At dawn on November 9, 2016, Africans woke up to news of a United States president-elect, and it was not Hillary Clinton. Many expected Clinton, largely because in preceding weeks and months they got their share of around-the-clock propaganda from a host of pundits who had kept the media under siege with axiomatic pronouncements abridged as: Trump can’t win. Also, there were, in Africa, prophecies by egotistical preachers who feigned hearing from God about a Clinton win when in reality, the god they had heard from was a TV set mainstreaming oracles from elites to the populace. In the end none other than Donald Trump was left to emerge as the victor in what is yet to remain a bewildering stunner administered to millions of Americans, feminism sympathizers, and world leaders who misguidedly fancied contemplations of Clinton’s coronation.
Many Africans kept an eye on the process all the way from the Democratic and Republican primaries, following developments as they unfolded. Interest in US elections is not new. It does not depend on who is running against whom. For some, as much as Trump did not show sharp brilliance, there was no delusion about Hillary’s public persona weakened by scandal and threat of warmongering. However, others went to extents of psychologically teaming up with either of the two candidates. We’ve had a #I’mWithHer echo chamber in the continent constructed chiefly by gender warriors, and a big bunch of mesmerized onlookers staring at the unstoppable #MAGA train that flashily cruised in the neighboring continent, unperturbed by scandals and ultimately ending up on the right track to enter US presidency.
Eight years ago it was over Barack Obama’s election that Africans grew exuberant. A neophyte propelled by destiny to the front line of world leadership, the 44th president of the United States. Who else than this Obama birthed by an African from Kenya could cause delusions, although prematurely, that Africa would occupy a privileged spot in US agenda? Trump is neither African, nor black, but his election parallels Obama’s in that he came out of nowhere, in terms of political experience, with grandiose rhetoric about transforming America. And just like Obama, he beat Hillary Clinton, against the odds. It now leaves some Africans expecting he who strongly verbalizes enmity towards elites, the system, will effectuate a radical transformation in US foreign policy in a manner that benefits Africa; just like he has lured his own people into acquiescing to “drain the swamp” by grotesquely casting everything about himself as antithetical to the concept of elitism and politics.
I saw African heads of states rushing to congratulate him, especially some who are overtly eager to see Barack Obama out of their way, such as Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza or DR Congo’s Joseph Kabila. Trump for his part spoke to no less than 29 world leaders. Bar Egypt’s Sisi, no African heard from him.
For Africans to figure out the potential impact of Trump’s presidency, it suffices to adhere to common sense and basic rationalism. Americans do not elect their president to have him divert his attention to another country or continent. And although Africa has always been a peripheral issue in successive presidential campaigns in the US, Donald Trump has managed to avoid tabling any ounce of interest in Africa affairs whatsoever. He seems to have a vague understanding even of pressing international issues such as the fight against global terrorism, or world balance of power, to the degree of ignoring Russia’s annexation of Crimea. I surmise that a regular African would best Trump anytime of the day in geography, except for where exactly the Mexico border wall will be erected. To his mind Burundi could signify more of an exotic portion of land from which plague-ridden people can embark to transport the likes of Ebola to the United States of America, rather than a country like his own.
Trump is first and foremost about America, with minimal interest in the rest of the world and disengagement from international partnerships as a consequence. Security, jobs, immigration, local terrorism, Muslims, Mexicans, those were elemental to his election and will be central to his action as president, despite scant certainty about whether or not he’ll succeed in grappling with them with presidential dexterity and competence.
2009 was Obama’s moment of truth in the face of America’s dire condition bequeathed to him by the last Republican president to occupy the White House. George W. Bush was lampooned for ignorance of African affairs, on top of failing to impress the world due to a lack of remarkable intellectual aptitudes. It was America first, at all costs and by all means, through homeland security and unbridled belligerence shrouded in bigotry boiled down to “either you’re with us or with the terrorists.” Yes terrorists, some of which were poor innocents deported to Guantanamo Bay to undergo torture for the sake of America’s security.
If anything, it has always been about America, at the expense of others if needs be. Barack Obama was no exception. For foreign spectators, the “CHANGE ” he chanted eight years ago has been the sugarcoating of same old US policies, even at the expense of Africans who developed a sense of entitlement over him in the wake of his 2008 election. Libya, a botched war of liberation like Iraq’s, or Somalia with indiscriminate drone killings, to only mention those, speak eloquently to the doctrine of US interests first, regardless of how the latter is practiced.
Donald Trump has all the reasons to follow suit after he is inaugurated 45th president of the United States Of America on January 20, 2017. Both aloofness and inconsiderate US meddling for the sake of US interests is the recipe hungry Africans will be waking up to after being visited by colorful dreams of US deliverance during their gloomy nights.
To Africa, elections that matter are those held in Africa, by Africa and for Africa. To Africa’s interests only Africans can respond. The black continent can’t find a savior in an African-American voted by America and for America, or in a president-elect backed by white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan.
To watch the last US election was for Africans, though unknowingly, another chapter of political entertainment similar in some respects to witnessing international athletics. When the inevitable reality check occurs, they hopefully will rise up locally to occupy their own arenas to portray vision, skill, and strength to steer Africa toward a new direction, with the rest of the world standing by to watch and applaud.