Twelve million children have been forced to leave school in Nigeria and neighboring countries by violence and attacks against civilians by the extremist Islamist group Boko Haram, claims UNICEF. With Islamic State growing in Libya, increasing violence in Syria causing misery, what does the future hold for 2016?
The one glimmer of hope we can see today is in former "South-Eastern Ukraine", where a truce of sorts continues to hold out after the Ukrainian Armed Forces and their allies reduced committing massacres of civilians (but have not ceased) after a coup d'état forced the democratically elected President from power without any of the three legal precepts for his removal existing. While the situation is far from perfect in Ukraine and while there continue to be tensions, nobody could argue, by and large, that 2015 ends worse than it started and that some process of dialogue continues to be followed. With that said, Fascist forces continue to build up on the border region and are starting to occupy villages they had not controlled before and Lugansk commanders fighting for the NAF (Novorossiya Armed Forces) are being assassinated by unknown entities. So better, yes but by no means solved. And the bottom line is: never trust a Fascist.
The same cannot be said elsewhere. The western foreign policy disaster in Iraq destabilized a State and removed the authorities which were fighting against international terrorism, as was the case with the more recent western foreign policy disaster in Libya, another country whose leadership was fighting against international terrorism and which sees itself increasingly controlled by Islamic State, to the point where special forces are being drafted in to fight the scourge created by Obama, Clinton, and their European Poodles.
Speaking of Islamic State, fast eastwards to Syria, where western insistence on supporting groups which took up arms against the government (terrorists) has created havoc, with the Government forces holding the western swathe of the country where 70 per cent of the population lives, the anti-Government terrorist forces between these and Islamic State to the east, run and managed by the Iraqi Sunni elites and staffed with cannon-fodder from starry-eyed youths from the four corners of the Earth sent to their deaths on the front line, alongside a few hardened criminals from Chechnya and other places. The fighting has reached a feverish point at which civilians are increasingly being caught up in the violence. If the west had left Syria alone in the first place and aided the country's President instead of treating him as a pariah and contributing to the escalating situation, there would have been a peace and reconciliation process by now.
The bottom line in all the misery we see around the world today is that Islamist extremism is the symptom and not the cause. If Islamic State disappears tomorrow, something else will spring up to take its place, as Al-Qaeda replaced the Taliban and Islamic State vies with Al-Qaeda for a place on the top table of the bad boys. And among the bad boys we continue to have Boko Haram, whose violence in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad has caused one million extra children to drop out of school in recent months, added to the 11 million children of primary school age already affected by the violence. Over 2,000 schools have been forced to close after hundreds of them were targeted in gun attacks, arson or looting, and the ensuing kidnapping of the children.
UNICEF states that only one school has reopened in Cameroon in 2015 after 135 schools were forced to close last year. This is the reality today, in 2015. Twelve million children unable to attend their local primary schools because they are targeted by terrorists. And as usual, UNICEF has received less than half the funding it needs to support these children back into school in safer areas.
Perhaps in 2016 there can be some consensus, working together de facto rather than reliving age-old divides which are senseless in today's world. And working together means attacking the root causes of terrorism and fanaticism which run through development of resources and not deployment of troops, helping developing countries by aiding them and allowing them to use their resources rather than channel 90 per cent of them outwards, arming rebel groups, creating problems where they did not exist. Working together means inclusion of all members of society and not marginalization, criminalization and exclusion, it means creating a sense of belonging for all members of society, everywhere, and not a youth unemployment rate of sixty per cent or more. These are the root causes of extremism, these are the issues we must face and these are the problems we must solve.
Otherwise in 2016 we will continue to treat the symptoms of the diseases created by a blasé, supercilious and out-dated (western) foreign policy. All too often Russia has to pick up the pieces, all too often the list of civilian casualties grows to shocking proportions.
The people have a role to play here. First, getting informed through social media rather than being brainwashed by a lying corporate media which gives one half of the story or else repeats at nauseam barefaced lies, such as Russia invaded Ukraine (how absurd, if it had, Ukraine would have been overrun in 48 hours), lies about Al-Assad being hated by all Syrians when just last year 70% elected him as President in a free and fair democratic election among the majority of the people, lies about Gaddafi bombing his own people, when the French were in Benghazi from before the time when the so-called "rebellion" started. And politicians are accountable if real issues can be brought onto the political agenda when a circuit selects or de-selects a representative. People can ask and demand which way they are going to vote, in a world in which yearly NATO countries spend 1.2 thousand billion USD on military expenses while UNICEF cannot even receive the paltry 23 million USD it needs to send the kids back to school in the area mentioned above.
Hopefully we can all take strides together in 2016 to make this world a better place to bequeath to our next generations. What we see before us can satisfy nobody, surely?
*Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey has worked as a correspondent, journalist, deputy editor, editor, chief editor, director, project manager, executive director, partner and owner of printed and online daily, weekly, monthly and yearly publications, TV stations and media groups printed, aired and distributed in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal, Mozambique and São Tomé and Principe Isles; the Russian Foreign Ministry publication Dialog and the Cuban Foreign Ministry Official Publications. He has spent the last two decades in humanitarian projects, connecting communities, working to document and catalog disappearing languages, cultures, traditions, working to network with the LGBT communities helping to set up shelters for abused or frightened victims and as Media Partner with UN Women, working to foster the UN Women project to fight against gender violence and to strive for an end to sexism, racism and homophobia. A Vegan, he is also a Media Partner of Humane Society International, fighting for animal rights. He is Director and Chief Editor of the Portuguese version of Pravda.Ru.
The Bulgarian authorities made a stupid and absurd decision when they did not let a government flight with official representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Zakharova on board fly to North Macedonia