2017 hinges on hope

At the dawn of a yet an­other new year, we can’t let the same tired crises hold us down

African Independent - - OPINION -

HOPE. We’re all born with it, or at least we sym­bol­ise it at birth. It is the light that ac­com­pa­nies a new­born, and it is mir­rored in the eyes of a proud par­ent. Hope is our birthright – even to those born into poverty and op­pres­sion. It is only life’s ex­pe­ri­ences, the hard knocks and life and death strug­gles that slowly erode that hope.

For­mer US pres­i­dent Barack Obama traded on hope, quite lit­er­ally. His sec­ond book, The Au­dac­ity of Hope: Thoughts on Re­claim­ing the Amer­i­can Dream, speaks of a new type of pol­i­tics based on unity, tol­er­ance and in­clu­sive­ness.

After the dis­as­trous pres­i­dency of Ge­orge W Bush, Obama of­fered some­thing re­fresh­ing, some­thing we all had for­got­ten after decades of war, poverty and tyranny.

He of­fered the most ba­sic of birthrights – hope – and it pro­pelled him to the most pow­er­ful of­fice in the world. Few politi­cians can do this, and although in the end Obama didn’t quite live up to much of the prom­ise, hope as a tool for so­cial change gained some cur­rency in this cut-throat world.

Nel­son Man­dela too of­fered Africans a slice of hope when all seemed lost. It changed the course of South Africa’s his­tory and gave Africans a sense of pride in be­ing led by a gi­ant of the con­ti­nent. But at the dawn of a new year, 2017, at a time when we re-eval­u­ate our as­pi­ra­tions and dreams for an­other 365 days, what and whom do we look to?

Our vi­sion is ob­scured glob­ally by the likes of Don­ald Trump, Marine Le Pen and Theresa May who speak about ex­clu­sion and in­ward-look­ing pol­i­tics. They view out­siders as a threat, in­stead of an op­por­tu­nity to learn and en­rich one’s life ex­pe­ri­ence. The world is a scarier place now with them as lead­ers, but it is in­cum­bent on us not to lose hope.

Even closer to home, in The Gam­bia and Su­dan and Ethiopia, where we cling to hope even as it slowly dis­ap­pears day after day.

Gam­bian Pres­i­dent Yahya Jam­meh is cling­ing to power even in his fi­nal days in of­fice. He has de­clared a state of emer­gency which has sparked an ex­o­dus of tourists and for­eign na­tion­als. With them go price­less in­vest­ment. Jam­meh’s neme­sis mean­while cow­ers in neigh­bour­ing Sene­gal, un­able to at­tend his own in­au­gu­ra­tion. As the two cen­tres of power ap­pear to be on a col­li­sion course, what hope does 2017 bring to the peo­ple of Gam­bia? Where is their light?

In Ethiopia, where famine stalks the meek and pow­er­less, there is a des­per­ate need for some sign of hope, some respite from the drought and tur­moil. And need we say more about South Su­dan?

But this is 2017, a new year that left the hor­rors of 2016 be­hind us. Or has it? We were only too anx­ious to let 2016 be a dis­tant memory, that we don’t care about the de­tails and how the pow­er­ful will con­tinue to wreak havoc on the sub­servient, the greedy will con­tinue to profit off ex­ploita­tion, and the voices of the hope­ful will con­tinue to be drowned out by the howls of the dis­en­fran­chised.

But we must fight, be­cause hope it­self is not enough. We need prag­matic so­lu­tions to stim­u­late eco­nomic growth, to sup­port in­no­va­tion and higher ed­u­ca­tion and al­le­vi­ate the ef­fects of global warm­ing. You can’t eat hope, or build a house with it. Amer­i­cans have re­alised this post Obama.

Poli­cies need to change, the rules of en­gage­ment across eco­nomic lines need to favour the poor, and demo­cratic prin­ci­ples must be bed­ded down. Africa can­not af­ford a year of the same tired crises that hold us down. We have a young, pas­sion­ate pop­u­la­tion des­per­ate to prove their worth in mean­ing­ful ways that up­lift us all. They still have hope in their eyes.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.