US RELINQUISHES SOFT POWER
Trump’s immigration laws will see the deportation of many Kenyans living in the US. By 2013, an estimated 200,000 Kenyans were living in the US without proper documents
“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.” This statement by American stand-up comedian, actor, social critic and author George Carlin ( 1937-2008 ) aptly captures the results of the US elections. The triumph — against all expectations — by the racist and bigot President-elect Donald Trump is a clear example of the danger of allowing morons to thrive in society, because their stupidity is a threat to all of us.
As the reality of Trump’s big win settles in, it’s time to reflect on what his presidency means for Kenya.
The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, popularly known as Agoa, is likely to be negatively impacted by this win. Although Agoa did not feature during the tumultuous campaigns, Trump is on record championing economic isolationism. He threatened to dump trade deals, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, the 22-yearold free trade pact with Canada and Mexico, which Trump labelled the worst trade deal the US has ever signed. Under his ‘America First’ principle, Kenya is likely to lose the Agoa preferential market access, which has played a major role in boosting Kenya’s exports to the US, especially in the apparel industry.
Programmes supported by the US Agency for International Development are likely to suffer owing to Trump’s exclusionist policies. USAid has been in this country for more than 50 years, funding health, education, agriculture and environmental projects. The organisation is likely to reduce the number of projects it funds. His temperament and ‘America First’ principle make us worry about the future of the friendship between Kenya and the US, which pre-dates Kenya’s Independence.
Trump’s plan to tax foreign remittances will reduce our foreign exchange. According to the CBK, remittances to Kenya from the US averaged $71,700, 570 between 20042016, reaching an all-time high of $156,049, 000 in June 2016. This positive trajectory is likely to nosedive.
The proposal to have direct flights from Kenya to the US may also come to a screeching halt, given the Presidentelect promised to reduce net migration to the US. We have already met most of the eight critical elements under the US Federal Aviation Administration’s International Aviation Safety Assessment procedure, but the direct flights plan may be torpedoed by the Trump administration.
The expected strict immigration laws will further reduce the number of Kenyan students studying in US universities. According to a report by the New York-based Institute of International Education, the number of Kenyan students in the US has halved over the last decade — US universities enrolled 3,072 Kenyans in the 2014-2015 academic year, compared to 7,000 students in 2004-2005. The US has traditionally been a favourite destination for Kenyan students.
Trump’s immigration laws will also see the deportation of many Kenyans living in the US, both legally and illegally. By 2013, an estimated 200,000 Kenyans were living in the US without proper documents. Most of them travelled to the US on students visas but were unable to renew them upon expiry.
On the political front, the journey towards a just, free and democratic society will likely miss the Big Brother support from the US. Kenya’s democratisation has grown exponentially in the past 20 years because of the the ‘carrot-and-stick’ wielded by the Americans. Successive US governments have always supported our democracy through championing free and fair elections and calling for reforms. Many will recall the efforts of former US ambassador to Kenya Smith Hempstone who fearlessly fought to end the monopoly on power by President Daniel Moi. Civil society wouldn’t be as strong as they are today were it not for the support from the US and other Western countries.
With the election of Trump, the US has lost its moral pedestal to fight dictatorships and call for good governance globally, particularly in the developing world. By electing a racist, sexist, bigot, Islamophobic and xenophobic moron for President, the US has voluntarily relinquished its soft power. An American President who openly admires despots such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has no business lecturing others on democracy — not that I think Trump will care anyway. Indeed, we should never underestimate the massed power of stupid people to destroy society.
WITH THE ELECTION OF TRUMP, AMERICA LOSES MORAL PEDESTAL