In the wake of Brexit: Kenya and Africa Must Guard against Far Right-Nationalism

I think as the world reels under the burden of far-right nationalism and from a jittery minority who believe in the superiority of being native or white or what have you, Africa as a continent that was forged out of diversity has been afforded a unique opportunity to provide leadership. As a continent, we have suffered under the burden of being inferior to know that it is not worth of anyone, and can rise to craft real solutions to the problems posed by globalization that transcends the fear driven superficial isolationism.

The world is experiencing an extremely fascinating and dreary metamorphosis in politics. One needs to look at the recent elections in Philippines, Austria, the now infamous Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump in the American politics to see a clear but disturbing pattern. In Africa, a trend also has started to emerge where South Africa moved from 2014 to tighten its borders, now Kenya is relocating Somali refugees because of security and yes, I have heard a few voices of skepticism starting to rise against the East African Integration.

In Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte was elected President garnering 39% of the vote, mainly from middle class and upper middle class, which he mobilized through an extremely populist campaign. Rodrigo has asked the public to shoot drug lords themselves and he would pay them for it, and the people love him for the rhetoric.

This class of the citizenry are more ready to blame lack of opportunity on immigrants and easily are chauffeured into an anger of believing the political system has not worked and only heavy-rhetoric laced change would salvage the situation. There is nothing that seems would rattle these group of citizens to a consciousness.

In the United States for example, Donald Trump supporters are the most loyal support base anyone would wish to have. Trump has abused everyone, from women, immigrants, the pope, African Americans and even doubted the greatness of his nation. He actually said proudly he could shoot someone but would still not lose support. When Britain voted to exit the European Union, Trump in Scotland said the Brits had taken back their country. A statement that is a lie, but hey, very appealing.

As I watch, the markets tumble across the world, and try to determine the actual impact of Brexit on Kenya; I cannot help but make a conclusion that this is a luxury that Kenya and Africa should never afford. However, even as I make this conclusion, I am alive to the truth of exploitation of nationalistic passions to further raw political ambition as close as home. Take a dissection of the 2013 election, albeit it did not take an economic argument, the thrust of it revolved at asking foreigners to allow Kenya run its own affairs.

So Kenya and Africa must from the very onset be extremely vigilant to guard against any pellets of this philosophy that is steadily permeating mainstream politics. I say this because you must have heard someone retort that what Africa needs is benevolent dictatorship, and slowly you have governments altering the constitution to suppress judicial oversight of the government and stifle the press in the name of national security.

Whereas for example the government’s decision to move refugees out of Kenya could be justified on security grounds, it essentially adopts the risky path of placing the blame of central fear issues faced by people on immigrants and refugees. The same philosophy that has propelled the rise of far-right nationalism in France, Austria, UK and what have you.

On the day of the Brexit vote, UK lost about £ 125 Billion. These were the value of people’s savings and the country’s worth. What amounts to its 15-year contribution to the European Union? The leader of the leave campaign and the presumptive heir to the British premiership, Johnson Boris fascinatingly still speaks of the UK fostering a closer relationship with the European Union. This aptly captured by the Guardian as a Plutarch’s moment when the Greek historian recorded, that “if we are victorious in one more battle … we shall be utterly ruined.” To win an election against integration is to lose a nation’s chance to be part of the story of the time.

African young economies cannot shoulder such shocks. We are young, volatile and simply unprepared to meet the cost of neo-isolationism. On the other hand, as a popular joke has been paraded over the social media, UK, which bought its greatness by setting out and colonizing its people, now in a strange twist of events has set itself on the path to decline out of a fear that it is losing control to outsiders.

Whatever the argument, Africa’s potential is extremely underutilized that our only path can be a path that forges stronger cooperation and integration. This argument has a divinely historical backing, that as a continent, we really did not have borders, and so at best, nationalistic isolation can only be hypocritical.

This populist rhetoric equally can be afforded by a nation like the United States, which has extensive system driven safeguards. Perhaps, they can take that experiment for four years and discard it. Africa cannot and should not because that it is inherently wrong and will not work, and that instead of second-guessing with potential setbacks, our commitment should be firmly fixed on forging ahead.

I think as the world reels under the burden of far-right nationalism and from a jittery minority who believe in the superiority of being native or white or what have you, Africa as a continent that was forged out of diversity has been afforded a unique opportunity to provide leadership. As a continent, we have suffered under the burden of being inferior to know that it is not worth of anyone, and can rise to craft real solutions to the problems posed by globalization that transcends the fear driven superficial isolationism.

 

HILLARY CLINTON OR DONALD TRUMP: WHO IS THE BEST FOR AFRICA?

While still on Rwanda, Clinton was the First lady when the 1994 genocide took place. While the United States and the world knew of what was happening, they literally did nothing. It is a testament to African resilience that Rwanda now ranks seventh globally on government efficient, a stone throw from overtaking the United States.

With her win in Puerto Rico, Hillary Clinton will certainly become the democratic presumptive nominee on Tuesday as California votes in the primary. She accomplishes the extraordinary fete of becoming the first ever woman nominee of a major political party in the United States to run for President. The Republican Party, on the other hand has the controversial real estate Donald J Trump as its presumptive nominee. Trump an extremely wealthy individual, has built an enviable empire with interests spurning from real estate, through communications, exclusive golf resorts, casinos and communications.

Even as the political debate rages on, I have always argued that Africa has to start persuasively proffering opinions that would influence political events across the world and the election of the president of the United States is such a key event. I have believed that, that just as an undersecretary of the American regime has a right to say, choices have consequences, of a Kenyan election, the Kenyan President, or the chairperson of the African Union has a right to say, in the continents view, candidate A represents a better persuasion than candidate B. does.

Hardly has Africa been mentioned in the 2016 American Presidential Race. This is such a surprise for a continent where the whole world agrees will be the final frontier of development. A number of the world’s fastest growing economies call Africa home. The continent is moving swiftly towards democratization and has remains of great strategic significance to American defense needs.

In my interactions with a number of friends, the continent, perhaps more than any other part of the world retains an emotional bond with the United States through African Americans. It is certainly not an over exaggeration to state that African Americans relate more to Africa, than a white American whose lineage can be traced to Europe would relate to Europe.

Both candidates have given what was dubbed as ‘Foreign Policy Speeches’ which I watched fully. Clinton did not mention Africa, I doubt though the speech was even foreign policy, rather a series of ballistic missiles launched at camp Donald.

Trump on April 27, after facing a series of complaints that he lacked the basic grasp of foreign policy, gave an address in Washington DC, where the only mention of Africa was through the discussing of the 1998 Al Qaeda bombings. He could not even properly pronounce the name Tanzania properly.

I am almost certain that Trump does not have a single investment in Africa. While the continent boasts among the most beautiful and expansive swathes that would make world class golf courses, the mogul’s appetite has just not been tickled the African way.

The Clinton’s work in Africa have been largely through the Clinton Global Initiative. Which I have been lucky to interact with as part of young leaders who met President Clinton when he visited Africa in 2012. And while the Clintons have not been classified as billionaires, certainly they have mobilized way more resources to the continent than Trump.

Let us review a few sentiments by the candidates before auditing their policy positions that would have an impact on the continent.

In August 2014 as six countries in Africa fought to contain Ebola, Trump using his favorite tool twitter quipped how the US could not allow EBOLA infected people back asking them to suffer the consequences of their good-heartedness. Earlier in 2013, as President Obama pledged an investment of USD 7 Billion to power Africa, Trump retorted that every penny would be stolen, as corruption will be rampant. He ignored the fact that corruption still plagued many African nations; Africa had nations like Rwanda, Botswana and Seychelles that recorded stronger scores than the US in certain instances of governance.

While still on Rwanda, Clinton was the First lady when the 1994 genocide took place. While the United States and the world knew of what was happening, they literally did nothing. It is a testament to African resilience that Rwanda now ranks seventh globally on government efficient, a stone throw from overtaking the United States.

To policy positions, all the two candidates have strong Immigration stands. Hillary stands out as being bold to make immigration a central issue of her campaign. Democrats have traditionally addressed immigration from the periphery during campaigns as they seek not to alienate moderates who feel strongly about immigration.

Hillary’s position to quote directly from her website, seeks to create a pathway to citizenship, keep families together, and enable millions of workers to come out of the shadows. She also pledges to defend President Obama’s executive actions to provide deportation relief for Dreamers and parents of Americans lawful residents, and extend those actions to additional persons with sympathetic cases if Congress refuses to act.

On the other hand, Trump suggests many things from denying citizenship to children of immigrants, to creating a deportation force that would deport 11million undocumented immigrants from the United States. I have no doubt that many Africans would be affected with their families being torn apart.

Trump has a penchant for suggesting to flaunt American might, both military and political clout at whatever challenge he feels America is facing.

Africa is certainly rediscovering herself and will be more comfortable with a US president who is ready to engage the continent as an equal; Clinton, as Secretary of State, pioneered the leading from behind philosophy by Obama which allowed the US to forge partnerships across the world. One is AMISOM which has African troupes fighting the war in Somalia as opposed to seeing American or European soldiers on the ground. Trump sees this as a weakness.

Clinton’s worst mistake as Secretary of State would definitely be Libya. While the final decision lay with President Obama, and he has conceded that this could be his worst mistake, that error cost Africa Libya and created the mayhem that the country now is.

I would charge the architect of that error to rectify it. Because choosing Trump is to choose a person who has openly said he would come in and take away the wealth a nation has, anytime he wages war.

Clinton’s presidency will be a required boost to the African woman. In many ways, we have drawn inspiration from the American experience, and at the time when the continent needs her daughters to come up strongly to her service, the inspiration of the first American woman president would definitely be a welcome addition.

On the other hand, a Trump presidency may inspire a folly of experiments, where demagogues rise to leadership on the continent at a time when leadership, compassion and tact is mostly needed.

I am certain, that Africa may find in Clinton a more reasonable ally than in Trump. But that with however wins, the coming decade must be defined by our moving steadfastly to claim our position on the global stage.