Ending The Year In Pieces: A Glossary On Some Events That Took The World From Peace To Pieces In 2017

2017 has been a very busy year and one of the most remarkable years in world politics, diplomacy and international relations, as well as national and regional politics. It opened with one of the most miraculous political mutations in the world when Donald Trump became the 45 President of the most influential nation in the world, the United States of America. This miraculous political mutation witnessed from the West also blew through Africa, reminiscent of the early 1990s wing of change in Africa. In the 21st century transformation which became the contemporary Glorious revolution, Adama Barrow took over for a leader with 23 years in power, Yahya Jammeh, of the tiny West African nation of The Gambia. Before the year could end, the most dramatic political mutation in the world and Africa, in particular, visited the Southern African territory of Zimbabwe when the “grace” of Mugabe could no longer keep him in power. However, it was also a year of tears as the United Nations experienced the worst attack in its peacekeeping missions. The story of Royhingya Muslims also became worsened as well as well the continuation in the attacks of Boko Haram members, and the violent trend witnessed in Southern Cameroon. Reactions have come from diverse quarters especially UN Secretary-General and the Pope who have expressed disappointment in the trend of these events and many more.

On January 20th, 2017, a new leader was being welcomed to the world political scene which has changed the international relations of nations. Donald Trump’s victory in November 2016 and subsequently his inauguration in 2017 was a rare occurrence in the world as most did not expect a man with ideas which challenged regular protocol arrangements to lead such a nation. However, it came to pass. And just when Donald Trump was taking his seat in the inner boos of the white house, another political miracle was taking place in Africa, as The Gambia’s strongman, who owns all the titles of the world, His Excellency El-Hadj Chief Pr Dr General President Yahya AJJ Jammeh, was stepping down beyond all expectation after 23 years in power. It was widely believed Jammeh, who had ruled the tiny West African nation, would, as usual, prevail during the elections but miraculously he was stepping down, thanks to international pressure.

While Africa and the world were celebrating this political miracle, Africa’s largest nation, South Africa was presenting a difficult report card as Zuma’s handling of the nation had moved from the fight against racial inequality to the fight for his personal aggrandizement. While South Africa’s situation did not present bloodshed, the continuous manslaughter in 2017 worsened with UNICEF reporting that hundreds of children have been killed in the fighting with hospitals and schools becoming the main targets of government aerial bombardments. In nearby Yemen, the situation has been appalling in 2017 as the UN has even described it as a purely man-made disaster. More violence was reported in Burma where an entire community and ethnic group, the Rohingya’s have been forcefully displaced. Thousands have been killed while millions displaced.

Despite numerous peace agreements, the South Sudan conflict continued unabated with each side accusing the other of violating the agreements. Even the relative peaceful Cameroon also embraced violence as the famous English speaking minority conflict escalated into an arms conflict involving groups of men against the regular military. Despite its frequency on world media because of the protracted conflict, DR Congo broke new grounds in violence as 14 UN Peacekeeping soldiers were killed in one attack. This prompted Antonio Guterres to describe it as the worst attack on Blue Helmets in recent times.
South Africa came back to the news before the close of the year as Africa’s longest liberation movement turned political party, the African National Congress (ANC) witnessed a dramatic change in leadership as Zuma gave way for businessman, Cyril Ramaphosa. However, the greatest shock in the Southern African community was the ousting of Zimbabwe’s liberation hero, Robert Mugabe who unceremoniously abdicated following pressure from the same liberation movement that brought him to power. For the first time in history, independent Zimbabwe moved from Mugabe’s government to that of Mnangagwa. More success stories came from Liberia as Africa’s only FIFA Ballon D’or Winner, George Weah was declared winner of the Presidential runoff on Boxing Day.

The last 365 days have been one of the longest in contemporary times and sometimes a day becomes almost longer than a month. This is because the rate of untold hardship has greatly increased and the sanctity of human life has been desecrated. In most cases, events happened like a surprise to many even more of a surprise to the players directly involved in the events.

It was almost concluded that Hilary Clinton would be the next President of the United States of America. But against all expectation, the political inexperienced Trump won the elections and took over on January 20. The same situation was experienced in The Gambia when strongman Jammeh was finally forced out of power the following day after Trump was sworn in. After elections on December 1, 2016, Jammeh erred by first of all accepting defeat and later on rejecting it. He relied on his strength and political manipulations which had suppressed all organized oppositions and kept him in power since 1994. However, 1994 was different from 2017 and Jammeh failed to read the writing on the wall and was unable to reconcile with the changing times and political dynamism of the regional institution ECOWAS. And so, Jammeh was forced out of power thanks to the muscular intervention of ECOWAS leaders.

It was also the refusal of Mugabe to acknowledge the changing times that made him leave power unceremoniously. Even when opposition against him was mounting, Mugabe thought he could still rely on his old political tactics which could no longer fit into the changing times. The Zimbabwe of the 1980s and 1990s is not the same of today and Mugabe also failed to understand that the Mugabe of 2017 was not as strong, vibrant and agile like the Mugabe who took power in 1980. Moreover, the ‘Grace’ he had to cling to power in the 1990s and 2000s was no longer sufficient to maintain him.

It was a similar surprise which befell the Francophone government of Cameroon following the rise of Anglophone nationalism in the country. Despite being banned and suppressed violently, the movement has succeeded to thwart educational, economic and legal activities in Southern Cameroon in particular and in Cameroon in general in 2017. From a marginalized people, Anglophone nationalist movements are now fighting not just for their rights but for a separate state of what they called Ambazonia and the conflict can only be managed through a pacific formula and not the violent move spearheaded by the government.

In a more desperate situation, Bashar al-Assad has tended to prolong his stay on power based on the continuous sacrifice of human blood as many more Syrians are being killed in order to give him a foothold on power. At the end of the day, all Syrians would still sit on the negotiating table to talk the way forward because no side would ever be able to rule the country peacefully. The same situation transpires in Yemen where both Houthi rebels and Saudi backed government are trenched in an impasse with civilians paying the price. Just like Syria, Yemen can only gain stability when all parties involved in conflict sit around a table without guns and bombs.

Meanwhile, the world’s newest country, South Sudan, which had not had the opportunity to fully enjoy its independence was back in the news after the Transitional Government of National unity crumbled in July 2016 as the bitter squabble between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President, Riek Machar, remained unresolved. However, with the two most prominent South Sudanese politicians hijacking power and showing signs of irreconcilable differences it would be a feasible reality if its international partners especially IGAD can trace a new peace initiative without these two men. Despite all these events, most media organs chose to focus on Burma where the case of the Rohingya minority became alarming since August 2017 as the UN reported that more than 600,000 have crossed the Burmese border into Bangladesh in fear of ethnic cleansing perpetrated by government security operatives and Buddhist militias. This even prompted some Nobel Laureates to criticize fellow Laureate and Burmese de facto civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi for her silence in the face of the conflict. Just like Desmond Tutu used his privileged position to defend justice in South Africa, the Rohingya situation presents a case for Suu Kyi to clamour for justice not just for the Rohingyas but for all Burmese.

Despite the chaotic situation in African politics in particular and global affairs in general, there was still a situation which brought smiles to the face of many as Liberia organized one of the most free and fair elections of recent times which saw a former football player, George Weah, winning over 61 percent of the votes cast. It came as a Christmas gift to Africa where such situations are rare and especially owing to the bloody past of Liberia. However, while Liberians are enjoying their “Christmas gift” many are languishing in terrible man-made conditions as world leaders rely on the blood of the people to water their success story.