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Ugandan president says he loves Trump: ‘He talks to Africans frankly’

Uganda's longtime President Yoweri Museveni waves to supporters from the sunroof of his vehicle as he arrives for an election rally at Kololo Airstrip in Kampala, Uganda in 2016. (Ben Curtis/AP)

Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni spoke in defense of President Trump on Tuesday, telling lawmakers at the opening of the East African Legislative Assembly held in Kampala he loved the American leader as “he talks to Africans frankly.”

The comments came a little less than two weeks after Trump described African nations, along with Haiti and El Salvador, as “shithole countries” whose inhabitants were not desirable as immigrants to the United States. Trump later suggested he had not used the word “shithole” during the private White House meeting. However, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), the lone Democrat present in the Oval Office at the time, said Trump's denial was false.

After Trump's remarks were reported, a number of African leaders directly rebuked the president for his remarks. Nana Akufo-Addo, president of Ghana, suggested he could not “accept such insults, even from a leader of a friendly country, no matter how powerful,” while Macky Sall, president of Senegal, said he was “shocked” by the comments and “Africa and the black race deserve the respect and consideration of all.”

Speaking on Tuesday, however, Museveni suggested he felt differently about the comments. “America has got one of the best presidents ever. Mr. Trump. I love Trump,” the Ugandan president said, according to video published by local media outlets. As his audience laughed nervously, Museveni continued: “I love Trump because he talks to Africans frankly. I don't know if he's misquoted or whatever, but when he speaks I like him because he speaks frankly.”

Museveni went on to say Africa needed to be stronger. “It is the fault of the Africans that they are weak. They have this huge continent,” he said. “If you look at Africa, Africa is 12 times the size of India, in terms of land area, lots of resources, and the population is growing now. Why can't we make Africa strong?”

The Ugandan leader's thoughts on the U.S. president may not be shared by everyone in his country. Uganda’s state minister for international relations, Henry Okello Oryem, has called Trump's remarks “unfortunate and regrettable,” while the U.S. ambassador to Uganda, Deborah Malac, said she herself had found the comment “obviously quite disturbing and upsetting as I know Africans themselves felt.”

Museveni has directly praised Trump before — just weeks ago in a New Year's address, the Ugandan leader said he liked Trump. The U.S. president has also offered some limited praise to Uganda, listing its “incredible strides in the battle against HIV/AIDS” as one of a number of positive aspects to the relationship between the United States and Africa in a meeting with African leaders at the United Nations last year.

To critics of Museveni, the kinship is not so surprising. The Ugandan president has led the country for over three decades and recently lifted an age limit on his office. Meanwhile, he has allocated more than $77 million for expenses related to his residence and is openly grooming his son as his successor. Under his rule, Uganda has come down harshly on his critics: One university lecturer who called him “a pair of buttocks” on Facebook recently ended up in maximum security jail, while in 2014, a TV station was banned from presidential events after showing Museveni asleep in parliament.

Shortly after Trump's “shithole” comments were first reported, Nigerian American journalist Dayo Olopade said the U.S. administration's appointment of political novices to key positions resembled Museveni's own “disorganized” executive staff. “What the president doesn’t grasp is that if some African nations have been reduced to 'shithole countries,' it’s precisely because they’ve been run by leaders like Trump,” Olopade wrote.

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