We are now at the midway point of an exhilarating Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament held in Cote d’Ivoire. As some people will say, it’s down to the wire with the Round of 16 knockout stages beckoning. The 34th edition of Africa’s biggest sports showpiece featuring 24 teams for the first time has been exciting, to say the least. The decision to expand the biennial tournament from 16 to 24 teams has led us to this marvelous experience. The world needed to see this. And African football will never be viewed the same way again.
The AFCON 2023 has been full of surprises, drama and upsets. Talking about upsets, no fewer than four African champions, namely, Ghana, Algeria, Tunisia, and Zambia are going home after the first-round stage. Host Cote d’Ivoire needed a reprieve from Morocco, whose 1-0 over the Chipolopolo last night, ensured the Elephant’s place in the knockout stages. Meanwhile, the Ivorians will meet defending champions in a mouthwatering Round of 16 tie on Monday.
When you see minnows such as Mauritania, Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, and Namibia deservedly going through, then, you will agree with me that this year’s AFCON has been amazing. The quality and the entertainment are top-notch. I dare say right now only the Euros and World Cup can match this thriller. We should be proud of Africa.
Nigeria’s Super Eagles sleep-walked into the Round of 16 as runners-up in Group A behind tiny Equatorial Guinea and will now face traditional foes Cameroon on Saturday at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in Abidjan. This is the same venue where the Indomitable Lions defeated the Eagles in the AFCON final 40 years ago to lift their first-ever African diadem. Many Nigerians will approach Saturday’s encounter with trepidation, as the Jose Peseiro-tutored Eagles looked unconvincing at the group stage. Fear not, these Cameroon Lions are not as imperious as their illustrious predecessors. So, expect an Eagles triumph. It’s not going to be easy, though.
The big guns exiting AFCON at this stage are a poignant reminder of the unpredictable nature of football. The beautiful game often unveils profound lessons in resilience, adaptability, and the unpredictability of human endeavors. We bear witness to the ebb and flow of triumphs and defeats, each match illuminating broader themes of life itself, and may this tournament continue to offer memorable moments and thrilling encounters.
As the continent’s best footballers were trading tackles in Cote d’Ivoire, elsewhere in the sleepy Speke resort in Kampala, Uganda was playing host to the 19th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit which ran from January 15 to January 20. More than 3,000 delegates from more than 120 countries took part in the meeting with the objective of reshaping the global order and establishing a fairer, more democratic, and multipolar system of international relations.
In an era characterized by geopolitical realignments, rising inequalities, and growing global challenges, NAM provides a platform for developing nations to assert their interests and aspirations. By adapting to the changing world and expanding its agenda, the Movement has reestablished itself as a potent force for promoting peace, justice, and equality.
Historically, the Non-Aligned Movement traces its origins to the first large-scale Afro–Asian Conference held in 1955 in Bandung, Indonesia, marking the decolonization process after World War II. The Conference was organized by countries that did not wish to be involved in the East-West ideological confrontation of the Cold War, and that wished to focus on national independence struggles and their own economic development. The NAM was officially established in 1961 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, and comprised 25 mostly Asian and African countries.
In the 1990s, after the bipolar world of the Cold War ended its existence, the movement was trying to find its way, and the building of a new multipolar world became its primary objective. Since 2012, when, under Iran’s chairmanship the Tehran declaration openly condemned sanctions against Iran and the Western intervention in Syria, the role of the Movement has been increasing. The NAM today is the main dialogue tool of the Global South, representing around 58% of the global population, 76% of global oil, and 53% of global gas reserves, with all the OPEC member states.
Today, economic cooperation and social and humanitarian issues are central to the work of the NAM. The grouping consists of 120 nations (African, Asian Central, and South American), 20 observer states (including Russia and China), and 11 organizations (such as the African Union and Arab League). The NAM does not have a founding Charter, Act or Treaty, or a permanent secretariat. Managing the affairs of the Movement is the responsibility of the country holding the Chairmanship.
At the summit in Kampala, the Movement released the 47-article Kampala Declaration in which NAM reaffirmed its support for Palestine and condemned Israel, and stressed that their positions on Palestine developed over the past 60 years, “shall be defended, preserved, and promoted”, especially “within the context of the United Nations, as part of our continued efforts to put an end to colonialism, oppression, occupation and domination in the occupied Palestinian Territory.”
NAM expressed “grave concern at the continued deterioration of the situation on the ground and the humanitarian crisis being endured by Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, where the population, more than half of which are children, are suffering an immense loss of life and injury, widespread destruction of their homes and massive forced displacement as Israel continues to carry out indiscriminate attacks across the Gaza Strip.”
The Movement also declared support for an application filed by South Africa to the International Court of Justice and “condemn all measures” taken by Israel to alter the status of the Occupied Syrian Golan Heights.
In addition, the Movement stressed the importance of strengthening multilateralism and comprehensive reform of the multilateral global governance architecture, acknowledged “the historical injustice against Africa” and expressed “support for increased representation for Africa in the reformed Security Council.”
Similarly, the Movement declared its support for reform of the international financial architecture, and committed to work towards a “universal, rule-based, open, transparent, predictable, inclusive, fair, non-discriminatory, and equitable multilateral trading system.”
Beyond the summit, the resurgent Non-Aligned Movement is poised to position itself as a relevant and influential force in global affairs. By adapting to the changing dynamics of the world, NAM seeks to address a wide range of issues, amplifying the voices of developing nations, and advocating for a more just and equitable international order. Certainly, as the challenges of the 21st century continue to unfold, the Non-Aligned Movement will undoubtedly play a crucial role in shaping the future of global governance.