African viewpoint: Appointments with fate

Somalia's government soldiers take their positions during fighting between Islamist insurgents and government troops in Wardhigley district of Mogadishu, 6 December 2010 Somalia marks 20 years of anarchy this month

In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, filmmaker and columnist Farai Sevenzo considers what lies ahead for Africa this year.

The world is awash in reflections and resolutions and like you, I've had my fill of them around this time every year.

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If the south of Sudan becomes a country it will be very different from the north”

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Someone, somewhere will stop smoking, give up the nyama choma (roasted meat) and the beer, lose the fat, vow to get married, promise not to steal an election - as if such resolutions cannot be made on 1 April and produce the same dubious outcomes.

Do all our sins gather all year round to be banished in a brand new January in a flurry of resolutions and piety?

Still, we cross our fingers and resolve not to make the same mistakes, to plan better for the ongoing new decade and 2011.

It is best to be positive at the beginning of a new year.

Africa's millennium, bar the odd missed goal, has been going swimmingly.

We are well and truly over the 20th Century with its horrible histories and lingering legacies and every city has assumed the cloak of modernity.

A southern Sudanese man herds bulls in a street in Juba, 26 December 2010 The south of Sudan is recovering from 21 years of civil war

Africans have scaled the heights of education in even greater numbers and without knowing it, wave upon wave of modern migration have established African roots in countries far and wide.

And the African earth continues to spew out its riches - new oil in Ghana, endless diamonds in Zimbabwe - and peace, bar the odd dispute, has been breaking out all over the place.

But let me not get ahead of myself and try and see things as they are.

In 2011 Somalia will celebrate 20 years since the departure of Siad Barre.

There is not much to be said about the two decades since the end of one dictatorship but that peace has not broken out in the Horn of Africa.

Once, Somalia peppered our news with the term "warlord" and now Mogadishu is synonymous with jihadists, pirates and kidnappers.

Yet even in this broken country, the citizens have shown an uncanny capacity to struggle for normality to keep their commerce going to establish their communities with the rules of the old world.

'Falling teeth'

The 2011 diary will also asterisk Sudan. The long-awaited referendum to establish Africa's newest country as Southern Sudan is about to take place - and should the vote be Yes, we could see the Republic of Southern Sudan by July.

Of all those Africans who have travelled the earth as they wait for a home, the Southern Sudanese may well turn out to be our Marco Polos, our Vasco da Gamas.

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Where the 20th Century gave us African wars that are still filling the bookshelves, the 21st Century has given us live broadcasts of dictators on trial in the Hague”

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Venture into any coffee shop in any city in the world and there they are, with their unmistakable African-ness and now with traces of their hosts in their Washington accents, their Kenyan ways, their Cuban music, their Scotch whisky, their basketball stars.

If the south becomes a country it will be very different from the north.

Where the 20th Century gave us African wars that are still filling the bookshelves, the 21st Century has given us live broadcasts of dictators on trial in the Hague.

Charles Taylor's spectacular trial by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone filled Monrovian newspapers for months, attracted the newspaper columns around the world and gave cameo parts to actresses and models.

In February, the man who might have been king of an army of children and generals called Butt Naked for longer than fate allowed shall face the music as the closing arguments are heard in his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

But this should give us no cause for celebration - for history is not as straightforwardly straightened as the courts in the Hague would have us believe.

The leader of northern Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, had the charge of genocide added to his charge sheet by the International Criminal Court.

But the African Union has already indicated that indicting a sitting president will not help Sudan's fragile peace.

And when we consider the six top Kenyans named by the ICC for their role in Kenya's post-election violence, and that the Nairobi parliament recommended pulling out of the ICC, then the sound of falling teeth may be heard from what could be international justice's toothless lion.

For it is Africans who feel unfairly targeted by the long reach of international law when in reality, bigger countries in bigger wars shall never make it to the Hague.

No mechanism exists though, to stop our incumbent presidents from going on and on.

Divorce on the cards

2011 will see yet more elections - Niger's military men will hand over power, Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni, now also known as M7 the rapper from Kampala, will do his thing in a February presidential poll and come April Goodluck Jonathan will put his own name to the test in the Nigerian elections.

Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh (file photo) Will Yahya Jammeh crown himself king?

Yahya Jammeh will lead the Gambians by the hand to the polls in September (in the hope it will become a monarchy) and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf will tell her countryfolk that she needs another term in October to completely banish the ghosts of Charles Taylors past.

Joseph Kabila may want the UN mandate in the Democratic Republic Congo to expire this year so he can hold his elections in November without undue interference.

To this august list of 2011 political possibilities we must add a possible divorce between President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in a country whose demise has long been predicted but always exaggerated.

For Zimbabwe has cast off its economic leper label, confounding the critics with a GDP of $8bn and a revival of the informal sector where everyone can do deals and make money.

Of course elections in Zimbabwe have a way of flushing all that down an unpleasant hole.

As thousands of illegal Zimbabweans prepare to legalise themselves in neighbouring South Africa, the diaspora dollars and the diamonds could well ignite a major revival unless, as usual, the politicians connive to mess it all up with a bloody election.

And they have form on that front.

So 2011 will give us much the same as 2010 gave us, but with our glasses full of the compliments of the season, we must raise a toast to endless hope, and pray that all these elections will not be resolved by two presidents, two centres of power and a very Ivorian situation.

Your predictions for 2011

The governors will behave just like the presidents we have now. There will be zero difference. George Obote, Missouri City, Texas, US.

Cameroon will see the tyrannical President Paul Biya establishing himself as a monarchy and of course there will some sporadic resistance from the people which will be crushed by the military or the so call "Presidential Guards". There will be loss of lives of many innocent civilians and neither the UN nor the African Union will make any critical comments about it. As they have always favoured the tyrant. Junior Ayuk, Detroit, USA.

As dictators, the corrupt and the crooks continue their grips on power in Africa, not much will change from east to west and from north to south for the common Africans in 2011. In fact, things may worsen in Sudan. The country may splits in two but that is not the end of troubles. The rebellion in Darfur by the African tribes of the Fur and Zagawa among others will continue. And to muddle the murky waters further, the North-South post-referendum differences may result into a full-blown border war like that of Ethiopia and Eritrea in 1998. Deng Akuei de Garang, Tacoma, Washington/Juba, Southern Sudan

The problem with Africa is self interest - if only our leaders can do away with making themselves wealthy, and using our resources on research, building technical schools with accessible research centres and provide scholarship for our science students. Musa M Turay, Portland,USA

Africa will progress if we learn to respect the supremacy of the law and order based on some moral and ethical standards. Currently, in every African country I have been to there is corruption and with corruption these countries are an easy target for exploitation. Kofi, Atlanta/USA

2011 will be Nigeria's year but not PDP's. Goodluck Jonathan will not win the Nigerian elections. If he wins the PDP nomination, he'll loose the main election. If Atiku wins the PDP ticket, he'll loose the main election. Mark my words, this will come true. Either candidate will ruin their party's chance of winning if they don't win the ticket. This will be good for Nigeria! Chinedu Igwe, Barrow In Furness

President Jammeh, 2011 is your year again. You are the man we love and we cherish, but you need to drop most of your National Assembly Members including one of your nominated Member Fatou Mbye, who has destroy GTTI. Good luck Mr President and wish you all the best. Lamin Drammeh, Serre Kunda

West Africa will be up in flames if any attempt is made to oust Gbagbo by force. I don't think Goodluck Jonathan will risk bringing Nigeria into a regional war with all the troubles in Nigeria. Michael Ohu, Houston, Texas

Zambia's incumbent President Rupiah Banda will win the elections slated for 2011 and get a second term in office. His ruling party will however suffer a loss of parliamentary seats which will see the ruling party's influence in parliament reduced. This will imply another five year wait for the "divided" opposition who seem to be divided over whether to field one candidate or go it alone. Victor Silavwe, Choma, Zambia

My prediction for 2011 is that all the incumbents will cling to power and they will do it the Mwai Kibaki or Laurent Gbagbo or the Mugabe way. Paul Ramses Oduor, Reykjavik, Iceland

The only thing that will take us out of this mess is a United States of Africa. One president with maximum two terms, no president will come from the same country repeatedly. We'll have governors from each country and shall have one, two, three, or four senators depending on how big is the country. Amadou Busso, Reading, USA

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