2014: The year that was

2014 has been a year of many major events. In July, we saw Germany lift the World Cup in Brazil, outperforming the favourites, Brazil and Spain - two spirited teams that seemed to crumble under pressure.

2014 has been a year of many major events. In July, we saw Germany lift the World Cup in Brazil, outperforming the favourites, Brazil and Spain – two spirited teams that seemed to crumble under pressure.

That said, what else caught our attention this year? Globally speaking, the following five events caught my attention the most:

Ebola outbreak – February 2014:

Although the Ebola virus resurfaced back in February 2014, cases of this deadly disease were first documented in 1976.  According to Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus was first recorded in Yambuku, Zaïre (Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1976 when the disease was spread by close personal contact and by use of contaminated needles and syringes in hospitals.

Over 318 people are thought to have been affected. However, according to a CDC report, as of 6th December 2014, 2,283 Ebola cases had been registered in Guinea, with 1,412 deaths; Liberia has registered 7,719 with 3,177 deaths, and Sierra Leone has also registered 7,798 cases with 1,742 resulting into death.  Similarly, the United States has registered four cases of Ebola, one of which resulted into loss of life.

The symptoms of the virus are not unique; however, medical practitioners note that what is unique about the Ebola virus is that these symptoms start suddenly between two and 21 days after becoming infected.

Some of the symptoms include Diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pain, a rash, and impaired kidney and liver malfunction. It is believed that suspected patient bleeds internally, and may also bleed from the ears, eyes, nose or mouth.

Sadly, since the outbreak, there is currently no licensed treatment or vaccine for Ebola virus, although potential vaccines are being developed.

Oscar Pistorius trial

Mistaking his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp for a possible intruder on Valentine’s Day, Oscar Pistorius shot four bullets through the cubicle of the toilet eventually killing her. The trial for the murder commenced on March 3 in Pretoria.

Following a request, Judge Thokozile Masipa granted permission for Pistorius’s psychiatric evaluation to delve into the matter further and ascertain whether he is criminally at fault for the shooting of his girlfriend. The trial proceedings were hence deferred until 30 June 2014.

On 11th September, Judge Thokozile Masipa cleared Oscar Pistorius of the murder charge citing lack of sufficient evidence which could establish the charge of premeditated murder. He was also subsequently cleared of two other separate firearm related charges.

However, Judge Masipa declared that Oscar Pistorius was guilty of culpable homicide, a charge which saw judge Masipa sentence Mr Pistorius to a jail term of five years’ imprisonment. In addition, the Paralympics’ sprinter was also found guilty of discharging a firearm in a public place in January 2013.

The Scottish Referendum

In Britain, the question: ‘should Scotland be an independent country?’ had far-reaching consequences beyond Scotland itself.

A ‘Yes’ vote would have meant that the UK stood to lose 32 per cent of its current land – the size of New Zealand, and as it emerged, the ‘Yes’ campaign claimed that an independent Scotland would benefit from greater accountability of a transparent political system, as opposed to a broken political system at Westminster, one that has been characterised by scandals such as MP’s expenses claims.

Economically, the ‘Yes’ campaign emphasised that an independent Scotland would duly benefit from the vast oil reserves in the North Sea, resulting in more jobs for the Scottish people.

On the other hand, the ‘Better Together’ campaign, stressed that although the UK had inherent problems, the only viable solution was to stay together and weather the storm as one nation.

Consequently, on 18 September 2014, the Scottish Independence Referendum was held putting forth the question before its people. More than 3.6 million people took part (including 16 year olds), and 55.3 per cent of voters were in favour of ‘No’ to independence, whereas 44.7 per cent voted in favour of an independent Scotland.

Equally important, 2014 saw the sudden rise of the Islamic State or ISIS –now regarded as one of the most dangerous jihadist groups in the world alongside Al Qaida, Boko Haram, and Al Shabab, ISIS has recently engaged in fighting both the Iraqi and Syrian governments, gaining considerable success along the way.

The terror group wields its terror under the pretext of establishing an Islamic state, one which would be governed by Shalia law. However, come 2015 and beyond, two elements will continue to baffle security analysts; 1) the brutality of ISIS, and 2) the ease with which ISIS continues to recruit from the West. At this rate, ISIS will have substantial coverage come 2015.

Last but by no means least, has been the Ukraine and Crimean crisis – a crisis which emerged as a result of the former Ukrainian president’s decision to abandon a trade deal with Europe, and instead strike a deal with Russia.

Former president – Viktor Yanukovych – declared that he had decided to abandon an association deal that would have otherwise fortified Ukraine’s trade bond with the European Union and instead chose to extend a hand to Moscow in the hope of developing closer connections with the Kremlin. As things stand, pro-Russian Crimeans have separated from Ukraine, igniting tensions with the rest of Ukraine. Come 2015, current president, Petro Poroshenko, will continue to face an uphill battle of governing a seemingly broken nation.

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