29, January 2018
US President Donald Trump says he “deeply respects” the people of Africa and that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit the continent after Trump provoked a firestorm of indignation for using vulgar remarks about Africans.
“I want to underscore that the United States deeply respects the people of Africa, and my commitment to strong and respectful relationships with African nations as sovereign nations is firm,” Trump wrote in the letter sent last week to African leaders.
“Our soldiers are fighting side-by-side to defeat terrorists,” he said, and “we are working together to increase free, fair and reciprocal trade.”
The letter was not made public, but its existence was confirmed by Chris Meade, a diplomat with the US delegation to the African Union (AU). An AU source also confirmed the accuracy of the text of the letter.
The letter comes after Trump sparked widespread outrage earlier in January when he reportedly described African and Central American nations as “sh*thole countries” during a meeting with lawmakers at the White House.
His contemptuous comments, which were about immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and African countries, have provoked severe criticism in the US and abroad.
The Trump administration has taken a tougher stance on immigration from Latin America, most notably with moves to expel hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti and El Salvador.
Trump later defended himself on Twitter, saying: “The language used by me… was tough, but this was not the language used.”
Dozens of former US ambassadors to African countries have written to Trump expressing “deep concern” over his comments about the continent and warning that respectful engagement is crucial to protecting American interests.
The letter, signed by 78 former American envoys, urges Trump to have positive interactions with African countries.