Kenya and the United States have had great bilateral relations since we got our Independence. This ties became tighter after Barack Obama was elected President in 2008, largely due to his heritage which is traced to Kogelo, Siaya county. Following his election, many believed that America held the aspirations of the world in trust and commendation.
The visit by President Obama in 2015 during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit showed how close these two states are.
Many American corporations expressed their interest to invest and establish businesses in Kenya.
Other notable visits were by US Secretary of State John Kerry in 2015 and 2016 as well as the then Secretary of state, Hillary Clinton in 2012.
The US since has been ranked highly in attitudes and perceptions for instance the Pew Research Centre 2016 Global Indicators Database
and the GfK Global Nation Branding Survey 2015coming first in both.
America, founded under the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has premised her space in the international system over time as a leader in, equality, respect for universal values, promotion of peace, security, and h stronger cooperation to solve global problems, democracy and respect of the rule of law and innovation. A strong, innovative, and growing US economy in an open international economic system promotes opportunity and prosperity freedom and diversity.
However, the 2016 presidential election crafted a new perception of the US politics in the eyes of many. The Democratic and Republican campaigns have on both sides made attempts to strip the American people, institutions and democracy naked, leading to a perceived lack of faith and trust in some of the core values held by the US. Key to note are the statements made by the presidential candidates. According to the CNN, Hillary Clinton is quoted saying,“To just be grossly generalistic, you can put half of Donald Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it.”
Donald Trump on elections said,“Remember, we are competing in a rigged election. They even want to try and rig the election at the polling booths, where so many cities are corrupt and voter fraud is all too common”.
While these perceptions cannot be quantified at the moment, the impact has been made.
The unexpected visit by Malik Obama, President Obama's half-brother, sponsored by the Republican campaign team has also pronounced the private life of the Obama’s family. His support Trump caused some resentment among the family and from some in society. In addition,
a twitter hashtag #MakeKenyaGreatAgain inspired by Trump’s Make America Great Again Campaign message, comparing situations in the US and Kenya was trending. On the election night, a hashtag #AmericaDecides was trending as people criticised and praised the process in equal measure. Ushahidi, a Kenyan-based organisation monitored the elections, tracking incidences of any vote repression, voter intimidation, misdirection and any incidents of violence according to the Guardian.
Have the perceptions by Kenyans on the US shifted following this year's election and to what extent have these perceptions shifted? Will Trump's administration affect students’ choices for American education? Secondly, how will this outcome
affect Kenya-US diplomatic relations?
Lastly, to what extent will this win affect the political, economic and social activities of Kenyans, especially those living in the US and those who benefit from USAID projects.
Only time will tell.
The writer is a research associate at Centre for International and Security Affairs