WHAT is happening in the United States of America makes very interesting reading, literally. What we are seeing from the self-acclaimed ‘greatest country in the world’ is proof that bad leaders are not exclusive to Africa, America has them too. We have lying politicians, they have them too; we have thieves in government, they have them too; we have abusive dictators who have no respect for the rule of law, and America has them too.
If there is one thing that outgoing President Donald Trump has taught the world, it is that America is as democratically weak as those countries that considered it a role model. Mr Trump has shown the world that America is as racially, politically and morally divided as the rest of the countries that it criticises. We have seen with our own eyes that violent ruling party cadres and hooligans exist in America, and just like it happens here in Africa, they can overpower State security and get away with crimes.
Before we talk about the second impeachment, which makes him the first American President to suffer such disapproval from the House of Representatives, let us look at how Mr Trump’s abuse of powers resembles that of our African leaders whom he ridiculed throughout his presidency.
January 6, 2021, when President-Elect Joseph Biden’s election victory was scheduled to be certified by Congress in Washington, D.C, Mr Trump ordered his supporters to march towards Capitol Hill and protest against what he strongly felt was a rigged election. The thugs breached Congress barriers, overran security and broke into the actual chamber where deliberations to certify Mr. Biden’s win were being held.
The mayhem that rocked Capitol Hill has been the subject of top news headlines since then. Selfishness, greed, pomposity, arrogance and failure to accept defeat pushed Mr Trump to declare ‘war’ on his own country’s most sacred institution of governance, the lawmaking body and the citadel of American democracy, which had been a shining example of a liberal democracy to the rest of the planet.
A single act by one bad leader has changed the entire narrative for America today and for many years to come. It’s not time to celebrate this unfortunate development. Instead, Africa and Africans must ask what this development means for our fledgling democracies here on the continent. We have important lessons to analyse and evaluate; what impact does this tragic event have on our historic relationship with the United States?
We are here to say that this development does not necessarily mean America has lost its moral right to lecture other countries on respecting the rule of law. We say this because criticism doesn’t necessarily have to come from people who have never been wrong before. America can retain its right to tell other nations about the need for upholding the tenets of democracy and acknowledging the outcome of elections. But they should now speak to us as a people who have the same moral deficiencies as we do.
The scenes of chaos the world witnessed in shock and horror show us the great extent to which democracies, even in advanced industrial economies such as the US, remain fragile. Here in Africa, the average country is only half a century old since we broke the chains of European colonialism. Granted, our democracies are still growing; our brothers and sisters in Uganda, Angola, the Central African Republic, among 16 other dictatorships, are still wrestling power from men who have governed their territories with an iron fist.
Power is sweet, but it has a lifespan. Strangely, this is a lesson politicians never want to learn. Mr Trump has been enjoying the benefits of being in charge of what we are made to believe is the greatest nation on earth, but his time has come to relinquish the instruments of power and go back to his private life. Sadly for Mr Trump, his own people have risen to impeach him for the second time and he is now on course to face a criminal investigation and a possible loss of life-long retirement benefits.
This too can happen here in Zambia. There are lessons for President Edgar Lungu in this. It is always better to leave the stage when people are still clapping. When you impose yourself on the will of the people, when you refuse to accept electoral defeat, you end up like Mr Trump – a disgraced former president with no legacy to be proud of.