The world was outraged after news emerged of US President Donald Trump allegedly referring to African nations and Haiti as “****hole countries.”
Trump reportedly made the remark while chairing a meeting at the White House with both democrat and republican lawmakers to discuss a bipartisan immigration draft Bill.
Since then, traditional and social media have been awash with commentary, with some referring to Trump’s ill-bred words as racist and argued that they confirmed he was aspiring “to Make America White Again.” They urged African countries to demand an apology from him and his administration.
There were those who were angry with the state of Africa’s leadership and attempted to justify Trump’s unmannerly musings claiming that, “He was only saying it as it is.” They posited that instead of blaming Trump, “African despots who have made their nations hell on earth” should be blamed.
However, that anyone can justify abuse of Africans on the basis of perceived poor leadership on the continent is telling.
To do so is not only failing to understand that Africa’s problems are for Africans to solve without giving anyone the right to abuse them, but also fails to see that this narrative is the same one that was used to justify colonialism.
In characteristic Trumpian Style, the US president is yet to apologise and has instead denied using the offending words and blamed democrats for his troubles.
Trump’s behaviour and words have not only riled up Africans and people of colour but also reduced the dignity of American diplomats.
By Trump accusing media of “fake news,” labelling them as “the enemy of the people,” to deragatory comments about African countries, Mexicans being rapists, to bragging about groping women, the US president has not helped improve the image of his country especially to the rest of the world.
For example, on December 6, 2017, after US Ambassador to Uganda Deborah Malac attended the Uganda Press Photo Awards Book Launch, she tweeted that the event offered an “Opportunity for the media community and supporters to come together to support #FreedomOfThePress, which is under assault in #Uganda.” Uganda’s Minister for ICT Frank Tumwebaze responded in kind.
The minister tweeted back: “Not as worse as in your own country where your president can’t even tolerate questions from critical journalists at a press conference. Put your own house in order first and then try to help others.”
In the years before Trump, such a response was almost unimaginable from a serving minister.
Condemned demeaning remark
In the present furor, some African countries have not only condemned the demeaning remark and demanded apology, but some have even summoned top American diplomats to clarify the statement.
Botswana was the first country to publicly condemn and demand an apology from the US, beside summoning its diplomat. South Africa followed suit and then the African Union.
And of course, racism is now openly discussed in ways almost unimaginable before Trump.
In other words, Trump’s alleged racism has given a platform and a voice to anti-racism activists that they didn’t have in say, two or three years ago.
You have to feel for American diplomats. What do you do if you have a president who spends a whole week telling everyone what a “stable genius” he is and throwing around all manner of profanities!
In effect then, Trump serves to remind us that a country’s greatness doesn’t only depend on its material wealth or military, but also on the quality of its leaders, as Singapore’s founding leader Lee Kuan Yew once wrote.
What that tells us is that while the US hasn’t lost its economic or military might, it has lost a lot of its soft power.
It also teaches us that leaders can either enhance or undermine their nation’s reputation and ability to pursue their interests not only by what they do but what they say.
Christopher Kayumba, PhD Senior Lecturer, School of Journalism and Communication, NUR, Lead Consultant, MGC Consult International Ltd, P.O.Box, 4753, Kigali Kay Plaza Building, Kiseminti, Kimoronko Rd Telephone: +250-785645179 or +250-725254252 E-mail: [email protected]; twitter account: @Ckayumba Website: www.mgcconsult.come