Some home truths on Tillerson’s visits

The American secretary of State, Rex Tillerson is making his maiden visit to Africa from 6th-13th March 2018. During the visit, he will discuss ways in which Trump administration may work with African Union (AU) in tackling terrorism, security, good governance and trade provided it is mutually beneficial. The visit shall affirm the partnerships and values that USA shares with Africa. The visit however will be confined to anchor states of USA foreign and military policy-Kenya, Nigeria, Chad, Ethiopia and Djibouti. The five are the nucleus of USA militarization of Africa. Counter-terrorism is the main concern of the visit and takes place against the background of absence of African policy. Furthermore, the secretary of state appears not to carry the confidence of his boss even as he does what his predecessors have done. Trump has little time for Africa and its beleaguered issues such as health,  governance, environment,  respect for rule of law, agriculture and trade. To be sure, most of Africa’s diplomatic posts and position including appointment of head of African Affairs remain vacant suggesting that Africa is a low priority area.

Meanwhile, the countries he is visiting score too low on good governance index while others are on the verge of collapse or internal disintegration. Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti despotic regimes holding on together because of the incumbents control of state security agencies and solid western support. Internally however, their legitimacy is in doubt but has embraced counter terrorism to compensate for legitimacy deficit. Nigeria faces similar challenges such as Kenya but has far more serious economic and security challenges to surmount from Boko Haram and other terrorist organizations active across northern Nigeria. Djibouti plays host to foreign military bases for revenue and western protection. In other words, it’s a USA protectorate.

Kenya has historically been the bastion of western imperialism and neo colonialism since political independence in 1963.From 2007, Kenya has moved from crises to crises culminating with western endorsement of four fraudulent elections and elevation of Jubilee leadership of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto as the custodian of western interests in the region. The two were anti-western leaders before their cases at the International criminal court was thrown away and sanitized by the same as the new kids on the block. No wonder, the Carter center presidential elections observer group led by John Kerry gave Kenya 2017 elections a clean bill of health before the supreme in Kenya nullified the same citing serious irregularities and illegalities. The verdict has been traditional and historical way of supporting status quo politics in Kenya.

The visit, though welcome comes at a time that Africa is facing serious political rifts and economic challenges that Trump administration cannot deal with. Indeed, the visit would do very little to the continent granted that a culture of third termism, fragrant violation of the constitution, and resurgence of authoritarian rule that Africa got rid of during the popular struggles for second liberation in the 1990s. Electoral fraud, soft coups and sitting presidents are a reality in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the DRC, Cameroon, Gabon, Congo Brazzaville, Togo and South Sudan among others. In his own admission, Trump was confident enough to call Africa a dirty toilet or shithole continent.

As Tillerson visits, some home truths must be said. Africa has achieved very little under the USA tutelage including the much hyped Obama presidency. The Trump administration will not succeed where other USA presidents have failed. On the contrary USA foreign policy is constant and rightly promotes Americas interests adoption of anti-statism, deregulation of the economy, fiscal austerity and market fundamentalism. Although the Trump administration is unable to carry the global burden citing fatigue, Africa equally is unable to stand alone and assert its identity globally. The fact that Tillerson is coming to engage with Africa Union under president Kagame suggests that indeed, our flight has once again failed to take off due to absence of a pilot. Indeed, the search for a trained pilot has just begun. Even if the plane were to take off, the destination would be unknown.

By Prof. Kisemei Mutisya

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