Africa came into its own in various ways in 2010. There was the soccer World Cup, dubbed the greatest show on earth.
The World Cup, hosted by South Africa, was the defining moment for Africa. It galvanised the continent, especially black Africa, and proved to the world that some of the images of Africa as perpetually conflict-ridden, and typified by inept rule and corruption were stereotypes far from the reality on the ground. South Africa, and by extension the rest of Africa, can proudly say: “We pulled it off.”
Also during the year, 17 African countries celebrated 50 years of independence though much still lacked on the democratic and development front.
The same farce is playing out in Egypt with 82-year-old Hosni Mubarak seeking to extend his three-decade-old rule by another six-year term.
He has placed himself as an ally of the United States in the Middle East cauldron so will get nothing more than a pinch from the US and its allies, having taken maximum advantage of the geopolitics of the region. He is getting away with electoral fraud in broad daylight.
But still there were peaceful transitions of power in countries which had never known democracy before. Co-ordinated diplomatic and financial sanctions by regional bloc the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) and the international community proved effective against coup leaders in Niger, Togo and Guinea in the past year or so.
Last month, Guinean President-elect Alpha Condé said he would form a truth and reconciliation commission, aimed at healing the wounds of ethnic and political violence that has plagued the West African nation for decades.
Thus there was a big plus side, as several countries on the continent held undisputed free and fair elections followed by peaceful transfer of power and/or workable political compromises.
Of course, Africa’s recent troubled past can’t be swept under the carpet. But then Africa is again rising to the occasion.
Ivory Coast is facing a violent political impasse following a presidential election last month which was supposed to heal the scars of the 2002-2003 civil war, but has instead ignited bloodshed between the rival camps.
Ecowas has shown it has teeth by threatening to use “legitimate force” on the rogue regime of Laurent Gbabgo who is refusing to step down in favour of erstwhile opposition leader Allasane Outtarra.
Provisional election results showed an Outtarra victory but the results were overturned by a court led by a Gbagbo ally.
As usual with such sore losers, he is masquerading as a victim of an “international plot”.
Like in Zimbabwe since 2002, the army has thrown in its lot with Gbabgo.
But Ecowas, unlike Sadc, is using both its political and economic clout to solve an urgent problem; there is no talk of quiet diplomacy.
Gbabgo has become internationally isolated. The United Nations, the European Union, the US, the African Union and Ecowas are all in agreement that Outtarra won.
The US and EU have slapped travel sanctions on Gbagbo and his inner circle, while the World Bank and the West African central bank have cut off finances, which means he may soon have problems paying his troops.
The UN Human Rights Council has issued a declaration condemning human rights violations, including killings and kidnappings.
It is against this background that we should look at the situation in Zimbabwe because there are many similarities.
Zimbabwe could descend into a violent political impasse with the ruling class now railing against the inclusive government and a seemingly impotent Sadc.
Here in 2008 after presidential poll results were withheld for three weeks, Sadc-appointed mediator Thabo Mbeki still found it in him to say that there was no crisis in Zimbabwe, this despite his mediation going back to 2000.
Now the significant gains made after the signing of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) are under threat. We are reminded every day where the power lies with President Robert Mugabe interminably referred to as Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces in state media.
There are relentless calls for elections next year even though the Constitution is far from written and other underlying reforms have not been implemented.
We need leaders who are completely deadline-driven in order to build on the successes achieved so far while the political and economic momentum is still there.
Now with shady diamond dealings reaching as far as Israel, where last week gemstones smuggled from Chiadzwa worth $160 000 were discovered, there is a real danger of “blood diamonds” fuelling violence in polls planned for next year as unscrupulous politicians, awash with cash from the diamonds, will not only be able to buy votes but pay thugs to attack their political opponents and even hire hitmen, going by the proven political killings in previous elections.
No distinction is made between legitimate security threats and mere political opponents. That poses a clear and present danger to constitutional rule, not WikiLeaks. Sadc, like Ecowas, must be unequivocal about the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe to unlock the logjam.
If any individual is seen as an impediment, they must be told so, like Ecowas told Gbabgo. In 1980, Mugabe could virtually walk on water, but now his leadership has become highly divisive.
What does 2011 hold for Zimbabwe? Of course, we should always factor in the unknown, the unexpected, for better or for worse. As they say, people plan, but God decides.
There is always the Providence factor. A completely unexpected turn of events could happen. So I think it’s too early to write off 2011 as another annus horribilis (horrible year) like Finance minister Tendai Biti has done. In more ways than one, this country made great strides in 2010.
I, for one, believe that Zimbabweans have shown immense strength of character and resilience in the face of gross and brazen provocation and daily insults such as being told what to do every minute of every day. Let’s move on with our lives in 2011.
But Sadc, as the guarantor of the GPA, has a vital role to play in regional affairs if the saying “African solutions to African problems” is to have any meaning. Ecowas has shown the way.
Happy and prosperous New Year to all!