In Africa, Government Leaders, Pan-African Organizations Condemn Trump's Comments

Jan 12, 2018
Originally published on January 12, 2018 5:17 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now to Africa. Leaders there are accustomed to surprises from President Trump. Still, his slur shocked many people on the continent. Condemnation came from government leaders and Pan-African organizations on social media and from regular citizens. Many said his comment was reprehensible and racist.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton joins us from her base in Dakar, Senegal. Hi, Ofeibea.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Greetings.

SHAPIRO: Give us an idea of what people are saying.

QUIST-ARCTON: Well, the African Union Commission spokeswoman Emma (ph) Kalondo says Trump's remarks were alarming. And she says they broke with established protocol and, you know, are surprising because migration gave birth to the U.S., which is built on strong values of diversity and opportunity. Here in Senegal, President Macky Sall's tweet reads, I am shocked by the comments of President Trump on Haiti and Africa. I reject them and condemn them unequivocally. Africa and black people in general deserve the respect of everyone. Now, Botswana in southern Africa is talking even tougher and has shared its displeasure, apparently summoning the United States ambassador to explain these purportedly derogatory, "irresponsible and reprehensible" comments. And I quote there. Listen to Botswana's foreign minister, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi.

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PELONOMI VENSON-MOITOI: All over the continent, this word translated in any African language, culturally it's a big insult. It is a word we were hoping never to hear flung in this direction. It is racist. It's very vulgar. It's demeaning. It is an insult. It should never have been used.

SHAPIRO: Ofeibea, do you expect this to affect U.S.-Africa relations?

QUIST-ARCTON: One kind of questions, what are U.S.-African relations? I mean, President Trump's comments sort of highlighted months of concerns about any lack of focus on Africa. And apparently, we're told that there are many senior diplomatic posts in key countries such as South Africa, Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia which haven't been filled. Many people also say because President Trump has expressed negative opinions before about the continent, this goes one step further.

But in the past, he had praised Africa as a place of tremendous business potential. When he met African leaders in New York in September, he said, in this room I see partners for promoting prosperity and peace on a range of economic, humanitarian and security issues. And then he said some of his friends go to your countries, he told the leaders, trying to get rich. I congratulate you. So is Africa a partner for the U.S. or not?

SHAPIRO: And so beyond African leaders, what are ordinary citizens saying about this?

QUIST-ARCTON: Phew (ph), Ari, those smartphones which you now find all over the continent have been coming out. And people have been throwing back in his face what President Trump is purported to have said. This morning, the South African Broadcasting Corporation's morning show TV host Leanne Manas said, welcome to the greatest and most beautiful country in the world. In the U.S., "The Daily Show" tweeted that its host, Trevor Noah, who's also from South Africa, was deeply offended by the president's reported utterance, which of course Trump denies. So you have African media outlets, you have especially the continent's youth - who are so fast now on social media - saying, hey, stop that. We should be respected. This is absolutely wrong, what the - President Trump has said.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton speaking with us from Dakar, Senegal. Thanks so much, Ofeibea.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Thank you, Ari.

(SOUNDBITE OF RRAREBEAR'S "MOON") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.