By Prince Kurupati
2018 came and now, it’s about to slip past us. For some, the year crawled at a snail’s pace while for some, the year flew away like a rocket. How you individually reflect on the year depends really on what you managed to achieve during the year. However, our topic today is not premised on the individual unit but rather on the ‘whole’ unit i.e. Africa.
2018 for Africa, as has been the case with all the previous years, had its great moments and also it had its ‘unfortunate’ moments. In this article, we are going to explore all of these moments i.e. both the good and the bad. Note though that we are just going to highlight the major events as truth be told, we would literally have to write hundreds of pages if we were to list every ‘good’ and every ‘bad’ moment.
Positivity is a great element and as such, we are going to start with some positivity. Below are all the good moments that Africa enjoyed in 2018.
Botswana is rated as one of the strongest democracies in Africa. Staying true to this, Botswana in 2018 witnessed a peaceful and smooth power transition. Then-president Ian Khama stepped down after running down his term (10 years) and ‘appointed’ (in consultation with the party structures) Mokgweetsi Masisi as his successor. Mokgweetsi Masisi had served as Khama’s Vice President and his appointment means he will be the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party in 2019’s Presidential elections. Botswana has a multi-party system but only the ruling party i.e. the Democratic Party commands a huge following hence elections when they are held are in all respects inconsequential.
Ethiopia has been the envy of many African countries in 2018. Truth be told, Ethiopia started the new year (2018) on a bad note as widespread political demonstrations were threatening political stability. However, the ‘bad’ was soon to be overthrown by the ‘good’ as then Prime Minister Haile Mariam Desalegn tendered his resignation in early April paving the way for the reformist Abiy Ahmed to succeed him. Since his rise to the highest office in the land, Abiy Ahmed has overseen drastic but positive reforms in the country. To put this into perspective, Abiy Ahmed thus far has reshuffled his cabinet (in the process creating a 50:50 gender-balanced cabinet- a first for Africa), fired a series of controversial and hitherto untouchable civil servants, reached out to hostile neighbours and rivals, lifted bans on websites and other media, freed thousands of political prisoners, ordered the partial privatisation of massive state-owned companies and ended a state of emergency imposed to quell widespread unrest.
Ethiopia and Eritrea
Ethiopia once again pops up on our list but this time, in partnership with Eritrea. Since 1998, these two countries were involved in a war (or should we say a state of war) this state of war meant that even though the two countries are closely linked in terms of culture, no Ethiopians nor Eritreans were allowed to cross the border into the neighbouring country. Not just this but no Ethiopians nor Eritreans could make phone calls to the neighbouring country, this in spite of the fact that many had close relatives on the other side of the border. The state of war also meant that the two countries could not trade with each other with Ethiopia being forced to use the long and expensive route of getting its imports and sending its exports via the Djibouti ports. Unlikely as it was at the turn of the year, Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki managed to come to a mutual understanding henceforth bringing to an end the two-decade-long standoff.
2018 saw an African in Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege winning the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. Denis Mukwege was honoured for his efforts to end sexual violence as a weapon of war. In the process, Mukwege became the eleventh African to win the prestigious award. The other recipients include former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, ex-Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and activist Leymah Gbowee as well as late Kenyan conservationist Wangari Mathai.
2018 was a great year for the Nigerian movie industry as streaming giant Netflix acquired one of Nollywood’s production. The acquired film is Lionheart directed by popular Nigerian actress Genevieve Nnaji (in her first directorial role). The film centres on Adaeze, who sets out to prove her worth in a male-dominated industry, with hilarious results.
Yoweri Museveni has been castigated by both Ugandans and outsiders for his ‘iron fist’ rule in recent times. In 2018, he did little to correct that as he crossed paths on many occasions with musician and rising politician Bobi Wine. On one such occasion, at the request of Yoweri Museveni, Bobi Wine was unlawfully arrested and tortured for days. He had to seek medical attention upon his release in the US. Truly a horrible thing but we hope Museveni has learnt the folly of his ways.
On 14 February, then South African president Jacob Zuma in a televised announcement announced that he was stepping down from his position. Even though he said his decision was ‘voluntary’, it was clear that pressure from certain circles (a faction from his own party and also opposition parties) had forced his hand. It’s always unfortunate when democratically elected leaders are forced out ‘undemocratically’. Zuma’s resignation means that the past two South African presidents have failed to finish their terms owing to pressure from certain circles. This is definitely a worrying trend and it’s our hope that the trend is not going to continue.
Zimbabwe earlier this year held its first post-Mugabe election. There was a marked difference in terms of the conduct of the elections from those that were conducted during Mugabe’s era (especially since the turn of the millennium). The elections, before and during Election Day were largely peaceful. However, after Election Day, peace disappeared and confusion emerged. The confusion created a state of uneasiness as the ruling party supporters and the main opposition party supporters eagerly awaited election results. With both camps confident of winning, the opposition was enraged when the announced results were not in their favour. To show their sign of disapproval, many went into the streets to demonstrate but they were met with ruthless force by the country’s military forces and in the fracas, seven were shot dead.
Cameroon from start to end was a terrible year for Cameroon (or specifically for some parts of Cameroon i.e. the Anglophone region). Government forces and separatists constantly fought each other to the detriment of ordinary civilians. Hundreds of people were killed and thousands displaced with other seeking refuge in neighbouring Nigeria. The inaction by the country’s leader Paul Biya to decisively deal with the crises did not help matters at all and the silence by most international actors’ especially African countries also was a huge disappointment. With the crises still raging on, it’s our hope that the government and separatists will come to a mutual understanding. Also, it’s our hope that all silent actors’ especially African countries start taking some actions to bring relief to the suffering in Anglophone Cameroon.
By the way, Paul Biya won a seventh term in a ‘sham’ presidential election meaning he will be Cameroon’s president till 2025.
South Sudan is not exactly a role model when it comes to human rights. However, even by its own standards, the execution of a man (who committed a non-heinous crime when he was a child) is a new low. South Sudan is one of the few countries which allows state-sanctioned executions. In 2018 alone, over 10 people were executed (the highest number since the country attained its independence in 2011).
Tanzania is one of those few countries on the African continent that tends to do its business unnoticed, away from the spotlight. However, 2018 was a different year for Tanzania as the country found itself in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Mostly, these wrong reasons had to do with human rights abuses. Dissenting voices in the form of human rights defenders (HRDs), civil society, journalists, bloggers, and the media have been ruthlessly dealt with. In some cases, journalists have been attacked physically, abducted, arbitrarily arrested, detained, and prosecuted. Political opposition members have been prosecuted for insulting the president during political rallies, and the groups alleged that some have been attacked, and in at least some instances, killed. The Tanzanian government has also arrested and harassed marginalized persons, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. In recent months, it has gone as far as creating a special body whose sole task is to look for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people with the aim of arresting and imprisoning them.
Whole of Africa
To round off, we just have to point out that 2018 was ‘the’ year when it comes to football as the 21st edition of the World Cup was hosted in Russia. Africa had five representatives at the World Cup in Nigeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Senegal. However, it was a huge disappointment as all five teams were knocked out during the group stages, the first time this has happened since 1982. Hopefully, it will be a different case in 2022.