Tillerson slams China ahead of his African tour

State Rex Tillerson with President Donald Trump. /REUTERS

United States Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has departed for Africa on a weeklong five-country official visit to Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti. The visit will end March 13. He will also be meeting with the leadership in each country as well as the leadership of the African Union in Addis Ababa.

The African Union, which represents 55 countries in the continent, demanded an apology by Trump and a group of African ambassadors to the United Nations also denounced the comments, saying that they were 'scandalous, racist and xenophobic.' After more than one year in the post, Trump has not appointed any head of the USA diplomacy to Africa and the embassies in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Africa and five other countries are still without diplomatic representatives.

In a speech in Virginia on Tuesday, Tillerson said Chinese investment has the potential to address Africa's infrastructure gap.

With the new funding from the State Department and US Agency for International Development, the country is providing emergency food and nutrition assistance to help vulnerable populations through food aid. However, since the beginning of President Trump's tenure, trade tariffs have shown little trade and investment interest in Africa; the president, has so far been consistent with the "America First" economic agenda. "When do we get to see the outlines of what the Trump Africa policy is?" Nigeria has been facing extreme violence and terrorism from groups like the Boko Haram and the herdsmen.

Tillerson also lauded the progress Africa, as a continent, has made with democracy.

Tillerson said the USA administration wants to step up ties with African nations, and announced humanitarian aid worth more than 533 million dollars for Ethiopia, Somalia and others. "Democracy requires the inclusive, peaceful participation of a nation's citizens in the political process", he said. "The substance of what he conveys may be more diverse, but given the signals coming out of the White House and administration to date, I imagine that security is top of the order, along with cementing relationships with partners that the United States considers important security players".

Earlier this month, on February 17, the USA embassy in Addis Ababa released a statement saying the U.S. "strongly disagrees" with the state of emergency imposed by Ethiopia on February 16.

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