Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States has made bombastic statements and issued controversial executive orders spelling a dramatic shift in American policy. While his supporters hail him for seeking to make America great, his critics accuse him of racism and dictatorial tendencies .But what if President Trump was an African leader? How would the West perceive him?
To demystify this, it is important to examine how the west relates with African leaders with similar tendencies.
Yahya Jammeh, Gambia’s ex-ruler
African leaders have often been criticized by the West for behaving like semi-gods. And most of the time, these sentiments are not far-fetched when you consider how some African leaders rule their countries as if they were part of their private property. A perfect example is Yahya Jammeh, Gambia’s former president who ruled the tiny West African country for decades.
Throughout his presidency, Jammeh was highly criticized by Western countries for cracking down on dissenters, interference with the judiciary and torture as well as execution of opposition figures. As a result, the EU cut off 13 million euros of funding, and threatened to block an additional 150 million euros due to the country’s poor human rights record.
Eventually, Jammeh fell out with the international community in 2016. This occurred when he lost to Adama Barrow in the December elections but refused to step down. Though Jammeh eventually stepped down and left the country, it was later discovered that the ex-ruler had plundered the country in his final weeks in power.
Col Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s ex-ruler
Muamma Mohammed Gaddafi, commonly known as Colonel Gaddafi seized power from King Indris in 1969. He ruled Libya for 42 years before he was finally overthrown and killed on October 20, 2011.
Throughout his 42 year rule that was riddled with controversy, Qaddafi went from a revolutionary hero to international pariah, to valued partner and finally to a pariah.
In the early days of 1969, Qaddafi was a charismatic leader who sought to tackle the economic problems affecting Libya just like Donald Trump has promised to make America great again.
Though significant oil reserves had been discovered in Libya, the oil industry was controlled by foreign petroleum companies. These companies usually set prices to the advantage of their domestic consumers and benefited from the revenue.
Qaddafi sought to prove himself as a leading political philosopher by developing what he referred to as the third universal theory outlined in his famous Green Book. Part of the theory stipulated that society’s problems cannot be solved by electoral representation which Qaddafi described as dictatorship. Rather, his theory sought to establish people’s committees to manage all aspects of existence.
While Qaddafi’s ideas sounded great, in reality, he was creating an ultra-hierarchical structure. The power pyramid consisted of his family and close friends at the top. This close circle of family and friends wielded unchecked power while enjoying state security.
Over time, Qaddafi’s regime became highly oppressive to an extent that anyone who spoke about changing the constitution or criticized the regime was put to death or faced life imprisonment.
While Western governments were prepared to ignore his violations of human rights, the president soon proved to be a thorn in the flesh by sponsoring groups that used terrorism on their own patches.
Due to the bombing of a nightclub frequented by US soldiers in Berlin in 1986 blamed on Libyan agents, the US ordered air strikes aimed at killing the “mad dog of the Middle East” as President Ronald Reagan branded him. Unfortunately, the colonel emerged unscathed.
Later, Qaddafi’s admission and renunciation of chemical weapons program paved the way for a thawing of relations between him and western powers. Though he was re-admitted into the world leaders’ club, the bitterness about his past actions lingered in the minds of many people.
Eventually, the Arab Spring caught up with Gaddafi’s administration and though he tried to show himself as a brother and leader of the revolution, the thought of toppling the dictator was too appealing to the Libyan population. As the uprising spread, he used mercenaries and regular troops to quell the opposition.
The rebels were no match for Qaddafi’s state machinery and were on the brink of defeat. However, the intervention of Nato, authorized by a UN resolution turned the tide in their favor. With time, Tripoli fell and he fled. Qaddafi met his end when rebel forces captured him as he tried to hide following a Nato airstrike on his convoy. Soon after, he was killed in unclear circumstances.
Trevor Noah compares Trump to South Africa’s Jacom Zuma
In a recent show, Trevor Noah compared Donald Trump to the scandalous South African president, Jacob Zuma. According to Noah, Trump and Zuma have so many things in common that they seem like brothers. Both presidents have shown a tendency to censure the press, persecute political enemies using government resources and have children running family businesses but with unclear access to the government.
To get a clear picture of the double standards employed by Western leaders, consider some of the policies held dear by the Republican Party. Republican leaders have exhibited religious intolerance culminating into the now suspended ban imposed by Trump on travelers from seven Muslim majority countries. At the same time, Republicans in Florida and other states are very keen on voting against LGBTQ populations from workplace discrimination under the guise of religious freedom.
These tendencies show that Trump-era conservatives are not interested in protecting minority rights and they are not concerned about the rights of all citizens as long it is convenient for them. It also shows that they are not interested in fighting and winning the war on terror. Why? Because you cannot win the war on terror by terrorizing the minorities or people you do not agree with. The Republican may not realize it, buy they are playing into the hands of ISIS’s and other extremist groups.
So, what if President Trump was an African leader? Would the West accord him respect? Most probably no, instead, leaders from western countries would criticize him and seek to put sanctions on his administration or have him deposed from power.