US president Donald Trump’s controversial nationalist views are getting support from one of the world’s least democratic leaders: Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.
The 92-year-old, who has ruled Zimbabwe for 30 years, says that Trump policies focused on limiting entry for foreign nationals are necessary. “When it comes to Donald Trump, on the one hand talking of American nationalism, well America for America [and] America for Americans—on that we agree,” Mugabe said in an interview ahead of his 93rd birthday. After taking office, Trump signed a controversial executive order (currently halted by US courts) temporarily banning entry from seven Muslim-majority countries.
It’s not the first time Mugabe has spoken supportively of Trump. Before the Nov. 8 US elections, Mugabe disclosed his preference for the Republican candidate, though later said he was “surprised” by Trump’s win.
Mugabe’s niceties are likely a ploy to cozy up to the US president in the hopes of getting Zimbabwe’s longstanding sanctions lifted. The sanctions were put in place by president George W. Bush in 2001, and maintained by president Barack Obama, in response to Zimbabwe’s controversial land reforms. Given time, Mugabe hopes Trump will “re-look the sanctions on Zimbabwe,” which have been particularly damaging for its struggling economy. Estimates peg lost revenue due to the sanctions at $42 billion.
Mugabe isn’t the only populist leader on the continent who has quickly warmed up to Trump: After his victory, early congratulations came from some of Africa’s longest-serving strongmen. So far though, Trump has not shown much interest in the continent. He has only spoken with Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari, South Africa’s Jacob Zuma and Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.