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U.S. ups aid to Africa, asks for support
on global stage ahead of Tillerson’s trip

WASHINGTON United States (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday that the United States will provide additional aid for African countries suffering conflict and drought, while asking for their aligned actions on the global stage.

In a speech at the George Mason University in Virginia, Tillerson said the United States would provide about 533 million U.S. dollars in extra aid for Africa.

The aid will go to Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan and the western and central African countries bordering Lake Chad, hit by a food crisis due to conflict or prolonged drought.

In the speech delivered ahead of his week-long trip to Africa, the top U.S. diplomat also urged more African countries to “take an active role on the global stage,” including joining Washington in its “maximum pressure” strategy against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to curb the latter’s nuclear development.

While acknowledging efforts by Angola, Senegal and Ethiopia, Tillerson said many African countries are “holding back.”

“Nations in Africa need to do more,” he remarked.

In his roughly 40-minute speech, Tillerson expressed Washington’s  intention of developing closer ties with the continent and more economic and trade exchanges. The U.S. private sector, he said, was willing to help develop the “vast, undeveloped natural resources” in Africa.

Tillerson’s eight-day trip to Africa starts Tuesday and will take him to Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Chad and Nigeria.

The Trump administration hasn’t shed much light on Africa in its foreign policy priorities. The post of assistant secretary of state for African affairs had been vacant for several months before an acting assistant secretary was appointed.

The policies as well as personal remarks by U.S. President Donald Trump have so far worked to jeopardize ties between Washington and African countries.

In December, the U.S. Supreme Court approved Trump’s ban on almost all travel to the U.S. by citizens from countries including Chad, Somalia and Libya from entering the United States. The controversial decision has drawn serious criticism at home and abroad.

In January, Trump reportedly used the words “shithole countries” to describe African nations as well as Haiti and El Salvador in Latin America while discussing immigration issues with U.S. lawmakers.

The African Union issued a statement in protest, saying, “While expressing shock, dismay and outrage, the African Union strongly believes there’s a huge misunderstanding of the African continent and its people by the current (U.S.) administration.”

During his visit to Chad, Tillerson is expected to help it to get off the visa sanctions list.

“We also want to give Chad importance because they’re part of the G5 countries,” U.S. officials said on Friday when briefing reporters on Tillerson’s trip. “We’re very high on Africa.”

The G5 Sahel is an African regional security bloc comprising Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger.



Tillerson’s Ethiopia visit to stress US interest-based diplomacy: analyst

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Ethiopia starting on Wednesday will most likely focus on mutual-interest issues and less on promoting human rights and democracy, an Ethiopian analyst said Tuesday.

According to the U.S. State Department, Tillerson’s first official trip to Africa will start in Ethiopia before taking him to Chad, Djibouti, Kenya and Nigeria.

Abebe Aynete, Senior Researcher of the Ethiopian Foreign Relations Strategic Studies (EFRSS), said the trip will show the U.S. foreign policy orientation moving significantly to a more “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” approach from the traditional human rights and democracy promotion mantra.

He also said with Trump’s purported vulgar comments on Africa in January still fresh in the mind of many Africans, the visit is likely to be lower key than past visits by high-ranking U.S. officials.

“While Tillerson and Trump who come from a business background see U.S. relations with the rest of the world as transactional, it’s unclear whether it will show a clearer U.S. global diplomatic strategy,” said Aynete.

Tillerson is expected to meet officials of the five countries as well as the leadership of the African Union Commission (AUC) based in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, in a bid to further the U.S. partnerships with the African continent.

On Monday, U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto said Tillerson will meet AU officials to discuss issues including South Sudan, DR Congo, Somalia, and the G5 countries.

On Ethiopian issues, Yamamoto said “we’re looking at not only the transition of a prime minister, but also the institution and the strengthening of institutions.” He added that “We are also looking at the problems in Oromia and the Somali region, and we are looking at probably about a million people displaced.”

Economic, security and human rights issues are also said to other issues for discussion during Tillerson’s stay in Ethiopia.

Costantinos Bt. Costantinos, professor of public policy at Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa University, expected Tillerson’s visit to Ethiopia to focus on the U.S.-Ethiopia relations, the fight against terror, Ethiopia’s large peacekeeping operations in Africa and its current political trouble.

As Ethiopia remains among the largest peacekeeping force providers in the African continent, the fight against terror in the region and throughout the continent would be an area of interest during Tillerson’s visit to Ethiopia, said Costantinos.


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