African Press International (API)

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Trump is coming, Africa needs strategy to escape re-colonisation

Posted by African Press International on May 8, 2016

By PETER KAGWANJA, Daily nation, Kenya.

In Summary

•The strident rise of the ultra-right-wing politics associated with Donald Trump presents the most formidable challenge to the liberal order since the end of the Cold War.
•Like Trump, Hitler brazenly made every effort to let all and sundry know what he stood for: Pan-Germanism, anti-communism, anti-Semitism and anti-international capitalism.
•Whether in or out of the Oval Office, Trump is poised to shape the fortunes of the continent and its people for the coming decades.
•Attacks on Obama are also unveiling a new drift towards isolationism and nostalgia for the “empire”.

What does the “Trump phenomenon” mean for Africa?

Globally, when the American political scientist, Francis Fukuyama, declared “the end of history” (1992) following the end of the Cold War, he was celebrating the “triumph of liberalism” over its most formidable ideological rivals in the 20th century – Fascism/Nazism and Communism.

Since then, the liberal order has faced growing ideological challenges from religious fundamentalist groups like al-Qaeda and conservatism in many parts of the world.

The rise of modern China has profoundly challenged the liberal order with a subtle combination of authoritarian stability and economic reforms.

But the strident rise of the ultra-right-wing politics associated with the American tycoon, Donald Trump, now the presumptive Republican Party nominee for the President of the United States of America, presents the most formidable challenge to the liberal order since the end of the Cold War.

Trump may be to Africa what Adolf Hitler was to the world in 1932 – when he ran against President Paul von Hindenburg in the German presidential elections.

Like Trump, Hitler brazenly made every effort to let all and sundry know what he stood for: Pan-Germanism, anti-communism, anti-Semitism and anti-international capitalism (which he saw as part of the Jewish conspiracy).

Few saw the tragedy Hitler’s coming posed for humanity. His rise to power was seen as the normal turn of the wheels of democracy.

Today, hope rests on the Democratic Party candidate, Hillary Clinton, to vanquish Trump the way Hitler lost to Hindenburg.

But Trump’s decisive victory in the Republican Party primaries has established him as one of the strongest forces in American politics with a 50-50 chance of winning the presidential election scheduled for November 8, 2016.

NATIONAL FORCE

The big question, however, is: What has enabled the New York billionaire to emerge from the margins of American politics to become a national force?

In the 20th century, the perfect storm that swept Hitler to power and enabled him to turn Germans into Nazis is the humiliation especially by the controversial Treaty of Versailles that, among other terms, required Germany to pay hefty reparations to the winners of World War I.

Trump may have used the liberal media and other forums to rise to prominence, but the perfect storm that is sweeping him to power is the humiliation of critical segments of the American society by liberalism’s social agenda in recent decades.

These angry Americans have found a voice in Trump who has promised — like Ronald Reagan did before him — to “make America great again” by swinging the pendulum of power to the far right.

Trump is promising to halt the decline of America’s “informal empire” signified by the challenge to its commercial, strategic and military dominance by Europe, the resurgent Russia and emerging powers in the global South, particularly China.

Whether in or out of the Oval Office, Trump is poised to shape the fortunes of the continent and its people for the coming decades.

Africa must prepare for a future world order under him and his ilk.

Trump is coming, Africa needs strategy to escape re-colonization.

Like Hitler, racially tinged rhetoric and dog-whistle racism is a central plank of Trump’s right wing politics.

In this election season, Latinos have been the primary target.

However, Africans should not forget that Trump caught the attention of many Americans by emerging as a leader of the so-called birther movement, which challenged the very legitimacy of President Barack Obama simply because of his African heritage.

It might be tempting to write off Trump as a leader of a small irrational, ignorant, racist, xenophobic, nativist, reactionary and angry people in the fringes of the American society.

But his notion of racial superiority and condescension towards Africans draws from the wellsprings of some of the most controversial books by right wing think-tanks in Washington.

A case in point is The Bell Curve (1994) by the American psychologist, Richard Harrstein, and political scientist Charles Murray, which has provided the far right extremists with the justification to call for the re-colonization of African countries and marginalization of African people.

Africa is a pawn in an ideological crossfire between Obama and the right-wing critics of the excesses of his liberal agenda and his failure as a leader of the Western world to aggressively advance the West’s global hegemony.

However, attacks on Obama are also unveiling a new drift towards isolationism and nostalgia for the “empire”.

As predicted in this column (March 22, 2014), the rise of China as a global power and Russia’s annexation of Crimea pushed the West to isolationism which has, in turn, speeded up a new 21st Century scramble for Africa.

Recently, Obama drew the anger of British isolationists when he argued that Britain’s membership of the European Union has amplified its influence.

In an op-ed in UK’s best-selling Sun newspaper, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, now tipped to become the next prime minister, described Obama as “the part-Kenyan president” who he claims ordered the removal of a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office because of his “ancestral dislike of the British empire.”

Even before Trump gets into office, the “re-colonization” agenda appears to be firmly on course.

Former European colonial powers appear to be exploiting post-election instabilities in Africa’s fragile democracies to re-create their former colonial empires in Africa.

In the run-up to the 2013 elections in Kenya, with the “failure of IEBC” seen as inevitable, right wing “experts” floated proposals to some powerful institutions in Western capitals for the creation and rapid deployment of a parallel mechanism to collect real-time information on the actual votes at all polling stations and announce the results should London and Washington determine that the IEBC had failed to deliver the expected results.

Even more daring was a version of this proposal that called for the pre-positioning of armed forces to enforce whatever outcome the parallel vote tallying mechanism would announce.

In 2013, Washington and London declined the proposals, and Kenya survived what would have effectively resulted in a coup d’etat.

In 2017, the issue of Kenya’s electoral body has come up again. Will “President Trump” endorse similar proposals?

Prof Peter Kagwanja is the Chief Executive of Africa Policy Institute.

pkagwanja@africapi.org

End

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