Nairobi: Africans have reacted angrily after US President Donald Trump reportedly referred to their nations as “shithole countries”, with many accusing the US president of racism and ignorance.
The 55-nation African Union condemned the remarks yesterday, while a statement from ambassadors of all countries from the continent at the United Nations demanded a retraction and apology.
The African Group of UN ambassadors said it was “extremely appalled at, and strongly condemns the outrageous, racist and xenophobic remarks by the president of the United States of America as widely reported by the media”.
Ambassadors unanimously agreed the resolution after an emergency session to weigh Trump’s remarks.
The comment was “clearly” racist, said Ebba Kalondo, spokeswoman for AU chief Moussa Faki.
“This is even more hurtful given the historical reality of just how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, and also terribly surprising as the United States remains a massively positive example as just how migration can give birth to a nation,” Kalondo said.
He stressed the US was “much stronger than the sum total of one man”.
Trump reportedly demanded to know why the United States should accept immigrants from “shithole countries”, after lawmakers raised the issue of protections for immigrants from African nations, Haiti and El Salvador.
However he later tweeted: “this was not the language used”.
The United Nations slammed the reported remarks as “shocking and shameful” and “racist”.
“You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’ whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome,” Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN human rights office, told reporters in Geneva.
Botswana summoned the US ambassador to the country to “clarify if Botswana is regarded as a ‘shithole’ country”, according to a foreign ministry statement calling Trump’s comments “irresponsible, reprehensible and racist”.
Senegal followed suit with Foreign Minister Sidiki Kaba saying the government “firmly condemned the unacceptable remarks which undermine human dignity, especially of Africa and her diaspora”.
Trump was widely derided last year after twice referring to Namibia as “Nambia”.
Social media users across the continent posted images of modern skylines and beautiful nature from their countries with the hashtag “shithole”.
Many Africans reminded the US of its historic role in the continent’s woes.
“President Trump, One day, I’ll take you to a ‘shithole’ country called Ghana,” wrote Ghanaian Edmond Prime Sarpong on Facebook.
“First stop would be Osu Castle, Elmina Castle, and the over 40 Forts that detained about 30 million slaves, beaten and shipped out like sardine cans and then I will tell you the history of Africa and why people like you made that a ‘shithole’ continent.”
Prominent Kenyan commentator Patrick Gathara told AFP that Trump’s words were nothing new.
“This is no different from what Hollywood and Western media have been saying about Africa for decades.
We have consistently been portrayed as shitty people from shitty countries.”
Some acknowledged problems in their countries, but blamed this on their poor leaders as well as Western nations.
“Please don’t confuse the #shithole leaders we Africans elect with our beautiful continent… Our motherland is the most blessed continent that has been raped by imperialists in collaboration with our shitty misleaders for generations,” wrote Kenyan activist Boniface Mwangi on Twitter.
In South Africa, the ruling African National Congress party declared “ours is not a shithole country” and described Trump as “extremely offensive”.
Some Nigerians did not hold back, with many on Twitter saying their country was a “shithole”, but that it was “our shithole” to criticise.
In Senegal’s capital Dakar, administrator Idrissa Fall said “we cannot really say that he (Trump) is wrong”.
“African countries, and sometimes our leaders, do not exactly deal with the problems of the worst-off, that’s what makes people immigrate”.
Even war-torn South Sudan weighed in, with President Salva Kiir’s spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny slamming the comments as “outrageous”.
However Juba businesswoman Jenny Jore, 31, told AFP that Trump’s remarks were “on point”.
“It is thanks to our African leaders that we are insulted that way,” she said.
The 54-nation UN African Group, which does not include Western Sahara, demanded a “retraction and an apology” from Trump, while thanking Americans “from all walks of life who have condemned the remarks”.
Trump’s latest comments provided ample fodder for talk- show hosts.
South African comedian Trevor Noah, star of “The Daily Show”, described himself as an offended citizen of “South Shithole” and also criticised Trump’s preferred choice of Norway for immigrants.
“He didn’t just name a white country, he named the whitest — so white they wear moon-screen,” he said.