2018: What really happened?

Thursday December 6 2018

By Karoli Ssemogerere

The year 2018 is just 20 days from being extinguished into history forever. The big drums are at the top of their game.
President Donald Trump, the first citizen, is still presiding at the White House after his party took a drubbing in the midterm elections.
President Xi Jinping consolidated his position at the Communist party congress removing presidential term limits. Mr Jinping unveiled engineering marvels, including a high-speed rail link to South China (Hong Kong). He also hosted a $50 billion gabfest summit for African leaders that he wants committed to infrastructure projects.

The EU began last steps preparing for the departure of both the UK and Ms Theresa May, whose parliamentary majority seems to be evaporating. Prime Minister May has rallied her troops stoically, completing one-and-half years in office since the Conservatives lost their majority in the 2017 General Election.
Ms Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, will not run for re-election in 2021. If he doesn’t right his ship, French president Emmanuel Macron may suffer the same fate.

The world has been relatively peaceful. Contrary to his ebullient attitude, President Trump has been very restrained. No new moves against Russia, China etc. In the Saudi flare up over the execution of a double agent journalist, he picked realism over idealism, stressing the price of oil was too high a price to pay for imposing heavy sanctions on Saudi Arabia. His 2019 proposal for defence cuts the Pentagon budget from $775 billion to $700 billion a little over Obama’s last numbers while in office. No pay rises for civil servants.

IMF is predicting a warmer 2019. Tiny countries such as Uganda are projected to register record economic growth, 7.1 per cent, although this number may be inflated by the now delayed investment decision in the oil sector. An oil executive, Tom Buringuza, says this is not a problem as oil is still being traded in the ground. Other oil countries, Angola, Gabon, Nigeria have adjusted to leaner times.

India overtook the United Kingdom to become the world’s sixth largest economy. However, the trillions have not yet translated into a real global economic network. India is still held back by millions in extreme poverty and a stratified social system that advances social mobility.
In 2018, global charismatic figures continued trotting the stage. Pope Francis, 82, remains vastly popular and so does Queen Elizabeth, 92.
A visit to the hospital bed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu saw luminaries continuing to call on him.

The global uproar over the execution of journalist Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, reminded the world of the viciousness of certain regimes in power in the world.
The world also seemed embarrassed by its failure to change the situation in Yemen, Palestine and Syria. There are also 100 other smaller global conflicts causing a lot of human suffering. Joseph Kony is still alive and active in Central African Republic. Boko Haram expanded its activities from Nigeria to Cameroon. South Sudan signed yet another set of agreements to end conflict there.

Back home, the year belonged to Bobi Wine [Robert Kyagulanyi], a freshman MP elected from the city suburbs in 2017. The President howled and growled as tiny Bobi stared him into the face with little more than red caps. The backlash that followed the Arua riots seemed to have startled the President. Not even his usual lackeys like the DPP could save him. A coalition of Greens, Libertarians delivered the President his strongest rebuke ever in the European Parliament voting to admonish him over the treatment of Mr Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu.

Even in Rwanda, Mr Kagame caught a few warm wrinkles in his cold smile. He set free Rosine Uwingabire, whose miniscule party DP won its first ever seat in the Rwandese legislative assembly.
While Kenyans are still grappling with the handshake, Ugandans seem ready to start on their favourite project, how to “re-elect President Museveni”. This and other stories will dominate coverage in 2019.

Mr Ssemogerere is an attorney-at-Law and an advocate. kssemoge@gmail.com