Tillerson called home early from rough Africa trip


Rex Tillerson boards his plane at the end of a five-country swing through Africa that turned out to be his swansong as US secretary of state. Photo: Reuters / Jonathan Ernst

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s first visit to Africa is ending early because of “pressing demands,” according to the State Department, cutting short what has proved to be a bumpy trip.

Tillerson reportedly missed days of activity in Nairobi, Kenya, after not sleeping for two nights, after President Donald Trump’s announcement on tariffs and surprise decision to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“Due to demands in the secretary’s schedule he is returning to the US one day early, after concluding official meetings in Chad and Nigeria,” said Steve Goldstein, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.

Tillerson’s trip, which sought in part to repair any damage done by Trump’s reported use of vulgarity to refer to African countries, was met by criticism of the diplomat’s patronizing tone.

A round-up of some jabs at Tillerson, courtesy of Chinese state-owned Global Times:

The US has been continuously displaying behavior inappropriate for a superpower and world leader. During US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s Africa tour, he warned African nations not to “forfeit any elements of your sovereignty” into arrangements with China in his speech at the African Union (AU) headquarters in Ethiopia. AU chairman Moussa Faki responded, “I think the Africans are mature enough to engage in partnerships of their own volition which will be useful for the country.”

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, later criticized Tillerson’s diplomatic manner, saying, “It was not appropriate to criticize the relations of his hosts – when he was a guest there – with another country.”

Shortly before heading out on the trip, Tillerson took some shots at China’s involvement in Africa.

“The United States pursues, develops sustainable growth that bolsters institutions, strengthens rule of law, and builds the capacity of African countries to stand on their own two feet,” Tillerson told an audience at George Mason University in the US state of Virginia.

He added that the US model “stands in stark contrast to China’s approach, which encourages dependency using opaque contracts, predatory loan practices, and corrupt deals that mire nations in debt and undercut their sovereignty, denying them their long-term, self-sustaining growth.”



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