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Trump tags Nigeria’s Buhari “lifeless.” What will he say of Uhuru Kenyatta?

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What appeared to have been kept under wraps, regarding President Donald Trump’s impression of his his April meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, is now unveiled.

Financial Times is reporting that, apparently unimpressed with Buhari’s contributions at the US meeting, Trump had described their discussions as lifeless.

Given the US President’s earlier uncomplimentary remarks about some developing economies during which he described them as “shithole” countries, Uhuru Kenyatta’s August visit has received Financial Times’ review.

See below:

Donald Trump will welcome Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta to the White House on Monday for what will be only the second one-on-one meeting the US president has held with a sub-Saharan African leader since he took office last year.

The first meeting, with Nigeria’s ailing 75-year-old Muhammadu Buhari in April, ended with the US president telling aides he never wanted to meet someone so lifeless again, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Advocates of closer US-Africa ties hope his encounter with the younger, more urbane Mr Kenyatta, 56, will breathe fresh life into a relationship with a region that Washington is seen to have neglected as other countries, notably China, develop ever-closer trade and investment ties with the continent.

Under Emmanuel Macron, France is also trying to reset its relationship with its former colonies in Africa and deepen commercial ties with bigger economies in the Anglo sphere, such as Nigeria and South Africa.

“Trump likes chemistry,” said a person in touch both with senior US administration officials and the Kenya delegation preparing for Monday’s meeting. “Africa has never been high on his radar but if the big guy likes you he’ll find a way to make things work.”

Joshua Meservey, senior policy analyst for Africa at the Heritage Foundation, said: “Presidents Trump and Kenyatta have a pretty warm relationship which can hopefully pave the way for more engagement with Kenya and the rest of Africa.” The Kenyan president, he suspected, might try to “carry the torch” for the whole continent.

After his meeting with Mr Trump, Mr Kenyatta will meet Theresa May, the UK prime minister, in Nairobi next week before flying to Beijing in early September for the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation summit to be presided over by Xi Jinping, China’s president.

“A lot of the influence that America used to wield not too long ago is pretty much diminished,” said Patrick Gathara, a political commentator in Kenya. The increasing interest of other countries in Africa — including Turkey, India and the Gulf States, as well as China — gave African countries more diplomatic options he said.

Washington and Nairobi are expected to sign a series of commercial agreements that could “create hundreds of American and Kenyan jobs”, a White House official told the Financial Times.

Many expect Mr Trump will try to seal a deal over the plan by Bechtel, the US engineering group, to build a $4.5bn four-lane motorway between the port city of Mombasa and Nairobi for which financing has not yet been fully secured.

Aubrey Hruby, co-founder of the Africa Expert Network, said Washington was not focused enough on backing US commercial interests in Africa. “France, China and other countries do direct commercial diplomacy,” she said. “We get too bogged down in conflict of interest,” she said, adding that Washington officials were reluctant to be seen backing one US company over another.

While many in the administration are keen to develop relations with the continent along business lines, in place of a traditional focus on aid and security, Mr Trump’s repeated gaffes have hampered efforts to push the continent higher up the agenda.

The US president appalled leaders on the continent by including African nations among those he allegedly disparaged as “shithole” countries in January. Last year, he mistakenly referred to Namibia as “Nambia” during a public address.

Even last week, Mr Trump waded into a debate over land ownership in South Africa, alleging “the large-scale killing of farmers”. The incidents of such killings have fallen sharply.

Read Also: Zambia’s Finance Minister serving as president: Here is why

“Trump is widely criticised for not having an Africa policy,” said Grant Harris, former Africa director at the National Security Council. “So it’s in his interest to have something from Monday he can present as a win,” he said, adding that the US was considering a reciprocal trade deal with Kenya.

Mr Harris said the onus was also on Mr Kenyatta whose country, like many others in Africa, had borrowed heavily from China, leaving little room to do business with the US.

A White House official said the Trump administration was “progressing” with the development of an Africa strategy, adding that Kenya was one of Washington’s closest security, counter-terrorism and trade partners in Africa.

Two months ago, Tibor Nagy, a former US ambassador to Guinea and Ethiopia, was finally confirmed as the state department’s top Africa diplomat.

Mr Kenyatta’s reception in the Oval Office is a boost to a man who once faced an indictment from the International Criminal Court in The Hague for crimes against humanity over his alleged role in the mass violence that followed the 2007 elections. The charges were ultimately withdrawn in 2014.

“There won’t be any mention about corruption in Kenya or human rights,” said Mr Gathara, who said he was sceptical about the Kenyan president’s recent “war on corruption”. Under Mr Trump, he said, the US was now also perceived to have “lax standards”, reducing its authority to pressure anyone else.

Politics

Burkina Faso’s junta leader, Ibrahim Traore, assures France of relations amidst recent tension

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Amidst recent diplomatic tension between Burkina Faso and France, the military leader of the West African country, Ibrahim Traoré has claimed that recent incidences do not suggest the end of relations with France.

Burkina Faso had expelled French ambassadors and expelled French troops earlier in the year. French President, Emmanuel Macron had sought clarifications from military President Ibrahim Traore about reported demands for the departure of French troops from the country.

He said: “We’ve heard everywhere in the press that Wagner is in Ouagadougou. That’s also how we heard about it. I’ve asked some people who say, ‘Oh really? Where are they?’

“We’ve since heard that they’re even in a hotel somewhere, we’re surprised to hear about that.”

“There’s a general state of mind whereby if you deal with Wagner, everyone runs away from you, so it’s something which has been created in order that everyone shuns us – well congratulations, good job.”

The wave of anti-French agitations in the West African sub-region has continued in recent times. Notably French relations with Burkina Faso’s neighbour, Mali who is also caught up in a serious security crisis.

“The French embassy is here,” He said. “French nationals are here, just as ours is there, so diplomatically nothing has changed.

“This is about an agreement over military presence, and as they have said, our sovereignty is up to us, so that’s what we are expressing through our denunciation of this agreement. So there is no breaking off of diplomatic relations, or hatred of any particular country.”

France’s position in Africa has been a subject of discussion lately amidst recent anti-French agitations across the continent.

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Tunisian union, UGTT chief, Noureddine Taboubi accuses President Saied of intimidation

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As part of the fallouts of the recently conducted parliamentary elections in Tunisia, its trade union, UGTT accused President Kais Saied of targeting it as a distraction from record-low election turnout.

The powerful union also accused president Saied of overseeing a “total failure” of economic policies.

The UGTT chief, Noureddine Taboubi at a meeting held at Gammarth to discuss the arrest of the union’s senior official Anis Kaabi earlier in the week said “the president is trying to divert attention from the record low election turnout in the first and second round of legislative elections and the utter failure of his economic and social decisions.”

Mr. Taboubi added: “Why is the UGTT a target?  Because [the authorities] want to pass the painful reforms they are always discussing.

“In order to pass these painful reforms, they need to distract the public with trivia by saying that the reason for this situation is the UGTT.”

The election, which was a second round of the Tunisian parliamentary polls held last Sunday with reports that nearly 90% of the electorate did not vote, making it the highest level of abstention since the 2011 revolution that toppled dictator Ben Ali and marked the advent of democracy in the country.

Voter turnout for the first round of the parliamentary elections in December was only 11%, prompting widespread ridicule among Saied’s opponents and new demands by the powerful labour union that he changes tack.

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