US President Donald Trump signed one executive order on his first day at the White House, defying expectations he would sign many such orders on Day One, but many in Kenya and around the world will be waiting with bated breath to see what he does next.
His first executive order targeted the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare”, paving the way for various modifications of the healthcare programme he vehemently opposed during his campaign.
There are many more issues his first run of executive orders will cover, including climate policy, immigration and energy.
The immigration subject may prove to be a nightmare to many Kenyans living in the US.
Besides fears that some Kenyans residing in America will be deported in droves, there is uncertainty among those who moved to the world’s superpower and joined the army.
Tellingly, Mr Trump’s nominee for the Attorney-General position, Mr Jeff Sessions, has previously said that undocumented immigrants should not be allowed to serve in the US armed forces.
Mr Sessions, a Republican senator from Alabama, provided Kenya as an example in a radio interview in 2014 while trying to explain the risk of immigrants in the army becoming spies.
“I just think in terms of who’s going to be most likely to be a spy: somebody from Cullman, Alabama, or somebody from Kenya?” he asked.
Mr Sessions, who has been grilled on accusations of prejudice and racism by the US Senate in the process of confirming him as the AG, also cited the case of a Kenyan in the US Navy, Mr Edwin Kigathi Gitau, who was arrested in Alabama in 2014 on charges of attempting to extort $50,000 (Sh5,195,000) from a local bank president.
“How did he get in the Navy?” he asked. Mr Gitau was acquitted in 2015.
The Nation on Saturday spoke with a 30-year-old Kenyan serving in the US military who said there was considerable speculation about their future.
“We are hearing many things, but we are yet to know what will happen for sure,” he said.
On Friday, Kenya’s Deputy Chief of Mission to Washington David Gacheru said he was adopting a wait-and-see attitude on what the Trump administration will mean to US-Kenya ties.
“Time will tell,” he said on the question of whether President Trump will take a confrontational or conciliatory approach on the international stage. “We should wait for at least the first 100 days to see what happens.”
Kenya-US relations are sure to be “different” under President Trump than under Barack Obama who is part-Kenyan, Mr Gacheru observed.
“But we hope he [Mr Trump] will get the opportunity to share in our values and that we will be able to communicate to him the accomplishments of our country.”
The US and Kenya “have mutual interests that are not going to change,” said Mr Gacheru. “This is the basis for us to continue working together.”
Perhaps the clearest indication that the US government’s attitude to Kenya and Africa will change is a set of questions that Mr Trump’s transition team recently sent to the US State Department questioning a number of decisions that the US has previously made in its relations with the continent.
The questionnaire raised doubts about the way African countries have been spending American aid, with one question asking: “With so much corruption in Africa, how much of our funding is stolen?”
The transition panel also questioned whether the US was keen on doing business with Africa the same way China is, equally wondering whether the federal government was gaining its fair share from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) that gives qualifying African states easy access to US markets.
Should Mr Trump’s administration decide to change its attitude on aid to and business with Africa, Kenya will be the biggest casualty in sub-Saharan Africa.
FUND HEALTH PROJECTS
Data posted at foreignassistance.gov, the website that details the amounts the US President budgets to give to various countries as aid through registered agencies, shows that at $627,367,000 (Sh65.2 billion), Kenya is poised to receive the highest level of assistance from the US in sub-Saharan Africa in 2017.
The sectors to be funded, according to the site, include democracy, human rights and governance; elections in 2017; health including quality and accessibility, infectious diseases, child and maternal health, and water and sanitation.
Eighty-seven per cent of the 2017 aid is to be mostly channelled to the United States Agency for International Development (USAid) to fund health projects.
The total 2017 allocation to Kenya is slightly less than the Sh65.5 billion that Washington allocated in 2016. Of the Sh65.5 billion, the amount that the US actually spent was Sh21.2 billion.
As per the 2017 projections, the second highest recipient in sub-Saharan Africa is Nigeria with Sh63 billion. But Egypt, a key recipient of US financial aid, will receive the highest amount in the whole of Africa at $1,456,800,000 (Sh151 billion).
In 2016, Kenya was the 6th highest recipient of US aid worldwide, coming after Israel, Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan in that order.
Experts told the Sunday Nation that the questions from Mr Trump’s transition team should not surprise anyone who suspected that there would be tough times ahead for Kenya during his tenure.
“All the way, Donald Trump has been very clear what he stands for, and Africa has never been a priority for him. The only way to deal with Trump for Africans is also to know what the position is,” said Macharia Munene, a Professor of History and International Relations at the United States International University.
“What is going to be affected are soft things like USAid, which is what people complain about that it’s a giveaway, or maybe the money for Aids which was created by Bush. And he [Mr Trump] doesn’t like the Bushes because they didn’t like him anyway,” Prof Munene added.
Mr Zaddock Syong’oh, a former policy adviser in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, took a similar view.
“He obviously has pronounced himself in terms of his diplomatic and foreign policy stances. And what I read from it is a policy which is inward-looking. It’s introverted; basically looking at American interest in terms of diplomatic policy, in terms of security and in terms of economics,” he said.
Mr Syong’oh added: “We’ll not sit back. We’ll actively engage American embassies to contribute to our views to the new administration.”
Focus will now be on the more than 200 executive orders that Mr Trump’s advisers had vetted by the time he was sworn into office and how Mr Trump will handle them.