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January 17, 2019

Kenya and America: Why Uhuru cannot trust Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as he meets with Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 27, 2018. REUTERS
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as he meets with Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 27, 2018. REUTERS
This week Uhuru Kenyatta became only the second African leader to meet Donald Trump. This is coming after he used a most unintelligible invective to describe Africa and many Africans have not forgotten. But Uhuru chose to ignore all that presumably because Kenya is bigger than Trump’s rants.

 President Kenyatta arrived in Washington, DC, to find two things dominating discussion in the Trump White House. There was a newly signed trade pact to replace North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that became effective in 1994 under President Bill Clinton, and the controversy over Trump’s treatment of the late Senator John McCain.

On the latter, Trump yet again proved he has the inordinate power to annoy everyone. Trump refused to accord the rightful honour to McCain, a man who ran twice for the presidency and also a war hero. Apparently even in death Trump still held grudges against him. John Cassidy writing in The New Yorker this week has described Trump as a ‘small, petty man…a liar and a crook…’ McCain had strongly criticized nearly everything Trump did. He described the Helsinki summit between Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin earlier in the year as “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American President in memory.” When McCain died, Trump only sent a cold tweet and then did the unthinkable by ordering that the half-mast American flag atop the White House, which had been lowered in honour of McCain, be raised to its normal state. It was into this controversy that Uhuru walked into. But Trump would not care less.



President Kenyatta went to the US essentially to sign deals that would increase the American footprint in Kenya. I for one will be looking forward to the 473km dual carriageway from Mombasa to Nairobi, which will be constructed by Bechtel of America. Another is the $238 million that is going to Kipeto Energy and Twiga Foods. These are essentially private sector deals with very little government involvement and are not increasing our national debt. In short, it is trade not aid. And that is the new US strategy to counteract Chinese influence. At the end of the day, it is serving the interest of America, which is playing catchup with China. It means that while the US slept, China was setting up shop in Africa and using predatory government debt to fund infrastructure. But while America is finally waking up and smelling Africa’s coffee, there is still far too much that is skewed against Africa in its dealings with America. The US has effectively killed the textile industry by dumping second hand clothes in Kenya. The leather industry is on its knees and these are some of the issues that must be re-considered. While America’s path of working with the private sector is very welcome, it is not clear if Kenya can safely trust Trump. He cannot be trusted and indeed if you look deeper, you will begin to see why Kenya can’t sleep with both eyes closed.

Although analysts have stated that America has had its eye on Kenya for a while, there was something that was not quite right about the whole visit. Geopolitically, Kenya has been at the frontline in the fight against the al Shabaab  and in that it is essentially fighting America’s wars. Why Uhuru? President Kenyatta has been the darling of Western powers for a while now, and has once before travelled to the White House. The last time though, it was more of an invitation. This last one was more like he was being summoned to the White House. It was rushed, hushed and the body language was not at all cordial. Trump has the ability of abruptly spoiling whatever starts as a good and noble thing. He met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and quickly shattered that feel-good post-summit friendship between the two rival nations. He went to England and ended up insulting and embarrassing his host Theresa May. On both occasions, he had said some really good things about the two leaders. In short, can’t trust Trump’s smile, or even his handshake. There are far too many conflicts going on in his mind that he simply cannot be trusted. Some people already believe Uhuru was invited to the White House partly to satisfy Trump’s desire to minimize Obama’s legacy. You must know Trump remains an unrepentant birther — those people who still believe Obama is Kenyan at best and British at worst, never American.  



You remember an American birther who came to ‘visit’ George Obama, the youngest and poorest sibling of Obama, at the onset of his presidency. He came with money to give the man described by foreign press as the ‘slumdog’ half-brother of Obama who lived in Nairobi’s dirty Huruma estate. This was in sharp contrast to President Obama, who prior to moving into the White House, was living in a posh $1.6 million mansion in Chicago.

The birthers did not come all the way to Huruma because they loved or even knew George. They did so just to spite President Obama. Such is birther mentality. These people will in fact go to great lengths to prove a lie and to make people believe it. A typical birther is essentially a Fascist. Trump is a true Fascist and exhibits everything in classical Fascism – from the ‘tribe mentality’ to propaganda peddling and tokenism. Uhuru was offered some goodies but the visit seemed more of a message to Obama and can be seen as part of Trump’s relentless war against the Obama legacy. He needs to position himself as having done more for Kenya than Obama, and we will not be surprised if this comes up in one of his polemic tirades against Obama’s legacy. Trump needed to hand over something to Uhuru, in the same way the American birther had visited George to give him money.

Trump is a serial and habitual liar. This month, the head of the Washington Post’s fact-checking team Glenn Kessler has determined that from the start of the Trump presidency early to August this year, the US President has made 4,229 false or misleading claims, making that an average of 7.6 lies every single day of his presidency! What a liar!

 Despite unashamedly lying to the American people and the world, Trump’s job approval ratings have remained largely intact. He is now in the middle of a legal conundrum involving payments he made to silence two women he was romantically involved with – Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen MacDougal. His lawyer, Michael Cohen, has already taken a ‘guilty’ plea in what has turned out to be a massive PR disaster for the White House. But despite all these, a recent poll suggested that his job approval ratings still remain high. The answer to this is that Trump has made a firm Fascist grip on America. Here is why.



Someone has suggested that Trump has herded America and those who support him, into a ‘tribal’ mentality. This is when you create fear in a certain group and tell them that those outside the group want to harm them. This makes members of that group impervious to reason and truth. Everyone else is bad except those in the group. And he has convinced his ‘tribe’ that America has been desecrated by the rest of the world and blames that on poor former leadership (read Obama). Trump hates Muslims, Migrants (Mexicans) and the Media (Trump’s 3Ms). He has probably instituted some of the worst measures against immigration that saw children yanked out of their mothers’ hands just because they were trying to enter America. He once outrageously claimed that he had seen Muslims in New Jersey celebrating following the 9/11 attack, an assertion that he had no basis in fact or evidence. He has condemned mainstream American media as ‘fake news’, dismissing any negative coverage of his actions. America is, therefore, besieged by this tribal mentality, which is why his approval remains uncharacteristically high and might just go on to win the mid-term elections, and even a second term.



America is fast hurtling into Fascism. In fact, there are those who firmly believe that Trump can now be described in the same terms as Benito Mussolini and other Fascist leaders of the 20th Century. Those with this mind believe that unchecked, Trump may just be the catalyst for a major international conflict in the very foreseeable future. When he came to power under the slogan ‘Making America Great Again’, no one saw the Fascism in that slogan and he quickly played into the minds of those who felt America had become weak under Obama. This slogan has now become an ultranationalist, far-right statement and has morphed into paranoid protectionism and outright authoritarianism. And the world is scared.

His rubbishing of independent media with his mantra of ‘fake news’, is nothing but classic Fascism. He has antagonised every friend of America from the G7 to the EU, from Germany to Britain. He withdrew America from the UN Human Rights Council, which America had taken part in establishing. He trashed the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris Climate Agreement and even withdrew America from UNESCO, blaming it on fickle perceptions of bias against Israel. Then he unilaterally withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal, causing jitters around the world and helping spike the price of oil. His actions have unwittingly lent a supporting hand to white supremacists and he has caused anger among the African-Americans by declining their invitation to speak at the NAACP conventions two years in a row, while sparing no effort to bar Muslim immigration to America.  



At the Helsinki summit, Trump emerged with an egg on his face after meeting and seemingly losing his nerve in front of America’s arch-nemesis Vladimir Putin. The US President made remarks that cast aspersions on the abilities of the American intelligence community (America’s defense against Russia) and seemed to believe the fox’s word that it did not have the capacity to eat the chicken.

 He returned to America and flew right into a political asteroid field forcing him to withdraw some of his remarks. But that was the least of the storms that he has raised. Earlier this year, he openly backed the separation of children from their ‘illegal’ immigrant parents before later backtracking on it after he came under sustained pressure from everyone, including his wife Melania. Blaming other people and even nations for certain unpleasant realities at home present is only classic Fascist propaganda.



In short, America has a really bad President and it shows in his every tweet and every speech and every action. With such a mercurial approach to leadership, you have no friend. This is why Kenya must be careful. While development initiatives and programmes are most welcome, we cannot begin to imagine that we have a friend in America under Donald Trump. In fact, with friends like him, nobody needs any enemies.


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