East African leaders have begun to speak publicly about their expectations for bilateral relations with the U.S. following Republican candidate Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in the American presidential race.
A statement from Ethiopia’s Prime Minister unsurprisingly did not veil its desire for American counter-terrorism dollars to continue flowing into the country, stating:
“Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn congratulated Donald Trump today on the occasion of his becoming the 45th President of the United States of America. The PM wished the president a fruitful and successful term. According to Government Communication Affairs Office, the premier expressed his belief that the historical relation of the two countries will reach a new height during Trump’s administration. He further said the long people-to-people and trade ties between Ethiopia and the US will also be invigorated. The countries have worked in partnership for many years to combat terrorism.”
In contrast, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta’s remarks were interestingly absent on linking U.S.-Kenya relations to security assistance:
“The ties that bind Kenya and the United States of America are close and strong. They are old, and based in the values that we hold dear: in democracy, in the rule of law, and in the equality of peoples. These values remain dear to the peoples of both nations, and so our friendship will endure.”
Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni made similar comments:
“I congratulate Mr. Trump on his election as the President of the United States of America. Elections in the US or any country are a matter for the people of that country. Our relationship with the United States will continue regardless of which leader or party is leading. I congratulate Mr. Trump once again and look forward to working with him as we have been working with the other leaders before him.”
South Sudan’s statement — issued through Information Minister Michael Makuei — detailed more disdain for current President Barack Obama than it did optimism about how Trump’s victory would impact bilateral relations:
“I really doubt President Obama had any clear policy to South Sudan other than to destroy it. So we will definitely expect better relations with Trump — and the U.S.A. after the election.”
According to a new article from Quartz, Trump’s foreign policy toward Africa could range from one of disengagement to further empowering authoritarian governments to leverage counter-terrorism assistance in order to oppress dissident voices. Therefore, it will be interesting to see how the perspective of the South Sudan government changes once Trump is inaugurated and begins defining his Africa approach, of which there have not been many details discussed during the election season.
Reaction from Somalia
Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who is in a re-election battle of his own, sent his congratulations to his imminent counterpart in a press release, stating:
“On behalf of the Federal Republic of Somalia and the Somali people, I would like to offer my congratulations to Donald J. Trump on his victory in the US presidential election.
Somalia appreciates and values the excellent partnership between Somalia and the United States that is vital for our mutual security and common goals particularly in the Horn of Africa region.
Somalia is a willing partner ready to enhance our existing cooperation between our two states in order to move forward the aim of safeguarding the peace, stability and prosperity of both Somalia and the wider Horn of Africa region.
The people of Somalia wish the President-Elect and the people of America every success in their endeavors in the years to come. We are grateful to the government and the people of the United States for the invaluable support they have given to Somalia.”
Hassan Sheikh also congratulated Ilhan Omar — who won her legislative election in Minnesota — for becoming the first Somali-American legislator in the U.S.
Ironically, just days before the election, Donald Trump made incredibly inflammatory remarks about Somali-Americans, bellowing:
“Here in Minnesota you have seen firsthand the problems caused with faulty refugee vetting, with large numbers of Somali refugees coming into your state, without your knowledge, without your support or approval. You’ve suffered enough in Minnesota.”
Of course, this was par for the course for Trump’s campaign in regard to his dystopian description of the lives and livelihoods of people of color.
While Ilhan Omar’s victory was a strong rebuke to this portrayal, Trump’s views on Muslims, people of color, refugees, and Somali-Americans raises questions about how Trump will approach Somalia and how the FBI under his tenure will address deep-seated resentment about the way in which law enforcement has been conducting counter-terrorism operations, particularly in Somali-American and Muslim communities. As MPR noted in August:
“Donald Trump to me represents a part of America that is anti-Islam, that is anti-immigrant, that is anti-black, that is getting stronger and has an even louder voice and has someone powerful like him representing that, and coming to the place where I live,” said Khadra Fiqi of Minneapolis.
So, as some east African leaders are hoping that Trump’s foreign policy will continue funding operations against al-Shabaab and ISIS, the Diaspora in the U.S. are fearful Trump’s domestic policies could impede upon basic civil liberties.
If Trump does implement more radical “anti-terror” measures in the U.S., then it could impact America’s ability to take a moral high ground with east African countries that struggle with balancing security operations and human rights.
For example, will Trump be more willing to allow east African governments to take harsher anti-terror measures mirroring his own, including controversial immigration proposals such as banning Muslims? Certainly, east African leaders will be watching closely to see what the new normal will be on “acceptable” security tactics. For American diplomats who frequently espouse criticisms of east African governments and their performance on security matters, this may present a unique challenge to navigate.
Categories: Int'l Community in Somalia