Wednesday, December 30, 2015


The year 2015 has been packed with lots of activities and occurrences on the global scene. And so in closing out the year, I decided to undertake a brief review of international events in 2015. “Charity begins at home” they say, so I’ll start with my home country: Nigeria.
On May 29th 2015, Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as Nigeria's newest President; after defeating the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan in the Presidential election. It was a “nail-biting” race up till the last minute. The former ruling People’s Democratic Party was certain that it had laid the groundwork to maintain its hold on the nation in 2015; but clearly, majority of Nigerians had bought into the “change mantra” of the APC, and voted to transfer the mantle of leadership to Muhammadu Buhari. Still remaining in Nigeria, Boko Haram continued to unleash mayhem, even as President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration’s focus areas were narrowed down to the economy, the fight against corruption, and insecurity (the fight against Boko Haram). How effective will the "wind of change" be in the coming year? Only time will tell. Away from Nigeria now but remaining in the African continent, South Africa experienced widespread Xenophobic attacks as some indigenes took to lynching foreigners i.e. “African who were non-South African natives” whom they believed were responsible for their economic woes. The Zulu king didn’t help matters either with his nonsensical utterances. People were murdered in cold blood even as police and onlookers watched. In Burundi, President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term, violating the terms of the agreement that ended the nation’s 13-year civil war; and this led to widespread violence and death. In Kenya, Al-Shabaab militants mounted terror attacks, killing mostly Christians; as Libya continued to deteriorate.
In the Middle East, ISIS continued its reign of terror, murdering foreigners and citizens; while also orchestrating foreign attacks as terrorist cells spread across Europe and even into America. Paris, Tunisia, Beirut, the United States of America, witnessed ISIS-masterminded (and inspired) attacks on various scales. The Obama administration’s lack-luster handling of the situation led to increased criticism; and the administration tried to counter this by putting together a coalition of nations to fight the terrorist organization. This did not stop the rise of the “Russian Bull” though, as Russia took most of the initiative in 2015; to turn things in its favor, and place itself in a strategically important global position as regards Syria and the war on ISIS. This, as Russia also strove to strengthen its position in Eastern Europe- to the chagrin of NATO- with the annexation of Crimea. Ramadi (in Iraq) was just recently liberated by the Iraqi Armed Forces from ISIS though; so hopefully, the fighting capability of ISIS will be decimated further in 2016.
Remaining in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Iran got entangled in a proxy war for supremacy in Yemen and Syria, as both blocs (individually) sought to firmly establish themselves as leader of the Arab world. Iran also managed to score points in the international community with the nuclear deal passing the US Congress though it was rife with lots of controversies, even as President Rouhani went on his “charm offensive”. During this period, the “personal discord and subtle disdain for one another” was clearly highlighted between Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and President Barack Obama of the United States.
In Myanmar, historic elections led to great change; as hero, Aung San Suu Kyi, saw her party overwhelmingly voted in to lead the country. Remaining in Asia, China rescinded its “one-child policy” as it saw its population get older. Parents in the world’s most populous country are now allowed to have two children. Also, China continued to flex its muscle in the region, provoking its neighbors due to various disputes over territory. Still related to China, pro-democracy activists in Hong-Kong led by mostly youths, staged what became known as the “Umbrella Revolution”, challenging the Chinese mainland’s authority over Hong-Kong. They did not quite achieve their goal, but did manage to beam the spotlight on this very important (and dicey) issue, while also sparking a national (and international) conversation. India and Pakistan also achieved a record-setting feat as both its leaders met recently for the first time in over a decade. What this means for future relationships between both nations who have had deep-seated animosities for a very long time, will only be revealed with the passage of time.
In Europe, the migrant crisis was front and center. Europe received over 1 million refugees in 2015 alone mostly due to the wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan; but also economic migrants from parts of Africa. The massive influx of people brought into focus, the deep divisions amongst EU member nations; as they struggled to find a solution. It also led to questions about the morality of some EU member states, as well as questions about the integrity of Europe’s borders, while also re-designing (and probably weakening) the cultural fabric of European societies and institutions. In the UK, the British House of Commons voted to take part in air-strikes against ISIS; as 2015 also saw Greece teeter on the verge of economic collapse before a last-minute Eurozone bail-out after Athens agreed to implement austerity measures. The COP-21 conference on climate change was also held in Paris, leading to an agreement to reduce carbon emissions. Modalities for how this agreement will be implemented by individual nations; will be sorted out in the future.
In the USA, the coming 2016 Presidential election has been the major story. By a combination of brashness, vulgar statements and an all-round un-orthodox campaign style never before seen in a US election season, Donald Trump has managed to remain the Republican frontrunner. On the Democratic Party side, Hillary Clinton maintains the lead. 2016 looks like it is gearing up to be the year of definitive battle between Trump and Clinton. It should be interesting- and entertaining! Also in the US, mass shootings brought the issue of gun laws into focus (again); also, the #blacklivesmatter movement gained traction due to the countless murders of blacks by mostly white cops. 2015 was also the year which brought about a historic thaw in USA-Cuba relations, with the restoration of diplomatic ties between both countries.
On the global scene, oil prices fell drastically, leading many oil-dependent OPEC nations to re-assess their economic positions. If any slight rises will be seen in the New Year, is anyone’s guess!
These are just some of the most important political and current affairs stories of 2015. As we proceed into the New Year, it is my earnest hope and prayer, that the year 2016 will be a much better (and more peaceful) one, for all humanity. From me to you, Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


With all the bickering that goes on within the “hallowed chambers” of the UN Security Council; and the deep-seated animosity that exists between certain permanent members, it is indeed a rare feat when any sort of consensus can be reached on certain highly sensitive issues- especially those that bear strategic importance for certain permanent member states. The issue of the war in Syria has been one of such thorny issues; but just last week, in New York, the UNSC members “unanimously approved a resolution endorsing a peace process for Syria which includes a cease fire, and talks between the Damascus government and the opposition”. Now, before I go into the downsides and the negatives of this agreement, as well as its inherent “vagueness” which will most likely lead to roadblocks and challenges ahead, it is of the utmost importance that I reiterate how laudable it is that some sort of agreement has even been reached within the UNSC. Differences in political and even military positions between permanent member states mean that the diplomats must have had to make compromises to achieve consensus. This is laudable- seeing that Russia was a part of this consensus. But then, despite the fact that this is a step in the right direction, important issues need to be addressed- issues that were not covered in the resolution.
Now, the draft makes no mention of the future of Bashar al-Assad. This is definitely an “Elephant in the room” because Assad has been responsible for the deaths of countless numbers of his own people. The Syrian government which he leads has been implicated in the use of chemical weapons as well as advanced conventional weaponry against its own people; under the guise of eradicating terrorists. In war there will always be casualties; but Assad has overseen the systematic slaughter of the people he is supposedly oath-bound to protect. He and his family have shown the greatest arrogance in the face of human suffering, and have lost the goodwill of majority of the people, and the right to be called their leader. So why is he still being allowed to stay on? Why is the issue of his political future conspicuously absent from the draft? Again, we go back to the political differences and issues of strategic importance to the UNSC permanent member states. I do not wish to address again, the issue of how Obama’s overly cautious (albeit cowardly) stance led to the continued defiance of Assad, and the emergence of Russia as somewhat of the “superpower” in all of this. I think I have over-flogged the issue (even though I would still speak on it if compelled to) and the records speak for themselves! So let’s speak about Russia for a bit. Russia and Syria share a relationship which goes back to the days of Hafez al-Assad (Bashar’s late father). At this point I would not say that Putin sees himself as a loyal friend of Bashar al-Assad, but more as the leader of a country that is concerned about reviving old-glory and maintaining all strategic positions that give it some sort of authority and importance in the global community. Russia is not about to give up its naval bases in Syria (Tartus and Latakia), which gives it influence in the Mediterranean Sea region, and access to warmer waters. So even if Assad is eventually deemed to be too cancerous to be kept on, any replacement- emphasis on the word “any”- would have to be deemed to be loyal to the Russian regime, if Moscow is going to give its “stamp of approval”. And seeing as Obama has given the bulk of authority as regards Syria to President Putin, his opinion will undoubtedly be of vital importance…except a significant shift occurs. Putin has stated that any future decisions concerning the government of Syria will have to be made by the Syrian citizens; but he fools no one. Who is to say that Assad would not put himself on any future ballot? And even if he doesn’t, another Kremlin stooge would most likely be infused into the race. What this then portends for the people of Syria, only time will reveal. But from the present vantage point, it’s not looking too good.
Then we come to the issue of the cease-fire itself. The parties to this agreement and future discussions, are the Assad government and opposition forces (i.e. the moderate rebels whose positions Russia has bombed continually, to preserve Assad). Certainly, there shouldn’t be any major problem getting the Syrian National Army and other moderate rebel factions to the negotiating table. But are they the major problem spot in Syria? The answer is no. ISIS- and other terrorist groups such as the Al-Nusra front- is the major problem right now in Syria. ISIS is not a rational organization that plays by the rule of law; so even if a cease-fire deal is reached, it certainly does not include a pact of peace by ISIS. So therefore, the war is by no means over. If a cease-fire is reached, then I imagine that a political agreement between the opposition and the government to oversee the joint military campaign against ISIS will also have to be reached. Will that even be possible? With the issue now between Russia and Turkey, can the Turkish-allied Turkmen rebels also reach an agreement with the Russian-backed Assad government? What about the Kurds, who want their own autonomy in Iraq and Syria…will they also be in agreement with the Assad regime? What will the terms of agreement even look like for the parties involved, and their respective allies/backers? Okay let’s try and be optimistic and say that by some strange spell of luck, an agreement that is acceptable (or at least somewhat acceptable) to the parties involved, emerges…does that still eliminate the threat of ISIS? No. So it’s not “problem completely solved”. ISIS controls large swaths of territory within Syria. It controls even more territory than the Assad regime itself. It controls not just territory, but people and vast resources…and it strengthens its controls through fear. I guess the best hope is that any future agreement will lead to a more concerted and intense military campaign against ISIS; employing the combined manpower, intelligence and resources of the agreed parties, within Syria. Also, the influence of the leaders of the respective parties can be brought to bear upon the Sunni tribesmen leaders, to try and bring about a shift in loyalty away from ISIS, towards the agreed parties. Again, modalities will have to be worked out in everyone’s favor. In any case, it is worth trying.
At the end of the day, no one knows what the future holds for Syria. I doubt that when the dust settles, it would still be one coherent territory…one unified people. Will the name “Syrian Arab Republic” with its previous meaning (before 2011) still exist? I’m not so sure. But regardless, for now, any step that may bring some sort of respite to the long-suffering Syrian people, and lead to the defeat of ISIS, is one worth taking. The future (after ISIS), would take care of itself!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


So I came across an interesting post online, earlier last week. It stated that the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Un, was sending his girl-band to China to perform at a week-long soiree. This was in order to strengthen relations with China (before a critical deliberation on Pyongyang’s human rights record, which is coming up before the United Nations). China is North Korea’s main ally; and the chosen tool to strengthen (and soften) relations with its neighbor, was music! Hmmm, sometimes, if the issues relating to North Korea and its erratic leader were not so serious, they would be comical! I mean, is this the tyrant’s idea of “soft diplomacy” at work? The sharing and show-casing of “culture”- whatever that means for Pyongyang- maybe? But then, when one reflects on the fact that in-between watching his people die from starvation , his country become more alienated in the comity of nations, while also maintaining tyranny and autocracy, and sentencing anyone who is deemed a threat (whether real or imagined) to his regime to the harshest punishment (including death); that Kim Jong-Un can still find time (and indeed possess the state of mind) to put together a pop band- whose name I cannot remember now- and send them to perform in Beijing, one is simply left flabbergasted…in addition to being completely outraged! Anyway, the performance was eventually cancelled- after the girls had already made their way to China- for reasons still not so clear, but which may have something to do with the announcement made by Kim Jong-Un that North Korea has developed a hydrogen bomb! But let us proceed. North Korea has been ruled by the same family since it was “founded” by Kim Il-Sung (Jong-Un’s grandfather). Then from Il-Sung, it passed down to his son Kim Jong-Il, before being passed down to the present Kim, upon his father’s (Jong-Il) death. In other words, since it was founded, North Korea has been passed down from father-to-son, like it was some “family heirloom” which was not to be “shared” by outsiders! Now, how does one even begin to describe North Korea as a country? How much information do we- the outside world- have about life in this extremely secretive state? Much of the information we have, is that which we have received from defectors who have fled- under very dangerous conditions- to the South, or elsewhere. Their stories have not been rosy. Countless numbers of defectors have relayed in great detail, the harrowing experiences they faced in North Korea, before they fled. Food shortages, lack of necessary infrastructural amenities, no access whatsoever to the outside world, close monitoring of citizens by the authorities, persecution by the few elites…all the while living in constant fear of the brutal regime, and with the very real fear of the outbreak of war at any given time! All these and much more, are what the average North Korean citizen faces over the course of his/her lifetime. And as Japan receives one “ghost-ship” after another in recent times”- “ghost-ships” bearing the decomposed bodies of people thought to be North Korean defectors who fled while masquerading as fishermen- the dire situation within that country has been thrust in the public’s consciousness, once again. Have you ever seen a video-clip of what life in North Korea looks like? Well, some months earlier, CNN’s Will Ripley was amongst the few journalists who were given a “guided tour” of Pyongyang. Of course, the only trouble with these “once-in-a-blue-moon media extravaganzas” is that they are nothing more than charades- highly publicized events put together by the regime, to try and fool the rest of the world! Everything is staged. The people appear like robots, reading out of a script given to them by the regime. The journalists are only given access to “previously-selected individuals”, and also given guided tours of “selected places”. Nothing happens impromptu, and everyone- I mean every North-Korean citizen- praises Kim Jong-Un. The people appear as puppets…they bow before images of the 3 Kim’s, while calling them everything from “savior” to “hero”…they wear similar styles of clothing and would not dare wear blue jeans, because it is seen as a representation of Western values! In fact, everything in North Korea screams “bondage”, “servitude” and “slavery”. But I guess one cannot expect differently, when one takes into consideration the fact that the country has been led- and continues to be- by the same family of “lunatics”! So, “music diplomacy”? Yeah, I had to “coin” that term, to describe this unique situation. Dennis Rodman, Kim Jong-Un’s “dear friend”, has already delivered to us, “basket-ball diplomacy.” But wouldn’t it be wonderful if Kim Jong-Un takes a much different approach? If he tries improving relations with his neighbors on the South, and with the rest of the world for that matter…if he tones down his continued declarations of (nuclear) war…if he works to strengthen economic relations with other nations, and thus alleviate the suffering within his country…if he gave his people the free-will to “choose” their own leaders- I mean, if they love him as much as he claims, then surely he would have no fear of losing in any “credible” election…if he stopped being such an “ass”! Now, how’s that for diplomacy? Wishes…wishes…and more wishes! Beggars are not yet riding! Funny though, “music diplomacy” may just be a rather “apt” description of his relationship-skills, based on his persona- or, what I perceive his persona to be. You see, in my mind, I can actually visualize Kim Jong-Un as the “deranged conductor of some third-world country orchestra”, than as the statesman and leader that he tries (so hard) to portray himself as! Oh, I forgot; it’s a pop-group. Okay, then I can more readily visualize him as some “wannabe Simon Cowell”- minus the looks and brain though! In any case, as Kim Jong-Un’s “girls” made their way to Beijing to serenade their audience with their melodious voices, I found myself wishing them success- not so they could make their “leader” look slightly better to the outside world, but so they wouldn't face severe punishment when they returned home, if their performance was deemed to be sub-par by the Pyongyang regime! In any case, they don't have to worry about that anymore- for now. In the end though, whether the performance is canceled entirely; or whether there may be future re-scheduling plans, i guess the “Sound of Music” will always be much better than the “Sound of War”!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


I was soundly asleep on the night of 2nd December 2015, when from somewhere in my subconscious mind, I heard my phone ring. It was one of those nights when a throbbing pain at the back of my head, combined with pressure in my eyes, had sent me to sleep earlier than usual. I sluggishly reached for my phone and pressed the green button without first looking at the caller ID. I recognized the voice though. It was my dear friend Mr. N, calling to check up on me. After being a little surprised that I was already asleep, he asked if I was following the breaking news on CNN. Well, of course I wasn’t…I had been asleep! Anyway he quickly told me that CNN was reporting a mass shooting at a regional center in San Bernardino, California. I switched on the TV immediately; and sure enough, he was correct. We spent the next few minutes analyzing the situation and discussing about a few other things; before Mr. N said his goodnight and left me alone with my now disturbed mind. I knew there wouldn’t be any sleeping for a little while longer.
As at the time of the initial reports, facts were still not so clear. What the first responders knew was that the gunmen had opened fire, that there were a number of casualties, and that the gunmen had escaped in an SUV afterwards (the death-toll eventually rounded off at 14, with 21 wounded…and the 2 shooters were killed by police). Now, one of the things that Mr. N and I had talked about during our conversation was the issue of America’s lax gun laws; and how it was so easy for people in the US to purchase guns. As at October 1st, it was recorded that there had been 294 mass shootings in the United States since the start of 2015- of course, that number has since gone up! But think of it…294 mass shootings in just 10 months! There have been shootings in schools, churches, community centers, movie theatres, government-funded organizations etc. Barely a while ago, a man opened fire at a Planned Parenthood facility, killing a number of people. A few months ago, a disgruntled ex-employee of a news station opened fire during a live-on-air programme at his former place of work, killing a young anchor-woman and a camera-man. A guy had walked into a movie theatre showing Batman: the dark knight rises; opening fire on movie watchers. To be clear, we are not talking about guerrilla groups and organized terrorists killing innocent people…we are talking about armed civilians opening fire on other civilians. What madness!
Now, the issue of gun violence and gun laws in the US is a very dicey one. As enshrined in the US constitution, Americans possess a right to bear arms…a right which is inviolable. Then you have the powerful gun lobby- the NRA. They are one of the most powerful organizations in the United States, and are ardent supporters (and protectors) of the constitutional right of American citizens to bear arms. In the same vein, they are fierce opponents of any sort of government attempt (through laws) to curb how citizens gain access to firearms. Even politicians know to tread carefully when dealing with the NRA. As mass-shooting after mass-shooting occurs, the NRA’s argument is that guns (by themselves) do not kill…that it is humans (who use them) that do the killing. And this may certainly seem to be a logical argument when one takes into consideration that these shooters (murderers) are usually later found to be mentally unstable and/or terrorists. Whether they are hate-crimes, workplace disputes, grievance against some government programme; these crimes (mass-shootings) are usually found to be perpetuated by people with some record of mental instability and/or affiliation with some terrorist organization. So the question now is this: should the issue be about controlling (and drastically limiting access) to guns, or about more stringent background checks in order to ascertain those with mental health problems and those with previous criminal records? Most supporters of the right to bear arms are of the opinion that any attempt at restricting access to guns will just be a ploy by the government to create some sort of “police state” where individuals are stripped of all their firearms and thus cannot protect themselves; while all the guns are in the hands of the military, police force, and other security agents. But I guess the government can find ways to limit the TYPES of fire-arms that civilians can purchase. Those "assault-style rifles" that can kill a large number of people (even without reloading) in a very short amount of time, should certainly be off limits to non-military personnel! In the same vein though, we must also keep in mind that if you succeed in taking guns away from civilized (sane) people, you may not be able to do same with criminals and psychotics. You see, these ones do not operate by the same "Codes of Conduct for Peaceful Human Co-existence" that the rest of us abide by- as long as they have an intent to kill, they will find means of acquiring weapons of mass murder! And so, as the spate of mass-shootings has increased, more Americans have responded by buying more guns…to protect themselves. So where does this all lead?
 A couple of days ago, my brother and I were discussing about the process of gun-ownership (for civilians) in Nigeria. My brother had informed me that in Lagos, a “bloody civilian” such as I, would need approval from the office of the Commissioner of Police, to own a fire-arm. Now, being the daughter of an ex-Customs Officer, I grew up knowing that my father had a gun. And the thought DID make me feel safe…of course, in addition to my mother’s endless prayers! As an individual, I wouldn’t mind owning a gun- for self-defense. As the world gets increasingly crazier, I would welcome the opportunity to protect myself; if I could. I mean, if a deranged individual came to take my life (for whatever reason) and I had a gun with me, I wouldn’t wait for external help (which may be too late)…I would shoot him/her first! That’s just the plain truth. So as an individual, I am not against the principle of self-defense…even with fire-arms (legally owned). But the thing is this- I am a sane individual, and I can only vouch for my own sanity; not anyone else’s…also, the individuals who perpetuate these crazy acts of violence do not act in self-defense, but with the intent to murder innocent lives! 
The debate on gun control will certainly rage on for a very long time. While I do understand the 2nd amendment right to bear arms, I also agree that there has to be more rigorous background checks before individuals can be allowed to purchase arms. There has to be criminal background checks and health checks, to ascertain the eligibility of a would-be gun owner. But then, how does one ascertain if a (seemingly) mentally stable person with no prior history of mental-instability would not become unstable down the road? And then, what about the “home-grown” terrorists? The shy, quiet, nice-looking types who inwardly (and maybe only to a few) express some type of hateful view/opinion about certain values, peoples, or religion(s)? The ones who are meticulously calculative…waiting for the prime opportunity to strike! How do you effectively conduct “mind checks” on people to determine the likelihood of occurrence of future erratic behaviors which could potentially lead to acts of gruesome violence? I think this is where civilian-policing comes in- again. Individuals are part of a family…a school…a church…a mosque…a work-place…a community. I think that there is only so much that the Federal Government can do as it relates to gun control…especially as it would be illegal to deny individuals their constitutional rights. But then, family members and all other members of the community can also help as civilian observers to identify those whose behaviors may indicate that there is a likelihood of them becoming potential threats to society. They have a duty to report such individuals to the appropriate authorities so that investigations can be carried out, and disasters can be avoided. 
The United States is an extremely democratic society- as it should be – where everything has to be debated. Executive or legislative action cannot just be passed at will. The people must always have their say. And since it seems like a great percentage of the populace cherish their right to bear arms, then the government will have to look for other approaches to reducing mass shootings. The constitutional provision may aid in self-defense, but it also creates avenues for psychotic and hate-filled individuals to unleash mayhem. It is now left for the larger (sane) populace, whether gun-owning or not, to step up and act as defenders of society, together with the Federal (and State) Government. Now, will this completely eliminate the occurrence of mass-shootings? Maybe not. But it would certainly help in curbing it…I hope.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


When one thinks about the heroes of democracy; people who have sacrificed their lives to see democracy flourish in their respective countries, one might come up with only a few names. In thinking of the true heroes of democracy, your thought goes to those who have risked everything, had no thought for personal gain, being victims of violence and intimidation, lost friends and loved ones in the struggle, and lived to fight another day and eventually lead their nations out of the darkness and into the light. When one reflects on all these, in addition to other great individuals, one also looks fondly on Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi.
At first glance, the image of the 70year old Suu Kyi does not reveal her innate strength and toughness. Slim, pleasant-looking, demure; Aung San Suu Kyi comes across as a friendly grand-mother, than an astute, dogged politician. It is only when one is informed of her fiery actions and harrowing experiences navigating the murky waters of Burmese politics, that one now begins to understand the ferocity of this political character; and even then, there is still much more than meets the eyes! I often ask myself: “why would certain people risk everything- including their own lives- for their country and people?” “How do great political leaders keep hope alive even when there does not seem to be any prospect for victory?” I think the answer is in “vision”. Aung San Suu Kyi always had a vision for Myanmar; and it was a vision that would take her down a very rough path and make her a symbol of polarization as well as the greatest affection, for most of her life.
If we categorize leaders into two groups: those who are born as such, and then those who become leaders by their own peculiar situations; we would have a hard time placing her solely in any of the two categories. This is because she fits perfectly in both. Her father was a General who founded the Burmese Army, and led the country’s independence. He was assassinated when Suu Kyi was only two years old. Her mother was at one time, Burmese Ambassador to India. At birth, Suu Kyi had the “blood of leadership and greatness” flowing in her veins. But rather than her parent’s story, it is her own unique political story that has earned her a much deserved place in the history books.
After a stint living abroad during which time she married her British husband and became a mother to 2 boys, Ms. Suu Kyi returned to her homeland in 1988 to cater to her ailing mother. As fate would have it, it turned out that she had arrived the country at a time of great political upheaval. Myanmar was in a crisis; and naturally, she stepped into the fray. Her actions soon incurred the wrath of the military; and in 1989, she would be placed under house arrest. As it turned out, she would eventually spend most of the time between 1989 and 2010 in one form of detention or the other. Under such conditions, her whole life was censored. She was separated from her sons and husband, and was not even by her husband’s side when he died in 1999 from prostate cancer. Actually, the military leaders in Myanmar refused to grant his visa request to see her upon his diagnosis; and even though they told her she could leave, she refused to do so for fear that she wouldn’t be let back into the country. This particular action of not leaving Myanmar at that delicate time may be seen by some as “an act of selfishness” on her part; but I think that those who reach that conclusion do not have an understanding of the wider picture...of the particularly sensitive issues that were at stake for Suu Kyi. I think that when your father is assassinated after leading the struggle for independence and when you become a victim of military brutality in your later years all because you led a push for democratic freedom in your civil-war ravaged country, your character becomes “steeled”; such that having faced the worst travails and received inhumane treatment, you become extremely determined to see your struggle to the desired end. And to Suu Kyi, if she was unable to get back into the country, then all her work would have been in vain. I think those were the stakes for Suu Kyi. Caged behind prison bars or held within walls in house arrest, her character toughened. She learned the hard way to shield her personal pain from the military, so it wouldn’t be used against her. In 1991, her sons accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on her behalf, as she was held in detention. In 1996, during a brief period of release, her convoy was lynched by an irate mob that had been paid by the military to carry out the act. Thankfully, she survived. As the country went through the harshest years of authoritarian rule, all Suu Kyi could offer from detention to her loyal supporters- who kept on increasing in numbers- was the comfort of her survival. As long as she was still alive…as long as she did not die, then there was hope. She lived. And she won. Eventually.
As Myanmar’s citizen’s trooped to the polls on November 8th 2015, in what has since been called its fairest elections in 25years, one expected Suu Kyi’s NLD party to win. But what one might not have dared to fathom- lest one border on the verge of wishful thinking- was that they would win by a landslide! The military had inserted a clause into the constitution, giving them 25% of seats in parliament; which meant that the NLD would have to win by landslide majority votes, to form a new government. They did. Suu Kyi’s beloved country people made it so. And even though under the constitution, she cannot become President due to another clause inserted (again, by the military) which makes it illegal for citizens whose children are foreign nationals to become President- Suu Kyi’s sons are British citizens- there is no doubt that Madam Aung San Suu Kyi as leader of her party, gets to call the shots! She may not be President, but she sits in parliament and orchestrates the direction of Myanmar’s foreseeable future. The buck stops with her.
It has not been an easy road for Myanmar or for Suu Kyi; and the road ahead is not guaranteed to be any easier. Even though giant strides have been made, the country is still in need of major democratic reforms. Minority Rohingya Muslims have been subjected to the worst forms of cruelty by the greater populace, and other minority groups continue to struggle to have their voices heard. These would have to be addressed. With pressure from the international community, the military gave up power...but not completely. In addition to giving themselves 25% parliamentary seats, they also get to nominate ministers for 3 key positions: defense, interior, and border security. Also, they retain veto power over any future constitutional reform. Recognizing this delicate situation, Suu Kyi called for a meeting between the NLD, USDP, and the military; to discuss reconciliation, power-sharing, and Myanmar’s larger future. Hopefully, it would produce positive results; especially seeing as she now wields greater power and influence in the country.
Like Nelson Mandela’s, the Aung San Suu Kyi story is a lesson in perseverance. It highlights the finest traits of doggedness, great internal strength and the utmost tenacity, in a single individual. But it is also blended with a lot of sadness, personal travails, and great loss. Suu Kyi has given her beloved country, everything. And she survived. And her survival makes Myanmar’s future, a great deal brighter.