BY MARK HENSCH*
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson invited the African Union chairperson to a meeting in Washington only to drop out at the last minute, according to a new report.
Sources told Foreign Policy that Tillerson invited Faki to Washington the week of April 17 after Faki finished meetings at the United Nations in New York City.
Faki reportedly scheduled a trip to D.C. for April 19 and 20 while waiting for details of his visit with Tillerson to be finalized, Foreign Policy reported.
Tillerson’s office then went silent, Foreign Policy’s sources added, leaving Faki frustrated by the turn of events.
Faki, the head of a 55-nation bloc, canceled his visit to D.C. entirely over the misunderstanding.
Foreign Policy said Tillerson’s team offered Faki a chance to see lower level State Department officials instead, but that meeting never materialized.
“African officials were incensed,” said Reuben Brigety, a former U.S. ambassador to the A.U. who was familiar with the circumstances surrounding to Faki’s visit.
“This is ridiculous, particularly at a time when Africans are increasingly becoming more and more aware of their choices in partners around the world,” he said, calling the mishap “the dumbest thing in the world.”
Arikana Chihombori, the African Union’s ambassador to Washington, confirmed to Foreign Policy that Tillerson’s invitation to Faki did not end in a successful visit.
“The people I dealt with at the State Department were very attentive and did the best they could,” she said.
“We tend to rise above situations like this,” Chihombori added, noting the incident would not likely harm relations between the U.S. and A.U.