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November 15, 2018

Trump and uhuru are similar

President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Photo/FILE
President Uhuru Kenyatta. Photo/FILE

Trevor Noah, the South African comedian and host of The Daily Show, a popular late-night news satire and talk TV proramme in the US, once described Donald Trump as America’s first African President.

In fact, Americans could do worse than look to the continent in general, and Kenya in particular, for a preview of what life under a Trump administration would be like.

President-elect Trump and President Uhuru Kenyatta have much in common.

Both are fabulously wealthy, the children of privilege with questionable success in business, and both have been accused of fanning ethnic and racial hatreds. They have risen, against all odds and in the face of international opprobrium, to head their respective countries.

They even have similar ideas about how those countries should be governed.Take their shared suspicion and contempt for the media.

Where Trump has called journalists “scum”, “illegitimate” and “horrible people” and declared his aim to make it easier to sue them, Uhuru regularly derides newspapers as only good for wrapping meat.

His administration has introduced new laws meant to stifle independent reporting.

It has arrested and beaten journalists who persist in asking uncomfortable questions, and, leveraging its advertising and regulatory muscle, leaned on media houses to fire them or to pull their stories.

Just recently, in response to a spate of corruption stories, the President declared the media should be required to prove any allegation of government graft they dared to report on or face the consequences.

On fighting terrorism, their pronouncements are remarkably similar. Both prefer to speak in vague and bombastic terms and to demonise Muslim refugees and immigrants rather than offer detailed policy prescriptions.

Trump says his plan for defeating ISIS is a secret. One hopes he’ll be sharing it with the military generals since he claims to know more about fighting the extremists than they do.

The Uhuru administration, after all, has taken more than three years to come up with a strategy to tackle radicalisation and is no closer than Trump to articulating a strategy to defeat al Shabaab, who have murdered nearly 800 Kenyans, most of them after Uhuru took office.

Then there is the question of whether Trump will follow through on his promise to get Mexico to pay for the proposed wall on the US’s southern border to keep out immigrants.

Here, too, Uhuru can offer some guidance. Depending on which of its officials you choose to believe, his government is building a wall to keep out terrorists either along the entire 700km border with Somalia, or just on a small section near the border town of Mandera. It may or may not be a physical barrier there has been some talk of a human wall whose construction is either ongoing or has stalled.

Trump has vowed to round up and deport illegal immigrants whom he says are gaming and mooching off the system, driving up crime, taking jobs and opportunities away from US citizens and depressing wages.

Similarly, the Uhuru regime has developed a fondness for demonising refugees from Somalia, blaming them for everything from terrorist attacks to being a drain on our economy, as a way of distracting from its own failures.

In 2014, under Operation Usalama Watch, it begun rounding up and deporting them, and restricting those who remained to the refugee camps.

Earlier this year, the government declared it would close the Dadaab camp by the end of November and has been effectively dumping hapless and unwilling refugees back into war-ravaged Somalia.

This has been suspended following an international outcry. With the election of Trump, the US too has become something of an African country.

In September 2013, the prolific Ugandan columnist, Charles Onyango-Obbo, wrote that the International Criminal Court “had finally made Kenya an African country, meaning that the Jubilee administration’s reaction to the trials had aligned the country more closely with policies in much of the rest of the continent”.

In similarly, it is perhaps not so far off the mark to suggest that with the election of Donald Trump, the US too has become something of an African country.

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