This week saw some big global affairs-shaking news headlines as well as some strong positioning from Kenya’s government. We’ll be looking into the latest into the arrest of former president and presidential hopeful, Donald Trump. We’ll be considering the three options available to grifters in Kenya. Lastly, we’ll take a look at the state of democracy in Africa as we ask the question, why is this continent having so many coups?
Trump was actually arrested last week. He announced the fact of his arrest on the social media platform owned by the Trump Media and Technology Group: Truth Social.
The arrest happened in Fulton County, Georgia, and was done at the behest of the Democratic District Attorney, Fani Willis. Trump – and 18 other defendants – are being charged with violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations (RICO) Act.
Ms Willis, as might have been expected in such a politically charged case, has been the subject of enthusiastic criticism and, earlier in the month, State Senator Colton Moore sent a letter to Georgia’s Governor, Brian Kemp, calling for a special session to impeach Ms Willis.
This is the sort of political environment brewing in the United States as it gears up for an election year. American politics has never been considered a gentleman’s sport but the present atmosphere – in which accusations of a two-tiered legal system and rumours of the issuance of articles of impeachment have become almost weekly affairs – is a particularly unfriendly one.
An interesting online debate has followed the #TrumpArrest news. Following the release of his steely-eyed mugshot, the Twitter community engaged in an argument over whether this would help or hinder his chances with America’s black voters.
Content creators on a variety of social media platforms, and indeed Fox News, have stated that Trump’s arrest is likely to increase his popularity amongst the African American community. MSNBC reporter, Joy Reid, suggests that this narrative is racist.
It is possible that both this readings can be true at the same time. Suggesting that the entire African American community will glorify the criminality of a presidential hopeful may well be racist; it may also have some semblance of truth. The moralisers of today will have to decide on the former contention; election day will give the proof, or lack of, to the latter.
In our second news story, we stay on the theme of criminality in politics. This time we consider it closer to home. President William Ruto has recently positioned himself as the latest in African heads of state committed to the end of corruption.
Corrupt officials have been given three choices by our president:
1. Leave the country
2. Go to prison
3. Make plans to go to heaven
Corruption comes in many guises here in Kenya. We all know it and we would struggle to go a day without seeing one of its many expressions acting upon us. We live in a grafting society in which salaried askaris will refuse to mind your car unless they receive a kitu kidogo, in which police officers won’t follow up on crimes unless incentivised by citizens, in which favours and friendly deeds stop being favours once the favour-giver asks for something in return.
It’s entrenched and embedded in the structure of Kenyan societal organisation. This is the sad reality of life in Kenya and it’s sad because of how it holds us back. Much has been made recently of the flight of foreign investment in Kenya. International investors have entered this market many a time and excited by the prospect of tapping into Kenya’s growth potential.
Recently, however, we heard of Jumia’s plight. Africa’s Amazon was going to revolutionise selling in Kenya but now these are the headlines surrounding it’s present fortune:
‘Jumia shares drop 17% after Q2 results’
‘Jumia focuses on loss reduction following downbeat Q2 results’
‘How Jumia Kenya employee stole Sh21 million’.
‘Jumia Kenya’s employee stole $150,000 by manipulating vendor payment records’
Graft is destroying faith in Kenya’s business environment and Jumia’s misfortune is the latest in a long list of company failures here in Kenya. With each that leaves, the economy hiccups, employment capacity drops and distrust festers.
Ruto is right to try and tackle graft in government. It is a noble battle and, if it’s well implemented and results in demonstrable change, the lessons learnt should extend outward and into the business environment. We wish the government luck in an uphill battle.
#AliBongo and #GabonCoup were trending this week for reasons that need no explanation. We’ve written a fuller article detailing the background to the coup in the Gabon elsewhere – you can read that article here – so we won’t go into the details of that here.
What we will be discussing is the fact of the frequency with which Africa is seeing coup d’etats in recent years. This is the 18th coup d’etat reported in the world since 2017; 17 of those have been in Africa. Many a commentator has already spoken of the ramifications these coups are likely to have on democracy on the continent.
Democracy is obviously an import to Africa. Many consider it a legacy of the colonial regimes some still remember ruling over this land that was fragmented by foreign rulers. Democracy does not enjoy the same sacrosanct status here in Africa as it does in its birthplace: the West.
In Africa, democracy functions on shakier foundations and, it can and has been argued, it doesn’t function very well for Africans. Those 17 coups since 2017 could be taken as illustrative of the fact that democracy hasn’t worked here in Africa. For democrats, this association is alarming.
For those that critique, and would like to see the end of, democracy in Africa, there is evident glee in their interactions with this story online. For those that worry at a world in which Africa turns its back on democracy, this is a worrying trend to be watching in real-time. For African heads of state this is more than an abstract worry about the future of the continent they preside over, the latest coup d’etat is a reminder that they could be next.
This is a worry we are already seeing play out. Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya, carried out a comprehensive reshuffle of his military and defence forces leadership on Wednesday the 30th of August. Paul Kagame, leader of Rwanda, forced the resignations of 924 military officials on the same day.
For democracy and African heads of state, and therefore for all of us, these are indeed worrisome times.