2007 dawned amidst through a fog of uncertainty and uneasiness around the world. The run up to the New Year was dogged by news of the expedited execution of the former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, and news of the 3000th American military fatality since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Despite the relief in some quarters at the end of the Iraqi ‘pariah,’ the rushed and undignified death of the dictator was unsettling and reminiscent of mob justice, while the milestone fatality figure served a somber reminder of the work left still to be in Iraq.
War rumblings were heard in Africa too on the first day of 2007, as Somali government forces backed by Ethiopian troops began their offensive on the Islamist hardline movement suspected to be harbouring al-Qaeda terrorists, including suspects connected with the 1998 US embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, and the 2002 attack on an Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya.
Terrorism was also hanging over Spain, which saw the return of the Basque separatist group, ETA on December 30, with the bombing of Madrid’s Barajas airport that claimed two victims. A collective sigh of relief reverberated throughout Europe as Gazprom struck a new deal two minutes before midnight on New Year’s Eve to supply gas to Belarus, averting a price war which could have threatened gas supplies to Europe.
In Asia, two events marred the revelry. New Year celebrations were cancelled in Bangkok when six bombs exploded in downtown Bangkok in the early evening on New Year’s Eve; two others were set off minutes before midnight in an area which would otherwise have been packed with party-goers. On the first of January itself, a plane belonging to Adam Air, an Indonesian budget airline, crashed with 102 people on board en route from the Indonesian city of Surabaya in east Java to Manado. Despite spurious reports of a miraculous landing and of survivors, rescuers are still searching for the missing plane.
Happier tidings however, were heard elsewhere. In Europe, Romanians and Bulgarians celebrated their countries’ accession to the European Union as the 26th and 27th members. Australia marked the 75th anniversary of the Sydney Harbour Bridge with an extravagant display of fireworks. The Wall Street Journal gave cause for cheer with an optimistic report on the economic outlook for 2007, with economists predicting that the housing slump will soon recede, and the service sector will continue to carry the economy.
How will the rest of 2007 shape up? More of the same doom and gloom or will happier events intervene? One can only guess.