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

The Star (Kenya) - - Voices - PAUL KOITIE Erasmus Mun­dus scholar and former fea­tures edi­tor at the Star

“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

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