JOHANNESBURG (TNS) — The world reacted with shock, anger and a tinge of humor Friday over President Donald Trump's "shithole countries" remarks, with governments, civic and political organizations, and individuals labeling the president's comments irresponsible and racist.
Africans across the continent felt especially aggrieved by Trump's crude remarks, but some using the hashtag #shithole with beautiful photos of sunsets, elephants grazing on plains and other pretty images. Others were not so lighthearted.
Botswana's government was the first on the continent to condemn Trump's statements, referring to them as "highly irresponsible, reprehensible and racist."
During a meeting with members of Congress on Thursday to discuss immigration, Trump reportedly became irate and questioned why the U.S. was allowing people from El Salvador, Haiti and Africa to enter the country.
"What do we want Haitians here for?" Trump asked. "Why do we want all these people from Africa here? Why do we want all these people from shithole countries?"
He then added: "We should have people from places like Norway."
Botswana summoned the American ambassador to express its displeasure over the remarks and to inquire as to whether Botswana was a "shithole country."
"The government of Botswana is wondering why President Trump must use this descriptor and derogatory word when talking about countries with whom the U.S. has had cordial and mutually beneficial relations for so many years."
Botswana called on the African Union and regional leadership bodies in Africa to condemn Trump over his comments.
Since taking office, Trump has barely mentioned Africa. The main action he has taken affecting the continent is to sharply reduce foreign aid. His sudden characterization of the entire continent shocked many — and angered others who saw it as part of a stubborn Western narrative characterizing Africa as a country and not a continent of 54 highly varied nations.
Senegalese President Macky Sall was stunned by Trump's remarks.
"I am shocked by President Trump's statements on Haiti and Africa. I reject and condemn them vigorously. Africa and the black race deserve the respect and consideration of everyone," Sall said in a tweet.
The African Union — the continent's leadership body — was "frankly alarmed" by the comment, according to AU spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo.
"Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice," she said.
The remarks sparked global condemnation. Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch, described Trump's comments as "racist trash."
"This racist trash shows we not only need immigration reform but also presidential reform," he said.
Rupert Colville, U.N. spokesman on human rights, called the comments "shocking and shameful." "I'm sorry, but there is no other word for this but racist."
South African officials from the government and opposition also were astounded by Trump's remarks.
Jessie Duarte, deputy secretary general of the governing African National Congress, said the comments were "extremely offensive."
"Developing countries do have difficulties. These difficulties are not small things," she told a news conference. "Ours is not a 'shithole country.' Neither is Haiti or any other country in distress," she said, adding that America has its own problems like poverty and unemployment.
"We would not deign to make comments as derogatory about any country facing difficulties," she said.
Opposition leader Mmusi Maimane, of the Democratic Alliance, said the comments were abhorrent.
"He confirms a patronizing view of Africa and promotes a racist agenda. Africa-U.S. relations will take strain from this, with a leader who has failed to reconcile humanity. The hatred of Obama's roots now extends to an entire continent."
Zimbabwe's ambassador to Senegal, Trudy Stevenson, said Trump's comments were "revealing."
"How embarrassing for #America, and insulting to #Africa," she tweeted.
At a bustling market in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, some saw Trump's remarks as highly insulting. Others thought the comments would make America a less attractive destination for Ghanaians and help solve the country's brain drain.
One shopkeeper, Million Anamoo, said, "Trump is scaring us.
"Whites and blacks should work together like a piano. America is one of the best countries. Ghana here is a free country, a peaceful country. We receive all tourists. We don't discriminate. So we don't expect another country to discriminate.
"We have cocoa here. We have gold here. We export our cocoa to America so that Americans can make chocolate."
Hannah Akurigo, 32, who was selling Ghanaian clothes, admonished Trump to "stop insulting Africans" and advised him to visit Ghana and find out for himself how nice the people there were.
"We are very lovely people. He should come to Ghana. We let white people in, and now they turn up to insult us? ... He's saying he's civilized, but we Africans are more civilized than him. We think before we speak.
"We are not like the way that they say we live in trees, we are like monkeys. He should just come and experience Africa." Ghana was a major hub for the slave trade from the 16th century to the 19th century.
One young Kenyan with the Twitter handle @VeneeChay also referenced America's history, built partly on African slave labor, tweeting, "They wouldn't even be where they are without us" picking cotton for them.
Chester Missing, a satirical South African television puppet with its own Twitter account, said Trump's remarks were "ironic from a dude running a country built on stealing people from said shithole."
Some focused on Africa's human capital and the contributions of its educated middle class.
"I hold two degrees myself not bad for people from #shitholecountries as viewed by Trump and the likes," tweeted Ayandiswa Mthembu, a South African, of Vanderbijlpark, in Gauteng, the most populous province.
But some said Trump had a point. Kenyan blogger Cyprian Nyakundi said Trump was telling the truth.
"Watch out, Africans. American white media always portrays Africa as a shithole with poor amenities, hunger and poor leadership, etc. And now they are baiting you to hate on Trump for saying the truth. They must be laughing at you."