FILE — In this May 7, 2017 file photo, South African Comedian Trevor Noah poses with the award for best host for “The Daily Show” in the press room at the MTV Movie and TV Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

Africa startled by Trump’s sudden and vulgar attention

Trump questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and “shithole countries” in Africa rather than places like Norway

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 “shithole countries” in Africa rather than places like Norway in rejecting a bipartisan immigration deal. On Friday he denied using that language.

The African Union continental body told The Associated Press it was “frankly alarmed” by 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 behaviour 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.”

Some 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.

RELATED: Trump denies he used vulgarity to describe Haiti, African countries

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

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress called Trump’s comments “extremely offensive,” while opposition leader Mmusi Maimane called them “abhorrent … 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 said he hopes African heads of state will reply at an African Union summit later this month.

African media outlets and the continent’s young, increasingly connected population were not shy, with some tweeting sleek photos of African landscapes and urban areas with the hashtag #shithole.

“Well, that is the perfect definition of racism. That is all I have to say,” Kenyan entrepreneur Wangui Muraguri told the AP in response to Trump.

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

Many on the world’s second most populous continent reached for their smartphones, long-practiced in defending the vast and varied region from easy stereotypes. While 40 per cent of the world’s poor live in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the International Monetary Fund, the region also has billionaires, reality shows and a growing middle class.

The World Bank on Friday tweeted that sub-Saharan Africa’s economic growth this year is forecast at 3.2 per cent. That was the U.S. economy’s annual rate of growth from July through September, according to Commerce Department data late last month.

Some in Africa quickly decided to own Trump’s vulgar language or throw it back in his face.

“Good morning from the greatest most beautiful ‘shithole country’ in the world!!!” South African Broadcasting Corporation anchor Leanne Manas tweeted.

“As someone from South Shithole, Trevor is deeply offended by the president’s remarks,” The Daily Show tweeted of its South African-born host, Trevor Noah.

In Kenya, East Africa’s economic hub, political activist Boniface Mwangi pleaded: “Please don’t confuse the #shithole leaders we Africans elect with our beautiful continent.”

Trump’s comments were “shocking and shameful” and “I’m sorry, but there’s no other word one can use but racist,” said a spokesman for the U.N. human rights office, Rupert Colville.

Trump’s comments highlighted months of concerns about his lack of focus on Africa, including empty ambassadorial posts in key countries like South Africa, Egypt, Congo and Somalia. A list maintained by the Washington-based American Foreign Service Association says eight such posts are vacant.

Trump has expressed negative opinions about the continent in the past. “Every penny of the $7 billion going to Africa as per Obama will be stolen – corruption is rampant!” he tweeted in 2013.

The U.S. president is only hurting himself both at home and abroad, some Africans said.

“He has not only insulted Africans, he has also insulted African-Americans,” said Sylvester Odion Akhaine, associate professor of international relations at the Lagos State University in Nigeria. “Internationally, such language will deepen the isolation of the United States, a country that is already losing its global prestige.”

An opposition lawmaker in Ghana called for a boycott by developing countries against the United States until Trump leaves office. “The sooner he is made aware that America needs the world and the world needs America the better it is for all of us,” Ras Mubarak said.

As outrage spread, the U.S. government’s own Africa Media Hub tried to put out the flames.

Without directly referring to Trump’s statement, it tweeted that “US remains committed to working together w/Africans to realize the promise of a more peaceful, more productive, more prosperous 21st century Africa. US deeply respects the people of #Africa & values its partnerships with them.”

___

Associated Press writers Elias Meseret in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Sam Mednick in Juba, South Sudan; Joe Mwihia in Nairobi, Kenya; Sam Olukoya in Lagos, Nigeria; Risdel Kasasira in Kampala, Uganda; Francis Kokutse in Accra, Ghana and Jamey Keaten in Geneva contributed.

Cara Anna, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

It’s time to say “I see you”

Chief speaks out on First Nations issues

Nak’azdli Whut’en a vital part of Fort St. James

Progressive and self sufficient, the First Nation looks to the future

Here’s what Fort St. James councillors refused to hear

Citizens express frustration and anger

Citizens ejected from Municipal Hall – Locked out

Mayor refuses to allow discussion on controversial Bylaw regarding marijuana

Mismanaged salmon farms unacceptable: Cullen

Commissioner suggests Ottawa favouring aquaculture over wild salmon management

Canadian musician duets with ancestral Indigenous voices on debut album

Toronto’s Jeremy Dutcher has mixed his operatic tenor with his Wolastoq First Nation roots

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

COLUMN: Stanley Cup playoff second-round predictions

Sidney Crosby and the Penguins continue their quest for their third straight Stanley Cup

B.C. seeks court ruling on new pipeline regulations

Province wants to require permits for any new bitumen transport

LIVE: TSB findings on plane crash that killed former Alberta Premier Jim Prentice

The TSB will announce its findings and the Capital News will follow.

Former child watchdog to head UBC centre on residential schools

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond to lead university’s Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre

Toronto sports fans come together in wake of van attack

Police probe Toronto van attack as details emerge

Prince William to be Harry’s best man

Prince William will be Prince Harry’s best man at May wedding

Humboldt arena memorial ring to be removed

Arena ring of tribute to Saskatchewan hockey team to be removed as summer nears

Most Read