Africa is livid. The leader of the free world just said the unthinkable. How dare he? So they aver. But is he wrong? What’s the fuss all about?
He used the term shithole to describe African countries, Haiti and El Salvador in a bipartisan meeting convened in the White House to discuss a way forward on immigration. He was decrying the push by congressional leaders to give immigrants a lifeline and a path to citizenship.
In what would easily pass for random talk In any setup, the US president used language that has been repeatedly used by many of his predecessors. President Lyndon Johnson was known for his bawdry and vulgar language. Richard Nixon, a heavy whiskey consumer, was dubbed “Tricky Dick” for obvious reasons, George W Bush, Bill Clinton, and even the oratorical powerhouse Barack Obama had a penchant for throwing F-bombs in the oval office.
Meaning? Trump was hardly out of order for using language that is common in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In fact, for a man known to reach for the skies in oratorical hyperbole, he should be lauded for a rare moment of candor.
Let it be known that when we were told the truth about our continent or country, we did not shy away from the truth.
Sadly, the US president’s words were spot on. Africa is awash with tales of award-winning political heists, corruption, nepotism, white-collar chicanery, political assassinations, electoral fraud, anarchy and many more outrageous machinations.
Kenya, for instance, has just registered yet another electoral sham that not only made a mockery of our democracy but demonstrated just how useless our political fabric is when it comes to elections. We witnessed a sham election boycotted by the main challenger sanitized and passed on as a legitimate exercise. We witnessed a Supreme Court order being trashed with no consequences.
The current president was declared the winner in an election in which he allegedly got more votes than the actual voter turnout. Politics aside, doctors and nurses were on strike for eternity and nobody cared about their plight. Teachers have been beaten into submission.
Our men and women in uniform have been forgotten. They have resorted to binge drinking and the suicide rate in Utumishi Kwa Wote is at an all-time high because nobody is addressing their plight.
Unemployment is at an all-time high (inching towards 50 percent) while our children just found out that free secondary education was just empty campaign rhetoric. Parents are coughing serious shillings in tuition and fees despite Jubilee’s high voltage political promises to jettison tuition and fees for secondary schools. Some have committed suicide because they could not raise money to take their daughter to school. A father collapsed in Kwale after being asked to cough up Sh 16,000 ($200) when he only had Sh 800 ($8).
Given the aforementioned stark scenarios, how can one dismiss Trump’s characterization of African countries? How can a country thus bedeviled claim that it is not a shithole?
Real African patriots must stand up and be counted. Let it be known that when we were told the truth about our continent or country, we did not shy away from the truth. Let it be known that we said YES and buckled up for a tougher journey of self-reflection and soul-searching. Let us go down in history as the generation that picked the gauntlet and fought for a better Kenya and a better Africa.
Let us be the ones who led historians into believing in Africa. We cannot dismiss Trump’s comments for he is accurate, we must treat him as the catalyst that made us turn the corner for a better Kenya or a better Africa. Denial is a huge impediment to growth and development. And we must accept that President Trump, a man known to stretch the truth, is for once, right. Africa and specifically Kenya is a shithole.