What a Hillary Clinton Presidency Might Mean for US-Africa Bilateral Relations


Photograph: Martin Schoeller/August

Like the political junkie that I am, I started following the US elections in mid-2015 - the Olympics of presidential elections. It started off with a frenzy of Republican seating governors, & former governors announcing their candidacy; senators & former senators alike. Though I wasn't in support of so many of their policies, I at least was excited by the thought of getting to know these men. And then, down came that escalator carrying Donald Trump, & his comical, racist, bigoted, misogynous presidential announcement. In the end, the Republican field was made up of men politicians, a black male doctor (who I respected because of the movie Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story. That respect went out of the window the minute I heard of the man's politics), Donald Trump, and a former woman Hewlett Packard CEO.

On the Democratic side, as expected, Hillary Clinton announced her bid. But it was a lessor known junior Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, who stole my heart. The man spoke to my liberal core, the sincerity in his message; and like most people, I, too was ready for something new- I didn't want another Clinton or Bush presidency.  I am not an American, but I resonate more with the Democratic Party because socially, they are more progressive than the GOP; they choose to see the best in all of us, irrespective of race, gender or sexual orientation.  I believe we are better as a people when we are able to not just tolerate those different from us, but love them as well; it's these differences that make us unique and beautiful.

But as much as I was vying for Bernie, the primary season continued to wind down, it became clearer that Bernie Sanders was finding it difficult to win primaries, diverse electrols, and pretty much the nomination.  It was also becoming clearer that the campaign that was being doubted from the start was inevitably becoming a real possibility - Ted Cruz & John Kasich dropped out of the GOP race, leaving Donald Trump as the only candidate and the delegates needed to clinch the GOP presidential nomination well in sight.

After the California primary, Hillary Clinton became the Democratic presumptive nominee for president of the United States after securing enough delegates to push her over the line of 2,383 pledged & super delegates.  And so did Donald Trump for the Republican Party.

And then came the party conventions for both parties.  The Republicans had their's first in Cleveland, Ohio.  I stomached a lot, but I have watched some of the Rupublican National Convention.  It was not pretty.  It was really dark to say the least.  There were chants of lock her up with regard to Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server scandal, foreign policy blunders, and the Iran nuclear deal.  Ben Carson insinuated that Hillary Clinton worships the devil.  I mean, really? How low are Republicans willing to go just to dehumanize Hillary Clinton?  Then came the man of the hour, Donald Trump, to accept his party's nomination for president.  In his speech, the America he painted isn't the America that made him filthy rich, no!  He painted a picture of a country in decline, an anarchy, riddled with crime and where ISIS in complete control.  Falsehoods.  Scaremongering.

On July 28, 2016, Hillary Clinton made history by becoming the first woman nominee of a major party for president of the United States of America.  

I remember watching the convention the night her nomination was made official, and the video the DNC made was groundbreaking as it clearly showed that ultimate glass ceiling being broken; Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States, Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton.  Even though I think the woman is a total hawk and an interventionist, so many women my mother's age and older, women in their 60's, saw that video and breathed sigh of relief, that finally, they have lived to see this moment.  Little girls look at that and see that they too, are validated in their dreams of one day becoming president.  Africa already has it's first woman president in Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, yet having a woman president in the US would be added inspiration for little girls around the continent.

So, it goes without saying that I would prefer a Hillary Clinton presidency to that of Donald Trump's.

But what would a Hillary Clinton Presidency mean for the African continent and it's people?

Bilateral Relations

During the past 7 and a half years, US-Africa relations have been somewhat just 'okay'!  Considering the fact that the relationship has been lukewarm during the presidency of America's first black president says a lot.  Even as Barack Obama is loved across the continent, there are those who feel he hasn't done enough for the continent.  Compared to George W. Bush's presidency, Obama really hasn't done much for Africa.  In a Politico article, Edward-Isaac Dovere writes "Bush's investment in combating AIDS and Malaria in Africa was transformative, saving millions of lives and changing millions more."  Bush was great for Africa, yes.  No doubt about that.  But I'm one of those Africans who like to give Obama the benefit of the doubt.  He came into power when the US was facing the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression; and he was faced with having to be mindful of his administration's spending -- and that affected US aid to Africa.  

Beside the fact that Obama was the first black president of the US, he has direct heritage in Kenya, as his father is Kenyan.  I believed because of that, unlike Bush before him, he had to walk a fine line of impartiality regarding his relationship to the continent.  He couldn't afford to be seen as showing too much interest on Africa by a Republican Congress that made it known that it wanted Obama to become a one term president.  He couldn't afford to hand them the arsenal with which they could use to end his political career.  So much more was at stake.

Another reason I believed Obama wasn't as kind to the continent as some of the masses expected it to be the case, is because he is not a fan of most of the continent's leaders, especially those that cannot seem to let go of their grip on power, saying that "Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions," while addressing the African Union.  I think he is also disappointed in the progress the continent's countries have made since their independence.  Tough love is what I think he is giving; and him being black with an African father, unlike any other US president, he might have the right to critique, harshly so, without his criticism being labelled as carrying imperialistic overtones.  In 2009, during a visit to Ghana  he remarked, "despite the progress that has been made - and there has been considerable progress in parts of Africa - we also know that much of that promise has yet to be fulfilled.  Countries like Kenya, which had a per capita economy larger than South Korea’s when I was born, have been badly outpaced.  Disease and conflict have ravaged parts of the African continent.  In many places, the hope of my father’s generation gave way to cynicism, even despair."

I'm not saying the man has done nothing for the continent, because he has, with the area of trade being a good example.  He has been a champion for more trade, while shunning the status quo of more aid to the continent.  He also signed the 10 year renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a legislation which significantly enhances market access to the US for qualifying Sub-Saharan African countries.

Throughout the campaign, Hillary Clinton has been a champion of Barack Obama's policies, especially when it suits her [when talking to the African American electorate].  And since "Africa" has not been dabbled into much during the campaign, one may assume that Hillary Clinton will do much of the same as Obama.  But one never really knows with Hillary.

US aid to the continent is probably likely to increase from the Obama years, since the Clintons have a love affair with the continent which stretches back to Bill Clinton's presidency and continued with the Clinton Foundation's work on the continent.

Hillary Clinton has come under so much criticism from Republicans over the years, but one thing that some of them seem to agree with her on, is America's interventions, aka America's nation building excercises around the world. 

It was Hillary Clinton who championed the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, together with the Europeans.  A decision that Barack Obama says is the "worst mistake" of his presidency.  Hillary Clinton on the other hand, is not of the same thinking, saying in October of 2015 that she "think[s] President Obama made the right decision at the time".  Unlike most African dictators, Gaddafi was overseeing the richest economy in Africa, compared to what it is now, after his Hillary-backed assassination.  In all of this, America's interventionists and Hillary Clinton seem not to learn one thing; the overthrowing of governments in the Muslim world opens up a vacuum which keeps being filled by extreme Muslim groups like the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and others.  I hope that is not the type of Foreign Policy that Hillary Clinton brings forth to North Africa, or the Middle East for that matter, if she is elected president.

This is a candidate, who some of the American voters are going to be voting for only because they think she's the lesser of two evils; it's either that or Trump.  So, how about, it's either a dictator or ISIS, Hillary?

There are, however, other conflicts on the continent that might need American intervention though.  And Hillary being the hawk she is, she is more likely to intervene in Darfur or the Central African Republic, because even though as one pundit said on CNN that "black West Africa is not a priority" for the United States, it is necessary.  Black Africa might not be of interest to the United States in financial terms, but it should be of great a human interest to the US to see forth that people of the Darfur & Central African Republic regions have peace once more.

Are we likely to see the best US president for Africa, ever?  I really do not know, as Hillary's stand on so many policies are conflicting for the African continent and her people's interests.  Yet, I think she has the best opportunity, as all she has to do is take the baton handed to her by Obama and really run with it to a promise land that is favorable to all parties concerned.

So, come November 8, I hope Hillary gets elected the first female president of world's biggest economy and its 45th president.

Edward-Mekondjo Nailenge is African by birth, but a citizen of the world by choice. He is an opinion writer at aKoma.  He can be reached at edward.mekondjo@protonmail.com

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