Trump and Africa II by Jeff Grischow

Lately I’ve been sifting through responses from Africa and Africans to Donald Trump’s election victory.  They make for some interesting reading.

In October, 2016, Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka spoke at Ertegun House, Oxford University and declared that he would cut up his Green Card in the unlikely event that Trump won the Presidency.  Well, it happened as we all know.  In early December Soyinka announced at a Lagos press conference that he had followed through on his intention. He did not rule out visiting the United States in the future ‘if it becomes necessary’ but said that he would be ‘carrying a regular visa.’  You can read about Soyinka’s response here:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/nov/02/wole-soyinka-says-he-will-tear-up-his-green-card-if-trump-wins

http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/arts-blog/video-now-available-wole-soyinka-ertegun-house

http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/06/africa/wole-soyinka-cuts-ties-us-donald-trump/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/nobel-prize-winner-wole-soyinka-donald-trump-throws-away-green-card-a7450141.html

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf expressed sadness at Hillary Clinton’s loss and concern about America’s future relations with the African continent.  President Johnson Sirleaf was quoted as saying that she is ‘concerned as to whether President-elect Trump will have an African agenda, will be able to build bridges with Africa. We can only hope that he will do so in due course.  I’m worried about trade deals for Liberia, for Africa. I’m worried about investment and the special programmes that have been put in place by President Obama and by President George Bush before him, and we just don’t know what the policy towards Africa will be.’

A report on Johnson Sirleaf’s reaction can be found here:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/donald-trump-reaction-africa-liberia-ellen-johnson-sirleaf-hillary-clinton-extremely-saddened-a7409306.html

In contrast, Nnamdi Kanu – the leader of one of Biafra’s secessionist movements – is hopeful that Trump’s support for Brexit might spill over into support for Biafran independence.  Kanu’s open letter to Trump reportedly states that Trump has a ‘historic and moral burden … to liberate the enslaved nations in Africa,’ which are victims of colonialism’s artificial boundaries.  This is particularly interesting considering that Kanu is currently a political prisoner in Abuja charged with treason.  Another Biafran activist, Clifford Iroanya, has invoked Trump’s tweet about Brexit (‘Self-determination is the sacred right of all free people.’) as a sentiment that Trump has a duty to apply to all indigenous peoples, including the people of Biafra.

The full report (from VOA news) can be found here: http://www.voanews.com/a/nigeria-biafra-separatists-see-hope-donald-trump/3595549.html

Elsewhere across the continent, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn congratulated Trump and his government officially said that they believe that under the Trump administration ‘the historical relation of the two countries will reach a new height.’  Yoweri Museveni of Uganda also congratulated Trump on his victory, as did Michael Makuei, the Information Minister for South Sudan, who wrote that ‘I really doubt President Obama had any clear policy to South Sudan other than to destroy it. So we will definitely expect better relations with Trump — and the U.S.A. after the election.’

For this report, see https://somalianewsroom.com/2016/11/09/somalia-and-east-africa-react-to-donald-trumps-election-victory/

In Egypt, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi called Trump to congratulate him and invited him to visit Cairo.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, President Joseph Kabila not only congratulated Trump but also praised his ‘brilliant electoral victory’ and vowed to work with the new administration to strengthen the ties between the DRC and USA.

For Egypt, the DRC and other African reactions, see https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/09/world-leaders-react-to-donald-trumps-us-election-victory

This is merely a small snapshot of reactions to Trump’s election victory from prominent African intellectuals, activists and leaders.  I’ll leave it to the readers to decide how to interpret these remarks.  As for America’s future relations with the African continent, only time will tell.  Stay tuned …

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Trump and Africa: Views from the African Studies Association of the USA By Jeff Grischow

I just returned from the annual conference of the African Studies Association (ASA) of the United States in Washington, DC.  Just before leaving I attended a session entitled “Trump and Africa” organized by a group called Critical Investigations into Humanitarianism in Africa (CIHA).  It was interesting (to say the least) and raised some important issues.  Presented as an open discussion, the session focused on a few big themes including military intervention, human rights, NGOs and humanitarianism (with HIV/AIDs a main topic of discussion), authoritarianism and climate change.  The presenters began by summarizing their views on the election results, going as far as declaring that fascism has come to the US and that perhaps we’ve entered an era in which African countries should send democracy monitoring groups to the States rather than vice versa.  That certainly set the tone!  You can read the full statement here: http://www.cihablog.com/next-119-u-s-reactions-plea-lessons-wisdom-friends-colleagues-africa/

The comments that followed from the audience were interesting and I present some highlight here in the hopes of stimulating a larger discussion.  Trying to find a positive spin, one commentator said that perhaps Trump’s incoherence and isolationism might lead to a hands-off approach to Africa that could be good for the continent.  Another wondered whether Trump really will be much different than the Presidents Bush and Obama, who have pursued military policies in Africa that – according to the commentator – can’t exactly be called ‘humanitarian.’

Most other comments, however, were less enthusiastic.  Many of the attendees worried about the prospect of support for authoritarian states, and reduced funding for research in Africa, and especially the implications of the American election for HIV/AIDs initiatives in African countries.  On the topic of authoritarianism, an ASA representative reported that one Ambassador from a non-democratic African state seemed very happy about the Trump victory, and even passed out pamphlets inviting Americans to visit because his country was stable and open for business.  On HIV/AIDs, many worried that American policies towards reproductive right associated with Trump might affect funding for HIV/AIDs research and programs.  To me, this concern seemed the most well founded.

One particularly interesting exchange involved a conversation about other non-democracies and their relationships with Africa.  One of the audience members wondered aloud if Trump might establish the USA as ‘another China’ in Africa.  The session organizers replied by defending Chinese (and Cuban) policies in Africa by pointing to their ideological legacies of anti-colonialism and African liberation.  Trump in their view threatens to bring a non-democratic agenda to Africa without – in the opinion of the organizers – the positive ideological foundation of China and Cuba.  I’ll leave it to the readers of this blog to sort out how they feel about that idea.

Perhaps the best idea to emerge out of the session was a call or scholars and activists to lobby the US government and advocate for positive African policies that will benefit the recipients.  This apparently is starting to happen already, and it will be interesting to see the result.

For more reactions to the election, please consult this area of the CIHA’s blog:

http://www.cihablog.com/news-reactions-u-s-elections-africa/

Whatever happens, 2017 promised to bring an important (and probably unpredictable) new phase of US-Africa relations.