To many a man, the euphoria surrounding the days ushering in the millennial year was that of fear, curiosity and great expectation. The momentum leading to the year 2000 had commenced as early as the 1990's. During this period, most so-called prophetic, spiritual and religious leaders had predicted the year to be a misery for man on earth. While some claimed it would be the end of time, others said it was going to be the beginning of the end. Still others mischievously talked about doom. Perhaps, for us in Africa, we only thank some of the new Charismatic institutions that somehow gave hope that the year was going to the beginning of the manifestation of God's Grace for us and other oppressed people on earth.
In as much as the spiritual institutions had succeeded in already making the year an extraordinary one, it was the scientific and technological dimension of man that added and even over-blew the catastrophic nature of the year. This was due to the fact that there arose a controversy (which still exists) over the correct dating of the millennial year. While some said the 20th century ends in year 2000, others opined that 2000 commenced the new century. This challenge in dating made some to disregard the prophetic pronouncements of the spiritual leaders. However, when the issue of the millennium bug came up, and the havoc of its presence explained, the coming of the year became much fearful and horrific than earlier expected. Not only were our scientists going to fail us, the owner of the universe was coming to destroy and take over.
The Millennium Bug
As the year 1999 drew to an end, much of the fear had been given away, thanks to the 'true servants of God' and somehow the USA which assisted many countries to be 'Y2K complaint'. But the curiosity surrounding the appearance of the first day of January 2000 was very much alive. So, on the eve of the magic year, while most people in advanced countries kept vigil in front of their computer screens, the African was in the presence of God, praying for mercy. Yet, others who cared least to what may come went about enjoying themselves to the fullest. On and on the clock tickled away – the general question then was, are we going to be alive before the insurgence of Heaven and Hell?
Then the long awaited hour came! At midnight in Africa, one could hear of nothing but shouts of massive prayers from all quarters. At last, it has happened – we were still alive. God have mercy on us!. In the Western nations, it was a night of comparisons and verification through all forms of communication: it seems the Y2K phenomenon had been overcome.
Now, even before the early mornings of 1st January 2000, the year had already been tagged Y2K to mimic the virus that was about to attack us as a wild beast from an African jungle. We were there at last and our world was still intact. The elevators, aeroplanes and all those electronic technologies were operating as they have always been. Whether the bug existed or not is still a controversy that is going to stay with us for quite some time, although the 'MicroGiant' in the industry has assured us that 'the Rat' is still living among us and would show its ugly face sometime. Let's only hope that it does not.
Then behold my beloved continent Africa! Our despotic leaders were still on their monarchical seats surrounded by their subjects. In spite of their 'prophetic visions' – food, healthcare, housing, education, everything for all by the year 2000 – the African was still faced with the 'unholy trinity of hunger, disease and ignorance'. But my people never give up; so long as they remain alive and pray to their God, much will be in store for them. This was illustrated in their various New Year (this time around, New Millennium) resolutions. One would come across popular ones like: 'Year of Remarkable Divine Flourishing', 'Year of Success', 'Year of Breakthrough', 'Year of Dominion over the Devil' and 'Year of Divine Fulfilment'. In some way, the African seemed to have started on a good note because 'with God, all things are possible'. However, the year started moving on like any other year though with a special meaning attached to it. If nothing at all, it was a privilege for one to witness a millennial year in a life time. So the African generally, had an atmosphere and mood that seemed favourable to see him through the year.
A new beginning?
The dawn of the year 2000 had its own downturns and successes for the African. Generally, the hopes outstretched the failures. In spite of the so-called 'donor fatigue' proclaimed by most Western donors, the general atmosphere of commitment towards the upliftment of the continent was high. Perhaps, the major hope came from the resolution or declaration of the United Nations Millennium Summit. Being the largest gathering of world leaders ever and with our own president Sam Nujoma of Namibia, co-chairing the summit, much priority was given to the African. The leaders “pledged their commitment to helping the United Nations adapt to the new era and strengthen its capacity to deal with the challenges of maintaining peace and eliminating poverty”. Thanks also to the Jubilee 2000 Coalition, a petition containing 22 million signatures from people in 155 countries, was presented to the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan – all asking that the world's 40 poorest countries, known as the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC), have their debts cancelled.
In as much as visible things were not actually observed, the year brought some form of hope to the poor African. For instance, the US government under President Bill Clinton convinced his colleagues at the G8 Summit to consider the debt burden of African countries. Similarly, the Paris Club made good moves at assisting the African. Another positive agenda was the seriousness in attacking the AIDS/HIV scourge. Not only did President Clinton observe it as a threat to national and international security, the United States and other agencies pushed in some financial support in the area of research and medication. Although the scourge was said to have reached catastrophic levels, as the pandemic hit 50% increase more than projected with over 35 million infected, the attention created through the numerous seminars, conferences, talks, symposia, etc., made one to feel there was some form of hope.
Despite the nuisance the African continent seemingly posed to the 'Bigger Nations', a rare president of the US, Clinton, demonstrated his love for the continent and declared the continent's relevance in the words of “in as much as Africa needs the world, the world also needs Africa”. Clinton's second coming to the continent and the concerns shown helped put confidence in the upliftment of Africans. To put words into action, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was passed into law by the US Senate with the aim of a improving the African Economy in terms of production and export.
As the world was trying to help, the African was seeking means to better his own welfare as the magic year run over. The major effort by Africans themselves was the move to create an African Union, United States of Africa. Unity, they say, is strength and therefore the idea was laudable. The challenge apparently is at the implementation level. But the fact that all African Heads of States and Governments acknowledged the need to combine forces for the well-being of the continent was commendable. Also, most governments at the regional blocs were heading towards economic integration; while some were signing free trade packs, others were forging for use of one currency and one common bank. Certainly, these were true, frantic and sincere moves to the achievement of the African dream.
What perhaps demands much commendation was the upturn and continuous democratic consciousness of the African. While many enthroned governments of the people, some just kicked out tyrants and dictators who continued to be major obstacles to the African dream. At the middle and getting to the end of the year, the African demonstrated the level of political and democratic consciousness – aside Senegal, Ghana ended the year with a change in government through the ballot box and it was praised by the international community as a free and fair process.
While the African expressed some hope along the way, the usual harsh and sometimes barbaric way of life still stared us in the face. The stupendous of all was what took place in Uganda which was certainly due to the false prophetic proclamations ahead of the year. The death (or suicide) of the members of the Dooms Day Cult or the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments, was the most unfortunate and most stupid incident that hit the continent. Another incident was the insurgence of rebels in Sierra Leone, and with their continuous horrific atrocities. Also, clashes between religious factions which culminated in massive loss of life and property, especially in Nigeria, were very much unfortunate. The petty inter-border clashes between nations were also unwelcome. The illegal smuggling and trade in diamonds also helped fuel hostilities among people on the continent.
What actually demanded sympathy and compassion from all was the natural disasters of flood, drought and famine which hit some countries on the continent; millions of people being rendered homeless, hungry and dead. Certain strange diseases like the Ebola virus brought its own menace.
Marching at a standstill
Generally, the year 2000 with its own controversies – good or bad - can be said to have ended on a good note for the African. This is because most of the major problems that bedevilled the continent had been laid to rest (at least on paper) before the end of the year. Eritrea and Ethiopia successfully signed a new cease-fire pact that saw troops from the borders redraw. The Sierra Leonean government signed a new peace agreement with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), to end the bloody war. The Ebola virus was also under control. There seemed to be some form of peace as coincidentally or divinely, the Christians and Moslems celebrated their religious festivities on the same day in most African countries.
So, as the African joyfully saw the face of the year 2001, it was a time of sober reflections and a look into the future. Now, if the kind of co-operation that existed between the leaders of the continent could continue, then certainly the United States of Africa would be a great entity for the world to recon with. Therefore, as we joined Pope John Paul in the quest for peace, understanding and co-operation among cultures on the eve of the year 2001, we could only say the African must march towards greater heights as we await the coming of the Lord.
Today in 2010, doomsday prophesies and doubts about the future still abound; but I believe the impact of climate change on livelihoods in Africa should be a major concern and I am only wondering when the African Renaissance will truly begin!
© Kofi Adu Domfeh
Development / Accra / Ghana / Africa / Modernghana.com