Covid-19 was still sitting in the world when the year 2021 started. By and by, somewhat the world had to make do, with or without the pandemic. And so, life carried on. Activities resumed. Victories were won, fetes achieved, battles were lost, and sadly, many people died. Yet, even amidst such many things, the world moved forward. The year is almost over, and soon, we’ll start another. But before then, let’s look back for a moment. Perhaps we’ll find a clearer focus moving forward.
Note: These events are not necessarily ranked by significance or importance.
1. THE TALIBAN EASY TAKEOVER OF AFGHANISTAN AFTER A 20-YEAR U.S. CONTROL, STUNS THE WORLD, UNLEASHES CHAOS
Kenyan youth coined the phrase, ‘stay Taliban,’ which loosely means being tough, resourceful, and never giving up.
The term came to life in August, when Taliban forces overran the US-backed Afghanistan army in key cities, regaining control of Afghanistan after 20 years.
US forces toppled the Taliban for harboring Osama Bin Laden, whom they blamed for the September 11 terrorist attack in New York.
In a badass move that shocked the world, the Taliban moved swiftly across Afghanistan, taking over city after city sometimes without a fight, as the US-backed Afghan army abandoned their posts or switched sides.
On August 15, the Taliban took control of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city, and the US weapons, including tanks, and chinook helicopters, 15 days before the last day the US set to evacuate its forces from the country. Dramatic images of the Taliban walking into the presidential palace left a lasting impression globally.
What followed the takeover was a series of panicked responses by foreign countries. In chaotic scenes broadcasted worldwide, countries rushed to evacuate their citizens to beat the August 31st deadline the US set for leaving the country.
Apocalyptic scenes broadcast live out of Kabul showed a deteriorating situation. In one dramatic scene at the Hamid Karzai Airport, masses of desperate Afghan people hang on an American military plane’s wings, wheels, and fuselage, desperate to leave Afghanistan for fear the Taliban would unleash terror on them. Some fell to their deaths as the plane took off.
The situation in Taliban’s Afghanistan is dire, but may 2022 be a year of peace, and please don’t stay Taliban – at least literally.
2. GUINEA COUP AND THE RISE OF LT COL MAMADY DOUMBOUYA
On September 5, Guinean Special Forces took over power in a coup and put President Alpha Conde under arrest. Lieutenant-Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, 41, the country’s special forces head, appeared to have orchestrated the bloodless coup, many in his country welcomed.
Before the coup, Doumbouya maintained a low public profile. However, his powerful physique and aura spoke for themselves more than he did directly, as he presented himself as a credible transitional leader of the African nation. In his 15 years in military service, Doumbouya served in peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Central African Republic, and close protection in Israel, Cyprus, the UK, and Guinea.
Interestingly, the military leader was one of the Guineans that the European Union had threatened to sanction over violation of human rights. He blamed the 83-year old President of is mismanaging the country. With a population of 13 million and ranked among the poorest countries in the world, Guinea, ironically, has one of the highest mineral resources in Africa.
News of Conde’s ouster sent waves of jubilation in neighboring Senegal, where many Guinea’s dissents have sought asylum over the years.
3. THE ETHIOPIAN CIVIL WAR
It’s been a challenging year for Ethiopians, a tumultuous one for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and a torturous one for the war victims. They have borne it all, and of course, it has not been fun. It has never been. War dehumanizes. What started in November 2020 (At the same time as the US presidential elections) as a minor conflict has grown so big that it threatened to topple the government seat in Addis Ababa.
Ahmed’s government forces have been fighting against the rebel forces – Tigray Defence Forces (TDF). The rebels were gaining ground over the government forces so fast that they started marching towards Addis. Things became worse for Abiy, himself a Nobel Prize winner, when the Oromo Liberation Army joined forces with the TDF.
Abiy seemed desperate and called upon all Ethiopians to stand up for their country against the insurgents.
The war has already claimed thousands of lives and displaced millions—all the parties in the conflict stand accused of human rights violations by the United Nations. As we close the year soon, we pray for peace in Ethiopia, Africa’s second-highest populous nation.
4. KAMALA HARRIS BECOMES FIRST WOMAN IN THE US TO BE ELECTED VICE PRESIDENT, HOLD PRESIDENTIAL POWER
On January 20, Kamala Harris was sworn into the second-highest office in the USA, making history the first woman to hold that office. Harris also became the first black vice president and the first person of Indian descent to hold office.
The former state attorney general and Senator of California, Harris has distinguished herself as a trailblazer who is unafraid to challenge a male-dominated world.
Her victory was celebrated worldwide, especially by women and girls. It was that moment of “We too can do it!” A worthy inspiration.
Harris also made history on November 19, becoming the first woman to hold presidential powers. For 85 minutes, Harris served as President while Biden was medically incapacitated. US laws require presidents to relinquish authority while undergoing medical procedures administered under anesthesia.
5. THE 2020 TOKYO OLYMPICS GAMES WERE POSTPONED FOR ONE YEAR DUE TO THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK
Thanks to the Coronavirus outbreak, the 2020 Summer Olympics took place in July and August 2021. The postponement marked only the 4th time in history where the game failed to take place on schedule.
The First and Second World Wars caused two postponements in 1916 and 1936. The third postponement was even more dramatic. Japan, the presumed 1940 games host, pulled out after a war with China broke out, leading the Olympic Committee to award the winter games to Germany and summer games to Finland. Still, both tournaments failed to take place after Germany invaded Poland.
After a year of Covid-19 induced lockdowns and isolation, the world came together, giving the games a special significance by rising above the threat of the virus. The games featured were 33 sports and 339 events, the highest number in history.
In addition, new sports made a first appearance in the Games. They included skateboarding, sport climbing, surfing and karate, BMX freestyle, and 3×3 basketball.
Eliud Kipchoge, Kenya’s marathon legendary star, retained the Olympic title in Japan, clocking 2:08:38 to achieve the largest winning margin in the men’s Olympic marathon since 1972. Kipchoge would, two months later, be named the best male athlete of the Games at the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) Awards 2021.
6. PATRICIA KINGORI BECOMES THE FIRST WOMAN OF AFRICAN DESCENT TO EARN A FULL PROFESSORSHIP AT OXFORD UNIVERSITY
A Kenyan-born sociologist, Patricia Kingori, 28, became the youngest person of African origin to be awarded a full professorship at Oxford University’s 925 years of existence.
Baroness Jan Royall, the principal of the University’s online publication, Somerville, praised Kingori and described her as a trailblazer.
“Patricia has moved many mountains and shattered countless glass ceilings to secure this historic achievement. In the truest tradition of Somerville, she is a woman of firsts, a trailblazer. I have no doubt that where she leads, others will follow.”
Patricia was born in Kenya and later moved to Saint Kitt’s in the Caribbean. She lived in the Caribbean until her teen years, when she relocated to London.
She has also acted as an adviser to several organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), Save the Children, Medecins San Frontieres, the Nuffield Council of Bioethics, and the Obama administration’s White House Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment in Africa Initiative.
7. COP 26 CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS THE NEED TO DO SOMETHING TO SAVE THE PLANET FROM CLIMATE CHANGE EFFECTS
In the first two weeks of November, almost 40,000 delegates from across the globe convened at Glasgow, Scotland, to discuss the climate change crisis and find ways to manage it.
World leaders, environmentalists, nature crusaders, and other people attended the much-hyped event. Countries agreed to cut down fossil energy use and keep the global temperature rise below 1.5°C (34.7 degrees F)
Developing countries blamed developed nations for causing the climate change problem due to their toxic emissions into the environment and protested the failure of the rich countries to provide a total of $100 billion to help combat climate change.
8. COVID-19 VACCINE ROLLOUT PROMISES TO SAVE LIVES, FACES RESISTANCE WHILE AFRICAN NATIONS LAG BEHIND
It was the year when several vaccines for Covid-19 came out. The developed countries bought the vaccines in enormous amounts for their citizens. On the other hand, most African countries could not afford the vaccines and had to do without them for some time. The World Health Organisation complained against the behavior of the rich countries and urged them to be mindful of other world populations elsewhere, but little changed.
While wealthy countries rolled out vaccines to their citizens in late 2020 and early 2021, it wasn’t until March of 2021 that the first vaccine- Covax, came to Africa. As citizens of developed countries were getting their first and second booster shots, millions of Africans had not gotten even a single vaccine shot.
Today, the number of vaccinated Africans remains low due to the lack of enough doses and apathy toward the vaccine. It’s important to note that a good number of the population associated (some still do) Covid-19 vaccines with undesirable traits and side effects in the body.
9. JANUARY 6TH US CAPITOL INSURRECTION, SHOCKS THE WORLD, SHOWS THE US TOO IS VULNERABLE TO A COUP
Who would have imagined US citizens, the world’s most enduring superpower and custodian of democracy, could engage in barbaric acts such as storming Capitol building, defecating in public places, and vandalizing property?
Hard to imagine, but that’s what happened in the good ‘ol USA.
On January 6, followers of defeated President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in Washington, DC, armed with crude weapons, including Trump flags, bear spray, batons, and stun guns.
They were protesting what they called ‘a stolen election,’ now termed the ‘Big Lie.’ After losing to President Joe Biden, Trump made several unsuccessful efforts to overturn the election results.
In desperation, Trump urged his fanatic supporters to come to Washington DC on January 6, when Congress convened to certify Biden’s victory. In a charged rally, Trump told his supporters to march to the Capitol and cheer on some brave senators and congress members to take over their country because they needed strength to take back their country.
Soon, Trump supporters battled Capitol police and overtook their barricades. Some dramatically scaled the Capitol complex walls in a fashion never before seen in the US.
One Trump supporter flew a confederate battle flag inside the Capitol. Others chanted hang Vice President Mike Pence, whom they blamed for failing to overturn the election in Trump’s favor even though Pence had no such powers.
The images from the US Capitol shocked the world. Some world press termed it ‘defilement’ of the US democracy. For the first time in history, the US was experiencing a post-election crisis similar to African countries.
But in an inexplicable turn of events, the US National Guard responded three hours later after a call for assistance from Washington authorities. Five people died, and 138 police officers were injured.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi formed the January 6th Commission to investigate what happened. So far, the Commission has interviewed more than 250 people, but Trump loyalists have refused to cooperate with the probe.
Trump supporters tried to blame Antifa for the insurrection. Politifact has labeled the assertion as the 2021 lie of the year.
10. BARBADOS BECOMES A REPUBLIC, REPLACES QUEEN AS HEAD OF STATE, ELECTS DAME SANDRA MASON TO BE FIRST PRESIDENT
After 396 years, on November 30, Barbados gained full autonomy from Britain, replaced the queen as the head of state of the island nation, and elevated Dame Sandra Mason as the first president of Barbados Republic.
According to an NPR report, Mia Mottley, Barbados’ prime minister, described the change as a “seminal moment” for the Island nation.
“The time has come for us to express the full confidence in ourselves as a people, and to believe that it is possible for one born of this nation to sign off finally and completely,” Mottley said.
Mason expressed confidence in the future as a self-governing republic.
“Barbadians want a Barbadian head of state. This is the ultimate statement of confidence in who we are and what we are capable of achieving,” Mason said.
As part of the change, the terms’ royal’ and ‘crown’ were removed from the official terminology of the youngest republic. For example, the Royal Barbados Police Force became the Barbados Police Service; “crown lands” became “state lands.”
Rihanna, the world-famous pop star, was honored as a national hero during the inaugural presidential celebration. In 2018, she was appointed the official ambassador of Barbados. Her nobility title is Right Honourable Ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty.
The beautiful Eastern Caribbean island nation has a population of over 287,000. It has a gross domestic product of $4.366 billion.