JOHANNESBURG/LUSAKA (Reuters) – African politicians labelled 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.
Trump comment on “shithole countries” extremely offensive – SA official https://t.co/xh15wkCfn1 How do you feel about his comments
— CNBC Africa (@cnbcafrica) January 12, 2018
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.
Trump denied on Friday using such derogatory language, but he had already been widely condemned in many African countries and by international rights organisations.
“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.
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.
U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva that Trump’s comments were “shocking and shameful”.
Since taking office a year ago, Trump has pursued controversial policies aimed at curbing illegal 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.
The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018
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”.
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. Robert Chiponda, a communications consultant in Lusaka, said he never took Trump seriously.
Others used humour to ridicule the offensive comments.
“As someone from South Shithole, Trevor is deeply offended by the president’s remarks,” U.S. television programme The Daily Show wrote on Twitter, referring to its South Africa-born host Trevor Noah.
Reporting by Ed Stoddard in East London, Chris Mfula in Lusaka and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Alexander Winning in Johannesburg; Editing by Richard Balmforth