Several attendees of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland are planning to walk out of President Donald Trump's speech at the summit on Friday afternoon, in protest of his recent reported remarks about countries whose citizens he deems undesirable immigrants.
In an open letter, Business Leadership South Africa CEO Bonang Mohale denounced Trump's alleged statement, confirmed by Republican and Democratic lawmakers, that more immigrants from "countries like Norway" should come to the U.S. instead of people from "shithole countries" such as Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations.
When Trump arrives in Davos, Mohale wrote, "it will be clear exactly what it is you mean when you lay out your 'America First' doctrine. Rather than the laudable ethos upon which modern America is built, namely a nation of immigrants free to strive for excellence and success, regardless of their provenance, it appears you want to pull up the drawbridge for people who are not white, and engineer an exclusive, less diverse America."
Mohale did not name other attendees who will be boycotting the speech, but said several leaders plan to walk out and encouraged "likeminded peers to do the same."
According to Quartz, "Leaving Trump’s speech after he starts is probably more powerful than boycotting it entirely, some Davos attendees speculate."
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African business leaders have called on Trump to address and apologize for his comments. The president has denied denigrating African countries, and said of the reports only that he is "not a racist," while the White House dismissed the incident as evidence of Trump's "passionate" views on immigration.
Mohale acknowledged Trump's plummeting approval ratings in the U.S., noting that many in the international community view the president as separate from the broader U.S. population.
"It’s encouraging to us that so many of your countrymen and women, who treasure this ideal of the U.S.—including many from within your own Republican party—are already rejecting your monochrome vision. We join hands with them, in the same spirit of solidarity that many of your citizens showed in rejecting Apartheid and isolating those who sought to entrench racism, segregation and discrimination."
At Davos, Trump will meet one-on-one with Rwandan president Paul Kagame—also the head of the African Union, which condemned Trump's comments after they were reported.
The AU demanded "a retraction of the comment as well as an apology, not only to the Africans, but to all people of African descent around the globe."