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Why it is wrong to draw parallels between Trump and Mugabe

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24.11.2020

On November 6, after a speech by Donald Trump in which he baselessly claimed the 2020 US presidential election was fraudulent, ABC journalist Leigh Sales criticised what she saw as an outgoing president’s attempt to undermine the democratic process by tweeting “Robert Mugabe keeps coming to mind”.

And Sales was not the only one who compared Trump’s actions in the aftermath of the election to those of Zimbabwe’s former president. Samantha Power, Pulitzer-Prize winning author and former US ambassador to the UN, for example, also claimed on the same day that Trump was “going full-on Robert Mugabe”.

Many others made similar comparisons between Trump and African leaders on social media in the following days, expressing their surprise that election results can be contested in such a way in the United States, and implying that the president’s insistent refusal to concede to his rival is a move more fitting to democracies in Africa.

This is problematic for multiple reasons. First of all, it is an argument built on the false assumption that American democracy is not vulnerable to authoritarian interventions and power grabs like “lesser” democracies elsewhere in the world, and especially in Africa. It is an argument born out of America’s belief in its own moral superiority and its political class’s inherent racial biases.

On the surface, these may seem like harmless comparisons between political leaders with similar dictatorial tendencies. But why do so many choose to draw parallels between Donald Trump and African leaders when the recent history of the West itself is full of political leaders who have been as autocratic, as power hungry, and as willing to undermine democratic procedures as their African counterparts? Was it not Western colonialism that paved the way for........

© Al Jazeera


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