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The year 2020 will remain etched in memories and in history. From the Covid-19 pandemic to the defeat of Donald Trump, including the death of George Floyd and the double explosion at the port of Beirut: looking back on a year apart.

Time magazine considers her the “worst year in history“. For many, 2020 will be remembered as the year that saw the arrival of a deadly virus shake up our habits and weaken the economy and social structures around the world. From now on historic, this year cannot however be summed up in Covid-19. France 24 offers you a look back on ten moments which marked the international news of the last twelve months.

People remain on their balconies on March 28, 2020, on the twelfth day of the first confinement, in Paris.
People remain on their balconies on March 28, 2020, on the twelfth day of the first confinement, in Paris. © Ludovic Marin, AFP

The event could easily figure in a disaster scenario. All over the world, entire populations were called upon from February to stay at home and to limit their movements as much as possible to curb the spread of Covid-19 and relieve hospitals. China – and more particularly the city of Wuhan, epicenter of the epidemic – was the first to confine its inhabitants, on February 17. A measure first observed curiously, before being imitated by dozens of countries a few weeks later.

From Tokyo to New York, via Berlin or Johannesburg, the entire planet took a break last spring. For nearly two months, most businesses closed their doors, as did schools and cultural venues, depriving millions of people of activity. Teleworking and school monitoring have become essential in homes, sometimes accentuating already worrying inequalities. After a sharp decline in hospital admissions at the beginning of the summer, the States have gradually eased the confinement … before seeing the first effects of a second wave at the start of the school year.

The UK was the first country to launch
a mass vaccination campaign using the
Pfizer-BioNTech, followed Monday by the United States and Canada.
The UK was the first country to launch
a mass vaccination campaign using the
Pfizer-BioNTech, followed Monday by the United States and Canada.
© Steve Parsons, AFP

Faced with a deadly pandemic, scientists have redoubled their efforts to try to develop a vaccine against Covid-19 as quickly as possible. In recent months, the vaccine race has also been illustrated by a battle of figures as spectacular as they are difficult to interpret for the general public.

In this global competition, each laboratory tries to occupy the media field with its vaccine in order to collect the maximum number of pre-orders. Russia was the first to extol the merits of its Sputnik V vaccine, before the American Pfizer and the German BioNTech announced that they had jointly developed a 95% effective product. Two other manufacturers have claimed the effectiveness of their product: American Moderna and the British alliance AstraZeneca / University of Oxford.

After getting a green light from the European Medicines Agency, France could start its vaccination campaign as soon as “last week of december“for residents in nursing homes. The rest of the population will have to wait until the end of spring. If everywhere in the world, the arrival of a vaccine is a source of hope, it will not however mark the end of the epidemic , however insisted the specialists.

  • Death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
U.S. Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks to students at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, September 20, 2017.
U.S. Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks to students at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, September 20, 2017. © Nicholas Kamm, AFP

Historical figure of the Supreme Court of the United States, Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 87, on September 18. His disappearance led to a salute of unanimous tributes. Having become a model of feminism, the dean of the Court, appointed in 1993 by Bill Clinton, had defended for many years the rights of women, homosexuals and the environment.

She was also a figure adopted by the younger generation who affectionately nicknamed her “Notorious RBG”, inspired by the name of a rapper (Notorious BIG). The release of a hagiographic book and several films enshrined his popularity, which brought him into the world of pop culture. Its frail silhouette has thus been reproduced ad infinitum, imposing itself on mugs and T-shirts adopted by the American left.

His passing gave Republican President Donald Trump the opportunity to nominate a Tory successor. Appreciated by religious circles, Judge Amy Coney Barrett Has Her Appointment Confirmed in record time, on October 26, at the end of a stormy process. A final victory for President Trump, who placed three conservative magistrates within the prestigious institution during his mandate.

US President-elect Joe Biden, December 8, 2020.
US President-elect Joe Biden, December 8, 2020. © Jim Watson, AFP

The time has come to heal in America.“Democrat Joe Biden was elected 46e President of the United States, on November 7, after four days of particularly tense waiting. Wanting to end the Trump era, the future tenant of the White House has promised to be the president who would unify America, after four years of turmoil and division.

The results of the poll did not, however, put an end to the tensions: the outgoing President Donald Trump multiplied the legal actions for several weeks, criticizing “electoral fraud” on which he provided no evidence. Procedures that did not succeed.

Without waiting for his rival to acknowledge his defeat, Joe Biden embarked on the composition of his administration, a team that makes place for talent from minorities and women. The Democrat will enter the White House after his inauguration on January 20, 2021.

  • Double explosion in Beirut
A woman is evacuated from a district of Beirut partially destroyed by the double explosion on August 5, 2020.
A woman is evacuated from a district of Beirut partially destroyed by the double explosion on August 5, 2020. © Patrick Baz, AFP

Beirut set ablaze, then devastated. Two explosions on August 4 in the Lebanese capital destroyed the port and surrounding buildings, killing more than 200 people and leaving 300,000 citizens homeless.

The international community and many NGOs mobilized to come to the aid of the Lebanese, who once again had to heal their wounds and take yet another shock. In the grip of an acute economic crisis, Lebanon sees its national currency plummet and its population increasingly impoverished. Not to mention the Covid-19 pandemic, which has worsened a situation that is beyond the control of a power contested in the street and accused of corruption.

Four months after the tragedy, Emmanuel Macron reiterated his demands for reforms towards the country, while the Lebanese leaders seem unable to agree. In parallel, the Resigning Prime Minister Hassan Diab and three former Lebanese ministers charged with negligence in the investigation of the double explosion.

A protester holds up a poster with a portrait of George Floyd on May 30 in Denver.
A protester holds up a poster with a portrait of George Floyd on May 30 in Denver. © Jason Connolly, AFP

George Floyd, 46-year-old African American, is dead, May 25, suffocated by a white police officer, during an arraignment in Minneapolis, in the state of Minnesota. The scene, filmed for ten minutes by a passerby, shows the victim pinned to the ground by a police officer who immobilizes him with one knee on his neck. “I can’t breathe,” he repeats, as the officer continues to choke him. Despite the intervention of the emergency services a few minutes later, George Floyd was declared dead in the evening.

Going viral, the video has given new impetus to activists who denounce discrimination and racism in the police. The day after its publication, several thousand people demanding justice gathered in Minneapolis at the cry of “Black Lives Matter“(” Black lives matter “), the name of a political movement that emerged in 2013.

While four Minneapolis police officers have been sacked, citizens’ anger is not extinguished. Several nights of riots ensued in the city, provoking the indignation of Donald Trump. Then, the revolt movement, strongly anchored on social networks, gained momentum and exceeded the borders of Minnesota. Several large cities in the country such as Chicago, Los Angeles, New York or Houston, the city of origin of the victim, saw the demonstrations multiply for several days, leading for some to some excesses and clashes between the police and demonstrators.

  • China brings Hong Kong into line
Agnes Chow, Ivan Lam and Joshua Wong were found guilty of inciting an illegal gathering.
Agnes Chow, Ivan Lam and Joshua Wong were found guilty of inciting an illegal gathering. © Peter Parks, AFP

Beijing continued its strong takeover of Hong Kong in 2020. Despite historic demonstrations led by the pro-democracy movement in the former British colony, China passed the controversial national security bill on June 30. The text targeting Hong Kong gives the Chinese authorities the power to “suppress subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.” For the opposition as for several Western countries including the United States, this law constitutes an attack on the autonomy and freedoms of the small territory.

In December, three famous pro-democracy activists, including Joshua Wong, are doomed to terms of imprisonment. Likewise, the Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai, very critical of Beijing, must answer in court with an indictment for “collusion with foreign powers”. He faces life imprisonment.

  • Armenia defeated by Azerbaijan
Russian peacekeeping troops near the border with Armenia, following the signing of a ceasefire between Azerbaijan and Armenian forces, in the Nagorno-Karabakh region on 10 November 2020.
Russian peacekeeping troops near the border with Armenia, following the signing of a ceasefire between Azerbaijan and Armenian forces, in the Nagorno-Karabakh region on 10 November 2020. © Francesco Brembati, Reuters

The awakening of an old conflict. Since September 27, Azerbaijani forces have conquered territories out of Baku’s control since the 1990s. At that time, in the wake of the fall of the USSR, a war left 30,000 dead and hundreds of thousands of refugees, and resulted in the secession of the Upper region. -Karabakh, today populated almost exclusively by Armenians. But if the war ended with a truce in 1994, violence has continued to occur since then, sporadically, on this small piece of land bordered by Iran.

For six weeks, fighting between the Armenian separatist forces and the Azerbaijani army, before the entry into force, on November 10, of a ceasefire concluded under the aegis of Russia. By signing the official end of the fighting, Armenia agreed to return three districts to Baku surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh – Agdam, Kalbajar and Lachin. Territories recaptured in a climate still marked by tension and some skirmishes, despite the cease-fire. Abroad, the fear is now to see the conflict internationalize in a region where Russians, Turks and Westerners all share interests.

  • Assassination of General Qassem Soleimani
Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, October 1, 2019.
Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, October 1, 2019.
EFE / EPA

After weeks of heated exchanges between Tehran and Washington, the United States announced, on January 3, having killed the Iranian general in Baghdad Qassem Soleimani by a drone shot. “Soleimani was preparing imminent and malicious attacks against diplomats and American military personnel, but we caught him in the act and we eliminated him”, then justified Donald Trump.

A feared figure in Iranian politics, the general was the head of the al-Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards – a group included by Washington on its list of terrorist organizations – in charge of the Islamic Republic’s external operations. The high dignitary has notably exercised a key influence in political negotiations since 2018 with a view to forming a government in Iraq.

While the American operation was also intended to “deter” Iran from carrying out further attacks, the legitimacy of such a raid appeared fragile both in terms of international law and American doctrine on targeted assassinations. The episode has since raised fears of an open conflict between Iran and the United States, Iraq’s two great allies on its soil.

  • Protest in Belarus
Svetlana Tikhanovskaïa (center) with Veronika Tsepkalo (left) and Maria Kolesnikova (right) on July 17, 2020 during the presidential campaign.
Svetlana Tikhanovskaïa (center) with Veronika Tsepkalo (left) and Maria Kolesnikova (right) on July 17, 2020 during the presidential campaign. © AFP (Archive)

The year 2020 will also have seen the awakening of an unexpected opposition in Belarus. On August 9, President Alexander Lukashenko announced his re-election as head of state, with a score of over 80% against her rival, Svetlana Tikhanovskaïa. A poll deemed fraudulent by the opposition and many Western countries. From then on, thousands of demonstrators meet every Sunday in Minsk and in several major cities of the country to demand the departure of the head of state, in power for more than 25 years. Behind this protest shines a female trio (Svetlana Tikhanovskaïa, Veronika Tsepkalo and Maria Kolesnikova), embodying the renewal of a young and progressive political class.

Despite European condemnations, several leaders of the protest have been imprisoned or forced into exile. Street pressure against Minsk does not seem to be abating, however. “We are destined to win and we are going to win,” said Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in receiving the Sakharov Prize for Human Rights, awarded to the democratic opposition in Belarus.





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