'Racist' Trump's 'shithole' comment hits the fan, Africa demands answers

Johannesburg - The US state department is trying to calm things down after President Donald Trump's vulgar remark about immigrants from African countries.

Trump on Thursday reportedly questioned why the US would accept more immigrants from Haiti and "shithole countries" in Africa.

A new tweet from the department's Bureau of African Affairs said that "the United States will continue to robustly, enthusiastically and forcefully engage in #Africa, promoting this vital relationship, and to listen and build on the trust and views we share with our African partners".

The president on Friday, however, denied using the language but a senator present at a White House immigration meeting said he used it repeatedly.

'Insulting and reprehensible'

Haiti said it was "deeply shocked and outraged" by Trump's remarks, calling it "racist".

The Haitian government said in a statement that "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".

It added that the comment, as reported, "reflects a totally erroneous and racist view of the Haitian community and its contribution to the United States".

Haiti's ambassador to Washington told local radio that his government had complained to the US Embassy.

A senior European Union lawmaker said Trump "has forgotten to engage his brain before talking" about immigrants and is not fit for office.

'Delirious and racist words'

Socialist group President Gianni Pittella said that after insulting Mexicans and Muslims, "now it is Haiti, El Salvador and African people being targeted by the US president's delirious and racist words".

Pittella - who leads the second-largest party group in the EU assembly - said that "every passing day, Trump proves not to be fit to run the US and lead the international community. Insulting, bullying, threatening is the only language Trump knows. It is no longer tolerable".

However, some on the continent said they agreed with Trump.

"President Donald Trump is absolutely right. Africa is a continent of shit," says Mamady Traore, a 30-year-old sociologist in the West African nation of 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.

"Then again, others were not happy with Trump himself.

"Donald Trump is an unstable character who would critique his own image if it was doubled," says Marlyatou Sow, a 32-year-old student in Guinea.

"So, that he considers Africa as shit, it shows that he doesn't have a heightened vision and that he is nothing less than a businessman who arrived at the White House purely by chance."

'Bigoted, divisive'

A senior Trump administration official said the top US diplomat in Haiti has been summoned to meet with Haiti's president to explain Trump's remark.

Robin Diallo, the charge d'affaires at the US Embassy, is the most senior diplomat there as the Trump administration does not have an ambassador in place.

The administration official said Diallo plans to listen to the Haitian leader's concerns and reiterate the strong US relationship with Haiti.

The administration official demanded anonymity because the official wasn't authorised to disclose diplomatic conversations.

A French government spokesman said "silence" was preferable to any reaction in response to Trump's vulgar comments.

Benjamin Grivaux told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting "it's obviously not advisable" to speak the way Trump "reportedly" spoke.

Grivaux said that "we must keep a correct language especially when we speak about countries that sometimes suffered from bad weather, a great poverty and that are in a great distress".

An opposition lawmaker in Ghana is calling for a boycott by developing countries against the United States until Trump leaves office.

Ras Mubarak said countries should send a "strong message to Trump that the world is united against his kind of politics, which is bigoted, divisive and not healthy".

Mubarak added that "the sooner he is made aware that America needs the world and the world needs America the better it is for all of us."

'Reprehensible and racist'

Botswana's government labelled Trump's comment "reprehensible and racist".

A statement by the southern African nation said the US ambassador has been summoned.

Botswana said it wants to clarify whether the nation is regarded as, to use Trump's word, a "shithole" country after years of cordial relations.

Other African nations have begun speaking up. Uganda's state minister for international relations, Henry Okello Oryem, called Trump's remarks "unfortunate and regrettable".

He added that "we pray that the Almighty God gives him wisdom to change his mind about people who are suffering and looking for safe haven in America".

He said he hoped African heads of state will reply to Trump at an African Union summit later this month.

The UN human rights office said Trump's use of an expletive to describe Africa and other countries could "potentially damage and disrupt the lives of many people".

Repeating the term attributed to Trump a day earlier, spokesman Rupert Colville says that "you cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as 'shitholes'".

Colville said on Friday that the comments were "shocking and shameful" and "I'm sorry, but there's no other word one can use but racist".

Colville said Trump's reported comments "go against the universal values the world has been striving so hard to establish since World War II and the Holocaust."

The ANC called Trump's comment "extremely offensive".

Deputy secretary general Jesse Duarte of the African National Congress told reporters that developing countries do have difficulties but that the United States itself has millions of people out of work or without health care. She said that "we would not deign to make comments as derogatory" as Trump's.

The African Union said it was "frankly alarmed" by Trump's statement.

"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 told The Associated Press.

"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."

She added that "we believe that a statement like this hurts our shared global values on diversity, human rights and reciprocal understanding".