President Uhuru Kenyatta will tomorrow come face to face with US President Donald Trump in a high-level meeting.
But even as the two put their heads together in talks that will hopefully lead to better trade deals and partnerships between the two countries, the elephant in the room will be what Trump might say during and after the trip.
Unlike many global leaders, Trump has shown an unprecedented unwillingness to keep to well established diplomatic protocols. For him, The Donald comes first, then America comes second. The rest of the world comes last.
Kenyatta’s handlers should be alive to the fact that with Trump, anything goes, including forgetting the name of the President seated next to him or the country he comes from. That’s just how he rolls.
Plus, there’s always the danger that what he says to your face is completely different from what he will post about you on Twitter which, it seems, is where he makes all his important decisions.
Trump’s sentiments towards Africa are known and after keeping silent on the continent in his early days as President, he burst his silence first by inventing a new country called Nambia, before slandering the continent in his infamous x-rated comments when he described African nations as ‘shitholes’ and questioned why so many of their citizens had ever been permitted to enter America.
But he may have learned his lessons. In his first meeting with an African leader, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, a journalist brought up the “shithole” affair, which was described by Nigeria at the time as “deeply hurtful, offensive and unacceptable” if true and prompted it to summon a US official for an explanation.
“I’m very careful with what the press says about people other than myself,” British newspaper The Guardian reported of Buhari’s response. “I’m not sure about the validity or whether that allegation against the president was true. So the best thing for me is to keep quiet.”
Then Trump interjected. He did not confirm the remark but did not exactly deny it either. “We didn’t discuss it,” he said. “You do have some countries that are in very bad shape and very tough places to live in. But we didn’t discuss it because the President knows me and he knows where I’m coming from and I appreciate that. We did not discuss it.”
Luckily though, Africans are not the only ones in the ever growing ‘People Trump Has Offended List’ in his quest to becoming the most powerful man on earth, In fact, just last week, he claimed in an interview with Fox News that his being in the White House was so important that if he were to be impeached, the American economy would crash.
“I will tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash. I think everybody would be very poor, because without this thinking, you would see - you would see numbers that you wouldn’t believe in reverse,” he said in the interview.
But back to the People Trump Has Offended List. On January 27 2017, President Trump signed an executive order which created a suspension of admissions of all refugees entering the United States for 120 days and an indefinite block for Syrian refugees.
The order also blocks citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the US for 90 days. Green card holders from these countries are also affected.
Also, for the first time in nearly two decades, the White House didn’t hold a celebration for the Islamic holy month of Ramadhan.
Although past sins might not be of concern to Kenyatta, Trump’s current mannerisms should be worth noting. From history, he may get into the meeting with his bullying mode fully activated.
And if this happens, Kenyatta should take solace in the fact that the Trump can be stood up to and take lessons from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Twitter wars with Trump.
There is also the small chance that he might be preoccupied by all the impeachment rumours surrounding his presidency and not really pay much attention to a president from a shibboleth country.