Updated: March 7, 2021
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At the Washington National Press Club this week, I was selected to ask Senator Elizabeth Warren a few questions during her appearance there to talk about gargantuan corruption in the United States. I asked her whether she was going to run for President in 2020. She said she was focusing on her Senate race in November this year, and was not running for President.
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Then I asked her a few more questions about President Donald Trump, the businessman turned politician. She gave some evasive answers and did not reply the last question.
We Africans in the United States have been left confused at the rhetoric and unusual behaviors of the American President. Not just because of the shithole comment he denied.
Looking from afar, we admire the United States. We admire how Americans have gone to the end of the earth and beyond and conquered the planet. We admire the rule of law, the science, the technology and the entertainment industry.
We admire the development and democracy and freedom and honesty of the American leaders and also their ability to take responsibility when they are caught pants down.
We admire the justice system, the fact that big men and women who committed crimes have their day in court and jail.
We admire the fact that Presidents are not kings and queens and emperors, but have to obey the law and respect the separation of powers. In essence, the President is not that powerful without Congress and the courts.
His decisions may not even be final and can be challenged and reversed by the courts.
We admire the American institutions that throw up strong systems and reforms rather than strong men and women.
When we are oppressed by dictators, we look up to the United States to speak up and to uphold the freedom of the press. When our leaders appoint family members to office and steal public assets, we urge them to look up and see the sun in the United States. We admire the United States.
That is from afar.
From inside the United States, we see all those things at play and begin to realize how intelligent those who framed the American constitution were. How did they know all these things almost 300 years ago? How did they know that too much power in the hands of one man or woman, no matter how intelligent they believe they are, was too dangerous to entertain?
I still wonder how they knew all these things centuries ago.
Once in the United States, we quickly understand why America is so great.
It’s not because America has one strong man or woman trying to save everyone. It’s exactly because America does not have one strong man and woman claiming to have superior knowledge and power over all others that America is great.
It’s the separation of powers, the rule of law, the acceptance of other people around the world that have made the United States this great.
It is the fact that despite racial challenges, there is a strong belief that all men and women are created equal.
However, that seemed to be the case before Donald Trump came to power.
In many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and I say many, dictators in power often brand the press as fake and useless, appoint family members to sensitive public office, refuse to disclose their assets or tax returns, surround themselves with corrupt officials, embezzle money and jail their opponents or strip them of their clearances or privileges.
These bad behaviors have gone on for decades and have led to weak institutions and strong men. The results have been impoverished, corrupt and chaotic countries.
The lack of rule of law and basic decency have made Africa to continue to lag behind and beg for virtually everything.
Right now in the United States under Donald Trump, I am afraid, I am seeing the same things that made me leave Africa for the United States.
So I asked Senator Warren whether the American people understood Trump’s threat and what can be done to prevent America from becoming a banana republic.
I was not convinced by her answers.
But, maybe, I will have an answer in November.
Simon Ateba is a renowned international journalist based in Washington DC. The opinion above is that of Simon Ateba and does not represent the opinion of Today News Africa corporation