I have worked for three years at a radio channel in Congo Brazzaville. My experience with some African Presidents and their supporters is filled with trauma created by a dangerous media phobia and resentment. I spent five days in New Hampshire and the atmosphere I experienced at a Trump rally reminded me of sub-Saharan Africa.
My short-lived experience at town halls and rallies for the 2020 Democratic Primary was unique and full of fun. I have never experienced this type of atmosphere before. But I felt a little different on February 10 when I decided to attend a Trump rally in Manchester.
I was almost persuaded not to attend. Professor Karen Turner, from Temple University, worried about my safety and said, “if you start feeling uncomfortable just get back to the hotel.” Was it because I was different? Or because I would be perceived as an outsider?
My response to Professor Turner was simple: “Don’t worry professor Turner, I’m used to worse than that.” As a reporter in the Congo, I have been beaten, jailed, insulted and threatened to death but I survived.
To my understanding the fear came from my “color” and the fact that I could be confused with the Black Lives Matter protesters. Or maybe because there are few black people attending Trump rallies and a black guy would be perceived as an “activist.” I’m not an African American, I’m from Congo, and that might have helped me.
Where I come from election means trauma. Disagreeing with an African President means going to jail or being beaten up by his supporters.
Just like in Africa where presidents are believed to be heaven sent, President Trump is treated by some of the people I met in New Hampshire as a godsent and a hero.
Paul Mulindwa, an African reporter once wrote the following about President Nkurunziza of Burundi: “he was chosen by God to rule Burundi.”
The exact same arguments were said about President Donald Trump by Rick Perry as reported by USA Today: “Trump sent by God as the ‘chosen one’.”
In Sub-Saharan Africa some presidents have remained in power for decades using their anti-colonialism background as an argument. Everything can seem worse but as long as they are the ones who freed their countries from “invaders,” they can remain in power eternally.
Paul Rula, a 78-year-old man who drove from Massachusetts to Manchester, N.H. to attend a Trump rally told me he supports president Trump because he “liked the way he is handling immigration;” he said he likes the way President Trump is “getting rid of illegal invaders.”
Rula is not the only one who praises Trump’s immigration policies of protecting American borders. Christine Walter, John Palmer and Todd Wright said they will vote for Trump not only because of jobs, but mainly because of his “immigration policy.”
When asked about the advantages of immigration, Walter and Wright could not list even one.
Robert Mugabe used anti-colonialism and the redistribution of land to gain trust from the Zimbabwean people to remain in power for three decades.
Just like most African presidents, President Trump might have been exploiting the naivete of some of his supporters, most of whom do not need to fact-check things he says.
Just like African supporters would defend their president no matter how unpopular he might become, Mary McGahey, a diehard Trump supporter in Nashua, N.H., kept telling me that “Mitt Romney voted to remove President Trump because his own son was involved with the Ukrainian oil company.”
“You are from the Congo; you need to know this. It was revealed that Mitt Romney’s son was involved with the Burisma; Nancy Pelosi’s son and that of John Kerry were also involved.”
After fact-checking her allegations with Snopes and The Washington Post, it was revealed that the information was wrong. Fact checking is the only way to avoid being victim of political manipulation.
This kind of blind support is pretty common in Africa, and the fear is that leaders use the naivete of their people to remain in power. Unlike ex-Zaire president Mobutu who nicknamed himself “sese seko” the Lingala for “eternal,” President Trump is limited by the Constitution. Would he be an African president, who knows, maybe he would remain president for life.