The Uncanny Parallels Between the Presidencies of Donald John Trump and Africa’s “Big Men”.
By Dorcas S
If ever there was an American government and president that mirrored that of Kenya, indeed of African countries in general, it would have to be the family-run Comedy Central that is the current government and presidency of Donald J. Trump.
There are so many similarities between the Trump Presidency and that of the many “Big Man-centered” African governments that none other than the two doyens of Africa’s “Big Men” Robert Mugabe and Yoweri Museveni could not contain their glee over the election of “The Donald” over “that woman”.
I am not surprised that the American president who admires strongmen Vladimir Putin (Russia), Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines) and Abdel Sisi (Egypt) is most popular among perceived “strong leader” and sections of societies that pine for the “good ol’ days”.
A motley crew of global figures have expressed support for DJT’s right-wing nationalist anti-immigrant rants. They include Dutchman Geert Wilders, Italian far-right politician Matteo Salvini, North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un, Nigel Farage of the “Brexit” movement, anti-immigrant & French nationalist Marine Le Pen and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
I’d argue that given Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta’s demonstrated “Do-As-I-Say-Not-As-I-Do” anti-foreigner pseudo-nationalist (Pan-Africanism) utterances and style of governance, I would add him to that list, his “Hakuna Matatism” and alleged respect for “multi-partyism and devolution” aside.
And like the “Red States” of “Middle America” that voted for the philandering four-time bankrupt “successful businessman” because he was “one of them” and “understood them” and wanted to “make America great – again”, some Kenyans have repeatedly voted for leaders who talk a good game but live lives that couldn’t be more diametrically opposed from their stirring speeches and actual lives of their own subjects.
First there was Jomo Kenyatta who shouted “Harambee” even as he converted Kenya into a tribal fiefdom and piggy bank for his family and friends. In the process, Kenya’s first president created one of Africa’s richest families and land owners.
Then in a modified version of David Himbara’s “kikuyuization” of government, Daniel Arap Moi followed Mzee Kenyatta’s footsteps and spread the wealth beyond Jomo’s immediate circle while maintaining as his core of supporters, family and friends. Mr. Moi, some would argue, ushered in the era of grand government corruption and the resultant corruption/good governance tome “Kroll Investigative Report on Wealth of President Moi and Associates”.
With Mwai Kibaki, the presidency crossed the proverbial Chania River into Nyeri but the kleptocracy continued unabated – again by a coterie of family and friends – even as Ghanaian Kofi Annan forced Baba Jimmy to share power AND food with Raila Odinga. Maybe he was not as corrupt as his two predecessors but Mwai Kibaki solidified the “tyranny of numbers” construct and inadvertently, “Uthamakism”, a distant cousin of “White Privilege”.
Now with Uhuru Kenyatta, the country’s 4th president has combined the lessons from his father Jomo, his mentor Moi and his godfather Kibaki into a kleptocracy and “tumbocracy” that has never been seen in Kenya’s 50+ year of independence.
Like Donald Trump who rode a wave of xenophobia and “otherization” of opponents to victory and proceeded to blur, completely, the line between personal business and being President of the United States, the Uhuru Presidency has seamlessly and seedily blended the skullduggeries inside his Office of the President, Dept. of Devolution & Planning, Afya House and the country’s perennial food insecurity and land skirmishes into his first term in office even as he winks and nods to his supporters that “tuko pamoja”.
And like Donald Trump who famously offered that he could shoot someone in the middle of downtown New York and none of his supporters would abandon him, Uhuru Kenyatta seems to have adopted the hubris embodied in Mr. Trump boasts albeit by his actions.
How else does one explain the fact that starving, sick, unsafe and dying Kenyans appear poised to re-elect the so-called “blue-eyed Prince of Kenyan Royalty” even as he uses their money to build a one billion-shilling home?
The saving grace, if there is one, is that Americans are finally seeing the con job they’ve been subjected to and along with Congress, are saying “ENOUGH!”
Over to you WanaKenya.