That we are alive and well on this last Sunday of the year is a milestone to be thankful for; 2017 like every other year before it, has hosted a fair share of dramatic events that have dominated news headlines here at home and away. In a wrap, this, has been a year of politics.
In Rwanda, there is no bigger event than the Presidential campaign that climaxed with the emphatic re-election of President Paul Kagame with a landslide victory of99 percent of voter support. His triumph was a reassurance of continued stability and transformation of the country under the RPF, which just celebrated its 30th anniversary.
Despite the frolics of one presidential contender, the Rwanda election season passed in tranquility enabling the country to avoid post-election challenges that often rock most countries.
The news industry had a mouthful courtesy of the Kenyan Presidential election. At some point, one could have been forgiven to think it was a Hollywood production.
Following a Supreme Court decision to annul Uhuru Kenyatta’s earlier victory; reactions were terse! The decision resulted into a second election which would be boycotted by the main antagonist RailaOdinga, giving his rival, Uhuru an easier victory.
Uhuru might have been sworn in for his last term in office as President of Kenya but that appears to have just been a coma in an ongoing sentence.
Raila is what, in political science, you could call ‘an itching opponent’who won’t allow a rival to celebrate a victory so he is determined to swear himself in, as ‘People’s president.’ Clearly, this is a story that will cross-over into the new year.
In Tanzania, President John PombeMagufuli continued to consolidate his political personality as a no nonsense leader with considerable success but amidst rising criticism of his modus operandi.
Meanwhile, a picture of President YoweriMuseveni taken on boxing day, playing cards with his grandchildren at his farm-house, spread like a plague among Ugandans on social media.
Many opined that they would love to see more of the same of their leader playing with his grand Children under the cool shade of the tree surrounded by hundreds of his long-horned cattle.
But that is unlikely to happen after Uganda’s Parliament voted to remove an age-cap from the constitution that barred people older than 75 years old from running for the presidency. At the end of his current term in office, in 2021, President Museveni will be 76 years old.
However, with the constitutional age-barrier removed, it means Museveni could run again as his party’s flag bearer for the Presidency with a very small chance of losing.
In a gesture seen by observers as ‘compensating themselves’ Members of Parliament also extended their constitutional five-year terms to seven.
It was an act of political expediency. The legislators removed the age cap amid popular public resistance; knowing it could cost most of them re-election in 2021, they chose to extend their tenure by two years. Clever, not, yes?
Unlike President Museveni who had the luxury to spend time at his farm house on Christmas, his counterpart Joseph Kabila of DR Congo wasn’t lucky after attackers in Eastern Congo, set his villa ablaze.
President Kabila’s second and last term in office ended in December last year but elections that would have seen him replaced this year were postponed by another year, to the anger of many in his country. This is a story that will continue generating headlines in 2018.
In Burundi, President Pierre Nkurunziza called on God for more political blessings in 2018, in a three-day national prayer. Since the controversial April 2015 election in which Nkurunziza took part to claim a third term in office against the constitution, Burundi has been in turmoil and tens of thousands who fled the violence are living as refugees in neighboring countries.
At East African Community level, not much has been achieved in 2017 as countries paid more attention to home affairs. A cold veil has since fallen over what was hitherto impressive momentum on key regional integration projects. Hopefully, the election of Martin Ngoga as EALA speaker will rejuvenate the will to implement pending projects.
Elsewhere in Africa, the surgical removal of long-serving leader Robert Mugabe from Zimbabwean Presidency was a major highlight of the year.
A bloodless and bullet-free coup was, hitherto, seen as an impossibility in African politicsbut Zimbabwe provided a template which may be used elsewhere on the continent. But China’s role in this political surgery may also signal a new discourse in Beijing’s foreign policy on Africa.
Meanwhile, Liberia is also set to offer another example of calm transfer of power when outgoing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf hands over to newly elected George Weah, a first, for the country, since 1994. It will be a major test for the former soccer ace who has little political experience.
South Africa is also on the verge of a transition following a heated contest to elect new leaders of the ruling ANC party. The election of Cyril Ramaphosa as ANC’s President means he is hair apparent to Jacob Zuma whose Presidency has been marred by unmatched accusations of corruption and abuse of power.
At international level, it was a tumultuous year seen off to a dramatic start when American voters elected Donald Trump, an adult with a baby’s attitude to be President of the United States. His decisions at home and away have been consistent with his personality and they will continue to generate global news headlines. Happy New Year, 2018!
Views, expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the New Times Publications.