President Donald Trump sent a letter on Thursday to African leaders in which the president claimed that he “deeply respects” Africans, the Washington Post reported. Trump set off an international firestorm two weeks ago with his racist rant about the African continent. His letter is too late, and it comes after damage is already done.
Trump’s letter said the United States “profoundly respects” the relationships and the values shared between this country and Africans, and he’s committed to developing even stronger ties with individual countries on the continent.
African leaders gathered over the weekend in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa for the annual African Union summit. They were expected to release a joint statement on the president’s letter. Trump’s comment that the continent has “sh-thole countries” received many angry responses from across the African continent. “It demonstrates precisely the type of leader he is,” South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said. Nigeria’s foreign minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, demanded an explanation from American diplomats. Indeed, U.S. diplomats are trying to calm the storm that Trump created.
Perhaps American diplomats have convinced Trump that there could be consequences for his racist rant. African countries could vote against U.S. interests in multilateral organizations, such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Trump’s anti-African comments came at a time when he’s trying to gather opposition against North Korea. His words could also push some African countries closer to China, which has has huge investments in Africa. China became Africa’s largest trading partner in 2009.
In the letter, Trump also announced that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will make an “extended visit” to Africa in March, when he’s expected stop in at least four countries.