Don’t laugh, but US should look to Gambia. Its Yahya Jammeh is like Trump

Billboard promoting the policies of President Yahya Jammeh in The Gambia. Photo by Atamari via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Billboard promoting the policies of President Yahya Jammeh in The Gambia. Photo by Atamari via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Chude Jideonwo @chude has seen Donald Trump’s type of populism in Africa and, he warns, “it only ends in tears and, sometimes, blood.”

In an excellent piece for Quartz, Mr Jideonwo reminded Americans and the world of Africa’s doleful expertise of leaders like Mr Trump.

Don’t laugh, but Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh is particularly Trumpian.

As Mr Jideonwo writes, the Gambian president “says he can cure AIDS on Mondays and Thursdays, accuses his opponents of witchcraft, and made a promise to transform his country magically into an oil-producing nation — a promise he, of course, has been unable to keep.”

The Gambian agenda compares credibly with Mr Trump’s plan to bring back coal miners’ jobs, ban Muslims from entering the US, build a wall on America’s southern border with Mexico, have a cosy chat with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and sort out California’s non-drought by simply releasing water to the farmers!

But let’s look at the broad picture of why Africa is qualified to advise America on making wise political choices. Mr Jideonwo writes that his “continent has had its fair share of populists and demagogues. We have an entire generation of books — fiction and fact — that document the rise and ruse of those who will say anything, promise everything and, ultimately, do nothing.”

These leaders, he said, didn’t want – or couldn’t –confront the complex task of modern governance and excelled instead “at appealing to the basest sentiments in their people. Typically, these leaders positioned themselves as ‘strong men’ able to stand up to Western imperialism and protect the interests of their citizens.”

Mr Trump joins the African roll call of strong men leaders:

Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe; Cameroon’s Paul Biya; oil-rich Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang; Sudan’s Omar Al Bashir and, as already mentioned, Gambia’s Jammeh.

Americans, writes Mr Jideonwo, “should learn from the experience of those who know better.”

Mr Jideonwo’s views are particularly interesting because he is managing partner of RED, which holds Africa’s largest portfolio of youth media brands, including one that managed the 2015 election campaign communication for Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari.