A Few Words of Advise and Maybe Comfort from Kenyans to America

Eleanor Marchant
Nov 10, 2016 · 8 min read

As an American living in Kenya, a frequent topic of conversation, particularly in the last few days, has been the American elections. American political news is everywhere here. Trump’s victory covered every major newspaper in Nairobi this morning, and many of the radio hosts encouraged Kenyans to call in and voice their opinions. Perhaps it’s because Obama, with his Kenyan ancestry, has been in the White House, perhaps it’s because American news seems to penetrate across the globe, or perhaps it’s the insane spectacle that has been this election, but Kenyans I’ve interacted with seem extremely well-informed about this, the strangest of, US elections. So, as a way of coming to grips with the looming Trump presidency, and gaining an outside perspective on this whole thing, I decided to gather some opinions and advice from a very non-representative handful of Kenyans. So here are 5 Kenyans with 5 very different takes on Trump and the future of America, from the frightening to the reassuring.

Person 1: The Altruistic African Dictator

What do you think of Trump?

I used to follow Trump on Instagram and Twitter even before he’d announced his candidacy because I loved The Apprentice. It was a very brutal process of business and I loved watching it. This is why I like Trump. From my idea of politics, Trump reminds me of African dictators. And yes, that is a good thing. Africa’s had some effective dictators. Like in Ethiopia they’ve made the country better. I think Trump would be an altruistic dictator. He has run billion dollar businesses and you don’t execute on those billions very well unless you’re altruistic. Trump is a war like person. He brings that idea of expansion. Trump offers the view that we’re not going to settle. We’re not going to be complacent. That’s the African way. You have to project that power. You have to project that anger. You don’t go to a G20 summit and act like you’re friends with Putin and then go back to a press conference in New York and say how much you hate Russians. You look him in the eye and tell him what you think. Yes, sometimes he brings out his true character. All the stuff about women, whatever he did to them, and all the people he’s fired. He has a very abrasive character. But I think people feel closer to him personally because he’s giving you the raw person.

Do you have any advice for Americans?

We’re not a great country we’re not a super power or anything. We just sell coffee and run a lot. America is still a great country. I’m sure in the next 100–200 years it’ll still be great. Even if you look at empires that ended up degrading, it still took a while. Very few people are renouncing their American citizenship. Americans will always be Americans and will always say they pride freedom and democracy the most. But Americans can still learn a great lesson from Kenyans christened as ‘accept and move on’ — a phrase coined after the last general election (2013) when two International Criminal Court (ICC) suspects were elected to the highest office in the country. All forecasts were on gloom and darker days ahead with prediction of sanctions and isolation by the global community. However, that never came to pass. Kenyans accepted that a democratic process had taken place and lawfully elected a president charged with 21 counts of crime against humanity. Focus shifted to how anyone can make their lives better whilst making piecemeal contribution to the betterment of the country. Look what you can do for the country and not what the president can do for you.

Person 2: Everything’s Possible in America

What do you think of Trump?

I think he’s using fear to galvanize people around him. It’s classic politics. He’s the same as any other unscrupulous politician. He’s using typical tactics. I would compare that to tactics in African countries where it’s the same thing. You guys have had controversial politicians, but not Trump controversial politicians. Here, people have said worse and gotten away with it. People here have incited violence for the next election and nothing happens. Trump’s like an African dictator, because you know African dictators are the ones who say things because they know nothing will happen. Who’s gonna do anything about it? Media? No. When Trevor Noah compared him to an African dictator it was satire, but it was so hitting the nail on the head. Only African dictators can go out and claim that they can cure AIDS and get away with it.

Trump is the best example of America is the land of opportunity. Obama is on one side and Trump is on the other side. Obama can come from this background of being almost a foreigner and then grow up and become president and then Trump can come from this other end of being misogynistic and sexist and still get to where he’s gotten. It’s ridiculous. It’s from two opposite sides. He’s the proper poster child of “Everything’s possible in America”.

Do you have any advice for Americans?

All these ridiculous leaders always come in during a time of fear, when people are paranoid and they want “someone who talks tough” and they seem like they’ll actually get stuff done. People are like “oh Obama is soft on terrorism”, just because he’s not starting like 10 new wars. But, the age of America intervening in every single conflict around the world, just can’t work. Focus on things at home.

Person 3: It’s Not All That Great and It Can’t Be That Bad

What do you think of Trump?

He’s a media genius. He’s also great in the sense that he showed the world that America and their democracy is not all that great. It’s just there. Regardless of who won, you guys have lost the moral authority to tell anybody anywhere anything. Like it’s gone. But on the real, he’s a dangerous person. But then again you have to wonder sometimes whether he’s just talking about some of the things some of your politicians would say in private. You know? And how bad could it really be really? Like a few nuclear bomb? I doubt he’s going to be throwing any nuclear bombs in Africa. So far he’s not talked about Somalia so I’m not worried. Something that might be good for you guys is that he’s drawing back, he’s going back to your isolationist ways, which is something I wondered whether it would be better for you or not. Though the ways he’s doing it I have issues with. But you cannot lie that the man is a genius, to have gotten this far? No, like you may not agree with his policies or whatever but the fact that he’s gotten this far shows a level of savvy that nobody else in that country has.

Do you have any advice for Americans?

Africa’s been through it all, it’s been going through it several times. You will overcome. It cannot be that bad. Anyway 4 years of Trump may just usher you into the next enlightened age. Like for real. If he’s as bad as people assume he’s going to be, there are a lot of checks on a presidency, even in the US. As powerful as he is there’s several checks. I don’t think you should be too worried about it. It will work out. Like he’ll become president and probably he’ll just mellow or not. I promised my American friends I’d laugh at them if Trump won but now that it’s happened all I feel is sadness at the devastation they feel. I will be laughing at them for sure, just not now, maybe next week. As for Americans, the days of telling the world what to do and of feeling morally superior to the rest of the world ends now. You’ve elected the exact type of president you love to warn the rest of the world about. It’s time you minded your own business now. You clearly have issues in your own house.

Person 4: If We Have Survived, America Will Survive

What do you think of Trump?

He is a self-centered, racist, and divisive demagogue who is taking advantage of the irrational fears of many uneducated Americans to run for President. His candidature has exposed the soft underbelly and the ugly side of American democracy. He has exposed the deep gender, political, racial, ethnic and economic divisions that exist in the America society. Most significant, he has distracted the election from policy or ideology to drama, sideshows and sound bites.

Do you have any advice for Americans?

You defined and exported liberal democracy and sold it as a good thing to the rest of the world. The US is used to lecturing Kenya on everything especially democracy. Well, with this unusual election, Kenyans can only say, after the dust settles, the US will survive. Of more consequence though, Trump is not a new phenomenon to most Kenyans or Africans in general. I mean we have seen many tribal, misogynistic, self-centered, corrupt, perverted, divisive leaders who thrive on hatred and insults. If we have survived all these leaders here in Africa, America will be fine.

Person 5: The Triumph of The Twisted Comedian

What do you think of Trump?

Well, where do I even start? He feels like a comedian who took his jokes too far and somehow he is wondering what to do now that people are buying into his jokes. He is not the kind of person I find ideal for a great leadership position. “I did not say that …” Doesn’t he just love contradictions. Well, I am yet to figure out why some Americans were even considering him. I might not have lived there so I will not comment on how much change Obama has done, but he is a great leader. He thrives on his proper use of emotions to connect with people, something that Trump will never learn.

Do you have any advice for Americans?

We have seen from the US lately — well maybe it was already there — a lot of racial differences. This kind of purges the whole American dream. We might have dreams in Kenya but the truth is, our equivalent racism is tribalism. It is sad that from matters such as these the country can be completely drained. So, just as we are struggling to understand that Kenya is bigger than any individual, Americans should remember the same. It is not comedy. The only thing left to say is that I was also surprised at the result. We just wish you all well.

aKoma Media

Carefully curated stories from talented writers and creators on Africa. Be part of shaping the narrative on our wonderful continent. aKoma is a digital content and storytelling platform to make Africa come alive. Visit akomanet.com for more stories and information

Eleanor Marchant

Written by

Former media dev worker. Current Comm PhD @AnnenbergPenn. Research of narratives and tech innovation in Kenya.

aKoma Media

Carefully curated stories from talented writers and creators on Africa. Be part of shaping the narrative on our wonderful continent. aKoma is a digital content and storytelling platform to make Africa come alive. Visit akomanet.com for more stories and information

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