The Maastricht Diplomat

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  • Carmen Critelli

There is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.

Although 2021 was poorly inaugurated in the United States by the distasteful attempt to lay siege to Capitol Hill, on January 20, Joe Biden has officially proclaimed the 46th President of the United States and Kamala Harris his vice-president. The new-elected-President chose as an inaugural poet a symbolic person: Amanda Gorman. She is an American poet and activist of 22 years old, which made her the youngest inaugural poet ever alongside other names such as Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, and Miller Williams.


After graduating cum laude from Harvard College, she decided to be actively involved in social issues such as feminism, marginalization and racism. At Biden's inauguration, she delivered a poem with significant passages in response to Capitol Hill's events. The poem she wrote is called "the Hill We Climb".


The importance of Biden's choice lies in two particulars: firstly, Amanda has an auditory processing disorder which caused her some impediments during her childhood. This particular is also shared by Biden, who in his younger years suffered from a speech disorder. During the 2020 campaign, Trump has repeatedly accused Biden of being unfit to be President due to this caveat. Secondly, with her poem and being a member of the Black community, she symbolized Biden's willingness to repair the last months' fault lines after the death of George Floyd. As one of her verses says "Being American is more than a pride we inherit. It's the past we step into and how we repair it".


On the local side, the Dutch Government announced a national curfew after having declared itself "gravely concerned" about the UK variant of the corona-virus. The curfew will be implemented on January the 23rd until (at least) the 10th of February from 9 pm to 4.30 am. During these hours, people are expected to stay at home. The Outbreak Management Team said it would effectively prevent young people from holding parties or meeting outdoors. Anyone outside of their homes without a valid reason will receive a fine of 95 euros, but the violation will not appear on their criminal record.


Will these measures are effective enough to contain the virus or will they further damage the national economy instead? There is no ready answer, but we can certainly say that the Netherlands is now following other nations' examples, such as Italy, Spain, and Germany, who all implemented curfews a few months earlier.


While the world's attention is caught up in the USA's domestic politics and Biden's first moves as President, we are forgetting what is happening in Ethiopia and the urgent need for humanitarian intervention to address this crisis. From the beginning of the new year, the Tigray conflict has caused more than 8000 deaths. The conflict is ongoing armed friction that began in November 2020 in the north of Ethiopia between Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and forces supporting Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Ethiopia has always been a confederation of several ethnicities and religious groups. When Abiy decided to merge ethnic and region-based parties of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front into the new Prosperity Party, the TPLF refused to join the new party and did not recognize Abiy Ahmed as the legitimate ruler. New elections were planned for August 2020, which were postponed twice to an undetermined date in 2021 due to Coronavirus. In such warfare circumstances, the power of information is the principal victim: on Wednesday, January 20, the journalist Dawit Kebede Araya working for Ethiopia's Tigray TV was discovered dead along with another man inside a car in the capital of the Tigray region.

Ignorance has been described as one of the most powerful weapons of all time. But there is hope: it can be fought with knowledge. That is why Alexei Anatolievich Navalny, a Russian politician, lawyer and anti-corruption activist fights against corruption in Russia. After he was poisoned with a nerve agent when he was flying from Tomsk in Siberia to Moscow, he was hospitalized in Germany and returned to Russia on January 17th, where he was immediately detained on accusations of violating terms of a suspended jail sentence. In protest against this sentence, tens of thousands of Russians rallied on January 23rd. After a few hours, the situation became intense: Yulia Navalnaya, Mr Navalny's wife, was taken into custody and posted a photo of herself being detained on Instagram. According to OVD-Info, an independent site that keeps track of arrests, more than 2,100 people were detained during various protests in nearly 100 Russian cities.

Hunger for power and ignorance seem to govern the world still. But as Amanda Gorman recites in her poetry "There is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we're brave enough to be it". We are only at the beginning of a new year, and Biden's Presidency can open the windows to a new geopolitical balance. Hopefully, the vaccine will curb the COVID-19 pandemic, giving nations capabilities to restore themselves after all that happened in 2020.


That was it for this week's Sunday Summary! Stay safe and at home after 9 pm!



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