2017 hinges on hope
At the dawn of a yet another new year, we can’t let the same tired crises hold us down
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.