Donald Trump's Politics Are Reminiscent Of African Dictators And Tyrants

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe inspects the guard of honour during a ceremony in Harare, Monday Aug. 10, 2015, honouring
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe inspects the guard of honour during a ceremony in Harare, Monday Aug. 10, 2015, honouring thousands of fighters who died in a 1970s Bush war against colonialism. Mugabe, in his first public comments about the popular lion named Cecil, says his compatriots failed in their responsibility to protect the lion that was killed by an American in an allegedly illegal hunt. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

"You're fired!"

As a big fan of The Apprentice television series, it's impossible to forget those words. It was my first real introduction to The Donald.

At first, it was difficult for me to like Donald Trump; I saw him as a mean and arrogant showoff. But it's been nearly a decade now, and I've come to respect and admire the man for his tough love, assertiveness, tenacity, and remarkable achievements as an entrepreneur. Never mind the 'political season' seems to be blurring all that.

I have keenly followed his speeches, interviews, faux pas and controversies as he, beyond my wildest expectations, bulldozed his way through 17 other Republican presidential hopefuls to clinch the party's nomination for the November elections.

As an African who's lived on the continent his whole life, I can't help but notice some striking similarities between Mr. Trump and the kind of leaders we're used to over here.

You see, compared to the U.S., Africa is still quite new to the whole democracy thing. You folks have over 200 years of practice under your belt. Over here, memories of strongmen, dictators and tyrants are still fresh on our minds. We know how they talk, think and act.

Permit me, if you may, to give you some perspective.

As you read these words, there's a revolution in the works in Zimbabwe, driven by the #ThisFlag movement. Robert Mugabe, one of Africa's last surviving vestiges of the "classic dictatorship era" rose to power on overwhelming popular support in the 1980s. He is notorious for his fiery speeches and vitriolic attacks on the United States, Britain and Europe. He blames them for everything; from workers' protests due to unpaid wages to food shortages and the precipitous crash of the Zimbabwean economy.

By passing the blame to a foreign enemy, Mr. Mugabe has successfully attracted and maintained a massive cult-like following that has kept him in power for more than three decades. Make no mistake, he is a very charismatic, vocal, formidable and divisive "leader." With his characteristic thumped fist, his followers roar and cheer him on at rallies, which are heavily attended by admirers, supporters and sycophants.

And then there was the enigmatic Idi Amin of Uganda, who deported thousands of foreigners from the country, blaming them for its economic misfortunes.

I could go on forever. Africa's history is replete with daring, charismatic and very popular strongmen, whose views and positions on "controversial" issues struck a chord with the common people -- at least, in the beginning.

However, there's a common thread and a very disturbing strategy to the methods of nearly all of Africa's strongmen.

It's called "divide and rule."

You see, by taking a strong, high-handed and often extreme stand on burning national issues of the time, these men polarize their countrymen and create a cult of hardcore and fiercely loyal followers, some of who are often willing to die for "the cause."

In the face of a brazen global terror threat from ISIS and successful lone-wolf and coordinated terrorist attacks on US allies, there is ample reason for Americans to nurse some fear about the future. It's therefore not surprising to see millions of Americans support Mr. Trump's plan to take a strong and decisive stand against the "enemy", both foreign and domestic.

Extreme and highly divisive proposals -- like placing a blanket ban on all Muslims entering the U.S., surveillance against mosques, establishing a database specifically for tracking and monitoring all Muslims living in the U.S., and branding Mexican and Latin American immigrants as drug dealers and rapists -- while shocking from an American standpoint, feeds on popular fear and resonates with a large section of the American population who think Mr. Trump's plan sounds like a very practical and credible solution.

According to The Donald, "America is led by 'stupid' people". So, Mr. Trump's rallying cry is to "Make America Great Again". And to make this happen, the country needs a vocal, tenacious, decisive and independent-minded leader who will "carpet bomb" ISIS out of existence, flush out 'radical Islam' on U.S soil, face-off with China and twist its arm into renegotiating landmark trade deals, and build a 2,000-mile wall on the southern U.S. border (paid for by Mexico) that'll stem the tide of drug dealers, "rapists" and illegal migrants entering the country.

Mr. Trump's propositions are daring, shocking and extreme. Nevertheless, they have proven to be very appealing to millions of Americans. You just have to give it to the man.

But this is an election that will force America to look itself in the mirror.

Over here in Africa, we get the sense that the values of democracy and a free society are distilled in the hearts and minds of all Americans. We admire your respect for individual rights, regardless of a person's race or religion. We love the idea of a classless and non-discriminatory society where anyone can aspire to, and achieve, the American dream.

Sadly, Donald Trump's intentions, and the massive support from the American people who have brought him this far, are starting to blur my views.

However, in my experience, African leaders are notorious for falling short on the promises they made while they were running for office. It is my earnest hope that Mr. Trump will follow this lead.

While I see several distinct traits of an African strongman in him, I hope all of his divisive rhetoric is just a ploy, by a very astute entrepreneur, to win an election.

I hope he doesn't make decisions that will discriminate against and alienate any section of American society.

I hope he will not by his promises, and subsequent actions, trigger a global pandemic of ill will and disdain for the U.S.

I hope under his watch, America does not become a mean big brother.

Don't dash my hopes and faith in you, Mr. Trump.

Else, come this November, I hope...

You're fired!