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Donald Trump

Trump’s letter to African leaders: Tillerson will visit soon

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 January, 2018, 9:46pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 January, 2018, 9:46pm

US President Donald Trump in a new letter to African leaders says he “deeply respects” the people of Africa and that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will make an “extended visit” to the continent in March, his first in that role.

The letter dated Thursday is addressed to African leaders as they gather for an African Union summit this weekend in Ethiopia’s capital.

US diplomats have scrambled for days to address shock and condemnation after Trump’s reported description of African nations “s****hole countries”. Trump has said he didn’t use such language, while others present say he did.

Many in Africa were taken aback by the comments after nearly a year of little attention to Africa by the Trump administration.

On Friday, Trump met with Rwanda’s president and new African Union chair Paul Kagame at the World Economic Forum, calling Kagame a “friend.”

The 55-nation continental body’s summit is expected to respond to Trump’s apparently vulgar remark. An AU spokeswoman has said the organisation was “frankly alarmed” by the reported comment and a number of African nations have spoken out or summoned US diplomats to explain.

Trump’s letter says the US “profoundly respects” the partnerships and values shared by the US and Africans and that the president’s commitment to strong relationships with African nations is “firm”.

The letter offers Trump’s “deepest compliments” to the African leaders as they gather. It notes that US soldiers are “fighting side by side” against extremism on the continent and that the US is working to increase “free, fair and reciprocal trade” with African countries and partnering to “safeguard legal immigration”.

The letter does not include details about Tillerson’s upcoming visit.