Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump appears to have the endorsement of one of Africa’s most notorious despots, Zimbabwe’s longtime president Robert Mugabe.
US lawmakers Chris Coons and Adam Schiff were visiting the southern African country to discuss wildlife trafficking when a request for a meeting with the interior minister turned into a sit down with the president, according to an interview with Politico this week.
According to Coons and Schiff, the discussion turned tense when Mugabe asked why the US insists on sanctioning Zimbabwe. The senators and their delegation listed reasons why the sanctions have remained in place—the US has sanctioned the country since 2002 after reports of election abuse and human rights violations. Mugabe has held on to power by repressing his rivals as well as the public.
After an awkward silence, Mugabe said, “Once [Trump] is your president, you’ll wish you’d been friendlier to me,” according to Coons’ retelling of the encounter.
It’s unclear why Mugabe thinks Trump would be more sympathetic to him than previous American presidents. The republican candidate hasn’t made any public statements about how he would approach US-Zimbabwe relations.
Trump’s rival Hillary Clinton on the other hand has compared the Trump’s economic policies to those of Zimbabwe in the 1990s, which caused hyperinflation and economic crisis.
It appears Trump’s race for the presidency has made it more difficult for US representatives to be taken seriously abroad.
“We’ve been the object of some derision by autocratic heads of state as a result of Trump’s candidacy,” Coons said.