U.S. first lady Melania Trump has arrived in Malawi on the second leg of her four-nation tour of Africa.
Trump is expected to visit Thursday with children at a primary school in the capital city, Lilongwe, followed by a meeting with Gertrude Maseko, her Malawian counterpart.
The wife of President Donald Trump spent the second day of her goodwill trip to Africa visiting a former slave holding facility Wednesday on Ghana’s coast. She described her tour of the Cape Coast Castle, one of about forty “slave castles” built on the Gold Coast of West Africa by European traders, as “very emotional” and “really something that people should see and experience.”
Before arriving, in accordance with local custom, the first lady stopped at Eintsimadze Palace to formally ask permission from Ghanaian King Osabarimba Kwesi Atta II to visit his land.
The meeting between Trump and the King took place inside “Obama Hall,” which was named after President Barack Obama visited in 2009 with his family.
Cape Coast Castle is an iconic location for visiting dignitaries. In 2009, Obama said that as an African-American the place represents both “profound sadness” as well as a source of hope. “It reminds us that as bad as history can be it’s also possible to overcome,” he said.
Obama took his family to another African slave outpost in 2013, known as the “House of Slaves” at Senegal’s Goree Island, once a notorious embarkation point for Africans destined for a life of slavery. The 18th century fort was the same spot then-President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton visited during their 11-day tour of Africa in 1998.
Kenya and Egypt are the other stops on Mrs. Trump’s African tour, which follows her husband’s reported disparaging comments about Africa and immigrants from the region.
Malawian political scientist Vincent Kondowe lamented the reported comments and what he sees as the Trump administration’s limited attention to the continent, only to “counter the influence of China and to fight against terrorism.”
But he welcomed the first lady’s visit as a “message of goodwill” that he hopes will lead humanitarian organizations to pay more attention to the socio-economic challenges Malawi is facing.
Despite 50 years of peaceful independence, Malawi remains one of the poorest nations in the world, with more than half of its 17 million population living below the poverty line and around 40 percent unable to read.
He hoped the first lady’s visit might lead to more positive attention and policy from the U.S. administration.
“You never know about bedroom politics”, he said. “What she’s going to say about Malawi, about Ghana … we know that government policy can be influenced based on the views of who is holding the office of the presidency.”
American aid programs remain important for meeting crucial needs in countries like Malawi. Here the first lady is expected to highlight the Trump administration’s support for vulnerable groups through the USAID program.
USAID funds for Africa were slated for significant cuts in the Trump administration’s proposed budget but have been blocked by Congress.