US President Donald Trump on Friday asked the African Union chairman to pass on his “warmest regards” to other regional leaders at a summit this weekend, after sparking outrage with a reported slur against Africans.
Trump met Rwandan President Paul Kagame at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where some African business leaders say they are planning to boycott Trump’s closing speech later Friday.
The outspoken US leader congratulated Kagame on taking over as chair of the 55-nation African bloc, which Trump said was a “great honour”.
“I know you’re going to your first meeting shortly. Please give my warmest regards,” Trump told Kagame after they held a one-on-one meeting at the forum.
The US president ignored questions shouted by journalists about his reported dismissal this month of African nations as “shithole countries”, during a meeting on immigration with congressional leaders.
The reported remark drew outrage around the world and prompted several African governments to demand explanations from their US ambassadors.
The African Union demanded an apology, although Trump has denied making the remark as relayed by US lawmakers who were present at the meeting.
A week ago, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley expressed regret about the controversy in a meeting with African envoys, the head of the UN’s African Group said, after the envoys released a joint statement demanding an apology from Trump for his “outrageous, racist and xenophobic remarks”.
In Davos, Trump said he had “tremendous discussions” with Kagame, who for his part said they had “good discussions” about the economy and trade.
Not placated, South African businessman Bonang Mohale said he and dozens of others planned to shun Trump’s speech in Davos on Friday afternoon.
“We are absolutely repulsed and shocked and angry that he could call the people of El Salvador and Haiti and Africa ‘shitholes’,” Mohale, who heads the Business Leadership South Africa forum, told AFP in Davos.
He noted that Trump had also reportedly expressed a preference for immigrants from overwhelmingly white Norway, and said: “We remind him that America itself is a nation of immigrants.”
Also in Davos, Oxfam executive director Winnie Byanyima noted that some Africans are talking even of walking out of Trump’s speech rather than just staying away.
“I will not attend the speech. I’m busy,” the Ugandan told AFP.
“Trump is just one of a kind, a member of the elite who has chosen to serve the interests of a few at the top, at the expense of ordinary people,” she said.