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Tuesday 21 August 2018

Donald Trump praises African leader after White House outburst

The US president met Paul Kagame at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

Donald Trump meets Paul Kagame in Davos (AP/Evan Vucci)
Donald Trump meets Paul Kagame in Davos (AP/Evan Vucci)

By Catherine Lucey

President Donald Trump has sought to mend relations with a key African leader after his controversial comments about African nations.

He praised the US partnership with Rwanda during a meeting with its president at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

Mr Trump’s meeting with Rwandan President Paul Kagame came after the US leader drew widespread condemnation for allegedly referring to African nations as “shithole countries” in dismissing a US immigration proposal, according to those at the meeting.

Mr Trump has denied using that language, but others present insist he did.

He hailed “tremendous discussions” with Mr Kagame, who is beginning a one-year term as head of the African Union.

The 55-member continental body criticised the US president’s remarks earlier this month.

Neither Mr Trump nor Mr Kagame mentioned the row during brief comments to reporters.

“It really, truly is a great honour,” Mr Trump told Mr Kagame, noting his role with the African Union.

“So please give my regards, I know you’re going to your first meeting very shortly. Please give my warmest regards. But it’s an honour to have you as a friend.”

Mr Kagame said they had “good discussions” on economic and trade issues, and that the African Union is “looking forward to working with the United States”.

Mr Trump’s national security adviser HR McMaster had said the two would discuss security and economic issues.

The AU and several African nations expressed shock and condemnation over Mr Trump’s remark, with an African Union spokeswoman saying the organisation was “frankly alarmed”.

Dozens of former US ambassadors to African countries wrote to Mr Trump expressing “deep concern” over his comments.

The State Department hurried to reassure African nations, with the department’s Bureau of African Affairs tweeting that “the United States will continue to robustly, enthusiastically and forcefully engage” with them.

Heads of state are expected to come up with another response to Mr Trump at an African Union summit that starts on Sunday in Ethiopia.

The US will be represented at the summit by ambassador Mary Beth Leonard, US envoy to the AU, instead of the traditional high-level delegation.

Mr Kagame has led his east African nation of 12 million people since the end of its genocide in 1994 in which more than 800,000 people died.

He has been praised for the country’s economic growth, but human rights groups accuse his government of using state powers to silence opponents.

Rwandan authorities deny the charges.

Press Association

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