Published On: Sat, Oct 22nd, 2016

An African peeps into the world in 2017 -By Owei Lakemfa

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October 21, 2016


THE world is at war. In most parts, this year that marks the Centenary of the First World War, is witnessing horrendous conflicts. In that war, the main actors proclaimed, ‘no more wars!’ Twenty three years later, they were back in a ‘war to end all wars’.

When the Cold War was said to have ended two decades ago, humanity must have looked forward to a less contentious world, but nothing has stopped the steady and determined march of war.

The wars are changing the world and as an African, I peep into the decisive month of January 2017 when new major actors will strut the world stage; a new Secretary General of the United Nations, a new American President and a new Chair of the African Union, AU, Commission.

There is the frozen war in Ukraine where separatists and neo-Nazis have fought themselves to a stalemate. By far the most dangerous war is the conflict in Syria where a coalition of minorities including Christians are battling terrorists of the ISIS and al-Nustra fabric and Western-certified ‘moderate forces’ of the Free Syrian Army. It is a proxy war with a cocktail of religious, regional, ethnic and super power politics. That conflict has harvested over 200,000 deaths and, tens of millions either internally displaced or in exile.

In neigbouring Iraq, another quite bloody war is on-going with the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds temporarily putting their differences aside to battle the American-Saudi Frankenstein monster called ISIS. 2017 promises to be a decisive year in killing off ISIS and resting its ghost. A bloody but under reported war is going on in Yemen where minorities led by the Houthi are taking on the remnants of the Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi- led puppet government. Left for the Yemenis, the war might have ended when the rebels took over Sann’a and many of the majority Sunni population including supporters of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh flocked to their side. But Big Brother Saudi Arabia would have none of it as it began a series of bombings – including of crowded funerals and markets – that have netted 7,000 corpses and 35,000 injured. Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the region is powerless in this war in which almost all the elements of the war in Syria are present. Meanwhile to consolidate its hegemony, Saudi Arabia has assembled a Sunni-controlled 134- state alliance under the euphemism “Anti-terrorism Alliance”

Libya, turned into a basket case by the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance, NATO, and handed over to terrorists, separatists, thugs and al-Qaeda, continues to hang by the tread. The ding-dong continues in Somalia with the Al-Shabaab terrorists losing and taking territories. Mali is quiet these days but the brutal war by the terrorist Boko Haram continues to engulf Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroun. The crazies in South Sudan continue their war and massacres with the combatants exerting more energy raping women than fighting. The fronts of Darfur in Sudan and the Palestine are quiet for now. However, the possibility of conflicts in 2017 in the South China Sea and Eastern Europe should not be ruled out. Maybe the anti-American rhetoric of new Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte may push his country towards China and reduce the possibility of war. Also if the old Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania pull back a bit from being the forward positions of the United States, war can be averted in Eastern Europe.

It is unlikely that former Portuguese Prime Minister, Antonio Guterres who takes over as the Secretary General of the United Nations in January, will have much effect on world politics. He might be as quiet as his predecessor, the South Korean, Ban ki-Moon who virtually warmed the seat making ineffectual comments. At least the Africans who preceded him; Boutros Boutros Ghali and Kofi Anan, had some presence.

Change must come to the seat of the Chair Person of the AU Commission in January, 2017. To us Africans, the AU despite its weakness, is the only forum we can meet and speak as Africans. The Commission Chair is a powerful position as beyond running the organisation and implementing decisions taken by its organs, the Chair has the powers to “to prevent potential conflicts, resolve actual conflicts and promote peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction”. The out-going Chair, South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma brought quite some dynamism into the AU in contrast to her predecessor, Jean Ping. When I was Secretary General of African Workers, I had a good working relationship with her and her office. Her love for Africa and determination to re-direct the continent towards a development-oriented path, were quite infectious. One of her initiatives, the 2063 African Agenda has the potentials of moving the continent forward. Her decision not to seek a second term, deprives Africa of a fervent voice. The three leading candidates are Specioza Wandira Kazibwe, former Ugandan Vice President, Agapito Mba Mokuy, Equatorial Guinea Foreign Minister and Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, Botswana Foreign Minister.

America is central to world politics and its new President in January 2017 will have a lot of impact on the wellbeing of the universe. I don’t have any doubt that a Trump Presidency will put the world in a spin and peace may be a major casualty. While I hope humanity will not be afflicted with a Trump Presidency, his rival, Hilary Clinton is not exactly a peace advocate. Her 2002 vote as an American Senator for the criminal invasion of Iraq does not indicate we will have a peace ambassador in the White House. Also, there is her enthusiastic support for the equally criminal invasion of Libya which has pushed that country to the brink of disintegration. She has a qualified support for negotiated peace in the Palestine that would lead to a two-state solution. For her, Jerusalem which is a shared heritage of the Israeli and Palestinians, is an “eternal and indivisible capital of Israel” Clinton supports the uprooting of ISIS but not ending the war in Syria. Rather, she advocates further American military intervention in Syria.

On Asia, She argues that the “The United States has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons and respect for international law in the South China Sea.” It is inconceivable that China would claim to have the “freedom of navigation” in American waters.

The potential American President wants to put more pressure on North Korea and greater American military presence in the region. Obama might be a dove compared to Hilary Clinton, just as she may be a dove compared to Trump. Generally, the prospects for peace in the world in 2017 are not bright. Might, over right, is likely to be more pronounced.



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