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Out in Africa? Tillerson trip leaves hosts nonplussed

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – From the outset, Rex Tillerson’s first trip to Africa regarded half-hearted and token, however with the hindsight data that the U.S. Secretary of State was fired simply two days in, his African hosts who should be questioning why they bothered.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives at Djibouti–Ambouli International Airport in Djibouti, March 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Beyond $533 million in humanitarian help and a few pat remarks about safety and never getting too cosy with China, Tillerson’s most important intention seemed to be clearing up the mess left by President Donald Trump’s reported dismissal of some African nations as “shithole countries”. Trump later denied making the remark.

But the revelation from a senior White House official that Trump advised Tillerson he was out of a job simply two days into the six-day jaunt leaves little room for doubt in regards to the Trump White House’s perspective in direction of the continent.

Given its rising reliance for help and commerce on China, its most important business associate, and a current diplomatic push led by Russian overseas minister Sergei Lavrov, the slight is more likely to have actual penalties for Washington’s standing on the continent of a billion folks.

“This shows Trump’s disdain – a real own-goal, especially with Lavrov hot on his heels,” stated Jackie Cilliers, head of the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies.

After a quick look on the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia, the place he spoke of the necessity for care when doing enterprise with China, Tillerson flew to the Horn of Africa state of Djibouti, then Kenya, an necessary east African ally.

His presence in Nairobi on Friday smoothed the best way for a kiss-and-make-up assembly between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition chief Raila Odinga.

It was downhill from there. Tillerson’s focus switched to a potential summit between Trump and North Korean chief Kim Jong-Un – and making an attempt to maintain his job.

On Saturday, he pulled out of his actions in Nairobi, citing sick well being, earlier than flying to Chad and Nigeria. His time with leaders there on the entrance line of the battle in opposition to Boko Haram was minimize quick by the necessity to get residence a day early.

Only hours after he touched down in the United States, Trump introduced on Twitter that Tillerson was fired.

For Kenya’s chattering political lessons, it was a telling window into the priorities of the Trump White House.

“It’d be better for Africa if the Trump administration just ignored us because of the chaos and dysfunction within the administration,” stated Nanjala Nyabola, a Kenyan author and political analyst.

“It’s interesting and disturbing to see the administration flounder so much and not really have a coherent response to any major challenges on the continent and elsewhere.”

A spokesman for Kenya’s president declined to remark. Nigeria’s overseas ministry didn’t reply to a request for remark.

In Nigeria – the place Tillerson held talks with President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday – the secretary of state’s ousting was met with a way of weary acceptance.

“American foreign policy has always treated Africa as a leftover, which is why it’s not a huge shock that Tillerson was in Africa while they fired him,” stated Pat Utomi, professor of political financial system at Lagos Business School.

“It doesn’t augur well for the long-term message of America to Africa, especially with the message he sounded, which was ‘beware of China’. This means that the warning he was giving was of no consequence,” stated Utomi.

(This story has been refiled to revive lacking phrase in 14th paragraph.)

Reporting by Ed Cropley; Additional reporting by Chijoke Ohuocha in Lagos and Maggie Flick in Nairobi; enhancing by Larry King

About Zeeshan Iqbal Soomro

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