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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
Or Obama changing the constitution to allow himself a third term, as has happened in Burundi:
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.