Kenyans have to watch closely what comes out of Singapore

Tuesday June 12 2018

Donald Trump

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un impersonator Howard X (left) and Donald Trump impersonator Dennis Alan make an appearance at the Merlion park in Singapore on June 8, 2018. PHOTO | ROSLAN RAHMAN | AFP 

By MACHARIA GAITHO
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It is the season of handshakes. This week, we can turn our attention from trying to decipher the entente between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition chief leader Raila Odinga onto the world stage, where two of the most mercurial leaders of modern times engage in a historic meeting.

If there is no last-minute disruption, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and American President Donald Trump will today shake hands in Singapore.

Mr Kim and Mr Trump may lead two vastly different regimes but they have a lot in common — mostly negative and on factors that will be familiar to us in Kenya and many other African countries forever under threat of dictatorship.

The North Korean despot is one of the more brutal leaders remaining. While the rest of the world embraces democracy and the interdependence of the community of nations, he presides over a vicious, hermitic regime where suspicion of dissent or independent thought is punishable by death.

POVERTY

Citizens are spared any ‘pollution’ that might come from contact with the outside world and kept in the bondage of poverty, hunger and ignorance.

Mr Trump, by contrast, presides over one of the largest democracies, the ‘home of the brave and the free’ that has prospered into the largest economy in the world through the infusion of talent and ideas from centuries of immigration from all corners of the world. Yet in Mr Trump, the United States now has a leader who would clearly drift towards dictatorship were he not restrained by a constitution that checks on executive excesses.

He does not have the freedom to exterminate his foes but has often expressed admiration for his North Korean counterpart and other dictators who do not have to go through the rigours of competitive elections or subject themselves to the laws.

In the US President’s ongoing onslaught against the FBI and the wider Justice Department as he fights back investigations into possible collusion with Russia to secure electoral victory, Kenyans will find parallels in the way President Kenyatta’s propaganda machinery was used to slander and intimidate Supreme Court judges following the unfavourable presidential election petition ruling last year.

UNCONVENTIONAL METHODS

We could also go further back to the unconventional methods employed when President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto fought International Criminal Court charges of crimes against humanity following on the 2007/8 post-election violence.

It is, then, no wonder that some supporters of the Jubilee regime have often expressed admiration for President Trump’s rambunctious and disruptive ways.

They like the fact that, unlike many of his predecessors, he is unlikely to intervene too vigorously if the Kenyatta regime retreats to its worst instincts and launches war against citizens, the Judiciary, media, civil society, watchdog institutions and other bodies that keep the government in check.

And that is why we have to watch closely what comes out of the Singapore parley.

For it is not about the US trying to push a rogue regime into democracy and respect for human rights; it is simply an ego trip for Mr Trump, who relishes the opportunity to win a ‘mine is bigger than yours’ contest.

BIZZARE OFFER

The US president also seems to have been captured by the delusion that forcing the dismantling of Mr Kim’s nuclear weapons programme will stand him in good stead for the Nobel Peace Prize. To that end, he has tabled the bizarre offer to guarantee Mr Kim’s security if he gives up his nuclear arsenal.

The problem is, only a fool would take seriously any pact with the US megalomaniac.

Since assuming office in January 2017, President Trump’s proudest accomplishments have been in abrogating a whole slew of treaties and agreements entered into by his predecessors.

The rest of the world now clearly understands that the American word is not its bond; that any solemn agreement signed with the most powerful nation can be torn up without ceremony.

REAL DANGER

There is real danger now that, if President Trump fails to bully Mr Kim into acquiescence, he may lash out in frustration and make good on his threats to unleash a bigger manhood — euphemism for nuclear missiles.

Some will say Singapore is none of our business — as they did when Kenya played truant on the United Nations vote against the US moving its embassy in Israel to the disputed territory of Jerusalem. When it finally happened last month, the US Embassy in Nairobi warned Americans in Kenya to lie low in case of retaliatory terrorist attacks.

Our traditional ‘wait and see’ foreign policy does not detract from the fact that happenings in the far reaches of the globe do affect us.

 [email protected]Twitter: @MachariaGaitho