Tillerson in Ethiopia Media Round Up

Ethiopia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Workneh Gebeyehu (center R) gives a red carpet welcome to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (center L) at Addis Ababa Airport on March 7, 2018. (Reuters photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: March 8th, 2018

New York (TADIAS) — Unfortunately human rights was not center stage as many had hoped this week as U.S. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson arrived in Ethiopia on Wednesday at the start of his first diplomatic trip to Africa that will also take him to Chad, Djibouti, Kenya and Nigeria.

The major focus of the trip included counterterrorism, building security alliances, institutions, trade and investment, as well as the role of China on the African continent. Reuters noted: “Tillerson is using his first diplomatic trip to the continent to bolster security alliances on a continent increasingly turning to Beijing for aid and trade. The United States is the leading aid donor to Africa but China surpassed it as a trade partner in 2009. Beijing has pumped billions into infrastructure projects, though critics say the use of Chinese firms and labor undermines their value.”

Regarding Ethiopia’s current political turmoil and state of emergency Tillerson reiterated the U.S. position articulated in the U.S. embassy press release last month stating that more freedom is the solution, not less. “We share and recognize concerns over incidents of violence,” he told a news conference in Addis Ababa after meeting Ethiopia’s foreign minister. “We do firmly believe that the answer is greater freedom.”

In addition, Tillerson highlighted the historic relationship between Ethiopia and the United States, which formally began more than a century ago during Emperor Menelik’s time. Ethiopia is America’s oldest African ally. “This is a very, very longstanding relationship, more than 100 years,” Tillerson said. “Ethiopia is a large-population country, they are an important security partner in areas that I’ve already touched upon, and we also see Ethiopia’s journey towards democracy – I think 27 years now, which is a long time, but it’s a young democracy, and as I indicated, democracies are challenging.” He continued: “It’s not easy to take a country forward as a democracy. And so we’re here also to support Ethiopia’s journey towards a democratic society and institutions.”

But Tillerson did not meet with opposition or rival political leaders “the kind of encounters past secretaries of state routinely undertook to emphasize the importance of pluralism, and to hedge against sudden changes in government,” wrote The New York Times.

In Ethiopia Tillerson was dogged by Trump’s ‘shithole’ comment on his first day on the continent. “It didn’t take long for President Donald Trump’s derogatory comment about African nations to come up in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s first visit to the continent as top U.S. diplomat,” Bloomberg reported. “At a press conference with African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, a journalist asked Faki and Tillerson whether the U.S. should apologize for the remark. The reporter said the comment, which Trump has denied, is something that Africa’s still digesting.” Eventually, as Bloomberg adds: Faki assured reporters that the incident was over and his brief discussion with Tillerson on Thursday morning had focused on areas of cooperation, such as the possibility of the U.S. providing financial support for an African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia. “I believe that this incident is of the past,” Faki said. “This partnership has produced results. It is useful for both parties.”

Yet another topic that is grabbing international headlines relating to Tilerson’s trip to Ethiopia is the fact that his Russian counterpart was also visiting Addis Ababa at the same time. In an article titled “US, Russia Trade Blame as Diplomats Fail to Meet in Africa” The Associated Press pointed out: “They could have run into each other sipping coffee in the lobby, perhaps at the bar at Ethiopia’s finest hotel. But U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov didn’t meet, and now both countries are trading accusations about who’s to blame.”

AP added: “The top American and Russian diplomats warily circled each other in Africa, where both are paying official visits this week. As their two countries trade accusations over Syria, Ukraine and even the Oscars, their governments are trolling each other with barbs on social media. Russia said that both Tillerson and Lavrov were staying at the lush Sheraton Addis resort while in Ethiopia, where Tillerson met Thursday with the country’s outgoing prime minister and with the African Union Commission’s chairman. It was unclear how long the two overlapped in the Ethiopian capital.”

Tillerson Calls Ethiopia ‘A Young Democracy’
Tillerson and Lavrov Book Same Ethiopian Hotel—and Can’t Agree on a Meeting (Bloomberg)
Africa should avoid forfeiting sovereignty to China over loans: Tillerson (Reuters)
Trump’s comments on Africa cast pall over Tillerson’s long-awaited trip (The Washington Post)
Tillerson’s Ethiopia visit to stress US interest-based diplomacy: analyst
Strikes Spread in Restive Ethiopia Region Before Tillerson Visit (Bloomberg)
Institution Building, Ethnic Conflict, Sudan Refugees on Tillerson Ethiopia Agenda
Russia suggests Tillerson-Lavrov meeting in Ethiopia this week
Tillerson Heads to Addis, Ethiopia Doubles Down on Emergency Law: Media Round up

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