It might have been the outrage that greeted news that Donald Trump was set to meet long-time strongman president Denis Sassou Nguesso on Tuesday, but it now appears that the US president-elect will not meet the Congo Brazzaville leader after all. Trump’s spokeswoman Hope Hicks told Reuters that no meeting had been scheduled and that no meeting would take place before Trump takes office on Jan. 20.
News of the meeting had spread after a tweet by Nguesso’s spokesman that included an image of an official looking document announcing the meeting for Dec. 27. The meeting was supposedly scheduled because Nguesso is the chair of the African Union’s Libya committee. The collapse of the Libyan state has created a global security crisis stemming from ISIL’s operations in Libya as well as rampant illegal migration to Europe.
It now appears that the meeting had never been agreed. Trump has shown next to no interest in African affairs, other than a few disparaging remarks about Somali refugees in Minnesota. Trump has had private meetings and phone calls with world leaders in the run-up to taking office. The only African leader he’s spoken with has been Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Many were disappointed at the prospect of Nguesso becoming the first African president that president-elect Trump would meet. The Congolese leader has a shaky record on democratic and human rights. Nguesso, 73, has been president of Congo Brazzaville (also known as Republic of Congo) for 19 consecutive years, and was re-elected in March for another seven years. He has been president for a total of 32 years, excluding the five years he didn’t run the country between 1992 and 1997.
In March, when Nguesso ran for office again, he ordered the country’s internet shut, supposedly to keep people from using social media to organize security challenges.