Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari is to become the first African leader to visit Donald Trump – just three months after the US president is reported as dismissing African nations as “shithole countries”.
Mr Buhari will arrive in Washington on Monday to discuss economic, security and military ties. But observers wonder if Mr Trump’s past remarks may cause some friction.
In January, he was reported to have asked a private meeting of American lawmakers: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”
The comment – which Mr Trump denied – was referring to African countries in particular, according to Senator Dick Durbin who was present at the meeting. Speaking at the time, Mr Durbin said the language had been “hate-filled, vile and racist”. Mr Trump responded by telling reporters: “I’m the least racist person you have ever interviewed.”
The meeting comes weeks after Rex Tillerson, then US secretary of state, visited Nigeria and other African countries. That trip was widely seen as an attempt to smooth relations after Mr Trump’s alleged comments caused outrage across the continent.
“President Trump looks forward to discussing ways to enhance our strategic partnership and advance our shared priorities,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
She added that priorities would include “promoting economic growth and reforms, fighting terrorism and other threats to peace and security, and building on Nigeria’s role as a democratic leader in the region”.
Mr Buhari, a 75-year-old former military leader, is expected to stress his commitment to democracy despite reports of rampant corruption and poor governance, according to Reuters.
He will stress the importance of the West African country’s role in ensuring stability across the continent despite itself facing insurgency threats by terror group Boko Haram in the north east.
After the talks, he will meet businesses specialising in agriculture. Senior Nigerian government officials will also discuss a number of projects with executives from major US transport companies.