By Yaya Sillah
Many people around the globe have commented on recent unpleasant remarks by President Trump about ‘sh*thole’ countries, which are directed at Africa and others. Since the area he touched on is a burning issue, I must echo some of the criticism of him expressed around the world. Firstly, I think the AU and South Africa deserve loud applause for standing up to men like Donald Trump, not only condemning him but formally demanding an apology for his outrageous comments. Though Mr Trump continues to deny that he uttered such unpleasant remarks, based on his previous record the international communities in solidarity with the AU are not profoundly convinced by his denials. The AU immediately demanded an apology from him via the White House. This is unprecedented.
According to a recent survey conducted by the cable news giant CNN, in sub-Saharan Africa, 51% percent of people, including me, supported Donald Trump in 2016 during his campaign for the presidency, because the United States of America is not only a development partner for the AU but also a strategic ally in the fight against international terror, which is fundamental for maintaining peace and order in the world. The spirit of supporting Donald Trump’s campaign on 2016 was purely based on the following: in the 1990’s the Clintons had a unique opportunity and privilege to serve as the first family of the United States of America for eight years. In my view, it was a good idea to give a similar opportunity to someone like Mr Trump, who does not belong to any political elite, in order to bring new energy to the White House, which is healthy for democracy. In 2010, I used a similar argument to support the campaign of Senegalese music superstar Youssou Ndour. In the same vein, I supported the campaign of Adama Barrow in 2016 and recently that of George Weah in Liberia. The excitement surrounding the prospect of a bid for the presidency by Oprah Winfrey in 2020 is in the same spirit.
President Obama equivocally made it clear in one of his many speeches during the 2016 presidential campaign that ”to occupy the office of the president of the United States of America is a serious job and being the president is the most powerful job in the world.”
In my opinion, President Trump ought to wisely exercise all his power and influence to ensure that the world becomes much more harmonious. This means giving hope to the hopeless, showing kindness, love and mercy to the weak and disadvantaged and fighting against all forms of discrimination, wherever it is taking place.
Michael Wolff, the author of Fire and Fury, describes the attitude of Mr Trump as “like a child”. By and large that description resonates with me more than anything else. I wouldn’t go as far as calling him a racist, because I don’t think he is one. But equally I respect the opinions of those who express such a view, due to their frustration with his odd behaviour. In a democracy it is entirely possible to be offended by others, therefore let us turn the page, hoping that President Trump will learn from this and begin to conduct himself more professionally.
Relatively recently, the unacceptable behaviour of men like Mr Trump encouraged previously voiceless women to rise up against powerful men and say “#MeToo” and “enough is enough”. For men like Mr Trump, saying sorry is often the hardest word. It is extremely encouraging to see institutions like the African Union raising their voices against him. It’s a move in the right direction. I salute their courage in taking such a remarkable step in order to make it clear to him, and people like him, that we are all created equal. No man is more superior than another.
As Malcolm X once said “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” I would say this: if people are not alert to Donald Trump’s negative remarks, he will cause ordinary people like you and me to hate all Americans, which would be wrong.
For me, his remarks only strengthen my position to continue with our gentle discussions concerning the migrant crisis in Libya.