June 27, 2016 Lone Felix

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.