africa: SUDAN

Rebels from Sudan’s Darfur region start the second round of peace talks with a Sudanese government delegation in Chad to discuss a cease-fire monitoring committee. Rebels and the Sudanese government have recently signed a 45-day cease-fire agreement.

April 21 – East Asia: NORTH KOREA/CHINA

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il finishes his secret visit in China during which he discussed his country’s economic problems and visited a model farm. China also urged Kim Jong-il to soften his position on nuclear issues. China is North Korea’s main ally and a mediator in the nuclear negotiations.


The European Commission of the European Union (EU) recommends Croatia to become a candidate for the European Union membership after its political and economic reforms were determined successful. Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader says his country has made the first step to its final goal, which is a full membership in the EU within the next few years.

April 21 – Middle East: BAHRAIN

Bahrain’s King Hamad appoints Nada Haffadh, a doctor and a member of parliament, to head a health ministry, making her the first woman in the Arab world to lead a government ministry. Bahrain is the only Arab Gulf state to allow women to be members of parliament.

April 22 – Africa: BURUNDI

Burundi’s rebel group, the National Liberation Forces (FNL), declares a unilateral cease-fire on the condition the government forces would not engage in military action. The truce brings hopes of an end to a civil war that has lasted for a decade. The FNL refused to join the power-sharing agreement last year and found itself increasingly isolated.

April 23 – Africa: SUDAN

Human Rights Watch reports that a pro-Sudanese government militia has committed new atrocities in western Sudan by executing 136 people in a coordinated operation. Talks held in Chad aimed at ending the crisis are making little progress.

April 23 – East Asia: NEPAL

Nepal becomes the 147th member of the World Trade Organization, which will give the country access to world markets and boost its economy. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, where imports exceed exports, causing a big trade deficit.

April 23 – South Asia: SRI LANKA

Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga invites Norway to resume its role as a mediator between the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels. Last year Tamil leaders pulled out of the peace talks amid a government power struggle between the country’s president and prime minister.

April 23 – Asia: DENMARK

Danish Defense Minister Svend Aage Jensby resigns amid criticism of government reports on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Denmark supported the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

April 23 – Europe/Former Soviet Republics: BALTIC STATES/RUSSIA

Latvia’s government expels a Russian diplomat accused of trying to access NATO military infrastructure. It is the third time this year that a Russian diplomat has been expelled from the Baltic states. Previously, three Russian diplomats were expelled from Lithuania for trying to buy documents related to NATO and the EU. Also, Estonia expelled two Russian diplomats for spying. The Baltic states joined NATO in March.

April 23 – International Organizations: MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS

A joint report by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund says the Millennium Development Goals program, targeting poverty problems in developing countries, is failing. Two years ago the developed countries agreed on the program, which includes halving the proportion of the population in extreme poverty, ensuring primary education for all children, and reductions in child and maternal deaths by 2015.

April 24 – Europe: CYPRUS

More than three-quarters of Greek Cypriot voters reject the UN plan for reunification of Cyprus. In contrast, 65 percent of Turkish Cypriots endorse the plan. However, for the island to be reunified, both sides had to approve the plan. As a result, only the Greek part of Cyprus will join the European Union on May 1, but the EU announces it will end economic isolation of the Turkish Cyprus.

April 26 – Asia/International Organizations: ASIA/UNITED NATIONS

Twenty-three states sign a UN-sponsored treaty on road systems at a meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) in the Chinese city of Shanghai. Like the ancient Silk Road trading route, 87,000 miles of roads will connect Asia with Europe, invigorate regional economic integration, and reduce the isolation of many landlocked Asian countries.

April 26 – East Asia: CHINA/HONG KONG

China’s most powerful legislative panel rules that Hong Kong will not have direct elections for its leader in 2007 and says that political reforms will have to be introduced gradually. The Beijing-backed Hong Kong chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, supports China’s ruling and calls for the activists to end their protests.

April 26 – International Organizations/East Asia: UNITED NATIONS/CHINA

Twenty-three states sign a UN-sponsored treaty on road systems at a meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) in the Chinese city of Shanghai. Like the ancient Silk Road trading route, 87,000 miles of roads will connect Asia with Europe, invigorate regional economic integration, and reduce the isolation of many landlocked Asian countries.

April 27 – Latin America: PERU

Thousands of protesters in Peru’s impoverished southeastern Andean town of Ilave lynch the town’s mayor, Cirilo Fernando Robles Cayomamani, who was accused of embezzling state funds. Three other town officials are reported abducted.

April 28 – Africa: SOUTH AFRICA

South African President Thabo Mbeki reshuffles his 49-strong cabinet, keeping several key ministers, including finance, foreign affairs, health, and defense, and adding five new women, which now constitute nearly half of the cabinet. He also dismisses Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the head of the main Zulu-dominated Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), which fought against Mbeki’s African National Congress (ANC) during the campaign.

April 29 – North America: UNITED STATES

U.S. President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney jointly appear in front of the commission investigating the September 11 attacks. No media are allowed during the hearing and no transcripts of answers will be provided. Neither leader is under oath. President Bush is expected to answer questions about his knowledge of the terrorism threat before the attacks and what action his administration took.

April 30 – Latin America: VENEZUELA

Venezuela’s parliament approves a controversial reform of the country’s Supreme Court, which increases the number of judges from 20 to 32. The opposition claims that the reform will allow President Hugo Chavez to appoint more sympathetic judges and ultimately control the judiciary.