President Donald Trump attracted condemnation from the United Nations and the African Union (AU) when it emerged that he had referred to Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “sh**hole countries” during a White House meeting. Following these blatantly racist remarks, Trump has insisted that he is not a racist.
The term sh**hole deduces that a place has an extreme level of uncleanliness and is generally unpleasant. By these standards then, the African continent which has had its fair share of wars, political instability and poverty is not exactly paradise. Across the continent numerous countries are home to an active conflict or one that has recently ended. Virtually every news story that comes out of the continent seems to be about one atrocity after another. In 2017 alone, the conflict in the Central Republic of Africa (CAR), famines in South Sudan, the conflict between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government and similar stories continued to appear in the news. When it came to political leaders and the state of democracy in Africa, 2017 was a confusing year. In Zimbabwe for example, we saw a coup that was not a coup and in Kenya we saw an election that was not an election.
This narrative of Africa that is riddled with conflict and instability does of course carry a lot of truth. However, nowhere in the world is all bad. Africans and those that have been to Africa know that the continent has natural resources, a lot of beauty from its animals and surroundings, rich culture and the friendliest and most welcoming populations you will ever meet. Beyond hospitality, sunsets and safaris, Africa has shaped our modern world. The history of mathematical systems can be traced back to Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo is among the world largest producers of cobalt which is found in our mobile phones and notable African leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Patrice Lumumba and Thomas Sankara have provided the world with examples of what good leadership is.
The continent has a scarred colonial history that inhibited it from building its own identity. This along with poor leadership and poor infrastructure leaves it victim to developmental challenges. This however in no way makes the continent a shithole. Among African leaders, in media review shows and on social media, Trumps remarks were regarded as being blatantly racist. During the Martin Luther King holiday weekend, Botswana, Ghana, Namibia, Senegal and Haiti made formal diplomatic protests. Botswana which has one of the continents best social and economic statistics asked for clarification on why the Trump administration regards Botswana as a shithole country.
The U.S president’s remarks have potential to damage the relationship the country has with African states. Alienating the continent may for instance have negative repercussions for the countries position in multilateral institutions such as the United Nations. These remarks also have the potential to drive African states into the arms of powerful authoritarian states such as China and Russia.
Context is everything. As with any state, the countries in Africa have negative aspects attached to them. The U.S itself with its history of involvement in global wars is not exactly perfect. With Trumps history of making unresearched remarks and launching verbal attacks, it is beyond clear that he has no respect for specific groups and people. For leader’s, diplomacy is everything. Trumps incredibly shocking propensity to speak his mind has the potential to damage his countries relationship with global states.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.
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