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Africa

Melania Trump rounds off Africa tour in Egypt

Trump said her trip – which also took in Ghana, Malawi and Kenya – was designed to “show the world that we care”

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 October, 2018, 3:07am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 October, 2018, 3:07am

Smiling for the cameras in the shadow of the pyramids, US First Lady Melania Trump wrapped up her four nation Africa tour in Egypt on Saturday, far from the political tumult back home.

In rare comments to the press, Trump said her trip – which also took in Ghana, Malawi and Kenya – was designed to “show the world that we care”.

Asked about reports earlier this year that her husband US President Donald Trump referred to African nations and Haiti as “shithole countries”, the First Lady said “nobody discussed that with me and I never heard him saying those comments”.

“I don’t always agree what he thinks and I tell him that”, Mrs Trump said. “I give him my honest opinion and honest advice and sometimes he listens, and sometimes he doesn’t.”

“I have my own voice and my opinions and it’s very important for me that I express what I feel”, she added.

The low-key tour came to an end as her husband was set to score a big political win after days of acrimonious deadlock inside and outside the Senate over his Supreme Court pick.

The US Senate is expected to confirm conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh on Saturday as the next Supreme Court justice.

Washington has been gripped by high drama for days, from the testimony of Dr Christine Blasey Ford – who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault – to protests against his nomination and an FBI investigation into the allegations surrounding the judge.

Mrs Trump said Kavanaugh was “highly qualified for the Supreme Court” and was glad that both Ford and Kavanaugh had been given their say in front of the Senate.

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Asked if she believed Dr Ford’s testimony, the First Lady indicated she did not want to comment directly.

“I think all the victims, they need – we need to help all the victims, no matter what kind of abuse they had, but I am against any kind of abuse or violence”, she added.

Mrs Trump finished the Egypt leg of her tour with a visit to the Giza pyramids near Cairo, where she posed at the foot of the Sphinx, wearing a white panama hat.

On the previous leg of her tour in Kenya, her choice of a white colonial-style pith helmet while on safari drew some criticism on Twitter, with one person comparing her look to that of a “colonial administrator”.

In her comments to the press on Saturday, Trump said she wanted “to talk about my trip and not what I wear”.

Earlier in the day the former model stepped off a plane at Cairo international airport wearing high-waisted white pants, a pleated white shirt and a black tie with a beige jacket.

She was welcomed by Egyptian First Lady Intissar Amer al-Sisi, an observant Muslim who wore an ankle-length blue dress and matching headscarf.

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Security was tight with police deployed along the route and on rooftops as her convoy drove from the airport to the presidential palace.

The visit came as Egyptian security forces face a persistent jihadist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula across the Suez Canal to the northeast.

The First Lady held a one-hour meeting with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his wife at the palace, the longest of her tour, and was then driven to the US embassy before heading to the Pyramids of Giza.

Washington has long maintained a strong relationship with Cairo, which was briefly soured by the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and the temporary suspension of US$1.3 billion in military aid under US President Barack Obama.

Bilateral relations have since stabilised.

Trump, in Africa to promote her children’s welfare programme, began her trip in Ghana, where she visited mothers and their newborns, and toured a former slave trading fort.

She then made a brief stop in Malawi where she toured a primary school.

On Thursday, her husband tweeted: “Our country’s great First Lady, Melania, is doing really well in Africa. The people love her, and she loves them! It is a beautiful thing to see.”