BCNN5 – Africa Just another WordPress site Thu, 15 Feb 2018 07:57:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Evangelical Christian Leader Sentenced to 7 Months in Jail Over Theological Disagreement With Ethiopian Orthodox Church Thu, 15 Feb 2018 07:57:25 +0000 An Ethiopian Orthodox Church service (Bernews)

An Ethiopian Orthodox Church service (Bernews)

A judge in southern Ethiopia has sentenced an Evangelical Christian to seven months in prison for “causing outrage to religious peace and feeling” following accusations believed to come from members of the predominant Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC).

The judge in the city of Arba Minch handed down the sentence on 2 February to Temesgen Mitiku Mezemir, 24, the leader of an Evangelical fellowship group.

Just under half of Ethiopia’s population belongs to the EOC, a symbol of Ethiopian national identity, whose leaders play a prominent role in state and religious affairs. However relations between the EOC and the fast-growing Evangelical churches are often strained, characterised by mutual suspicion.

Mezemir was charged on 23 January after some EOC members had asked him his view of the tabot, a replica of the Ark of the Covenant sacred to Orthodox Christians. He reportedly told them to compare Orthodox accounts of the tabot with information about the Ark of the Covenant on the Internet.

At the 23 January hearing the court expected to hear the prosecutor’s witnesses, but in a highly unusual turn of events, the judge instead invited court attendees to give their opinion of the accused. After the hearing Mezemir and some other Evangelicals were reportedly attacked outside the court, while police failed to intervene. Five of the Evangelicals were injured.

Members of the Evangelical church appealed to the Justice Department to replace the judge and change the venue. The judge was replaced.

A second hearing took place on 26 January, after the defendant’s request for extra time to provide witnesses had been refused. The hearing took place amid heavy security and there was no unrest.

Mezemir denied downloading a picture of the tabot to insult the EOC, and explained to the judge that he had downloaded it for reference, showing the authorities the website from which he had sourced it. There is no law in Ethiopia against possessing or sharing such photos.

After the judge delivered his verdict, Mezemir’s lawyer lodged an appeal.

Local Evangelicals expressed concern at Mezemir’s sentence, arguing that it set a precedent whereby anyone could bring unfounded accusations against Evangelicals with impunity. They also expressed concern that the legal process was wrought with irregularities.

One member of Mezemir’s fellowship group told World Watch Monitor that the weeks leading up to the court case had been marked by several violent incidents for which he believed members of the EOC were responsible.

He said that Evangelicals in Arba Minch were attacked shortly before the Orthodox celebration of Epiphany on 19 January, when they were blamed for the disappearance of a festive banner. He said that Orthodox leaders had urged people to defend their religion and that some members had interpreted this as a call to arms. Some Evangelicals were physically attacked while others fled to the compound of the local Kale Hiwot Evangelical church for safety.

He added that in early January a group of more than 70 people from Arba Minch, believed to belong to the EOC, broke into the group’s meeting place, destroying its pulpit, chairs and tables, and stealing musical instruments.

The group reported the damage to the police, but the source said the people who had carried out the vandalism attacked members of the Evangelical fellowship group “right at the gate of the police station”.

He continued: “They used machetes, hammers and rocks. Our members sustained injuries on their heads, arms and feet. One of our members had machete wounds on his arm.”

The source said that the attack outside the police station occurred after people believed to belong to a radical anti-reform wing within the EOC, Mahibere Kidusan, had spread a rumour that the Evangelicals were taking over the local EOC.

Arba Minch lies in an ethnically diverse part of Ethiopia known as the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region. Between 1994 and 2007 the proportion of Protestants there jumped from 35 per cent to 55 per cent, while the proportion of Orthodox Christians fell from 27 per cent to 20 per cent.

SOURCE: World Watch Monitor

South African President Jacob Zuma Resigns Wed, 14 Feb 2018 23:49:42 +0000 South African President Jacob Zuma resigned on Wednesday in a televised address to the nation, ending a turbulent tenure marred by corruption scandals that sapped the popularity of the ruling African National Congress and hurt one of Africa’s biggest economies.

The resignation signaled an imminent end to a leadership crisis in South Africa and set the stage for Zuma to be replaced by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has promised a robust campaign against corruption but will quickly face pressure to produce results in a country struggling with unemployment, economic inequity and other problems. Ahead of 2019 elections, Ramaphosa also has the tough task of rebuilding a ruling party whose moral stature has diminished since it took power at the end of white minority rule in 1994.

“I have therefore come to the decision to resign as president of the republic with immediate effect,” said Zuma, who added that he took the decision even though he disagreed with the ruling party’s demand that he quit immediately or face a motion of no confidence in the parliament on Thursday. Zuma, 75, had said he was willing to resign early from his second five-year term but wanted to stay in office for several more months.

“Of course, I must accept that if my party and my compatriots wish that I be removed from office, they must exercise that right and do so in the manner prescribed by the constitution,” Zuma said.

The African National Congress welcomed the resignation, expressing gratitude for Zuma’s “loyal service” during his nearly 10 years as president and encouraging party members to support Ramaphosa, now the country’s acting president. By the end of the week, Ramaphosa is likely to be elected president by the ANC-dominated parliament and to give a state of the nation address that had been postponed during the political turmoil.

South Africa’s biggest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, said the ruling party must act against associates of Zuma who are also suspected of wrongdoing and mismanagement.

“Zuma built a deep system of corruption that has penetrated every part of the government and the criminal prosecution system,” Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said.

“Now the country looks to Cyril Ramaphosa to save us from a man that he and the ANC protected and supported. We must never allow this to happen again,” said Maimane, who wants parliament to be dissolved so that early elections can be held.

Ramaphosa, a union leader during apartheid, was a key negotiator of the transition from white minority rule to democracy in the 1990s and later became a wealthy businessman. He replaced Zuma as leader of the ANC in December and has been consolidating his control, while also raising his international profile with a visit last month to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

On Wednesday morning, South African police raided the home of prominent business associates of Zuma who are accused of being at the center of corruption scandals that have infuriated the country. An elite police unit entered the compound of the Gupta family, which has been accused of using its connections to the president to influence Cabinet appointments and win state contracts.

Several people were arrested during police operations, South African media reported.

Both Zuma and the Guptas deny any wrongdoing, though legal challenges are looming. As the Gupta-linked investigation proceeds, Zuma also could face corruption charges tied to an arms deal two decades ago. South Africa’s chief prosecutor is expected to make a decision on whether to prosecute Zuma on the old charges, which were reinstated last year after being thrown out in 2009.

In another scandal, South Africa’s top court ruled in 2016 that Zuma violated the constitution following an investigation of multi-million-dollar upgrades to his private home using state funds. He paid back some of the money.

Still, Zuma, a former anti-apartheid activist who spent a decade at the Robben Island prison where Nelson Mandela was held, was popular among some South Africans for his personal warmth and populist policies.

In 2006, while being tried on charges of raping an HIV-positive family friend, Zuma was widely criticized after testifying he took a shower after extramarital sex to lower the risk of AIDS. He was acquitted of rape. But during his tenure, he called for earlier and expanded treatment for HIV-positive South Africans that helped to curb the death rate and urged his countrymen to get tested for HIV.

He presided over a South African triumph, the staging of the World Cup soccer tournament in 2010. He was also leader during the fatal shooting by police of several dozen protesters during labor unrest at a platinum mine in Marikana in 2012.

The former president was defiant in a television interview earlier Wednesday, saying he had done nothing wrong despite the ANC’s demand for his resignation.

“I’m being victimized here,” Zuma told state broadcaster SABC. He complained that Ramaphosa and other ANC leaders had not given him clear reasons about why he should go.

However, Zuma was affable when he arrived hours later at government offices to give his resignation speech.

“Why do you look serious? You can’t even say, ’Good evening,’” a beaming Zuma said to weary journalists. “What’s happening … you are tired. We are working, aren’t we?”


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Source: Associated Press

Catholic Relief Groups Say 3 Million People Are Undergoing Humanitarian Emergency in Congo Wed, 14 Feb 2018 20:40:46 +0000 As many as 3 million people are in urgent need of help in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, including many Christians whose family members have been murdered, Catholic relief groups have said.

“This is a truly disastrous humanitarian emergency,” said Jean-Pierre Pokavu of Caritas Congo. “The needs are enormous.”

Caritas, a confederation of numerous Catholic relief organizations, said in a report this week that over 3 million people are starving because of the growing humanitarian crisis, including 400,000 children who are suffering severe acute malnutrition.

Christians and regular civilians have been caught up in a complex web of ethnic and political violence that has gripped the country for years, with the war between the government of President Joseph Kabila and opposition forces leaving entire villages burned down, and multiple planting seasons missed.

Denise Ndekenya is one widow who shared her horrific loss with Caritas, explaining that she had five children with her husband.

“Now I only have two children left,” the woman said, explaining that most of her family was murdered, with her husband decapitated, after militia attacked her village in April 2017.

Ndekenya was transported to a hospital with her two children following the attack, but she knew that staying in the region was too dangerous, and so she set off on a long journey through the country, finally arriving at St. Augustine’s parish near Tshikapa.

“What am I going to do now?” the woman asks. “I feel such sorrow.”

The violence, including the deaths of 3,000 victims, has led to nearly one-and-a-half million people fleeing Kasai in 2017.

The war has been particularly hard on children, who are widely recruited to fight for militias.

“They have lost absolutely everything,” Juliette Maquart of Caritas Belgium said about the refugees attempting to return to Karitas.

“Their homes don’t exist anymore, they have been looted and burned, along with clinics and schools.”

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Source: Christian Post

Fulani Herdsmen Increasing Attacks on Christian Farmers in Nigeria After New Laws Restrict Their Grazing Fri, 09 Feb 2018 18:44:16 +0000 At least 170 Christian farmers and Muslim Fulani herdsmen have died this year in Nigeria’s Middle Belt in a centuries-old feud driven by Muslims seeking to graze their cattle on farmland, Christian advocacy groups have reported.

Advocacy group Amnesty International (AI) counted 170 killings through Jan. 30 in Adamawa, Benue, Taraba, Ondo and Kaduna states. Many killed were Christian farmers attacked by herdsmen seeking grazing land for their cattle, but others died in retaliatory clashes.

Thousands of residents have been displaced, homes and churches have been destroyed and Sunday worship numbers have declined, according to reports from AI, Morning Star News and International Christian Concern (ICC).

Nigeria’s military has announced a six-week offensive set to launch Feb. 15 to combat the violence that has increased in conjunction with several new local anti-grazing laws meant to protect the farmers.

In Benue state, where ICC said more than 80 Christians were killed in January, the ramped up violence has been traced to the enactment of a law two months earlier against open cattle grazing there. The new laws must be revised in order for the violence to simmer, a national leader of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association told Nigeria’s Punch newspaper.

“We don’t wish for the crisis to continue, but let us give it [the law] another look,” Punch quoted association secretary-general Usman Ngelzerma Jan. 9. “Give the farmers their rights, but consider the pastoralists too.”

Boko Haram terrorists aided herdsmen in attacks that killed eight Christians in four ambushes spanning several days in late January in Zanwra, a village in a northernmost area of the Middle Belt in Plateau state, a pastor told Morning Star News.

“A critical look at these attacks has revealed that it is not the herdsmen who are attacking Christian communities, as there are terrorists collaborating with them to carry out these attacks,” said Gado Biri, pastor of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Zanwra. “It is unfortunate that the soldiers brought here are not taking decisive actions against the herdsmen.”

The attacks have displaced church members and cut Sunday church attendance in half, from 400 to about 200, Biri told Morning Star News.

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Source: Baptist Press

Day Zero: How Christian Leaders and Other Faith Groups Are Tackling Cape Town’s Water Crisis Thu, 08 Feb 2018 16:30:23 +0000 The Rev. Rachel Mash, environmental coordinator for the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and Green Anglicans, organized and presents at the Anglican Diocese of Cape Town’s Water (In)Justice Conference at Zonnebloem on Feb 3, 2018. RNS photo by Brian Pellot

The Rev. Rachel Mash, environmental coordinator for the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and Green Anglicans, organized and presents at the Anglican Diocese of Cape Town’s Water (In)Justice Conference at Zonnebloem on Feb 3, 2018. RNS photo by Brian Pellot

The trickling sound echoed through Zonnebloem Estate’s chapel as the Anglican bishop of Table Bay, the Rt. Rev. Garth Q. Counsell, slowly poured one pitcher of water into another. 

This sound of running water, once considered soothing, now triggers anxiety in drought-stricken Cape Town, where residents are hoarding bottled water and showering over buckets in anticipation of “Day Zero.”

Currently estimated for mid-May, Day Zero would mark the unprecedented moment when engineers close most of the city’s faucets. Nearly 4 million residents would be left to fetch daily water rations of just 25 liters (6.6 gallons) from fewer than 200 central collection points until rains resume or alternative sources come online.

Government officials have provided scant details for Day Zero logistics. Rather than communicate a clear plan of action, some are invoking fear with comparisons to World War II and 9/11.

Major political parties and faith groups in South Africa have long recognized the toll climate change is taking on citizens and the environment. As tensions rise and politicians point blame in every direction, faith groups are working across spiritual divides to offer their flocks hope and a way forward.

Counsell’s deliberate water display and opening sermon kicked off the Anglican Diocese of Cape Town’s Water (In)Justice Conference on Saturday (Feb. 3). More than 120 lay and clergy members joined the event, aimed at infusing the upcoming Lenten season with messages and prayers around water’s sacredness, scarcity, sanitation, biodiversity and sustainability.

“We have stopped major crises in the history of our country, and even this one will come to pass,” Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba told the room, later referencing the HIV/AIDS epidemic and apartheid. Makgoba takes issue with the apocalyptic connotations of the name “Day Zero” and suggested parishioners consider “Day One” —  his preferred term for the same scenario — as an opportunity for action.

“From a biblical perspective, the concept of void and nihilism does not sit well, because we take the creation story seriously,” he explained. “Zero has the connotation that this is the end. It doesn’t give us hope. But we are responsible. We can do something. We can avert it.”

The Rev. Rachel Mash, environmental coordinator for the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and Green Anglicans, organized the conference, which featured practical water-saving tools and ideas. Goody bags included dense green plastic blocks participants were advised to drop in their toilet tanks at home to save water.

“Our job as the church is to reduce water ourselves, inspire others to reduce water, share ideas on how to do that, get the message out into the community, and avert Day Zero,” Mash said.

The Anglican Diocese is performing environmental audits on individual parishes and fixing leaks. If or when the countdown to Day Zero drops below 30 days, Mash said the denomination plans to install crisis committee representatives at each parish to help coordinate water home delivery for vulnerable people of all faiths and none.

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SOURCE: Brian Pellot 
Religion News Service

Rihanna Defies Warning from Islamic Groups to Visit Senegal Sat, 03 Feb 2018 22:31:22 +0000

Apparently believing in Internet conspiracy theories about the singer, a group of 30 hard-line Islamic organizations this week warned Rihanna to stay out of Senegal.

But Rihanna arrived in Dakar, the capital of the mostly Muslim West African country on Friday (Feb. 2), despite accusations from the group that she is a Freemason and supports gay people — both serious transgressions in their eyes.

The singer, who was born Robyn Rihanna Fenty and is originally from Barbados, scheduled her trip to Senegal to attend a conference on education funding, which French President Emmanuel Macron also attended.

The hard-line Islamic group, which calls itself “No to Freemasonry and Homosexuality” had urged the government to cancel the visit and threatened intense protests. In response, Senegalese officials said they would assure the security of all delegates to the conference.

“We will protest right at her plane. If necessary, we will go to the assembly, the Ministry of Interior or the Presidency,” said Sheikh Oumar Diagne, a spokesman for the group, as quoted last week in the Senegalese newspaper, JeuneAfrique.

“Rihanna does not hide it. She is part of the Illuminati, which is a branch of Freemasonry,” he said in a statement.

Conspiracy theories abound on and off the Internet about the Freemasons or Masons, the world’s oldest fraternal organization, which began as a guild for stonemasons in the 14th century. George Washington, Winston Churchill and John Wayne all belonged.

The Illuminati refers to secret groups — real and imagined — that trace back to a 17th-century organization founded in Europe to promote Enlightenment-era ideals and to counter corruption, superstition and the influence of religion in civic life.

According to the Senegalese group opposed to Rihanna, her visit did not coincidentally come at the same time as a planned African Freemasons meeting in Dakar. The hard-liners deemed her scheduled attendance at the education conference an attempt to divert attention from the Freemasons’ gathering.

Rihanna is an ambassador for the Global Partnership for Education, a nongovernmental organization that aims to boost financing for education in 65 developing countries.

She has been working with the organization through her own charity, the Clara Lionel Foundation, which she founded in 2012 to honor her grandparents, Clara and Lionel Braithwaite.

Before Rihanna attended the education conference, Senegalese officials canceled the Free Masons event. Reports at press time have not indicated the reason, but many believe it stemmed from pressure from the hard-line Muslim group.

About 90 percent of Senegalese are Muslim. Ironic to many is that the vocal opposition to Rihanna arose in a country that enjoys a reputation for relatively high levels of tolerance.

Macron at the conference called education “the only single response” to the extremism and fundamentalism threatening the West Africa region, according to The Associated Press.

He promised 200 million euros ($248 million) for the fund, sharply upping France’s earlier offer — but falling short of the 250 million euros that Rihanna had pushed him to contribute.

SOURCE: Religion News Service

African Governments Came Close to Demanding Formal Apology from Trump for Crude Remarks, But Decided Not To Thu, 01 Feb 2018 05:11:14 +0000 FILE - U.S. President Donald Trump meets President Paul Kagame of Rwanda during the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 26, 2018.

FILE – U.S. President Donald Trump meets President Paul Kagame of Rwanda during the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 26, 2018.

African leaders were very close to officially demanding President Donald Trump publicly apologize for reportedly crude remarks about the continent and immigration, but backed off, reports say.

The African Union drafted its response to the president at a summit this week.

The draft warned that Trump’s “racist and xenophobic behavior” puts the strategic partnership between the United States and Africa at risk.

It says African heads of state are “appalled” by the presidents’ apparent remarks and “dismayed and shocked by the increasingly consistent trend from the Trump administration to denigrate people of African descent and other people of color.”

But the African Union decided not to release the draft. It pointed to a Jan. 25th letter from Trump in which he pledged his “deep respect” for Africa and announced that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will make an “extended visit” to Africa in March.

Trump also met with Rwandan President Paul Kagame on the sidelines of the Davos economic forum last week.

Kagame is the current chair of the African Union. He says the AU will have to find a way to get along with Trump.

“When the United States decided to give us Trump as their president, we will deal with that president,” Kagame said.

Trump reportedly called Africa, Haiti, and El Salvador “s—hole countries” during a White House meeting on immigration earlier this month, and wanted to exclude Haiti from any immigration reform deal.

He denied using such crude language.


Muslim High School Students Beat and Stabbed Christians Who Refused to Convert to Islam in Kenya Mon, 29 Jan 2018 17:50:53 +0000 Muslim students at a high school in Nairobi on Tuesdaynight (Jan. 23) beat and stabbed Christians who refused to convert to Islam, a local source said.
Tensions had been growing for weeks at Jamhuri High School in northern Nairobi, with Muslims primarily of Somali, Boran and Oromo descent complaining of discrimination. Due to increasing hostilities, the boarding school had designated separate bathrooms and separate sections in the library for Christians and Muslims, a source told Morning Star News.

The conflict came to a head Tuesday night (Jan. 23), when Muslim students began speaking in inflammatory terms and tried to force Christian students to recite the Islamic creed for conversion and force students to participate in Muslim cleansing rituals, a source on campus who requested anonymity said.

“Some Muslim students forcefully tried to induct Christian students into their Islam faith, and those who refused were knifed, while others were physically beaten,” the source told Morning Star News by phone. “The knives and machetes used are alleged to have come from outside the school.”

At least 35 of the school’s 1,500 students were injured, including some Muslims when the Christian students tried to defend themselves, the source said. Some Christian students received hospital treatment for stab wounds and dislocated bones in their hands and joints, he said.

Police were investigating the cause of the attack at this writing. The school has been closed indefinitely.

School Principal Fred Awuor was reportedly injured in the attack and had received hospital treatment.

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Source: Christian

Oscars-Nominated Film Is True Story of Muslims Risking Lives to Save Christians From Terrorists Thu, 25 Jan 2018 16:50:30 +0000 A Kenyan-German short film called “Watu Wote,” which depicts the real life story of Muslim passengers risking their lives to save Christians on a bus when Islamic radicals attacked in 2015, has been nominated for an Oscar award.

The full list of Oscar nominations was released earlier this week, with “Watu Wote” up for Best Live Action short film at the 90th Academy Awards, which will take place on March 4, as noted by the Clarion Project.

The Christian Post reported on the story that inspired the movie back in December 2015, when Al-Shabaab terror group radicals ambushed a bus in Kenya that was carrying close to 100 people, both Christians and Muslims alike.

The radicals, which earlier that year had killed 152 people at Garissa University College while hunting down specifically Christian students, again attempted to separate the Muslim passengers from the Christian ones, with the intent to kill the latter.

The Muslims stood up for the Christians on the bus, however, with the women sharing their hijabs in order to help them hide. Others directly told the radicals: “If you want to kill us, then kill us. There are no Christians here.”

Two people still lost their lives in the attack, including one Christian man who tried to run away, and the driver of a truck behind the bus. A much larger slaughter was prevented due to the united actions of the passengers, however.

Christian leaders, including His Exc. Mgr. Joseph Alexander, the bishop of Garissa, praised the Muslims.

“It is a very good thing; a concrete sign that Kenyan Muslims are against violence,” Alexander said at the time.

“The Shabaab now know that they do not have the support of the Muslim community,” he added. “We hope that we continue in this direction because a year ago there was a similar attack that caused a massacre.”

The terror group, based in Somalia, continues carrying out attacks in Kenya, with a number of violent incidents reported in 2017.

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Source: Christian Post

Uganda’s Christian President, Yoweri Museveni, Praises Trump for Speaking “Frankly” to Africans: “Why Can’t We Make Africa Strong?” Wed, 24 Jan 2018 16:21:01 +0000 Yoweri Museveni

Yoweri Museveni

Ugandan president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni spoke out 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 hes 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.”

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SOURCE: Adam Taylor 
The Washington Post