April 2014 Current Events: World News
Here are the key events in world news for the month of April 2014.
Japan Lifts Decades Old Arms Ban (April 1): Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his cabinet approve a measure that lifts Japan's ban on weapons exports, a self-imposed ban that had been in place since 1967. Under the new policy, arms sales are still banned to countries in conflict and nations that can undermine international peace. In fact, weapons sales must contribute to international peace and Japan's security. Supporters of the new policy believe that it will help increase Japan's role on an international stage. Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga meets with reporters after the measure was passed. About the new policy, he says, ""We have made the procedure for transfer of defense equipment more transparent. That will contribute to peace and international cooperation from the standpoint of proactive pacifism."
Kerry Heads to Israel to Rescue Peace Talks (April 1): When Israel failed to release the promised last batch of prisoners in late March 2014, U.S. Secretary John Kerry heads there in an attempt to rescue the latest round of peace talks. Israel had promised to release Palestinian prisoners in four groups and released the first three groups as promised. But Israel's failure to release the last group of 26 prisoners as well as their continued settlement expansion in the West Bank threatens to derail a peace agreement that is supposed to be reached by the end of April 2014. Palestine says the peace talks will end on April 29 if Israel does not release the 26 prisoners.
Voter Turnout Unexpectedly High in Afghanistan's Presidential Election (April 5): April's elections in Afghanistan are successful for the high voter turnout and the lack of violence or attempts to disrupt the vote. About 60% of registered voters turn out to vote for president and provincial councils despite threats from the Taliban. Eight candidates are running for president, and results are not expected for several weeks. A run-off is widely expected.
Pistorius Sobs during Murder Trial Testimony (April 7): Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius takes the stand to testify in his murder trial. During his testimony he sobs while describing how he broke down the bathroom door after shooting through it four times and found his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp inside. Pistorius says he shot Steenkamp by mistake, believing she was an intruder in the bathroom. Pistorius faces a life sentence for chargers of premeditated murder. Later on in the trial, prosecutors will present their case. They say he killed Steenkamp after an argument.
India Holds Largest Election Ever (April 7): India's 2014 general election begins. The election is scheduled to run until May 12, making it the longest election in the country's history. The election will take place in nine phases. Projected to cost around $5 billion dollars, the election is also India's costliest election and the second most expensive in world history. Only the 2012 U.S. presidential election cost more, coming in at $7 billion, according to the U.S. Federal Election Commission. In terms of population, 814 million people are eligible to vote, making it the world's largest election ever.
Pro-Russian Movement Continues in Ukraine (April 12): Pro-Russian protesters and armed militants in the eastern cities of Donetsk, Kharkiv, Luhansk, and Mariupol take over several government buildings and police stations. They also announce they are forming an independent republic and will hold a referendum on secession from Ukraine and annexation by Russia in May, clearly borrowing from the playbook used in Crimea. (April 13): Oleksandr Turchynov, Ukraine's acting president, threatens the pro-Russian militias with an "antiterrorist operation" if they don't withdraw. The militants ignore the ultimatum and Turchynov asks the UN to dispatch a peacekeeping force to the eastern part of the country. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov repeatedly deny the government orchestrated the demonstrations. (April 17): In Geneva, representatives from the U.S., Russia, Ukraine, and the European Union reach an agreement intended to de-escalate the tension in eastern Ukraine. The agreement states that all illegal armed groups will lay down their arms and all buildings seized illegally will be surrendered. Both sides agree to end the violence and intolerance, with anti-Semitism being singled out. Protesters who are not suspected of committing capital offenses will be granted amnesty if they surrender their arms. The statement also says while drafting a new constitution, Ukraine will make the process inclusive, transparent, and accountable. Russia does not commit to withdrawing the 40,000 troops it has massed on the Ukrainian border. The diplomats also discuss a proposal by acting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk to decentralize power and give the regional governments increased authority, but federalism is not covered in the agreement. The pro-Russian separatists refuse to vacate the buildings they have occupied, saying they will not leave until the government in Kiev, which they do not recognize, steps down. Their defiance jeopardizes the entire agreement. (April 28): In response to the increasing volatility in eastern Ukraine and Russia's refusal to back down, the U.S. imposes additional sanctions on Russian officials and companies with close ties to Putin. The sanctions put a travel ban on the individuals and freeze the assets of the officials and the businesses. They also restrict trade with the U.S.
Mass Kidnapping in Nigeria Sparks International Outrage (April 14): Islamist militant group Boko Haram is accused of kidnapping about 280 girls from a school in northeast Nigeria with the intention of making the girls sex slaves. The mass kidnapping-and the government's inept attempts to rescue them-spark international outrage. The fundamentalist Islamist sect views public education as blasphemous. The army and President Goodluck Jonathan are widely criticized for their inability to curb the violence at the hands of Boko Haram.
Iraq Shuts Down Abu Ghraib Prison (April 15): Iraq announces the "complete closure" of Abu Ghraib, the infamous prison in which members of the U.S. military physically and sexually abused Iraqi prisoners. The Iraqi government cites security concerns as the reason for the closure due to the Sunni insurgency over the last year.
Palestinian Unity Deal Threatens Peace Talks (April 23): The troubled peace talks hit another snag when Palestinian leadership and Hamas forge a new reconciliation agreement. The new unity deal angers the Israeli government. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacts by saying that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is choosing "Hamas, not peace." The U.S. government warns that the new accord could prevent any progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Since 1997, Hamas has been a designated foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. (April 24): The day after the Palestinian leadership announces its new unity deal with Hamas, Israel responds by halting the peace talks. (April 25): Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah resigns. (April 30): The deadline for this latest round of peace talks passes without an agreement.