Always as we move from one year to another, there is a surge in stale jokes about the whole experience with people talking about either the previous or new year as though they were actually 12 months away. If I were to join the band wagon I would say that I wrote this article last year and you are only reading it this year. Imagine that!
Away from the jokes, 2016 was indeed an action packed year for several reasons. The emergence of Donald Trump on the political scene complete with a shocking victory against arguably the most experienced US presidential candidate in Hillary Clinton left many heads spinning. Then you have the war in Syria particularly in Aleppo where we got into the usual, why-is-the-world-looking-on-as-this-happens mode.
It was also a year that for some reason seemed to harvest a disturbing number of iconic people. Of course famous people die each year for a number of reasons but we are talking about Mohammed Ali, Prince, Lucy Kibaki, Shimon Peres, George Michael, Papa Wemba and Fidel Castro to mention but a few.
I personally don’t need much convincing on how tough the year 2016 has been due to the fact that at the end of May my beloved mother passed away. I don’t think my writing skills are enough to express how devastated that moment was and still is, for me. Life indeed has to go on and we have to be grateful for the time we spent with those who have since left us. I am grateful to all those who stood by me in that trying time.
2016 was not all gloom given that Uganda managed to qualify to feature at the Africa Cup of Nations after last doing so in 1978. East Africa is not that good a performer at the football scene so such small victories are really big for our people. The Olympics had the Kenyans doing their thing even with all the corruption scandals in their camp. Burundi also managed to walk away with a medal.
Rwanda made a lot of news with the launch of the Kigali Convention Centre and Radisson Blu, Marriot Hotel, purchase of a new wide body planes for Rwandair, hosting the World Economic Forum and then the African Union Summit. It has been a year with lots of good stories and the kind of momentum the current leadership will use to sail through an election year with ease.
The month of August, 2017 will see both Kenya and Rwanda holding their general elections. So it is certainly going to be a year with a lot happening on the political scene.
The often tribal polarity of the Kenyan politics means that it if the language and actions of the politicians are not checked the election may not be a peaceful one. As we know from the past, any disturbance in Kenya affects the flow of goods from Mombasa to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and Eastern Congo bringing the region almost to its knees. We therefore have to pray that the elections are peaceful or we all suffer.
The Democratic Republic of Congo may not be part of East Africa yet the political situation there is something we cannot ignore. Instability there always means more refugees for the EAC to deal with. The region still has to deal with the effects of the Burundi political situation that sent thousands of refugees into Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. Although we are still working on integration, conflict situations instantly affect us all.
Farther afield we shall be watching how things will pan out in Gambia where the incumbent conceded to have lost and then disputed the election in just a few days apart. However, for many the eyes will still be on how Donald Trump goes about being the occupant of the so-called most important office on the planet.
Many are anxiously waiting to see how the US government will relate with Israel and Russia and how it will go about implementing some of the things Donald Trump was so vocal about while on the campaign trail. I had almost forgotten that the Brexit drama is still with us and together with the Syrian crisis we are set to see more interesting developments in Europe. May 2017 be a much better year for you all.