Haitians, Africans outraged by Trump’s ‘shithole’ slur
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US President Donald Trump’s reported description of Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “shithole countries” has sparked a backlash worldwide, with the Haitian government saying it is “deeply shocked and outraged”.
The US president was reported to have used the crude language on Thursday while questioning why his country would accept more immigrants from "shithole countries” rather than places like Norway.
The Washington Post, the New York Times, Politico and the Wall Street Journal all reported the comments on Thursday, quoting witnesses or people briefed on the meeting.
"Why do we need more Haitians?" the Washington Post quoted Trump as saying, citing people briefed on the meeting. "Take them out," the US president reportedly added.
In a tweet Friday, Trump denied making the "take them out" remark. But a US senator present at the meeting said the president repeatedly called the countries "shitholes".
Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said “take them out.” Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings - unfortunately, no trust!Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018
In a strongly-worded statement, the Haitian government said it was “deeply shocked and outraged” by the vulgar remark, calling it “racist”.
"These insulting and reprehensible statements in no way reflect the virtues of wisdom, restraint and discernment that must be cultivated by any high political authority," the statement read.
The Haitian ambassador to France, Vanessa Lamothe, told FRANCE 24 the US president’s purported comments were “shocking” and “hurtful”.
The country’s ambassador to Washington told local radio that his government had complained to the US Embassy in Haiti.
‘Hatred of Obama’s roots’
In Africa, a continent Trump has scarcely shown an interest in, officials from several countries expressed dismay at the president’s purported comments, while ordinary citizens took to social media to vent their anger.
"Comparing [migrants'] desirability in such vulgar, disparaging and, indeed, racist language is not only dangerous but frankly unthinkable for the leader of a land basically built on migration," Ebba Kalondo, spokeswoman for the African Union, told FRANCE 24.
Some African governments found themselves in an awkward position. As top recipients of US aid, some hesitated to jeopardise it by criticising 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 AP.
But Botswana's government called Trump's comment "reprehensible and racist," saying the US ambassador had been summoned to clarify whether the country was regarded as a "shithole" after years of cordial relations.
South Africa's ruling African National Congress called Trump's comments "extremely offensive," while opposition leader Mmusi Maimane said: "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 hoped that 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.
News just in: The US ambassador to #Botswana, Earl Miller is summoned to the presidential office following Donald Trump’s comments on immigrants from African countries. They want him to clarify whether Botswana is regarded as a “#shithole.” Via @MadisaFilsSanam Shantyaei (@SanamF24) January 12, 2018
Others said they thought Trump had a point, in a way.
"Trump is absolutely right. Africa is a continent of shit," said Mamady Traore, a 30-year-old sociologist in Guinea. "When you have heads of state who mess with the constitutions to perpetuate their power. When you have rebel factions that kill children, disembowel women as saints, who mutilate innocent civilians. Frankly, it must be said that it's crap."
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.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)