By Prof. Vince Sinining
As we ready ourselves to usher in the New Year 2020 The Light Magazine writer and distinguished researcher makes a recap of stories that made big headlines across the world in the outgoing year. The long list includes United States President Donald Trump’s impeachment, India’s exclusionary law that excludes the Muslim community and the unprecedented homecoming of Central African Republican Ex-President Francois Bozize.
Also, most observers welcomed the agreement between South Korea, China and Japan to promote dialogue between the US and North Korea over what the latter describes as a policy of hostility. The US policy came on the heels of a stalemate between the US and North Korea in the former’s efforts to end the North Korea’s nuclear programme and establish lasting peace.
The House adopted two articles of impeachment against Trump on December18, 2019 following an investigation into allegations that the president withheld military aid from Ukraine in an effort to extract politically damaging information about a domestic political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
The historic votes won the support of almost all Democrats in the House chamber but not a single Republican, leaving Trump as only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.
The two articles of impeachment against Trump are (1) abuse of power and (2) obstruction of Congress. Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated that she might not send the articles to the Republican-controlled Senate right away. Instead, she would like to wait until Republican Senate leaders set terms for a trial that are fair to Democrats.
Democrats have demanded to know the parameters of the trial before sending over their articles of impeachment, and have made clear they believe it should include witnesses.
“With neither side budging from opposing positions,” CNN Politics’ Kevin Liptak said, “there was no indication they would reach an agreement… That’s left Trump uncertain and agitated as he settles into a two-week long stay at his Florida resort” during his Holiday Break.
That aside, the highest court in the Netherlands ruled on 20 December 2019 that the nation’s government must cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by the end of next year. This is the first time a country has been held responsible by its courts to take action from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which aimed to keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. The goal to reduce global emissions appears unlikely given the failure of talks at the recent U.N. global climate summit in Madrid.
Indian PM Narendra Modi’s second term in office started on a wrong key as a result of violent protests that spread across India after the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill. The Bill amends the Citizenship Act of 1955 to give eligibility for Indian citizenship to illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, and who entered India on or before 31 December 2014. The bill does not include Muslims. The exclusionary law has sparked outrage and violent protests across the country.
Meanwhile, on 24 December 2019 in Chengdu, China’s southwest province of Sichuan, China’s Premier Li Keqiang, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and South Korea’s President Moon Jae met at the 8th trilateral leaders’ meeting between China, South Korea and Japan.
China, Japan and South Korea have agreed to work together to promote dialogue between the United States and North Korea. Reuters have reported that North Korea has set a year-end deadline for the United States to change what it says is a policy of hostility amid a stalemate in efforts to make progress on their pledge to end the North’s nuclear program and establish lasting peace.
In a joint news conference, South Korea’s President Moon Jae said, “South Korea, China, Japan, the three countries, agreed to continue close communication and cooperation toward denuclearization and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.”
China’s Premier Li Keqiang said that “the three leaders reaffirmed the need to seek a resolution to the North Korean issue via dialogue and for the three to cooperate in this regard.”
BONNIE BLEY of “the interpreter” published online by the Lowy Institute wrote in her article World diplomacy stocktake: A shifting of the ranks, that China has overtaken the US with the largest diplomatic Network in 2019.”
Bley wrote, “Diplomats around the world are keeping busy. In an era where you’d be forgiven for thinking chequebook diplomacy, digital diplomacy, cricket diplomacy, and – of course – Twitter diplomacy form the basis of international relations, there is still a place for traditional diplomacy.”
“Of the 61 countries covered in the Index – among them all OECD, G20, and most Asian countries – 34 grew their networks between 2017 and 2019.” The 2019 Global Diplomacy Index, released by the Lowy Institute, reports on how the world’s diplomatic networks are expanding and shrinking.
The report has indicated that China has overtaken the United States to have the largest diplomatic network with 276 posts globally. China has for the first time surpassed the United States’ network by three posts.
Bley said, “In two years, Beijing has grown its network by five diplomatic posts, following the opening of seven new missions and the shutdown of two. It’s ascent to the top spot has been rapid.”
In 2016, China was in third place behind the US and France, and by 2017 it had moved to second place ahead of France.”
The report also indicated that “the US remains – by a wide margin – the most popular place for countries to maintain embassies and consulates. The US is home to some 342 posts belonging to the 61 countries included in the Index. China, with 256, is a distant second.”
Japan has moved into fourth place in 2019, with a total of 247 posts, overtaking Russia.
The 2019 Global Diplomacy Index covers 61 countries, 724 cities, and 7317 posts including a total of 4846 Embassies and High Commissions, 1887 Consulates and Consulates-General, 373 Permanent Missions, and 211 other representations.
Much as there were several stories in 2019 that made big headlines on the African continent, the writer looks at those that attracted global attention.
Former President Francois Bozize of the Central African Republic (CAR) returned from exile and welcomed by thousands of well-wishers. Bozize who seized power in March 2003 CAR was ousted in a 2013 coup orchestrated by the Seleka – a coalition of mainly Muslim armed groups. CAR is one of the world’s poorest and most unstable countries.
He faced an international arrest warrant, initiated by the CAR in 2013, for crimes against humanity and incitement to genocide. He was placed on a UN sanctions list in 2014 for “committing or supporting acts” that undermined peace and stability — a reference to his support for Christian militias in 2013. After he fled the country, fierce fighting erupted between predominantly Christian and Muslim militia. It prompted the intervention of former colonial power France, under a UN mandate. A UN force, MINUSCA was deployed, but attempts to broker a lasting peace have repeatedly failed.
In Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for presidential candidate Guillaume Soro who aborted a planned return by diverting his flight to Ghana as security forces stormed his party headquarters in Abidjan.
The prosecutor said Soro, was under investigation for embezzlement of public funds and money laundering for amounts up to 1.5 billion CFA francs (2.2 million euros).
Alain Lobognon, a spokesman for Soro’s Generations and People in Solidarity (GPS) party told public television that an arrest warrant had been issued for Soro for an “attempt against the state authority” and intelligence services had evidence that showed the “plan was to be carried out soon”.
After a six-month absence, Soro was scheduled to return to Ivory Coast to be a candidate in the October 2020 presidential election that has raised tensions in the West African country whose 2010-2011 election ended in deadly violence between rival supporters.
Guillaume Kigbafori Soro was the Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire from April 2007 to March 2012. Prior to his service as Prime Minister, he led the Patriotic Movement of Côte d’Ivoire, and later the New Forces as its Secretary-General. In March 2012, Soro became President of the National Assembly of Côte d’Ivoire. He stepped down from that position in February 2019, announcing in June 2019 that he is running to succeed sitting President Alassane Ouattara.