AFRICA | TRUMP
By Dr Grace Karamura
I doubt if there is any other world leader that has caused as much controversy as has US President Donald Trump. Loathe him or love him, the man seems determined to stand his ground despite whatever else is thrown at him. Hardly a day passes by without hitting the headlines and usually for the worst. Trump has said quite a lot which many civilised people find quite repugnant, but he seems to have overstepped the mark with his recent brush against African states and Haiti. And by the looks of it, he not about to stop!
Whether Trump is right or wrong, what some Africans and others who defend us do not seem to consider is what gives him the confidence to be that arrogant and undiplomatic. Trump is obviously not a fool as some may want us to believe.
Right from the start of his presidential campaigns, and as a shrewd businessman, he was quick to identify a political brand, which, together with his campaign advisors knew would sell quite well to a good number of the American constituency. The brand may have seemed racist and bigoted to those Americans and others with a liberal world view, but Trumpists were quite certain of its success. He captivated and still has a big constituency both in the US and Europe that believe in his Right Wing political ideology.
The evidence is in the rise of the right wing politics/politicians that is currently threatening not only the US, but Europe too. Among the reasons that Britain lost the Brexit vote was due to the very reasons Trump trumped up during his presidential campaigns; immigration, terrorism (which is confused with Islam), unemployment etc. - in short the fear of the unknown. You see, the fear of the unknown is always around us that if anyone stood in the middle of Kampala Road and shouted at us to run for our lives, nine out of ten, would. Trump has succeeded in that.
Well, Trump may have called us whatever, but I am not sure whether he is the first world leader to smack Africans and their leaders on the wrist. The difference was that other Western leaders were so diplomatic and subtle that their rebuke was lost in their satire. Of all the world leaders, Tony Blair is my hero because of his genuine love for Africa, which he proved both in word and actions. He led the campaign for African debt cancellation, he literally dragged George Bush Jnr and brought him on board for global funds to fight HIV and other diseases that always besiege Africa and stood with the people of Sierra Leone at their hour of need. But in one of his oratory, he called Africa ‘a scar on our conscience', which African leaders did not seem embarrassed about. When Italy was dubbed ‘the sick man of Europe', such slight woke it up into action and it is now a world power.
There was another conference held in London some years ago which highlighted the plight of child soldiers in the unending African conflicts. The symbol of that conference was a peace tree, built entirely with the guns from the African conflict areas. I remember breaking down in tears seeing some of the African leaders seated in front of that tree seeping tea without any hint of shame!
Of course the above cannot in any way be compared to Trump's bigotry because they were done in good faith and the very best of intentions. But there is usually a thin line between Western humour and sarcasm and that is what some of our African leaders have not grasped. My neighbour here in the UK is a millionaire. He went to Nigeria a pauper and returned a millionaire. Asked how he cut it - he told me somehow he managed to get closer to one of the then Nigerian presidents and offered to coach him in golf! Africa is our sheet, and as Trump says, the onerous is on us to clean it up ourselves. Every day he reminds us that he is not our uncle, but we do not seem to get it!
I have tried to follow social media debates on Trumpism and the contradiction is telling. Whereas there many Westerners who are appalled and ashamed of what Trump has called us, there are equally many if not more Africans who agree with him. They site among many; the shame on South Sudan, the poverty in DR Congo, a country that should be the richest in the world.
I am told River Congo has the capacity to supply power to the whole of Africa, yet in Congo, they are ever in chronic power blackouts. True, Trump as a world leader should be ashamed of his language and actions, but when we lie on our beds, fellow Africans, let us think beyond his bigotry and look for the hidden message. There is a saying that a mad man never says anything he has not seen or heard before.
The writer is a Ugandan based in the UK