Despite making pejorative remarks about Africa, US President Donald Trump has attracted a devout following among some Christians on the continent.
“Pray for him [Trump] because when God places any of his children in a position, hell sometimes would do everything to destroy that individual,” said Nigerian Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, a prominent televangelist, in a sermon in June.
He has also warned that critics of the Republican president, who is seeking re-election in November, dislike his supporters.
“They are angry at Trump for supporting Christians, you better know it. So the real ones that they hate are you who are Christians,” said the pastor, whose broadcasts are popular around the world, including in the US.
President Trump has been a polarising figure the world over but he is popular in African countries like Nigeria and Kenya, according to a Pew Research poll released in January, where supporters do not appear to be bothered that he reportedly referred to African countries as “shitholes” in 2018.
Both Nigeria and Kenya are deeply religious countries. Mega churches proliferate in the Christian south of Nigeria – Africa’s most populous nation – and in Kenya many politicians go to church sermons to address their supporters, such is their popularity.
Many evangelical Christian groups in Africa, which are mostly anti-abortion, against gay rights and support Israel, were not keen on his predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama, despite his Kenyan heritage.
“The Obama administration had been pushing a liberal agenda here in Africa and that agenda was of concern to some of us Christian leaders. It was a relief that during Trump’s time he’s taken a bit of a back seat,” Richard Chogo, a pastor at the Deliverance Church in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, told the BBC.
He praised the Trump administration for cutting funding to organisations, such as Marie Stopes, that provide contraception and safe abortion services in several African countries.
The charity criticised the 2017 US funding ban, saying that it “put women’s lives at risk”.
But Pastor Chogo agrees with the law in Kenya where abortion is illegal unless a mother’s health is in danger, saying that to legalise the termination of pregnancies is part of a “population control agenda”.
Black Lives Matter ‘hijacked’
The abortion debate has been at the centre of US politics for at least four decades.
White evangelicals have coalesced around the issue turning their anti-abortion movement into an influential political force.
After the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision by the US Supreme Court to legalise abortion, white evangelicals, who were then not politically affiliated with either of the two main parties, backed Republican Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential election against then Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter.
Even though President Carter was an evangelical, they saw him as a progressive liberal – and their vote proved decisive and helped Reagan to win, NPR’s Evangelical Votes reports.