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The flow into 2016

By Owei Lakemfa

THE gallant Iraqi army and special forces backed by the awesome Western air power, delivered a beautiful New Year gift with the recapture of Ramadi last week. It was a significant victory that some 400 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) fighters who stood to fight, were defeated by thousands of Iraqi troops and air strikes mainly by American jet fighters.

Ramadi was partly destroyed seven months ago when Iraqi troops fled before an ISIS advance, abandoning huge military hardware. Now, a city pulverized by the latest take over, is the prized possession of Iraq whose central government did not take part in the fight. As television footage showed Ramadi, not even a stray dog or goat was in sight; what met the eyes was utter destruction.

As the victorious forces set their sight on the recapture of Fallujah and Mosul, the issue of who rebuilds Ramadi does not appear to be on the cards. What however seems certain is that it would be run by tribal chieftains not the central government which remains sectional.

The wars in Iraq and Syria have relegated other 2015 wars to the background. The Ukrainian civil war which has claimed 5,665 lives including the 298 on board the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 shot down over Eastern Ukraine, is fading into memory. The conflict in Egypt which momentarily made the headlines following the October 31 downing of a Russian airline with 224 souls on board, is almost forgotten. The brutal war in Yemen does not seem to make the headlines any more, even when civilians are being bombed by both sides in the Sunni-Shiite proxy war.

The concern of some is not the human carnage, but the gaining of ground by international Islamist militants. That is also the concern in Libya.

Looking back at 2015, I am tempted to name the senseless killing of blacks by the American police as the main event of the year, or the Blacklivesmatter movement as the organization of the year. But I am not sure that made as much international impact as the attempt to evangelise and sell homosexuality as the core human right issue facing humanity.

Perhaps, the quake in Europe following the rise of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader might rival the homosexuality drive. But doubtlessly the restoration of ties between the United States and Cuba after over half a century, is a more serious political break than the Corbyn matter. In fact, can we be talking about Corbynism when Donald Trump is entertaining the world in a farcical drama that exposes some Americans love for anything or anybody that reminds them of their Hollywood heritage?

However, the prospect of civil war in Burundi should qualify for the most stupid political drama in 2015 which makes the Trump tantrums an amateur footage. The United Nations Climate Change Conference which proclaimed a genuine concern for our universe should have the trophy as the most significant achievement of humanity in the old year. But to do so may rob the Kurds as the most courageous people of the period. A people with a contiguous geographical area; a single culture and language but carved into tiny bits across five countries; the Kurds against all odds beat ISIS to recapture the terrorists prized town of Sinjar where minorities including the Yazidis were being enslaved. The Kurds achieved this while simultaneously fighting the Turkish bullies.

But clearly, the tragedy of refugees braving the rough seas to escape devastating wars in Syria, Iraq and Libya tops the list. Over 2,600 were claimed by the seas while about 400,000 managed to cross. In one incident on April 27, at least 800 were killed trying to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa while on August 27, over 600 died trying to cross from Libya. The refugee upsurge also witnessed unprecedented human suffering on the world stage as victims trekked across various European countries trying to reach Austria and Germany.

What triggered most of this refugee crisis is the brutal war waged against humanity by terrorists, symbolised by ISIS. The level of bestiality displayed by the terrorists including executions and beheading of victims, puts ISIS in a class of its own. The group was responsible for mass deportation, enslavement and forced marriages. So brutal are their tactics, that many prefer possible death in the seas than to be captured, or live under ISIS rule.

ISIS and those pledging allegiance to it control portions of countries like Syria, Iraq, Mali, Libya, Yemen, Nigeria, Pakistan and Philippines. Beyond these, they have struck in various countries including Lebanon. Its most devastating blow in Europe was its November 13 attacks in Paris in which 129 were killed and 349 injured.

Despite its extremist ideology and bestiality, the group continues to attract new recruits from various parts of the universe making it a rainbow coalition of terrorists which include Saudis, Tunisians, Turks, Americans, Germans, Chechens, French, Britons, Canadians, Israelis, Iraqis, Syrians and Norwegians.

The attempt to smoke ISIS out of Syria almost resulted in an international conflict when Turkey brought down a Russia aircraft. Undoubtedly, 2015 was the Year of the Terrorist. Ultimately, the world will get rid of ISIS, but what will happen to its adherents who survive? Will they disappear, evaporate, end up in jail or simply melt into various societies? Or will there be a mutation into some other body as the Afghan Mujahedeen transformed into al Qaeda and some alQaeda elements coalesced into ISIS? If we win the war against ISIS, who wins the peace?

Yet, the greatest danger to humanity is not ISIS or the terrorist; it is poverty; poverty pushes people into desperate actions, extremist organisations and terrorist cells. With one percent owning about half of global wealth and Oxfam saying some 85 persons own as much wealth as 3.5 billion persons, the rich is simply getting richer, and the poor, poorer. Like a placard I read at a protest in Abuja proclaimed: ‘One day, the poor will have nothing to eat but the rich.’


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