The world welcomed the New Year, 20202, with pageantry. However, the memories of the year will linger for a time in the hearts of many. Whatever be the opinion of the public, what is not in dispute is that 2019 was a year of joy to some and sadness to others. Below are some of the major events that took place in no specific order.
World’s youngest leader: 34-year-old Sanna Mari became the world’s youngest sitting prime minister after being selected by Finland’s Social Democratic party to take over as the country’s leader. Marin’s age and progressive politics, plus the fact she’s a new mom, have prompted comparisons to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who is 39.
Trump impeached: For the third time in United States history, the House of Representatives voted to impeach a sitting president, acting after a daylong debate on whether Donald Trump violated his oath in pressuring Ukraine to damage a political opponent.
Trump was impeached on two articles. The trial in the Republican-controlled Senate on whether to remove the president from office will likely begin in early January, 2020. It is likely that Trump will be acquitted, because a two-thirds majority is required for conviction.
Japanese Emperor abdicates the imperial throne: A day after his father, Akihito, 85, became the first monarch to abdicate the imperial throne of Japan in more than two centuries, the new emperor, Naruhito, 59, received the sacred imperial regalia that represent his rightful succession to the world’s oldest monarchy. Akihito abdicated the Chrysanthemum Throne April 23, 2019 three decades after he succeeded his father, the wartime emperor Hirohito.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir ousted: Following popular protests masterminded by civil groups, professionals and students, al-Bashir was ousted. He has since been charged to court for corruption, abuse of human rights, etc.
49 journalists murdered: Forty-nine journalists were killed across the world in 2019, Reporters Without Borders said, the lowest death toll in 16 years. The “historically low” number mostly died covering conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan, the Paris-based watchdog said, which warned that “journalism remains a dangerous profession”.
North Korea-US nuclear talks stall: United States President Donald Trump made history on June 30 when he became the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in North Korea. The meeting in the Demilitarized Zone came four months after Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un met in Hanoi. Neither meeting produced much progress. Trump said he cut the Hanoi Summit short because North Korea “wanted the (U.S.) sanctions lifted in their entirety and we couldn’t do that.”
Brexit upends British politics: The United Kingdom ended 2019 with clarity about Brexit, but it took a turbulent journey to get there. The year started with the country facing a March 29 deadline for leaving the European Union (EU). Former Prime Minister Theresa May chose that date but couldn’t persuade the House of Commons to approve the deal she struck with the EU. Forced to extend the withdrawal deadline to January 31, 2020, Johnson called a snap election.
The Central American migrant exodus grows: The photo of the father and daughter from El Salvador who drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande in April symbolized a U.S. asylum process in crisis. The surge in asylum-seekers at the U.S. southern border has overwhelmed the system. Many of the asylum-seekers are fleeing violence and grinding poverty in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
Tensions flare in the Persian Gulf: War in the Persian Gulf seemed imminent at several points in 2019. In May, four commercial ships were attacked while anchored just outside the Strait of Hormuz, through which about a fifth of the world’s oil passes. The United States accused Iran of being “directly responsible” for the attacks, a charge Iran denied. On June 6, Houthi rebels shot down a U.S. drone in Yemen with help from Iran. Two weeks later, Iran shot down a U.S. drone it said had violated Iranian airspace, a charge the United States denied.
Multiyear drought in Southern Africa: A multiyear drought in southern Africa put at risk 45 million people, including 11 million at crisis levels of food insecurity. Only one in five of the last growing seasons had normal rainfall levels, and climate experts warn drought conditions could get worse in the coming years thanks to the impacts of climate change.
US thaws relations with Russia: As ties between the West and Russia wallow at the worst point since the end of the Cold War, the Trump administration forged closer ties with one of the last countries fully in Moscow’s orbit. President Donald Trump’s then-national security advisor, John Bolton, visited Belarus earlier this year, and U.S. officials said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was expected to follow suit and travel to Minsk in January, 2020.
Birds, insects died at alarming rates, threatening ecosystems everywhere: To the extent climate change was in the news in 2019, some of the tinier but equally significant knock-on effects were overshadowed. A group of scientists this year released a first-of-its-kind global scientific review of insect species and found that 40 percent of insect species were declining and a third were endangered. Insects are the base of the food chain and the linchpin of ecosystems everywhere. Their continual decline, fueled by climate change, agriculture, pesticides, and increasing urbanization, will have “catastrophic” impacts on the planet, the researchers concluded.
Ebola Epidemic Continues: The Democratic Republic of the Congo reeled from the second-largest epidemic of Ebola in recorded history, with over 3,300 recorded cases and 2,200 deaths. The deadly virus first raised alarm bells on an international scale after an outbreak in 2014 in West Africa that killed over 11,000 people. But in the wake of these epidemics, the global health community accelerated research and funding to tackle the virus. For the first time ever, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a vaccine for Ebola this year, culminating decades of research on a virus that has historically had a mortality rate of about 80 percent.
China barrels into the space race: At the beginning of the year, China became the first country to gain access to the far side of the moon, landing a lunar probe there for the first time ever and reflecting Beijing’s aim to be a major space power alongside the United States and Russia in the coming decades. security.
Global air crash deaths fall by more than half in 2019: The number of deaths in major air crashes around the globe fell by more than half in 2019, according to a report by an aviation consulting firm. The To70 consultancy said that 257 people died in eight fatal accidents in 2019. That compares to 534 deaths in 13 fatal accidents in 2018. The 2019 death toll rose in late December after a Bek Air Fokker 100 crashed on takeoff in Kazakhstan, killing 12 people. The worst crash of 2019 involved an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX plane that crashed March 10, killing 157 people.
From Algeria to Hong Kong, a year of anti-establishment rage:
Angry citizens swelled the streets of cities across the globe this year, pushing back against a disparate range of policies but often expressing a common grievance, the establishment’s failure to heed their demands for a more equitable future.
While street protests are nothing new, experts say the intense 2019 flare-ups reflect a growing sentiment that the social contract between governments and citizens has broken down, with voters paying the price but unable to affect meaningful change.
It often took only a small move to spark a protest. In Chile it was a metro ticket increase, in Iran and France it was higher fuel costs, in Lebanon a “WhatsApp tax” that balloons into a wider revolt demanding better living standards. Elsewhere, as in Hong Kong, Algeria and India, calls for greater political freedom have become a potent rallying force. In Iraq, fury over corruption and unemployment boiled over into fiery clashes which have left hundreds of people dead and forced the prime minister to resign.
India embraces Hindu nationalism: Where is India headed? That was a popular question as 2019 came to a close. In May, Narendra Modi won a stunning victory in India’s parliamentary elections, as his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) increased its majority amidst the highest voter turnout in Indian history. The size of the victory prompted speculation that Modi would push an aggressive Hindu nationalist agenda. In August, he rescinded the autonomy that Kashmir had enjoyed since independence and that was enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
Other stories to note in 2019: In January, Juan Guiadó declared himself president of Venezuela, in compliance with the Venezuelan constitution and with the support of the United States and several dozen other countries, but incumbent President Nicolás Maduro refused to step down.
In February, Macedonia changed its name to North Macedonia. In March, a white supremacist live-streamed his attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, that left fifty-one people dead. In April, fire devastated Paris’s historic Notre Dame Cathedral.
Allied leaders marked the seventieth anniversary of D-Day in June. Iran began breaching the conditions of the Iranian nuclear deal. In August, the United States formally withdrew from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia. In September, President Trump announced that peace talks with the Taliban were “dead,” a position he reversed three months later. In October, U.S. Special Forces killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State. A 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck Albania in November, killing fifty-two people. Aung Sang Suu Kyi appeared at the International Court of Justice in The Hague in December to deny abundant evidence that Burmese troops had committed genocide against the Rohingya, triggering new calls that she be stripped of her Nobel Peace Prize.
•Compiled by Emma Emeozor