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Dynamic events of the year 2011 in review

By Paul T. Shipale
From the uprising in the Middle East and North Africa, which began with the self-immolation of a struggling young Tunisian small entrepreneur who set himself on fire, and spread across the region to Egyptian protesters who toppled the 30- year rule of Hosni Mubarak, and to rebels in Libya who battled against supporters of long-time strongman Muammar Gadhafi who was eventually killed in October after months of resisting the rebel forces backed by NATO bombardments;

from the killing of Osama bin Laden by an American military elite unit that raided a compound in Pakistan ahead of the 10th Anniversary of the attacks of 9/11, to the 'bail outs', the Occupy the Wall Street Movement and the Euro zone debt crisis, the year 2011 was full of dynamic events and their significance is indisputable but I shall only content myself with casting a cursory glance on some of the highlights.

On the International scene, natural disasters hit hard when the Earth shook off the coast of Japan in March, triggering one of the worst tsunamis in years, destroying nearly everything in its path and sending millions fleeing for high ground. Beyond the natural disaster from the 9.0 magnitude earthquake, Japan found itself dealing with the worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, whose long-term effects from the stricken nuclear plant still remain unknown. Natural disasters hit hard the Americas too. The largest tornado outbreak ever recorded swept across the United States on April 27, killing 346 people.

Three weeks later, a tornado ripped through the United States wreaking havoc and killing more than 150 people followed in August by Hurricane Irene when the United States braced itself for a powerful storm that was blamed for at least 20 deaths in eight states.

The year was also defined by economic turmoil. Prime Ministers in Greece and Italy quit amid a slow-motion fiscal disaster unfolding in Europe, while the U.S. credit rating was downgraded for the first time damaging an already-stagnant economy. As the U.S. saw unemployment hit 9 percent, a grassroots protest against policies favoring the richest 1% by the Occupy the Wall Street movement spread to dozens of cities across the U.S. and Europe. Yet not all news was bad in 2011. The world got a brief respite from doom-and-gloom headlines in April when Prince William and Catherine Middleton wed at Westminster Abbey.

As far as the African continent is concerned, it was reshaped in the year that was, according to New African's magazine. In January, the controversial leaking of US embassy cables by the whistle blowing website of Wiki leaks revealed some unpalatable "home-truths" about American foreign policy on Africa which stirred debates all over the continent.

In the same month, after two decades in power, 24 years to be precise, Tunisian former President Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia after weeks of growing civil unrest or what others called the Tunisian uprising. It was also in the same month that nearly 4 million south Sudanese flocked to the polls to decide the future of their country. Overwhelmingly, nearly 99% of the votes cast were in favour of South Sudan's independence.

Still on the African continent, on January 25, North Africa's civil uprisings, dubbed the "Arab spring", spread to Egypt as thousands took to the streets in that country's major cities with Egypt's 82 year old President, Hosni Mubarak, desperately trying to cling to power. In February, after 29 years in power, amid growing international pressure as well as an internal resistance, Hosni Mubarak eventually resigned as Egyptian President. It is estimated that 800 people died with more than 6000 left injured in the uprising. Meanwhile in Libya, what started as anti-government protests soon erupted into a full scale civil war.

In the same month, in Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni extended his 25 year rule for another four years, after winning the country's presidential elections amid cries of foul play by the opposition. On a sad note however, Professor Dani Nabudere from Uganda passed on and he was mourned and celebrated by a huge crowd that paid glowing tribute to his work.

In April, months after the presidential elections, Cote d' Ivoire descended into civil war with former President Laurent Gbagbo refusing to step down after some controversial elections as his main rival was declared the winner. With the help and intervention from French Special Forces, Gbagbo was captured by rebel forces loyal to incumbent President Alassane Ouattara and is now standing trial at the ICC. Gbagbo is the sixth suspect taken into custody by the court, which has launched seven investigations, all of them in Africa.

Gbagbo's indictment was only half the story as victims of crimes by forces loyal to Ouattara are reported to have so far gone unpunished which created the perception of a victor's justice.

In June, the horn of Africa was hard hit by devastating drought that left over ten million people dangerously close to "prefamine" conditions following that region's worst drought in 60 years. However, not all was doom and gloom as jubilant South Sudanese celebrated the birth of their new nation on July the 9th and the new President Salva Kiir was sworn-in amidst high expectations of transforming and consolidating Africa's newest country. On the flip side however, on 25 September, Professor Wangari Maathati, one of Africa's pioneering women who set up the Green Belt Movement and a first African woman to be accorded the Nobel Prize for peace, succumbed to cancer. Similarly, in 2011, ANC liberation struggle stalwart, affectionately known as Ma Albertina Sisulu passed on.

Recently in October, Zambians elected a new President, Michael Sata, in a smooth handover of power to a new leader from the opposition, a not too common feat in Africa. President Sata also set tongues wagging when he chose a Caucasian to be his vice president. On 20 October, Col. Muammar Gadhafi was brutally killed in an extra judicial execution while last month, in November, Julius Malema was suspended for five years from the ruling ANC party, where he was the youth leader. More recently, the exuberant youthful British Prime Minister was reported to have suggested imposing what passes for values and morality when it comes to sexual orientation.

This has aroused the incandescent ire of the African continent which is no longer prepared to be ordered about by former colonial masters who want to shove societal norms and ideals that are contrary to Africa down its throat, even if some here have been assiduously rebranding themselves in order to tap into the vote of some of these communities.

On 9th December Tanzania celebrated 50 years of independence and President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, looked likely to reap the benefits of constitutional changes that scrapped two-round presidential elections for a singleround system when he was leading a pack of 11 candidates with 49 percent of valid votes over one-tenth of polling centres uncounted, and was poised to claim a new five-year term when officials announced the winner of DR Congo's elections. His nearest rival, veteran opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi on 33 percent, was likely going to dispute the outcome.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)'s clean development mechanism (CDM) took place at the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) in Durban.

The CDM is meant to be a mechanism through which more climate- and environmentally- friendly forms of development are encouraged through various different financial mechanisms. This might seem like a novel bridging technology between clean and dirty technology, but the devil is in the detail. In sum Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), a method of carbon sequestration whereby carbon emissions from fossil fuel industry are stored deep underground, exports problematic and untested technology from the first to third world, rewards the first world with carbon credits, and leaves the third world with a problematic waste site to deal with for decades to come, while not helping them to move away from fossil fuels, nor produce more energy, said Alex Lenferna at COP17 on 8 December 2011. The good news, however, is that for the first time developing countries agreed to be bound by a legal agreement.

On the other hand, Africa is reported to be on a fast track out of poverty and has become astonishingly an increasingly enticing destination for investors with the economy expected to hit growth rates of up to 9 % driven by China and India in several countries.

In Namibia, we witnessed the coming of age of the country on the 21st March, marking the 21st Anniversary of Namibia's independence after the country experienced devastating floods in the northern parts. We also sadly experienced the passing on of one of the Liberation struggle's Heroes, the late Col. John Otto Nankudhu. These events were followed by the return of the skulls of Namibian ancestors to the land of their birth from Germany and a successful National Conference on education. This month, the SPWC held its 6th Ordinary Congress under the theme:

"Promoting access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology". The Congress was viewed as 'a pace-setter and a barometer' for the mother party's elective congress next year and re-elected Petrina Haingura as Secretary while also showing confidence in the leadership abilities of SG Iivula- Ithana in voting her to number one position. Similarly, NANSO held its elective biannual Congress this month where they elected a new leadership. Indeed, in an environment of rapid change, there are significant concerns about the need to ensure any organisational sustainability, flexibility and responsiveness.

Issues such as an ageing workforce and the relative inexperience of the young ones, challenge any organisation to ensure they have the capacity to sustain performance and responsiveness in the future. It is within this context that organisations are looking with increased scrutiny at the need to manage succession effectively to ensure that they have the future leadership capacity to deliver on government expectations. Succession management as a strategic, systematic and deliberate activity to ensure an organisation's future capability to fill vacancies within the Framework of the merit principle, it is important therefore to; Identify critical roles within the organisation and develop a clear understanding of the capabilities required for effectiveness and high performance as well as undertake a risk assessment by forecasting on potential shortages for those roles. Similarly, one should identify people who could potentially fill and perform highly in those roles and who may already be apparent and waiting for an opportunity to apply for a more demanding role. Furthermore, it is imperative to develop the required capabilities in those people already within the organisation.

However, such opportunities may be offered subject to demonstrated performance and progress against the commitments in the individual's development plan. We need Succession management plans to ensure that we have the future leadership capacity to deliver and avoid conflicts.

On this score, in a paper under the heading; 'African Wars and Ethnic Conflicts - Rebuilding Failed States', Kwesi Kwaa Prah says that it is misleading, as is often the case, to suggest that mass society in Africa is fundamentally prone to tribalism. The case rather is that, under conditions of steadily diminishing availability of resources, rival elites employ ethnic sentiments as mobilizing instruments to gain power and Muyongo is the case in point.

The lessons of the past would suggest that in order to avoid ethnic affiliations being utilized for political objectives by elites such as Muyongo, and given our diversity, the need to tolerate and celebrate difference is the only rational way to collectively prosper. But perhaps more crucially, advocacy of the ethos of democratic pluralism and the peaceful co-existence of diverse socio-cultural groups needs to be advanced and propagandized as a matter of policy.

For this reason, the use of misleading misconception of elitist rivalry mobilizing ethnic sentiments for narrow political objectives needs to be exposed and unmasked at very early stages of their emergence so that the drift into conflict can be avoided (Lemarchand.1999).

I am glad the SPWC's congress was held in a spirit of unity and comradeship. Namibia needs a transformational leadership following in the footsteps of our Founding President Dr Sam Nujoma and President Hifikepunye Pohamba. We need a unifier who can maintain peace and stability and take the country to greater heights of economic prosperity.

Wish you a merry Christmas and a prosperous new year.

Disclaimer: These views do not necessarily represent the views of my employer nor am I paid to





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