Africa calls Trump racist after 'shithole' remark


JOHANNESBURG/LUSAKA, Jan 12 (Reuters) - African politicians and diplomats labeled U.S. President Donald Trump a racist on Friday after he was reported to have described some immigrants from Africa and Haiti as coming from "shithole" countries.

Sources told Reuters on Thursday that Trump had questioned why the United States would want immigrants from "shithole countries" like Haiti and some African countries during a briefing on draft immigration legislation.

SEE ALSO: Trump denies offensive 'shithole' language, slams Senate immigration compromise

 

Trump denied on Friday using such derogatory language, but he had already been widely condemned in many African countries and by international rights organizations.

"Ours is not a shithole country and neither is Haiti or any other country in distress," Jessie Duarte, the deputy secretary general of South Africa's ruling African National Congress told reporters at a news conference in East London.

"We would not deign to make comments as derogatory as that about any country that has any kind of socio-economic or other difficulties," Duarte said, adding that much like their African counterparts, millions of U.S. citizens were affected by problems such as unemployment.

Botswana's foreign ministry summoned the U.S. ambassador in protest and called the comments "highly irresponsible, reprehensible and racist."

It said in a statement that it had asked the U.S. government, through its ambassador, to "clarify" if the derogatory remark also applied to Botswana given that there were Botswana nationals living in the United States and others who wished to go there.

The African Union (AU), an organization which promotes cooperation on the continent, said it was alarmed by Trump's "very racist" comments.

"Given the historical reality of how African Americans arrived in the United States as slaves, and the United States being the biggest example of how a nation has been built by migration - for a statement like that to come is particularly upsetting," AU spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo said.

Trump reportedly also suggested that America should instead welcome people from countries such as Norway, an invitation a number of Norwegians rejected on Friday.

The Nordic country, one of the richest in the world by GDP per capita, was last year named the happiest nation on the planet by a U.N. body, and is known for a cradle-to-grave welfare state.

"On behalf of Norway: Thanks, but no thanks," tweeted Torbjoern Saetre, a politician representing Norway's Conservative Party in a municipality near Oslo.

Others condemned the U.S. president's comments as inappropriate or racist.

"We are not coming. Cheers from Norway," one woman wrote. 

AMERICA FIRST

Since taking office a year ago, Trump has pursued controversial policies aimed at curbing immigration into the United States as part of a hard-line "America First" agenda.

Trump said on Twitter on Friday that he merely used "tough" language when discussing a new immigration bill with a group of U.S. senators.

He said the bill was a step backwards because it would force the United States "to take large numbers of people from high crime countries which are doing badly."

More on the meeting Trump held with key senators:

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Trump holds bipartisan meeting on immigration reform
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Trump holds bipartisan meeting on immigration reform
U.S. President Donald Trump holds a bipartisan meeting with legislators on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump holds a bipartisan meeting with legislators on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), flanked by Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), rubs his eyes and listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a bipartisan meeting with legislators on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump holds a bipartisan meeting with legislators on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
US Senator Dianne Feinstein (C), D-California, speaks to US President Donald Trump during a meeting with bipartisan members of the Senate on immigration at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 9, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by U.S. Representative Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), holds a bipartisan meeting with legislators on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump holds a bipartisan meeting with legislators on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Representative Martha McSally (R-AZ), flanked by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump holds a bipartisan meeting with legislators on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks as President Donald Trump holds a bipartisan meeting with legislators on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD), holds a bipartisan meeting with legislators on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump holds a bipartisan meeting with legislators on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 09: Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) speaks during a meeting about immigration with U.S. President Donald Trump and Republican and Democrat members of Congress in the Cabinet Room at the White House January 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. In addition to seeking bipartisan solutions to immigration reform, Trump advocated for the reintroduction of earmarks as a way to break the legislative stalemate in Congress. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump, center, listens while U.S. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland, right, speaks during a meeting with bipartisan members of Congress on immigration in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. Trump�indicated he's willing to split contentious immigration proposals into two stages, providing protections for young immigrants known as dreamers and increasing border security first, leaving tougher negotiations on comprehensive legislation for later. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 09: White House Chief of Staff John Kelly listens as President Donald Trump conducts a meeting on immigration in the Cabinet Room at the White House January 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. In addition to seeking bipartisan solutions to immigration reform, Trump advocated for the reintroduction of earmarks as a way to break the legislative stalemate in Congress. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 09: Republican and Democrat members of Congress, including Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and others join President Donald Trump for a meeting on immigration in the Cabinet Room at the White House January 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. In addition to seeking bipartisan solutions to immigration reform, Trump advocated for the reintroduction of earmarks as a way to break the legislative stalemate in Congress. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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The Trump administration has spoken little about how it wants to engage with African countries, focusing its foreign policy instead on issues like North Korea and Islamic State.

In November it ended Temporary Protected Status for immigrants from Haiti and Nicaragua, giving 59,000 Haitian immigrants until July 2019 to return home or legalize their presence in the United States.

On the streets of Lusaka, capital of the southern African country of Zambia, Trump's reported remark reinforced long-held views about the U.S. leader.

"Trump has always been a racist, only a racist can use such foul language," said Nancy Mulenga, a student at the University of Zambia.

Retired Ethiopian long distance runner Haile Gebrselasse, who won his first 10,000 Olympic gold medal in the U.S. city of Atlanta in 1996, told Reuters Trump's comments did not reflect the views of all Americans.

Others used humor to ridicule the offensive comments.

"As someone from South Shithole, Trevor is deeply offended by the president's remarks," U.S. television program The Daily Show wrote on Twitter, referring to its South Africa-born host Trevor Noah. 

 

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