Kenya / Uganda : Will Biden be as warmly welcomed as Trump?

By Eman El-Sherbiny
Posted on Tuesday, 17 November 2020 09:48

Trump US Kenya
President Donald Trump welcomes Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at the White House, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

It is no secret that East Africans showed their support and affection for President Donald Trump during his four-year term.

Kenyans in particular favoured President Trump, who won the backing of 70% support of respondents to a Pew Research survey of 25 countries in 2018. Over half of Kenyans believed he was a positive influence on international relations.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni also professed admiration for Trump saying: “I love Trump because he tells Africans frankly. The Africans need to solve their problems, the Africans are weak.”

Museveni’s statement came after Trump reportedly called African nations “shithole countries”.

READ MORE Africa’s ‘shithole countries’ say bye-bye to Donald Trump

Following a lengthy and contentious election, Joe Biden was confirmed to be the 46th president of the United States of America, setting in motion the anticipation of a new country under a different administration.

But given Trump’s reigning popularity these past four years in the region, will Biden be welcomed with open arms?

Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta was first out of the gate. He was quick to point out that the new President is a friend of Kenya whose last visit to the country as Vice President under Barack Obama helped renew Kenya – US ties. “His win therefore presents an even bigger and better platform for our two countries to collaborate more closely for the prosperity of the people of our two nations,” said Kenyatta.

Evangelical support

The Kenyan evangelical church has shown strong support for Trump. As it often does under Republican administrations, the US reapplied the global gag rule, thereby cutting funds for several organisations such as the pro-choice NGO Marie Stopes. The ban effectively took away safe abortion and contraceptives opportunities away from marginalised women around the world.

Kenya’s church was greatly influenced by American Evangelicals.

Aligned on similar values, evangelicals in East Africa, and especially Kenya, prayed for his re-election earlier this month.

Richard Chogo, a pastor at Kenya’s Deliverance Church in Nairobi, said last year in an interview that former president Barack Obama pushed for a more liberal agenda that posed threats to Christian leaders such as himself. “It was a relief that during Trump’s time he’s taken a bit of a back seat,” he added.

Not all clergy feel the same about President Trump and former President Obama. Reverend Fred Kamau, the pastor of Nakuru Christian Centre, refers to Obama as “[Kenya’s] son”.

Kamau adds that Kenya closely followed how the elections unfolded. In response to whether or not supporting Trump came from the Christian leadership he tells The Africa Report: “Yes, I believe that was the case during and after the elections. Kenya’s church was greatly influenced by American Evangelicals.” 

Never touched African soil

Despite the massive impact Trump had on East Africans in particular and Africans in general, the out-going president never actually visited the continent or worked towards enhancing relations between the US and East African nations.

READ MORE USA / Africa: What will the Trump VS Biden clash really change?

Apart from First Lady Melania Trump’s visit to Kenya in 2018, any establishment of goodwill between the two countries comes down to the signing of one Bilateral Strategic Dialogue Framework at the White House in Washington to work on “counterterrorism, defence, and maritime surveillance security cooperation through intelligence sharing and capacity building.”

The US vs China

Although President Kenyatta made it clear that Kenya will not be pushed into a proxy war between the US and China, and despite the hegemony of China in East Africa’s market as a whole, and Kenya in particular, Kenyans are almost equally apprehensive of China, as they are in approving a new US administration.

READ MORE US-Africa: Team Trump steps on the gas as China looms

With that in mind, Kenya also enjoys the opportunity of exporting products to the US under the African Growth and Opportunity Act that goes on till 2025 without tariffs, all the more reason to support a new administration.

First lady Melania Trump poses on stage with Margaret Kenyatta, the wife of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, after a performance at Nairobi National Theater, in Nairobi, Kenya, Friday, Oct. 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Hardening attitudes

Francis Ssembatya, a Ugandan climate change activist, attributes growing negative feelings towards Trump after his handling of the growing number and public cases of police brutality directed at Black people. “[We] lost all faith in Trump because of the racially motivated attacks by police forces against Black people,” he tells The Africa Report.

In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who was asphyxiated while being arrested, a huge wave of Black Lives Matter protests and racially motivated riots reverberated across the US and then worldwide. 

LISTEN George Floyd’s death: Does the global uprising have a place in Africa?

Ssembatya, adds that the US dropping out of the Paris Climate Agreement may have also contributed to the diminishing support of Trump.

Last year on 4 November, the US withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement under which some 200 countries declared to cut greenhouse emissions in an attempt to slow down the grave impact of global warming.

The agreement was also meant to help poor countries fend off the alarming influence climate change dealt with by nations such as East Africa.

READ MORE Kenya’s economy weakened by the scourge of locusts, climate change

The US is the biggest contributor to pollution globally. Pulling out of the Paris agreement means that they do not care about the effects of their pollution to third world countries like Uganda,” said Nicholas Ssenyonjo, the CEO of the Uganda Environment Education Foundation just after news that Trump would consider pulling out of the agreement back in 2017.

Going forward?

“The two candidates shared a good percentage of support from Kenya but Biden had the highest support,” says Gichuki Weru, youth Senator of Kenya’s Nyeri County. He adds Trump’s popularity may have dropped “because of the Obama Effect given that he has Kenyan blood and was rooting for a Biden win.”

Weru goes as far to say that Biden’s America will be forthcoming with its support and integrity in foreign policy, keeping Kenya’s leadership in check.

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