These acts may not tie the hands of Biden, as he seems determined to reverse Trumpian policies and acts. In his first day in office, he signed 15 Executive Orders and two agency actions as the first steps of returning America to pre-Trump normalcy. On the domestic front, these include requiring that people wear masks and maintain social distancing on federal property.
President Joe Biden’s arrival at the White House two days ago was like light breaking at the dawn of an enforced darkness. It dispelled the gloom that had enveloped the United States. It signalled for many that with their country waking up from the Donald Trump nightmare, they and their children may have a better future.
The exit of Trump also ended weeks of fear that he might declare a war abroad. There was also some apprehension that Trump was so unstable that he might order a nuclear attack. There had been so much fear about this that speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, who believed Trump was unhinged, revealed on January 8 that: “I spoke to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, to discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike.”
However, Trump is a fighter who, apart from trying to ignite a revolt in the country starting with the storming of the Capitol, also planted fresh mines abroad for the Biden administration. A civil war had broken out in Yemen five years ago in which over 120,000 people were killed in combat-related circumstances and some 85,000 died as a result of war-induced famine. That war pitted the Houthis in Yemen against an international interventionist force led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The United Nations has been desperately promoting a political solution to this. But on January 10, the Trump administration designated the Houthi movement as a foreign terrorist organisation, effective from the eve of Biden’s inauguration. This means that for America, the Houthi government is a mere terrorist contraption which no organisation can work or negotiate with, without risking American sanctions. This puts the whole Yemeni peace process in jeopardy. More importantly, the various organisations that provide food for starving Yemenis can be charged by America with committing criminal acts.
Then the Trump team crossed to Latin America where it tried to reverse the gains of the Obama administration in normalising ties with Cuba by re-enlisting that country as a state sponsor of terrorism. This means America can further impose strict unilateral sanctions on Cuba. The three other countries in this category are North Korea, Syria and Iran.
Ironically, while Cuba has never carried out any act of terrorism against America, the U.S. and its agents have, for 60 years now, carried out many acts of terrorism in Cuba, including hijacking and blowing up a passenger airline in the attempt to kill the late Cuban President Fidel Castro and invading the country.
Turning to China, the departing Trump government shot two missiles. First, it reopened contacts between American officials and Taiwan as a separate territory, which China does not accept. Then on the eve of its departure, it found China guilty of genocide against the Uyghurs.
Other acts on the foreign scene by the departing administration included fast-tracking controversial arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE and more sanctions against Iran. It also tried to plant mines in Africa by deciding that the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, also known as Western Sahara, is no longer a country, as recognised since 1982 by African countries under the African Union. Trump simply awarded the country to monarchical Morocco in exchange for that country’s recognition of Israel.
Turning to China, the departing Trump government shot two missiles. First, it reopened contacts between American officials and Taiwan as a separate territory, which China does not accept. Then on the eve of its departure, it found China guilty of genocide against the Uyghurs. It declared in a statement that, “genocide is going on, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state”.
These acts may not tie the hands of Biden, as he seems determined to reverse Trumpian policies and acts. In his first day in office, he signed 15 Executive Orders and two agency actions as the first steps of returning America to pre-Trump normalcy. On the domestic front, these include requiring that people wear masks and maintain social distancing on federal property. The latter reverses the Trump ‘No-Mask-Policy’. A second Order aims at “embedding equity across federal policymaking and rooting out systemic racism and other barriers to opportunity from federal programmes and institutions.” Another reverses an order that excluded undocumented immigrants from the census. The new Order requires non-citizens to be included in the census and the apportionment of congressional representatives.
Another Biden Order provides for the fortification of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme, thereby defeating Trump’s efforts to undo protections for undocumented people who were brought into the country as children. One of Trump’s first infamous acts in office was to proclaim a “Muslim ban”, restricting entry into America from seven majority-Muslim countries. Biden has not only reversed this, but also asked American officials to develop ways to address the harm caused to those who were prevented from coming to the United States because of the ban.
The day Biden was sworn into office, the president of the European Union Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said the organisation looked forward to having a friend in the White House; implying that with Trump, the EU had an adversary in power.
On the international plane, Biden has ordered a pause to the construction of the border wall with Mexico and the redirection of the billions of dollars meant for the construction to meaningful projects. Trump as a presidential candidate had on June 16, 2015 described some Mexican immigrants as criminals, drug dealers and rapists and vowed to build a wall on the borders, which he said Mexico will have to pick the bills. Specifically on Africans, a Biden Order extends a designation allowing Liberians who have been in the United States for a long time to remain. This would block the deportation of Liberians who have been living in the United States.
Also, to redress the Trumpian damage on the international scene, Biden’s Executive Orders include the reversal of th former president’s decision to remove the U.S. from the World Health Organisation, and allow the country re-join the Paris Agreement on Climate Change within 30 days. These steps ape aimed at turning America away from the ‘America First’ unilateralism and returning it to the path of multilateralism. As the Executive Orders rolled announcing the post-Trumpian dawn, Biden told the media: “There’s no time to start like today.”
The day Biden was sworn into office, the president of the European Union Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said the organisation looked forward to having a friend in the White House; implying that with Trump, the EU had an adversary in power. In the euphoria on Trump’s departure, she made a pointed observation: “In a few hours Trump will be history, but his supporters are there.” With that, she reminded the rest of the world that over 70 million Americans voted for Trump. So Trump might have departed the White House but his spirit looms large on the American political stage.
Lots of efforts by leading Democrats and Republicans to bury the Trump legacy will follow, ensuring that neither he nor his supporters rise in future to retake the White House.
Owei Lakemfa, a former secretary general of African workers, is a human rights activist, journalist and author.