President Donald Trump’s latest visit to Paris, France exactly one week ago was, to all appearances, in disarray and, a drawback to humanity’s wishful thoughts for consolidating World War 1 memories, in concert, without any reference to, or demarcations of race, religion nor, sexual orientation.
On Sunday, November 11, he controversially failed to visit the Aisne Marne American Cemetery located in the Belleau Wood World War 1 zone, in Belleau, France, approximately 90 kilometers (55 miles) northeast of Paris, reportedly due to bad weather.
World War 1 records show that it was there that U.S. troops, who dramatically joined the Allied side of the War in 1917, fought in battles that successfully blocked the German conspiracy, and, attacks on Paris.
In reality, however, reasons of safety and Presidential security or other undisclosed factors, may have been at play, for the cancellation of the diplomatic foray.
In the process, however, President Donald Trump lost a golden opportunity to endear himself, personally and politically, to citizens across the Globe, including Bungule in Kasigau, Taita Taveta County in the former Coast Province of Kenya, where residents are still smarting from the horror, physical trauma and, bad memories, a whole century after World War1 ended with the signing of the Armistice with defeated Germany on 11 November 1918.
Not that it matters, anyway, to a man whose singular political motivation and Presidential ambitions were, evidently, premised on overturning every single good deed, program, achievement or, legacy, of President Barrack Obama-an African-American whose father, Obama Senior, was of Kenyan origin.
Domestically, President Trump now blames former President Barrack Obama for starving, running down and, neglecting American Military needs during the latter’s 8-year tenure.
Unlike his predecessor Barack Obama who visited South Korea on at least three occasions between 2009 and 2014 and, Afghanistan twice in May, 2012 and May 2014, respectively, among other troop visits, Trump is, however, yet to visit any American troops in combat zones, almost two years since his inauguration on January 20, 2017
Although the mighty, American Military, whose entry in World War 1 in 1917 was seen as the game-changer, leading to the Allied victories the following year, droves of historians and, American civil rights crusaders, however, have progressively laid bare the hitherto hidden shame and bitter truth of discrimination and apartheid-like practices of American white Commanders against their African-American soldiers and War veterans, who not only gallantly fought alongside their French allies, but were, more often than not, better treated by, their French comrades.
In fact, it was not until the end of World War II in the mid-1940s, that an American War Department directive outlawed segregation in their national cemeteries where African-American veterans were interred, sometimes, in unmarked graves.
It goes without saying, that, in Trumpian America, the African-Americans have not only fared far worse than before, but, that, the “Black Lives Matter” Movement has become more prominent, under his watch.
Where does Alice Wali Kalaghe, a long-suffering, ethnic Taita and, a devout member of the local Ebenezer Gospel Church, feature in all this?
Exactly a week before Trump stood to commemorate World War 1 victories over Germany a century ago and to deliver his 10-minute speech, instead, at Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial in Paris on Sunday, 11 November where about 1,500 American soldiers were buried, the residents of Bungule, Kasigau situated in the South East of Kenya, a former British Colony which was lashed by the whirl-wind force of the scourge, were, heroically, laying to rest their last World War 1 civilian survivor, Mama Alice Wali wife of Kalaghe Mkoba. As they did so, questions still lingered in their minds and souls, over the sins for which their community had to be collectively punished.
Notably, Mama Alice Wali’s euology, delivered eloquently in English and Kiswahili languages by her grandson who, curiously, is named “Washington”, lamented that,
“She was a small girl….when the entire Kasigau community, including Rukanga where she was born, was unfairly targeted for punishment by the British Colonial authorities and subsequently banished to a painful and slavish life in a Concentration Camp in Pangani and Magharini in Malindi between 1915 and 1917 allegedly because of betraying the British Military Forces to the Germans then occupying Tanganyika, during the First World War.
Notably, long before Mama Alice Wali rendered her soul in the early hours of Sunday, 28 October-the same month Melania Trump came calling in Nairobi, Kenya to ramp up her support for health and education, and, as close relatives and friends anxiously prayed, with baited breath by her death-bed, no local County Government officials were at hand, however, to offer solace.
In letters addressed to both the British High Commissioner and, to the Taita Taveta County Government prior to her death, her Lawyers stated,
“The family of Mama Alice Wali Kalaghe, led by her son Cosmas Mdari-a retired Administration Police Officer holding Force Number 68009440…has directed us to convey their compliments to you, as we hereby do, and to draw your attention, very respectfully, to the plight of Mama Alice Wali Kalaghe now aged 111 years, who is in her twilight and, in dire need of medical attention and other social comforts”
In conclusion, they had stated their instructions as “… not only to draw your urgent attention to Mama Alice Wali Kalaghe’s medical and social plight, needy of material assistance but, also, to request you to use your Good Office to create public awareness of the general needs of the victims of the British Colonial and World War 1 atrocities visited on them without justifiable excuse, deserving of compensation, just like the victims of Mau Mau atrocities”
Unfortunately, the letters, written in early September 2015, elicited no official response.
Meanwhile, in a separate but, related circumstance, by the time of Alice Kalaghe’s demise slightly over a fortnight ago, the local Member of County Assembly (MCA) Honorable Abraham Juma, had fallen out politically with his electors over their ardent support for the philanthropic activities of Dr. Steve Isaacs, an American from Berkeley, California who has been striving to uplift the living standards of the backward residents of Kasigau in general for the past fourteen years.
Hon Juma, who hails from the same village as Mama Alice Kalaghe, did not, sadly, attend her burial.
In July of this year, the residents of Kasigau, drawn from its five satellite villages of Bughuta, Rukanga, Jora, Bungule, Kiteghe and Makwasinyi held demonstrations against Hon Abraham Juma’s perceived hostility towards Dr. Steve Isaacs and the latter’s philanthropic hand-maid, the Abec Club which, incidentally, was started by three girl-students of Miramonte High School, California.
Although Dr. Steve Isaacs was feted by the local community when he made a jubilant entry into Kasigau, Bungule, in the last week of August, Hon Abraham Juma kept away completely from public view, and, from the American investor, except for a brief face-off at Voi Police Station on August 28, where Hon Abraham Juma had allegedly reported unsubstantiated threats of breach to the peace and, to his own life.
In fairness to President Trump, however, the local County Government itself, which has been at the forefront in promoting battlefield tourism based on the centenary celebrations, appears to have neglected its elderly citizenry during their lifetime, including Alice Kalaghe, in clear violation of the old adage “Charity begins at Home”.
If President Trump failed to visit the Aisne Marne American Cemetery in France, an Ally and a crucial member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, which Trump often chides for their respective paltry national budgetary contributions to their own block security, he has, at least, kept his electoral campaign pledges, save for, the phantom construction of the Mexican Border Wall, which may not, soon, see the light of day.
Tellingly, and, more significantly, however, in a table of American Presidential visits to Africa, only six out of forty four past presidents are shown to have visited. Out of these, only retired President Barrack Obama made a first of sorts, when he made a veritable sojourn to Kenya- where his father was born, between July 24-26, 2015,i.e, towards the end of his second term.
Obama avoided Kenya, however, in his flight plans during his previous visits to Senegal and neighboring Tanzania in early July 2013. Earlier, between March 1998 and February 2008, both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush respectively, visited Tanzania. They did not, however, set foot in Kenya. Retired President George H.W. Bush, who is the father of George W. Bush, visited neighboring Somalia in 1992 and, Uganda and Rwanda, respectively, between March 23-25, 1998.
As for President Donald Trump, whose wife Melania Trump made a solo 2-day trip to Kenya on October 5 after visiting Malawi and Ghana, foreign notions of “Concert of Europe”, “Allied Command”, “NATO”, or “Africa” are, increasingly, fading off in the distant, historical and geopolitical horizon, and are best left to ‘friend-foes’ France and Germany to handle, as he continually crafts his own in-ward looking American dream, devoid of any external baggage.
Could Melania Trump’s recent Africa visits, including Egypt-a predominantly Muslim country, serve as a test balloon for the likelihood of President Trump reviewing himself , in future, on his highly controverted listing of Pariah or, so-called ‘s***hole Countries’ in which Kenya , implicitly, featured?
The reasons for Trump not observing Alice Wali Kalaghe Mkoba’s passage, thousands of miles away in President Barrack Obama’s ancestral African, nay, Kenyan, home are, therefore, myriad.
Under such cloudy, domestic, political and, diplomatic weather, it is too bad, that President Trump will never, regrettably, meet Alice Kalaghe, who is dead and buried, nor even, most probably, remember her, in her death.
Voi City, Sunday, November 18, 2018
Duncan Mwanyumba is a practicing Advocate of the High Court of Kenya currently based in Voi City, former Coast Province of Kenya, a former Defense Attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda,( ICTR), a cultural enthusiast and, serving President of the Rotary Club of Voi