Trump dodges questions about vulgar Africa remark

President Donald Trump hailed his country’s “great relationships” with Rwanda after meeting Friday with its leader, Paul Kagame, but did not say whether they had discussed Trump’s reportedly vulgar remark about African nations earlier this month.

Trump said he had “tremendous discussions” with President Kagame in a sit-down during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“We have trade with Rwanda and just general, I would say, great relationships,” Trump said. “It’s an honor to have you as a friend.”

However, Trump did not respond to shouted questions from reporters about whether the pair had discussed the president’s reported description of African nations and Haiti as “sh**hole countries.” Trump denies using that term.

Kagame, who is also the current head of the African Union, a body that brings together the leaders of the continent’s 55 leaders, thanked Trump for the support Rwanda has received from the United States.

“We had good discussions, on those two levels, the bilateral relations between Rwanda and the United States, Rwanda has benefited tremendously from the support of the United States,” he said. “You have supported our economy in trade, investment, we see a lot of promise from the United States.”

Kagame said the African Union was also looking forward to working with the United States, adding that the body was carrying out reforms “to get our act together to do the right things.” This will help cooperation with the United States, he said.

Trump’s reported vulgar remarks during a discussion with senators on immigration in the Oval Office set off a wave of diplomatic uproar from foreign leaders and their citizens. Rwanda’s foreign ministry described them as “demeaning and unnecessary,” while South Africa, Senegal, Ghana, Haiti and several others summoned top US diplomats in their nations.

In an open letter to Trump last week, Bonang Mohale, CEO of Business Leadership South Africa, urged others to make a statement during the annual gathering of the world’s leaders and business elite in Davos.

“Many of us will be boycotting your address to delegates at Davos in protest against your divisive comments and continued failure to unequivocally apologize,” Mohale wrote. “We encourage likeminded peers to do the same.”

The US gave $268 million in aid to Rwanda in 2016, the most recent completed year of overall aid data.

Of that, $56 million largely went to HIV and AIDS efforts, with $41 million for emergency response, $38 million for conflict, peace, and security, and $34 million for basic education, and $23 million for basic health. Other aid areas include maternal and child health, agriculture, operating expenses, water supply and sanitation, and general health.