Protesters loyal to President Donald Trump sieze control of the Capitol in Washington. File/Associated Press
2022 has been an “annus horribilis” for the world. The phrase, meaning a horrible year,” gained currency 30 years ago when Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II employed the term to describe her year of constant family ructions culminating in the fire at historic Winsor Castle. In 2022 the planet has continued to suffer from man-made pollutants, notably carbon dioxide, which governments have failed to contain and curb. Industrialised countries which created this desperate situation have not fully committed to keeping the rise in temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius by mid-century. While developing countries remain the main sufferer from climate change, the big polluters are also suffering from global warming and global freezing.
Global warming has melted glaciers and flooded and frozen entire regions, and scorched vast areas of the earth’s surface. Drought has brought famine to Africa and destroyed farming sectors there and in this region. Officials respond with band aids when surgery is not only needed but essential if human, animal, and plant life is to be sustained.
This year was widely seen as an “annus horribilis” because of the Covid pandemic which killed at least 3.3 million people and sickened many more with long-term symptoms. Covid imposed lockdowns, disrupted trade and land, sea and air traffic, and weakened economies around the world. 2021 saw pharmaceutical firms win the battle against Covid in its early variants, but later variants remain a menace. Airlines, postal services, and health care have been permanently damaged.
2022 is the year of the Euro-centric war in Ukraine. It is the first European conflict involving NATO since World War II and has expanded into a global catastrophe. Due to Russia’s invasion about five million Ukrainians have become refugees outside their country and have been compelled to rely mainly on the hospitality of Europe while African and Asian migrants arriving in leaky boats are spurned. The seven million displaced within Ukraine receive hundreds of millions of dollars in US and European aid. Since the war has ravaged Ukraine’s cities, towns, villages, countryside, industries and economy, the US and its allies have vowed to rebuild at a cost of more than $700 billion.
The Ukraine war has boosted the total number of people displaced by war, poverty, and climate change to 100 million. Consequently, the primary focus of US and its European allies on the dire situation of Ukrainians comes at the expense of millions of Afghans, Arabs, Asians, and Africans.
Humanitarian agencies serving non-Ukrainians are starved for funds. The loss of Ukrainian food exports of five million tonnes a month has sent prices soaring in the global north and south, with poorest countries the main victims. Since Ukraine began exporting under the Turkish-brokered Black Sea deal with Russia, several million tonnes of Ukrainian sunflower oil, maize, barley and wheat have been exported. However, although aid agencies have bought shipments, UN figures have revealed that the bulk of Ukrainian food exports has gone to Spain, Italy, and Holland in Europe as well as Turkey and China rather than countries facing starvation. Eurocentrism has triumphed even over the distribution of foodstuffs.
Meanwhile, global supplies of grain and fertiliser have been reduced as Russian shipments have been targeted by Western sanctions although such measures are not meant to apply. Russian ships have been denied insurance, exporters deprived of payments by banks fearful of attracting sanctions, and port workers who refuse to unload Russian cargo ships. Russia normally exports twice as much wheat as Ukraine, depriving millions of bread, their daily staple food once highly infectious covid had emerged at the wet market in China, the world could not escape a pandemic.
The Ukraine war was unnecessary and unavoidable. For decades all Ukraine had to do was to utter two words — “no NATO!” All NATO had to do was to tell Ukraine it could not gain membership. Instead, Some Western powers and NATO itself urged Ukraine to pursue NATO accession despite pledges to Russian leaders that NATO would not expand eastwards “one inch” after German reunification and NATO membership. Instead, NATO recruited Eastern European countries which had been members of the Soviet Union’s Warsaw Pact and the Western alliance advanced toward Russia’s borders.
In his end of year press conference, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that the biggest threat of terrorism” is posed by far right-wing and white supremacist groups in the West. He was speaking after the arrests in Germany of 25 people belonging to the Reich Citizens movement, which was plotting to overthrow the government by invading parliament. He warned against anti-Semitism and Islamophobia as well as neo-Nazism. Polls show that 65 per cent of US citizens fear domestic terrorism more than attacks from outside the country.
The global mood changed from dark to sombre after the September death at 96 years of age of British Queen Elizabeth II who reigned for 70 years and 214 days, the longest of any British monarch and of any female monarch in history. Her demise was commemorated by parading troops, marching military bands, church services, and popular gatherings in splendid pomp and circumstance only the British can achieve to impress themselves, the Commonwealth, and the globe.
The black mood lifted briefly during the football World Cup held for the first time in an Arab country, Qatar. Morocco’s stunning victories over heavyweights Canada, Belgium, Spain, and Portugal made Morocco the first Arab/African country to reach the semi-finals before being knocked out by former colonial master France which was defeated by Argentina. Even though disappointed over Morocco’s elimination, the Atlas Lions won the admiration and caught the imagination of football fans and non-fans the world over.
Finally, as the year’s end approached, there was the welcome news that the US Congressional committee investigating the crimes and misdemeanours of ex-President Donald Trump had finally completed its mission. The committee recommended that the US Justice Departmemt charge him for trying to subvert the 2020 election, overthrow the democratic result, and obstruct the probe, and misappropriating top secret documents. The Committee recommended that he should be barred from holding any public office despite his mid-November declaration that he seeks to stand for a second term in 2024. Another four years of erratic, dangerous Donald Trump in the world’s battered and bruised face would be too much to bear.