A couple of weeks ago in this column, I chastised Kenyans who are enamored with Donald Trump. As if on cue, last week Mr Trump made the point even better than I could. In an explosion of filthy racist language, Trump said – referring to African states, Haiti, and El Salvador – that America shouldn’t accept immigrants from these “shithole” countries. He said America should instead welcome immigrants from countries like Norway. Translation – America should reject black and brown immigrants and welcome white ones. A domestic and international furor of condemnation has ensued. Half of Republican senators – Trump’s own party – have denounced his comments. These incendiary remarks raise the question of Trump’s mental stability and fitness to serve.
Let’s go down memory lane and recall Trump’s racist words and actions. He started the unfounded racist birther conspiracy alleging former President Barack Obama wasn’t a “natural born” American citizen. The term legally means one was either born in America, or regardless of where one was born, at least one of his parents was an American citizen. Mr Obama met both criteria – he was born in Hawaii, a state of the United States, to a woman who was an American citizen. His father was a Kenyan citizen, but that is immaterial in determining Obama’s citizenship. But Trump has ceaselessly beaten this drum, and has never fully accepted, that Obama is a “natural born” American citizen.
Forfeits the rights
Constitutionally, an American citizen must be “natural born” to be eligible for the presidency of the United States. In essence, Trump and his fellow birthers were arguing that Obama had forged his way to the White House. Imagine – the notion that the first African-American president wasn’t an American! Nothing could be more outlandish and racist. Trump is a racist hypocrite. Two of his wives were born in Europe – Czechoslovakia and Slovenia. Ironically, some white Americans regarded, and still do, those countries as “shitholes” of Europe. His mother was born in Scotland. His grandfather in Germany. Not long ago, Italy, Spain, Ireland, and Portugal were regarded by some American racists as “shitholes.”
In the 1970s, Trump was sued by the Justice Department for a pattern of racial discrimination and failure to rent to African-Americans. In 1989, Trump took out a full-page ad in New York newspapers advocating the death penalty for the Central Park Five – teenage boys of color who were wrongly arrested and convicted of beating and raping a white woman. They were later exonerated. In 2015, Trump kicked off his campaign for the White House alleging that Mexicans were undesirable immigrants because they are “drug dealers, criminals, and rapists.” Recently, he said all Nigerians live in huts and Haitians have Aids. He’s called black football players protesting police brutality “son-of-bitches.” Now the shithole comments. My crystal ball tells me he’s not done.
How has Africa responded to Trump’s “shithole” comments? Not strongly enough. One wonders whether African states agree with Trump that they are shithole countries. Only Botswana, Senegal, and South Africa have forcefully denounced Trump and defended the honor of Africans. But there is a deafening silence from African heads of state and government. It’s true the African Union and the Africa Group of UN ambassadors issued a statement repudiating Trump’s remarks and demanded an apology. But the AU statement was signed by a nondescript AU factotum in Washington DC. Why didn’t the AU Chairperson himself issue a strong statement? How can the AU be so cowardly in the face of such a ghastly attack?
Most of Africa’s geopolitical players – Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, and Ethiopia – haven’t opened their mouths. Their leaders have tucked their tails between their spindly legs. In Kenya, the Jubilee state sees no evil, hears no evil, knows no evil. What does it take for African states to stand up for their citizens? Do African leaders cry foul only when they are hauled before the International Criminal Court for committing genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity against their own people? The silence by African leaders is an abomination. A father who can’t defend his children under enemy attack forfeits the rights to fatherhood. Let me tell you – America only respects those who fight back. It despises sniveling cowards and quislings.
It’s clear to all and sundry Trump is unfit to serve as the President of the United States. Last week, he cancelled a state visit to the United Kingdom because he’s unwelcome in London due to his racist and bigoted polices and views. Trump is the first American president to lose the British – America’s closest ally. That’s how low he has sunk. American diplomats and ambassadors are quitting rather than serve under him. Africa must stand up for itself too.
Prof Mutua is SUNY Distinguished Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School and Chair of KHRC. @makaumutua