Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s meeting with his US counterpart Donald Trump at the White House carries symbolic as well as real value.
The two leaders have met once before – on the sidelines of the 2017 G7 meeting in Italy. But this is the first official visit to the White House since Trump’s election and since Kenyatta’s highly controversial 2017 re-election.
So why the visit, and why now?
The White House has cast it as an opportunity to deepen the strategic relationship between the two countries, and to advance mutual interests in trade, security and regional leadership by way of reaffirming
Kenya’s position as a corner stone of peace and stability in Africa.
For Kenyatta, it’s an opportunity to reset Kenya’s position as a leading regional actor and Africa’s “ambassador”.
From a strategic perspective, Kenya has been a crucial player in the war on terror given its frontier status with Somalia. It has been a central player in the UN African Union Mission to Somalia force that’s seeking defeat the Al-Shabaab terror group.
Kenya has suffered retaliatory action as a result of its role. Twenty years ago it was one of the first countries in Africa to bear the brunt of Al-Qaeda with a lethal terror attack in Nairobi. This placed Kenya firmly in the position of a strategic player, ensuring the success of the war on terror in East and Central Africa for which the US has strategic interests.
So Kenyatta’s visit will seek to consolidate continuing US military support. This will be through various channels, among them the counter terrorism partnership fund and the combating terrorism fellowship programme. He will also want a commitment to the US’s continued military at Manda Bay and Camp Simba, a Kenya naval base for anti-terrorism operations.
Kenyatta has recently played a lead role as regional broker by hosting a number of peace initiatives in the South Sudan peace process. Despite US reservations, the most recent peace accord appears to be holding, with Kenya taking some credit for the tentative success.
The US will seek to ensure that Kenya continues to play a constructive leadership role and a guarantor of the peace process in South Sudan given its tremendous leverage on that country’s leadership.
Other pressing issues will include trade and foreign direct investment. Here Kenyatta will have to tread carefully given Kenya’s increasingly close ties with China.
And Kenyatta will have his work cut out trying to navigate Trump’s world. How he manages to gain meaningful compromise from an unpredictable and beleaguered host will be keenly watched both at home and far beyond.
Banking on trade
In many ways US-Kenya relations is in uncharted territory. And given Trump’s penchant for bilateralism, Kenyatta will hope to master the art of the deal by minimising the negative impact of “America first” agenda on Kenya-US trade relations.
During Barack Obama’s presidency, imports from Kenya more than doubled . In 2015, 12.3% of US AFRICA FDI went to Kenya. But Trump’s “America first” stance has led to a review of Africa partnerships as well as a renegotiation of bilateral trade agreements.
Amid this policy uncertainty, Kenyatta will want to discuss how to boost trade relations to augment Kenya’s domestic economy given the very broad economic agenda he has set himself to transform the country. Kenya’s economy had suffered from electoral volatility and a slowdown in foreign direct investment, particularly from the US. Kenyatta will be keen to explore how to jump start this with his US counterpart in addition to ensuring the continued robustness of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) from which Kenya has greatly benefited.
The Kenyan president can point to the fact that it remains a destination of choice for many US corporations that have established themselves in the domestic economy. These include Coca-Cola, General Electric, Google and IBM.
In addition, China has firmly developed a substantial economic and trade strategic relationship with Kenya – from manufacturing to infrastructure development. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the US. The wide gauge railway project, among many others, has established Beijing as an indispensable developmental partner.
To reflect this importance, one of Kenyatta’s first foreign trips was to Beijing.
This growing closeness has caused concern in Washington. The US is keen to retain its traditional sphere of influence and is often wary of other players, particularly China, chipping away at it.
With the increasing trade war with China, the US will seek reassurance that its interests in the region will not be compromised by Beijing’s increasing aggressive overtures in Kenya as well as in the region more broadly.
United States President Donald Trump has signed into law a bill that imposes tough new conditions that have to be met before sanctions are lifted.
The Zimbabwe president Emmerson Mnangagwa has said that his country is open for business, but this new law – the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Amendment Act – could scupper those plans as far as the US is concerned.
The United States law says that in order for sanctions to end the election has to be “widely accepted as free and fair”. The other condition mentioned is that the army has to “respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all persons and to be nonpartisan in character”.
In the days following the poll, six opposition supporters died in clashes with the army, which has led some to question about its neutrality.
Zimbabwe is also required to take steps towards “good governance, including respect for the opposition”.
The United States has criticised the treatment of opposition supporters and in particular key opposition figure Tendai Biti, who has been arrested in connection with the post-election violence.
“The United States government is gravely concerned by credible reports of numerous detentions, beatings, and other abuses of Zimbabweans over the past week, particularly targeting opposition activists”, State Department spokespersonHeather Nauert said.
“We call on Zimbabwe’s leaders to guarantee Mr Biti’s physical safety and ensure his constitutional and human rights are respected.”
The United States began imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2001. The sanctions imposed in Zimbabwe target individuals, as well as banning trade in defence items and direct government assistance for non-humanitarian programmes.
However, Emmerson Mnangagwa’s pledge for free and fair poll has been marred by post-electoral violence that claimed seven lives after soldiers opened fire in Harare’s crowded streets last week.
Source: Report Focus News
State terrorism comes in many forms, but one of its most cruel and revolting expressions is when it is aimed at children.
Even though U.S. President Donald Trump backed down in the face of a scathing political and public outcry and ended his administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents, make no mistake: His actions were indeed a form of terrorism.
That he was defiant until his back was against the wall points not only to a society that has lost its moral compass, but has also descended into such darkness that it demands both the loudest forms of moral outrage and a collective resistance aimed at eliminating the narratives, power relations and values that support it.
State violence against children has a long, dark history among authoritarian regimes.
Josef Stalin’s police took children from the parents he labelled as “enemies of the people.” Adolf Hitler, Francisco Franco and Augusto Pinochet all separated children from their families on a large scale as a way to punish political dissidents and those parents considered disposable.
Now we can add Trump to the list of the depraved.
Amnesty International called Trump’s decision to separate children from their parents and warehouse them in cages and tents for months as a cruel policy that amounts to “nothing short of torture.”
Many of the parents whose children were taken away from them entered the country legally, unwittingly exposing what resembles a state-sanctioned policy of racial cleansing. And federal U.S. officials have said despite Trump’s about-face, children who have already been separated from their parents — more than 2,000 of them — will not be reunited with them.
In any democratic society, the primary index through which a society registers its own meaning, vision and politics is measured by how it treats its children, and its commitment to the ideal that a civilized society is one that does everything it can to make the future and the world a better place for youth.
Abuse and terror
By this measure, the Trump administration has done more than fail in its commitment to children. It has abused, terrorized and scarred them. What’s more, this policy was ludicrously initiated and legitimized by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a notorious anti-immigrant advocate, with a Bible verse that was used historically by racists to justify slavery.
In the name of religion and without irony, Sessions put into play a policy that has been a hallmark of authoritarian regimes.
At the same time, Trump justified the policy with the notorious lie that the Democrats have to change the law for the separations to stop, when in actuality the separations are the result of a policy inaugurated by Sessions under Trump’s direction.
Trump wrote on Twitter that the Democrats are breaking up families.
Yet according to the New York Times:
Mr. Trump was misrepresenting his own policy. There is no law that says children must be taken from their parents if they cross the border unlawfully, and previous administrations have made exceptions for those travelling with minor children when prosecuting immigrants for illegal entry. A “zero tolerance” policy created by the president in April and put into effect last month by the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, allows no such exceptions, Mr. Trump’s advisers say.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen actually elevated Trump’s lie to a horrendous act of wilful ignorance and complicity.
This is an extension of the carceral state to the most vulnerable groups, putting into play a punitive policy that signals a descent into fascism, American-style.
The New Yorker’s Marsha Gessen got it right in comparing Trump’s policies towards children to those used by Vladimir Putin in Russia, both of which amounts to what she calls “an instrument of totalitarian terror.”
Both countries arrest children in order to send a powerful message to their enemies. In this case, Trump’s message was designed to terrorize immigrants while shoring up his base, while Putin’s message is to squelch dissent in general among the larger populace. Referring to Putin’s reign of terror, she writes:
The spectacle of children being arrested sends a stronger message than any amount of police violence against adults could do. The threat that children might be removed from their families is likely to compel parents to keep their kids at home next time — and to stay home themselves.
Children screaming for their parents
Within the last few weeks, heart-wrenching reports, images and audio have emerged in which children, including infants, were forcibly separated from their parents, relocated to detention centres under-staffed by professional caretakers and housed in what some reporters have described as cages.
The consequences of Trump’s xenophobia are agonizingly clear in reports of migrant children screaming out for their parents, babies crying incessantly, infants housed with teenagers who don’t know how to change diapers and shattered and traumatized families.
The Trump administration has detained more than 2,000 children. What’s more, the Trump administration has lost track of more than 1,500 children it first detained.
In some cases, it deported parents without first uniting them with their detained children. What is equally horrifying and morally reprehensible is that previous studies, such as those done by Anna Freud and Dorothy Burlingham in the midst of the Second World War, indicated that children separated from their parents suffered both emotionally in the short run and were plagued by long-term separation anxieties.
It’s no wonder the American Academy of Pediatrics referred to the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their families as one of “sweeping cruelty.”
Trump has mobilized the fascist fervour that inevitably leads to prisons, detention centres and acts of domestic terrorism and state violence. Echoes of Nazi camps, Japanese internment prisons and the mass incarceration of Black and brown people, along with the destruction of their families, are now part of Trump’s legacy.
Shameless cruelty now marks the neoliberal fascism currently shaping American society. Trump used children as hostages in his attempt to implement his racist policy of building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and to please his white supremacist base.
Trump’s racism was on full display as he dug in to defend this white supremacist policy.
He likened migrants to insects or disease-carrying rodents. In the past, he has also called undocumented immigrants “animals.” This is a rhetoric with a dark past. The Nazis used similar analogies to describe Jews. This is the language of white supremacy and neo-fascism.
Long history in the U.S.
But let’s be clear. While the caging of children provoked a great deal of moral outrage across the ideological spectrum, the underlying logic has been largely ignored.
These tactics have a long history in the United States, and in recent years have been intensified with the collapse of the social contract, expanding inequality and the increasing criminalization of a range of behaviours associated with immigrants, young people and those populations considered most vulnerable.
Read more: Fascism’s return and Trump’s war on youth
The horrible treatment of immigrant parents and children by the Trump regime signals not only a hatred of human rights, justice and democracy, it lays bare a growing fascism in the United States in which politics and power are now being used to foster disposability. White supremacists, religious fundamentalists and political extremists are now in charge.
It’s all a logical extension of his plans to deport 300,000 immigrants and refugees, including 200,000 Salvadorans and 86,000 Hondurans, by revoking their temporary protected status.
His cruelty is also evident in his rescinding of DACA for 800,000 so-called dreamers and the removal of temporary protected status for 248,000 refugees.
“Making America Great Again” and “America First” morphed into an unprecedented and unapologetic act of terrorism against immigrants. While the Obama administration also locked up the families of immigrants, it eventually scaled back the practice.
Under Trump, the savage practice accelerated and intensified. His administration refused to consider more humane practices, such as community management of asylum-seekers.
It all functions as short hand for making America white again, and signals the unwillingness of the United States to break from its past and the ghosts of a lethal authoritarianism.
Trump’s admiration of dictators
It’s also more evidence of Trump’s love affair with the practices of other dictators like Putin and now Kim Jong Un. And it signals a growing consolidation of power that is matched by the use of the repressive powers of the state to brutalize and threaten those who don’t fit into Trump’s white nationalist vision of the United States.
There is more at work here than the collapse of humanity and ethics under the Trump regime, there is also a process of dehumanization, racial cleansing and a convulsion of hatred toward those marked as disposable that echoes the darkest elements of fascism’s tenets.
The U.S. has now entered into a new era of racial hatred.
What has happened to the children and parents of immigrants does more than reek of cruelty, it points to a country in which matters of life and death have become unmoored from the principles of justice, compassion and democracy itself.
The horrors of fascism’s past have now travelled from the history books to modern times. The steep path to violence and cruelty can no longer be ignored. The time has come for the American public, politicians, educators, social movements and others to make clear that resistance to the emerging fascism in the United States is not an option —but a dire and urgent necessity.