Wednesday 20 June 2018

African Union condemns Trump over 'extremely offensive' outburst

The African Union said it was
The African Union said it was "frankly alarmed" by Donald Trump's comments (AP)

Africans have criticised Donald Trump after his outburst against some of the world's poorest nations.

On Thursday, the president questioned why the US would accept more immigrants from Haiti and "shithole countries" in Africa rather than places like Norway, in rejecting a bipartisan immigration deal.

The African Union continental body said 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 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."

African governments quickly found themselves in an awkward position. As top recipients of US aid, some hesitated to jeopardise it by criticising Mr Trump, especially as his administration has sought to slash foreign assistance.

"Unless it was specifically said about South Sudan, we have nothing to say," said South Sudan government spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny.

But South Africa's ruling African National Congress called the comments "extremely offensive".

Deputy secretary general Jesse Duarte said developing countries do have difficulties but the US has millions of people out of work or without health care, and "we would not deign to make comments as derogatory".

African media outlets and the continent's young, increasingly connected population were not being shy.

"Well, that is the perfect definition of racism. That is all I have to say," Kenyan entrepreneur Wangui Muraguri said in Nairobi.

"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-practised in defending the vast and varied region from easy stereotypes.

While 40% 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.

Some quickly decided to own Mr 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," said a tweet from US chat programme The Daily Show, on behalf 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."

Mr 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 posts are vacant.

Mr Trump has expressed negative opinions about the continent in the past.

"Every penny of the 7 billion dollars going to Africa as per Obama will be stolen - corruption is rampant!" he tweeted in 2013.

"He has not only insulted Africans, he has also insulted African-Americans," said Sylvester Odion Akhaine, associate professor of international relations at 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."

AP

Press Association

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