Reporter’s Diary: Asking Tillerson on Trump’s ‘Shithole’ comment

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Mr Tillerson has been holding talks first with African Union Commission Chair, Moussa Faki Mahamat, and then Ethiopia’s authorities, including Foreign Minister Workineh Gebeyehu. Image courtesy: AllAfrica

By CGTN’s Girum Chala

The visit of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Africa was a much anticipated one. Despite Africa’s doubts over Donald Trump’s administration, the continent is still hopeful that the United States can deliver for its long time friend, Africa.

As his first destination, before his trip to Djibouti, Kenya, Chad and Nigeria, Mr.Tillerson has landed in Ethiopia this week. Holding talks first with African Union Commission Chair, Moussa Faki Mahamat, and then Ethiopia’s authorities, including Foreign Minister Workineh Gebeyehu.

I have attended both press conferences held at the headquarters of the A.U., and at Sheraton Addis ABABA hotel. I had a chance to ask Secretary Tillerson important questions at both of these press briefings.

One that caught my mind among all questions was to ask about the alleged derogatory references made about Africa and its people from President Trump.

Despite the A.U.’s strong and denouncing statements against Trump’s alleged comments, I, like any other African, wanted to hear straight from one of the U.S.’s top diplomats what they had to say about those offensive comments from the leader of “the free world”.

My question: “This [Trump’s “Shithole” comment] is something that Africa is still digesting. Do you agree with that and do you believe President Donald Trump owes Africans an apology?”

Mr.Tillerson answered my question indirectly. He said: “The President himself [Donald Trump], wrote a personal letter to the Chairperson [of the A.U.], reaffirming the importance of his relationship from the standing point of all aspects…”

Chairperson of the African Union, Moussa Faki Mahamat, on his part said: “I have received that letter and I believe the situation is the thing of the past…”

For me being able to ask that important question has satisfied me personally, but it would be even more pleasing if Mr.Rex Tillerson had answered my question directly. Perhaps, even apologising on behalf of President Trump – I believe it is what Africa and it’s proud people wanted to hear.

Unfortunately that did not happen.