Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s first trip to Africa was coincidentally his last as Secretary of State. The Department of State announced March 1 that Tillerson would be visiting Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria from March 6-13, 2018. The visit was to focus on areas like counter- terrorism, trade, and investment.
Tillerson cancelled his events in Kenya on Saturday March 10 because he was sick, but the trip resumed on Sunday March 11. He visited Memorial Park, which commiserates the 1998 suicide truck bombing at the US Embassy which resulted in the loss of over 200 lives. After meeting with the Presidents of Chad and Nigeria, Tillerson cut his trip short to depart for Washington.
President Trump announced Tillerson’s firing and replacement in a tweet on Tuesday March 13 – a move which took many unawares.
Why was he fired?
Many speculations have been circulating regarding Tillerson’s removal from his post. Many even believe it may be connected with his utterances in Africa while others are of the opinion that his sack must have been due to the disagreement with President Trump on many issues.
For example: approach to the Iranian nuclear deal has always been an issue between President Trump and the former Secretary of State. While Tillerson has been making efforts to convince European allies to agree to the amendment of some areas of the nuclear deal, President Trump believes that the deal is disastrous due to some flaws, even threatening to pull out of the deal.
“When you look at the Iran deal: I think it’s terrible, I guess he thinks it was OK. I wanted to break it or do something and he felt a little bit differently. So we were not thinking the same,” Trump said.
Disagreement on North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) could have been another reason for Tillerson’s release. President Trump believed that NAFTA is the worst trade deal ever, while Tillerson is believed to be in support of the deal. Handling of North Korea’s issue and Tillerson’s inability to deploy diplomatic appointees to positions are other speculations to why he was let go.
However, the United States announced that it remains committed to Africa and expresses readiness to increase trade volume with the continent. Historically, the United States has been the leading aid donor to Africa but China has surpassed it as a trade partner.