In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Gen. 1:1-3
Reuters says of 2016 “turned out to be the year of the unpredictable, the unthinkable and, often, the unbelievable. Albeit a very memorable year.
It was the year of all the good, all the bad, and all the downright ugly.
At the outset let me dispense with the sad and passing of some beloved ones in our local circles. As a nation, we mourn the loss of the first-born daughter to former president Bakili Muluzi, Esme Muluzi-Malisita, MEC Chair Maxon Mbendera, John Nyanga (Izeki of “Izeki and Jakobo” fame), Alissa Ashani Makawa, Malawi’s songbird Grace Chinga, Evangelist Wame, Jackson Gomani and wife of former VP Cassim Chilumpha.
On the global scene, the world mourns the passing of former heavy-weight champion and boxing legend, Muhammad Ali, former US First Lady, Nancy Reagan, former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, former Cuban President Fidel Castro, UNSG Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Janet Leno (first female US attorney-general), US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia David Bowie, Prince, and Zasa Zsa Gabor, John Glenn (astronaut), Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird), Rickie Harris, Gene Wilder, Patti Duke, Carrie Fisher (Star Wars Princess Leia), her mother Debbie Reynolds, George Michael, and Robert Vaughn (Man from Uncle).
May their souls rest in peace.
2016 was the year of Brexit, when the UK citizens opted to leave the EU; and a year of elections in USA and the UN. The elections taking so many miles away, could be as removed as the long list of obituary given above; however, the ramifications have far reaching impact on our local environment.
From1957, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany made up the six core states that founded the EU’s predecessor, the European Economic Community. The UK later joined other European states into this common market that later assumed growing political clout; and the UK was the organization’s 29th Member State. The EU provide an invincible voting bloc in many international fora, giving its members collective bargaining powers. In the numbers’ might, the EU is the third largest voting bloc at the UN trailing the Group of 77 & China (134 Member States) and the African Group (54 Member States).
The citizens in the UK were at the polls to weigh in their opinion of “to stay” or “Not to stay” in the 29 Member State grouping of the EU and in June 2016 voted to leave the organization. The UK government in July 2016 confirmed it will conduct the UK exit, colloquially known as Brexit from the EU.
This event taking place many kilometers from the cares and concerns of Malawi, will nonetheless, have an impact on the country. For a start, gone are the joint bargaining power the UK enjoyed as a Member State; Malawi being a former colony of the UK, may feel some of the strains the former colonial power is currently experiencing. One strain has been the plunge in value of the UK’s currency, the Pound Sterling.
Throughout the 2016 US and UN elections that took place in November and October respectively, this column dealt extensively with the major issue these two institutions that have been bastions — gender equality and empowerment of women. A key component of it has been the promotion of the creation of environments that allow for women to ascend, by all necessary means, into decision making and or political leadership. Ironically, while the Brexit vote result enabled the UK to swim its way to having the UK’s second woman leader (prime Minister Theresa May), both the US and UN failed to prove their metal when it came to electing a woman to the Office of the President of the US (POTUS) and the United Nations Secretary-General.
Both had lengthy election processes; both had qualified women candidates; and both failed to live up to their own candles, and used age-old means that allowed for the continuation of the status quo – electing men. The US elected Donald Trump, setting aside Hillary Clinton. The UN appointed António Guterres, as the next Secretary General of the United Nations. He is former Portuguese prime minister and head of the U.N.H.C.R.
Both men will begin their terms in January.
It remains to seen how the two institutions will generally take their messages of gender equality, empowerment of women, leveling the playing field to allow for women to participate in decision making positions to developing countries.
The year 2016, is also US Barak Obama’s – the first African American President — last full year in office. On exiting, Barack Obama likened the presidency of the USA to “an aircraft carrier, it is not a speedboat.”
As a rookie senator, Obama’s presidency has been a beacon of hope for many people of all colors, minorities; his good behavior also gave much dignity, especially to people of color. But most important is the successes that his presidency brought. The first is saving the US auto-industry with a massive injection of cash called the bail out; this lifted the country out of the recession that he inherited from his predecessor.
The second was to remove American troops out of Iraq war.
The third was the passing of the Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare) that has provided health coverage to people in the US. The fourth is blasting into the climate change dialogue that this past summer led to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, with representatives of 195 nations that reached a landmark accord that will, for the first time, commit nearly every country to lowering planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions to help stave off the most drastic effects of climate change. The effects of climate change impacts Malawi in that it fuels poverty, floods, hunger and inherently disease. It is therefore, a welcome relief knowing that the country was represented at the Paris Talks on Climate Change.
It is heartwarming that Malawi leader, President Mutharika signed the treaty at UN Headquarters this past September 2016 during the 71st session of the UNGA, in the presence of the Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, Miguel de Serpa Soares. The President said climate change impacts the country rending it to continue to suffer effects of natural calamities such as droughts that often result in food shortages and widespread hunger.
As we welcome the New Year, it is time to reflect what we plan to achieve in 2017. May our dreams be bigger than they were for 2016; may the colors of our dreams shine brighter.