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UPDATE: African Union Demands Trump Apology For "Shithole" Remark

Sat, 13th Jan 2018 08:59

WASHINGTON (Alliance News) - The African Union on Friday demanded an apology from US President Donald Trump over reports that he labelled Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as "shithole countries".

"The African Union Mission [to the US] condemns the comments in the strongest terms and demands a retraction of the comment as well as an apology not only to the Africans but to all people of African descent around the globe," it said in a statement widely circulated by US media.

The body, which represents 55 African countries, expressed "shock, dismay and outrage" over the "unfortunate comment".

"The African Union strongly believes that there is a huge misunderstanding of the African continent and its people by the current [Trump] administration," it continued.

Trump made the comment on Thursday during a meeting with a small group of lawmakers in the Oval Office, according to the Washington Post. The story was later backed up by multiple news outlets and people in the room.

They were discussing reforms to US immigration policy and the possibility of restoring protections for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and African countries when Trump reportedly said: "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?"

A top Senate Democrat present at the White House discussion said he heard Trump say the words "shithole countries" as well as other offensive language.

"He said these hateful things and he said them repeatedly," said Dick Durbin. The senator added that he hadn't seen anything reported incorrectly about Trump's choice of words.

At first, the White House issued a statement that did not deny the remarks.

But as the backlash spread on Friday, the president wrote on Twitter: "The language used by me...was tough, but this was not the language used."

Trump on Monday revoked the special residency status of some 200,000 Salvadorean nationals who have been allowed to live in the US since a 2001 earthquake.

Similar temporary protection for people from Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan, all countries that have suffered major natural disasters or civil wars in recent decades, ended last year.

Trump's alleged Thursday comments were met with condemnation from the United Nations, the countries targeted by the remarks, and select members of his own Republican party.

"If confirmed, these are shocking and shameful comments from the president of the US. Sorry, but there is no other word one can use but 'racist'," said Rupert Colville, spokesman for UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein.

"You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as 'shitholes' whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome," he added.

The president of El Salvador, Salvador Sanchez Ceren, tweeted that Trump's statement struck a blow "to the dignity of the Salvadoran people."

The country sent a formal protest note to Washington over the "deplorable expressions" attributed to Trump.

Haiti summoned US charge d'affairs Robin Diallo to meet with President Jovenel Moise, according to reports. Diallo is the most senior US diplomat in Haiti, where residents on Friday marked the eighth anniversary of a 7.1-magnitude quake that killed at least 220,000 people.

Haiti's ambassador to the US, Paul Altidor, told NBC News that Trump's comment was "based on stereotypes" and that "either the president has been misinformed or he is miseducated".

Botswana also summoned the US ambassador over the remarks, "to clarify whether Botswana is regarded as a shithole," the Ministry of International Affairs said in a statement.

In another statement, the African Union observer mission to the UN said it was "concerned at the continung and growing trend from the US administration towards Africa and people of African descent to denigrate the continent and people of colour".

It also expressed "solidarity with the people of Haiti and others that have been similarly denigrated".

Mia Love, a Republican congresswoman of Haitian descent said Trump's comments were "unkind, divisive and elitist".

"This behaviour is unacceptable from the leader of our nation," she said. "The president must apologize to both the American people and the nations he so wantonly maligned."

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan described the incident as "unfortunate" and called for the US to welcome newcomers.

"First thing that came to my mind was: very unfortunate, unhelpful," the Republican leader said of his initial reaction.

Republican Senator John McCain issued his own critique.

"People have come to this country from everywhere," McCain said in a statement circulating on Twitter, "and people from everywhere have made America great. Our immigration policy should reflect that truth, and our elected officials, including our president, should respect it."

Copyright dpa

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