Africa’s biggest stories of 2015

December 31, 2015

Having spent most of this year in various parts of Africa, I would like to share list of the top stories of the year in this last day of 2015 which I consider to have been widely covered by both mainstream and social media in and outside the continent. By now, most of the continent is well and truly into its holiday slowdown and this morning of December 31, 2015 is similar to previous years. Would like to point that it is a compilation for some of most saddening and gladdening news stories from across the beautiful continent, full of awesome people.

Pope Francis Visit to Africa

In his first ever visit to Africa between November 25th and 30th, Pope Francis first visited Kenya where in my opinion, urging young Kenyans not to yield to the sweet lure of corruption, and them to help those tempted by “fanatical” ideologies, was the most striking message. Healing rifts between Christian and Muslim communities was the theme throughout Pope Francis’ first visit to the continent, but his visit in a Bangui mosque was icing on the cake of his historic tour.In Uganda, he urged people to “reach out to those in need” and “build a more just society.”His visit to Namugongo shrines which are dedicated to the 19th century Anglican and Catholic converts in Uganda who were burned, speared and tortured by Buganda King after they refused to renounce their Christian beliefs drew the largest crowd in his African tour.

Russian plane crash in Egypt

On October 31st, a Russian airliner, Airbus A321 in Egyptian resort town of Sharm al-Sheikh crashed mid air in mountainous area of central Sinai which left 224 passengers including 17 children on a  flight to St Petersburg just 23 minutes after departing taking off. Investigations launched by Moscow revealed that a homemade bomb brought down the airliner and confirmed that the plane was destroyed by a terrorist act.Russian president, Vladimir Putin, vowed to find and punish those responsible and ordered an increase in airstrikes on Syria as “inevitable retribution” for the attack that killed all 224 people on board, mainly returning Russian holidaymakers.

Tunisia beach attack

In one of the most brutal terror attacks in Tunisia, thirty eight people, most of them Western tourists, were massacred when a gunman opened fire at a Tunisian beachside hotel in the popular resort of Sousse on June 26th. Sousse, some 90 miles from Tunis, is a popular resort for both Tunisians and Europeans.Thirty of those killed were British citizens.The gunman was shot dead at the scene and dozens of people were arrested in connection with the attack.The attacker, media reported was dressed in shorts and came from the beach hiding his Kalashnikov gun before spraying terrified tourists with bullets. In a video that emerged later, people run in a chaotic scene and many took refuge in hotel rooms after the gunfire erupted.

John Magufuli winning Tanzania elections

Despite the Tanzania’s main opposition candidate Edward Ngoyai Lowassa rejecting the results, accusing the election body of falsifying tallies, National Electoral Commission declared John Pombe Magufuli to have been duly elected President of the United Republic of Tanzania in October 25th elections.Less than a month in office, Tanzania’s new president went full throttle in the fight against waste and corruption. Magufuli was nicknamed “The Bulldozer” for similar efforts during his 15 years as minister of works. He also made an impromptu visit to Ministry of Finance where he castigated civil servants who were not at their desks and around same time banned foreign travel for most government officials.The President cut a bloated delegation for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Malta from 50 to just four.Tanzanians, East Africans and Africans have backed his efforts with majority of Netizens posting their own cost-saving ideas under the Twitter hashtag #WhatWouldMagufuliDo. No doubt he is one of the biggest stories of 2015.

Garissa University attack

For me, though, the enduring images of what’s now known as the ‘Garissa massacre’ of 147 students in University of Garissa in North Eastern Kenya on 2nd April, will not be of the terrorists who terrorised and committed cold-blooded murder on innocent Kenyan students for their religious affiliations. It won’t even be of terrified hostages who survived, nor of the siege’s bloody end but Instead, I’ll remember the floral tribute. I’ll remember #147notjustanumber, a hashtag on Twitter that inspired Kenya and the whole World against terror group Al-Shabaab terrorists that killed 147 students aged between 19 and 23 although that number was later revised to 148 by Kenya government officials.Each and every one of us knows that, due to the random nature of terror attacks, this could have happened to anyone.It’s a scary thought.

Muhammadu Buhari winning Nigeria elections

Unlike John Magufuli who was a candidate for the ruling party, the former military ruler Buhari became the first ever opposition candidate to win a presidential election in Nigeria held on 28th March.It was milestone for Africa’s largest economy and most populous country.Arguably the greatest part of his win was incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan telephoning his rival to concede defeat and that even electrified Gen Buhari’s supporters who took to the streets across the country to celebrate.Since he took over the office, he has made eradication of terror group Boko Haram a priority and recently Buhari revealed that Nigeria has “technically” won the war against Boko Haram, days before his self imposed deadline for defeating the militant group but critics claim his regime has overrated its success, saying that Boko Haram continues to carry out attacks and is now spreading into neighboring countries.Buhari like Magufuli has declared that there will be no friend, no foe in the fight against corruption in a recent keynote address titled, “Incorruptibility: a Spiritual Premise for Material Wellbeing.”

Corruption in Kenya

Kenya, the largest economy in East Africa, is ranked among the most corrupt countries in the world and this year, it cemented its position when a document was handed to a parliamentary committee and made public early in November detailing the disappearance of millions of dollars in some very “suspicious” government spending programmes.Among the details were thousands of dollars for ordinary condom dispensers, $85 each for ballpoint pens, contracts dogged by old-fashioned bidding irregularities, laptops for schoolchildren bought from an Indian company that did not manufacture the equipment, deals to export gold signed with phantom foreign companies, and a standard-gauge railway project from the coastal city of Mombasa to Nairobi costing the government $5.2 billion and was said to be the largest public investment in Kenyan history.Government of President Uhuru Kenyatta, unfazed by the public outcry at the beginning of the scandal, finally caved in to public pressure and sacked several cabinet ministers.Even #KenyansOnTwitter well known as KOT, arguably the most feared twitter group in the world, acknowledged that President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe who in April 2014 warned his generals not to make the country like Kenya, “where you have to reach into your pocket to get anything done”.Back then, President Mugabe’s statement brought an outcry within Kenya but Kenyans now seem to believe him more than their government.

Barack Obama visit to Kenya and Ethiopia

United States President Barack Obama made his fourth and probably his final trip to Africa as president on a four day visit that started on July 24th when he visited Kenya for three days and then its northern neighbour Ethiopia.President Obama also attended the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi Kenya. It marked the first time a sitting United States President has traveled to either Ethiopia or Kenya. In his ancestral homeland Kenya, his arrival was greeted with sense of excitement and outsized expectations. A giant billboard in Nairobi proclaimed, “Welcome Home President Obama”, he began each speech with a local phrase and told one adoring crowd: “I’m the first Kenyan-American to be president of the United States.”

Mali hotel attack

It was sickening scenes that left least 21 people dead after suspected Islamist militants stormed a luxury hotel in Mali’s capital and took scores of guests and staff hostage on 20 November.A total of 170 people, including many foreigners, were inside the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako when the gunmen, driving a car with diplomatic plates, broke through security. The hostages were held for several hours before Malian commandos made their move to free the hostages. Africa and World leaders condemned the attack which an African Jihadist group affiliated with Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack.

South Africans marching against Jacob Zuma

The hashtag #ZumaMustFall was the inspirations behind thousands of South Africans across the country who marched on December 16 in protest of the administration of Jacob Zuma. “We need leaders, not looters,” read one tweet that I saw when the hashtag was trending. “Corruption must fall, Zuma must fall,” read another twitter post.  Corruption scandals like Zuma’s refusal to pay back $20 million in public money used to upgrade his personal home in Nkandla, government officials’ purchase of $43 million worth of train cars that didn’t fit on South Africa’s tracks were among the many grievances Rainbow nation has on Zuma’s regime.Other notable issues include Zuma’s firing his finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene where many speculated that President was looking for someone more willing to accommodate his plans which sent Rand, the country’s currency into a tailspin, which led to replacement of Nene’s replacement David Van Rooyen with ex finance minister Pravin Gordhan just after four days, according to a story I watched on SABC News, a local broadcaster.

Violence in Burundi

Burundi is still in a crisis after a spate of violence ignited by a clash between opposing political groups that has left hundreds of people brutally murdered, an act that has seen humanitarian organisations estimate that more than 100,000 people have fled Burundi since President Nkurunziza announced his intention on April 25th to run for a third term while local and international observers for the war torn country fear the ongoing unrest will trigger another civil war.It was the same old script of African political leaders wanting to cling to power after their mandated term expires.As of this week, talks kicked off in Kampala, Uganda capital to try and broker a peace deal.I wrote extensively about the political violence in the country.

Kenya Winning World Athletics Championship

Kenya is World’s capital of mid and long distance runners and facts are there for everyone to verify.This year was no different as for the first time in its history, Kenya conquered the world and emerged top of the overall medal table at the World Athletics Championships in Beijing, held on August 22 to 30 with seven gold medals, six silver and three bronze medals ahead of second placed Jamaica and US that finished third.The biggest story of the Kenyan team was YouTube-taught javelin thrower Julius Yego who won gold.Kenya’s win was however clouded by allegations that its two athletes 400m runner Joyce Zakary and 400m hurdler Koki Manunga tested positive for drug use.

Contador Harrison