The US Senate is about to start the second impeachment trial for Donald Trump. Trump has hurriedly assembled a second cartel of attorneys to fight his corner, after the first batch declined to use his now infamous “Stop the Steal” argument as the main basis of his defence. No one needs a reminder that after failing to prove his bogus claims in courts that the election was fraudulent, Trump became the chief conductor of the January 6th events. The world watched in disbelief to see the High Priest of democracy, defile and desecrate the alter of democracy.
Thankfully, Trump and his acolytes failed, although the battle goes on. Following that sad day, many wondered whether America still the moral authority has to comment on other democracies around the world. No one needs a reminder or a catalogue of America’s flirtation with democracy throughout the world over the years. It is an irrefutable fact that America has pursued democracy, the American version by clandestine means, including coup d’états, internal uprisings, mutinies, etc. The joke is that due to travel restrictions, America decided to organise one at home on January 6th.
But January 6th was no laughing matter; for the implications and repercussions of Trump’s transgressions will have far reaching rippling effects around the world. Although January 6th was an American affair, “what happens in America stays in America” does not seem to portend. As if on cue, but more ironically, the military in Myanmar seized power and detained prominent members of the ruling party, including Aung San Suu Kyi. The coup follows weeks of intense friction between the army-backed opposition and the government. After losing the parliamentary elections, the army backed opposition demanded a re-run of the elections, citing widespread fraud; just like Trump. The electoral commission did not back their call; hence the military takeover. Sounds familiar? Ehn……sort of.
This sounds like the military in Myanmar read chapter 4 of Trump’s manual. Is anyone still in doubt that Trump is a dictator with American citizenship? President Joe Biden has understandably wasted no time in condemning the military, that “force should never seek to overrule the will of the people or attempt to erase the outcome of a credible election", and that "The United States will stand up for democracy wherever it is under attack.". The United nations, The UK, and European Union leaders have all condemned the military take over. Is it not refreshing to hear the world sing in one voice……again? What would have been the response from Trump, if he had been in charge, or succeeded? Flowers for the coup leaders? Meanwhile, China, Philippines, Cambodia and Thailand have described the military takeover as “an internal matter”. Hazard a guess on the common denominator.
It is barely two weeks since Joe Biden officially became the 46th President of the United States. It is barely three weeks since America withstood an attack on its democracy. As a self-proclaimed Chief Rabbi of democracy, and after conducting a domestic test drive on how to overturn the will of the people and failed, America is now called upon by default, to do the same abroad. It is not surprising that President Joe Biden has threatened to reinstate sanctions on Myanmar. America was instrumental in forcing the then Burma to the table of democracy, with life denying sanctions. It finally shed its military rule in 2011 and this saw the lifting of sanctions and return from political wilderness. So, is Myanmar about to become the first graduate from Donald Trump’s University? Are the military leaders trying to test the pulse of American democracy? Are they testing America’s supposedly return to world leadership; a position that Trump so recklessly relinquished?
Just when you think that Joe Biden’s in-tray from Trump is chaotic enough, another slip lands on his desk. When you consider that among others, Biden has to renegotiate the Iran Nuclear deal, return America to the Climate agreement, rejig trade deal with china; in addition to domestic issues around immigration, Covid, Trumpism etc, you would be forgiven to think that Biden’s job advert should have read “ An experienced political handyman required. Previous applicants preferable”. Joe Biden has his hands or his desk full; and I am beginning to lose my propensity to envy him.
But there is also the small matter of Aung San Suu Kyi, now detained leader who gained universal support during her 15-year detention until her release in 2010. She became an icon of democracy and a beacon of light, especially for women in politics. She even received the Nobel Peace Prize for her steadfastness. She epitomised and personified the fight for democracy. Sadly, and rather disappointingly, she went to bed with the military leaders immediately after she became one of the ruling members. Not only did she refuse to condemn the atrocities against Muslim Rohingya minority, Aung San Suu Kyi became the chief apologist for the military leaders. Now she is about to find out “that no matter how well you swim beside a crocodile, he is not your brother”; and that “leopards never change their spots”
What does this mean for other regions, especially Africa? Contesting election results is a favourite past time in African politics. We use them as curtain falls to mark the end of election cycles and the unceremonious exits of opposition leaders. But with Africa having monopoly on the longest serving rulers in the world, fed by their unquenchable thirst to remain in power till death us do part, what does the future hold for this continent? We saw how the military made a dash for power in Mali.
In the recently concluded “selection” in Uganda, Museveni 76, detained his challenger Bobi Wine before, during and after the “selection”. With the likes of Alpha Conde 82 (Guinea), Paul Biya 87(Cameroon), Alassane Quattara 79(Cote D’Ivoire) etc, all taking matrimonial oaths to die in power, will the army be the new format to contest election results? We all hope to God no. Considering that military intelligence is a contradiction in terms, no one is advocating military rule; which is equal to the worst civilian rule. With the exception of Kenya a few years back, it is an alien concept to overturn election results that favour the incumbents.
With Trump and his acolytes ready to fight on with their ideology of America First, the test for America is now universal. Trump spent his four years disparaging allies and embraced authoritarian leaders. The Capitol riots damaged America’s tag as the beacon of democracy. But as Biden embarks on telling and showing the world that America is back, the crises in Myanmar coup and Russia will test Biden’s credentials to show that America is back. Many will be encouraged by his election as a champion of democracy, while the January 6th insurrection will give a reference point to those who question America’s position as the self-proclaimed beacon of democracy.
Joe Biden should take comfort, that the world is with him, and ready to speak with one voice. Sometimes, politics can be too important to take seriously.
Don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room.