JOHANNESBURG - African political watchers are mercilessly and humorously skewering American politics with a recent Twitter hashtag that describes this year’s highly unusual presidential election in the same language often applied to troubled African elections.
#Nov8AfricanEdition originated with Nigerian tweeters, who painted humorous but scary scenarios:
President Mugabe has expressed concern at multiple reports of election rigging & violence in the hinterlands of America. #Nov8AfricanEdition— Gidimeister (@Gidimeister) October 18, 2016
Desmond Tutu calls for a truth and reconciliation committee following US elections to calm warring parties #Nov8AfricanEdition— Elnathan John (@elnathan_john) October 18, 2016
Buhari is worried about US ethnic and racial tension leading up to the elections in country recently ravaged by measles #Nov8AfricanEdition— Elnathan John (@elnathan_john) October 18, 2016
Robert Mugabe suggests that a Clinton/Trump power sharing deal may bring peace back to d troubled North American country #Nov8AfricanEdition— Elnathan John (@elnathan_john) October 18, 2016
?South Africa-based political analyst Ryan Cummings contributed some of the several hundred tweets that blossomed under the hashtag. His postings fantasized about far-fetched consequences for the election, such as Mexico shutting its U.S. border amid post-election violence and citizens of troubled African nations like South Sudan and Burundi being evacuated from American soil.
Mexico shuts border with US as thousands flee widespread outbreaks of political violence #Nov8AfricanEdition— Ryan Cummings (@Pol_Sec_Analyst) October 18, 2016
Cummings, who runs the consultancy Signal Risk, says he finds the election bizarre.
"It’s something you wouldn’t expect in an established democracy such as that in the United States or pretty much anywhere else in the developed world," he said. "... The claims that are being that are being made, the whole demeanor of [Republcian Party candidate] Donald Trump in the run-up to the ballot – it’s something one would regularly associate with an African politician."
Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama have attracted their own share of jibes, with some seeing a parallel between Clinton and numerous African leaders who hail from elite political dynasties with deep pockets, Cummings said. He noted that Clinton's pedigree as a political insider makes this election even more African in nature.
But it is Trump who has sparked the most biting comparisons, particularly over his threat to jail his opponent if he wins:
Irony: Accusations of election rigging. Threatening to jail opponent. Xenophobia. Nope, not a developing country but US of A #AmericaDecides— Imran (@TheAfroIndian) October 19, 2016
That tactic has been used Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda and other countries after contentious elections.
Trump also has been accused of sexual assault, as has South African President Jacob Zuma. And his boasts about his sexual appetites and conquests have been compared to remarks by Yahya Jammeh, longtime authoritarian leader of the tiny West African nation of Gambia.
1. Trump doing a Zuma 👉🏾 Trump says he didn%27t touch that woman on an airplane, and anyway, "she would not be my first choice."— Nomboniso Gasa (@nombonisogasa) October 14, 2016
Donald Trump stands for family values.....unfortunately the Gambia Family values.— peter toupin (@PeterToupin) September 16, 2016
More troubling, many see a similarity to numerous African politicians in Trump statements that could be interpreted as calls to violence, or in his warnings that the November 8 poll will be rigged against him.
Tom Maliti, a journalist with the Kenya-based International Justice Monitor, says Kenyans by and large are mystified by the current American campaign.
"There is an element of laughing at the U.S." he says. But the fact that Trump is raising doubts about the legitimacy of the election process itself is no laughing matter for Africans.
"Candidate Trump may not realize this, but the American system has been imitated, adapted and taken up by a variety of African countries … most countries, that is," Maliti says. "And therefore, the U.S. has stood as the model for African countries that either have had democracy for decades or are in the process of instituting a democratic culture in their countries."
Tweeters have spanned the spectrum of African political foibles, joking about Trump rejecting the results and forming a parallel government, as happened in Ivory Coast during their 2011 election:
Trump calls press conference, says he will go to election tribunal. Threatens to form parallel government. #Nov8AfricanEdition— Gidimeister (@Gidimeister) October 18, 2016
Or Obama changing the constitution to allow himself a third term, as has happened in Burundi:
BREAKING NEWS! Obama cancels forth coming election. Declares to go for 3rd TERM! #Nov8AfricanEdition— Ade Of Nigeria (@Hammdriller) October 18, 2016
Or the U.S. imposing a social media blackout, as Ethiopia has done during its recent spate of political and ethnic protests:
But the jokes cover one grim truth: For Africans watching the U.S. election, this is all a little too close to home.