By: David Smith
Donald Trump was described as “the perfect African president” way back in October 2015 when the comedian Trevor Noah drew parallels between the then long shot candidate’s xenophobia, mendacity, braggadocio and lavish lifestyle with certain leaders on the continent. “Donald Trump is presidential,” Noah, from South Africa, said on the Daily Show. “He just happens to be running on the wrong continent.”
The US president has said little about Africa since taking office except when inventing a new country – “Nambia” – and slandering “shithole countries” (allegedly). On Monday, he hosted a leader from sub-Saharan Africa for the first time: Muhammadu Buhari, the president of Nigeria. The gaffe potential was immense.
On a sunny day in the White House rose garden, a journalist brought up the “shithole” affair, which was described by Nigeria at the time as “deeply hurtful, offensive and unacceptable” if true and prompted it to summon a US official for an explanation.
Buhari, 75, wearing shades, was diplomatic. “I’m very careful with what the press says about [people] other than myself,” he said. “I’m not sure about the validity or whether that allegation against the president was true or not. So the best thing for me is to keep quiet.”
Then Trump interjected. He did not confirm the remark but did not exactly deny it either. “We didn’t discuss it,” he said. Buhari laughed.
Trump continued: “You do have some countries that are in very bad shape and very tough places to live in. But we didn’t discuss it because the president knows me and he knows where I’m coming from and I appreciate that. We did not discuss it.”
Trump and Buhari touched on aid and removing trade barriers, agriculture and oil, military and intelligence cooperation and the fights against corruption and Islamist terrorism. The US president described Boko Haram’s infamous kidnap of the Chibok schoolgirls as “tough stuff”.