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Shifting Tectonics: The 2017 Politics that Will Shape Our World

Updated: Jan 21, 2020

2016 was indeed a remarkable year of women. As we published our last piece of the year, Christine La Garde, head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), was pulling a DSK. She claimed in court she had not muddled herself in some shady dealings with a government transfer of about 400 million Euros to a French businessman while she served as France's Finance Minister. And 2017 will be filled with speculations and propaganda by her opponents to ensure she sits in the dock to admit wrongdoing. Be French, lead IMF, and go to court for a scandal may be the new IMF mantra. Dominic Strauss-Kahn (oh, DSK), do you copy?

No news will, however, rock the world more than the events of 20 January 2017, the day the United States inaugurates Donald J. Trump as its forty-fifth president. And its aftermaths. And, certain things will be taking place concurrently with the inaugural ceremony. It appears some adamant celebrities will be putting up a mega concert in Florida while The Donald swears in.

Already, Mr. Trump’s position on the forever Israeli-Palestinian conflict is having an impact on the workings of the United Nations Security Council by handing a stalemate on the United States’ vote on the Israel’s occupation of disputed lands. Vowing to support Israel to the end, including the prospect to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, The Donald is making Benjamin Netanyahu one overjoyed fellow.

This website believes thawing international relations were responsible for many historic turnarounds. Cue Japan’s Shinzo Abe being the first Prime Minister of Japan to visit Pearl Harbor ever, with all the history and bitterness the 7 December 1941 Japanese attack harbors. And, many of the changes that past U.S. administrations brought, particularly the recent achievements of Barak Obama’s administration, stand at enormous risk of reversal. These include the Iran nuclear deal, economic sanctions on Russia, the lifting of the embargo on Cuba and the softening of several laws to make progressives at home exercise so many freedoms. U.S. foreign relations will be exciting, yet crucial to all continents in the coming year.

A 2017 Germany will be another hot furnace. With potential to banish Angela Merkel’s liberal approach to running the Deutschland, a forced regression to rightist inclinations for Mrs. Merkel, if she has a good chance at holding on to power, will be a dramatic shift of international politics. The implications on migrant refugees will be dire, including on the 1 million to whom Germany, under Mrs. Merkel's leadership, already open its hands. It is not farfetched to start cautioning Germany against a rise in human rights abuses associated with refugees and asylum seekers, that characterize migration in the Mediterranean, the type recently made their way into France. The likelihood of making the recently adopted UN global compact on refugees, expected in 2018, a rhetorical political pledge with many blanks on action is relatively high. An important result affects the political openness of the Schengen and European Union borders, which are already tightening in the wake of heightened international migration and the anxieties generated by terrorism. The German election Mrs. Merkel will participate in puts so much progress made in European politics at stake.

Next to Mrs. Merkel’s Germany will be more drama unfolding. France. The consolidation of rightwing ideology sweeping across the Western world has given a rare opportunity for nationalist Marine Le Pen and her National Front. A traditionally liberal society, France has recently been embroidered in anti-immigration rants and the deepening of Islamophobia, many thanks to terrorist attacks on French soil that several Islamic extremist groups have claimed. Ms. Le Pen is poised to carry on with a number of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s, her father and predecessor, ideologies – including his Euroscepticism – that are bound to threaten the survival of the European Union and its single currency regime. With the United Kingdom’s self-imposed exit out of the EU in June 2016, Germany’s and France’s shaky membership will certainly cause headaches in Brussels and the world in 2017.

In Africa, a continent that receives much of its aid from and conducts much of its trade with Western nations, an important seat is up for grabs. On 9 December 2016, five candidates from Botswana, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya and Senegal debated for the position of African Union Commission Chair, a seat that Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is vacating. Africa will have so much to look out for, including the events in Europe and the U.S. outlined above, which will surely influence overseas development assistance to Africa, trade and waning Western political influence as countries in the global North look more inward to fight domestic evils.

The AU Commission Chair will need more than a guru of international relations. It will require an economic magician, one who will ably understand the implications of a monetary union that is not so well thought through as Africa contemplates its own – free lessons being offered from the Eurozone. S/he will have to position the African bloc as a unified economic system that will not only intensify intra-African trade and infrastructure development, but use stronger integration as leverage for the continent's deals with the wider world.

Mrs. Zuma had walked into the African Union’s secretariat, on 15 October 2012, with promise to excite governments towards stronger African sovereignty. Although she goes back to South Africa with some key continental successes, as the likely next head of the African National Congress (ANC), Africa is far from sovereign, and its countries have been battered by the global financial crisis like no one has seen. She leaves with many countries espousing fragility, whose state has worsened at the hand of climate change and drought, while many others continue feigning democracy. As such, the incoming head of the AU Commission will need to grow the pan-African sovereignty movement, with full confidence that Africa can lead itself, can educate itself, and importantly, can develop itself. Fresh inspiration comes from Paul Kagame's call for a graduation date for Rwanda from foreign aid, a commitment he made as far back as 2011 that the rest of Africa needs to embrace, seriously. Furthermore, the East African Community offers important lessons, gauging by how Uganda has managed to stay afloat for decades in the face of difficult international relations.

Among the specialists of staging democracy in Africa is dictator Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia. Mr. Jammeh was the architect of global exhilaration and hope when he conceded defeat after his fall in the 2016 presidential election. Along with positively shocked Africans, many Gambians respected him for his announcement, albeit cautiously as they only knew their Jammeh well. They were right. A week later, he abandoned this stance, and has been throwing tantrums since 9 December about how God alone can take him off the presidency. Since 9 December, Mr. Jammeh awaits God's call on his failure in the past election. Hint: a life presidency in The Gambia. And Mr. Adama Barrow is left hanging as he now indefinitely awaits to take the helm. And African dictators just received fresh reassurance.

As we pitched in our last article, a tipping point to watch out for is the transitioning of power in one of Africa’s richest countries, Angola. Strongman José Eduardo Dos Santos says he is going to bid farewell to politics and the presidency in 2017. Now, Mr. Dos Santos, who is as good as having done a life presidency in Angola, is also known for shirking when the time to hand over power comes up. Until then, hopes for Angola’s prominence in African politics and development remain hold.

There is more we may not be capable to predict in 2017. But the tip end of the year will surely see a political world in transition. The implications on human relations, global and local economics, and climate change remain sturdier in the basket of anxieties than one of hope.

Amidst the chaos, only the will of the powerful to calibrate a better world will be all we will lean on, as we have always done. Time to shift gear on political will.


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