Who / What did we say Goodbye to in Africa in 2019?

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Robert Mugabe (History.com)

1. President Robert Mugabe, Freedom Fighter and First President of Zimbabwe left us this year… This was a man who tirelessly fought for his country’s liberation, and for the Black race as a whole. Some have called him an icon of liberation, and indeed he was! Julius Malema of South Africa said, “We must not allow our enemies to tell us how to remember him; we know our heroes.” Joseph Kabila, former president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) said, “We will forever remember the worthy son of Africa, who came to our rescue when our country was victim of a foreign aggressor. The continent has lost one of its pan-African leaders, a hero of independence.” Let us keep his legacy up!

2. Toni Morrison, the First Black Woman to Win a Nobel Prize in Literature moved to another plane this year. Luckily, we can still read her thoughts in her profound, heartbreaking, and conscience shakers books.

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Toni Morrison (Source: OvationTv.com)

3. This year, in Algeria, we said ‘basta!’ to the handicapped Abdelaziz Bouteflika who was trying to run for another presidential term. Thousands of Algerians staged sit-ins every Friday for months until they led to his demise! Even though they are now fighting to remove one of his cronies from power… that was a first step toward freedom.

4. We sent our Farewell to Beji Caïd Essebsi, Tunisia’s First Democratically Elected President. This seasoned politician, unity builder, passed away on the anniversary of the republic which reminded people of the role he played in nation-building since independence.

Jean-Baptiste Sipa
Jean-Baptiste Sipa (Source: Cameroun24.net)

5. The Cameroonian journalist Jean-Baptiste Sipa also changed dimension this year. He was known as a tireless seeker of the truth, and kept the Cameroonian government on its toes. An outstanding journalist, colleague of the late Pius Njawe, and head of Njawe’s Le Messager after his [Njawe] demise. I am one of the few privileged ones to have learnt a few things about journalism from him. Cameroon’s journalism has lost a giant.

6. Cameroon shamelessly loss the organization of the African Cup of Nations 2019, which was taken from them because of exacerbated corruption and of course its shameless government which is applauded by the French.

7. The great Zimbabwean singer Oliver Mtukudzi, one of Zimbabwe’s most renowned musicians, joined his ancestors. Interviewed on Eyewitness, Tuku said that, “My music is about touching the hearts… never mind how old. If a baby is born today, she/he must be able to relate to my music.” Indeed, we are still relating and dancing to Tuku’s music.

8. This year, Bujumbura lost its title as the capital of Burundi. After almost 60 years of reign, plus the 40 years during colonial times as Usumbura, Bujumbura has now been relegated to economic capital, in favor of Gitega. Gitega was chosen to become the siege of power because of its central location, as opposed to Bujumbura which is located on the northeastern shores of Lake Tanganyika, almost on the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

9. This year, Omar al-Bashir was ousted by the people of Sudan, after a 30-year reign. The people had had enough of his government which had been marked by corruption, human rights abuses, and which also led to the division of the largest country in Africa into two: Sudan and now South Sudan. There are of course foreign interests that played a major role in this, especially with all the oil fields in South Sudan. Al-Bashir was removed from power on 11 April 2019 by the Sudanese forces after months of civil unrest.

10. Algeria observed several days of mourning right around Christmas for the passing of General Ahmed Gaid Salah. This man was dearly loved, and perceived as the de facto ruler after the power vacuum left by Bouteflika. May his soul rest in peace.

Farewell to Beji Caïd Essebsi, Tunisia’s First Democratically Elected President

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Mohamed Beji Caid Essebsi (Wikipedia)

This past Saturday, July 28 2019, millions of Tunisians bid farewell to their first democratically elected president Mohamed Béji Caïd Essebsi at a state funeral attended by numerous foreign leaders including French President Emanuel MacronQatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Felipe VI of Spain. Essebsi passed away this past Thursday, July 25 at 92 years old. His was a great life of public service, and determination to serve the Tunisian people to the best of his ability.

Essebsi was a seasoned politician whose career spanned over six decades. His first involvement in politics started in 1941, when he joined the Neo Destour youth organization in Hammam-Lif. He was known for his integrity, exceptional public service, and served under Tunisia’s first president Habib Bourguiba, at different positions, including chief of the regional administration, general director of the Sûreté nationale, Interior Minister, Minister-Delegate to the Prime Minister, Defense Minister, and then Ambassador to Paris. The coincidence of him dying on the anniversary of the republic reminded people of the role he played in nation-building since independence.

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Flag of Tunisia

In recent years, Essebsi rose to prominence after the overthrow of veteran autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, which was followed by “Arab Spring” revolts against authoritarian leaders across the Middle East and North Africa, including in Libya and Egypt. He was seen as a unifying figure. He founded the Nidaa Tounes political party, which won a plurality in the 2014 parliamentary election. In December 2014, he won the first regular presidential election following the Tunisian Revolution, becoming Tunisia’s first freely elected president.

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Essebsi in 2011 (Wikipedia)

Hours after Essebsi’s death, parliament speaker Mohamed Ennaceur was sworn in as interim president in line with the constitution in a smooth transition of power. The presidential election is scheduled for Sept. 15, as stated in the constitution which gives 90-days after the death of the president for new elections to take place; this comes two months earlier than scheduled.

The interim President stated, “[Mohamed Beji Caid Essebsi] spent his life in the service of Tunisia, preserving its gains and defending its values.”  “He was a man of consensus, dialogue and national unity.” Don’t we all need dialogue and national unity?

Please take some time to read the good article The Arab Weekly wrote on the life of this great man who always put the interest of the Tunisian people first.