African Union tells Trump "our people were taken as slaves," but not as refugees

The African Union has some stern and damning words for President Donald Trump and his new immigration ban, which was issued as an executive order signed Friday and includes three AU members: Libya, Somalia and Sudan. 

"The very country to which many of our people were taken as slaves during the transatlantic slave trade has now decided to ban refugees from some of our countries," AU head Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said Monday, according to the Guardian

Dlamini-Zuma, the first woman to lead the AU, a South African politician and ex-wife of South African President Jacob Zuma, spoke on Monday during the union's summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which is currently underway. 

"What do we do about this? Indeed, this is one of the greatest challenges to our unity and solidarity," Dlamini-Zuma continued. 

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma with President ObamaSaul Loeb/Getty Images

The transatlantic slave trade — which began in America in the early 17th century and culminated with the Civil War in the mid-19th century — left around 12.5 million Africans forced into slavery: 10.7 million ended up in the U.S., providing the foundation for the country's monolithic economy. 

"We are entering very turbulent times," Dlamini-Zuma also warned in her address to the AU.

The 54-member unionestablished in 2001 and comprised of nation states spanning the African continent, met for its 28th gathering in part to choose Dlamini-Zuma's successor. The Foreign Minister of Chad, Moussa Faki Mahamat, was voted to succeed her role as head of the union. 

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres spoke at the summit in Addis, buttressing Dlamini-Zuma's message, adding some strong words directed at "developed countries" that close their borders. 

"African nations are among the world's largest and most generous hosts of refugees," Guterres said at the meeting. "African borders remain open for those in need of protection when so many borders are being closed, even in the most developed countries in the world."