Prof. Emmanuel Yenshu Vubo, Political Sociologist, Dean, Faculty of Social and Management Sciences, University of Buea.
How do you assess the overall situation in Africa in 2019 in terms of security, political, transitional, economic, etc aspects?
The general situation in Africa in 2019 was that there was no generalized bad news like before. The catastrophic view of Africa seems to be changing. On the contrary, there was some good news, news about progress in quite a number of areas. The peace accord between the belligerent Ethiopia and Eritrea on the initiative of Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, earned him the Nobel Peace Prize. This was an example of how border disputes could be resolved in a peaceful manner.
The cooperation between Sudan and South Sudan on the exploitation and transit of crude oil through a pipeline between the two countries was further proof that African countries can work together rather than quarrel and fight among themselves. There were a few political transitions due either to elections (the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC) or social unrest (Sudan and Algeria). Elections in the majority of countries were peaceful with no major post-election violence as has been the cases before. Even where there were electoral disputes, these were resolved through institutional mechanisms.
On the other hand, there were no new conflicts spots on the continent, although the endemic ones that spilled over from previous years have not had permanent and durable solutions. One can mention the Somali and Libyan civil wars, the protracted internecine dispute in South Sudan, Boko Haram insurgency in north eastern Nigeria as well as communal violence within the same country, Islamic State inspired insurgencies in North of Africa (Tunisia) and in the Sahel (Mali), just to name a few.
These are some of the conflicts with an enduring character that seem to still be begging for solutions. This is not to say that there were no success cases. Some peace seems to be coming to the Central African Republic. And one did not hear much about the conflict in South Sudan, Darfur, Northern Mali, eastern DRC and other formerly turbulent areas. Progress was timid, but that has to be consolidated and worked upon.
African economies fared well or slightly better than before. Nigeria came out of the table as the biggest economy again, showing that a country can be large in land size, populous, resource-rich and be economically viable. This debunks the fatalistic theories of resource curse or demographic obstacles to development peddled by some schools of thought who argue that nothing good can come out of Africa. The indicators did not show revolutionary breakthroughs, but there were signs of reversal of negative trends.
Regional economic integration in West Africa is taking a new turn with the adoption of a common currency come 2020. The discussion seems to be concentrated around the end of the Franc CFA of the UMOA states, but it goes beyond this to include all other ECOWAS states. This is revolutionary for the former French colonies that were so far tied to France through a common currency with colonial origins. There are discussions in the Central African (CEMAC) region to follow suit. Meanwhile, security challenges persisted, although they seemed to have abated. Violent attacks by terrorists were fewer and less recurrent. These were some of the observations one could make.
What were the major successes and setbacks; and what accounted for them?
The major successes as one could see lay in the reduction in the problem areas and the progress made in the economic and political fronts. The image of Africa improved considerably from one of a disaster-prone, conflict-ridden, and politically-inept continent to one that can take its destiny into its hands and run its affairs. This progress was the product of its own leadership that is less dependent on external influences for making decisions that concern its own destiny. That leadership is bold, futuristic and shows no complex vis-à-vis the dominant countries. The enduring problem areas were still too deep-rooted to be tackled so quickly. Some of the problems are related to ideologies (the idea of Islamic State) of external origins and need concerted efforts of a global character to resolve. Some even need multifaceted strategies to confront.
How do you see the continent going forward in 2020? What is the likelihood of some of the sticking problems/crises of 2019 spilling over into 2020?
The continent is likely to consolidate the gains of 2019 and make greater progress in the same direction. There is no reason to have a contrary view. Some of the enduring crises will still be there in the coming year, but solutions will continue to be sought. One does not need to feel that continental leaders will fold their arms and let the problems continue. This optimism notwithstanding, Africans need to further rethink their situation and formulate newer and more viable strategies where old ones have failed. In short, Africans should re-invent their future(s), both as individual countries and as a continent with a common destiny at the crossroads of major world blocs (Commonwealth, Francophonie, Lusophone countries, Non-aligned movement, Arab League, Afro-Asia movement). This is the meaning of independence in interdependence.
What chances are there for peace and stability in the New Year in Africa?
Let’s just say “Yes, we can,” to quote the former President of the United States of America, Mr. Barack Obama. The chances for peace and stability lie with Africans themselves who, I think, have reached the age of their political maturity. We can resolve our problems ourselves - with our own expertise, means/resources, given the will to do so. For instance, there were dialogue forums in Cameroon and Mali within the last quarter of 2019 with the aim of tackling internal problems. These forums brought together nationals themselves without any external expertise. Resolutions or recommendations of such forums are steps on the road to the search for peace and stability. The lessons of 2019 should serve for 2020. As the year 2019 ends, there are signs of improvements. We should only hope this continues.
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