Secretary of State Rex Tillerson infuriated the leader of the 55-nation African Union after backing out of their scheduled meeting at the last minute, Foreign Policy reports. Experts on African diplomacy say the snub could result in "lasting consequences and potentially burn bridges that took decades to build."
People familiar with the snafu told Foreign Policy that Tillerson had invited Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki from talks at the United Nations in New York to a meeting in Washington, D.C., the week of April 17. But after Faki scheduled his trip, Tillerson "went radio silent for several days."
"Tillerson's team eventually got back to Faki's entourage as he was about to depart New York and offered a meeting with lower-level State Department officials, but Faki cancelled his Washington visit entirely," Foreign Policy writes.
"This is ridiculous, particularly at a time when Africans are increasingly becoming more and more aware of their choices in partners around the world," explained Reuben Brigety, the former U.S. ambassador to the African Union. He told Foreign Policy that canceling a meeting and not informing the dignitary until the last minute is "just the dumbest thing in the world."
Faki has the potential to be a valuable ally to the Trump administration as he has worked extensively to fight terrorism in Africa and is also leading a war against the Boko Haram extremists as minister of foreign affairs for Chad. "This was going to be a courtesy visit, an easy win [for Tillerson]," said Melvin Foote, the president and chief executive of the nonprofit Constituency for Africa. "Why would you not want this meeting to happen?"