President Donald Trump has sent a new letter to African leaders, saying he “deeply respects” the people of the continent. The letter also says that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will make an “extended visit” to Africa in March.
The letter, dated Thursday, is addressed to African leaders as they gather for an African Union summit this weekend in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. US diplomats have been working for days to address shock and condemnation after President Trump’s reported comparison of African nations to a dirty toilet.
President Trump has said he did not use such language, while others present say he did. The president met Rwanda’s leader and new African Union chair Paul Kagame on Friday at the World Economic Forum, calling Mr Kagame a “friend”.
The 55-nation continental body’s summit is expected to respond to Mr Trump’s vulgar remark. An AU spokeswoman has said the organisation was “frankly alarmed” by the comments, and a number of African nations have spoken out or summoned US diplomats to explain.
Mr Trump’s letter, seen by The Associated Press and confirmed by two US officials, says the US “profoundly respects” the partnerships and values shared by the US and Africans and that the president’s commitment to strong relationships with African nations is “firm”.
The letter offers President Trump’s “deepest compliments” to the African leaders as they gather. It notes that US soldiers are “fighting side by side” against extremism on the continent and that the US is working to increase “free, fair and reciprocal trade” with African countries and partnering to “safeguard legal immigration”.
The letter gives no details on Mr Tillerson’s upcoming visit.