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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

African leaders seek change in fight against terrorism at Nigerian summit   

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At a security summit in Nigeria, African leaders have called for a revamp of institutions that fight violent extremism on the continent.

The leaders also began to push to set up a standing military force and give the government more power over efforts to keep the peace.

Attacks on citizens and the military have been happening all the time in Africa, including in the Sahel, Somalia, and Mozambique, by groups with ties to Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

President Faure Gnassingbe of Togo said that coastal states like Togo were facing more threats, even though people were being attacked the most in the Sahel.

“I say this with prudence and regret, but I think the institutions that have been in place for several decades are no longer able to respond to the security situation that we face,” said Gnassingbe.

Moussa Faki, chairman of the African Union Commission, reported that between 2017 and 2021, there were four attacks and 18 deaths a day in Africa. Last year, there were eight attacks and 44 deaths a day.

The AU chief added that last year 7,000 citizens and 4,000 military members were killed stressing that the situation was being used in some countries as a reason for military coups. The Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, Amina Mohammed, said that half of all terrorist deaths happened in the Sahel.

Until a military coup in July that called for France to leave, Niger was the West’s last major ally in the central Sahel area south of the Sahara Desert. In July, France pulled out 1,500 troops from Niger.

Faki said that Africa needed more money to help stop the spread of terrorism. Bola Tinubu, the president of Nigeria, said that more needed to be done to stop the spread of small guns and weapons. He also called for the creation of a regional standby force whose job it would be to fight terrorism.

“I am mindful of the funding, legal and logistical complexities that face the proper establishment of such a force. Such a force can stand as a strong deterrent to large scale and protracted terrorist operations and the capture, occupation or disruption of strategic land and resources,” Tinubu said.

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Togo’s civil society, opposition plan mass protests following constitutional review

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Some of Togo’s opposition parties and civil society groups have called for mass protests again on Saturday following lawmakers’ approved changes to the country’s constitution a week ago.

The legislation is widely believed to enhance the continued stay of President Faure Gnassingbe in power after 19-year rule. The opposition group Dynamique Pour la Majorité du Peuple (DMP) and other signatories said in a statement that the changes to presidential term limits and how presidents are chosen were just a political move to let Gnassingbe stay in office forever.

“What happened at the National Assembly yesterday is a coup d’etat,” they said in the statement that reiterated calls for the population to mobilise against the changes.

“Large-scale action will be organised over the next few days to say ‘no’ to this constitution,” they said. In Friday’s vote, lawmakers unanimously approved an amended charter under which the president will no longer be elected by universal suffrage, but by members of parliament.

The amendments also set up a parliamentary system of government and cut presidential terms from five years to four years, with a maximum of two terms. Since the changes don’t consider time already spent in office, Gnassingbe could stay in power until 2033 if he is re-elected in 2025. This is very likely because his party controls the parliament in Togo, where his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, took power in a coup in 1967.

The most valuable company in Abu Dhabi has made an offer of more than $1 billion to buy a 51% stake in Vedanta Resources’ copper assets in Zambia, according to two people who know about the situation.

In the past few years, the Central African Republic, Rwanda, the Congo Republic, the Ivory Coast, and Guinea are just a few of the African countries that have changed their constitutions and other laws to allow leaders to serve longer terms.

In the last three years, there have been eight military coups in West and Central Africa as well. As they were during his father’s long rule, violent police crackdowns on political protests have been common in Togo under Gnassingbe, who was returned in a landslide in 2020 that the opposition says was rigged.

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