Donald Trump “sh*thole countries” remark draws response from Haiti and nations in Africa

 In U.S.
JOHANNESBURG — Africans woke up on Friday to find President Donald Trump had finally taken an interest in their continent. It wasn’t what people had hoped for.

Using vulgar language, Trump on Thursday questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and “sh*thole countries” in Africa rather than places like Norway in rejecting a bipartisan immigration deal.

The African Union continental body told The Associated Press it was “frankly alarmed” by Mr. Trump’s comments.

“Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice,” AU spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo said. “This is particularly surprising as the United States of America remains a global example of how migration gave birth to a nation built on strong values of diversity and opportunity.” 

African governments quickly found themselves in an awkward position. As top recipients of U.S. aid, some hesitated to jeopardize it by criticizing Trump, especially as his administration has sought to slash foreign assistance.

“Unless it was specifically said about South Sudan, we have nothing to say,” South Sudan government spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told The Associated Press.

But Botswana’s government called Trump’s comment “reprehensible and racist,” saying the U.S. ambassador had been summoned to clarify whether the country was regarded so poorly after years of cordial relations.

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress called Trump’s comments “extremely offensive,” while opposition leader Mmusi Maimane said “the hatred of Obama’s roots now extends to an entire continent.” Uganda’s state minister for international relations, Henry Okello Oryem, called the remarks “unfortunate and regrettable” and hoped that heads of state will reply at an African Union summit later this month. 

In Haiti, one of the nations disparaged by name by Mr. Trump, the response was in turn more direct. U.S. charge d’affairs Robin Diallo was summoned to explain Mr. Trump’s comments to Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. The meeting will see Haiti issue the U.S. with a formal diplomatic complaint called a demarche.

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Haitian President Jovenel Moïse addresses a press conference alongside an unseen French President Emmanuel Macron at The Elysee Palace in Paris on December 11, 2017.

Getty

President Trump’s nominee to be U.S. Ambassador to Haiti has not yet arrived at the post, making Diallo the highest ranking U.S. diplomat in the Caribbean nation.  

CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan says Diallo will listen to President Moïse’s concerns and reiterate America’s commitment to people of Haiti. Brennan notes that it is more typical for this type of conversation with a summoned ambassador to happen at the foreign ministerial level, so the fact that Diallo was summoned to meet the president may convey how serious the Haitian government takes the issue.

An administration official acknowledged the unfortunate timing given that today is the 8th anniversary of the Haitian earthquake when “Americans gave their heart, soul and money to try to help the people of Haiti.”

In Geneva, meanwhile, a United Nations representative also called Mr. Trump’s wording blatantly racist.

 “There is no other word one can use but ‘racist’… This isn’t just a story about vulgar language, it’s about opening the door to humanity’s worst side, about validating and encouraging racism and xenophobia,” United Nations human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said, according to Reuters. “You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘sh*tholes’, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”

Across the African continent, media outlets and the young, increasingly connected population were less coy than the government of South Sudan.

“Casual Friday at the White House is soon to include hoods and tiki torches at this rate,” South African media outlet Daily Maverick wrote. 

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Lagos, Nigeria resident Abdulsalam Kayode speaks to the Reuters news agency  on Jan. 12, 2018 about President Trump’s labelling of some African nations as “sh*thole countries” during a discussion the previous day with members of the U.S. Congress.

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