Trump fires Rex Tillerson following the end of Africa visit

Former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Rex Tillerson is out as U.S. Secretary of State. President Donald Trump announced the decision in a tweet Tuesday.

A senior White House official said Trump asked Tillerson to step down on Friday but did not want to make it public while he was on a trip to Africa. Trump’s announcement came only a few hours after Tillerson landed in Washington after a trip that had been cut short.
Prior to leaving Tillerson said he was cutting short his first and apparently final, visit to Africa as America’s top diplomat because of “the demands of work and the need to be in Washington for in-person meetings” on North Korea and tariffs and for testimony on the State Department’s budget.
From his first days in office Tillerson has been forced to battle the perception that the Trump administration doesn’t have a clear Africa policy and isn’t that interested in Africa.

Trump’s reported crude comments about Africa in January haven’t helped.

During a meeting in the White House, Trump is reported to have referred to African nations as “shithole countries” while praising countries like Norway during a discussion about U.S. immigration policy.

President Trump has repeatedly denied making the remark and African Union leaders made it clear last week that they are ready to move on.

Chad President Idriss Deby welcomes U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson upon arrival in N’Djamena.
(Courtesy AP)

Tillerson’s visit to Chad, a key U.S. ally and counterterrorism partner, was overshadowed by hurt and resentment over the Trump administration’s decision to keep Chad on list of nations currently under a U.S. travel ban – a ban that Chad’s top diplomat declared an injustice.

And the now former Secretary of State also made a misstep of his own during his visit to Africa. He received sharp criticism from Chinese diplomats, African economic and political experts as well as many Africans on social media for suggesting that Africa is trading its collective sovereignty for loans from the Chinese government.

Tillerson, a longtime corporate executive, was viewed an unconventional pick for Secretary of State. Trump initially praised Tillerson but the relationship quickly soured. Tillerson never won much respect from longtime State Department personnel and frequently disagreed with his boss on foreign policy.

FILE PHOTO: Mike Pompeo testifies before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Thayer/File Photo

Rex Tillerson will be replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

A senior White House official said Trump works well with Pompeo, a former Republican congressman from Kansas, and wanted him in place before the U.S. president’s planned talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and trade negotiations.

Gina Haspel has been tapped to take over Pompeo’s job. She is the first woman chosen to lead the agency.