Some policies of the new American leader Donald Trump are sweet news for African dictators. BRIAN LIGOMEKA writes
The actions of the new American leader Donald Trump continue to dominate headlines all over the world. Many political forums are awash with opinions on what to expect from the eccentric leader, whose philosophy is “America first.”
According to what he said during his inauguration, his recent actions are not surprising.
Trump said: “We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital and in every hall of power – from this day forward a new vision will govern our land – from this day forward it’s going to be only America first – America first!”
He added: “Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families.”
We are free to comments what we think about Trump’s inaugural speech but for those of us in Africa, several prospects indicate that during his administration we can forget about the possibility of our continent being amongst his high priorities.
As a matter of fact, some African nations have already started feeling the pinch of Trump’s policies as their citizens have been banned from travelling to America. These are countries which Trump believes have breeding spots for terrorists.
While in the past, US-Africa policy had massive support from both Democrats and Republicans, it is not certain that the same will be the case during the new administration.
The good old days when US leaders were on the forefront of pushing for such beneficial programmes like Power Africa, Feed the Future, the Global Health Initiative, the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) risks to be history soon.
If Trump has questioned the relevance of the European Union, NATO and even United Nations, besides denouncing several international trade agreements, Africa should not expect miracles from Trump’s administration.
In the opinion of Johnnie Carson, former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, “under Trump, any focus on Africa will likely be on military and security issues, not democracy, good governance or human rights. These policies are likely to find greater favour with Africa’s autocrats than civil society or local business leaders.”
“We should expect an uptick in military and security cooperation with a number of African nations, especially those facing terrorist threats given Trump’s promise to wage an all-out war on Islamist militancy. The US role in the battle against al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and armed groups in the Sahel region will probably be expanded, and African support for US actions may become a new litmus test for closer relations.”
Carson predicts that the continent “should probably expect a sharp drop off in White House support for democracy and governance programmes” as Trump has denounced nation-building abroad and said during his inaugural address that he will “not seek to impose” America’s “way of life on anyone”.
With that situation in the horizon, it is time we should start believing in ourselves instead of over-relying on foreign aid. Time is ripe that we should realise that foreign aid is not an everlasting panacea for our problems.
Much as Trump’s stand is bad news to many African leaders, some like Uncle Bob, (Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe) who at one point in his daring outburst told the US to stay out of African affairs, are happy.
It seems Trump shares the same political philosophy with Mugabe. Amongst Americans, it must be “America first – America first!” as “every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families.”
In the same vein, Zimbabwe is for Zimbabweans and Africa is for Africans. This is a salvo Mugabe fired off at former British premier Tony Blair in 2002. “We have fought for our land, we have fought for our sovereignty, small as we are we have won our independence and we are prepared to shed our blood. So Blair, keep your England and let me keep my Zimbabwe.”
That is not the only outburst he made against the west. At one meeting Mugabe told the US: “Keep your pink nose out of our affairs, please. Where do you get that audacity to open your mouth and try to sermonise us?”
Trump statements are sweet news to many African dictators. If America will stop advocating for entrenchment of democracy in Africa, dictators are the ones who will benefit from such policy. One can only hope that once the euphoria associated with being the occupant of the White House is over Trump will abandon his policy of “everyone for himself or herself, and God for us all.”
His statement “…it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first. We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone…” is sweet news to oppressive dictators and bad news to the oppressed citizens. If established democracies like America stop having interest in fragile democracies, the worst should be expected.