Trump takes leaf out of Uhuru, Raila playbooks

US President Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump.

Photo credit: Mandel Ngan | AFP

What you need to know:

  • President Trump’s refusal to concede after being comprehensively beaten at the elections last month by former Vice-President Joe Biden reinforces the image.
  • The US is well known for lecturing African and other developing countries, except the oil-rich Middle East client-states, on respect for democracy, rule of law and constitutionalism.

It was Trevor Noah, South African comedian and host of the iconic American satirical TV news program, The Daily Show, who first compared Donald Trump with the stereotypical African dictator.

One clip aired in the early stages of Mr Trump’s first presidential campaign in 2016 replayed video clips of the candidate boasting of his wealth, intelligence, popularity and power.

It was followed by clips from way back of former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin boasting in almost exactly the same terms.

President Trump’s refusal to concede after being comprehensively beaten at the elections last month by former Vice-President Joe Biden reinforces the image.

The US is well known for lecturing African and other developing countries, except the oil-rich Middle East client-states, on respect for democracy, rule of law and constitutionalism.

With Mr Trump’s behaviour, his ambassador in Nairobi Kyle McCarter would probably be laughed out of town if he extended the finger-wagging admonitions.

For many across the world, the United States was the gold standard on democracy. It was the place where elections were run on trust and where once the media projected the outcome, that was it.

Legal challenges

An outgoing president, even one losing elections after one term, would graciously invite his conqueror to the White House for an informal handover briefing and to show him where the executive loo is.

There was no rancour, insults, childish pique or refusal to accept results. It was generally recognised that such behaviour was not only boorish, but also a threat to democracy. And then came Trump.

With multiple legal challenges being thrown out with alacrity for lack of evidence, it should be clear now that President Trump is unlikely to extend his tenancy of the White House. But the denial of reality might well see him dragged yelling and screaming to an ignominious end come January 20 when President Biden constitutionally assumes office. It is with quiet satisfaction that many in Africa are enjoying the drama being played out across the Atlantic.

It is not just about President Trump making the US a laughing stock, but about forever robbing it of the moral authority to trumpet democracy, and also about reducing his country to a kindred spirit.

President Trump has borrowed liberally from the handbook of African autocrats, but to be specific to Kenya there is a lot playing out that will be very familiar. Even before the current drama, he had gained notoriety for firing cabinet secretaries and other top officials through Twitter messages. Remember President Daniel arap Moi’s radio sackings?

Conspiracy theories

A quick scan through social media chats or conversations wherever Kenyans are gathered will see many drawing analogies between President Trump and Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga, who has disputed the outcomes of the last three presidential elections.

The big problem with that analogy, however, is that Mr Odinga might justifiably claim he was rigged out but the State machinery, and indeed managed to get President Kenyatta’s initial 2017 victory annulled by the Supreme Court, while in the US President Trump controls the levers of State and so far has been unable to provide any evidence electoral malpractice.

The remarkable press conference at the end of last week by Mr Trump’s battery of lawyers led by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani provided uncanny similarities to Kenya. It appeared the self-described ‘elite strike force’ team of lawyers borrowed from both the Kenyatta and Odinga playbooks to concoct the most outrageous of conspiracy theories.

‘Fungua server’

They talked about widespread rigging, wondering how Mr Trump could have been leading the count only to suddenly be overhauled overnight by an influx of votes of votes from Biden strongholds.

Remember Mr Odinga taking an early lead against President Mwai Kibaki in 2007 before the picture changed? Then the Trump lawyers argued that the Biden votes were inflated through an algorithm embedded in the electronic vote counting machinery.

They brought tales of an electoral computer system owned by a foreign-owned company with counting being done in Germany. At that point I half expected to hear Giuliani demand ‘fungua server’.

That purported evidence was lifted direct from the Odinga election petition of 2017.

The lawyers also borrowed heavily from the Uhuru manual. Half the press conference was spent attacking the media for not giving their side of the story. They had a long list of domestic and foreign interests they claimed wanted to stop President Trump. And all bankrolled by one George Soros. Sound familiar?

The next Twitter rants we can expect from Trump’s clownish Elite Strike Force will be #SystemYaFacts and #EvilSociety.

mgaitho@gaitho.co.ke @MachariaGaitho; www.gaitho.co.ke

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