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African Union Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat has formally protested to the United States about Trump’s alleged use of the word “shithole” to describe African nations.
The US president reportedly made the comment during a meeting with congressional leaders in the Oval Office on Thursday. “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump allegedly said after being presented with a proposal to restore protections for immigrants from the countries in question.
Mr Mahamat met the US ambassador to the AU, MaryBeth Leonard, to express the pan-African body’s indignation, and to stress the importance of “respect for a mutually beneficial partnership”. The AU official posted a tweet in French following the meeting.
AU spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo had earlier said “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.”
Meanwhile, South Africa’s foreign office summoned the deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in the capital, Pretoria over Trump’s derogatory remark. A statement from the South African foreign office said that it aligns itself with the statement issued by the African Union. The continent’s top body had expressed its “shock, dismay and outrage” over the comments and called on Mr Trump to apologise.
South Africa said that relations between the country and the US must be based on mutual respect. The U.S. Embassy confirmed receipt of the South African government’s request yesterday. “We agree to the importance of strong relations between South Africa and the United States that are based on mutual respect and understanding,” U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Cindy Harvey said in a statement. The governments of Namibia and Botswana have also condemned the comments.
Meanwhile, Africans in the diaspora yesterday joined their counterparts from Haiti, El Salvador and other countries in a rally to protest against Trump’s alleged racist remarks. The rally held in New Jersey, Atlanta, Houston and across other major U.S. cities.
The organisers of the event had urged all people of African descent and others to attend the rally to “reject the denigration President Trump uttered against us”. The protest tagged: ‘Rally against Trump’ at Time Square also commemorated the Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Day.
Meanwhile, Trump has denied that he is racist, after a row broke out over his alleged use of the word “shithole” to describe African nations. He has now told reporters: “I am not a racist. I’m the least racist person you have ever interviewed.”
It is the first time the president has responded directly to the racism accusations. He made the denial to White House press pool reporters at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach in Florida on Sunday night.