Condemnations across all divides pour in after US President Donald Trump's vulgar language against immigrants from Haiti and what he said are "s***hole countries" in Africa.

US president's comments, first reported by the
US president's comments, first reported by the "Washington Post," sparked anger among Democrats and Republicans and revived questions about Donald Trump's tendency to make racially charged remarks. (AFP Archive)

Africans woke up on Friday to find President Donald Trump had finally taken an interest in their continent. It wasn't what people had hoped for. 

Using vulgar language, Trump on Thursday questioned why the US would accept more immigrants from Haiti and "s***hole countries" in Africa rather than places like Norway in rejecting a bipartisan immigration deal.

While members of the Haitian community reacted to Trump's comments immediately,  African governments found themselves in an awkward position. 

As top recipients of US aid, some hesitated to jeopardise it by criticising Trump, especially as his administration has sought to slash foreign assistance.

"Unless it was specifically said about South Sudan, we have nothing to say," South Sudan government spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said.

But the African media outlets and the continent's young, increasingly connected population were being less shy.

"Casual Friday at the White House is soon to include hoods and tiki torches at this rate," South African media outlet Daily Maverick wrote.

TRT World's Giles Gibson has the latest from Washington.

Many on the world's second-most populous continent reached for their smartphones, long-practiced in defending the vast and varied region from easy stereotypes. 

While 40 percent of the world's poor live in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the International Monetary Fund, the region also has billionaires, reality shows and a growing middle class.

Some quickly decided to own Trump's vulgar language or throw it back in his face.

"Good morning from the greatest most beautiful 's***hole country' in the world!!!" South African Broadcasting Corporation anchor Leanne Manas tweeted.

On Friday, Trump however seemed to be defending himself against the furore over his words.

He implied that he did not describe African and other states as "s***hole countries" during a meeting with legislators over immigration.

"This was not the language used," he said in a tweet.

But the outrage was far from over. 

"As someone from South S***hole, Trevor is deeply offended by the president's remarks," The Daily Show tweeted of its South African-born host, Trevor Noah.

In Kenya, East Africa's economic hub, political activist Boniface Mwangi pleaded: "Please don't confuse the #s***hole leaders we Africans elect with our beautiful continent."

More African nations speak

Botswana's called Trump’s comments "reprehensible and racist."

Uganda's state minister for international relations, Henry Okello Oryem, called Trump's remarks "unfortunate and regrettable."

He said, "We pray that the almighty God gives him wisdom to change his mind about people who are suffering and looking for safe haven in America."

South Africa's ruling party ANC called Trump's comment on African immigrants "extremely offensive."

The ANC's deputy secretary general Jesse Duarte said "we would not deign to make comments as derogatory" as Trump's.

The African Union said that it is "frankly alarmed" by Trump's statement.

"Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the US as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behaviour and practice," AU spokesperson Ebba Kalondo said.  

Unfit president

Reacting to Trump's remarks, Haitian community member and Illinois state Senator Kwame Raoul, whose Haitian parents immigrated to the US in the 1950s, said, "I don't think there's any apologising out of this." 

"He's demonstrated himself to be unfit, unknowledgeable about the history of this country and the history of contributions that immigrants, particularly Haitian immigrants, have made to this country," the Chicago Democrat said of Trump.

"It makes me embarrassed to have this guy as the president of my country," said Raoul, who's running in Illinois' March primary for state attorney general.

Farah Larrieux, a Haitian immigrant in Miami who represents a national alliance of people like her, said, "This is beyond politics. The guy has no respect for anyone. I am trying not to cry." 

Larrieux said, "I can't understand how someone goes from making a statement in Little Haiti saying 'I want to be the biggest champion of Haiti' to calling Haiti a 's***hole.' It makes me sick." 

She referred to a 2016 campaign stop in Miami's Haitian neighbourhood.

"This is beyond bullying," Larrieux said. "This is a racial campaign against immigrants."

Djenane Gourgue, of the Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce of Florida, said she is not letting Trump's remarks affect her anymore, adding "his actions can probably hurt more."

"We spend too much time commenting or watching or being pissed off at what Mr Trump says. That's what he does well ... ," Haitian-born Gourgue said. 

"Those words cannot affect me ... He's just being a bully."

Ashamed of Trump

Responding to Trump's comments, Congressman Luis Gutierrez said, "As an American, I am ashamed of the President."

"We always knew that President Trump doesn’t like people from certain countries or people or certain colors. We can now we say with 100% confidence that the President is a racist who does not share the values enshrined in our Constitution or Declaration of Independence," he said in a statement.

"This is the real Donald Trump and my biggest fear is that his voters will applaud him," Gutierrez added.

Marielena Hincapie, the executive director at the National Immigration Law Center, added in a separate statement, "This is not a president who respects the dignity of people of color, and as Americans we must do everything in our power to resist this administration’s white supremacist agenda."

The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) denounced Trump's comments.

"His decision to use profanity to describe African, Central American and Caribbean countries is not only a low mark for this President, it is a low point for our nation," the black civil rights group said in a statement. 

"This President’s failure to grasp simple ideas of inclusion and maturity is an open sore on our democracy that continues to fester."

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky chimed in: "Just when you thought Donald Trump could not get any more racist, he digs down to an even deeper low."

'Unkind' and 'divisive'

Mia Love, a congresswoman from Utah who is of Haitian descent, called Trump's reported comments "unkind" and "divisive", and demanded an apology.

"This behaviour is unacceptable from the leader of our nation," Love said in a statement.

South Carolina's Tim Scott, the only black Republican senator, said that if Trump really did use those words it would be "disappointing."

"The American family was born from immigrants fleeing persecution and poverty and searching for a better future," Scott said in a statement. 

"Our strength lies in our diversity, including those who came here from Africa, the Caribbean and every other corner of the world."

"To deny these facts would be to ignore the brightest part of our history."

A crass and flippant mistake?

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, one of the failed Republican primary contenders against Trump in 2016, blasted the president and said his comments smacked of racism.

"For every one step forward @POTUS takes when it comes to judgement and good, coherent policy decisions, he inexplicably and without fail takes ten steps back. I hope today's comments were just a crass and flippant mistake, and do not reflect the hateful racism they imply," Bush wrote.

Bush added that America needs "talented, freedom-loving individuals from across the globe, whether they are from Haiti, Norway or anywhere else." 

Trump baffles Norwegians

Some Norwegians observers said they are baffled and discomfited to be the subject of Trump's backhanded compliment in his vulgar comments on immigrants from African nations and Haiti.

Henrik Heldahl, a commentator for the Amerikansk Politikk website, said the sentiment about Norway might have been welcomed without the rest of the statement. "But the way he said it guarantees that the reaction here will be very negative."

Hilde Restad, a university associate professor in international studies, said that Trump has achieved the unlikely feat of praising Norway while still offending its citizens.

She said, "Norwegians in general have such a minority complex that as long as we are noticed we get very excited. But in general, we are not wanting to be flatted by this US president in this way."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies