PERSPECTIVE OF A UGANDAN IN CANADA
THE end of the decade is tomorrow, and on Friday another begins. There is so much to say about the outgoing decade, so many interesting and disappointing developments around the world. The decade began with the hotly contested US election of 2000 which turned into an ugly tug-of-war between former vice president Al Gore and ultimate winner George W. Bush.
To the chagrin of democracy idealists everywhere, especially in Africa where stolen elections are routinely expected, the Bush-Gore debacle revealed that it is indeed possible to steal elections in mature and sophisticated democracies like America.
If America could fail so miserably effect true democracy so that elections reflect the true will of the electorate, and not what the incumbents would have voters believe, what chance did developing democracies in Africa and Asia have?
Barely a year pondering that question, the world woke up to the horrors of September 11, 2001 when al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial jets in the US and used them as weapons of mass destruction by ramming two into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, crashing one at the Pentagon and another in a field near Shanksville in rural Pennsylvania.
At first clueless on what to do and how to act, the US administration of George Bush finally awoke and pushed for a war against Iraq. Many were left scratching their heads, wondering why Iraq took the blame for the terror attacks committed mostly by citizens of Saudi Arabia who trained in Afghanistan. The self-proclaimed mastermind, Osama bin Laden, was living openly in Afghanistan as a visitor of the Taliban.
Nonetheless, with specious arguments and hollow information about weapons of mass destruction, America convinced the world to join in beating up Iraq.
That needless, deadly and destructive war was launched in March 2003. It toppled the government of Saddam Hussein who was subsequently hanged for crimes against Iraqis. Several years later, with almost 1 trillion dollars poured into executing the war, and as many as a million Iraqi and 4,371 American soldiers dead, the war grinds on.
Reduced to mere background noise that refuses to fade away, the weekly deaths of hundreds of Iraqis as happened a week ago is now considered no news at all. It should be noted that no weapon of mass destruction was ever found in Iraq. But, just as change spelled disaster for the Iraqis, no change was bad news for many. Nothing much changed in Somali where for over two decades now the inter-clan warfare continues to consume the population with fresh starts every time peace appeared in the horizon.
Nothing much changed in Zimbabwe either as comrade Robert Mugabe eloquently accused the imperialists of causing trouble in his country even as his corrupt government became increasingly and singularly brutal. He clings to power as the decade closes, aware that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is compromised by accepting to share power.
The same problem is evident in Kenya where the opposition has uncharacteristically shut up after first crying foul in the December 2007 elections that sparked off one of the bloodiest clashes since Mau Mau over stolen votes. Now, with power-sharing, the opposition leadership is eating just as rapaciously as the clique of President Mwai Kibaki.
But the decade also brought some bright spots in Africa where change has not been too bad. Ghana steadily moved toward democratic governance, seeing peaceful transition of power from the incumbent party to opposition party in the December 2008 elections. Other notables include South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, and Senegal, where power has changed hands peacefully.
Which country is next, Uganda, Rwanda, and Democratic Republic of Congo? But the biggest triumph of the decade has to be the election of US president Barack Obama. The son of an African father and US mother, against all odds, and fierce challenges from within his own party and against the incumbent party, prevailed in November 2008. His inauguration in January 2009 marked a triumph for the little person, the oppressed, the outsider, the anti-establishment, and so on. Never mind that in power, Obama has been less than impressive, bowing under sustained attacks from the right on such issues as transparency of government, healthcare for all Americans, global warming and the war on terror.
Despite the premature nod from the Nobel Committee which bestowed upon Obama the prestigious Peace Prize, Obama remains at war, pushing more troops into Afghanistan, and inching away from commitments to pull troops out of Iraq. The decade also witnessed passing of iconic leaders like Pakistanâ€™s Benazir Bhutto, Pope John Paul ll, Edward Kennedy, the last of the Kennedy brothers, and dictators Idi Amin Dada and Chileâ€™s former strongman Augusto Pinochet.
The new decade will likely bring more of the same, dictators clinging to power in Africa, well orchestrated bloodbaths in the Middle East and parts of Asia, and continual climb of China as the worldâ€™s superpower at the expense of the USA. But there will be some major changes too.
Look at Africa bringing one or two women as national leaders, lending support to Liberiaâ€™s Iron Lady, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Osama bin Laden will either be found alive or dead.
Beyond the dreaded fear of being constantly targeted for assassination by racist right-wing zealots, US President Barack Obama must fight real hard to get re-elected to a second term. It wonâ€™t be easy.
Nothing about the new decade is going to be easy. Happy New Year and Decade!
The old decade is fading away: What will the new one bring?