Monday Column by Emmanuel Yawe
Donald Trump will certainly make history as the President who got America more enemies than any other. Last week he turned his attention to Africa, not in search of friends, but as usual in search of enemies.
“South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers. I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land seizures and expropriations and large scale killing of farmers,” declared the twitter happy president.
The twits angered the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa who accused the U S president of stoking up racial tensions in South Africa. To demonstrate the South African Government’s anger over Trump’s alarm, Washington’s charge d’affaires in South Africa Jessye Lapenn was summoned for tongue lashing.
Trump’s fusillade of twits on land seizures and killing of white farmers in South Africa came a few moments after two of his collaborators – Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort – were convicted of criminal offences. In the United States, this was seen as an attempt by a man adept at manipulating the media to divert attention from the mounting political and legal problems he continues to face. It was also seen as an attempt to hold tight to his base constituents, the far-right white nationalists who have for some time now peddled the conspiracy theory that there is a “genocide” against white farmers in South Africa.
The immediate ammunition for the Trump attack was provided by Tucker Carlson of Fox News who featured the issue on his program. Trump accepted Tucker’s claim as Holy Writ. This is typical Donald Trump – a President who talks and acts on all policy issues before he thinks. This is more so when it comes to issues that relate to Africa.
During the campaigns that led to his election in 2016, he said very little about Africa since he had very little knowledge of the continent anyway. Addressing reporters in Nebraska at the heat of the campaigns, he condemned African leaders for having insatiable desire for power and wealth, while their people are living like slaves. Responding to a question from a South African journalist Trump said: “I think there is no shortcut to maturity and in my view, Africa should be recolonized because Africans are still under slavery. Look at how those African leaders change constitutions in their favour so that they can be life presidents. They are all greedy and do not care about the common people.”
As president of the US, Trump has continued to exhibit his disdain for Africa. It is difficult to say who dictates his views on Africa to him and who will implement his policies here. In the past, it was easy to pinpoint the ‘point’s man’ of an incoming US president on Africa because the President elects and their associates were fairly known in Africa. Not so under Trump. Only recently, he referred to the lone African American, Omarosa Manigault Newman, who had a fairly senior position in the white House under his presidency but has fallen out with him as a “dog”.
He had earlier triggered off a diplomatic tsunami when he referred to some African countries as ‘shithole’ countries at a meeting in the White House.
His disposition represents a sad departure from what we know of the US and Africa in the recent past. Africa has been a rare area of bipartisan agreement in the US for the past few decades: President George W. Bush, for example, is widely loved across the continent for implementing the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). AGOA was created by President Bill Clinton, renewed under Bush, and renewed again under Obama. Not so under Trump.
The man came to power believing he has a mandate to destabilize whatever his predecessors were doing in Washington. And even as at the time he entered office, there was a unique opportunity in U.S.-Africa relations to offer policies acceptable across the political spectrum while also advancing U.S. security and economic interests, he decided to tow his own way.
His decisions on foreign aid deployments are bound to affect U.S. relations with Africa negatively. His insistence that he will re-negotiate trade deals could also impact a long-standing legislation like the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a preferential trade agreement between select African countries and the U.S., which was passed by Congress in 2015.
His recent comments on the inflammable land situation in South Africa represent a mind-set which African leaders can treat lightly only at the collective peril of the continent and the world. Donald Trump is a very dangerous racial demagogue. I have read, very diligently, the uncensored edition of Mein Kampf, the accurate political manifesto of the man who killed six million Jews and plunged the world into an avoidable bloodbath. The similarities between what Hitler thought about the black man and what Trump thinks of the same race is rather eerie. Trump to me is a reincarnation of Adolf Hitler, pure and simple.
The danger Trump poses to world peace can also be gleaned from the political profile of President George W. Bush one of his recent predecessors in office. Elected into office under very controversial circumstances, he saw Osama bin Laden’s attack on the twin towers as a God given opportunity to consolidate his domestic hold on his countrymen. A frightened America stood behind him as he waged a justifiable war on Afghanistan. This gave him the courage to wage another war – completely unjustified this time – on Iraq in search of non-existent weapons of mass destruction. The war in Iraq remains the major source of instability in the Middle East and terrorism in the world today.
Trump who won a controversial presidential election like Bush and is facing serious domestic pressures wants to flag off a racial conflagration in South Africa to consolidate himself politically at home.
South Africa saved the world from a major racial catastrophe when in 1994 it adopted a one man one vote majority democratic rule and rechristened itself a Rainbow Nation. The Apartheid system of government which was based on racial bigotry was abolished. For all these changes, the economic reality in South Africa is stacked against black South Africans. The whites who constitute 7% of the total population of South Africa own about 80% of the most viable and arable land. Economically therefore, the Apartheid system which was legalized by the greedy white rascals led by Verwoerd in 1959 remains in force. The blacks whose lands were taken by crude use of force remain dispossessed.
The black population is becoming increasingly disenchanted and disillusioned by a democratic system that does not take care of their economic wellbeing. Nelson Mandela had bent backwards to accept terrible constitutional privileges for white men to ensure a peaceful transition from a racially segregated to a multi-racial democracy in South Africa. As a result of these compromises, South Africa remains one of the most unequal societies in the world, 25 years after Apartheid.
Early this month, President Ramaphosa announced that his government will go ahead and implement a constitutional amendment passed by parliament to expropriate lands which were forcibly taken from blacks without compensation. This is what President Trump terms as ‘genocide’ against white men in South Africa.
African leaders must stand up now and alert the world to the dangers posed to South Africa and the world by the neo Nazi man in the White House.