It is almost three weeks since a large-scale war started in the Tigray region of Ethiopia involving a multitude of internal actors and external military players. That this is happening in a country where the African Union (AU) is rooted, with its overarching slogan ‘silencing the guns in Africa’, is puzzling, to say the least.
Africa’s ‘shithole countries’ say bye-bye to Donald Trump
The outcome of the US election won’t change the face of the continent, but nevertheless, Africa does care about the fate of the capricious Donald Trump, even if it shows a certain ambivalence.
During a presidential campaign rally on 16 October, Donald Trump said that losing to the “worst candidate in history” would embarrass him so much that he would perhaps have to leave the United States. Would African countries be tempted to welcome the ousted president? Probably not the “shithole countries” that the outgoing president expressed disdain towards back in January 2018. Although…
Africans haven’t been systematic or unanimous in their condemnation of Trump’s insults. The same can be said of his frank, macho way of speaking – mannerisms that quite a few African citizens tolerate from their own leaders – as well as the substance of Trumpian thought which, like his slight against “shithole countries”, has pleased the most tormented objectors of the continent’s poorly governed regimes.
As one might expect, African heads of state offered their official congratulations to Joe Biden, mentioning “his vast experience” (Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari), the promise of “unity, security and prosperity” (Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo) and the prospect of a “trade agreement granting African countries duty-free access to US markets” (Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni).
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The most satirical internet users alluded to the grumpy “Omar Trump Bongo, clinging to power like a true African dictator” and whose stubbornness could be grounds for “the intervention of a peacekeeping force led by land-locked Chad’s navy”.
Temporary state of grace
While intellectuals such as Alain Mabanckou are delighted to see the end of an administration which “put the United States in a ridiculous light these last four years”, the nonconformist fringe of the continent’s amateur political commentators will only grant Biden a temporary state of grace.
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As for Kamala Harris’s popularity in Africa, America’s first female vice president – an African-American whose parents are Jamaican and Indian – gives me the opportunity to unearth one of her sparring matches with Biden during the primaries, which Africans didn’t fail to notice.
During a televised debate, the new president’s running mate, who at the time was one of his rivals, accused the white seventy-something of having been on friendly terms with two pro-segregation senators and opposed in the 1970s to bussing, a practice that sought to promote racial mixing by transporting black students to majority-white schools.
But that’s no matter. Her comments during the primaries are already as anachronistic as Biden’s from the 1970s, as he is known today as “Joe”, a blundering “good guy” who has become a martyr for life and previously served as vice president under the United States’ first African-American president, Barack Obama.
As for Trump, will he instantly be forgotten in a wave of African indifference or will the continent continue to scrutinise the tweets the billionaire posts while lying comfortably in his bed scattered with cheeseburger crumbs?